Thursday, January 10, 2013

All About The Hair Part 2

In my first post about hair, we discussed the history of black hair, curl types, the basics of black hair care, along with a break down of my step by step process of doing Cocoa's daily hair routine (AND all the products that go along with it).  Thank you to those who reached out with questions, comments, and kind words.  Sometimes in the bloggy world it can feel like you are talking on and on to yourself.  And while for the most part that's okay (after all, this is mostly a keepsake for my family to remember the ins and outs of our day to day life) it is nice to hear from y'all every now and then!

*Side note -- if you haven't already, would you please check out this post on how to make sure you get a response from me.....because just as you guys get to know me through my blog, I would love to get to know all my readers as well!  And I really do try to respond to every post.

Today I want to talk more about protective styling -- what it is, why we do it, ect.  It really is more than half of our styles and I truly believe it is the key to keeping Cocoa's curls soft and healthy.

What is protective styling?
It is styling your hair in such a way to protect it from the elements and prevent breakage.
It is also proven to help retain your length and improve the overall quality of the hair.
Protective styles are ones that are not worn loose, but rather focus on the ends being tucked away and moisturized.

Does everyone need to do it?
No.  Even within the curly community, some women just have strong hair that can seem to withstand free styles every day.  But the majority of curly girls will need to do protective styling to a certain extent.  Even some straight and wavy girls can benefit from this!  (I have weak, wavy hair and I try to do protective styling before I go to bed.  Without it I am fighting through knots in the morning, which often leads to breakage.)
*You can read more about when not to use protective styles HERE.*

How do you do it?
There are many types of protective styles, but if you are new to curly girl hair care, I suggest starting simple until you get the hang of it.  The purpose is to protect your hair, not to see how fancy you can get it.  That's just an added perk! =)  Here are some basics that we started out with...

This may seem like a foreign word to some of you, but plaiting is the simple braiding or entwining of hair.  Like I mentioned in my previous post, I plait Cocoa's hair before bedtime to prevent it from tangling up as she toss and turns all night (the girl is crazy).  Plaiting can be intricate styling, but when you hear me refer to it, I'm simply talking about jumbo, uneven sections (meaning not perfectly parted), put in twists or braids simply to protect her hair at night.  Easy enough, right?

Twists - after being in and out of the pool
for days on end =)
Twists are really simple once you get your technique down.  I use a box section (I started out with large sections as I was learning and training Cocoa to sit for this) and divide it in half.  Each of the two strands I twist clockwise, and then wrap around each other COUNTER clockwise.  I finish with an elastic at the ends.  When you are first getting the hang of it you may find it helpful to keep an elastic at the base too (near the scalp).  In all honesty, I often still use elastic at the roots and ends to hold better.  It was just recently (in the last few months) that I started experimenting without one.
I really love this style because as her hair is still growing in length, she has a lot of baby hairs that tend to flip out of a style.  Because of the twisting in different directions I find this holds all those uneven ends in a lot better than braiding.

Flat Twists:
Once you have the basic twists down, you can do flat twists to change up the style.  I love the look of doing pivital partings off of a side part, but we have done it many different ways.  This is the way I do flat twists:
At the beginning of the row I take two very small box sections.  (Note: at the start I tend to part them off with a comb, and then from then on use my pinky finger for partings like I would in a french braid.)  Twist each clockwise and wrap around each other counter clockwise, keeping it as tight to the scalp as possible.  Then I take another box section and add it to the first box section and twist those together clockwise and then around the other section counter clockwise, and keep adding sections like that (almost like a two stranded french braid).
Since I haven't had a lot of experience with cornrows yet, this is a great alternative.  The smaller sections I use, the better the style stays put in my daughter's hair.  But I also love the look of large sections - so play around with it and see what works for you!

Step by step process for flat twists

I think most of you know how to do braids - just divide the section into three parts and alternate crossing the left and right side over the middle!  Easy-peasy....except for all those little baby hairs that keep popping out and curling around my fingers!  Haha!  It definitely takes some time to get used to doing braids on curly hair when you are used to straight, silky locks.

French Braids:
My very first attempt at french braiding her hair.
Hmm......most of you probably know how to do this as well, but let's see if I can explain it anyway.  Like flat twists I tend to do them in rows, but we're using three strands (braid - duh!) instead of two.  When you add in the new section you add it to just the left and right strands and alternate crossing them over the middle strand.  Make sense?  Probably not.  If you don't already know how to do it, I suggest youtube!  =)  On Cocoa's hair I thought it looked really pretty but french braids use very loose tension so it only lasted a couple days before they fell out, and I tend to prefer styles that last a week or more.

Corn Rows:
Admittedly I have little experience with cornrows.  I actually have a friend I used to work with coming to teach me how to master those tight little braids.  However, I will happily share with you what I do know.
The technique is similar to a french braid, although instead of crossing the left and right sides over the middle, you are crossing it underneath.  For someone who has french braided their entire life, it takes some time and patience to teach your fingers how to do it this way.  I am at a point where I can do it, but it isn't tight to the scalp like it should be, so it doesn't last a full week.  Because of that I tend to stick to flat twists.  However, I have found that braids in general last longer in Cocoa's hair so I will continue to work on my technique.

Bantu Knots
Bantu Knots:
In whatever creative partings you can come up with (I tend to do pivotal partings, but I often see people using a box pattern) you start with your basic two-strand twist and then wrap it around itself (like a bun) and pin it in place.

Some more intricate styles...
Once I got these basic styles down I started getting creative.  I played with the size of sections I was working with as well as the shape and then started combining them with other styles!  Take a look for yourself:

If you need some inspiration, may I suggest a 
few of my favorites....
Natural Hair Does Care (and follow on IG)

Tools of the trade:
Wide tooth comb or Tangle Teezer - for detangling sections as you go
Rat-tail or regular comb - for parting
Duck-bill clips - for holding hair out of the way while you work on a particular section
Elastics (preferably not rubber bands, because they are too harsh on the hair and could cause breakage)
Water bottle - for dampening sections before styling
Moisturizer/Styling creme/gel - for moisturizing the hair and/or help hold it in place (sometimes I keep it simple with some coconut oil or hair balm.  Other times I need a gel or curl booster, depending on the style and amount of hold I need.)
Bobbi Pins - for holding small sections of hair
Accessories - beads, clips, bows, flowers, ect.

Notable Products to Try:
In Part 1 of this post I gave you a breakdown of our exact hair routine, along with all the products I use.  Since Cocoa's hair is ever changing, I have since then introduced new products to our line up.  Some of them I use intermittently with what I already had, and others I have come to like more and simply replaced what I used to have.  Of course there have also been a few duds that just did not work for us.  The Deva-Curl line, for example, simply did not provide enough moisture for Cocoa's hair.  I just do not believe that product line is meant for kinky-curly hair texture.  I have not talked to anyone with Cocoa's hair texture who has been happy with it.  That being said, I think that individuals with softer waves and looser curls might really like it.  I was able to use a small amount on my hair and it worked great!  But here are the newbies that put a smile on my face:

  • Marrakesh X Dreamsicle - This leave in conditioner leaves the hair so silky it makes it a breeze to detangle.  This is now my product of choice to mix into my water bottle for daily moisturizing.  I would compare it with the Redken Extreme Anti-Snap and tend to rotate between the two.
  • Ouidad Curl Quencher Intense Curl Creme - By far the BEST curl creme I have ever used on Cocoa's hair!  Remember all those things I was mixing to make the perfect hair creme?  This one has it all and more.  I apply it after moisturizing and oiling up her hair (using the shingling method works great for us).  I have been SO impressed with Ouidad's product selection and look forward to trying some more of their products this year hopefully.
  • Ouidad Curl Quencher Moisturizing Styling Gel - I'm pretty sure you all heard me loud and clear when I stated not to use a hair gel on your babe's curly hair.  I have hated gel since as long as I can remember.  Being alcohol based, they tend to suck the moisture out of your strands and after they dry, leave a crunchy feel and flake if you run your fingers through it.  And yet I stand corrected with this miracle concoction.  I have to mention that alcohol is listed in the first few ingredients....and yet after using up a hefty sample from Sephora, I went out and bought a bottle for my daughter.  Her hair stays soft and supple, never crunchy, and never flaky.  When I'm out of curl creme, I can absolutely use this in its place.  However, curl creme is my first choice because it still does work the best for Cocoa's hair.  The gel tends to have a little more hold (a soft, flexible hold...but a hold nonetheless) while the creme leaves it more in its natural state.   I use this gel when I am putting in twists and braids, or pulling back into a pony or pigtails to help keep those baby hairs in place.  I also tend to use this when I am touching up styles after it has been a couple days and her baby hairs are going every which way.  I put a little on my hands and smooth it over her twists or cornrows or whatever style she has in, followed by a little hairspray to help her style look a little more polished.  By the end of the day they are still popping back up again (simply because they are no longer PART of the twist or braid) but it is a good quick fix if I am going somewhere and she is starting to look fuzzy.
  • Pureology Cuticle Polisher - Although I use this creamy serum more often in my hair than hers, it is nice to have on hand when I'm putting her bang area back in a pouf just to smooth out the top layer and help it look extra glossy or shiny.  It is also great for a second day pony.  After she has slept on it a lot of baby hairs tend to fall out and I can smooth this over those hairs along with some hairspray to make it look polished again.  To use it you just put a smaller-than-a-pea-size amount on your hands (Pureology is notoriously super concentrated giving you lots of bang for your buck.) and rub together.  It will soften as a result of the warmth and friction and is ready to apply to your hair when it becomes silky smooth and slick.
  • Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Working Hair Spray - When I need a little hairspray to set a style or make a curl cooperate, this is my go-to.  This has been my favorite hair spray for years.  I used it in the salon on all my clients and on myself so naturally it is what I gravitated towards when I needed to make Cocoa's Gwen-inspired pony stay in place.  It held her hair great without leaving a cakey build-up.  If you are looking for a good spray for ANY hair type, I would highly suggest it.  It is a working hair spray, meaning it has a flexible hold.  But if I really need a look to stay put, I use it as I am styling, and then layer it on thick when the look finished.  Unless you need something cemented in place (which I don't really suggest on curly hair anyway...soft, pliable, natural hair is usually what I am going for), this will do the job.
  • Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Rapid Repair Spray - This is a finishing shine spray.  I always finish Cocoa's styles off with either this or the Carol's Daughter Tui Hair Sheen.  This one is a little more light weight (enough so that I can use it on my own hair) whereas the CD one would leave me a grease-bomb.  I still love it on my girl though.

Please keep in mind...
There are a few important things to know about protective styles.  First of all, pay attention to the amount of tension you are putting on the hair.  With children it can be hard to tell (especially if you have a child like my Cocoa who cries no matter WHAT you do to her hair) if you are using too much tension, so keep a close watch on their scalp.  Any sign of redness could mean you are being too rough and you should loosen your tension a bit.  If you see little red bumps, this is a sign that you need to stop, and pull out the style if necessary and give her (or his) scalp a break.  I've never had this happen to me (thankfully), but I can imagine the frustration after all the time you put into that style to take it out a little early (or right away).  But believe me, damage can be irreversible.  I don't mean to scare you, but if you don't believe me just do a little research on traction alopecia.  You just don't want to go there.

Second, don't think that just because the hair is in a protective style you are done.  Moisturizing is essential because without it the hair could become dry and brittle or even start to dread.  We keep a water bottle filled with water and a little conditioner and mist this over her protective styles daily (and often twice daily).  30 seconds max.  No biggie.

Third, please pay attention to how long they are in.  We are still working on finding the right timeline here (I'll say it over and over again, it's a learning process) but again just watch for irritation or little red bumbs on the scalp as well as the condition of the hair.  If the style begins to unwind, I find that on Cocoa's hair the little tendrils that fall out become really, really dry.  For that reason (and because I'm a perfectionist, admittedly) we don't tend to leave styles in for more than a week.  But that varies by each person and their unique head of hair.  Different curl types will hold styles a different amount of time as well.

If you find that your styles aren't last a full week like you want them to, in my experience it will most likely be because of one of the following:

  1. You need to use a little more tension.  There is a fine line between using too much tension and not enough.  In most cases, your child will let you know if you are pulling too hard.  If not, their scalp will.  As I mentioned before, keep an eye out for redness and those little bumps as indicators that it is too much.  
  2. You aren't using the right product combination.  There is a definite learning curve when it comes to finding the right concoction for your little one's hair.  To make matters even more difficult, it is ever evolving.  Just keep trying things out, and don't forget to take advantage of those free samples Sephora hands out so generously.  They have saved me from spending big bucks on the wrong thing.  Also keep in mind that Sephora will gladly return anything you are unhappy with - online or in store.  If you don't even know where to begin, make an appointment with a curly hair stylist and get his or her professional advice specifically for your child's head of hair.
  3. Your technique could use some polishing.  There was a time where I swear I tried EVERYthing to make a style last more than three days and I was completely at a loss as to what I was doing wrong.  I asked every AA woman I met, asked all my favorite bloggers, adoptive moms...and no one seemed to have an answer for me.  Over time and with practice I found that her styles would start lasting longer and longer so I have come to the conclusion that  it had to do with my technique (well that, and as my daughter grew, her hair did too).  I believe it is something you have to practice until you have it perfect (or close to perfect...don't put too much pressure on yourself).

I'm not claiming to know all there is to know about protective styles OR that I am the best at it.  This is definitely still a learning process for me and I take every opportunity I can get to learn more about it.  I watch youtube tutorials and read others' blog posts and ask other moms.  I missed an amazing opportunity to go to a class hosted by a local AA salon, but I was kinda getting my daughter dedicated that day so I had a good excuse.  ;)  But hopefully there will be another opportunity like that and I can share some more that I have learned!  I'm also kind of obsessed with Pinterest and have a whole board dedicated to my passion for hair.  If you need some inspiration, feel free to check it out (you can follow the link at the top left of my blog)!

Well!  That concludes Part 2 folks!  Although I don't have plans for a Part 3, I can tell you that more hair posts will definitely be in the future, because it is something I am passionate about.  In the meantime, please do let me know if there is a topic you are interested in that I didn't cover for you today.  If you have any specific questions, please post them in the comments below or shoot me an email (button on the top left of my blog).  I won't claim to have all the answers, but if there is a way I can help you, I would be happy to!

Although I'm not always the best at posting Cocoa's styles here on my blog, I do post them to Instagram quite often, as well as photos of the styling process.  You can find out how to follow me on Pinterest, Instragram, Facebook, Twitter, and more on the top left of my blog (yes, this is new)!


No comments: