The Best of 2014 | The Year of Hits | Top 10

Another year down and so much progress has been made for both Z and I this year. I have learned a lot about how to take care of not only my thick, dense hair texture but Z's fine texture, and in doing so, we both have retained most, if not all, our hair length throughout 2014. 

This year has pretty much been a hit for us. I think it helped that I stuck {for the most part} with products that have worked for both of us, and I incorporated protective styling for majority of the year. Below is my top 10 hit list along with a few undecided/misses following it.

{10} Reading new blogs and following other healthy hair journeys
  • Thanks KLP and Jen for hosting the #WashDayExperience weekly link up. This has been such a great opportunity to meet new ladies and read how they are doing on their personal hair goals/journeys whether they are natural, relaxed, texlaxed, or transitioning. I definitely enjoy reading the posts because we all are striving for the healthiest head of hair we can achieve in our own way (and through many trials and errors). I will say I am so amazed by the relaxed ladies who are succeeding in their journeys. My relaxed hair was a total fried and over-processed mess for a good portion of the time I straightened my hair...especially in college. Thank goodness for maturity, and thank you all for supporting me and leaving comments! ::hugs::
{9} Protein Treatment
  • I learned the difference between mushy and over moisturized hair (which I thought was normal) and "protein/moisture" balanced hair when I did my first protein treatment in November. I loved how strong my hair felt! Z's hair benefited from her first treatment as well. :-) Look forward to improving our hair balance even more this upcoming year.
{8} Shea Moisture African Black Soap Purification Masque
  • This has worked amazingly on Z's scalp; she had a bad bout of flaky, itchy scalp last winter but so far so good. No signs of dandruff at all. My scalp is a whole other issue...
{7} Applicator Bottle 
  • What would I do without this simple bottle? It is so effective for diluting my shampoo so I can efficiently cleanse my scalp as well as doing my ACV rinses.
{6} Homemade Products
  • Shea Butter mix: Raw Shea butter is soooooo thick especially in the winter time. Creating a mix allows me to add some leave-in, oils, and aloe vera gel to help stretch out the Shea butter and make it easier to apply to hair as a sealant in the LOC process.
  • Moisturizing spritz: So easy to whip up a batch using distilled water, a leave-in, and a few drops of oils in a spray bottle that lasts generally for a week. In 2015, I will start using more aloe vera juice in my batches to help with scalp issues. 
  • Flaxseed gel: Very new to me but I am hooked! Check out my twist out results using flaxseed seed gel for the first time. {click here}
{5}Tea Rinses
  • This has been working pretty well for me in reducing shedding.  Although I have been using green tea only, I plan to play around with different concentrations and different tea medleys to see how my hair/scalp react to the combinations. I find that this is a relaxing process of my wash day.
{4) ACV Rinses
  • They are easy, quick, and a nice way to wrap up my wash sessions. Very effective in relieving the itchies.
{3} Hot Head Deep Conditioning Cap
  • Thanks to Relaxed Thairapy for introducing this awesome product to me on her blog. I can finally get the most out of my deep conditioning and pre-pooing sessions and love how long the heat lasts. Definitely a hit since the first time I used it!
{2} Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner
{1} Protective Styling
  • The less I have to focus on styling hair, the better it is for me. Both Z and I have benefited from protective styling. Styling Z's hair every 2 weeks truly helps with her fine strands. Wearing wigs has helped me to look past this seemingly slow growing out phrase I am in. The biggest hit for the both of us was yarn wraps. It was definitely our year of the wraps
The following are neither hits or misses:
  • Coffee Rinses: I only tried it once so I can not say how effective they are long term. I definitely prefer the ease and smell of the tea rinses. I will explore further in 2015.
  • Knot Genie Brush: Not sure if it is a good fit for my hair at its current length, but it works better on Z's longer hair. It is definitely gentle on the scalp for those who are tender-headed (I think Z is becoming this way ::sadface:: #getsitfromherdad)
    • I am nowhere tender-headed so I enjoy a little more vigorous stimulation that comes with brushing/detangling hair with my modified denman brush
    • I don't like how water accumulates in the base, which can lead to mildew/mold if I don't compress the water from inside the base. Seems like an annoying extra task. #ohwell
The only miss I can think of is more so error on my part: Using too much Shea Butter leads to greasy hair and oily scalp and face. Don't know why I forget this sometimes.

So this pretty much wraps up our year relating to hair. I hoping 2015 will bring more progress not only in things hair related but physically, mentally, and most importantly, spiritually. I hope you all had a great year and look forward to sharing a new year with you. Happy New Year!

Share your hits/misses at the link up:

The #WashDayExperience

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Wash Day Updates | Last One for 2014

Happy last day of 2014! I am back from my 10 day vacay and am so glad to be back to fast wireless internet! While I enjoyed being able to relax, watch (LOTS of) movies, and hang out with loved ones, it is always a pleasant feeling to return home and regain that sense of normalcy.

I have so much to talk about and catch up on so don't be alarmed by the slew of posts coming through over the next week or two.

As far as my hair. Oh. My. Goodness. It was excruciating waiting 11 days to finally emerge my hair under some water. My plan was to keep my hair twisted the entire time I was away and moisturize my hair regularly with my spritz. First my scalp started itching like crazy around day 7 (my ideal wash day) and by day 9 my hair was so oily and greasy and dry. It was horrible. I just could not wait to get back home to give my hair a good full blown "pre-poo, shampoo, deep condition" wash session yesterday. 

Unfortunately my goal was a little too ambitious.

When I come back from a long travel, I usually try my best to unpack everything the same day and find new places for the new stuff that traveled home with us (a challenging feat for an aspiring minimalist). Needless to say, unpacking plus a slew of other things that unexpectedly came up, left me late last night (midnight) settling for a very minimal co-wash session. 

Here's what happened within 1 hour:
  • untwisted my hair from my tuck and roll hairstyle
  • slathered my hair with Suave Professionals Shea Butter and Almond Oil Conditioner 
  • "detangled" using my Knot Genie (I have a bullet to bite with this brush...)
  • rinsed hair and air dried for 15 minutes
  • moisturized with Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Caster Oil Leave-In Conditioner
  • sealed with homemade Shea Butter mix
  • smoothed hair with homemade flaxseed gel + aloe vera gel
  • gathered hair into a low puff (shocker!)
  • tied the bad boy down with a scarf and do-rag (sp?) (after 20 minutes, I had to loosen both because I felt my head throbbing from the tightness...I was doing too much)
Yeah, protective styling was the last thing on my mind. I was tired and my hair definitely was not fully detangled: I was rushing (a big no-no) and the Knot Genie was not producing the results I was looking for. I even found about 10 twists I forgot to take out AFTER I co-washed and "detangled" my hair. SMH Needless to say, my hair situation was a hot mess, but I opted to make lemonade out of the lemons and whip my hair into a puff just so I could quickly get to bed. 

Here are some pictures I had the energy to take:

Shed hair

Tools/products used to moisturize and style hair (flaxseed gel: not pictured)

My hair was relatively flat by the morning. It has been a long time no see for my waves...a trait I definitely got from my mom who has a really loose curl pattern. My puff actually looks like a little fluffy bun. Z asked to touch it (lol) and said it was so soft. I guess that is a positive initial review of the Jamaican Black Caster Oil Leave-in conditioner.

I am planning for a full wash session this Friday God willing. I will probably do a protein treatment then. I hope you all had a better session than what I experience and look forward to reading about them at the following link up:

The Wash Day Experience

Thanks to you all who have left comments over the past week. I have responded to some already but will get to the rest soon. :-)

Happy New Year in advance!

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Flashback Friday: My Beloved Twists

Just another flashback of my beloved twists. :-)

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Hair Tip: Quickly Remove Lint from Child's Hair with Just Two Tools

I saw this video on CurlyNikki and had to share! It is amazing how much lint Z accumulates in her hair especially when I band her hair (to stretch it) and have her wear her hair banded for a week before actually styling her hair. By the time I remove the bands, so much lint can be found underneath the bands/ponytail holders that it can be a nuisance to remove by gently scratching or combing the lint away. In the video below, DiscoveringNatural explains an effective, practical yet quick way to remove lint with just two everyday tools: a brush and a pair of stockings. Go figure! Check out how effortlessly she wisks the lint away from a week old style on her daughter's hair:


Do you experience those sneaky lint bunnies in you or your child's hair?

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Quick Protective Style: Tuck and Roll with Twists

The day following my last wash session, I decided to put my twists into a quick tuck and roll hairstyle instead of wearing my twists down. I love this style because it is off my neck meaning I don't have to deal with my ends snagging on clothes, coats, and scarves.  I want to preserve my twists over our holiday vacation without having to do too much manipulation and restyling. I plan to wear this style until next Tuesday. At night, I spritz my hair with my moisturizing spray, smooth out my edges with some Aloe vera gel, and tie my hair down with my scarf. No fuss at all. If my twists start to look too unkempt by then, I will simply cover my hair and wear my wig to carry me until then. 

With all this rain going on down South, this is the right style for me right now. 

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The Last Leg of Z's Yarn Wraps

It has been almost 4 weeks since I installed Z's yarn wraps, and they have surely served us well. I plan to take them out this weekend although she wants to keep them in longer. She has some ome good new growth going on,  and her scalp still looks flakes. I haven't washed her hair since she had the wraps in so I can't wait to give her hair and scalp some good TLC. My plan is to do a twist set to carry us until the Saturday before she returns to school and then hopefully do a two week protective style. 

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Another Homemade Shea Butter Mix Recipe

I ran out of my first batch so I quickly whipped up another one using the above ingredients. This yields almost 1/3 cup of mix which would last us for about 2-3 weeks (I'm guessing...who knows?). The first batch's recipe {can be found here}.

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5 Ways to Extend the Life of a Twist Set

I love a good protective cornrow style, but I am not the fastest or best cornrower by any means. Nevertheless, I chuck through it for 3-5 hours to come up with some styles for Z. However, every now and then,  I love to take a break from focused braiding and install a good set of twists that can carry Z from one wash day to another. For me, twisting Z's hair is an mindless effort but relaxing. #maybeIamweird #ohwell

Twists are so versatile and is a good hairstyle to keep the natural hair stretched. My preference is to twist on damp hair opposed to dry because I love juicy and plump twists. However, by the end of week 1, some maintenance efforts must be made on Z's twists to help sustain them for another week.

The tips listed above are ways I employ to get more life out of her twists. For examples of revamped styles involving twists, {click here}.

Do you prefer twisting on damp or dry hair? How do you preserve a twist set to get the most life out of it?

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Wash Day Updates | Small Cut & Plump Twists using Flaxseed Gel

Last Friday session went well into the night (aka 2:00am) due to me trying to multitask, pack, and get things in order for our family vacay. This session went as follows:
  • Pre-pooed with Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner + Coconut Oil + a few drops of Peppermint Oil (mixed together) for 1.5 hours under my Hot Head Cap (reheated twice while I was packing and getting Z to bed). I LOVE this combo. I don't think I ever want to change this as my pre-poo ever especially if I pre-poo for more than 30 minutes. Maybe I should aim for 1 hr as my standard pre-poo time. My hair was so soft (not mushy) and my curls from my twist out were so defined. I divided my hair into 5 sections and rinsed each section under warm water. I thought since I did a poor job finger detangling a few days ago, my hair would be more tangled than it actually was. I was ready to use my Knot Genie at this point but did not need it for this step. 
  • Shampooed with Aubrey Organics Primrose and Tea Tree Shampoo diluted in water.,.seems like a running theme with the tea tree. I made the solution a little more concentrated than the last time I used the shampoo so I could get a better lather at my roots. Indeed, I achieved just that! I had so much good lather that my scalp had no other choice to be be clean. As usual, I focused on my scalp more than my ends and cleansed each section. Rinsed under water (using the high pressure shower head setting) and t-shirt dried for 15 minutes.
  • Tea rinsed my hair with 2 bags of organic green tea (Harris Teeter brand) steeped in about 2 cups of water for 8 hours. Maaaaannn, that rinse was cold on my scalp; it gave me a serious chill after the first rinse over my head. It got better as my head temperature warmed the rinse each time. I rinsed through my hair/scalp 6 times and t-shirt dried for 10 minutes.
  • Deep conditioned using the rest of my Shea Moisture African Black Soap Purification Masque + Olive Oil + Aloe Vera gel (to stretch out product for full coverage) for 30 minutes under my Hot Head. My hair felt a little dry and tangled before I applied the conditioner, but I am guessing it's because of the higher concentration of the green tea rinse. However, it was not too bad. After deep conditioning, I first detangled each section under warm water with my fingers then with my Knot Genie brush (finally!). Detangling was a breeze and the Knot Genie was so gentle against my scalp. Shedding was minimal {see pic below}. Rinsed with warm water followed by a quick cool rinse (don't think I will ever get used to 
  • Rinsed scalp with diluted ACV solution. Did not rinse out. T-shirt dried for 20 minutes.
  • Applied my Shea butter mix and homemade flaxseed gel section by section onto my hair as I put my hair into medium sized twists. This gel is the business!!! (Can't wait to see how it works on Z's hair this weekend.) I snipped the ends of a few twists to even them up in the front.
  • Covered hair with bonnet. Went to bed.
Here are some pics from this session:

Post Pre-Poo: Loving the shape of my fro.

Total amount of shed hair from this session
Tired but done with my plump twists

How was your wash day? Share your experience and see how others did this week at the following linkup:

The Wash Day Experience

Happy safe holidays!!!

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Motivational Monday: Take Pictures, See Progress!

I realized that I have taken sooooo many pictures of my hair journey in the 10 years I have been natural. In the beginning stages, it was the excitement of experimenting with a new texture of hair after being relaxed for over 10 years of my life, and the middle phase was where I experimented with lots of hair colors and over heating my hair with flat irons and blow dryers (tsk, tsk, tsk). Now in the later stages of my journey, I have been focused more on health and retention. Back in 2010, I was almost one year post-partum and my hair had finished that dreadful shedding phrase. Unfortunately with a new baby on board (mixed in with some PPD), I barely gave my hair the time of day. And it was surely evident. I decided to discipline myself to take better care of hair, body, and soul that year. I committed to a one year protective styling challenge to improve my hair's condition and retain every inch that grew from my scalp. In addition, I lost weight through more physical activity and got therapy to deal with my depression. It was amazing seeing so many positive changes in my life at a time I felt in a limbo.

At the end of the one year challenge, I made such noticeable, huge progress in my hair journey despite not being able to tell from the hustle of day to day living. This is why I encourage snapping a picture here and there to keep track of your progress, which is not at all difficult to do in this #selfie day and age we are living in. Really, the pictures do speak for themselves! I dug up this old picture of my results as I browsed around my old blog. I retained all of my hair length between April 2010 and April 2011 except for a 1/2 inch trim back in August 2010 by committing to my 1 year wig/protective styling challenge. Even Z had her own personal progress! :-)

I am thinking about doing another challenge for 2015. I am not sure if I will do it for an entire year or just 6 months. Nevertheless, I think it would help me to stay motivated on my goals toward healthier, longer hair for the upcoming year.

Have you done a long term challenge before? Short term? What hair/health goals are you planning for the next year for yourself?
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Twist Out Results Using Homemade Flaxseed Gel

This set of 20 twists were done after my last wash day on Wednesday. I made a batch of flaxseed gel to try for the first time on my twists. Here are the results of using the gel + my homemade Shea butter mix on damp (not soaking wet) hair:

All did was unravel the twists. I applied olive oil on my hands to minimize frizz and to add shine as I took down each twist. No extra separation was done at the point.

I carefully separated each piece of the twist out into 2-4 smaller sections to create a fuller look and to close any gaps due to sectioning and parting.

I went in hard for this round of manipulation as in I separated each piece of the twist out as much as I could while being careful not to lose total definition. Some frizz was invited to the party as I teased my roots to help create more volume. I love big hair so frizz does not concern me too much when I am wearing a twist out. Twists, on the other hand, is a different story.

Although I enjoyed making my hair bigger, my favorite style was the twist out puff. I just like my hair pulled up and out of my face. If it was not winter, I probably would ditch the wig and wear my hair like this. I love the definition of my twist out going this way and that in the puff. I am not a slick edge gal so the baby hairs were doing their own thing. 

So as you can see, through all the manipulation I did, my twist out still maintained a good definition. I made a second batch of flaxseed gel to use tonight after I shampoo/condition my hair. My first impression of the gel is good. My hair was not dry, hard, crunchy, or flaky. Just soft and defined! I am looking forward to similar results (or better) tonight. 

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Quick Co-Wash Day Update | First Time Using Flaxseed Gel

I made some flaxseed gel yesterday so I wanted to do a co-wash to test it out. I did the following last night:
  • Applied Aubrey's Island Nature Conditioner to hair focusing on the ends.
  • Layered hair with Aubrey's Balancing Protein Conditioner.
  • Finger detangled hair under water (to elongate curls) into 4 sections. I did not detangle fully because it was late and I wanted to test out my Knot Genie brush on slightly tangled hair Friday night.
  • Rinsed hair thoroughly to remove all conditioner from scalp.
  • Applied my homemade Shea Butter mix one section at a time.
  • For each section, I liberally applied (more so on my right side than the left) my homemade flaxseed gel and twisted each section into 4-6 smaller twists.
  • Air dried hair overnight.
Here is a picture of my first batch of flaxseed gel: 

While some consider the gel consistency to be like mucus (gross), I would like to think of it as egg white. Besides, as a vegetarian, I am very familiar with the property of flax + water = vegan "egg white" especially when it comes to baking eggless goodies. I have combined grounded flaxseed and water so many times this year {my first as a vegetarian} that I am accustomed to the gooeyness of this combo. I just never figured this same magic could be used for my hair {the whole flaxseed, not the grounded version, of course}.

Here is a picture of my hair before and after the flaxseed application (sorry for the sucky quality):
Next time, I will try to take better pictures because I want to stress that this gel clumped my hair together almost effortlessly. I did not use a comb or brush to evening distribute the gel nor did I adequately raked my fingers through my hair to achieve this. I pretty much slathered the gel on my hair, raked a few times, and viola!
I can only imagine how much definition I can get when I do distribute the gel fully throughout each section.

The final picture is of my twists. I did exactly 20 them so I can do a twist out.
My hair did not feel sticky or crunchy as it dried. I was tired by this point so I covered my head and went to bed. I will post the twist out results in {an upcoming post}.

I will do a wash day on Friday evening as I will be traveling out of town on Saturday.

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DIY Flaxseed Gel Pictorial

Before I get into my trials and errors of making my initial batches of flaxseed gel {in another post}, I put together a pictorial of the process in which I made my gel. I used about half of what most recipes on the web called for and yielded around 3/4 cup of gel in the end. I used lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and vitamin E in my gel to help with preservation. Once I finally got the method down pat, the process really only took 15 minutes. I only made a small batch for testing purposes but as my hair gets longer, I will definitely increase the yield. So without further adieu...

Here's a video of Naptural85's version of preparing flaxseed gel:

Have you ever tried making flaxseed gel yourself? Many natural women have claimed the gel works wonders for their hair and they will never go back to the commercial stuff. Is this true for you?

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Walgreens Shea Moisture BOGO Deal (Online til 12/20 | In Store on 12/23)

After my fiasco with missing the Shea Moisture BOGO Black Friday deal at the VERY last second (literally), I have been on the hunt for another good deal (and soon because my stash is loooooow). It is no secret that Shea Moisture is one of my favorite lines of hair products, and I really do not like having to find "alternatives" to their products.

While on my Facebook account, I was scrolling down my timeline to find that Shea Moisture is currently running a BOGO (Buy One Get One Free) deal on their products at Walgreens. #Whaaaat!! I checked online and saw the promo but was curious to see if the same promo was in the stores. Upon scanning some of the comments and some posted haul pictures, I was convinced they were running the deal offline as well. So I headed out during lunch to see what I can find.

I went to two Walgreens within a 1 mile radius and neither one had sale tags up about the special. I asked one of the associates about it, but she was not aware of a deal. She even scanned one of the products to see if it would ring up BOGO, and it did not. #Bummer 

I knew I should have called first, but then I would not have found this cheap $2.46/gal BP gas on the way back from Walgreens. #winning #thankful #setfortravel But don't hesitate to call your store because it is apparent that the products are on sale in stores in other areas of the US.

But before I left, I saw this little sign on the beauty counter that stated this:

Yep. I will be back. #happilyexitedthestore

I went ahead and ordered some products online and got:
  • 2 Curl Enhancing Smoothies
  • 2 Curl & Style Milks
  • 1 Yucca & Boabab Anti-Breakage Masque
  • 1 Curl & Shine Shampoo

There's a 2 item limit so I could not order more. #IamgratefulforwhatIhave Unfortunately the African Black Soap line was not BOGO online (wonder why?) so I will wait until the 23rd to purchase from that line in person. I did note that the products online are up to $1 cheaper than at the store and shipping is free for orders over $25. 

So {click here} to order your Shea Moisture products online at Walgreens (til 12/20) or wait until next Tuesday to pick up some products from the store. Hope this helps someone!

Do you use Shea Moisture hair and body products? What is your favorite line/product? Will you take advantage of this deal?

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3 Tips to Save Time When Doing Cornrow Hairstyles

I literally have hundreds of cornrow hairstyles for little girls on my Pinterest boards (my guilty pleasure). Many of them I have pinned because they interest me as styles I would like to try on Z's hair. However, being the slow braider I am (still learning), I can't afford to spend all day trying to replicate an interesting style that I need to last two weeks in her hair. With this in mind, I will share how I modify the some of the hairstyles I see on Pinterest to fit our needs and cut down on styling time.
  • Some styles are full blown cornrows and braids the entire way through. Instead of braiding a style all the way to end, I opt to twist the loose hair beyond the cornrow sections
    • When twists start getting frizzy, I either:
      • do a twist out
      • retwist them or
      • curl them (rollers, flexi-rods (my fave!), bantu knot outs)
    • Twists are much easier and quicker to take down
      • braids do make a style look sleeker but taking down a bunch of small braids can be a pain in the behind + time consuming even with a hair pick and conditioner
  • For the really cute cornrow hairstyles that have intricate designs made out of tiny cornrows, I make the cornrow sections slightly larger when replicating the style on Z's hair
    • Larger sections = less braiding to do + easier to remove later.
    • I generally like to keep the amount of cornrows less than 25 at all possible.
  • To cut down on the number of cornrows I have to do, I like to add a bang (or side bang) of twists
    • This pays off when it comes to style removal.
      • Conditioner and water easily take down twists compared to cornrows/braids
I hope some of these tips help you when it comes to cutting time cornrowing/braiding your child's natural hair especially if her hair is long.

For the slower braiders out there, how do you save time styling?

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