Wednesday, March 30, 2011

To Trim or Not to Trim...That is The Question

Sorry Shakespeare for hijacking one of your more famous quotes...but it had to be done.

So, let's do an update on the hair journey. This week I switched from Mehendi to Jamila henna - HUGE DIFFERENCE. Jamila henna was a lot smoother in terms of mixing and putting into my hair. Although I don't think I added enough liquid since during the application it was chunking up and sounding like hard bricks hitting the counter. o_0 However, the wash out was still an issue. I definitely still have henna in my hair and am considering doing a shampoo tomorrow to remove it (although at this point I might as well wait til Sunday since Friday is my next scheduled henna app).  Also, the color I'm getting from the Jamila is absolutely gorgeous! It's a nice tint of burgundy which in the sunlight is amazing. I think this is actually because the Mehendi gave me a sandy brown tint and then the Jamila had a lot truer shade of red, so it ended up depositing as a darker stain on top of the Mehendi. Hopefully, I'll start to see these softening "baby doll" results after henna app #3 on Friday.

I tried a new twisting method last night which gave me much more consistent results. Normally, I do between 12 to 13 two-strand twists all over doing it in the french braid style (gathering up hair as you go instead of two full twists all the way down). I do four in the bottom back, two in the middle back and anywhere from five to seven for the remaining hair depending on how committed I'm feeling.  Typically I was creating the twists starting from the front hairline and working my way to the crown/mid ear area. Well normally the middle back had the best volume and the front twists ended up being a variety of sizes for the individual strands (I know, I need to post pics but I get lazy!). So, last night I decided to part the front section down the middle of my scalp and do three twists going vertically on each side of my head. MUCH BETTER. The waves were a lot more uniform in size so...go me!

So, I definitely mentioned it before that I still had some old relaxed ends from my hardcore relaxer days...about 6 to 8 inches. I was checking out my hair this afternoon and the majority of my hair looks super thick and healthy - with the exception of about 4 inches of old relaxed ends. It just looks thin and tends to frizz. I'm definitely debating doing a trim...or in this case a cut; since IMO cutting off anything over an inch is beyond the "trim zone". I'm 75% leaning towards doing it since it just looks super thin and detracts from the thickness. We'll see what happens after henna app #3 later this week. Although, I'm 90% sure that even with the softening/thickening results...the ends are still going to look busted. So, more than likely, I'll be trimming/cutting over the weekend. This means my 14/15 inch length hair (around the top of my bust area) will now be 10/11 inches. But I'd rather have healthy hair than length that looks scraggly!

Still on my Nioxin and Megatek (I'll take a pic of Megatek later) kick - although I haven't megateked this week. Normally I only MT immediately after I wash my hair (so about 2x a week) but this week I've been distracted and I only washed my hair on Monday when I did my 2nd henna app. Hopefully I'll remember to do it on Friday! Nioxin is a daily multi-vitamin supplement, reviews state that people actually manage to grow about an inch of hair a month versus the average half inch. I definitely think that it's working. Although I can't tell directly in my hair, my nails are growing super fast - and Nioxin is meant to aid nail/hair growth as well as help to keep your skin supple. I've only been using Nioxin for about a week and a half (right after St. Patrick's day) and already I've had to trim my nails twice - which is a good sign IMO. I keep my nails short since I do a lot of typing and don't have the patience for long nails.

Will definitely keep you guys posted with my results! ^_^

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Dip Into Henna Land

Okay, so last Thursday I did my first henna application - and as many other reviewers had mentioned, the first time you henna, it's not really anything to write home about. On my first day post henna, my hair was a tad dry - but I expected that based on all the research that I had done about it.

Hesh Mehindi & 2 oils I add to my henna
paste: Amla & Almond Oils
Last time, I used Hesh Mehendi henna. After I fully rinsed the henna out, I could already tell that my hair was definitely lighter - even in indoor light. It was the one side effect I wasn't expecting to have instant effects. The goal with my henna treatments is to achieve stronger, thicker, softer and more moisture rich hair - in addition to loosening my curl pattern without using harsh chemicals.

As an FYI, if you're considering doing the jump into the henna pool because of all of the benefits that I mentioned earlier, do make sure that you use only body art quality henna. Body art quality henna doesn't come in a variety of hues. if you want to make your hair lighter or darker, you have to alter it with other natural dyes like indigo, cassia, etc. So, if you go into a store and ask for henna, and they reply with "which color would you like"...walk right back out. That henna has been altered and contains just as many chemicals as regular hair dye. The point of henna is that the color (if you're solely using it for color) enhances the more you henna. But since it's all natural, there's no danger in over processing. The more you henna, the stronger a red hue that you'll achieve, depending on your starting color.

Now, back to me. Like I said, the first time I henna'd I had immediate color results. My hair had an interesting and notable brown hue to it, but that later mellowed out by Sunday (which is also to be expected). But my goal is thickness, curl loosening, moisture retention and softening of my hair. Finally today, I noticed that my hair was a lot moister! I usually twist my hair with a combo of Cantu's leave in shea moisturizer and a few drops of castor oil (per twist). Sometimes it came out pretty well moisturized, and sometimes it wasn't quite as successful. Well this morning, when I untwisted my hair, I could clearly see a nice sheen to my hair - something which was sometimes elusive for me!

Today, I switched it up and decided to henna my hair with Jamila. Now, to explain:

Last week I used the Mehendi, and although I think it does work well, it was super gritty. After doing some research, it seemed like the general consensus was that Mehendi was a good henna to use - if you didn't mind spending an hour washing the grit out of your hair. And seriously...that's probably the only thing I don't like about it. I first dunked my head in a tub full of water to get the majority of the visible henna paste out of my hair. Then I literally spent about 30 minutes in the shower doing a co-wash. After rinsing so long that I became prune-y and the water was running clear from my hair, I did my usual twist out.

Well, fast forward to every day that I twisted or combed my hair between Thursday and Sunday evening - and every time I touched my hair, henna flakes were coming out. o_0 REALLY GROSS! If I rubbed my scalp - henna flakes, if I twisted my hair - henna flakes (which also left henna flakes in my shea butter conditioner o_0 skeeve). Based on reviews, Mehendi doesn't sift their henna powder as finely as some of the other higher quality BAQ henna brands. So in addition to getting the ground down henna leaves (which is all henna powder is) you also get stems and any other random dirt particles that made it through the sifter.

So today, I made a henna paste using 3 boxes of Jamila henna. Instead of doing the regular "slow release" henna paste method (it takes about 10 minutes to mix but a minimum of 3 hours for the dye to release), I chose to use 2.5 cups of heated green tea to help make the dye release faster and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Already, I can say that the Jamila was less clumpy when I poured the powder into my designated "henna bowl".  So, now I'm letting the henna sit on my hair and am about to rinse it out in 30 minutes. I'm definitely hoping that it rinses out easier than the Mehendi.

Will keep you posted!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Forray Into Henna Land...and a BzzAgent Review


So, I posted last week that I had decided to try to wear my hair out curly and to also work to help grow out my hair better. As a recap, my hair in it's naturally curly state is shoulder length, but when stretched it reaches somewhere between just below my shoulder blades and my back bra strap. The goal for me is about increasing growth but also infusing moisture, stronger strands and thicker hair. Last week, I attempted a texlax (a mildly reduced relaxer) and the results weren't really all that great. I ended up with less tangling, but it did nothing to make the virgin portion of my hair mimic the curl pattern that was going on in the old relaxed ends of my hair...kind of a womp-womp. -_- I think the culprit was a too weak relaxer - I used Hawaiian Silky in mild and then cut it with olive oil as instructions dictated...clearly my hair needed something stronger than "mild"

I was tempted to retry the texlax after a couple of deep conditioning treatments, but thought better of it. Not that I'm against using relaxers, but I didn't want to burn my hair off! So, I went back to researching online and saw that a lot of people used henna as an alternative to chemical methods to loosen curls and infuse strength. Additionally, I noticed that a lot of people who were able to achieve strong, healthy and faster growing hair with vitamins. After even more research, I decided on the following:

Started taking Nioxin's "Intensive Therapy Recharging Complex" multi vitamins: online testimonials all stated that it takes at least a month of consistent use to see results, so I'm only a week in...I'll let you know how it goes in late April.

Twice weekly deep conditioning treatments using an olive oil hair cholesterol followed by Megatek (another follicle infuser and rebuilder). Megatek is actually a crossover product which was initially created to help horses grow stronger manes and tails, but also has been proven to work for humans as well. I'm actually a huge fan of Megatek - I've been using it for two years and a lot of the growth and strengthening of my edges is definitely because of Megatek.

And now, I'm doing a twice a week henna application. I use body art quality henna which is 100% pure Lawsome with no fillers or metallics included in it. Pure henna has been proven to strengthen hair, thicken the strands and soften hair - in addition to naturally dying the hair without damaging it. Typically those results take about 4 to 5 consecutive henna applications to see the results. What's awesome about it (based on the research and reviews I've done) is that it works cumulatively - so the more you henna, the better your hair will be. Henna's fairly cheap too..I bought 4 boxes at roughly $4 a box. But depending on where you are in the world, you can find 100% pure henna for as cheap as $2 a box. This also makes it a really affordable option for people interested in henna but afraid that it would be too expensive with the upkeep. Just note that depending on the length of your hair you might need more than one box. One box equals roughly 100g which is enough for short short hair. Considering that my hair is shoulder length in its natural state but below the shoulder blades when stretched (and that you're supposed to thickly coat your hair when applying the henna) I ended up needing to use 3 boxes.

Anyway the one thing I learned about henna is, results will vary based on your own hair's chemistry. For example, normally for African Americans who are using pure henna on non-chemically dyed hair, there are no noticeable color change results when indoors (in other words, you have to be outside to see the tint effects that are clearly visible on lighter hair). Soooo not true for me. My hair is definitely a lighter brown, and I had always thought that my hair was super close to being almost black - like a very dark off black...not so anymore. It's cool, I'm not upset, but color was the most unimportant aspect of henna for me. So, now I'm going to try to maintain this henna regimen of a twice a week application for at least two months and then begin to taper off to the point where I'm only henna'ing my hair once a month.

Now...for the BzzAgent Review:

I'm currently doing the SC Johnson Smart & Easy Spring Cleaning which is where I was given a bunch of cleaning products from Scrubbing Bubbles and Pledge in addition to fragrances from Glade. If you don't know BzzAgent is a company that offers consumers free products in exchange for spreading the word about how we felt the products actually worked. So, after doing my massive henna routine today, let's just say that the bathroom was a bit messy. Although I was able to contain a majority of the henna splash back when I rinsed it out, there was still a kind of gross ring in the tub and in the sink.

It was the perfect excuse for me to use the Scrubbing Bubbles Foaming Bath spray which is intended to keep the shower (or whatever surface you use it on) clean for up to 4 days. The concept is that as water washes over the surfaces, the "invisible barrier" is activated to keep the surface clean. And, I must admit, it was pretty easy to use. After trying to rinse as much of the henna off as I possibly could, I shook the can of Scrubbing Bubbles Foaming Bath Spray and then sprayed an even coating over the entire tub and on parts of the shower walls and the bathroom sink (which also took some battle damage from the henna). I waited the requested 3 minutes and then rinsed everything with water (thankfully we have a detachable shower head so a lot of this process became much easier). Now my tub and sink are spotless. So, would I buy Scrubbing Bubbles Foaming Bath Spray? Yes I would, I'm not the world's most amazing house keeper, so anything that keeps me from actually having to scrub the tub myself and/or give myself back pain in the process is a must have. ^_^

SC Johnson Smart and Easy Spring Cleaning

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things I've Learned Since Living In New York

It's always great to be able to do a bit of reflection every now and again. And today, as I sat on the 2 train heading uptown to my home in the Bronx, I reflected on a few random nuggets of knowledge (some street smarts and others just random things) that I've learned since moving here. Technically speaking, I've been in the area since 2002 although I was commuting in from NJ (yes I bridge & tunnel). But officially I moved into NYC in 2007. So, now that I'm entering my 4th year of NYC living, without further adieu, here are a few things that I've learned thanks to living in NYC:

1. New Yorkers aren't rude: 

It's a common misconception the rest of the world is taught, that New Yorkers are inherently rude. No, we're (and yes, after almost 10 years in and around the city and 4 years of living here, I feel I can consider myself a New Yorker) not rude, we're just very direct. In a city that has a lot going on and very tough competition for every industry imaginable, attention spans, free time and availability are at a premium. Whether you're vying for a job interview or even a date, you need to get to the point and ASAP. Hemming, hawing and stumbling all over yourself will only get you ignored here!

2. Saying you're from New York = instant street credit worldwide

Seriously...the minute you say you're from New York (unless you clarify to say that you're from "Upstate" and not the 5 boroughs) people automatically consider you cooler by default. Whether you're talking to someone from the 50 states or someone in another country, New York = awesomeness.

**There is a caveat to this: Saying you're from NY can also backfire in the States. Being that I'm originally from Indiana, I do know that many other people in the rest of the country think that New Yorkers think that they're better than everyone else in the country. New Yorkers do have a tendency to act as if the part of the country between NYC and LA is barren with nothing in between. Hence, a lot of people in other states tend to find New Yorkers pretentious...use caution when repping NYC in the'll usually get a mixed bag of responses.

3. When getting hit on by dudes, it's almost a 95% failsafe that saying you're from the Bronx will make them leave you alone. 

This one needs a bit of explaining but generally is true and works whether I'm talking to someone from the 5 boroughs (except the Bx) or someone from another place:

First of all, for better or worse, the Bronx has a reputation for being a little "rough around the edges" from the 70s - 90s period where the Bronx had a lot of negative things going on (drugs, buildings being burned for insurance money & a general decline in NYC). So, even though today much of the Bronx is safe, there are still some very rough parts (Soundview, Edenwald, etc) and unfortunately the rough parts are what people remember.

Second, by default since the Bronx is considered rough, people who live there are often typecast as being equally rough. So, when you say "I'm from the Bronx" some guys might think a Bronx girl = crazy biotch. And the next thought might be: "If I break up with this chick she might pull a 'Waiting to Exhale' AND bring her crazy relatives to come get me too!" (Seriously, I've heard it happen so even though it's a crazy assumption - it isn't entirely unbelievable.)

Third, even for a New Yorker, the Bronx can be intimidating and/or unappealing if you're not from there. It's very common for people to only stick to their borough + Manhattan. So, if you're talking to someone from Brooklyn and you tell them you're from the Bronx, more than likely they'll think you live too far away - and they wouldn't be wrong. With the exception of my annual pilgrimage to Coney Island (the very end of Brooklyn on the very last stop on the D train) I don't venture into Brooklyn very often because it usually means a nearly 2 hour ride from my house (the NE Bronx practically kissing Westchester county near the end of the 2 train). I might like you, but I doubt I'll want to ride almost 2 hours in each direction to see you.

Saying you're from the Bronx works best when you find out where they're from first and when dealing with corn balls - especially in other countries. It's the perfect line every time I go to Tokyo and random guys (both Japanese and from the nearby US military base) try to hit on me at the clubs. For maximum effect, you need to say it with a straight/slightly bitchy face. If you say it but you're still smiling and giggling like a teenager then you're wasting your time.

Note: Saying you're from the Bronx to someone who's also from the Bronx has no effect unless you mention a particularly rough neighborhood and they happen to not be cool in that neighborhood. So, in this situation, you're assed out. Suck it up and find a way to evade him.

4. People rep their borough so don't disrespect their borough unless you really do want a fight. 

Seriously, I've never lived somewhere where the borough someone lived in meant as much to them as a member of their family. With the exception of Staten Island (sorry but everyone I know who lives in SI says it slightly apologetically?!) everyone takes pride in their borough. And I must say, now that I live in NYC - and the Bronx in particular - I have to agree. I like my area, I love the fact that it has diversity and true character & personality. Never tell someone that their general hood is a hot mess unless you want to get into an argument - with Brooklyn people being the most likely to get bent out of shape. Nothing starts fights quicker than telling someone from Brooklyn that their borough sucks. o_0

5. If you can live & work in NYC, then you truly can make it the world. 

It's a much overused cliche but it's so true. Coming from the Midwest and then forcing myself to get up to speed in New York was definitely a huge hurdle to overcome. NYC will definitely show you what you're made of, you'll learn to think on your feet or fail miserably. It's expensive as heck to live here, the competition for everything (jobs, living spaces, and relationships) is FIERCE, and you always have to come with your "A Game". So, if you can do it and still keep your sanity and manage to come out somewhat successful, then you deserve to gloat in that success.

Cue Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" and then transition into Jay Z's "Empire State of Mind". ^_^

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Battle of the Curl - Curly, Natural, Straight...Tired of Fighting It!

A woman's hair is her crown...I don't know who said this but never have more truer words been spoken. There are more products on the market to make a woman's hair shinier, bouncy, change the color, lengthen, fluff, tease and do any other form of manipulation than any other product category that I can think of at the moment. And, in the African American community, never were truer words spoken. A lot of importance is put on hair - for a variety of reasons - many of which I'm not going to get into. I for one have never been one of those people who thought that there was a direct link between an AA woman's hair and the rise or fall of the strength of the AA community. So, if you thought that this was one of those posts, sorry to disappoint you. If my choosing to wear extensions or relaxed hair or natural hair keeps you from going to college then it's more a sign of your lack of focus than my choice in hair styles.

Anywho, it seems like my hair journey began when I was little. Pictures of me as an infant show me with these really awesome almost silky looking corkscrew curls (unfortunately I don't have any of those pics on hand - but take my word for it!). Fast forward to when I was 2 and the silky curls turned to the traditional afro puffs that most AA little girls rock until they're at least four or five. And then somewhere around there, my hair went from being somewhat manageable to being something of a nightmare for my mother to deal with in its natural state. My theory: my 1c/2c baby hair came into its own and turned into a 3c/4a even pushing 4b combo that was a bit more resilient to baby oil and a spritz of water.

So, then we transitioned into the relaxer years (although back then it was always just called a perm even though that was technically an incorrect term). The relaxer years took me from about the age of 5 up to my early twenties. I really didn't know much about my hair growing up except that I always remember it being referred to as the "not so easy hair to manage". It wasn't necessarily bad hair, but I definitely remember my mom saying that I inherited my Nana's (my great grandmother) coarse hair. The regimen was usually just relax it every 6 to 8 weeks and then press it straight. Braids were the normal fare in elementary school, followed by overnight roller sets in middle school and high school was a mix of roller sets and curling irons.

By high school, I was pretty well conditioned to believe that my hair was the kind that didn't do much growing, was the most difficult of AA textures to maintain and should never be seen without the world's strongest relaxer on it. I definitely bought into the theory - once college began I chose to get my hair braided rather than deal with my actual texture (on fear that I wouldn't find a good stylist in a decent radius of the school). College turned to post college and I had switched from micro braids to sew in extensions because they took much less time to install (3-4hrs vs 7-9hrs for braids!).

This is around the time that I also stopped relaxing my hair (circa 2004). In my opinion - if I wasn't wearing my hair out there was no real purpose for me to relax the hair - which honestly makes a ton of sense. Why create an extra step if you really don't have to right? This is also around the time that I would tell my stylist to go ahead and cut my hair if necessary to braid it down because I wasn't wearing it out anyway. Well, fast forward to about 2007 and I decided that I would try and grow my hair out and one day start wearing it on the regular again. What prompted this? Seeing all the length that I was gaining between sew ins. My hair had gone from barely just above shoulder length and being thin and scraggly to being in the shoulder blade area. And, it wasn't gross and stringy but was actually quite thick. At the time I still wasn't ready to wear it out, but I was interested in making the effort to grow it out.

Fast forward again to 2010 and during one of my take down processes (removing a sew-in for you hair novices out there) I realized that my hair was now reaching BSL (bra strap length - referring to the back bra strap)! Literally the longest my hair has ever been! And it was healthy, full - but really coarse (or so I thought). I still wasn't interested in going back to relaxers just because I had this concept that relaxers are inherently bad for you based on my experiences growing up. Thinking back I think it was more of a poor hair care routine, stress and probably not the world's greatest diet that had more to do with that than with the relaxer itself (although looking back, my mom's relaxer application methods are definitely not orthodox - putting relaxer on all hair, not just the new growth).

My hair flatironed Jan '11
Shift to January of this year and I decided to actually take my hair out for a test drive. So, while I was washing my hair, I realized that I had these awesome corkscrew curls throughout my hair. However, when it air dried, the top 6-8 inches of my hair experienced a ton of shrinkage because those inches were all virgin/unrelaxed hair. The bottom 6 - 8 inches maintained their cute corkscrew curls without the shrinkage issues because it was the old relaxed hair that had grown out. Technically, I guess, I'm only half natural. I'm not one of those people who felt like doing a big chop, nor am I one of those people who gets a high from telling people that they're "all natural" - seriously I have bigger concerns in my life than whether or not other people think my hair is really all mine/unaltered by chemicals etc. So, since I couldn't control the curl pattern on the virgin portion of my hair, I ended up straightening everything just to keep some uniformity and because I really wanted to get a look at the length that I had achieved.

Braid out & pinned back
The drawback of trying to wear your hair straight when you're natural is that any little bit of humidity would make the hair poof a bit at the roots - meaning I had to flatiron the hair again to achieve the straightness that would last longer on the relaxed ends. I didn't flatiron all the time, but even I knew that all the length I had achieved I was jeopardizing by flatironing my hair even on a weekly basis. So, for the past week or so, I've been considering alternative methods - and I only had a few options. I could attempt to really embrace my two textured hair (virgin vs. relaxed ends) - but considering that I'd been doing that for the past two and a half months with no luck, I wasn't really taking that option seriously. I could just go back to extensions, keep my hair braided down - problem solved, but not really what I wanted to do. Or, I could put in a texlax, an under processed relaxer that doesn't actually straighten the hair but loosens the curl pattern and somewhat alleviating the shrinkage issue.

Relaxed ends curl pattern
Well, after seeing the super cute curls on my older relaxed ends that I've spent lots of money on to recreate via extensions, and doing a ton of research I opted for the texlax. The reality is the Dorian today isn't the same Dorian who had no clue about proper hair maintenance, relaxer applications and the like. So, tomorrow I begin yet another phase of my hair life and enter the world of texlaxing. And before the natural heads come in and circle the wagons...I think being natural is awesome, but for me it was really an unrealistic option. My natural curl pattern is a mix of 3c and 4a. And it creates gorgeous curls when wet - but when it starts to dry, the curls tighten into something unrecognizable where I can't even comb the virgin hair without wetting it down first. That's just way too much work for me to put into having "natural" hair. I'm a busy chick, I run my own company, I'm always on the go. I DO NOT want to spend all day in front of the mirror - that's why I switched to extensions for so long!!

I'll try to actually document the hair journey via pictures when I remember to do so - I would say that I'd post videos - but I'm not quite that committed to the cause. Anywho, I'll try to keep this updated, but my ultimate goals are gorgeous curls and super healthy, strong and growing hair. :)