Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hair Today: Curly Updo and New Product

Today, I decided to opt for a curly up do and to try out a new product. Here's what I did:

Last night:
  • Spritzed hair with filtered water.
  • Applied TIGI Bead Head Self Absorbed Conditioner
  • Sealed with shea mixture.
  • Created 7 flat twists.
  • Slept with satin bonnet.

This Morning:
  • Untwisted (NO FLUFFING!)
  • Gathered hair into a fountain twist.
  • Secured with pale horn barrette and a hair pin.

The Results:

I do like this style. It's one of my favorites. It's classy and chic and can easily be dressed up or down. The style is really easy to create and I LOVE effortless styling. I did like the use of the TIGI Bed Head Self Absorbed. It set my twists very nicely and with the Shea mixture left the curls soft and moisturized. The conditioner is kind of light so I would definitely recommend sealing with shea butter or olive oil to maintain moisture. My hair handled it very well and I think I saw a bit of shine coming though. In all, I will rank this as a keeper.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wash and Go into a Curly Fro????

Have you ever noticed that some of your worst hair attempts can magically turn themselves into some thing good?  How a complete mishap can yeild an awesome style in a totally different form? Well, this happened to me yesterday. I decided to give the wash and go a shot. So the night before I applied my Brahmi oil as a pre-wash treatment. The next day I washed my hair with my homemade shampoo, conditioned with my Giovanni 50:50 Balancing conditioner and detangled under cold water. I jumped out of my shower and reached for my Kinky-Curly Curly Custard and slathered it in, instead of applying in SMALL sections like the directions stated  (not to self, next time READ!). Anyway, thanks to my hair being THICK and kinky the product didn't go all the way though and I could tell I was headed for disaster. So I put a small amount of my shea butter mix in my hair and proceded to do two strand twists. I had to rewet my hair  a few times but I eventually got several large twists in my hair. Deciding to take things a step further, I used flexirods to curl the ends of my hair. So last night I went to bed with my rollers in my hair and took them out this morning when I woke up before going to the gym. I kept the twists in and used a satin scarf under my bandanna to hide the fact. Well after the gym I got home, showered, undid the twists, fluffed with shea butter on my hands and I was delighted at what I saw. I had a curly fro and it looked pretty good! This just goes to show how what appears to be a disaster can manifest itself ito something positive. I've never worn a curly fro, actually I very RARELY wear my hair out, so I am pretty excited at this. There is a little bit of frizz here and there but over all I'm really like this style.  Check out the pics below. Also I did recieve my Amla powder and Brahmi Oil in the mail this week and I did an Amla treatment. I have pics of what I did and will post as soon as I find the USB cord to my Blackberry.

So to recap, here are the products I used in the order of use:
  • Brahmi Oil- pre-wash treatment over night
  • Homemade Shampoo: 3/4 cup of Dr. Bronner's Lavender Castile Soap, 1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/2 cup filtered water.
  • Giovanni's 50:50 Balancing Hydrating Conditioner to condition and detangle under cool water.
  • A bit of Kinky-Curly Curling Custard (careful not to use too much or you'll end up with white flakes in your hair).
  • Homemade Whipped Shea mixture to seal the ends and add moisture.
The end results:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Product Experement and Styling Update

For the last month or so I've been reading about Amla. Alma, or Indian Gooseberry, is an edible fruit from a deciduous tree of the same name. It's used in traditional Indian medicine in fresh or dried form to cure various ailments including, skin and hair ailments. Its also used widely among Indian women as a cosmetic. Amla Powder is a natural astringent and skin toner that works on both hair and skin. The paste makes hair glossy and silky, enhances waves and curls, leaving behind a clean and healthy scalp. The past has also been seen to stimulate hair roots to promote growth. This paste can also prevent scalp infection and controls premature graying of the hair, as well as dandruff from the hair and scalp yielding body to the hair. This powder can also be added to henna to tone down the reds and give more brown hues. As for the skin, the past of Amla powder improves complexion and removes pimples and grime.

I've poked my head in on a few natural hair care forums in search of women who have used Amla powder. I've found  quite a few and all have given the powder good reviews. So I figured I'd give it a shot and ordered 200g of Amla powder from butters-n-bars.com. Also while doing my research I stumbled upon a certain oil called Brahmi oil. Brahmi oil is a combination of pure coconut oil and 22 Indian herbs and is known for therapeutic effects. Ramtirth Brahmi oil has been proven beneficial for hair complaints and for promoting the growth of long lustrous hair.  After finding some pretty supportive reviews (and giving in to being a product junkie) I purchased a bottle as well from Butters-N-Bars.

So my package should be arriving next week and when I wash an restyle my hair I'll give this a shot and see how they work. I'll report back with my review

Now, on to a styling update. While searching diligently for a cute, easy to do/maintain protective hairstyle I stumbled across a natural hair blog. Mane And Chic has a great guide called Hair 101: The Beginner's Guide. Featured in this guide are washing techniques, tips on conditioners, shampoos, scalp stimulation and more. There's also a section on hairstyles and in this section the name of one particular style caught my attention. It's called the Southern Tease Bun. Being a child of the South, I HAD to check this style out. To my luck I found that she put together a youtube video on how to do this style. It looked super easy and like a super cute and chic hairstyle! Check out the video by clicking here. I'm going to give this style a try next week as well. I know bunning is nothing new to naturals, but I've yet to try a single bun. I've done double side buns and french twists but nothing like this. My hair hasn't really been long enough to bun until now, so this is kind of new to me. I'm also thinking of doing a bunning experiment. I've heard that a lot of ladies had great growth results by bunning. Bunning is a very popular protective style that keeps fingers out of hair thus preventing over manipulation. So if my bun turns out successful, I'll give it a shot for a month or two and see what happens.  I'll have more product reviews coming up soon.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Health and Fitness Tips of the Week

Super Food of the Week: Strawberries

Strawberries have grown wild for nearly millennia in regions throughout the world. Sometime before the Christian era they began being cultivated and were highly prized and considered a luxury to the ancient Romans. Today, strawberries are increasingly available year round to the general public in over 600 varieties that differ in flavor, size and texture. The fragrantly sweet juiciness of this little deep red fruit makes it easy for just about anyone to sink their teeth into strawberries and their health benefits are just as sweet. This little fruity heart-shaped treat is filled with phtonutrients, and other vitamins and minerals that love to love your body.

Strawberries are filled with unusual and potent antioxidants, which give strawberries their flush red color. These specific antioxidants have been repeatedly sown to help protect cell structures in the body and prevent oxygen damage in all of the body’s organ systems. These antioxidants also make strawberries a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit as well an anti-inflammatory fruit, rolled into one beautiful red package with a green bow on top. Strawberries anti-inflammatory properties have been shown helpful with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis and cancer.

At some point in our lives, probably when we were children, we were told that carrots would keep your eyes bright and healthy. As it turns out carrots have to share this fame with fruits as well. A study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology presented data that indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is the primary cause of vision loss in older adults. Strawberries are the perfect choices to fit the order, as they contain nutrients that help fight macular degeneration.

Strawberries also contain hair friendly vitamins. Strawberries are an abundant source of vitamin C, a well-known antioxidant. In addition to being an antioxidant, vitamin C has been found aid in the improvement of scalp circulation, helping to deliver nutrients to the hair follicle. Vitamin C’s antioxidant property also helps to keep your skin healthy and young looking and is also important in iron absorption. Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, is also found in strawberries. In addition helping muscles produce energy, vitamin B2 also aids in the support of hair strength and growth. Strawberries also contain vitamin B6, which functions in the formation of body proteins and amino acid metabolism as well as other important bodily functions. Vitamin B6 also helps to promote healthy skin and reduce skin and scalp inflammation. A deficiency of vitamin B6 often manifests itself in hair loss. Strawberries also contain some omega 3 fatty acids, which are needed to support scalp health.

So if you’re looking for a sweet treat that you won’t regret then strawberries are the way to go. You can eat them simply as they are or you can try adding sliced strawberries and almonds to a fresh green salad. You can also try layering sliced strawberries, whole blueberries and plain non-fat yogurt in a wine glass for an elegant and tasty parfait dessert. You can even add them to oatmeal or your favorite breakfast cereal for a sweet mix. Anyway you eat them, this is a sweet and juicy treat your body definitely appreciate.

Fit Tip of the Week: Plyometrics: What is it and how does it work?

You’re probably seen the P90X or Shaun T’s Insanity infomercials where people are jumping around or doing highly explosive movements during a particular portion of the exercise program. You’ve probably asked yourself, “What the heck are they doing?” or have said to yourself “That looks insane!” (pardon the pun). What you are seeing is a form of training that’s been around for years called plyometrics. Plyometrics is a type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements, and improve the functions of the nervous system for the purpose of improving athletic performance. Also known as “jump training”, plyometrics involves stretching of a muscle prior to contracting it. With these movements a muscle is loaded and then contracted in rapid sequence using the strength, elasticity and nerve innervation of the muscle and surrounding tissues to jump higher, run faster, throw father, or hit harder depending on the desired training goal. This type of training increases the speed or force of muscular contractions, generating the strongest contraction possible in the shortest amount of time, or simply put explosiveness.

In the 1970’s Eastern Europeans first used plyometrics to develop greater strength and power in their Olympic athletes. They based their programs on scientific evidence that stretching muscles prior to contracting them produces a stretch reflex, which enhances the power of the muscle contraction. So, for example, if you’re jumping the pre-stretching of the muscles occurs when you perform jumps one after another. When you land from a jump, the muscles in the front of your thighs stretch as the knees bend, and then quickly contract again with the next leap, which enhances the power of the second jump.

Now the next question is, is this something that is helpful? In my opinion I believe that in certain situations plyometrics can helpful and effective. Studies have sown that plyometrics training can lead to improvements in leg strength, muscle power, acceleration, balance and overall agility. However, there is a catch. Plyometrics training has received a lot of criticism due to the reported case of injury following programs of depth jumping, drop jumping, jumping up to, and down from boxes or benches that are as high as 42 inches. Plyometrics training does carry a higher risk of injury due to the forces sustained from these types of jumps onto a hard surface as well as from the explosiveness involved. With the help and supervision of a certified strength and conditioning specialist or trainer and a gradual progression a plyometrics program can be safe and effective. Keep in mind that jumps should always begin from ground level, off of and onto padded surfaces such as grass or a gym mat over a wood gym floor. These jumps are safe and easy to perform. Other techniques include jumping over cones or foam barriers.

There are some safety precautions that I feel that are necessary to mention about plyometrics. Again, there is an increased risk of injury due to the large forces generated during training and performance. Therefore, plyometrics training should only be performed by well-conditioned individuals under the supervision of a fitness specialist, therapist, or physician. Good levels of physical strength, flexibility, and proprioception are essential and should be achieved before starting plyometrics training.

That being said, plyometrics training is NOT for beginner exercisers, people with acute or chronic joint issues or injuries, obese individuals, or pregnant women. However, if you are physically conditioned and are considering plyometrics, then I strongly urge that you proceed with caution. Consult a sports medicine physician or therapist to see if this type of training is suitable for you. They can also help you get started or recommend someone who can. Remember, a safe and effective program stresses the quality, not quantity, of jumps. Safe landing techniques, such as lading from the toe to heel from a vertical jump, and using the entire foot as a rocker to dissipate landing forces are also important to reduce impact forces. Avoidance of excess side-to-side motion at the knee is also important in protecting your knees. If improving athletic performance is not a high priority or even a fitness goal, then the additional risk associated with this activity may not be worth the potential benefits. Remember to always put your safety first.

Until next week, stay happy and healthy!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Am I My Hair? Perhaps...

The ever beautiful India Arie wrote a song called "I Am Not My Hair". It's a beautiful empowering song and if you haven't heard it, then you need to book it over to iTunes and download it. The more I hear this song and the more I think about my own kinky mane. I begin to ask myself more and more, am I my hair?? India's song speaks of true inner beauty and how what's on the inside is much, much more than what's seen on the outside. She sings about the common stereotypes of African hair and how women with kinky curly hair try so hard to conform to the mainstream idea of beauty and beautiful hair (nothing against my straight haired sisters!).

I can recall a time when I was living in England with my parents. I was about 6 years old and my mom and I were shopping in London and we passed by a black woman with a huge beautiful Afro. It was like a perfect beautiful kinky curly halo framing her face and head. She was stunning!!! She carried herself with such happiness and confidence, as if she were Miss Universe. I was in total awe of her, in a trance if you will, as she walked by. But suddenly, my mother's voice broke my trance as I heard her say, "She needs to do something with that nappy head of hers." The look of disgust on my mother's face matched her tone. My eyes fell to my mother's Jeri curled hair and and then turned back to watch the woman with the halo continue to walk down the sidewalk. And slowly the realization came to mind that natural hair was unclean and disgusting, and yet I still wanted that beautiful mane of hair. It was the spring when this happened. That summer my mother took me to the salon and transformed my naturally kinky curly hair into an oily mess with a Jeri curl. Thus began the years of hiding my true self and complete agony.

Much like India's song I spent years wearing weaves, curling, relaxing and damaging my hair in attempts to be "normal". After all, I was an Army brat that spent most of her life in Europe and areas where there were very few other black girls and most of my friends where of non-African heritage and had beautiful flowing hair. I wanted that!! But, year after year (thanks to harsh chemicals and damaging styling) my hair became worn, weathered, and damaged and I STILL didn't have the flowing mane my friends did. I remember when I was a little girl tying a big fluffy towel around my head pretending it was my hair and tossing it over my shoulder as if I were Cher (I even ran around the house with a hairbrush singing Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves). In a way, I did become my hair. I was oppressed, damaged, angry, disappointed and hidden. All until one bad chemical treatment left me with burns and handfuls of hair missing back in 2006. The breakage was so terrible and I had to cut my shoulder length hair into a short pixie cut. Talk about a shocker!! That's when I decided I'd had enough. That I was not going to be my hair anymore, at least not in that state. So in came the braids and with every new set I cut off small amounts of the relaxed ends. Slowly, my natural hair started to come though and on 28Feb2009 I took out my last set of braids and cut off the last 1/4 inch of relaxed hair. Suddenly, there she was. The woman in London walking down the street with her beautiful halo of natural African hair. Only this time she was in my bathroom mirror.

Since that day, over a year ago, I've learned new ways to love and care for my natural hair. In short I've fallen in love with it and have come to the realization that in some ways I am not my hair. I am not the unclean, radical and unprofessional stereotype that natural hair has had bestowed upon it. However, in many ways I AM my hair! I am strong, vibrant, versatile, healthy, beautiful, unique, and I'm growing. I AM the woman confidently walking down the sidewalk with beautifully natural kinks and curls. Yes, I am my hair and I love every minute of it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book Review: Curly Like Me: How To Grow Your Hair Healthy, Long and Strong

Friday morning I purchased this book's e-book version on my Barnes and Noble Nook (if you don't have one, GET ONE!). I'm already a huge fan and follower of Teri. Her website (www.tightlycurly.com) is one of my absolute favorites. So when I heard back in the fall that she was publishing a book, I was so very excited. Her website is absolutely amazing. I especially love the ingredients dictionary she has on the site. It's helped me countless times identify ingredients that can be harmful to my curls or if I didn't know what an ingredient was or what it's used for. It's helped me to avoid spending a ton of money on products that could damage my hair instead of making it strong and healthy. So, needless to say I was excited to read her book. In her book she goes in to great detail the techniques she used to grow and maintain her beautiful hair. This technique is also described on her website as well. I've been using bits and parts of her techniques (combing, cleansing, products and ingredients to avoid), but I still wanted to read her book. I was glad that I did. Teri shared some wonderful insight into curly hair. She shares her vast knowledge and research on what makes curly hair, well, curly and unique! She also shared her own personal horror stories of her struggles of trying to make her hair fit the ideal straight hair, something I think all naturals can relate to. She also filled her pages with great styling ideas for long hair, as well as books that she encourages everyone to read. Over all I'm glad I purchased her book. Like I said I've only used bits and parts of her styling techniques and I'm seriously giving some thought to trying all of them out as I'm kind of in a stying rut. Hopefully, these techniques will hold up to hard workouts and keep me from over manipulating my hair. If you haven't already visited the tightlycurly.com website or read Teri's book, I would encourage you to do so. The information that she has can prove to be very helpful or at the very least teach you which product ingredients to avoid. Thanks Teri for sharing your knowledge with the world!!

Styling Rut

Ok, I've officially entered a styling rut with my curls. I've been wearing the double side buns with flat twists in the front for about three weeks now. I'm kind of burnt out on this style. I do like it a lot. It's cute, simple and quick to do. It lasts until I co-wash and deep condition every five days and though my sweaty workouts. I'm wanting to give the twist and curl a shot again, but I'm not sure if this style will survive daily workouts. I've done a twist and curl style before back in the fall and it turned out well even after a workout. But I would like something that would last at least five days and doesn't require a lot of manipulation. With the double buns all I have to do at night is tie a scarf around the my head and untie in the morning. So I'm not sure what I want to do. Thought about going back to just tiny twists, or a single bun with various hair pins and clips for decoration. But again I'm not really sure. I would really like to start wearing my hair down and out and really show off and enjoy my curls, but I'm just not sure how. I've been stalking some of my favorite blog and sites for ideas but nothing has yet to strike my fancy. Most of the styles look really awesome on hair that's much longer than mine *sigh*. Anyway, hopefully by the time it's time for me to co-wash and deep condition again I will have come up with something. Below are some pics of some styles I've tried before.

Pony Poof. This was my staple style last summer. I gave it up out of fear of putting too much tension on my hair.

Twist n' Curl. (Fall 2009). This pic was taken one afternoon since being at work since 4:30am and an hour long workout. I think this was second day hair and I can't for the life of me remember what products were used in the creation of this beast lol.

This was taken last week. I'm rocking my double buns with my straw hat to protect my hair from the sun. Plus it's super cute and goes pretty well with the earrings.

I guess we'll see what comes to mind.