Wednesday 25 May 2011

Plaits, Matts and Two Cups of Hair

For some reason, as I wrote this, I felt like I was doing it in your typical Cockney gangster film narrative voice. I have no idea why. 

That is my justification for the abysmal title (name that film).

Obviously, my brain has been fried from far too much revision.

So in a nutshell, here's Braids - The Breakdown.

*Insert appropriate funky rock music here*

The Installation:
My hair had been washed the previous day was and minimally stretched from twists I'd gotten bored of the day before. I did the plaits/braids on dry hair, and used Vatika Oil as my styler thingy.

To do the plaits, I roughly parted and separated (and de-tangled) an adequate section with my fingers and started plaiting with three similarly sized strands of hair. When I no longer had three strands, I did twists to keep my ends together/protected.

I started at 4pm on the Friday evening and worked until 10pm. Then I started again at 11am the next day and was finished by 8pm. The installation was interspersed with cursing the assignment I was supposed to be working on and sorrowfully contemplating how I got myself into such a state.
So we'll just say it took me an entire day to do.

The Maintenance (and Styling)
To be honest, I didn't do anything special; I just went on as usual - I shampooed my hair twice a week, and did some extra rinsing when I'd been doing sports and had gotten all sweaty and stuff.

Every couple of days, I let my hair get a bit wet in the shower, and then applied some leave-in conditioner and  Vatika Oil. At night, I put my hair up in as high a bun as I could manage with a silk satin scrunchie and covered it with a satin scarf.

Silk scrunchie: £1.94 from pc_traders on ebay
Satin scarf (not shown) £2.99 from Hair Shop in London
This made my hair stick up in the morning, so I'd have to wear it in a ponytail as I got ready, or just them them get a bit wet in the shower to remind the plaits of the laws of gravity.

Honestly, I could've done a bit more to look after my ends, but my hair wasn't really my priority at the time, since I was attempting to complete my dissertation and still emerge a mildly sane person out the other end.

Whether this objective was achieved remains to be seen.

I left them in for four weeks and they got delightfully fluffy and fuzzy towards the end at the roots, but from the midsection downwards, the hair was still presentable.

The Fuzzy Roots (totally sounds like a band)

Compared to the still presentable midsection.

However, attempting to do a ponytail with them, meant that the fuzz overtook everything, so for a couple of inches back from my edges, it looked like my edges went on for years.

However, a couple of headbands and I was good to go!

Think I've mentioned the headband was stolen from the Littlest Sis

Headband - Present from The Wonder Thing (Cambodia)
Ear rings - Bought from China.

The matted, fuzzy roots.
Fortunately, the Grunk is not visible.

I know they were fine, because I took them to an interview in the fourth, fuzziest week. And I got what I was interviewing for. So the hair was not a problem.  

Just used a clip to put half my hair up
And left the rest down.
I don't remember where I got the clip from (so I probably hi-jacked it from my mum) but I remember it came in a packet, and you can find sturdier and more appealing clips in Boots and Superdrug.
I would have left them in for a couple more weeks, but my scalp was screaming at me for a proper deep cleansing scrub.

The Take Down
I found that I hadn't managed to completely avoid the grunk. You know, that stuff that appears at the base of the hair when you've had it in extension plaits or kinky twists for a couple of months, and it makes your hair go all matted...?

Wait, you mean you don't get that?

Oh. Okay.

Well, there was grunk. If you've never experienced it, don't worry about it. Just take my word for it.
I used KurlyBella's detangling spray to take my hair down (but that's for another post), and it was relatively easy.

Took me a couple of days though - I started on Thursday morning, and had half of it finished by the end of the day. Friday, had a sports tournament, so didn't get anything done really. Saturday, did some more in the morning, then chilled with friends in the evening and then finally got it all sorted out after church on Sunday.
So four days, but I  could've easily done it in two. I was being extremely careful when I took these out, because I know I'd amassed annihilated caused a small bit of breakage when putting them in, and I shed  buckets, so I was anticipating an ambush of knots and tangles.

My hair did not disappoint. Some areas were as easy as eating cake. Some areas were completely horrific (namely my crown, where the hair is finer and a pain-in-the-backside-ier). The braids were fine, but when I got to the roots, it was really matted and took me a while to gently de-tangle and separate the hair.

I used a pin/rat tail comb to unpick the ends, sprayed on the detangler and then unpicked the braid by hand. I detangled with my fingers and when I had a moderate section, I added more detangler and then clapped my hands together on either side of the section of hair and slid out the shed hair.
Separated the matting with my fingers and then slowly and gently ran my wide tooth shower comb through my hair to make sure.
If necessary, I added some Vatika Oil to give the harder to do sections a lot more slip.
Lack of nurturing my ends for four weeks meant some of them ran for the hills.

It's okay. I didn't like those fair weather ends anyway!

There aren't any pictures because trauma like that should not be shown to the general public...and my phone had been acting suspiciously anyway, so I decided not to.

Monday 23 May 2011

How to Experiment - The Basics

When I first started dealing with my hair, I was lost. Asking desperately for advise on different forums, I was told the same thing:

'Everybody is different. You have to experiment to find what works for you'

Which is all very well and good - but I didn't know how to experiment. It was kind of like trying to make a spaghetti bolognese that I liked with a vague idea of the ingredients but no standard recipe to work off and modify to my taste. Is there such thing as too much tomato purée?!

So I thought a little guide of how to experiment with different products would be kind of helpful. Some of it is based on my experiences, and the rest on methods I've observed.
Therefore it's incredibly subjective. You have been warned! If you have any other advice, please leave them in the comments - sharing is caring! :)

1. Get to know your hair and scalp.

When people talking talk about 'getting to know your hair', they make it sound either like a spiritual journey, or an extremely awkward set of compulsory forced dates. Totally doesn't need to be like that.
Ironically, at the same time, there is supposedly to be certain features unique to textured hair - that's it's coarse, thick and dry.
Yeah, whatever.
Here's a brief check list to help you and the stuff on your hair learn to bond:

  • How much does your hair ordinarily shed in a week?
    A lot of people keep their weekly shed hair in little bag so they can keep an eye on it and come up with an average of how much hair they usually lose. This means you can eventually work out if you've lost too much hair from a particularly rough de-tangling session or potentially more internal issues.
  • What does your hair feel like when it's moisturised?
    And this is very different to how it looks/feels when it's wet and/or oily. If you're transitioning from heat or relaxers, it may take you a while to nurse your hair up to this point. Damaged hair needs a lot of nursing. I can't tell you what it feels like when your hair is moisturised I'm afraid - it's different for everyone.
    I'm guessing not like crisps (chips). But if you know when your hair is moisturised, it can help when trying to untangle that massive knot known as the Protein/Moisture balance.
  • The different needs of the different areas:
    It's almost an accepted fact that people have different patches of hair on their. This doesn't necessarily apply only to hair texture and shape - it can also be to do with properties. For example, the areas that knot a lot easier, or don't respond as well to wheat protein, or turns into mush at the first sign of too much moisture, or never ever feels moisturised. Working out the different needs means banishing that horrid phrase known as 'the problem area'.

2. Do your research.

Did you just groan?
I know, I know, it's boring, but I did say the basics - so that means swotting up on what you think your hair is going to need. Not only on ingredients and techniques, but reviews of products you're considering buying - what have other people said? Is there a similar vein concerning it's faults or good parts? How did they use it, wet or dry? Was there side effects after a certain amount of time?
If that de-tangling method hasn't worked too well for you, what other methods are there? Can you combine different elements of each to make your own? What does slip feel like? [From what I can tell, it's not necessarily a slippy, slimy feeling as I first expected].
If you want to know something and a blog looks fairly knowledgeable, don't be afraid to use the search bar wherever it is. Educate yourselves the best you can.

Do be careful of urban legends that have come to be believed as gospel: E.g "If you cut your hair, it will help it grow!"


3. Write your own  rule book 

Just because someone says 'you're not supposed to' doesn't mean you have to listen to them. Have they been on twenty five failed co-wash dates with your hair? No? Okay.
Everybody expects different things from their hair, and may require different products to achieve.
For some, fluffy hair is where it's it, while others don't mind a bit of crunch if it looks the way they want it to.
You can't experiment freely if you've constricted yourself to a certain list of rules before you've even began.
If sulfate-free isn't working for you, then try sulphates.
If you've bought every single natural product under the sun and it's not working for you, then have a whirl with 'the dark side' of silicones and mineral oil and vice versa.
If you can't afford the mega expensive products, then have a whirl with the cheap ones.
Find what works for you. No such thing as a hair sin!

4. Have a set limit

When using a product, it's natural to expect big things from the product immediately.
Doesn't mean it's realistic.
Whatever you're using may need a couple more goes before it starts to show its true colours, which is useful to know before you start singing its praises or cursing its creator. So if you give yourself a limit, such as one month, 3 months, or 10 uses (depending on the frequency that you plan to use it) that gives you more opportunity to eliminate flukes and see what conditions it works best in or if it even works at all!
Try trial/travel sizes - it gives you a natural limit (to when it finishes) and helps you save money in case you absolutely abhor the product! There usually tend to be a lot of trial sizes of commercial products in Boots and Superdrug, and online suppliers usually have them as well. If not, you can always try and get a swap or, if you're feeling really cheeky, a freebie off kindly people on forums. Sometimes someone's bought a product and hated it so much, they're desperate to give it away.

5. Compare and take it slow.

Start off with what you think are the very basics of a hair regime. For example, a shampoo. See how that makes your hair/scalp feel. And after you've finished using that, and you want to try something else, do it and then compare them. How does this product make your hair feel? Cleaner? Drier? Whether it works better or worse depends on what you're looking for.
Using this method, you can slowly widen your arsenal after you've found the foundation products that work for you.

6. Accept the mistakes (and maybe keep a record of them)

Because that's how we learn!
Have you used too much pomade and now look like you took the term 'buttered up' too literally?
Yeah, you probably won't be doing that again any time soon.
Writing things down, even short notes, on what you used and how you used it can really help you in the future.  Sometimes, you forget that thing you did with your fingers that was amazing, but flicking back and looking through can remind you of it and how great it was! Plus, you can keep a tab on what products you used and hated or disliked, so if they're ever discontinued, you can find a similar product without too much hassle and money wasted.

I hope this helps a little!

Friday 20 May 2011

Why Won't It Whip?

A couple of weeks ago, life had reached a time when I was getting into my third week of braids and The Wonder Thing had not had a hair cut for a  fair while.

Knowing how hair obsessed I am, every now and then he would initiate a frenzy of crazed hair shaking by declaring "I whip my hair!".

This would result in both of us flinging our heads about like absolute loons until I was exhausted or he claimed that his hair was longer than mine.

We are normal, I promise.

Well, eventually the time came when he couldn't take it any more and went to get his hair cut.

An hour later, I got a message from him that said "Whip my  - Ohhh, it's not doing it!"

Why does he look so happy? He's not doing it right!

It took me about 20 minutes to stop laughing.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Plaited Up

Or braided up. You know what I mean.

You know who I blame? I blame pookinapp16! I was watching this video and I was thinking:

"Wow. Her plaits are so cute. I should put plaits in and then.... I will look cute."

Evidence that far too much staring at a computer screen will lead to delusion.

My hair was slightly stretched from twists though not much.

The twists

Also, taking pictures on the back of your head on a webcam is really hard!

I don't have a blow dryer at university, because I've never really been interested in blow drying (hot scalp! Ooowwwwch!). And I didn't part my hair when I started plaiting/braiding, because I'm lazy.

I did it on clean, dry hair, maybe semi-stretched from the twists.

All I used for styling was Vatika Oil, and when I ran out of hair halfway down, I just started twisting.

When I put the first one in, my thought was - "Huh. Maybe that's a little small".

After an hour, I had my front fringe/bangs section done.

By the time I'd finished for the night on the first day, I was ready to kick myself stupid. 4 hours of braiding (and de-tangling, and faux-parting, because my parts just never seem to work, and ripping my hair out) later and this is what I had.

I finished the next day, at about 4pm. Considering I was also agonising over an essay, my timing was not the best, because even for the best multi-taskers in the world, typing and braiding would be difficult.

Unless they can braid one handed.

Oh my goodness, is that even possible?!

Now for the million pound question - Why did I do this to myself?

a. I'm a masochist

b. I have no realistic sense of time, space or my limitations as a human being.

c. I thought it would be a lark

d. I'm a masochist

 Since I was going home the next day, I decided to wash them while I was at uni (and still had time), and I felt I went a little overboard with the Vatika, so the only picture I have from the first week is just after I washed it.

See that space where there should be hair? Mm.

It was a LOT of manipulation - my floor was covered in hair, which was disturbing. I shall not be surprised if I take these down and I'm actually bald. 


I really like them! I keep whipping them back and forth to stuff on the radio, but it's actually nice just to be able to tie it up in a ponytail without having too much effort. 

Also, my mum is pleased with it. YES! She wasn't too impressed with my partings (for obvious reasons - there aren't any) and said that I should take some down, so she could redo them.

I remember the hair on the ground.

At which she cut her eyes at me, but the hair was left undisturbed and just as messy. To be honest, having fine hair means that partings often make me look extremely scalpy in certain areas, so I prefer the messy look.

At the start of Week 2, it looked like this:

My colour is a lot more distinct now...though it's going reddy again >.<
Still kind of neat, though the ends had coiled up (since they were twisted)

Headband nicked from the Littlest Sis

I'm currently in my fourth  week and the braids are definitely a lot fuzzier - washing twice a week probably didn't help much. To be honest, I don't mind the fuzz. The more this style has aged, the more I've liked it. I've also appreciated the flexibility and ease when I've had to wake up early to read through my work again and make sure that all 15,000 words make sense.


Thursday 5 May 2011

Epiphany Break

This post is a bit of a long one - apparently, when it comes to my relationship with my hair, I'm quite the philosopher. Chew on that Socrates!

After I did my Cassia treatment and saw all the broken hairs in the bottom of my shower, I was miffed. I thought that the Cassia hadn't worked properly, that I needed more protein my products, that my hair was incredibly weak. It's usually at moments like this that I consider shaving all of my hair off, as doing so will spite my hair into doing what I want, but I know I'd regret it (though wouldn't it be awesome to graduate with a shaven head?).

Basically, I blamed everyone but myself as I asked "Why is my hair breaking?"

And then I remembered this post.

Truth be told, it was almost definitely breaking because of me. Usually, my breakage consists of long strands with no white bulbs, but this time, after handling my hair far in far too rough a manner; after the shrinkage and tangling I'd experienced from the Doomed Twistout; after using a new comb on my sopping wet and weak hair to make detangling easier, when I know my hair is too fine for me to use brushes and combs on it...well, there were a lot of those dreaded short curly bits on the floor.

Then I actually took a look at my hair and was like "Whoa. Why am I so upset?" The fact is, despite all the 'problems' I keep finding with my hair, I love it. At the moment, it's probably the best looked after it's ever been in my entire life. Even when I'm mad about breakage, I love the way it feels when it's wet, when it's dry, when it's twisted or when it's fluffy.

Hold up. Freud insight moment!

*breaks it down on her chaise lounge*

I've been so focused on getting to Waist Length and proving my mum wrong, I'd forgotten what I'd first thought when I'd stopped relaxing - that I wanted to enjoy my hair.

I was still bitter over the hair that got cut and kept thinking, if it hadn't gotten cut, I would be down to here by now... Which is stupid, because being bitter over it isn't going to make the hair miraculously grow back like it never left.

Obsessed with preserving my hair, I'd continuously been watching Youtube videos and reading blog posts and advice and wondering what I was doing wrong, whilst ignoring the most important piece of advice they'd all given:

Leave your hair alone and treat it extremely delicately.

And then prepare for the fact that, even after looking after it incredibly well, hair will still break eventually, because nothing lasts for ever.

My hair is not perfect, but neither am I. And there's a funny sort of liberation that comes from realising that your very idea of perfection is flawed - whether its to do with hair, or appearance or intelligence and talents.

I'll get to Waist Length, but there's no rush, except on my part. People can do it in two years, but I'm not prepared to put my hair away for 2 years in order to do that. I want to enjoy it!  If I set myself a certain goal of achieving it, it'd more than likely be a measurement a year, because I'm taking it nice and slow now.

Armpit Length by the end of 2011, Bra Strap Length by the end of 2012, Mid Back Length by the end of 2013 and Waist Length by 2014.

Totally doable.

And even if takes me five years, or even ten, but I will get there eventually, but at my own pace.

But I really need to stop obsessing over my hair. Which for me consists of no longer compulsively recounting the hair journeys of other people and comparing my progress against theirs, and always pulling my hair down to check how length I've gained in 2 hours and signing up to so many challenges, because I always fail or find myself lacking.

Gets helluva boring pretty quickly. My only hair challenge for this year is no more hair challenges.

No more limiting myself by rules that are focused on gaining length.

Remembering the art of patience and the fact that I do have a life outside of my hair (even if my blog does not seem to indicate this!).

After I finish Loo's 3in6 challenge, I guess I'm dropping out of Milan's challenge.

So in order to honour this promise to myself, my hair and I are on a break.

After having this incredible epiphany, I went ahead and put my hair into braids.

Tiny, tiny braids.

Monday 2 May 2011


Since it was one of my purchases, I decided to do a Cassia treatment to strengthen my hair. I didn't want to do a Henna because...well, I couldn't be bothered with the staining.

It's bad enough with hibiscus, and I actually like the colour of that.

Plus, I don't want red hair.

(If Henna stained purple instead of red, then I would probably have shares in the darn thing, but that's the way the Lawsonia Obovata crumbles).

I got it from my lovely local hippy co-operative shop.
This was the brand.

Yeah, I don't know who they are either.

First up, let me admit something. When I poured the Cassia powder out into the bowl, I expected fireworks.

 I thought the stuff was going to come out wearing squeaky, shiny blue briefs and a cape and declare "Worry not, A Simple Thing! All your mushy haired breakage issues will now be a thing of the past!"

Of course, my over active imagination had set me up for crushing disappointment, because this is what I got instead:

Not only were there no trumpets or superhero theme tun music, it also smells almost exactly like henna. I know because I leant over the bowl and accidentally inhaled some.

I dumped the entire 90g into a bowl and added enough hot water to change it from a powder, to a paste...

..and so forth, until it was the consistency of chocolate pudding.

 Because, you know, then it was thick enough to spread evenly on my hair.

And also, I really love chocolate pudding.

Then I covered it with...well, I don't remember, but I left it for half an hour, as per the instructions.

It went very brown on top. Maybe I didn't cover it properly. Oopsie.

I separated my hair into four incredibly elegant sections and pre-oiled really well with Vatika. 

So with my gloved hands, I slapped the Cassia  on section by section.

I tried to twist the four sections to make it easier and more methodical when rinsing it out, but that didn't really work since the heaviness of the Cassia and density of my hair meant that the twists kept unravelling and I just couldn't be bothered to do it up again.

If you want a reeeeal depth analysis, the procedure went a lot like this: 

SHLOP! Schlep, schlep, schlurrrrrrp squish schlapschlapschlap!

I don't have any fancy gloves, so yes, I did use my kitchen ones to avoid staining my hands. 

I left it on for an hour and a half and it took me an hour to rinse it out, probably because it was too thick and because I couldn't get more pressure. Removable shower heads are so under rated! Plus, it got everywhere in my shower - once my head was wet, if I turned around too quickly, there would be a massive streak of Cassia up the wall ;_;

So if I do this again, I definitely need to add more water to the paste (love of chocolate pudding consistency aside), because it dried on my head extremely quickly.

 I did suffer massive breakage (as usual), so didn't take any pictures because I was sulking. More on that later (the breakage, not the sulking).

I half heartedly conditioned, because I was exhausted, then used my usual leave in and then sealed with Vatika oil and twisted my hair into fat twists.

...Breakage is a beast.

My verdict on the Cassia?
Usually, after washing, my hair is mushy, especially if  I pre-treat it with anything, but it didn't feel that way afterwards.
My hair felt mildly stronger, like I'd had a weak but really effective protein treatment.

I was not completely blown away by it but then again, you know, I was expecting fireworks and Superman and briefs, you know? So it didn't meet those high (and probably unrealistic) expectations but it did pretty well.

Even now, when I touch my hair, it doesn't feel as limp as it usually does and that was *looks at the scheduled time of publishing* three weeks ago, so I'm thinking of making this a regular thing.

Maybe not during exam time though, since I made a real mess of the kitchen, because I dropped the stirring spoon and the Cassia went....splat on the fridge and floor >.< Plus, at £2.40 a go, it'll be like every 2 months or something -___-