Archive for Beauty

Hair and the family revisited

Posted in life, Traveling natural with tags , on August 7, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

Sorry for disappearing again, but I had a death in the family almost two weeks ago and I had to go out of town for most of last week to attend the funeral. I had been apprehensive about going because I hadn’t seen many of my family-both immediate and extended-in about five years. I won’t go into most of the reasons here but one reason I had some trepidation about the trip was due to the fact that a lot of my family had never seen me with fully natural hair, since it’s just been nearly three years since I gave up chemically straightening it. I was prepared to deal with ignorance due to this goldie oldie post as well as from what I’ve seen and heard other naturals experience.

I didn’t take any pictures while I was away, but these pictures from about a month or so ago represent how I generally wore my hair the whole time, which was in a wash and go. I knew I didn’t want a style that required a lot of upkeep and I didn’t want to bring a lot of products with me as I had limited luggage space. I also didn’t want to fight with my texture too much as I was down South and it gets hot and humid as hell down there this time of year.

I actually received fewer remarks about my hair then I thought I’d get. My sister, who has had locs for five years, asked if I had a jheri curl in my hair ::big eyeroll:: Some of you reading this may be clueless about what it was, but I’m old enough to remember when it was all the rage ::shudder:: My sister actually had one when we were in high school, as well as my mother and several other members of my extended family. It was basically a perm that  gave you looser curls so you’d look as though you had “good hair”::another eyeroll:: People with it moisturized their hair with curl activator gels and moisturizers. Those products can actually work well with natural hair as many of them contain glycerin, a highly touted moisturizing agent. That is if you’re so inclined. They do tend to be greasy, so if you don’t like a greasy feel to your hair, they may not be for you. Some of us may have issues with them if you had the curly perm in the past though. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Coming to America,” the scene where Eddie Murphy’s rival and cohorts all get up from the couch leaving jheri curl juice stains on it is priceless, but if you were ever in that situation, it was hella embarrassing. So, where was I ? Got off on a tangent. Oh yeah. I had KCCC in my hair and that product can make  it appear as though I have a jheri curl, but seriously? Why slap some chemicals in my hair to give me curls when I already have them naturally? The jheri curl was probably one of the most asinine inventions in hair care ever as many people who got them already had curls. Just goes to show you that not all naturals have a clue about all facets of natural hair. Then a cousin stated that she couldn’t go natural because she didn’t have good hair. Which got a sideye. “Good” hair is hair that is healthy, no matter how tight your curls are, not hair that is straightened to the point where it’s fried to a crisp. We have a long way to go before the “good hair, bad hair” mentality is eradicated because this way of thinking is still so pervasive in communities of color. Those were the only comments I got about my hair-to my face anyway. Compared to what other naturals experience, I got off pretty lightly. Some people may wonder why I felt a little uneasy about my hair around my family because after all, it is just hair. But it’s extremely indicative that how black women wear our hair is a huge issue that can have major social and political implications. Sometimes, hair isn’t just hair.


The talk, Part II

Posted in Beauty standard, curly/kinky hair with tags , on July 11, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

I actually had an entire paragraph written out yesterday that preceded the post I shared from another site, but WordPress ate it. Here is yesterday’s post.

That post really hit a nerve because 35 years ago, I was that child. A child who was reared in a predominantly white neighborhood and was envious of the long, straight hair that her white classmates possessed. A child who felt that her kinks and coils were ugly. A child who dreaded having to explain why her twists and braids were able to stay in her hair without unraveling while the braids and twists her white classmates attempted to put in their hair unraveled within seconds. And so on. All these years later, I realize that I dreaded having to explain my hair to people who didn’t look like me because at the time, I actually didn’t really understand it. No one in my family understood it either. Neither did friends of the family. Basically, many of us were taught that it wasn’t acceptable and that it needed to be hidden with wigs or weaves or “fixed” with chemical or thermal straighteners. When I begged my mother for a relaxer at the age of 9 or 10, all she said at the time was that I was too young. She didn’t have the tools nor the self esteem to instill the kind of pride in my hair that the mother in that post did and by the time I was in high school, I was allowed to get the perm. I’d love to say that what that little girl experienced was an isolated incident, but I can’t. Unfortunately, similar incidents like that are played out among numerous little black girls all the time.

That post also segues into a major pet peeve that I have. Now, what grown women do to their hair is their business. However, when I first started posting on hair boards, I soon discovered that my first perm at 14 was at a fairly late age. I was shocked to see a number of people admitting that they had gotten their first relaxers at the age of 3 or 4. Those caustic chemicals can damage the hair of grown women, resulting in burns, scabs and hair loss. You can imagine how much more damage they can do to a small child. I personally don’t remember girls getting perms before around the age of 10 when I was growing up and a number of them weren’t allowed to get them until puberty, like me. Perms were a rite of passage in my day. Now mothers are slapping chemicals into their daughters’ heads before they even reach kindergarten. The reasons go beyond the mainstream media. They’ve brainwashed black women into accepting the European standard of long, straight hair for decades. It’s partly due to the fact that we live in a faster paced world where people want instant gratification. Today’s mothers don’t have the patience or the time to care for their daughters’ natural hair in the way that it needs to. So their solution is to slap a relaxer, regardless of the damage they can do, because they think straight hair is easier to care for. However, a lot of women don’t have the knowledge to care for relaxed hair properly and are unaware that it needs protein treatments, deep conditioning and the like just as much as natural hair. If anything, relaxed hair needs those treatments a lot more frequently than natural hair. Besides laziness though, the message the mothers are sending to their daughters’ is damning by perpetuating the belief that their hair is ugly and that in order to be accepted or even loved, it needs to be straight. They should accept the burns and scabs as a badge of honor because”beauty is pain.” I wish we could banish that phrase from the language. Being beautiful shouldn’t have to be painful by doing things to your body that it was never meant to tolerate. I also think the push to perms our girls’ hair at younger ages is partly due to our society sexualizing our children at younger ages. It’s not uncommon for parents to go to Children’s Place to find clothes more suitable for a prostitute than for an 8 year old. Straight hair is regarded as sexy in our culture. Black girls in general aren’t regarded as beautiful but we can easily change their hair so that they won’t be ignored in the very least. It’s kind of sad, really.

The mother and daughter in yesterday’s post are the epitome of strength and confidence, something more people in our community need. Will we ever get to a point where “the talk” won’t be necessary, because our hair would have been fully accepted as normal and not a curiosity? I hope the answer is yes, but who knows.

Summer hair

Posted in great outdoors, Natural hair care with tags , , on June 27, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

We’re in my favorite season-summer! Which means long days, barbeques and the beach to name a few things that can be fun this time of year. This time of year can be a double edged sword for naturals, though. On the one hand, with the increased humidity in many places, it means that the air is rich with the moisture that our hair desperately needs. On the other hand, all that moisture may cause our hair to swell, meaning that controlled, defined hair like this (which was the result of a flat twist out I did over a month ago) :

could turn into BAA (Big Ass Afro) like this within minutes of stepping out the door:

Regarding the woman in the above picture, she’s Aevin Dugas. Last year, she made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the biggest fro. It measures more than 4 feet and is bigger than a disco ball. I only wish my hair can get as huge as this.

Some naturals don’t care about their hair starting out one way and then changing into something else, but if you’re the type to spend considerable time styling your twist/braid/bantu knot out and you get upset about the elements turning your hair into a style you didn’t intend, here are a few things to consider:

1. Simply don’t try to fight nature: Sometimes prepping for twist-outs and roller sets will only end in futility. Once the humidity gets ahold of your hair, those styles can become fro-outs real quick. If you do not intend to rock one of these styles only to end up with another, you can opt for a wash-n-go or other styles that won’t fight with your texture.

2. You can try protective styling to keep your hair off of your face and neck. I gave up on protective styling awhile ago as my hair isn’t thick or dense enough for certain styles to look good and my edges are too fragile for others, but a lot of naturals swear by it as the key to length retention.

3. You can try hats. Curly and kinky hair can be unpredictable, especially in humid conditions and hats are a great accessory. They have the added benefit of keeping your hair protected from the elements (wind, sea, sun, etc.). I’m not a big hat person myself, though I do have a big collection of baseball caps.

4.Forget heat styling. All the time and effort it would take to get your hair straight will only be undone once you step out the door. Your hair could resemble Ms. Dugas’s within 5 minutes. Not that it would be a horrible thing as she has great hair, but if you don’t intend for your hair to turn into a fro, save yourself the hassle and keep your hair curly.

5. Don’t use products containing humectants in high humidity, especially if they are listed within the first five ingredients, which means they are in high quantities. Humectacts attract the moisture in the air and draw them into your hair, causing it to swell. The most common humectants are glycerin and propylene glycol, but there are a few others.

I do have a caveat to all these tips though: If your hair is fine and thin like mine, there are times when you may actually welcome the frizz and the swelling as your hair will appear fuller. For those times when you don’t mind hair that’s undefined or uncontrolled, feel free to disregard the whole post. 😀

Happy summer, everyone!



Dealing with alopecia

Posted in alopecia, curly/kinky hair, Natural hair care with tags , on March 8, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

I know it’s been a little while, so before I begin, I’ll update you on a couple of styles that I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks or so.

I rediscovered a style that I used to do rather frequently, but hadn’t done in months mainly because of time constraints, which is the braidout. It’s easy to do. I prefer to do my twistouts and braidouts on damp hair because the resulting curls are more defined. So while damp, I simply put my hair into 8-12 plaits, let them dry overnight, take them down the next morning, fluff my hair and go. The thing is that it takes a long time for braids to dry and because each braid consists of three strands of hair, the takedown is longer. If braids are taken down before they’re fully dry, they can be a frizzy hot mess, so half the time, braidouts were a miss for me. During the work week, the style was affecting my ability to get to the job on time, so I stopped doing it. Until a couple of weekends ago when I was meeting a friend for dinner and another friend for karoake and I wanted to do something different with my hair. I washed my hair one Friday night, put my hair into 12 plaits and let them dry overnight before taking them down. That time, I was able to let my hair dry for about 18 hours before taking them down, so upon takedown, the plaits were 100%. I don’t remember exactly what products I used, though, since it’s been awhile. I know I either used the Curl Junkie Honey Butta or the Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie and the pink Ecostyler for more hold. My hair looks very voluminous, something that doesn’t happen all the time.

I revisited Kinky Curly Curling Custard (KCCC) today for the first time since Christmas. My hair doesn’t look as full here, but the curls are defined.

If you notice, I often wear my hair out and have the front of it pulled forward. It’s mainly to disguise the alopecia I have along my hairline. I’ve alluded to it in the past but this post will be a more thorough discussion about it. It’s not an easy thing to talk about or deal with, primarily because society doesn’t expect women to go bald. Some forms of alopecia are hormonal or hereditary in nature and the hair loss often appears along the crown. That isn’t the kind I have. Mine is mostly mechanical in nature, due to years of relaxers, tight braid extensions and weaves. Hair loss resulting from hair styles that aggressive rub and pull on the scalp is known as traction alopecia. It’s easy to think that once you stop wearing hairstyles that pull on your scalp that the hair will recover and grow back but that doesn’t always happen. If your hair follicles get scarred, the oxygen and nutrients needed for the hair to grow are cut off, meaning that the hair won’t be able to grow back. If an area along your scalp appears shiny and smooth, chances are that the follicles are scarred and your hair won’t grow back there. That’s the case with me along parts of my hairline. Some my hair has grown back in along that area, but I’ve long known that the hair my edges will never come back in completely and that they’ll be thinner than they should be. Black women in particular are more prone to this type of hair loss because some of our hair practices are extremely harsh. It hasn’t been easy to deal with because frankly, in the past, I’ve felt unattractive and freakish. This picture from about a month ago illustrates what I’m talking about:

This is an updo I recently attempted. If you notice from the lighting and this side angle, my edges appear to have been obliterated. I often slick them down with Ecostyler but by the end of the day, when the gel wears off, my hair appears partly bald.  In a world that often values women more for their appearance than their intelligence, it’s not a great look.

As my edges have grown in some, my feelings of inadequacy and unattractiveness around my hair have dissipated some, but the shadow of those feelings still persist deep down. There are times when it feels hopeless when I know that I’ll have limited success with remedies touted to regrow hair, such as cayenne pepper, castor oil, Biotin vitamins, etc. The last time I saw a dermatologist about the issue was around 10 years ago, when I was still perming my hair. All I was given was a prescription for a special shampoo that I had to use at least twice a week. At that time, I had thinning patches along the back of my hair as well, but they grew back in fully. The doctor also suggested that I stop perming my hair, but I scoffed at the notion because at the time I still felt that my hair needed chemicals in order to look presentable because it was “bad.” These days I wonder if my hair would be longer and my edges would be in better shape than they are if I had taken his advice at the time, instead of seven years later. I am considering going to a different dermatologist to ask about a different treatment to see if I can regrow more hair because the other doctor I saw was kind of up in age and may have retired by now. Years ago at a previous job, a co-worker had gone to a dermatologist regarding a bald spot along his crown. He’d stated that his doctor had given him injections in his scalp. It sounds foreboding, but his hair did grow back some. I have nothing to lose. I just have to find the time. If and when I do go, I intend to update y’all.

What’s kept me going through all this is the belief that I’m more than my hair or lack thereof. It isn’t always strong and I have to work on my self confidence in that area, but it’s better than it was awhile ago. I think the more women that come forward about hair loss, the more likely that the shame and stigma surrounding it will dissipate and possibly, more effective treatment options will be developed.

When a style comes out right

Posted in curly/kinky hair, Styling with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

So last weekend, I blew out my hair into a huge fro like so:

However, I didn’t want to wear big hair like that to work all last week. For the most part, the blown out fro results in a cotton candy cloud look that I’m really not a big fan of. I prefer curly fros that have some curl to them. So I decided to do a style that I haven’t had much success with before as an experiment-bantu knot outs. Most of the other times that I’ve attempted the style, it’s been a big fail because I’ve attempted them on damp hair and the knots simply DO.NOT.DRY. Which makes my hair look a hot mess. Someone suggested on a hair board that I frequent that the best way to achieve the style would be to do it on blown out hair. So the day after I blew out my hair, I spritzed some water, slapped on some Curl Junkie Honey Butta and proceeded to put in about 10 knots. I two strand twisted my hair into 10 twists first, then twirled each twist around on themselves into a knot, then secured each knot with bobby pins. You could also tuck the ends of the twists underneath each knot, but my hair tends not to want to stay, hence the pins. When I took the knots down the next morning, this was the result:

I pinned the bangs back to take some hair off my forehead. OMG! I loved the results. My hair was so fluffy and looked so full, which is no small feat considering how thin and fine it is. I’d love for it to be a new staple style but since blow drying has the potential to cause damage, I can’t wear it this way too often. Dang. I wore it like this for a couple of days, then wore it with a headband.

I had to do a protein treatment today, since the direct heat of blow drying breaks down the cuticle and wanted that repaired. I used an egg and some mayo, then low pooed with Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle shampoo, conditioned with HEHH, then deep conditioned with Curl Junkie Deep Fix. That deep conditioner is the truth! It leaves my hair super soft. I’ve put my hair into about 15 three strand twists for a twistout tomorrow. I’ve been doing those lately since I find that three strand twists give more definition than two strand ones. They also dry faster than braids and don’t take as long to unravel. It’s really not that hard to do three strand twists. With braids, you take three sections of hair, then braid them all toward the middle. With three strand twists, you divide your hair into three sections, then take the section on the farthest right and move it all the way to the farthest left. Then you take the next section and move it to the farthest left and then the next section and move it to the far left. All sections move toward the farthest left in a sense. It took a little while for me to remember not to move the sections toward the middle like you do with braiding before I was able to get it. The twists resemble ropes. If I remember, I’ll post pictures tomorrow for the results.



Posted in curly/kinky hair, Racial/ethnic stereotyping with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

What I’m about to say reminds me of this song:

Someone posted an entry on Curly Nikki two days ago titled, “We will not lose our love, our marriage, over HAIR!” It’s now gone viral. Nobody asked for my opinion (or probably even cares), so the only things I’m going to say about the issue here is that it’s obviously way deeper than hair and that it’s being used as merely a crutch. If this husband is shallow enough to consider leaving his wife over her hair, there needs to be some serious re-evaluation of the relationship. Because if he can’t deal with something as mundane as a change in hairstyle, how is he going to deal with a more serious issue, such as cancer? Is he going to say, “Um, baby, we need to split up ’cause I can’t deal with this cancer issue?” Marriage vows do say in “sickness and in health.” Unfortunately, there are a number of people out there who aren’t mature enough to take those vows seriously. Also, it illustrates the double standard that still exists between the sexes. Women are valued more for their appearance than their intelligence, while men are valued more for their actions than their appearance. How often do you hear about women threatening to leave their men because of a pot belly and a receding hairline?

The same woman backtracked her statements on the same blog yesterday. She probably didn’t anticipate the reaction she’d get. You can’t send a post on the Internet depicting your husband as an immature, shallow douche and not expect a strong reaction. Either the guy said what he said or he didn’t. Hormones are not an excuse to embellish or downright lie. If you don’t want people sending you unsolicited advice, don’t post situations like that on the net. Just saying.

The other controversy that I will go into is the STARS campaign by some students at Ohio University that has the slogan “We’re a culture, not a costume.” This blog post has some more information about it. It’s being marketed during Halloween but the message can apply for any time of year, really. Personally, I can take or leave Halloween, but I understand why a lot of people love it. It’s kind of obvious why kids love it as they get to play dress up for a few hours and get loads of candy. It also gives adults a chance to shed their responsibilities for a while and be children again, as our society does not give them the freedom to do this often. However, as my finances are a little tight at the moment, the mere thought of buying a pre-made costume only to wear it for a few hours didn’t sit well with me and I felt it would be a waste of money. And I don’t have a creative bone in my body aside from putting words to paper, so making a costume from scratch was not an option. I do have a tie-dyed T-shirt, flare jeans and platforms. So I figured I’d go as a 70’s lady-with a huge fro to match. However, I began having second thoughts about how my hair would look for Halloween because people have taken issue in the past when others who don’t look like me wear Afro wigs and blackface in a conscious or subconcious attempt to caricturize my culture.  Some people may think it’s no big deal when people who aren’t black wear Afro wigs or when people who aren’t Arab wear a headdress because they’re done in the spirit of having a good time, but some things just aren’t funny. Dressing as a generic black person with an Afro wig and/or blackface perpetuates negative stereotypes about an entire race of people. It’s one thing to dress as a specific person or entertainer-such as Beyonce or Lil Wayne, as they aren’t the entire black race. It’s another thing to go as a generic black person and slap on blackface and/or an Afro wig.  If I were to dress as Lady Gaga for Halloween, it would never occur to me to put on whiteface. Yet a white person might think it’s perfectly okay to slap on blackface as they dress as Beyonce or Lil Wayne. What that tells me is that they think they are superior to me and that the phenotypes generally associated with black people are nothing but a joke to them, again, perpetuating negative stereotypes. The way my hair grows out of my head isn’t a joke. I can’t help how tight my curls are.

After giving it some thought, I have decided to blow out my hair and wear the big fro. Since it’s a phenotype specific to me as a black person, I have a right to wear it proud. I wonder how many other people will put as much thought into their costumes.


Posted in curly/kinky hair, hair growth, Natural hair care with tags , , , , , , , on September 18, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Hey, all! I had a good weekend. Hope yours was just as good. Last night, I went to the World Bar with a friend for a singles event. It’s in the Trump World Tower and it’s located a few blocks from the UN. The decor is mainly beige and the chairs and sofas were all square shaped. I did like the ambiance of the place but the space is small. Also, the cost of the drinks were exorbitant. But I had a good time. It was good to be social after everything I’ve been through lately. I even got a free T shirt out of it.

Today, I went to a street fair in another friend’s neighborhood. I actually lived there as well over 10 years ago, but I moved 10-15 minutes away 9 years ago. There were the usual things there-vendors selling food, jewelry, clothes and promoting local businesses. There were also a few rides for the kids. I just bought a plate of West Indian food-curry chicken, rice, potatoes and chick peas and hung out with the friend for a couple of hours, so it was a nice day overall.

Today is also significant in that this is the second anniversary of my BC (big chop)! This was after around 18 months without getting a relaxer. Even though I didn’t put much thought into doing one initially, I don’t regret it. The freedom I have with natural hair is immeasurable. No more spending 5 hours in a salon. No more burns. No more scabs. No more limp and lifeless hair. I no longer have to avoid rain, humidity and exercise. I now control my hair. My hair doesn’t control me. Total bliss.

I don’t have any pictures from right after I did the BC. It didn’t occur to me that I’d need to take any to track my progress. This picture from January 2010 is one of the earliest I have:

These are from Summer 2010:

January 2011. I look tired in this picture. It was after a party I’d had in my house:

Last week:

I started with hair that was around chin length. Now the back layer is nearly APL. How did I do it? I mostly just did and still do the basics, which are:

  1. I rarely sleep without a satin bonnet, satin scarf or satin pillowcase. Cotton pillowcases rob the moisture from your hair and leave it dry and strawlike. They can also lead to breakage. I found this out a few weeks ago firsthand.
  2. I moisturize and seal every day. I’ll either use a moisturizer with water as the first ingredient or a leave in with water as a top ingredient, depending on how dry my hair is. Then I seal with either jojoba oil or shea butter. Not moisturizing and sealing every day will lead to dryness and breakage.
  3. As my hair got longer, I discovered that I had to wash it in sections as I was losing too much hair while detangling. Some naturals wash their hair in twists or braids but I don’t like to do so. The one time I tried it that way, the twists kept unraveling and I didn’t feel that my hair got clean. What I do is I separate my hair into four loose sections, secure with duck bill clips, detangle with my fingers under running water with conditioner, wash and/or condition each section, then move on to the next section.
  4. A lot of naturals swear by protective styling to retain length, but as I’ve mentioned before, certain protective styles look horrid on me and there are others that I can’t do as they’ll stress my fragile edges too much. I gave up on them as of this spring. I’ll see what happens over the winter when the cold and dry air try to destroy my strands, but I plan to wear the same wash and goes, twistouts and braidouts I’ve been wearing. I do have to invest in a diffuser, though.

You may have also noticed that color I had in my hair before. I got the color on the day of my BC at the salon I went to. I got tired of it after around 6 months, but I had learned by then that commercial hair dyes aren’t the best for your hair as they can dry it out and damage it so I decided to just grow it out. At this point, it’s almost all gone from my hair. My future plans for my hair involve using henna as it’s a natural rinse that won’t damage it unlike commercial dyes. I also hear it can strengthen hair. I have very fine hair, so it can use all the strengthening it can get. Whenever I get around to doing a treatment, I’ll let you know.

I had planned on washing and deep treating my hair today actually, but I was kind of tired after the street fair. It doesn’t really need  to be washed that badly. I tend to wash my hair on Sunday out of habit. I’ll just do it tomorrow. I plan on just putting it into about 8 twists before bed, then wear it in a twistout or curly fro tomorrow.