So, “How did it begin,” you ask?
Growing up, my mom had absolutely no idea what to do with my hair. She straightened it until she couldn’t manage it anymore (yes I got up way early to cry through it all being straightened with a hot comb, only to have it revert when I played on the playground the next day). When she couldn’t straighten it anymore she would occasionally take me to a hairdresser to have it straightened. Otherwise I would have a puff sticking up on my heard or several braids that my father put in that would stick up and out. Or my grandma, bless her soul, would braid my whole head for my parents (that always looked on point).
My mom couldn’t deal with my hair anymore(it has that serious thickness that only a brillo pad could get through), so when I was aobut 11 years old she took me to get a relaxer. Of course it looked great for a little while, and then we couldn’t afford for me to get a touch up for awhile so it would matt up (cause I wouldn’t comb that mess), and so forth and so on.
By the time I reached college my hair was a chewed up mess. I didn’t have any love for it and I didn’t know how to style it. So, the day after my parents moved me into my apartment Freshmen year, I went to my stylist and got her to chop it all off. I will never regret that decision.
I did not start out actively growing my hair
I wore my hair short for a full year and then I just began to let it grow. I had no desire to grow long, I just wanted to see where my hair would take me.
It was in September 2005 that I wanted to learn more styles that I could achieve with my hair. I didn’t learn much from my mother as far as styling goes because she didn’t know herself. That’s about when I found the growafrohairlong.com site.
This was the site that first taught me something about my hair and this is where I began to put braids in my hair. I still was not trying to grow it, but I was kind of sick of my natural hair (mainly because I didn’t know how to take care of it). The growafrohairlong site had an easy regimen for me to follow, plus a video on how I could put extensions into my hair, so I did.
I wore braids and twists off and on for the better part of two years while learning more about my hair. I would wear them for two or three months and then I wouldn’t wear them for two or three months.
I would still get my hair cut from time to time, but for the most part I just let it grow because my goal was getting better at putting in braids and finding more styles. However, I still didn’t know a lot about taking care of my hair, I dyed it a few times with Dark and Lovely, and since I did not know how to take care of my hair so this was a bad idea.
My Grow Out Regimen
In 2007 I decided to grow out my hair and began with my first LHCF Challenge.
This was my regimen:
J/A/S/O/N’s Sea Kelp Shampoo
Organic Root Stimulator Replenishing Conditioner
Giovanni Direct Leave-In
Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Moisturizer
Suave Humectant Conditioner
Aphogee Protein Treatment
I washed Once a Week
-Apply Suave, put on plastic cap and sit under dryer for 15 minutes
-Sit under the dryer for 15 minutes
Apply Leave-In and Seal
I would then airdry with my in 4 Braids
I would do a protein treatment once every two months
*I was still natural
This was my regimen from April 2 to July 4, not to say that it changed much, but for the sake of progress, here it is. I didn’t use any growth aids.
For me, these pictures show that your hair has to get healthy first and then it will grow by leaps and bounds.
So, where was I? Oh yea, more natural hair
Somewhere along those two years my hair was getting longer and I didn’t care to cut it. The longer it grew the more styles I could do (Hey, that rhymes!). Anyway, so I began to research more becaue I was really getting into my hair. I found Long Hair Care Forum(LHCF), MotownGirl’s website, and MissJessie’s Website (when they still had a salon and the step by step pictures on how to achieve certain hairstyles). So, this also required me to learn about new products and how to detangle my unruly hair properly. I discovered Organic Root Stimulator’s Lock and Twist Gel, it was and still is magic which helped me achieve twists and twist-out’s. When dry my hair would still be moisturized and look great! This is also when I really started combing/brushing my natural hair in braids to detangle.
How to wash and detangle Natural Hair:
Step 1: Separate and Detangle
-Put some kind of damp product in the hair (I prefer a cheap conditioner)
-Section the hair into four sections (two front and two back)
-Detangle one section at a time braiding it back up when finished
-The Denman Paddle Brush is natural hair’s best friend
Step 2: Shampoo in Braids
-I was still diluting Shampoo at this point out of habit, but it wasn’t necessary
-By detangling first there will be less knots because the shed hair isn’t mixing in with the other hair to cause issues
-Make sure you get all of the shampoo out while still leaving the hair in braids
Step 3: Deep Condition
-I then unbraid a section, add DC, and braid it back up, until I finish all four sections
-Put on a plastic cap and DC
-I like Organic Root Stimulator as a DC because it works just as well with or without heat
Step 4: Wash and Detangle
-Unbraid a section and detangle it while the water is running through that section
-You’re getting out the conditioner and detangling at the same time
-Rebraid that section and move on to the next until finished
Step 5: Add product and Denman away
-Undo each braid adding product (leave-in/moisturizer and sealant)
-Detangle each section with the Denman, this will stretch the hair a little as well
-At this point there really aren’t any tangles to deal with anyway
Step 6: Style
*NEVER DETANGLE YOUR HAIR WHEN DRY*
This only leads to breakage and lots of pain
I Tamed My Hair
I was now a functioning member of natural society. I could now do wash and go’s, twists, afro’s, afro puff, etc. I still couldn’t pull my hair back for awhile, but that was because my hair wasn’t long enough. I was getting very comfortable with my hair, but I couldn’t straighten it properly even though I had a flat iron. I hadn’t used hardly any heat in my hair up to this point because there was no use, however I wanted to be able to wear my hair straight from time to time and that is where LHCF came into play.
I still wasn’t a member, I was a lurker who researched and researched so that I could learn how to straighten my hair. In the process I learned so much about my hair and how everything affects my hair type. I learned about shampoo’s, deep conditioning, leave-in’s, co-washing, and so forth and so on. I’ll do posts on each of those later, but wow is that website helpful. It really is a one stop hair knowledge shop.
So after being a lurker for some time I really decided that I wanted longer hair, I had no set goal, but I knew I wanted long hair. So I joined LHCF and joined my first challenge on the website. I joined the Hide Your Hair Challenge. I made a fotki: fotki.com/missmusic and straightened my hair for a starting pic.
I found out that my hair was brushing my shoulders and that my ends were not that great because of all the coloring I had done when my hair was short. Matter of fact they were shot, but I still didn’t cut them off. I was afraid to cut my own hair at this point and since I didn’t plan to wear it straight again for awhile I decided to wait to cut until the next time I wanted my hair straight.
The Challenge Rules:
-I had to hide my hair in some protective style from Aril 2 to July 4th 2007 (keeping the length hidden even from myself).
-I could not use any direct heat on my hair for the duration of the challenge except 3 times at most.
That was it, seemed like a good challenge to begin my time on LHCF.
Challenge was over
At the end of the HYH Challenge I was smack dab in the middle of shoulder length and Armpit Length. At this time I was also seriously thinking about relaxing my hair. I wanted to keep my hair straight and in Florida as a natural, that would take loads and loads of heat. It seemed like a better option would be to just chemically relax.
So in August of 2007 I relaxed and my stylist cut off all of the damaged ends (those ends were all the color of that Dark and Lovely color I used before I knew how to take care of my hair, go figure!) and so that put me back somewhere near shoulder length.
I was also in another HYH Challenge, this time until Christmas.
This change meant that I really had to learn about relaxed hair because I knew nothing about how to take care of relaxed hair, and I didn’t want a repeat of my childhood hair issues. So I scoured LHCF and learned that with my relaxed hair I would have to do protein treatments and not relax too often. I learned so much more than that, but that’s for another post.I also kept the same products as when I was natural. I did however change my detangling tool, no more Denamn. While it was great for my natural hair, it pulled my relaxed hair too much, so I switched to the conair brushes. I also bought a Jlbere shower comb for detangling while still in the shower. I will fully go into this reggie in another post. However I was quite happy with my new hair!
The journey to APL
So I was now relaxed in August 07 and loving it. I was wearing my hair straight, detangling was a breeze and I was mostly wearing my hair in a bun. My goal was to be Armpit Length by the end of December and I was doing everything I could to make it. I kept the same grow out regimen, except I changed my oil. Castor Oil seemed too heavy, so I swithced to jojoba and grapeseed oils. These oils were very light and did the job. I would also airdry my hair in two pigtails instead of four braids. Worked like a charm and I was Armpit Length in no time flat. My new length goal was waistlength because with my straight relaxed hair, Bra-Strap Length no longer seemed long to me. Go figure!
Growth and Occasional Experimenting
It’s now 2008, APL achieved and I’m on a quest for BSL. I have found what works for my hair, but every so often I experiment. My first experiment when I was natural was shea butter.
I bought unrefined shea butter and boy did that not work for my hair. It was stinky and it was just too heavy, so I scratched that.
Then I tried Hennalucent on my hair and LOVED IT! So, I decided to try Henna. These two things are amazing products. They thicken the hair strands and leave a nice natural hint of color. The picutres on this post are of my Henna results. When I was natural the Hennalucent loosened my curl pattern which made it even easier to deal with. As a relaxed lady using Henna has definitely contributed to the continued strength of my hair. Small protein treatments really aren’t necessary for my hair.
Then I tried Aveda products and while they were great, the cheaper products were just as good, so I was not a convert. However, I still go to an Aveda Salon occassionally if I want pampering. The Aveda ladies really know what they are doing, I have never met an Aveda Lady who was clueless about hair in general much less AA hair.
I also found Flexi-8 clips, which are absolutely wonderful! I wear these when I’m trying not to bun, instead I twist my hair and Flexi-8 clip. I love the designs on these clips and I get lots of compliments when I use them.
Then I tried Rollerseting. I’ve done whole head rollersets, ponytail rollersets, the sylver 2 method, etc. etc. etc. They all work and which one I do really depends on how much new growth I have.
Then I started self-relaxing, boy was that a great decision. Now I have full control of my hair and boy does it cost less. $75 vs $8, you do the math!
Relaxer stretching was also a big decision, the longest I’ve stretched so far has been four months, and my hair loves this. Now I’m going for a six month stretch. However, once I reach my goal length I will only go 10-12 weeks btw relaxers because I want to wear my hair down often once I reach my goal.
Now I jumped on the Ayurveda Bandwagon and cut shampoo completely out of my life.
Product Wise, I’ve tried:
NTM Silk Touch Leave-in
Herbal Essences LTR Leave-in
Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner
Fantasia IC Sparkalites Gel
Gentle Treatment No-Lye Relaxer
Kera Care Conditioning Creme Headress
Fantasia IC Olive Oil Serum
Ylang Ylang Oil
Aphogee 2 Minute Keratin reconstructor
Beyond the Zone Heat Protectant
Vo5 Moisture Milks Conditioners
Suave Naturals Conditioners
Organic Root Stimulator Creamy Aloe Shampoo
Organic Root Stimulator Uplifting shampoo
Nexxus Humectress Conditioner
Vaseline Intensive Care Total Moisture Lotion
That’s all I can think of at the moment, but there are more. I still hadn’t had any setbacks since beginning my journey.
On my journey from APL to BSL
While I was trying to get from armpit length to bra-strap length I decided to learn how to style my relaxed hair so that I could enjoy it once I reached my goal length. I tried my hand at two forms of rollersetting:
Full head rollerset:
I used the Healthy Textures DVD (https://www.createspace.com/238591) which shows how the stylists in dominican salons rollerset the hair to get maximum straightness. I parted my hair first in three sections, like a mohawk. I rolled the middle section making sure that I rolled the front rollers upward and the back one’s back. Then I divided each side section into three sections and rolled all sections up. Not clipping any rollers together and rewetting when any part of the hair was not soaking wet. After taking out the rollers I put some KeraCare conditioning creme headress in my hair, wrapped it, put saran wrap around the hair being sure to cover the top and went back under the dryer for ten minutes. Normally you blow out the roots, but I was in boot camp. This left my hair looking wonderful and it felt light and bouncy.
Spray bottle with water
Giovanni Direct leave-in
Fantasia IC Olive oil serum
Red and purple rollers (now I use grey)
Ponytail rollerset method:
I also tried putting my hair in several ponytails and rolling each with a roller. This takes a lot more time, but leaves a bump where the roller was. The saran wrap afterward takes this out. Same products and result just a different method.
BSL to MBL
So I reached Bra-Strap length in July 0f 2008 and I am hoping to be mid-back length at the end of this year. So I’ve been protective styling in lots of cute buns. I’ve flat-ironed once since then, and I was very happy with the health of my hair, I did not peak at the length, so I will be surprised.
It was at this point that I really went on the search for the perfect shampoo. See, I think that my Organic Root Stimulator (ORS) Creamy Aloe Shampoo would be perfect for weekly use if it wasn’t a clarifying shampoo. It moisturizes the hair so well, but it does strip the hair of lots of nutrients because that is what it is supposed to do. CON doesn’t really compare, but it is the next best moisturizing poo. So, I’ve stuck with it. J/A/S/O/N’s Sea Kelp Shampoo is great as well, it moisturizes and it doesn’t strip the hair, but I still do not like how my hair feels after using it. So, I’ve been on the search and everyone seems to love CON or Elucence. Well, I could not find elucence locally and I didn’t want to get it off the net becaues I already get Hairveda Whipped Cream off of the net. So, I searched the boards for some better way.
THAT is when I discoverd Ayurveda. It is a different kind of haircare that involves oils and powders. I call it Indian haircare, but its not, so I should stay away from that. Anyways, so now I don’t use shampoo. I use Aritha or Shikakai powder, which in Ayurveda are substitutes for shampoo. I will go into my new regimen with Ayurveda another day, but suffice it to say I’m in love. I really found the products and regimen to make my hair healthy and happy and hopefully in three weeks I will be Mid-Back length. It doesn’t really matter if I reach this goal because I’m happy with the health of my hair, but I am still hoping it will be so.
Another year of healthy hair care
The year is up and I’ve made great progress. I’m now at Mid-Back Length (I think) and my hair is still very happy and healthy. For the next year I promise that I will stick with my current Ayurvedic Regimen because I know every product I use works. I might try some other oils, but the regimen will stay exactly the same.
Next year this time I hope to have full waistlenth hair*crosses fingers*
I Don’t Want to Talk about this: My 1st Setback
So as I stated earlier I have had my first setback. This really is just so horrible because I was so very close to reaching my goal. Anyway, this was my hair on relaxer day March 2009:
This was my hair July 2009:
As you can see, there has been significant thinning. The only culprit I have for this is the relaxing process. I did not relax my hair myself in March. I went to a stylist, so I don’t know exactly what she did when neutralizing, but I do remember her neutralizing several times. So I do not think that she is to blame. I have to blame the relaxer. I had significant shedding and thinning after my March relaxer and even though I neutralized the week after my relaxer, I think that my hair just did not agree with that relaxer (I had only used the relaxer once before).
As a result my hair looks so very very thin at the moment. I have reached my goal of waist length, but the thickness is not there. So, I’m spending the next six months getting my hair back to an acceptable thickness level for me (plus I have changed my relaxer to ORS). I will also keep my hair at this length by chopping off the new inches in December in an attempt to cut away the thinnest part of my hair- the ends. I am going to continue to do that until I am satisfied with the thickness level again. This could take a while.
Of course I am somewhat devastated by this, but I am mostly just angry. I can only try to help my hair recover.
It took awhile, but my hair is back
It took almost all of 2010 to get my hair back to an even full state. I did not chop my hair off all of the way, but I did cut it back to shoulder length while the hair that completely broke off, grew back.
I am growing my hair to long lengths, stretching for 6 months at a time, and I am so happy to see the difference in my hair. I can truly appreciate what it is to have long thick hair, and I will always speak up and never again let my hair be so mistreated.