Christmas Hair Gift - Conair Bonnet Dryer

So, I got one hair related Christmas gift (thanks ma!), this Conair Soft Bonnet Dryer. I'm way too excited about it. My beloved Gold 'N Hot Bonnet Dryer has been on its death bed for awhile now and I've been searching for a replacement. I am hoping this will fit the bill. 

This bonnet is larger than my original one, which is supposed to be perfect for rollersetting. It also has a brush attachment which I think is kinda cool. I know it's a little old school, but I love bonnet dryers. I always found hooded dryers to be somewhat uncomfortable. Like my neck gets stiff and it never reaches allll of my hair without me having to change positions at least once. With bonnet dryers though, all my hair is covered and I feel like I have a wider range of motion. I have even been known to fall asleep with mine on (lol probably a bad idea guys).I 'm going to use it for awhile, in a few different ways before I do a review on it.

Does anyone else have a preference, hooded dryers or bonnet dryers?

5 Tips to Relieve a Dry, Itchy or Irritated Scalp [from Box Braids]

As popular as box braids are right now, I have found that there is not a lot of detailed info out about how to take care of them or the issues you may face when you have them. As I am about to hit six weeks with my braids and preparing to remove them, I have been reflecting over my experiences and want to share the things I have learned. The first two weeks of having these box braids were terrible on my scalp. It went from tightness, to soreness and irritation, to dry and itchy, the latter of which I probably would be dealing with in the winter time anyway. These are the best ways I have found to relieve all of those symptoms over the past month and a half.

{1&2} - Soothing Oil Mix & Scalp Massage

When I started taking my braids out the first few days after they were installed, I realized that I had not yet purchased any products particularly for caring for my hair in this style. My scalp was so sore and irritated that I knew it needed something. I found my essential oils: peppermint, tea tree, and rosemary. I mixed a few drops of each of those with about a fourth of a cup of (warmed) coconut oil and voila! It felt so good to rub that into my scalp, especially in the areas I had just taken out braids. I have been using this mix for the whole time now and I will probably continue to use it throughout the winter because it has kept my scalp in such good condition. It is also very easy to make and didn't cost anything since I already had the ingredients around my house.

The three essential oils I used are known to be great for scalp health. You will find them in most products marketed for helping with scalp issues. Peppermint oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which help relieve itchiness. It also has the ability to absorb excess oils on your scalp and is stimulating so it promotes hair growth. I think peppermint oil is my favorite. It is a soothing treat. Tea tree oil has healing and antifungal properties. It blends well with our natural hair oils and prevents the growth of fungus on the scalp. Rosemary oil has pain relieving and antimicrobial properties. It is also known to stimulate hair follicles. Pairing this kind of oil mix with a scalp massage is awesome. Scalp massages on their own stimulate the scalp and hair follicles, which increases blood flow for healing and promotion of hair growth.

{3} - Braid Sprays
These sprays are kind of fundamental for this style; not just for moisturizing your hair, but also for scalp care while maintaining box braids. Two of the braid sprays I purchased also contained rosemary and tea tree oils. When I felt the dreaded "weave pat" coming on because my head was starting to itch, I often reached for one of these. There are braid sprays that are specifically for moisturizing, scalp relief, itching and tightness relief, and combinations of those. I bought three because I'm a product junkie I wasn't sure which would work best for my hair. One I pretty much used the entire bottle of because it worked so well, another was fine and the thrid I could've completely went without.

{4} - Dry shampoo
I have heard a lot about dry shampoo, but never had a real reason to want to try it before these braids. Dry shampoo allows you to clean your scalp and hair without having to wet your hair. Some dry shampoos are powder-like sprays that you just wipe off, while others are more like a gel that you apply and wipe out. The one I purchased was a gel-like, and although I was skeptical about it, I liked the concept of being able to ensure I only had to wash my hair every two weeks by cleaning my scalp in between wash days with this. It works well and my scalp felt fresh & clean enough to last to the next wash day. It was pretty easy to use, too. It didn't take very long to do my whole scalp. If you look close below, you can see the gel just stayed right where I put it on my scalp until I wiped it away.  

using "dry shampoo"

{5} - Wash It!
I know people try to resist washing their hair as much as possible when wearing this kind of protective style in an effort to preserve the style as long as possible. However, if you are having issues with your scalp and hair feeling dry, washing your hair might be exactly what is needed. Especially if you've tried every other tip and are still experiencing problems with dryness and itchiness. Product buildup is real and it will prevent your hair and scalp from accepting anymore moisture. Any product you put on will just sit on top of it. You may not have to wash it as often as I did mine, just make sure you are monitoring your scalp and washing it when it needs to be washed.

One reason women get braids is to allow their hair time to grow without a lot of manipulation. If your scalp is dirty, has product buildup or other issues, it is not going to be a good environment to promote hair growth. Your hair will inevitably grow, but not like it would in a healthy, clean environment. Plus there are ways you can wash your hair and still maintain a fresh look. Check out how I wash my braids here. You don't have to sacrifice the health of your hair and scalp to ensure your style is long lasting.  

Liebster Blogger Award!

My blog was nominated for its first award! Yaaay! The lovely Candice of Healthy Hair Diary nominated me. Thank you lady! The word "liebster" means dearest in German. This award is given to bloggers by other bloggers and is a great way to not only to get to know the blogger, but also to find new blogs and spread the love. 

Here are the rules:
  • List 11 interesting facts about yourself.
  • Answer the questions presented by the blogger who nominated me.
  • Paste the award on your blog.
  • Nominate other deserving novice bloggers who have 200 or less followers and let the nominees know about the award by commenting on their blogs or via email.
  • Make up a set of 11 questions for your nominees to answer.

11 Facts About Me:
1 - I'm in my mid-twenties and I still love Tinkerbell and Tweety Bird. In fact, my car's name is actually Tink.
2 - I love thrift shopping. Anything from clothes to furniture.  
3 - Not a day goes by without me eating at least one bowl of cereal. I love cereal! The bad, childish kinds, too. 
4 - I love to read and to tell stories. I can be very animated about the latter. 
5 - I'm a very passionate person and a hopeful romantic (I don't like to say hopeless!) 
6 - I am terrible at doing my own nails. Yet, I keep buying nail polish. One day I'll be good at it... 
7 - I graduated from Northwestern University and I'm a pretty nerdy gal. I love to relate science and random facts to everyday things in conversations. One day you'll be able to call me Dr. Melanie  
8 - I am almost completely allergic to nature: trees, grass, pollen, ragweed, flowers, animals (all of them)... lol it's a sad fact.  
9 - I believe Jesus is the answer to every problem 
10 - I love DIY projects.  
11 - I'm soooo indecisive! took forever to do this post because of it.

Candice's Questions:
{1} What is your favourite colour? Pink!
{2} Describe your hair in 3 words. Thick, pretty and healthy!
{3} What length do you consider long hair? think around bra-strap length is long. 
{4} How many blogs do you follow? Umm... between Blogger and Bloglovin maybe around 40. Always looking for more. 
{5} What is your most expensive hair purchase to date? These box braids I am currently wearing! Easily the most I've ever spent at once on my hair. It stung a little bit, too.  
{6} Pink or red nails, which do you prefer? Definitely pink! In fact, up until this past year, I didn't wear any other color on my nails. They were always one of the many shades of pink. The only exception was french tips of course. 
{7} Do you have any hobbies, share at least 2? I'm not sure if I have any defined hobbies. I love taking pictures, but I don't know a lot about photography yet. I'm into scrap-booking and crafty type projects like that, but I don't do that as often as I would like. 
{8} What is your favourite TV series? Of all time? It would be The Cosby Show. Right now? It would be Scandal. I have never been so addicted to a show before!
{9} Are you left or right handed? Righty. I like to say I'm ambidextrous tho lol! I can do almost everything just as well with my left hand as I can with my right. Except my handwriting, which is why it's not actually a true statement.
{10} Have you ever been to the Caribbean, which island? No, but I would love to go one day!
{11} Do you have any siblings? Yep. I am one of 5 girls. 

When I was trying to decide which blogs to nominate, I realized some of the blogs that came to mind had received the award around the same time that I did. So, in an effort not to nominate the same people repeatedly and actually explore the hair blogsphere, I decided to also find a few blogs that were completely new to me to nominate. Hopefully some of them are new to you, too. These are the blogs I chose that either haven't received the award yet, are brand new to me or both:

Jas-Sherese of Lengthy Lovely Locks

Shereen of WishfulLengths

Lade of Hairducation

My 11 questions for you five ladies:
{1} What do you do? career woman, full-time student, super stay-at-home mom?? 
{2} What's your favorite movie?
{3} Why did you start blogging?
{4} What's the best vacation you have ever taken?
{5} My closet has excess when it comes jeans and shoes. What's your fashion obsession? 
{6} Where do you see yourself in five years?
{7} If you could meet one person, current or historical, who would it be and why?
{8} Momma's girl, Daddy's girl, or Grandma's baby?
{9} What motivates you?
{10} Do you spend more time reading blogs or watching YouTube?
{11} Outside of blogging, how do you like to spend your free time?

Merry Christmas everyone!! This is by far my favorite holiday; the family time, giving gifts to my loved ones, and being thankful to God for the gift of His son, Jesus. I hope you all are enjoying celebrating with your loved ones! :)

Product Review: Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque

Price: $9.99 for 12oz at Target, Walgreens, CVS

Product Claims: "This all-natural intensive treatment masque deeply moisturizes and repairs dry, damaged or over-processed hair. Our special blend of organic Shea Butter, nourishing Argan Oil and mineral-rich Sea Kelp is perfect for transitioning chemically treated hair to healthy natural hair.
Sea Kelp - mineral-rich nutrition seals and smoothes hair cuticles.
Argan Oil - restores shine while helping promote hair elasticity.
Shea Butter - deeply moisturizes while conditioning hair and scalp.
All Shea Moisture products boast of being all natural with no sulfates, no parabens, no phthalates, no paraffin, no gluten, no propylene glycol, no mineral oil, no synthetic fragrance, no PABA, no synthetic color, no DEA, and no animal testing." - from back of jar and website 

Ingredients: deionized water, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea butter), Argan oil, vegetable glycerin, emulsifying wax, sea kelp extract, Panthenol (vitamin B-5), essential oil blend, avocado oil, Lonicera Caprifolium (honeysuckle) flower and Lonicera Japonica (Japanese honeysuckle) flower extract, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Hyssopus Officinalis Extract, Salvia Officinalis (sage) leaf and Equisetum Arvense Extract, soybean oil and Daucus Carota Sativa (carrot) seed oil

Directions: Section clean, wet hair. Apply generously. Use a wide tooth comb to distribute evenly from root to ends. Leave in for 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. For deep penetrating treatment, cover hair with a plastic cap and apply moderate heat for up to 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. When using a hair steamer do not cover hair, moist heat will add to masque's hydration. For additional nutrients and moisture, Extra Virgin Olive Oil may be added to masque. 

My Experience: Sigh. I think I almost hate this stuff. It's sad. I wanted to love it so much because I've had great experiences with the five other Shea Moisture products I've tried. But alas, this is not one of them. My hair hates it. I'll admit, the first time I tried it, I did not exactly follow the directions, but I almost never do anyway. I used it on freshly washed hair as a deep conditioner with a plastic cap. However, it was on close to an hour and the result was a pretty scary salon visit. I took my stylist's advice and didn't use it for awhile, making sure the next time I did I follow the directions. Guess what? My hair still felt horrible the next time, too! I only used it 15 minutes that time. It was like every cuticle had been lifted, making detangling dreadful and resulting in rough, dry, hay-like hair. Gross! Yet, I still tried it again. This time I left it on for about 5 minutes in the shower and rinsed, but then ended up doing a full deep conditioning session with heat after that. My hair didn't feel as bad as it did the previous times - probably because it wasn't on long enough to wreak its usual havoc - but it still didn't feel good.

The conditioner has a thick, creamy consistency and a light shea butter scent. The scent doesn't linger. I don't like that this acts like a hard protein treatment when it's supposed to be moisturizing. I've read some reviews where people had the same experience as I did, but tried it as a leave-in and loved it that way. That's cool, but my issue with that is the fact that this is sold as a deep conditioner and I wanted to use it as such. I already have good leave-ins. I like products that do what they claim and if I can get even more use than that, I love it. Also, it doesn't say anything about it doubling as a leave-in like Shea Moisture's regular conditions do. I'm over it. Thumbs down. I'll probably give it away because I don't even want to put it in my hair again just for the sake of using it up.  
Moral of the Story: I won't buy this again and I'd suggest you think twice before you do. Everyone's hair is different tho, so your hair just might love it.

Has anyone else tried this conditioner? Like it, love it, never want to use it again??

How I Wash My Box Braids

braided sections
When trying to decide how often it's best to wash your hair while you have this kind of protective style, you will get a full range of advice. Everything from weekly to not at all. Some people do great with not washing their hair/cleaning their scalp for 6+ weeks, but I am not one of them. I wanted to be, really I did, but I think I'm too spoiled by the frequency that I wash my hair at this point. Two weeks is my limit. Plus my scalp was already upset over this whole ordeal anyway. 

I hoped every two weeks would work out well for me and it has. Since I planned for six weeks with these braids, I've only had to wash them twice and then it'll be time to take them out. Here's how I went about it:

{1} Separate the braids into six sections: 3 in the front, 3 in the back. Braided the length of each section (not very tightly) and secured the bottom with a rubber band.

{2} I used my applicator bottle with SM African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo and water to apply shampoo directly to my scalp. Cleaned my scalp using my fingertips and lifting each section outward which made it easy for my finger to get in between the braids. 

{3} After rinsing once, my scalp still felt irritated/itchy so I reached for Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat shampoo. I've used it maybe twice before, but this time I started loving it. I massaged it directly on my scalp and it felt great! 

{4} Rinsed and towel dried to soak up the excess water. 

{5} I mixed Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Conditioner with some water in a spray bottle beforehand. I sprayed this mixture generously throughout the length of my hair then sealed with a mix of grapeseed and coconut oils. I did this going section by section, unbraiding each one as I went.

{6} Tied my hair down with a scarf to finish drying smoothly. 

I decided to wash my hair in braided sections to minimize friction between braids in hopes that it would reduce the chance of fuzzy braids afterwards and it did. I felt my braids still looked just as fresh the next day as they did originally. With those great results, I repeated these steps for wash day the second time. The only difference was the sole use of the Giovanni shampoo the second time around. My scalp is loving it right now. Washing these braids was a lot less of a hassle than I expected it to be. The braids didn't take very long to dry either. My only hope is that using the conditioner spray I made sufficed for my usual deep conditioning session.  

Here is how I styled my braids after one of my wash days:

I don't know what to call this style, but I loved it!

Product Review: Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Moisturizing Conditioner

Price: $10-11 for 11oz. on Amazon. (I scored it for $2 at a wellness store that was going out of business) I've heard it's sold at whole foods, too.

Product Claims: "For Dry, Brittle Hair. The sweet smell of success for your hair. Trade those dry, thirsty tresses for vibrant, touchably soft hair with this moisture-intensive conditioner. Restorative herbal emollients detangle and rehydrate to leave hair ultra-silky and irresistibly fragrant. Also recommended for bleached or highlighted hair.
Organic Shea Butter & Organic Rosa Mosqueta Oils - deep-condition & protect; soften hair texture
Organic Aloe Vera - replenishes moisture
Honeysuckle Oil - adds a soft, floral scent
Directions: Shake well before using. After shampooing, apply to damp hair and work through, concentrating on the ends. Leave on for 1 to 2 minutes, then rinse. For deep conditioning: Apply to dry hair and distribute from scalp to ends. Leave on for 15 minutes, then shampoo and condition hair as usual.

Ingredients: Aqua, cetyl alcohol, alcohol denat. (38b, lavender*), butyrospermum parkii (shea butter)*, triticum vulgare (wheat) germ oil, lonicera caprifolium (honeysuckle) extract, aloe barbadensis (aloe) leaf juice*, glycerin, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil*, rosa rubignosa (Rosa Mosqueta®) seed oil*, citrus grandis (grapefruit) extract, tocopheryl acetate, foeniculum vulgare (fennel) fruit extract, humulus lupulus (hops) extract, melissa officinalis (balm mint) leaf extract, chamomilla recutita (matricaria) extract, glycine soja (soybean) oil, daucus carota sativa (carrot) root extract, beta-carotene, hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) water, angelica archangelica extract, chrysanthemum sinense flower extract, magnolia biondii flower extract, ascorbic acid. *Organic D-111

My experience: I think I instantly fell in love with this conditioner. I have used it as a pre-poo, quick in shower conditioner, and a deep conditioner. Loved it every single way. Even as a pre-poo, it not only softens and moisturizes my hair, but it melts my tangles. It melts my tangles no matter which way I use it. It's like I can watch my tangles being rinsed away as I rinse out this conditioner. It is a great moisturizing conditioner that does exactly what it boasts of being able to do. When I read directions that say "leave on for 1-2 minutes", I doubt that time frame immediately. It just doesn't seem like that would work for my hair. Wrong. My hair loves this stuff and I can actually put it on for just a few minutes after shampooing and get great results once I rinse it out. I love that. 

It has a very light, slightly floral scent. I won't say it smells like roses because I do not like the smell of roses, but I do like the smell of this. It has a smooth, creamy texture and a shimmery look to it. It soaks right into my strands. So, of course, I feel I can't be without this conditioner. I've been using this consistently for six months and I'm heavy handed with conditioners. It wasn't the only conditioner I was using and I do mix it with others sometimes, but I still think it's a great price for as many uses I've gotten over a long period of time. One thing I ran into when going to repurchase was people complaining about the formula being changed. *gasp* Whyyy do companies do this?! I was sad briefly thinking my new favorite had been ruined. Then I compared the old vs new ingredients with the bottle I have and realized I have the new formula. Yes! So our love affair will continue. 

Moral of the Story: You should try this! Whether you need a new moisturizing conditioner or not. It's a staple for me. 

Has anyone else tried this conditioner? Like it, love it, never want to use it again??

Salon Review: Kadi's African Braiding Salon

When I was deciding where to get my hair done, I relied mostly on word of mouth. I looked online, but didn't find anything very reliable. After the experience I had, I decided a thorough review would be good. I hope people can learn from my experience and be better prepared when it comes to how to approach getting a protective braided/twisted style done by a professional. It should go without saying, but all African braiding shops are not the same. You shouldn't assume every shop will be like the experience I had at this one. I went to Kadi's twice: once for my initial box braid installation and then six days later after I had taken the majority of the top of my hair out. This is a pretty detailed review so I broke it up into categories to make it easy to skim through. 

1st Impressions: I was greeted when I came in and directed to the owner, Kadi. The shop just looked regular to me - nothing fancy or impressive. It was clean and being cleaned regularly. It doubles as a beauty supply so there's weave aplenty and other hair supplies along all the walls and shelves. It also has two big screen TVs that keep the romantic comedies rolling. I guess that's kinda fancy, huh?

The Stylists: There were at least 10 different women working both times I went to this shop. There could be 2-4 ladies working on a client's hair at once. They have a system: 1 or 2 will start the braids and then 1 or 2 other ladies will come to start finishing them. If it's one thing to be said of these ladies, its the fact that they all work very well together; whether ensuring the uniformity of a style on a client or making sure everyone is paid to their satifaction, they're a great team. There is definitely a language barrier though. Yes, they do spend the majority of the time you are there speaking in their native tongue. However, I don't think you should take that to mean they are talking about you. I have a background in French so I could pick up on a lot of what they were saying and they were mostly talking about their home lives and plans after work. Pretty normal stuff, but I can understand why some people find it frustrating. 

What I will say is IF some of these particular ladies are talking about you, they will make it known. When I went back for the second time with my hair half undone, honey, I received alllll the shade thrown my way. They were too mad I wanted my money back. I mean eye rolls, dirty looks, fingers pointed! Like really?! That's unprofessional yo. While it wasn't all of the ladies working, it was enough to be completely unacceptable. 

Pricing: When calling around to different shops, I found prices for box braids to be from $160-200+. Kadi's was on the low end of that. Plus there's a coupon on their website. When I sat down, I confirmed the price that she gave me as we discussed my style. However, after half of my hair was done, they tried to up the price and say the coupon was "built in" to that price. What?! My solution: I only brought enough cash for the price I was told anyway plus a tip. No tricking me into paying more.  

Quality of Work: To me, this depends on whether you're concerned with simply the appearance of your style or that AND the health of your hair. If it's simply the appearance, you're good. They're great at giving people beautiful, braided/twisted styles. Their styles are also known to last at least two months without looking old. If you are concerned with the latter though, you might have some issues getting them to give you a style that is both pretty and protects your hair. Yet, it is possible; they redid my hair exactly the way I wanted it when I went back the second time. 

much too long for me
Customer Service: After the problems I had from my initial visit, I felt they had mediocre customer service. They were all really nice to me the whole time I was there. But I wasn't sure if they didn't actually understand that I wanted bigger spacing along with the bigger braids or if they just didn't want to do it the way I wanted. Also, I asked them to cut the braids several times once I realized how long they were. I wanted them to the middle of my back. They pretty much refused; they kept saying they would, but never did. I ended up cutting them myself.

On the other hand, when I went back the second time, dealing with Kadi and one of the ladies who did my hair was great. Although they were convinced their way was right, they understood the issues I had and my concern for my hair. Apparently, their technique of small parts with lots of hair ensures a styles longevity. (AKA they understood what I wanted the first time and didn't do it because they were more concerned with how long it would last. Rude!) Once they realized that I wanted my hair the way I asked for it and was more concerned with its health than how long the style would last, they redid my hair the way I wanted it. For free, of course. It shouldn't have taken all that tho. 

My Recommendation: Surprisingly, I wouldn't say no one should ever go here. The fact that they redid my hair gave me some hope. If you want this kind of style done by a professional, please be willing to stand up for yourself - no matter where you go. Discuss exactly what you want, including an agreed upon price. Bring pictures. Check and triple check throughout the process that it's being done the way you want. Let them know if it's being done too tightly. I recognize that all ladies are not as vocal as I am, however, you should ask yourself: would I rather speak up now or end up unhappy and perhaps crying about my hair loss later? Being quiet is not worth the risk in my eyes. And besides, its YOUR money! 

Now, would I go back to them again? Nope. Pretty positive I'll never go back here. The whole experience was just too much trouble for me to ever put myself through again. If they had the ability to redo my hair the way I wanted, not too tight yet still secure, they could've done it right the first time. So, if you live in Columbus, OH, you be the judge of whether you'll pay Kadi a visit or not. And if you're considering going anywhere for a similar service, please take my advice: SPEAK UP!!

That was a lot! Thanks for reading! :)

My [Traumatic] Box Braid Installation

I have had my box braids in for almost three weeks now and I intentionally waited to post about the whole experience. Why you ask? Because, initially, it was kind of traumatizing to be completely honest. I was miserable the entire first week. I felt if I wrote a post during that time it would have been way too angry and negative. Plus I'm known to have a flare for the dramatic anyway so, at this point, I'm glad I waited until now when all is well.

I went to an African Braiding Salon for the first time. A couple of my family members and a family friend have been to this particular shop in the past and while our experiences share some commonalites, they weren't really the same. Let me first start by saying I think my hair looked SO nice walking out of the shop. I'm very Poetic Justice slash Brandy in the 90s right now. As far as appearance is concerned, they did a phenomenal job. Unfortunately, that may have been one of the only things I was pleased with as far as this installation is concerned.

Because of the fact that I've gotten headaches previously just from someone else flat ironing my hair, I decided to take a few ibuprofen before they got started. That might be why I didn't realize exactly how tight they were braiding during the process. Much too tight. As soon as they were finished and began moving all the braids backward to dip them in hot water, OMG I wanted to cry. Seriously, it hurt so bad I did not even want anyone to touch me. Not only that, but they were soooo heavy I couldn't believe it. I communicated with the ladies that were doing my hair exactly what I wanted... so I thought: chunky or medium-sized box braids just slightly longer than my hair, to the middle of my back. I discussed this with them before they started and several times throughout the process, to the point of even stopping them to make sure they were not too small. I'm going to do a review of my experience in the salon itself, too. I really felt I was doing my due diligence and that we all had an understanding, only to stand up and find out how wrong I was. Le sigh. They were all the way to my butt! 

I was so confused as to how the braids appeared to be the size I wanted, but there were SO many and they were SO heavy. Aaaahh! At first, I thought maybe it would loosen up over time and I could wait it out. Wrong! By the next day, I was ready to give up. I tried using steam, sprays and oils to loosen them, but could not get enough relief. I was irritable, my head was in a constant state of throbbing, my eyebrows were stationary (lol I can laugh now) and all I could think of was my edges snapping off. Consequently, I started taking my braids out ya'll. I was so mad at myself for the way this situation was playing out. Once I took the edges out I realized why I was having such a problem - there was way too much weave in my head! 

Left: my edges (stretched), Right: amount of weave taken off my edges
Left: center of my head, Right: amount of weave taken out of it

With the combination of the extreme tension and the ridiculous amount of hair in my head, I think a set back would have been inevitable if I hadn't done something about it. I got over the facts that I had spent so much money and it looked really pretty for the sake of my own sanity and the health of my hair. I would have been so upset if my hair suffered a major set back just from this style. Especially after I've been diligent about caring for it and getting it to its current healthy state. Call me crazy if you want, I don't care. That's just not worth it to me. Do you see the amount of weave on those little sections of my hair?!?! That is never okay to me! And it shouldn't be for anybody else, honestly. There were 16 braids just on my edges and 12 braids on that very small center section. 

Once I took my edges out, I taught myself how to box braid and turned those 16 braids into about 9 the next day. Relief! However, relieving my edges made the crown of my head very jealous. It was day 3 and I still could barely touch or move my hair. My scalp was so sore it would randomly send chills through my body and make me grimace. I've never even heard of that happening before! So, I started taking out that area, too, and by the end of the week I had taken out almost the whole top of my head. My scalp was so tender I couldn't even think of putting the braids back in for a couple of days, but I still had my hair!  Ha! That was all I cared about at this point. 

I actually did end up going back to that salon before I redid the middle section. Yep, hair half done and all. Just so they could witness how bad the situation was while I described the problems I had with the way my hair was handled. That, however, is another story for another post. Here's the difference between the amount of braids in the front of my hair before and after it was redone:


After I redid my edges

What do you think? Would you have tried to wait it out longer??

December Goals

It's the 6th day of December! Only 19 more days until Christmas (my favorite!) and then we will soon be saying good-bye to 2013. I am hoping to end the year strong with my goals. I did not do an official goal post for November and instead opted to work on the couple that I didn't do too well with during October. Here's the recap:

  1. Moisturize and seal {at least} 4x a week. Success! I have gotten so much better at being consistent about this.
  2. Drink {at least} 54oz of water daily. Success - kinda. I definitely increased my water intake, which is the heart of this goal, but there were a number of days I fogot my handy dandy water bottle and was just drinking numerous cups of water all day. Sooo... I can't really say if I actually drank 54oz or not.
  3. Exercise 2-3x a week. FAIL! Ugh. Have I exercised? Yes. Have I been consistent enough to make it a regular habit? Absolutely not! Tis the season... to gain weight. My patients love bringing in all kinds of cookies, cakes and other yummy, fattening snacks. And I love eating them. So if there's a month I need to get back on my exercise game it's definitely this one. 
  4. Post to my blog {at least} 3x a week. Fail! I did this 3/4 weeks in October, which was great, but then it didn't happen in November. I've been posting more regularly since I started this goal though so I am happy about that.
  5. Use my growth aid oil every other day. Success!
  6. Find a long-term protective style! Success! I'll be posting about my box braids this weekend.

I'm pleased with my progress with those goals. I feel like I was a lot more successful than when I initially started these monthly goals. For this month, I want to especially focus on my box braid maintenance and exercising. I officially admit that eveyone who doubted me, in terms of my ability to keep these in for a long period of time, was completely justified in their beliefs. I will be extremely proud of myself if I make it to 6 weeks! Also, I don't have weight goals or anything. I just want to be a healthier Melanie. In the past, I have been much more conscious about my eating habits and working out than I have been in the past year. I would just like to get back to that.

Here are my December goals:
  1. Moisturize and seal my hair (with sprays) every other day.
  2. Keep my braids in for 6 weeks.  
  3. Cardio workout twice a week.
  4. Follow through with completing this 30-day plank challenge.
  5. Post 15 times this month.
  6. Review 5 products.
I made my goals pretty specific this time. I'm not sure if that will make them easier to achieve or not, but that is my hope.  

Wash Day - Box Braid Prep

This particular wash day I wanted to focus on strengthening and conditioning my hair because of the fact that I was having box braids installed the next day. I haven't had braids since I was a child. So, I wanted to make sure I did a little extra to boost my hair's strength and prepare it for this long(er) term protective style. Here's how the day went:

{1} I separated my hair into 4 sections. I do every step of my wash day in these 4 sections. This is also when I started my initial henna mixture.

{2} I pre-pooed using Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner and a mixture of grapeseed and coconut oils for about 30 minutes with a plastic cap.

{3} Rinsed and shampooed with Shea Moisture ABS Deep Cleansing and CON Argan Oil Moisturizing shampoos.

{4} After letting the excess water soak up in a towel, I added the conditioners & oils and, using gloves, applied my henna gloss treatment while standing in my tub. I did not feel like covering my bathroom with newpaper again and knew it would be easy to clean up any splatter this way.

{5} I sat under my bonnet dryer for about 30 minutes then let my hair cool for a few minutes before going to the shower rinse.

{6} After rinsing, my hair felt strong, yet still soft, but I decided to apply some moisturizing conditioners anyway. Just to be safe. I used Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose (yes, again! I need to review it) and Organix Argan Oil Deep Moisturizing Conditioner. Both of these conditioners have instructions of 2-5 minutes and I feel they actually work in a short amount of time. I put on a plastic cap for maybe 10 minutes and rinsed again.

{7} I t-shirt dried my hair for 30 minutes then began detangling.

{8} As I detangled, section by section, I also applied my leave-ins, Aphogee Green Tea & Keratin Restructurizer and Elasta QP H2. 

{9} At this point, my hair was about 70% dry. I wanted to blow dry it (on low) so that my my new growth and texture did not present any tangling problems to whomever was going to be braiding my hair. I wanted to make it as easy on them as possible to get thru all this hair of mine. 

{10} After doing a quick once over with the dryer, I decided to add Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner, which can be used as a deep conditioner or a leave in, and a little grapeseed oil. My hair just felt like it was going to need something more by the time I was done. I then finished getting my roots together with the blow dryer. 

My hair seemed huge! It felt great and the color was much more noticeable than it was before. It's like a deep, richer burgundy color. Yesss! Very successful wash day. I felt like my hair was in great shape for its upcoming box braid installation.  

Henna Gloss Treatment

I did my second henna treatment, this time deciding to go with more of a gloss instead of a full treatment like the first time I did it. A henna gloss is not as strong because of the use of conditioners and/or oils that reduce its drying effect. It also doesn't require a long time for dye release. I definitely wasn't concerned with getting a color change this time. I just wanted a little more of a strengthening treatment knowing I was about to get box braids, and knew I hadn't used henna since September. I think about every two months works well for me when it comes to using henna. 

So, I varied my recipe a little bit. Many ladies make 50/50 mixture of henna/conditioner&oils when doing a gloss, but mine wasn't quite that diluted. Here is the recipe:
  • 1 cup of henna (about 200g)
  • A little less than 2 cups of green tea (steeped with 4 bags)
  • 2 tablespoons ACV
I mixed this together until I was sure all the powder had been mixed in, leaving the mixture pretty thick. I knew that mixing in the conditioner and oils was going to thin the mixture out some, so I did not want to put too much liquid in initially. You can always add more later, but once it's in, there's no going back. I let this sit for about 45 mins then added my conditioner and oils. I was surprised the mixture had already changed colors in that short amount of time. Here's what I added, a very heaping tablespoon of:
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Silk Dreams Vanilla Moisture Dream Conditioner
  • Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Restoring Conditioner
  • Organic Honey

This was the perfect amount to bring the mixture to the creamy consistency that I like. I applied it on freshly washed hair (in sections) just like I would a deep conditioner. I put on two plastic caps and sat under my bonnet dryer for about 30 minutes. I rinsed with some Herbal Essences Conditioners, Hello Hydrations & Honey I'm Strong, until the water ran clear. Definitely didn't spend as much time rinsing as I did the first time around. I followed up with a quick conditioning session just to be sure my hair wasn't too dry. That's it! It was a very quick use of henna, which I wasn't sure was possible.

During both of my henna treatments, I've noticed how much more the mixture absorbs into my new growth vs. the length of my hair. It sinks right into my new growth so much that sometimes I feel like I didn't apply it there and put more on the same area before I realize it's just being absorbed. I would think that my previously relaxed hair would be more porous, absorbing more of the mixture than my unprocessed new growth. However, that is not the case. 

So, the question is... was it effective? Answer: Yes! Score! My hair definitely felt stronger after rinsing and conditioning. Also my hair ended up changing color anyway. I surely didn't expect that. Like it's a noticeable change without being in direct sunlight. Yay! I like it. Perhaps using the apple cider vinegar combined with using heat? I really don't know why it turned out brighter with a much shorter application, but I am not complaining. I love color! I'm convinced henna is now a regular part of my regimen.  


Improving the State of My Nape

Oh, the nape, the hair right above the back of our necks - what a problem area this is for many black women. Some women have no problem whatsoever with their napes, however, for many of us, it may seem like an area that just is not meant to grow very long. This has been the case with my nape for as long as I can remember. It's always the first area to break off if I am experiencing breakage and its length retention has been virtually non-existent. It is, sadly, also the target of my hand-in-hair syndrome. Sigh. When my hands subconsciously venture into my hair, here is where they rest, rub and probably wreak havoc. If I am extremely stressed, this is where my hair thins first. You get it, right? You name it, here is the place it has happened.

I wish I had thought to take a picture of the state of my nape when I began all of this because I'm positive it was a lot worse off than it is now. That said, pictured to the left is the current state of my nape. I think it is about shoulder length, a kind of thin shoulder length. I think that both relaxing my hair less often and leaving this area for last (to process the least amount of time), have contributed to allowing my nape to progress more than it has in the past. Still, it is not as healthy as I know it could be or even as healthy as the hair directly above it (see pic below). I want to be more intentional about changing that. 

There are numerous factors that are known to play a role in nape breakage and/or thinness. The hair at the nape can often be finer, less dense, softer, or a completely different texture from other areas of your hair which causes it to be more prone to breakage. For example, the hair at my nape (and in the back of my head overall) is much more kinky and coarse than the rest of my hair. This makes it more tangle prone and harder to keep moisturized in comparison. Combined with this are a list of things that can keep this area damaged such as: too much manipulation (with your fingers, combs and/or brushes), too much tension (from too tight buns, braids and other styles), overprocessing with harsh chemicals, friction (from headbands, clothing, scarves and/or coats), and heat damage.

To me, the hair at the back of my head is seemingly less thick than the rest of my hair. I haven't completely figured out why that is yet. Even with that, the hair at my nape is noticeably shorter and thinner than the hair directly over it. So, I need to step up my game of taking care of my nape. I already relax it last and it is now the most textured part of my hair due to that. That's about where my extra care stops.

Left: from middle of my ears down, Right: from top of my ears & down
Right now, I just want to make a few changes to see if they make a difference. My first goal is to try to make a conscious effort to keep my hands out of it. Extra moisturizing and sealing is next on the list. I want to start paying special attention here like I do the ends of my hair. I need to cut down on styles that cause me to put too much tension on my nape. Or perhaps just embracing messy hair a little more would help, too. Lastly, I will be more mindful, during this winter season, of my turtlenecks, scarves and coats contact with my hair. I also have a go-to headband that ties in the back which could be contributing to the problem. The thought of giving that up is just sad. Hopefully, this will be a good start to improving the current state of my nape.

Anyone else have any trouble with their hair at the nape?

Wash Day - Quickweave Takedown

During the time I was wearing my quickweave, I was diligent about moisturizing & sealing, and applying my growth aid. The whole time I've been on this journey to long, healthy hair, I've never had my hair cornrowed for more than a couple days. So, I was a little nervous about the state my hair was going to be in when I took them out. One thing's for sure, I had the best braidout ever once I did. It had so much volume and definition! I was upset I did it right before washing and didn't have a chance to wear it out anywhere. Here's how my wash day went:

{1} When taking the braids down, I loaded my hair (and hands) with grapeseed and coconut oils to ease both the friction between strands and removal of shed hair. My hair felt surprisingly soft and moisturized! I was glad my diligence paid off.  

{2} I separated my hair into 4 sections, applied a protein conditioner to my ends, L'Oreal Damage Erasing Balm, and put on a plastic cap for about 20 minutes.

{3} In the shower, I rinsed then shampooed with both Shea Moisture Deep Cleansing and CON Argan Oil Moisturizing shampoos. It's not unusual for me to use both in one wash, but I did want to make sure I got a good deep cleaning this wash.

{4} After letting the excess water soak up in a towel, I applied my deep conditioners,
Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose and Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner (1st use), and put on a plastic cap. I ended up leaving it on overnight. Simply because I got tired and did not feel like getting back up to rinse my hair.

{5} The next day, I rinsed with cool water and did an ACV rinse. Let it sit for a few minutes before doing a final rinse with cold water.

{6} I t-shirt dried for about 20 minutes before applying my leave-ins: Elasta QP H2 and Aphogee Green Tea & Keratin Restructurizer. 

{7} I let my hair air dry clipped in sections in an attempt to stretch my roots. I left it that way until it was about 80% dry. 

{8} Everything went smoothly until I got to this point - detangling. Ugh. My new growth was still so coiled together it was hard to separate into smaller sections. I lost enough hair to fit inside the palm of my hand, but when examining it, I found that the majority of it was shed hair (bulbs still attached). Not necessarily bad for over two weeks, but still more than I'm used to experiencing. And it took so long to get thru all my hair.

air-dried and detangled

My guess with the shedding is that it's just that time for me. A lot of women experience increased shedding when the weather changes in the fall/winter. The same thing happened to me last year around this time, which caused me to start trying tea rinses. Until this summer, I was a regular tea rinse girl. I'm not sure where or how I let those fall away, but this is a sign I need to get back on that. I'm also considering trying a coffee rinse to see if that makes any more of a difference than the black/green teas I normally use. 

This wash day made me long for a relaxer. It also made me wonder how I will ever go natural. Lol! I'm sure, like with anything, learning to deal well with my different textures just takes practice. Stretching is definitely a testament to that truth. I never would have thought I'd get to the point of being well past 3 months post relaxer either, but here I am :)

Has anyone else's shedding increased in the past month? 
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