Product Review: Shea Moisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo

Price: $9.99 for 12 fl oz at Walgreens (also available at Target & CVS)

Product Claims: "Our African Black Soap sulfate-free shampoo helps regulate sebum production, while alleviating itching and flaking. Our special blend of soothing Plantain Enzymes, clarifying Tea Tree Oil and Willow Bark Extract removes product buildup and strengthens hair by sealing in natural moisture. Helps calm scalp irritations for healthy hair with a brilliant shine. 
Plantain Enzyme - helps to calm itching and irritation
Tea Tree Oil - removes buildup for enhanced shine and volume
Willow Bark Extract - exfoliates and detoxifies 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 bottle and website 

Directions: Apply to wet hair, lather and massage at the root to stimulate the scalp. Rinse thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.

Ingredients: Deionized Water, Decyl Glucoside (Sugar Beets), African Black Soap, Salicylic Acid, Salix Alba (Willow)Bark Extract, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Seed Oil, Charcoal Powder, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Simmondsia chinensis seed (Jojoba) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Oil*, Aloe Vera Leaf Juice, Vitamin E, Rosemary Extract, Plantain Extract, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower (and) Lonicera Japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle) Flower Extract.

My Experience: I really like this shampoo. It's my clarifying shampoo so I don't use it every single wash day, but I do use it pretty often. It gets my hair very clean, yet it doesn't make it feel stripped at all. I've never experienced a dried out feeling from using it. It lathers pretty well unless my hair is really dirty or loaded with product buildup. If that's the case, it takes the second round for a good lather. This is usually the case with any sulfate-free shampoo when my hair's pretty dirty though. I don't mind it either because it makes me aware of how dirty my hair actually was and ensures I do a second wash. The consistency is more runny than usual for a shampoo. I can't say this is something I've paid attention to in the past, I only noticed because when you pour it in your hand it tries to escape like any liquid would! Lol I'm not sure if that will be important to anyone. The scent is very light and doesn't linger. I don't know how exactly to describe it, but it's kind of sweet smelling. Probably due to the plantains. I like it.

This shampoo is made for dry, itchy scalps and that is the main reason I decided to try it. I used to have some issues with my scalp being exactly that: dry and itchy with occasional dandruff. The key words in that sentence are used to. I believe the combination of using this shampoo and my beloved ACV rinses have helped my scalp tremendously. That is also the reason I use the shampoo more often than I need to clarify my hair. When my scalp feels "irritated or itchy" I use it, and sometimes I use it just because I haven't in a little while and want to use it regularly. I think that about sums it up. This bottle is just about gone and has lasted a long time. I will be repurchasing it. It is my other staple shampoo. 

Moral of the story: I would definitely recommend this shampoo to others. Especially if you want a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo, have scalp issues, and/or love all natural products. It's a keeper in my book!

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

DIY: Turn Any Scarf Into A Cute Headband/Wrap

I am a pretty crafty gal and, sometimes, I enjoy just kind of "making things up" when it comes to my clothing and accessories. I have maybe two actual headbands, but I have so many scarves of all kinds (got a gift bag full at a gift exchange one year). Since I love the look of headbands and they rarely fit my head well, I try to make due with what I have. Recently, I've had a few ladies asking about my scarves and headbands so I decided to do a quick how to. It's really quite simple to give any scarf a little cute extra with a bow. It doesn't matter what shape it is either. These are the two I've done most recently, with rectangle and square scarves. 

For a rectangle scarf:

1. Lay the scarf flat then fold it in half.

2. Put the middle in the back of your head and tie the ends together twice to make a knot

3. Tuck each end just under the edge of the scarf on both sides of the knot. Fluff and spread to get the perfect bow look. 

I love this to jazz up buns and textured updos. Especially when my edges are misbehaving. If you're like me and headbands slowly slide up your head during the day, you may want to secure the scarf with a couple bobby pins to prevent this.

For a square scarf:

1. First take the scarf, lay it flat and then fold it diagonally into a triangle.

2. Put the middle of the triangle at the back of your head and tie the ends together twice to make a knot. 

3. Pull the tip of the triangle tight and tuck it under the knot. 

 4. Take each end and tuck it under the edge of the scarf. Fluff out to give the perfect bow look. 

You can do this with your edges out or even a front swoop of hair. Works great for an old twist or braid out. I love to do it when I'm deep conditioning on the go, too.

Easy right? You can change the look of a boring bun or turn a bad hair day into a cute wrap in just a few short minutes!

Apple Cider Vinegar & Your [Relaxed] Hair

Apple cider vinegar has countless benefits for our bodies, both inside and out, including our hair. If you were to do a Google search for apple cider vinegar and black hair, you would get loads of natural haired ladies raving about using it for their hair. Well ladies, I'm here to tell you, it works for those of us with relaxed hair, too. I have been using it for awhile now, and I love it. So, what's so beneficial about ACV? Glad you asked! Here's the science behind why ACV works for our hair.

Organic ACV is, of course, made from pure apple cider that has been allowed to ferment naturally. Since it is not distilled like other vinegars, it maintains the enzymes, minerals and valuable nutrients that would be destroyed by that process. One easy way to know your ACV has all this yummy goodness is by making sure it still contains what is called "the mother" of the the vinegar. "The mother" is the solid layer that forms on top of the vinegar during the fermentation process. It is also what makes organic ACV better for you than the filtered and/or distilled kind. It is quite acidic, having a pH of about 3. The natural enzymes & nutrients combined with the acidic nature of ACV are what can produce great benefits for our hair.

Our hair has a natural pH of about 5, making it slightly acidic. Different factors, such as shampooing or relaxing, can cause our hair's pH to be raised to more of an alkaline state which usually equals unhappy hair. Hair in this state often has raised cuticles, is more porous, and retains less moisture, which makes it dull, dry, rough to the touch and harder to detangle. As we know, one of the main ingredients in relaxers is sodium hydroxide, which is a very basic (alkaline) chemical that gives our hair a much higher pH than it naturally has. Not only is this just one reason it's very important to neutralize effectively after relaxing, but it is also why ACV rinses on relaxer days can be very helpful. Using ACV will further reduce the pH of your strands, putting them closer to their natural state of being acidic. This action closes the cuticles of your hair, making hair smooth as they lie down flat. This will do several things for your hair:
  • Improve porosity - locks in both moisture & protein and improves you hair's ability to maintain it
  • Ease detangling - raised cuticles create friction with each other and combs, making detangling a hassle and breakage more likely. Smooth cuticles glide easier beside each other, with the comb and through your fingers. This also reduces tangles. 
  • Add shine - because light reflects off of smooth surfaces, closed cuticles will make your hair appear shinier and reduce frizz.
  • Prevent split ends - smooth, flat cuticles are less prone to splitting
  • Enhance straightening results -  smooth hair is easier to straighten and will take less heat passes to yield the flat, bone straight results most desired when flat ironing

In addition to the benefits of its acidic nature, the enzymes and nutrients contained in ACV have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that promote a healthy scalp. These contents, specifically malic & tartic acids, have the ability to kill the germs that are responsible for issues such as dandruff and a dry, itchy scalp. They also stimulate the scalp, which increases blood flow, and have been known to good for cleansing, clarifying and treating hair loss. I, however, cannot attest to any of the latter. I haven't used the ACV combined with baking soda method to cleanse or clarify my hair, and don't have any hair loss to treat. 

What I can say for certain is that regular ACV rinses have made my hair healthier. I use a ratio of not quite 4:1 (water:acv). You should experiment some with the ratio to find out how much you need to dilute you ACV; an overly acidic mixture can dry out your hair.  I spray the mixture on my scalp and the length of my hair after rinsing my deep conditioner out. I let this sit for a few minutes and then rinse with the coolest water I can stand. It is important to note the use of cool or cold water for this final rinse, as cold water also aids in the closing of hair cuticles. The only downside would have to be the stinky feet smell. Don't worry though, it goes away once your hair is dry. Oh, and don't get it in your eyes! Lol!

Since incorporating these rinses in my wash days, I have experienced all of the bullet points listed above and a healthier scalp. They are a staple. I can tell the difference immediately when I have skipped so it's always my final rinse now. I used to have issues with dandruff and a dry, itchy scalp, which I no longer struggle with. While I'm sure some of my other healthy hair habits play a role in that result, I know apple cider vinegar has also played a key role in helping with that. Best of all, all of this comes from a $6 bottle (mine is pictured above) that you can get at your local grocery store and has lasted me all of this year. Can't beat that! 

Don't just take my word for it! Here are some other helpful links about the benefits of ACV:

Hair Care and Organic Apple Cider Vinegar -
6 Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar - Black Girl Long Hair
Apple Cider Benefits -
How to Use ACV for Beautiful Hair & Skin - Huffington Post

Does anyone else do ACV rinses?

Wash Day...Lessons

pre-poo, hot oil treatment
I usually wash my hair at the beginning of the week, but I posted my wash day a few days late last week. Initially, I thought yesterday's wash day was pretty uneventful. That is, until today, when I felt like I should have just started again and co-washed to be in better condition. Here's how yesterday went down:

{1} Pre-poo: I lightly sprayed my hair with water and added Aubrey Organics GPB conditioner to the length of my hair. Then did a hot oil treatment with a mix grapeseed, olive and coconut oils and a few drops of both peppermint and tea tree essential oils. Covered with a plastic cap and scarf for a few hours.

{2} Shampooed with Shea Moisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo and CON Argan Oil Moisture & Shine Shampoo (in sections of course)

{3} Since I did such a long pre-poo treatment, I opted to do a short conditioning session at the same time experimenting with protein layering I've read about a few times lately. So, I put a strengthening conditioner on my ends for a little while, then applied Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose to all of my hair. I left this on for about 15 minutes.

{4} After rinsing with cool water, I sprayed with my apple cider vinegar rinse. I let this sit for few minutes then rinsed with the coldest water I could stand. 

{5} I wrapped my hair with a towel to soak up the excess water then t-shirt dried for about 30 minutes. 

{6} I applied my usual leave ins, Elasta QP H2 and Aphogee Green Tea & Keratin Restructurizer, while detangling section by section. I definitely lost more hair this week than I did last wash day. I'm not sure if that protein layering experiment went awry or what. Then again, I did lose an unusually small amount of hair last week so I probably shouldn't put too much stock in that.

towel dried hair
I put a scarf on my edges and decided to let my hair air dry. By the time I went to bed, my hair still wasn't dry, but I didn't want to put it in a bun because with the thickness of my hair, I knew it still would be damp in the morning. Here's where I messed up. My hair was dry by morning, but it was also a little bit tangled because my scarf didn't stay in place. I decided to deal with that later and just put it in a bun for the day. However, once I got home and started into it, I was upset! 

My 10-week-post roots had shrunk up and coiled on themselves! UGH! I was not even thinking about the possibility of this happening. At this point, my roots have to be stretched when air drying or this will be the result. Not fun detangling all over again. And I lost more hair. Probably because I was frustrated. Bummer. Lesson learned. I moisturized, sealed and braided my hair up in preparation for a quick weave I am planning on installing soon. 

How was your wash day this week? I hope better than mine!

Product Review: Creme of Nature Argan Oil Moisture & Shine Shampoo (sulfate-free)

I am a bonafide product junkie. I like to consider it more of a hobby than a problem :) and I think its time that others benefit from my hobby. While I enjoy trying new things, if I find something I love, I stick with it. Commence product reviews! I have been using this shampoo for almost a year now...that should tell you something.

Price: $5.49 for 12oz at my local beauty supply store

Product Claims: "This sulfate-free formula nourishes and adds brilliant shine, while gently cleansing and detangling. Features: gently cleanses hair without harsh, moisture stripping agents, strengthens hair while optimizing the moisture balance of the hair and scalp, helps to detangle, soften and boost shine, infused with certified organic Argan oil from Morocco." - from back of bottle and website

Directions: Apply a generous amount to wet hair and massage into lather. Rinse thoroughly and repeat. Follow with Creme of Nature Argan Oil Intensive Conditioning Treatment.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water) (Eau), Trideceth-7 Carboxylic Acid, Decyl Glucoside, Glycol Stearate, Polyquaternium-10, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Quaternium-15, Parfum (Fragrance), Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, CI 14700 (Red 4), CI 19140 (Yellow 5)

My Experience: I love this shampoo!! No, seriously, I LOVE this shampoo! If my hair feels nice going into a wash, it feels great after shampooing with this. If my hair doesn't feel nice going into a wash, it does after. I really feel it does what it claims to do with maybe one exception. My hair feels soft after washing and before conditioning. It doesn't strip my hair at all, which makes sense because it is a sulfate-free shampoo. It lathers! Now, some people have issues with sulfate-free shampoos because they don't always lather, which just doesn't seem right to some. I'm in that group of people; I don't like when my shampoo doesn't lather. This passes that test. Even though I don't apply the shampoo directly to the length of my hair, I still think this helps with detangling. Because of the fact that I don't detangle my hair before washing, I notice how much easier it is to remove tangles with my fingers after shampooing. 

While I do feel that my hair is shiny, I don't think I would give all the credit to shampooing with this. I can't say that I noticed a shine difference when I started using it either. So, that would be my exception, but I'm also not using this for shine enhancement therefore, it's not really important to me anyway. It both cleans and moisturizes my hair and that's what matters. I also like the scent. It's very light and it doesn't linger. As you can see, my bottle is almost gone, but I've had it for a long time and I wash my hair close to weekly. Needless to say, even a "generous amount" goes a long way. I will be purchasing this again. It's a staple for me.

Moral of the story: if you're looking for a new shampoo, especially a moisturizing one, try this one out! I recommend it. 

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

Wash Day - Braidout

leave-ins (steps 5 & 6)
I need to get back to posting about my wash days! I had a quick and a successful wash day this week. My hair felt really soft and nice so I skipped the pre-poo session, which is something I rarely do. I was a little pressed for time though so it worked out well. 

{1} I separated my hair into 3 sections, finger detangling along the way.

{2} I shampooed section by section with Creme of Nature's Moisturizing Argan Oil Sulfate-free shampoo (that's a mouthfull!). I use a bottle with an applicator tip, containing shampoo and water, to wash my hair. I use the tip to pour the mix directly on my scalp then work it with my fingertips and rinse.

{3} After soaking up most of the excess water with a towel, I applied my deep conditioning mix. I used the same mixture of moisturizing conditioners I did after my henna treatment and added some of Aphogee's 2 Min Reconstructor to it. I covered with a plastic cap and scarf and let marinate for about an hour and a half while I got some things done.

{4} Rinsed with cool water and sprayed on my apple cidar vinegar rinse. I let this sit for a few minutes then rinse with cold water. I love acv rinses.

{5} I t-shirt and air dried to maybe 70% then applied my usual leave-ins: Elasta QP H2... and Aphogee Green Tea & Keratin Restructurizer. I do this section by section, too, as I detangle. I lost the smallest amount of hair throughout this wash day!... and I have no idea what to attribute it to :-/ I'm still happy about that small ball of hair though and my hair was feeling great at this point, too.

{6} I decided to do a braidout so I added a few more sections to my hair - 3 in the front, 2 in the back. I applied a cream moisturizer, Hairveda Red Tea Moisturizer, and topped it with Aussie's Dual Personality: Curl Definition & Soft Feel Serum and Eco-Styler Argan Oil Gel (all pictured above). I braided each section in the front in two braids and put three in the back, for a total of 9 braids.

{7} I set the braids on flexi-rods, put a scarf on and called it a night.

The next morning, I put some coconut oil on my finger tips to take the braids down. My hair is SO soft!! So, I pinned my hair back and under to avoid my hand slowly creeping into my head all day. I liked the way the texture came out as well. 

Juice/Daniel's Fast Conclusion

I finished my fast at the end of September, so this post is a little late. I wanted to take some time to kinda reflect on the experience before writing about it though. (You can find my initial post about it here and my update during it here, which I had some issues posting, but I believe all is well now) There's so many directions I could go with this and so much I could say, but I decided to just pick a few things that I felt were close to my heart during this time. I think sometimes we all need to be reminded of things we've heard before and know to be true, but still struggle with making them our realities. Here's my top three:

#1 - Either pray or worry, you can't do both. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpassed all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

I think this is much easier said than done. It's probably safe to say that the majority of all people, regardless of their religious beliefs, cannot say they live a worry-free life. We worry about everything and anything, even though, as Christians, we shouldn't. In prayer, we have the opportunity to lay down all of our fears and anxieties, and pick up the peace of God. As amazing as that is, it is so hard to follow through with. It takes some serious trust and child-like faith. You know the kind young kids have in their parents, where they can be carefree just with one word from mom? Yea...I need to be like that with Jesus. I found during this time, being faced with situations completely out of my control, I had no other choice but to trust God. I had to pray and let it go or things would've probably driven me crazy. However, even when things seem to be in my control, I have to have that same attitude. Tough stuff.

#2 - Stop, breath, and count your blessings. "Sometimes we have so much to do and so many deadlines to meet that we forget this one simple part: stop and take a breath. Jesus, himself, often went away from the crowds to get alone with God.  This is how he maintained his relationship with God.  This is how he stayed in tune with God.  This is how he was continually able to hear God clearly, by taking time away with God. If Jesus needed to do that on a regular basis, so do we." - Kim Potter

Those words hit home for me! The state of perpetual busyness is something I find easy to get stuck in. It often seems like there's not enough time in the day to get things we NEED to get done, done. Even sleep evades me at times! But if it's one thing this period of consecration has honed in on for me, it's the importance of just taking time for God. Taking time to take a deep breath, to think positively, to pray, to realize how blessed you are in spite of the current things you may be going through, to hear what God is saying to you or to just thank Him. And it doesn't have to be a lot of time, it just has to be a priority. I've realized that, sometimes, the things I get so caught up with, won't even matter in the long run. But taking time to maintain my relationship with Jesus (and my sanity at times) is something that will never perish.

#3 - Redeeming the time. "Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise, [intelligent] people. Making the very most of the time [redeeming each opportunity], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17

At work and even in school, I am great with time management. In my free time, or after a long day though... not so much. Sometimes, I just don't feel like doing anything! And as a result... nothing gets done lol! Granted, everyone needs their lazy times, I know I can do better. I just proved it to myself during this period of time. So now I can't let that standard down. Living on purpose is the goal. 

I think writing about this experience was really encouraging for myself. It caused me to think through things in ways I might not have ordinarily and for that I'm grateful. And if you followed along/got something from it, I'm grateful for that as well! 

October Goals & Review

October is here and I feel like September only lasted a week or two! I decided to start posting monthly goals just a couple weeks ago. It's already time to review those and set new ones. Although with the little progress I made, I'm not planning on making many new ones at all.

September's Goal Recap:
  • Moisturize and seal {at least} 4 times a week. Success! My hair was staight for the past couple weeks and I find that I am more mindful of its need to be moisturized when its in this state. Not sure why, maybe because my hands stay in it way too much. Either way, I got the job done!
  • Henna my hair. Success! It took almost a whole day to complete this process, but I did it and I have to say I think it was so worth it! The changes I've noticed in my hair since using henna are awesome. It's great when you use something for a specific reason and it does exactly what it supposed to do. If you haven't already, check out my background on henna here and my experience with it here
  • Trim my own ends. Success! I cut 1-2 inches of thin ends off. I love the look of my hair and did a length check as well. 
  • Use my growth aid every other day. Fail! I don't think I've even picked it up once in the past two weeks... -__-
  • Drink {at least} 54oz of water daily. Fail! Kinda. I have an easier time drinking water during the work week for some reason then I do during the weekends. Even if I'm not doing anything lol! And I also misplaced my bottle for a few days. So, even though my water intake increased consistently, it wasn't daily.
  • Exercise 2-3x a week. Fail! Didn't come even close to hitting this one. No excuses. I will get back in shape!
  • Post to my blog {at least} 3x a week. Fail! This will be the first week that will happen. I think I need some more planning and organizing to help get this to happen consistently. Whatever it may be, I am determined to make this happen this month.
I'm glad I achieved some of my goals! Even if it was only 3 out of 7. That's better than nothing. Progress is a process, so I will not discount any of the progress I made over the past couple weeks. Instead, I will just be motivated to continue toward the rest of my goals. I'm going to spend this month working on the same 4 goals that didn't make the cut plus add one. I've read that it takes 21-30 days to form a new habit. I've tried it out and believe it so I still want to work on moisturizing and sealing consistently to make sure that one sticks.

October Goals:
  1. Moisturize and seal {at least} 4x a week.
  2. Drink {at least} 54oz of water daily.
  3. Exercise 2-3x a week.
  4. Post to my blog {at least} 3x a week.
  5. Use my growth aid oil every other day.
  6. Find a long-term protective style! 
After my last length check, I decided I wanted to step up my protective styling game for the remainder of the year. I want to do something longer-term this time around, but I have no idea what. Gotta figure that out soon. 
Anyone else setting any goals this month?

Length Check, Trim & Hair Assessment

I flat ironed my hair just because my thin bone straight ends have been driving me crazy and I was ready to let them go. I watched a lot of YouTube videos on different self trimming methods, but I ended up just going for some serious search&destroy/dusting. I did it the way I used to years ago: going section by section and cutting whatever looks like it needs to go. This is also the method that eventually turned my self-trims into hair cuts and made me decide to put the scissors down probably about 3 years ago. I had a trusted stylist at the time, so she was who I allowed to trim my ends.

hair before trim
I have to say my hair was sooo smooth!! Like I truly believe my recent henna treatment smoothed my strands and added shine like it claims to do! I couldn't stop touching it because it felt so noticeably different. Anyways, I am definitely retaining length, which is awesome! The problem, at this point, is now that my texlaxed hair is in the majority, my bone straight relaxed ends are thinning. Eww. I guess my hair technically reached bra-strap length, but I wouldn't claim it with those ends. Originally, I thought I wouldn't have to start trimming thin ends until I reached my length goal, but the sight of those made me change my mind. Especially since they now change the look of my twist/braid outs. I think I have about 2-3 inches {at least} of thin ends that need to go before I have full, thick and healthy hair from root to tip at any length.

after trim
Another thing I'm happy about is that my hair seems to be growing evenly. I don't have a v-shape or anything that I see many ladies work hard to get rid of only for it to come right back. I will count that as a blessing. I decided to cut about 1" and up to 2" in some areas. Usually, even when I would search and destroy, I would make sure I had an even cut as well. I didn't this time only because I felt myself getting scissor happy! I have felt the urge to cut my hair into a style over the past few months, but I know I would just end up mad at myself if I did. So, I put the scissors down. 

 I think my hair looks so much better after the trim! Despite the fact that its a little uneven, its looking pretty healthy, in my opinion. I wasn't trying to trim off all of the thin ends at this point, but I am planning on removing the rest either at my next touch up or the end of the year. Since I don't really wear my hair straight like this very often at all, I'm not even worried about the unevenness of the cut. I think it puts me somewhere in between my  previous length checks this year, but my ends look thicker than they did back then. So I'm pleased overall. Looking at the amount of hair I cut off, it really wasn't that much but it made quite a difference. Shows how thin those ends were.I am planning on getting serious about protective styling again for the remainder of the year to see how much length I can retain between now and then. With the progress I've made so far, I think I should definitely be at my goal of mid-back length by the time I hit 2 years in April 2014. We will see!

goodbye thin ends!!

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