(Co)-Wash Day: Flexi-rod Set

I opted to replace my normal wash day with just deep conditioning (or co-washing). I really haven't decided what to call it because I'm not truly using a conditioner to cleanse my hair as most ladies do when co-washing. One thing I am sure of is that adding these days of doing nothing but deep conditioning my hair really seems to be helping it retain moisture in this winter weather. Could it be because I'm using less shampoo or because I'm using more conditioner? Not sure yet. 

{1} I sectioned my hair into 4: down the middle in the front & ear to ear in the back. I've stopped parting my hair down the middle of my nape during wash days in an effort to continue its improvement. 

{2} Applied Aubrey Organics Replenishing Island Naturals and grapeseed oil to my hair, covered with a plastic cap and scarf for a few hours. 

{3} Rinsed with cool water, sprayed ACV mix, and rinsed with cold water after a few minutes. 

{4} T-shirt dried for an hour.

{5} Applied leave-ins, Elasta QP H2 and Aphogee Green Tea & Keratin Restructurizer, and detangled my hair (still in sections). 

{6} I re-wet my hair, added a little Eco-styler gel and flexi-rod set my hair using blue, orange, gray and a few purple rods. I ended up using about 35 once I was done. 

{7} Let my hair air-dry overnight. When I went to remove one the next morning, it still felt a little damp at the root so I put on my bonnet dryer on low for about 15 minutes or so. I didn't want a repeat of the last time. 

{8} Removed the rollers and separated my curls using some Organix Anti-Breakage Coconut Milk on my fingers. 

Loved the results! So happy I decided to try to get better at these rollersets. I couldn't believe how much my results improved just with the second attempt. Also, this was my first time using the Aubrey Organics Island Naturals on its own and my first impressions of it are pretty swell. Aubrey has not let my hair down yet. My hair felt great, my curls were so bouncy and soft... it was a good hair day for me :) 

Product Review: Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner

Price: $9.99 for 13 fl oz

Purchased at: Walgreens (also available at Target & CVS)

Product Claims: "Our leave-in or rinse out conditioner detangles, moisturizes, repairs and restores lifeless, 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."

Directions: Work conditioner through hair from roots to ends. Leave on for 3 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. For deeper conditioning, leave on for up to 15 minutes. As a leave-in, work a dime-sized amount through damp hair, then style as desired.

Ingredients: De-ionized water, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea butter)*, Argan oil, coconut oil*, Behentrimonium chloride, essential oil blend, vegetable glycerin, emulsifying wax, sea kelp extract, Panthenol (vitamin B-5), avocado oil, Lonicera Caprifolium (honeysuckle) flower and Lonicera Japonica (Japanese honeysuckle) flower extract, Tocopherol (vitamin E) and Daucus Carota Sativa (carrot) seed oil. *Denotes certified organic ingredients.

My Experience: I was a little leery of trying this since I had a bad experience with the deep treatment masque from this same line. My little sister (who is natural) uses it and loves it though so I decided to give it a shot and I'm so glad I did. It proved that just because you don't like one product from a certain line, doesn't mean you won't like the rest of the products in that line. Initially, I tried it as a rinse out conditioner. I really liked the way my hair felt after rinsing - soft and smooth. I always know when I like how something treats my strands when I just want to keep touching my hair and running my fingers through it. While that was great, it did not compare to what this does to my hair as a leave-in. The moisturizing effects last so much longer, for dayssss even. This is the first creamy leave-in that I have fallen in love with and now that's the only way I use it. It is the cream when I use the L.O.C. (liquid oil cream) method to moisturize and seal my hair. I also make a moisturizing mix with it either using just water or with aloe vera juice. Best creation ever. 

When it comes to the claims of this product, I find that it moisturizes, smooths, and even helps me finger detangle during the week. Because of the lasting moisture and smoothness, I'd say it does seal the hair. I can't really speak to the added shine from the argan oil because I can't say that I noticed my hair being MORE shiny just from the use of this product. Overall, I think it does a great job of doing what it says it will. 

This conditioner is creamy, but it doesn't have a very thick consistency at all. So it was kind of surprising to me that it not only moisturizes my hair very well, but also keeps it moisturized for an extended period of time, especially in comparison with like every other creamy moisturizer I've tried. I like that it's not as heavy,too, because it doesn't weigh my hair down with repeated use throughout the week. It smells like straight shea butter, nothing special to me. I guess if you don't like the smell of shea butter then you won't like the smell of this. It's not a strong scent though and it doesn't linger. When using it as a rinse out conditioner or as a leave-in, it always sinks right into my strands and gets to work. It's almost time for me to repurchase as I've been using it for a few months now. I consider myself heavy handed when it comes to using products so, when it lasts for awhile AND does a good job with my hair, I think it's worth its cost.

Moral of the Story: This is a great leave-in, moisturizer, conditioner! Especially if you have a hard time finding leave-in that produce lasting moisture like I do. Even if you've used the deep treatment masque from this line and didn't like it, you could still fall in love with this product. I recommend trying it out!

Has anyone else tried this conditioner? What was your experience??

Relaxer Update!

My 25 weeks of new growth stretched
I relaxed my hair after a 25-week stretch!! New personal record for me! It was never a goal for me to go six months without relaxing, it just kind of happened. I didn't want to relax at the usual 12 weeks post because of my plan to install box braids. Once they were out, I wanted to wait awhile before relaxing then things were going well and it took me a little while to decide what to do next. And there you have it... an unintentional six month stretch was completed. 

I have been having a really hard time finding my beloved Elasta QP Soy Oyl Ultra-Hydration Relaxer Kit in stores. For some reason, I didn't even think to search for it online until all was said and done. Probably because the thought of going from easily grabbing one for $6 at my beauty supply to doubling that price for shipping is annoying to me. My goal was to just use a kit that has worked well for me in the past, but I somehow failed at that. I guess that's what happens when your tired and last minute shopping. I ended up getting Dark & Lovely Healthy Gloss 5 Shea Moisture Relaxer Kit. I have used this on my cousin's hair in the past and liked the way it processed, but never on my own. 

One of the main reasons I did not want to try a brand new relaxer was because I knew that I would have no real way of knowing how quickly it would (or wouldn't) process. After pairing that with the fact that I had just henna-ed my hair and was unsure of how the two would work out together, I realized I was getting into some risky behavior this relaxer day. 

{1} I sectioned into 4 & detangled my hair, applying my triple threat layer of protection to the length of my hair along the way. I used Aubrey Organics GPB conditioner, grapeseed oil, followed by good ole Vaseline. 

{2} Based my scalp, edges and ears with Vaseline. 

{3} Mixed the activator and relaxer cream thoroughly, then added about 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil. (This is my normal routine and I figured I'd rather end up with very under-processed hair than hair that processed more than I wanted.) 

{4} Applied the relaxer to my inches of new growth only. It took 15 minutes start-to-finish, no smoothing. 

{5} Rinsed the relaxer out and applied my protein treatment. This kit actually comes with a mid-step protein treatment called Silk Keratin Serum, which is one thing I liked about it in the past. I applied that first and then added my Umberto Repair Treatment Masque. I let this sit for about 10 minutes under a plastic cap. 

{6} Rinsed and neutralized using the shampoo that came in the kit. I lathered three times and let it sit a little bit, just to be safe. The pictures below are my hair when I rinsed it out. Quite under-processed. I think this is the most under-processed my hair has been before, but I like it. 

{7} Deep conditioned using Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose and Aubrey Organics Island Naturals Replenishing conditioners (first use) under a plastic cap for about an hour. I picked this up intending to re-up on Honeysuckle Rose, the two bottles look almost identical. After looking at the ingredients, I decided I'd still try it even though it wasn't what I wanted to buy originally. 

{8} Rinsed and sprayed my ACV rinse all over my hair and scalp. Let it sit for a couple minutes then rinsed with cold water. 

{9} Soaked up the excess water with a towel. I let my hair air dry somewhat even though I was planning to rollerset. I just don't like to detangle my hair when it's too wet. I applied my leave-ins: Elasta QP H2 and Aphogee Green Tea & Keratin Restructurizer. 

{10} Wet my hair again and flexi-rod set it, using purple and grey. I also added a little Organix Macademia Oil in this step. I love flexi-rods, yet this was my first time using them on wet hair. Had some issues getting them tight at my roots, but went for it anyway. 

{11} Sat under my bonnet dryer for... not long enough! My hair felt dry, but once I started taking them out, I realized my roots weren't. Oh well! Another learning experience. My little sister helped me save the style even with those thick roots :) I thought the curls were so pretty. I'll be attempting another set so I can try to get better. 

Overall, I was very pleased with the way this relaxer day went and happy with my decision to relax. So funny I got a fresh relaxer and people were complimenting my "natural" hair style. I cannot decide if I want to continue using the same relaxer kit this way to get the same results. I also am not sure if my very underprocessed hair is due to the relaxer being weaker than my previous kit, the fresh henna treatment in my hair, or a combination of both. I'm sure I have plenty of months to decide how I'll go about this next time. 

February Goals & Review

My February has started out quite snowy and cold. It has me longing for Spring just like January did. I feel like I started this year out well and am hoping to keep up with my momentum. I hope you can say the same, and if not, it's never too late to change that. Here's how I did with my January goals:
  1. Refocus my relationship with God. Success! This goal was most important to me this month and I'm so glad I was able to revitalize my relationship with Christ. The 21-day consecration period of prayer and fasting with my church was just what my spirit needed. No matter what time of year it is, gaining a new mindset and focus this way will always bring success.  
  2. Decide what the next step with my hair will be. Success! Decided to relax and went for it!
  3. Cardio workout twice a week. Fail! So, this would have actually come close to being a success if it wasn't a cardio workout specifically. After months of having this as a goal, I finally started working out! Yaaay!! My sister got me into doing more Yoga than I got her into doing Zumba. Although we did do a cardio yoga workout once, I definitely didn't do cardio twice a week.  
  4. Finish 30-day plank a challenge. Success! I planked throughout January so I have done it for well over 30 days at this point. I realized my goal with this challenge was to get myself to plank regularly, not to get myself to plank for 5 minutes straight! Lawd that's intense! Goal accomplished. 
  5. Post {at least} 15 times this month. Almost... I was 80% of the way to making this a reality for January. This goal still caused me to post more frequently! It helped me start establishing a plan rather than the random posting I used to do. I think I should definitely hit the goal by this month.
  6. Review 5 products. Success! I did detailed reviews on four products and mini-reviews on another four. 
I am happy with the way this month went because I made great progress on and/or accomplished every one of my goals! Woot woot!! For this month, I really want to focus on consistency. I don't just want to be successful on some things for a month, I want to create new, better habits that become part of my lifestyle. So, for allll the goals I reached last month (1, 2, 4 & 6), I want to continue doing well this month with a little variation. Of course, I want to work on achieving the goals I didn't hit in January, too. Realizing February is already moving by quickly, here are my goals for this month:

  2. Come up with a (non-long-term) protective styling game plan for my hair.
  3. Workout 3x a week. 
  4. Complete "Little Black Dress" 30-day challenge. 
  5. Post 15x this month. 
  6. Review 5 products. 
  7. Step my social media game up! :)
So, I have a very similar, specific goal list this month in hopes of ingraining some of these goals into my life. Here's to creating excellence!  

Wash Day - Henna Gloss Treatment (24 wks post)

After I finally decided I'm ready to relax my hair, I thought about the fact that I
haven't henna-ed it in awhile either. So, I figured I would go with a henna treatment before I go for my next relaxer. (Plus I hadn't even purchased a relaxer kit yet.) So, this idea worked out well! Since my last henna gloss went so well, I repeated the recipe and steps almost exactly. Here's how it all went down:

{1} Pre-pooed overnight with Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose and grapeseed oil. I sectioned my hair and braided it up into 8, 4 in the front & back.

{2} Washed my hair while it was still braided, using CON Argan Oil Moisturizing and Shea Moisture ABS Deep Cleansing Shampoo.

{3} I mixed the initial henna mixture (henna powder, green tea & ACV) the night before
so after washing, I added the conditioners and oils to it while my hair was wrapped in a towel to soak up the excess water. You can find my recipe in this post.

{4} I unbraided my hair one-by-one apply the henna to each section before moving on to the next. Best idea ever! I felt like I moved through my hair so much more efficiently doing it this way.

{5} Put on 2 plastic caps, a scarf and sat under my bonnet dryer for about 45 minutes aka too long. The last time I sat under it for about 30 minutes and was fine, but this time it started running down my neck! It's never happened before and it was kinda gross, but I had to laugh at myself. Lesson learned. Next time I'll pay more attention to the time passing.

{6} Rinsed with cool water and then using HE Honey I'm Strong conditioner. In this step, I continue adding conditioner to my hair and rinsing until the water runs clear.

{7} I tried to wring all the excess water out of my hair I could and then added Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Lavender Mint Moisturizing conditioner (1st use). I put on a plastic cap for about 10 mins before rinsing with cooler water.

{8} Did an ACV rinse using a spray bottle and rinsed with cold water after a couple minutes.

{9} T-shirt dried for about 30 mins.

{10} Applied my leave-ins, Elasta QP Silk H2, grapeseed oil, Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Restoring conditioner, and Organix Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum and detangled. Detangling was a breeze and I lost virtually no hair this wash day.

{11} I let my hair continue drying in loose bantu knots... out of laziness

I let this wash day drag out all day because I was just lounging around the house, not caring too much. It went so well, too! My hair felt great, new growth didn't give me any problems... it was a good hair day. First impressions of the Paul Mitchell conditioner are pretty good - liked the scent and the way my hair felt after only 10 minutes. Oh and I didn't really notice a color change in my hair from the henna yet. Well see if it shows up later.

Hair Assessment & Plans to Relax

While my hair was straight, I made sure to assess whether my protective styling was successful or not. So, I took the time to just explore it checking for any signs of breakage, split ends, or anything that could have happened while I had my box braids. I may have failed at capturing a post-worthy pic of its length, but not of my nape progress. I am so excited about how the box braids helped my nape grow out! I think I retained more length at my nape in this period of time than I have in a long time. It has actually made me consider protective styling more often even though I'm not the biggest fan of it. I like playing in my hair too much. But hey, if that's what it takes to get my nape healthy, I'm game for the sacrifice! 

It has only been a couple months since I initially posted about my nape troubles back in November. I'm happy to already see some progress with the changes that I've made. My biggest hurdle has been keeping my hands out of it!! But I finally got to the point where I am conscious of staying out of it. That coupled with being diligent about moisturizing and sealing and protecting it has helped get it on the road to recovery. It still may not compare to the rest of my hair, but I believe it's on it's way there and that is what I'm happy about. 

As for the length of my hair, it seems to be doing quite well, too! I feel like my ends are getting thicker, I don't have the empty spaces I had after my last trim, my hemline is nice and I retained some length as well. Although my bone straight ends are still much thinner in comparison, they're still yet holding on. I'll probably trim more of them away in a few more months. I'm not worried about them right now. 

Basically, I'm very happy with the current state (read: health) of my hair. Yet, at a solid 6 months post relaxer, I've started getting antsy with all this new growth. It is more work balancing the three textures on my head and I started questioning whyyy I was continuing in such a long stretch. I've definitely been having good wash days since taking my braids out, but they are still more work than usual. I'm happy that I've been able to figure out what to do with all the textures on my head to keep them happy because I never thought I would be able to handle a stretch like this without any plans to transition. It makes me feel good about the time and effort I have put into both learning about and taking care of my hair. It continues to pay off. 

Sooo... if you're so happy with your hair, why are you talking about relaxing it, Melanie?? Glad you asked. The first reason is because I am not going natural right now so I can't find a good reason to continue stretching. One of the main goals of stretching is to make sure you have enough new growth to relax without risking over-processing by relaxing hair twice - check. I usually relax when my hair gets to the point that it's being extra aka making me work more than I'd like to and/or testing my patience a tad bit too much - check. I don't really consider relaxing to be rocking the boat or anything because, to me, the goal of any stretch is for it to go well start to finish. Just because it's going well does not mean it shouldn't end, it means you've gotten good at stretching! Yaaay! 

Of course, I don't think there's anything wrong with women who are serial stretchers, stretching for six months or more without the consideration of relaxing. I follow a number of ladies, on YouTube especially, that stretch this way and it works really well for them. Kudos to you ladies! As for me, I want to quit while I'm ahead. I don't want to wait til I run into trouble or breakage before I relax. I don't want to have to start being even more careful with my line(s) of demarcation. And I don't want to start facing any of the woes transitioners face when I'm not even ready to transition. I want my much easier to manage, but still textured hair back. I think I will probably not plan for the length of my stretches anymore because there's no telling how long it'll be before I get to this point again. But hey, whether it's 12 weeks, 16 weeks, or 25 weeks, it'll be okay because I'm a relaxed-haired girl and this is what I do. I think one thing that's cool about these healthy hair lifestyles is making them your own. Do what works for you!

My First Attempt at Tension Blow-Drying

A few days after last week's wash day, I decided to deep condition, or "co-wash", my hair. It had actually stayed soft and moisturized up until this point, which has led me to believe that the oil-rinsing technique I tried helped me retain moisture. I'm going to try it out a few more times before I give an official verdict though. Experimenting with co-washing is also something I feel may help my hair retain moisture during this dry winter season.

When I have done this in the past, it's pretty much just like my pre-poo or deep condition steps during my wash days except it stands alone. So, all I did was put a combo of Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose, Organix Morrocan Argan Oil Intense Moisturizing Treatment and Vatika Coconut oil on my dry, sectioned hair and let it marinate for a few hours under a plastic cap and scarf. I kind of did this on a whim so I wasn't up for making a whole ordeal out of it with multiple trips to the shower. My hair felt great after rinsing with cool water and that is when I figured I would give tension blow drying a go. I applied my leave-ins, Aphogee Green Tea & Keratin Restructurizer, grapeseed oil, and Shea Moisture Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner, to each section as I detangled.

My hair was already sectioned into 6, 3 in the front & the back, so I went section by section with the blow-dryer on low-heat. (Unfortunately, I couldn't find my blow-dryer that has the cool setting on it. I'm going to give myself one more search before I resolve to buy a new one :) I've had the one I used since college anyway.) I put enough tension on the length of my hair to stretch my new growth and began drying my roots with a sweeping motion of the dryer. I didn't try to dry the entire length of my hair and it didn't take me very long to do my whole head. I expect I could shorten that time, too, once I get the technique down. My hair still felt great after I was done and I could definitely tell the difference in my roots. I did not try to get it truly straight though, just loosen up that coiled new growth!

I still had huge hair after all was said and done, but it was much easier for me to work with. You can see the difference it made in the before and after pics above. This is definitely something I'm going to continue practicing to help keep my roots stretched.
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