Posts Categorized: Shop Talk

May 21, 2010

Set Your Own Rules

*This is an oldie submitted by me a while back that I’m glossing over now. Thought I’d re-post to let the good hair karma flow in honor of another year being natural…


“…recreate yourself in your own image, don’t take no for an answer, question everything and blindly accept nothing, take an active part in your own life.”

I came across this quote a few weeks ago, struggled to find a pen & paper to help commit to memory and continue to reference back to it periodically. It’s early in the ’10 year, yet by the day it’s fast becoming a new favorite. Why I love? It reminds me of starting points, the beginnings and freshness of embarking on something remarkable…a familiar track I’m aiming hard to find again in the New Year, & because it’s as versatile as lovely words can get, I’m applying it to my on-going quest for a head full of naturally healthy hair.

Being Natural for 10 years by far does not exclude anyone from hair mistakes. The beginning of what many naturals refer to as their ‘journey’ was bumpy, full of well concealed bruises & a sea-sawed ego. This past year left me mindful of that fact, but also thankful to have woken up from my own foolishness. It’s a New Year, though I’m not one for resolutions, never have. I’m bound to contradict myself in some capacity, but what I do dig is reinvention & the quest for something greater. It irks me just a tad that the surface is mostly scratched on Jan 1st of every year, & not on a more continual basis, but…eh.

I’m stuck on ’10’ because by default, it has some semblance of magic to it. Is it just me? I feel that not only has a page been turned, another chapter has begun. What I’m ready for is positive change, a chance to ‘take an active part’ in my own life. Being natural for 10 years, no one offers either congrats or praise. Mostly, it’s quiet time made for reflection. What have you done right/wrong in those years that lead you to ‘here?’ The honest answer is frankly, too much. The good, the bad & the very ugly have all been introduced to my hair over the past few years, all intermittently. This past year’s heat damage finaglement, by far the biggest lesson; lead me to question everything I’d previously learned about natural hair from how to care for it, to how to break up with a hairstylist who continually harmed my bouffant each time I handed over $60+.

Last year I broke all the rules by setting some of my own, snagged enough gumption to style & coif my own hair, set my own prices and reaped the fruits of my labor. Yet that is what journey’s are made for & what they are inherently about, “recreating yourself in your own image…” This go round though, I’m through with commencement, and done analyzing/strategizing the how to’s of every hair style/regime. I’m ready to graduate, I’m ready to quit the life of the ambiguous natural & delve into the fro-ishesness that my hair so readily deserves. I’m ready for the fun to begin.

May 14, 2010

Equal Opportunity: Old Black Salons Face New Rivals

An interesting article posted earlier this week (via Zora & Alice) going into some depth about current Black Salons & their ill feelings regarding the popularity of Dominican Owned Salons. Are Dominican Salons overtaking Black Salons throughout the country?

Armed with a blow dryer and brush, deft wrist action and shrewd promotional tactics, immigrants from the Dominican Republic are snipping away market share from African-American stylists whose mastery of black women’s hair ensured for generations that their customers wouldn’t, or couldn’t, leave them. Promises of seemingly healthier hair, swifter service and far lower prices are wooing away a growing number of black women.

My eyebrows were certainly raised after reading this, and me thinks for good reason. The article doesn’t hinder to natural haired ladies per se, yet my understanding of salon culture was sort of reignited. I have not been to a hair salon in well over a year, yet through experience I understand in fact why this has become such a hot button issue.

I grew up in the salon, my Auntie owned and operated a Hair Salon years ago in New York, and still today is a very talented hair stylist that practices I’d say..traditional methods of coiffing women with textured or relaxed strands. By ‘method’ I’d go ahead and mention the simple wash/condition/roller-set that has long been a traditional routine over the years.

There are benefits to this style, as there are benefits to what’s referenced as the “Dominican Technique.”

I love my Aunt, lawd knows I do! But often times instead of using my limited school Metrocard to finagle my way to her salon fifty minutes away by bus, I’d walk a cool four blocks to yet another newly opened Dominican Salon with weekly hair/blowout specials festooned onto their windows in big.bold.letters. My budget and hair were not speaking in tongues, therefore I listened and paid my way to another flooowy session of ‘watch me twerk.’

Leaving the salon chair (in record time, 2hrs), I felt good, my hair and I would preserve the sexy until another two weeks & another solid paycheck. No one complained.  Guilt knows no home in a wallet left well lined w/ $$…

Did I ever question the ‘technique’ used on my hair? Well, yes. The ‘Dominican Technique’ while certainly effective, will cause you to writhe in your chair (if you’re HUMAN!) with slight discomfort due to the intense amount of heat placed directly at the root of your scalp. I’d say this is a fair statement, yah? The best stylist armed with her best & dandy blow dryer, is the one who can get to the kink the best, straighten out said curl and watch the silky flow.

We all had our favorites, at least until the next reputable salon opened two steps yonder thataway with even better pricing. Capitalist society….check!

African-American stylists typically use a curling iron to unfurl the hair, while Dominicans use a two-handed method of unraveling the strands with a round brush, followed by a blow dryer in the other hand to smooth the curl to a straight finish. Dominicans do so by pulling from the hair root, often forcefully. That, along with applying the second round of intense heat, leads to breakage, say black stylists and some customers.

Well, now. Hair breakage? Resulting from ‘intense heat?’ Makes sense. As a natural haired gal, this makes a l’il too much sense. An influx of heat on any head of hair can lead to irrefutable damage, N’est pas? The constant rolling & pulling motion of the brush, with aid from the hotter than hot blow-dryer (that would often exude smoke) could absolutely draw damage.

Common sense, me thinks.

But in the end it was always a matter of choice. A friend who’s currently transitioning from relaxer to natural frequented Dominican Salons and benefited from the ‘method.”

I personally like getting my hair done in under 2 hours.

I remember when I went home with my friend to New Orleans and to Atlanta, I did not like it when I got my hair done with their stylists.Too much chitchat, less time spent on my hair. More hours in the salon. They can’t be mad that the Dominicans came up with a formula that works. That’s all

The ‘formula’ does work. It works because it is affordable and it gives the customer what she wants yet didn’t think was possible. If your touch-up for a relaxer has exceeded it’s limits, and your budget has not yet made room to show some love, this method is best bets all around. In the past, I’d enter into a Dominican salon anticipating the relaxer treatment, only to leave with some curiously straight, silky donned black hair, pep was surely back in my step & it only cost me $25!

But I should digress, because it has been years since I shimmied into a Dominican Salon. By choice.

After going natural, where was the need? That much heat for anyone with natural hair is similar to watching a blaze of glory spark from absolutely nothing. It surprises you, but in the end you know better.

Would you seek out the ‘Dominican Technique’ to quell your natural hair? Why should it be any different for relaxed? Afro textured hair inherently needs something that an excess in heat just can’t deliver. Moisture. Oils.Time.

“Bad Boy” Romeo Crews, a prominent and outspoken black stylist in Atlanta, has no fear of the blowout. “Let me tell you,” he says, “they are helping my business because people are coming to me after the Dominicans make their hair fall out.”

I do not question the ‘technique‘ so much as I worry about the results.  While it is a matter of choice as to where and who you lay your bill$ down to coif your bouffant, considering the needs of your hair should always come first, and subsequent provisions later. Black Salons often fail at the attempt to meet in the middle, avoid the ‘chit chat,’ attend to the customer…listen to what they want. Spending upwards of 5- 6 hrs curtailed under someone else’s breath while they roller-set, pin, eat, and wrap your hair…is not fair. It happens.

Though in the end it’s business, yes. But don’t funk with the health of one’s hair for the sake of a $$.

May 5, 2010


*I feel a slight case of redundancy coming on, yet it bears repeating just for permanence sake so bear with me.*

I have very thick, coarse, at times unruly naturally curly hair – I do not ‘hair type’ for reasons I often only disclose when asked – so naturally, products that I on occasion use and rave about for my hair, may have dissimilar affects on another person’s hair.


Personally, I feel this is the easiest equation to follow once becoming natural, and that is to find products that work for your textured hair, rather than assuming what works for one, will work for all. Disavow yourself from the blame game if you’ve tried a curly concoction and it yielded blah type results. You are not to blame…nor is the product. Finding what works best for your hair texture takes countless trips to trial & error’land, so pack along a duffel bag full of patience.


Falling under these assumptions can only lead to frustration and a common dislike for your natural texture. Not good, but I’ve seen & heard it happen on numerous occasions.

The use of hair products are not intended to alter your hair into the other natural hair dimension (unless that’s your goal, hey…do you). But here’s how I associate products & their claims:  to enhance, nourish, nurture, seal, protect, define, condition, cleanse, strengthen, moisturize …never to change it into something it is not…naturally.

Happiness while under the influence of being natural begins with the basics. Are you happy with your hair san product…before you slather on the puddings, creams, lotions & custards? Can you fully accept the curls/kinks/waves/flaws/multiple textures that flow in and out of your scalp?

It takes time…, nothing more than time, guidance & knowledge to accept, nurture & love your natural texture – so be prepared to fully invest… and rest assured you’ll reap the rewards.

*image via newbry
April 24, 2010

Naturally Curly’s Best of the Best

One of the primary resources I relied on two years ago after my heat damage finaglement, is a site that most curly/kinky/coily haired gals have heard about, talked & gossiped about to their other naturally curled friends. I began as a lurker, matured into an avid poster on their much too addicting Curl Talk Forum,  then quietly began making most of my PJ product purchases via the all too convenient CurlMart site. was and continues to be one of the top reliable sources for curly haired information because it ultimately comes straight from the source…namely US!

And to prove it, NaturallyCurly is rolling out their annual Best of the Best survey, asking the curly/kinky haired family their picks for go-to products. My picks have certainly changed and evolved over this past year, so I’m eager to see a few new products shine, as well as tried & true ones stake their claim! If you’re a PJ much like myself…this is fun, no? Get into it by clicking here.

March 23, 2010

Reader Question: Fairy Knots

I hate that I don’t have much to update as far as my hair goes, and I will… without shame blame it solely on my new devotion to the twist. I have been on a two-strand twisting binge for the past few weeks, & each glance in the mirror further deepens my love for them. Alas, I can’t quit my twists, so instead my brain is nudging me to answer a reader questions that I’ve neglected for much too long;-).

liberalheart writes:

I am looking for some information on how to avoid or tame the little knot kernels at the end of my TWA. They are driving me crazy!!! I don’t know if I am the only person that suffers from this or not, I have been looking for info on the matter to no avail.

This is a tricky question for me simply because I never experienced knots at the end of my TWA many moons ago. I did however experience them a few months back when my hair was in dire need of a good trim. The ends of my hair were brittle, dry to the touch even after an adequate deep conditioning making the only option a snipping session.  Over time, you learn to rely on your instincts as far as when or how often to trim your hair, yet being forced into a trim due to knots and snarls is a whole other story.

During my TWA years, I rarely wore my hair out and about. My fro was, and still is naturally prone to dryness and while it was readjusting to a new texture…well, essentially it battled its own state of confusion as far as retaining moisture &  relating to its new environment. I was also on the fast track to obtaining length. I was obsessed with reaching a hair goal similar to my relaxed days. I was routinely fixated on all the natural haired pictures I came across while flipping through pages of Essence or Honey because in all honesty, they were few and far between. To protect my ends & to abstain from foreseen knotting, I wore protective styles for the majority of TWA years, prolonging the styles until my hair was well past shoulder length. I never endured snarls at the ends of my hair because they were always well hidden or protected from environmental elements.

Bottom line, if you & your hair are going through a period of frustration, it’s time to take a step back & evaluate your regimen.  Or, if you haven’t developed one, time to treat your hair to a regimen based on consistency.  No two heads of natural hair are the same. Ever, and this goes way beyond the surface & the look of one’s style, therefore no matter the length of your hair, knots are a part of a natural haired person’s life, & subsequently the factors attributed to these knots will vary from fro to fro.

One of my favorite bloggers, Alice of Diary of a Kinky Curly Transitioner, devoted a post to this sometime last year:

Fairy knots are tiny, single strand knots in your hair. They got their name from the fact they are so small only a fairy could have tied them! These generally appear on the ends and then work their way up if you don’t take care of them ASAP. If you wear your hair out a lot (wash and gos, wild and loose, etc.) you’re going to be more prone to them because your ends aren’t protected and when you add the nature of curly hair (curls on itself) you’re asking for some trouble.

There are two ways to take care of them:

1) Snip them off. Easy. Breezy. Beautiful.

2) DETANGLE them out. This can be time consuming, I’ve had some luck with a heavy co-wash conditioner and olive oil. I gently combed the ends with my Denman to get them out. It took FOREVER and I snapped most of my hair off at the knots while detangling them so you’re REALLY better of with option 1.

Prevention is easy. Keep your hair relatively snag free (watch your collars!), condition and wear protective styles so the fairies won’t get you!

If you decide to detangle them out of your hair, be sure to use a wide enough comb, a conditioner with a variable amount of slip (a good cheapie is VO5’s Moiture Milks line;-), or be sure to add/use a penetrating/nourishing oil such as coconut or olive oil.

Figuring out which products work best for your hair is also quite important during TWA stages, though arming yourself with the knowledge of what your hair inherently needs is very different from shopping willy nilly for a whole host of twisting creams & gels. Determining your hair’s porosity, texture & moisture balance are all key to determining what products will work best on your hair. Marsha, from the fab Curl friendly line, Curl Junkie wrote a very detailed & informative post on this a few weeks back:

First let me say that we all have to remember that there are many factors that go into determining whether or not a product works for you. Here are just some things to consider (assuming you haven’t found your perfect combos yet):

1)Outside Weather – including Dew points, temperature, relative humidity, wind, rain, snow, etc…

2)How you treat your hair – Do you use heat regularly? Do you color your hair? Do you sleep on a cotton pillowcase vs. satin vs. whatever… Is it damaged or generally healthy?

3)Inside Environment – Humidity – is it relatively dry or most in your home or office?

4)Hair Texture – Fine through normal through Coarse (For the sake of this article, on a 1-10 scale, I’ll say that the very finest of hair is a 1 and the coarsest of hair is a 10). I find that most people who think they have really coarse hair don’t. This is mainly due to frame of reference. You’d need to feel truly coarse hair (which is typically given as Asian/Native American, although I have felt variations there as well and have seen the coarsest hair in my life on a Caucasian head…2 actually…and they were both red-heads…humm…). This isn’t to say that you aren’t right, but it is likely that your hair is in the 6-9 range. Just as with fine hair, you’ll be in the 2-4 range. It turns out, when I compare my hair strands with other folks hair, that I fall in the normal to fine range (about a 4)…that was a surprise to me!

5)Hair Porosity – Low-normal-high (which most people will not have unless their hair is damaged/bleached/etc). For the sake of this article, low porosity hair will feel smooth moving your fingers up and down the shaft and also has problems absorbing water/product/chemicals (you may see water beading up on the hair). High porosity hair will feel bumpy or a little rough (due to the cuticle layer not laying very flatly) and absorbs almost too much of everything (and will release it easily too, including moisture!).

6)Hair Density – Do you have a lot of hair on your head or very little (so you see your scalp easily)?

7)Wave/Curl Pattern – I think this a factor, although not the major one. For example, generally speaking, I think that if you have a weaker wave/curl pattern with fine-normal hair you may want to use a hard holding gel with your products to support your pattern.

8)Products you use on your hair – again, the quality, gentleness or harshness of the products you use regularly on your hair. Sometimes you can do damage with a harsh shampoo, sulfate or sulfate-free. Sometimes you need some protein and sometimes not. Sometimes you need a particular type of protein (like say the protein in an ingredient like Lecithin which even coarse heads seem to be OK with…).

9)How many times per week do you wash/condition/style your hair?

10)The temperature of the water you use to wash your hair…think about it, if you shower in hot water (like I do), then you create a great moisture rich environment for your hair to soak up moisture…you almost turn your conditioners into Deep Treatments! I find that even folks who normally avoid say glycerin in products, could use it in this environment and rinse it out (making sure not to use glycerin in their stylers). The glycerin helps to soak up the moisture in the shower air (this is not scientific, just what I’ve found! :-P)

Before giving into the frustrations of the fairy knots, try deep conditioning with a non-drying, silicone free conditioner that won’t cause an excess in buildup. Clarify your hair/scalp at least once a month ( Apple Cider Vinegar is a great option!), try protective styling! I used to LOVE wearing my hair in tiny two-strand twists which always produced the cutest curly fro, or moisturized single coils which are often easier to maintain and style than two-strands.

Hope this helps & you find a solution to those stubborn knots;-)!

February 22, 2010

Understanding Natural Hair

I do not think the wonder and natural discovery of African American hair will ever quiet down. Last year, with the premier of Chris Rock’s Good Hair film, and really just a quick uptake in the natural hair community over the past few years – it certainly looks more like the very beginnings of an on going movement to better understanding.

I do not believe natural hair is a trend. I do not believe that if it is not talked about, or the media decides it is no longer en vogue that it is no longer important or relevant. It’s easy to slip into the argument, ‘hair is just hair’…though highly textured/African hair deserves a much higher honor and it’s due respect.

The documentary, A Journey to Understanding by O.M. Ajayi explores the history of African American textured hair. If you have the time, show some love by pressing play or bookmark & share. Click here for a sneak peak.

Also by Ajayi, Hair: A Conversation

link via Investigate.Conversate