Divas On The Grow Event

Divas On The Grow

I’ll be helping out on the day, I hope to see you there!

This is not a Natural Hair event this is a HEALTHY hair event, Everyone is welcome.

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Are You a MANE Diva?! (Review)

Hello My Naturalistas!

Today I’m sharing something a little different…

A WEAVE review! Yes I said it, I got a weave.

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Although my protective style challenge is now over and I was rocking my ‘fro all over the streets of Paris a couple of weeks ago, I have fancied a change for a while and wanted to get a weave that was close to my natural texture for 3 reasons:

  •  I rarely use heat on my hair so I couldn’t blend my hair a straight weave.
  • I still want to wear hair that looks like it could have grown out of my head, instead of an Asian or European texture.
  • I love Afro hair and I want to rock a BAA (Big Ass Afro) but I’m still a few years away from that with my own hair.

I had my eye on some hair from the USA but it was sooo expensive and I have been stung with those customs charges in the past adding an extra £100.00 to an already ridiculously expensive bundle of hair.

I decided to stick to my principles of  supporting UK businesses and discovered that Mane Divas based in Essex,  UK provide NHA (No Heat Alternative) extensions especially suited to women with natural hair.

I chose the Afro Kinky Curly texture which is a tight coil that can be defined or picked/fluffed out to achieve a full billowing Afro.

The website has a lot of advice regarding the hair and I was also able to contact the Divas themselves to get advice on how many bundles to buy and what lengths. I was going to buy 12″ and 14″ like I used to when buying straight extensions but I was advised to get 2 bundles of 14 as this texture has a lot of shrinkage.

Each bundle of 14″ costs £75.00 and p&p starts from £4.99 for recorded delivery . I think the price is very reasonable considering it’s Afro kinky virgin, human hair and the company are in UK so the shipping is much cheaper than if the hair were coming from the USA or China. In addition 3% of Mane Diva’s profits are donated to The Sickle Cell Society which I think is fantastic.

One of the best things about buying from Mane Divas is the customer service, they are quick to respond to any questions or queries, I don’t need to try to figure out the time difference if I need to call them and English is their first language so no worries about their being a language barrier and having a misunderstanding. Trina was particularly helpful to me as I bombarded her with about 50 questions before actually buying the hair!

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You can purchase the hair by clicking here.

As you can see the hair comes packaged in a lovely sleek box and each bundle is tied up with a pink ribbon.

The bundles measured 7-8 inches un-stretched but they were 14 inches once I stretched the coils out which is how all non-straight extensions are measured.

The hair comes in a natural colour which is a dark brown, roughly colour 2 but it looks lighter in bright sunlight almost around colour 4.

I was worried that it wouldn’t blend with my hair which is dyed black, but it looks fine and as the hair is not chemically treated prior to purchase it can be dyed or coloured, I will be colouring mine later on after I’ve worn it in it’s virgin state for a while.

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I only needed 1 and a half bundles for a full weave with my entire perimeter left out in order to enable me to wear the hair up in high buns and puffs, plus my edges are fragile like many women so I don’t like to canerow my edges and add  tracks as the stress is too much for my hairline. In the pictures I’ve intentionally exposed my tracks so you can see my leave out, when I wear the hair down it’s so full and fluffy that I don’t need to blend my edges, so I keep my leave out in twists, 2-strand at the back/side and flat twisted across the front. Since my sides are getting pretty long I gather them into a loose bunch with the hair in the back and tuck my ends away.

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When I first saw the bundles I thought the hair would be too curly to blend with my natural hair but it was fine, the hair is really versatile and you can manipulate your leave out to blend with the extensions if you want to. The extensions are not an exact match for my varied curl patterns but obviously an exact match is impossible as like most human beings I have several curl patterns all over my head. As my leave out is minimal I had no issues with blending. The hair is very soft and clean when it arrives but I co-washed it and let it air-dry prior to installation anyway.

The wefts are strong and thick, but my stylist didn’t have trouble sewing the tracks in as she sewed over the weft not through it. I  have not experienced shedding even though I did not seal the second weft that was cut. I have also not experienced any matting which is very common in Afro-textured extensions but this is because I made sure that my tracks were not sewn too close together and I finger detangle daily, obviously once I run a comb through it there will be some shedding which is normal, my real hair sheds and this hair behaves just like my natural hair.  I remember wearing straight weaves back in the day and hair falling out all over the place it was awful!

I have been wearing this hair for a week and I flippin’ love it! On Mothers Day (30th March) I was with my Mum for over an hour before she asked me if I’d dyed my hair, I said no and only then did she ask me if I had “hair” in my hair! I admitted it but my Mum still insisted on coming and looking for the tracks… lol!

My Mum really likes the style on me and trust me my Mum HATES weave!

This hair is not low-maintenance hair, you cannot just get up, shake it out and go but that is just like real highly-textured natural hair that grows out of our scalps. You do need to keep this hair moisturised and detangled, I literally treat this hair like my own natural hair which also means that my leave out and my braids underneath are not neglected.

I moisturise both my hair and the tracks at least once per day, I use Mane Divas Milk Moist or my own water spritz mix. Every couple of days I apply castor oil to my scalp (only) with an applicator bottle and I lightly finger-detangle every night before putting the hair into 2-4 chunky twists and covering with a satin bonnet.  I don’t do anything to my leave out except moisturise it, I don’t undo my twists unless I’m wearing my hair up as I’m trying to avoid over- manipulation of my precious strands.

If I wear my hair up, or back in one,my natural hair blends effortlessly  into the extensions as illustrated by by ponytail/puff below:

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I highly recommend this hair to anyone who wants to add length, thickness or volume to their natural hair or someone who wants to try out a natural texture before taking the plunge. Mane Divas also offer kinky-curly extensions which are a looser curl and various straight textures, if you don’t want to commit to a sew-in weave you can also purchase clips-ins from Mane Divas.

I haven’t washed my hair yet but when I do I’ll do a post on how easy or hard it was to wash the hair by myself. I’m also going to add highlights then colour the hair to see how the hair holds up.

Thanks for Reading

Luv

Sian

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*I bought this hair with my own money, prices correct at time of writing this post.

NHA Paris 2014!

Hello my Naturalistas!

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I wish they had also printed an English version of this magazine…

The 3rd Annual Natural Hair Academy Paris was held on Saturday 15th March 2014 at L’Espace Tapis Rouge in Paris!

As you know I had made a decision not to go to any more “Natural Hair Events” but I really wanted to see if France could offer anything different to the UK Natural Hair events I’ve been to in the past.

I paid for my everything myself  on this trip -unless I specifically state something was free, I mention this so you know that my review/recap is honest and non-biased, I did not have a wristband or VIP access to the event. I’m not saying that VIP’s are  dishonest I’m just making it clear that I haven’t been paid or “gifted” to write this review.

When purchasing tickets to the event there were three options:

Option one – The Felicia Leatherwood Workshop 35.00 Euros

Option two – The Monroe Sisters & Clarisse Libene Workshop 35.00 Euros

Option three – All of the workshops 60.00 Euros

Although I had never heard of the Monroe Sisters or Clarisse Libene before the event I decided to Purchase the 60 Euro ticket so that I could fully experience the event. I went to Paris with my Mum so I bought her an all-workshops ticket too.

Before booking my accommodation I contacted the organiser Gwladys  and asked for some tips on where to stay and if the workshops would be in both French and English, Gwladys was extremely helpful and answered all of my many questions leading up to the event itself.

Gwladys also invited me to the NHA Launch/Cocktail  party which was held at the venue the evening before the main event.

The Cocktail party was due to start at 18:30 but everything wasn’t quite ready on time, that wasn’t a big issue as there were enough punctual guests there for me to mix & mingle with and  practice my French on!

I met a couple of the French Bloggers I follow:

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Gaelle From the Curvy and Curly Closet

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The Lovely Deborah

The Cocktail Party was really a Panel discussion -entitled Curls and Discussion  the subject matter was of course Hair more specifically wearing your natural hair with confidence, the panel also told us personal hair anecdotes.

The discussion was hosted by the delightfully witty, elegant and bilingual Clarisse Libene founder of Bellebene (far left with the microphone and black & white head wrap.)

The beauties on the Panel were (from left to right) : Kelly Masso founder of French hair brand Les Secrets de Loly,  Kelly J the founder of Natural Girls Rock, The Monroe Sisters, Felicia Leatherwood and Fatou- French Blogger and beauty editor of Ghubar Magazine.

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Les Secrets de Loly were also giving all the attendees the opportunity to receive a free gift of a hydrating repairing mist and a customised 100% natural hair masque, we were able to select an “active ingredient” such as hydration, silkening, or protein and a fragrance I won’t list all of the fragrances but I chose the White Tea fragrance and it smells lovely, I can’t wait to try it out!

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Kelly hard at work with the hair masques

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After the discussion Mum and I went to grab some hot food and go to bed we’d had a long day after a long week at work…

We were staying in the gorgeous bijou L’Horset Opera Hotel which is on Rue d’Antin, 5 minutes’ walk away from the famous Parisian Opera House.

Our Hotel

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The Opera House – Palais Garnier

The Opera Metro station is right in front of the Palais Garnier so it was really easy for us to get around the city, while we were in Paris their entire public transport system was free because there were record levels or air pollution in the city and the government wanted to try and encourage people to leave their cars at home and use public transport.

The Parisian Metro system was very easy to navigate, but maybe that’s because I understand quite a bit of French and I’m used to London’s complicated underground network and NYC’s crazy Subways!

The Metro was a bit basic – you have to open the doors yourself (I hate touching anything on public transport and wore gloves the whole time)

Some of the doors only have a metal latch that can operate the doors whilst the train is in motion! I jumped off quite a few moving trains over the weekend, once the train was in a station and had slowed down of course!

The trains were also a bit old and grubby with lots of graffiti and the aroma of urine lingering in most carriages (bearing in mind we only used lines 7 and 9 the entire weekend.)

The Main Event

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There were 3 main workshops for the day, each workshop ran concurrently and repeated 3 times so that all of the ticket holders could attend their workshops, it would have been a nightmare to have all 1000+ attendees in one room for each workshop and I don’t think there was an auditorium large enough any way.

If my explanation seems  complicated please look at my table below: the timings and room numbers are not exact but you should get a better idea of how it worked.

Room Number 10:30 11:45 16:45
Room 1 Monroe Sisters Clarisse Libene Felicia Leatherwood
Room 2 Clarisse Libene Felicia Leatherwood Monroe Sisters
Room 3 Felicia Leatherwood Monroe Sisters Clarisse Libene

 

The Monroe sisters are very pretty (as you can see) and they both have full heads of natural hair, so they each know what works for their hair.

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I found their workshop to be better suited to newly naturals or women who haven’t done their own research about hair already. The Monroe Sisters had a live protective styling demo on a girl they picked out of the audience, I was impressed by Ms Vaughn’s ability to style hair live on stage while answering questions from the audience and with everything being translated into French simultaneously but the finished style was not to my taste, plus I would have liked to see the demo on  a girl with  shorter hair, or a transitioner – I think that would have been more useful but I’m aware that they only had a certain amount of time for each workshop.  SONY DSC

After the demo, the Monroe sisters shared their hair regimen with the audience I always think that telling people your own hair regimen can be a bit of a red herring and give newbies false hope because- as we all know everyone’s hair is different and what works for one Naturalista would not necessarily work for everyone else. A basic instruction on what steps can be included in our hair regimen is definitely useful  for newly naturals but copying someone else’s exact hair regimen and thinking that your hair will turn out exactly like theirs is never a good idea. The Monroe sisters plugged the Huetiful steamer at every opportunity but that is to be expected as Huetiful sponsor them, they even showed a video showing how to use the steamer as part of their workshop the video was mute but there was a French voice over, considering that the Monroe sisters are not fluent in French themselves I think they could have at least had English subtitles on the video but maybe they did not have any control over that element of production.

The finished style

The finished style

My next workshop wasn’t until 13:45 so I wandered over to the Phyto Specific “Hair Diagnostic” area, I was able to walk straight in and talk to Kathy Jean-Louis, the director of Phyto Specifc she was very knowledgeable about the brand and how it was developed. I didn’t intend to buy any hair products on this trip as I am as self-confessed Product Junkie and my Husband had to build me a special shelf just to house all of my hair products. Ms Jean-Louis didn’t try to sell me anything and there weren’t actually any products lined up anywhere, It was really nice not to feel pressured into buying anything, instead Ms J-L asked me if I wanted a hair diagnostic so I sat down with one of her colleagues who used a high-powered microscope with a live camera and monitor to examine my hair and scalp close up. The lady who was doing my hair diagnosis only spoke a little English but since I speak a bit of French I managed to understand my hair diagnosis.  I learned that my scalp and hair were well nourished and hydrated, I have a mixture of fine and medium hair strands and lower down on my strands – towards the tips my cuticles are frayed and damaged but my hair is not snapping off at the ends.

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I know my ends are bad because of the chemical damage from colouring my hair if you read my blog then you know that I am transitioning out of this chemical damage without big chopping my hair again, I simply coloured my ends Black with a gentle powder box colour and I’m keeping it moving.  The hair diagnosis lady recommended a few Phyto Specific products I might like to try and I bought a few of them, the actual products were stored behind a screen partition and there was a desk where I could make my purchases the whole experience was really interesting and not rushed or pressured, I even got a couple of free gifts, a beige patent bag- which is guess is to store make-up or products since it has no handles and a free sample of the Phyto Specific  deep treatment bath. SONY DSC

Later in the day the queue for the Phyto Specific hair diagnostic was so long it snaked down the grand staircase and into the main hall, I think they were a victim of their own success a couple of my friends waited for over 3 hours in that queue!

The Clarisse Libene workshop was in partnership with the “Jane Carter Solution” Jane Carter was there by the side of the stage but she was more of a silent partner – at least in my version of the workshop. Lisa Price the founder of Carol’s Daughter was also invited on stage to say a few words.

From L -R Jane Carter, Lisa Price, Clarisse Libene

From L -R Jane Carter, Lisa Price, Clarisse Libene

Although Clarisse is fluent in English she did not give any part of her workshop in English and there was no English translation at all which was a real shame because with my limited French I could only understand 50-60% of Clarisse’s workshop and even then I found it to be the most interesting and informative workshop of the day. Clarisse’s workshop actually went into the science of our hair and the different growth cycles she also talked about the internal and external factors that can affect both hair growth and retention.

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I personally found Clarisse’s workshop the most helpful because rather than just go on about how she washes her own hair and what products she uses, Clarisse actually gave honest factual and practical information that any woman, relaxed or natural could understand and in some cases implement.  At the end of Clarisse’s workshop there was an informative quiz with multiple choice questions, at the end of the quiz Clarisse gave everyone the correct answers so they could mark their scores down and the girls who had the best scores were rewarded with a full sized Jane Carter product each.

SONY DSC Clarisse has an amazing stage presence and such a dry sense of humour that I thoroughly enjoyed her workshop even though I  couldn’t understand every single word.

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My last workshop of the day was the Felicia Leatherwood “Loving Your Hair With Natural Care “workshop. Felicia’s workshop was really good, before she started her workshop Lisa Price the founder of Carol’s Daughter came on stage to say a few words, Lisa was really sweet and humble and just said a few words about how she started her company (with body products first not hair products) and she said she was really happy to be part of the event and glad to see to many different women representing so many types of beautiful.

Felicia started off by selecting girls from the audience and explaining their hair types and what kind of regime/styling suits each hair type, apparently the way to accurately assess your hair type is when your hair is wet. Felicia also gave lots of helpful information regarding going to hairstylists, how to detangle your hair and when to trim your hair – when the season changes so 4 times per year. Felicia recommends that Jamaican Black Castor Oil is applied to your scalp not your hair at least three times per week where it can be absorbed into your scalp and act as a fertiliser for your follicles. Felicia also did 3 live hair demonstrations on girls from the audience and showed us how to recreate this gorgeous style she did on Teyonah Parris’ natural tresses:

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Roughly one week prior to the event we were emailed and given the opportunity to enter our tickets into a draw for a bonus workshop given by the famous Taren Guy (aka Taren916 on YouTube).

Taren Guy

My tickets were chosen in the draw and I made sure I entered the hall early so I could actually get a seat. This was the only workshop where tickets were actually checked!

Taren’s workshop started a little bit late but it wasn’t too bad, Taren (and her hair) looked fabulous as usual.

Taren was glowing with her pregnancy and she looked very comfortable in skyscraper heels and skinny jeans with a loose denim-look silk embellished top.

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As for the actual content of Taren’s “workshop” I will just say that I don’t think I was her target audience… Taren told us about her hair journey (like most of her subscribers I’ve heard it already on YT) Taren also invited two girls from the audience who don’t like their hair texture and spoke to them about why they don’t like their textures but also what they do like about their textures.

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I was glad to get the opportunity to attend Taren’s very popular “Love and Learn your Hair” workshop,

I am subscribed to Taren’s YT channel and I know she has toured with her workshop so I was interested to see what all of the Hype was about, but at NHA Paris Taren herself admitted that she is not a hair expert and she usually has a stylist with her on tour to answer specific hair related questions. Most of the women in the audience were acting as if Taren is the Beyoncé of the “Natural Hair Community” and queued up for ages after the workshop to take photos with her, in fact as Taren entered the hall before she started the workshop,  the room was illuminated with hundreds of flashes as if the room was full of Paparazzi! I have respect and admiration for every sister doing it for herself but I don’t fawn over people or make a big fuss over “celebrities.”

As well as the three main ticketed workshops there were also free workshops given by Mixed Chicks and Huetiful. On the ground floor there were many pop-up shops representing hair and beauty brands. Les Secrets de Loly also did a live big chop but I missed the actual chopping.

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I didn’t attend the free workshops because in between my paid workshops, I was eating and shopping with my Mum, networking with other NHA attendees and exploring the nearby area in Paris’ 10th Arrondissement including Boulevard de Strasbourg also known as “Black Paris” but I (affectionately) nicknamed the area “Black Sister’s Street” because of the way most of the female workers in the Salons were dressed and after the novel “On Black Sister’s Street “by Chika Unigwe-  it is an excellent novel and I highly recommend it. *

I digress please forgive me… All in all I did enjoy NHA Paris but there are a few aspects that could be improved upon. I would attend again but I would carefully think about which workshops I would attend to get the most benefit, value for money and enjoyment. I enjoyed the networking aspect of the event and will definitely be returning to Paris to build upon some of the relationships I formed last weekend and to further explore the city.

The Good, The Bad & The Beautiful

Good:

One thing I thought was particularly good is that each workshop was signed for at least one session, I believe it was only in French Sign Language but it was still fantastic as I have been to countless Natural Hair events and none of them have been signed. Kudos to you for arranging that Gwladys.

The Event was the best Natural Hair Event I have been to so far, the vendors were not pushy and trying to shove products down your throat.

The Venue which I believe translates  to The Red Carpet Space – was gorgeous and large enough to accommodate every one without feeling clautrophobic or cramped.

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All of the advertised speakers were actually there on the day!

Gwladys the organiser was at the event all day and was checking if we were ok and enjoying ourselves.

The toilets were well maintained and cleaned throughout the day.

Bad:

I bought 2 tickets for all of the main workshops at 60 Euros each. What really annoyed me is that once you were in E’Space Tapis Rouge tickets were not checked again, so people who had only paid for the cheaper tickets were able to get into all of the paid workshops or people were attending workshops they had paid for but at the wrong time -subsequently there were not enough seats in each of the workshops and I ended up standing in a couple of the workshops, I asked one of the NHA representatives/translators about this and I was rudely told that “we intentionally oversold the seats so if you do not have a seat that is your own problem”       (I did ask Gwladys the organiser about this and she informed me that seats were not intentionally oversold.) Either way that was really disorganised and unfair to people who had paid full price for the same workshops that other people were getting into for free.

There was a lot of security around inside the venue and near the doors to each workshop but I don’t know what their purpose was because they certainly were not checking tickets!

The temperature in each workshop was either freezing or sweltering.

There was nowhere in the venue to sit down and just chill, to eat your snacks or whatever so many girls were sitting all over the floor and stairs.

The day was way too long, by the time it was Taren’s workshop Mum and I were so tired, it really was a very long day but at the same time there were not enough hours to see and hear everything that was going on.

Beautiful:

All of my sisters! It was fantastic to be in such a grand space with so many beautiful women and there was so much positivit in the atmosphere.

Merci beaucoup Gwladys pour une telle journée agréable et bien remplie!

Me and Gwladys the organiser of NHA Paris

Me and Gwladys the organiser of NHA Paris

Thanks for Reading!

Luv

Sian

*I am aware of the seriousness of the topics covered in the novel. I am not making light of these issues, I am referring to the visual aspect when looking at the particular street in Paris.

A Beginner’s Guide to Going Natural…

Hello, everyone I hope you’re well?

Sorry it’s been a while since I uploaded a new post, I’ve been really busy settling into a new job and baking of course….

Anyway as the title suggests this is a post about “going natural” – for those of you who are not in the know, in this instance “going natural” is a term used by people (usually women) of African descent who have decided to stop chemically straightening their hair.

I’m not a hair expert, but since I have gone natural, I have done A LOT of research about natural hair and I have learned so much I wanted to share some of my knowledge with anyone who is interested, in addition some ladies at work  have been asking me questions and suggested that I wrote a post about going natural. This is not really aimed at women who are already natural so if you have been natural for a while, you probably know most of this already.

I’ve already written about why and how I went natural in a previous post, and I’m also going to write about my natural hair journey from TWA Feb 2012 to now.

TWA stands for Teeny Weenie Afro, it’s a term used to describe length more than texture, It’s when you’re not bald but don’t have enough hair to style, roughly one quarter of an inch to two inches long. Once you have enough hair to comfortably twist or braid it’s not really considered a TWA any more.

Solange with her TWA

I will be using quite a lot of USA hair “jargon” but I will try to explain each term as I go along.

First Things First

If you want to go natural stop relaxing your hair. Yes it’s as simple as that, you may be due for a touch up anyway so just don’t do it…

The same goes for all other chemical treatments used to alter the natural texture of your hair such as Curly Perms, and Texurising/Texlaxing etc

There are several ways you can go natural, some are more drastic than others it all depends on you, there is no right or wrong way to do it. As long as you are no longer using chemicals designed to alter your natural curl pattern, you are on your way.

The quickest and easiest way to become fully natural is to do a “big chop” that is when you cut off all your relaxed hair in one go, it can be too much of a change for someone who is used to long hair/weave or even short relaxed hair as you are probably not used to your real hair texture being fully on show. Big chops are not for everyone and if you don’t want to do it, that’s fine, you need to be comfortable with how you are rocking your hair or you may be tempted to go back on that “creamy crack” (another name for Relaxer, so called as some people are addicted to it.)

After a big chop you may feel like you suddenly have a lot of face, I bought lots of big earrings and hair accessories to help jazz up my look when I first big chopped, some women experiment with brighter, bolder make up it’s pretty much up to you. I always made sure my eyebrows were neat and shaped it makes a huge difference to your whole eye area and you don’t have to do it every day.

Having a big chop really makes your natural beauty stand out and highlights your skin, cheekbones, eyes, lips and everything on your face, so now might be a good time to do more exercise drink more water and get more sleep and  so your skin can really look it’s best.living_waters2

 

If you don’t want to big chop you can Transition, that is when you slowly trim off your relaxed ends as your natural hair grows out. You can trim your ends yourself or get a professional to do it, if you trim your ends yourself I recommend doing this while your hair is wet as it is easier to see the difference between the two textures.

Transitioning can be done with or without protective styling, protective styling usually refers to wearing wigs, weaves, braids or twists, all of them (if installed, maintained and removed correctly) can help to protect your hair from daily manipulation and the harsh elements.

Me and my lace wig

Me and my lace wig

The main thing you need to do if you choose to Transition is to make sure you look after your hair so that the relaxed hair does not break off before you are ready to get rid of it. The point at which your relaxed hair meets your natural hair is called the Demarcation point or line. Your new growth is much stronger than your relaxed hair so your hair can easily break at this point. Even though your natural hair is stronger than the relaxed portion you must treat all of your hair very gently and avoid using fine toothed combs. If you must comb your hair try using a wide toothed comb or your fingers and water or a leave-in conditioner really helps with tangles.

If you decide not to do protective styling you may want to do styles that help disguise the difference in your two hair textures, until all your relaxed ends have been cut off. ideally you should try to get your relaxed hair to blend with your natural hair  instead of using heat (blow-dryers, flat irons and hot combs) to make your natural hair straight.

I could go on and on but I didn’t want to go into too much detail as this is supposed to help newly naturals not scare them off.

The bottom line is, however you chose to become natural, make sure you are comfortable and happy with your decision or you will not stick to it. If you do fall off the wagon and relax your hair again it’s not the end of the world just stop relaxing again and you will be back on your journey.

There are so many women on T’internet who have helped me on my journey I will list a few of their details on here.

I haven’t included styling tutorials in this post because  it’s much easier to learn a style from a video and I don’t do videos…. yet

Please check out:

Bespoke Hair Styles,  they specialise in working with natural African hair, both loose afro and locks.

All of their contact and social media details can be found here:  http://bespokehairstyles.com/

I also read a lot of other blogs and I recommend that you read other blogs too, I’d like to take the time to thank Sieta Majok who writes a very good blog and even though I haven’t met her in person she encouraged me to start this blog and her words of support meant more to me than than she will ever know.

Sieta Majok http://modernemeid.blogspot.co.uk/

Annette Clark Headley, has a fun, personal &  touching blog with a lot of practical and helpful advice  http://www.lovelifelocs.com/

Sharron Richards has another great blog and makes natural hair and body products too. http://fortheloveofkinks.wordpress.com/

On YouTube check out:  Crystal Afro, That Healthy Feeling, Africanexport, Naptural85,  LondonCurl, MissCinnamoncake, and Nyla Helene.

I’m actually subscribed to about 60 natural hair channels on YT but I can’t list all of them, just type whatever you want to learn more about  in the YT search box and discover a world of natural hair, be warned one video can lead to another and you can end up spending the day on there!

African Export, Advice to Newly Naturals:

My Hair History and Why I went Natural

I had been considering going natural for about a year before I actually properly did it in February 2012.

 Before I get on to my natural hair journey and all that jazz I’ll start from the beginning…

I was born almost 28 years ago with a full head of fuzzy, curly baby hair, my wonderful mother washed and blow-dried my hair every week and created the most amazing beaded and canerowed hairstyles.

This continued until I was about to go into secondary school and my mum gave me the option to either start looking after my own natural hair or get a Texurizer ,  I choose to get a Texurizer as I thought it would be easier for me to look after my hair if my curl pattern was loosened, and it would also make me more grown-up. 

Up to this point I had never washed or styled my own hair not even in a puff or twists. My Mum took me to a professional salon and they applied the chemical and smoothed it in, looking back on it I think it was just a “mild” relaxer  as once my hair was washed out it was bone straight. I loved it though and they blow dried and cut my hair to shoulder length and I was ready for “Big School” I stepped out of the salon with my hair literally flowing in the wind, I thought I was prettier and grown up!

 For the next few years I  mainly wore my hair down and loose, or sometimes in bun/ponytail my Mum did my touch-ups at home and my hair was ok it looked the same as it always had and I didn’t notice that my hair wasn’t growing or should I say I wasn’t retaining any length, anyway I was happy with it and I still had long hair “for a Black Girl” so I was cool.

 Then in about Year 9 (age 13-14) I discovered GEL and pink oil moisturiser! I went to an all girls school and most of the black/mixed girls had relaxed hair and they used to flat twist their hair into all kinds of fabulous intricate styles and gel down their entire fringes (bangs) to theirs faces and while the gel was wet they would use the end of a rat tail comb or their fingers to create pasted down “baby hair” waves and curls. I know it sounds awful but back then it was so cool and in fashion. 

Up until then I’d only had what I considered to be “boring” styles and some of the girls had been asking if they could “do” my hair -one of the biggest hair mistakes I’ve ever made was saying yes and letting my school mates use me as a practice dolly head for around 3 years. Unsurprisingly during that time my hair continued to break and it never grew past my shoulders again. By the time I was in Year 11 (age 15-16) I hated my hair so much I went and got it cut short to around ear length… it was not pretty it was not in a style either it was just hacked off and even worse I couldn’t put it in any kind of style not even two bunches.  My end of School photo was so ugly (in my opinion) that I told my Mum not to buy it. After that cut I wore single plait extensions for a while (box braids) and then continued to relax my hair, I cut my hair the next summer into a style this time and it was hot it was longer at the front than the back and graduated and tapered to my neck I also discovered crazy colour and used to colour my hair “Aubergine” which was a burgundy/purple colour.


 I was happy with short hair and it was quicker and cheaper to look after. I noticed my hair seemed to grow very quickly and I needed to get the back shaped up every week, I learned that the barbers was cheaper and quicker than going to a Hairdressing Salon. Every summer I cut my hair short and every year it grew back which was lucky as I had more than one incident of over processing my relaxer when I couldn’t wait for my Mum to do my hair and I went to any random hair salon. One time when I was about 18 or 19 I went for a touch up and the girl was combing through the chemical with a small toothed metal comb! I knew that wasn’t right but I didn’t have the guts to say anything, when she washed it out I could see loads of my hair in the sink, then she blow dryed and HOT COMBED my hair, up until this point I had never even seen a hot comb – I kid you not they were not needed in my house growing up and I’d never seen any of my friends using one or having one used on them. Thinking back on it my hair was already bone straight and flat as a pancake so I don’t know why she felt the need to hot comb my hair or why I let her do it, to add insult to injury I even paid the girl for the privilege of burning my scalp then hair!
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Needless to say I ended up with a big patch of broken hair, it was too short to even canerow so once again I cut my hair, at that time in my life I was completely against wigs and weave thinking they looked so fake. My Jamaican Grandmother saw me with my short boyish cut again and made me promise not to cut my hair again as it was my “crowning glory” I promised and regretted it instantly but I felt I couldn’t break a promise to my Nanny. I was stuck trying to look after and grow long hair, I wasn;t very successful I didn’t really put much effort into it and do any research or anything. 


Fast forward to me at around age 20 my best friend introduced me to “tracks” her hair looked so nice and believable that I wanted it done to me, my hair was dyed then a light Auburn-ish colour, my Bestie took me to the hair shop and helped me pick out the right colour length and texture and off I went to Maxine in Tooting for her to put my tracks in, I was in love with the result I suddenly had LONG flowing straight Auburn hair which didn’t look exactly natural but matched my dyed and relaxed hair perfectly. I wore weaves almost constantly from age 20 to age 26 mostly long weaves but sometimes short and I was always tonging and curling my hair as I love big hair, I use to love that style that has now become known as the Kim Kardashian, long layers with loose ringlets curled away from the face, the only difference is I had a deep side parting. Image


During this time my Mum had “gone natural” but it wasn’t even a thing then it didn’t have a name she just cut off all her relaxed hair and grew her natural hair out, I thought it looked nice and really suited her but it wasn’t for me I loved my weave and relaxed hair and thought that the long hair made me look glamorous and sexy. I learned about lace front wigs which I wore  in between getting my weaves done, you would never catch me out on road with my real hair out with no additions.
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I don’t know exactly what started it, maybe it was my Mum in fact she definitely had a lot to do with it but as I got older I realised that I didn’t really like the long straight sew-in weave look on me. It seemed every girl on the street had almost the same hairstyle and from the back you could not tell the Ethnicity of most females Black White Asian and every combination  of the above had long straight/layered hair I tried switching up my styles but it still wasn’t me. I’d always tried to be individual and different experimenting with hair colours and customising my clothes getting tattoos etc. I still hadn’t woken up though so instead of stopping the relaxers and sew-ins I was looking for a new type of hair addition and came across micro-ring extensions I didn’t know any one who had them and thought this was a way of being different again so I went for a consultation with a lady in Wimbledon, she quoted me about £600 for a full head of micro-rings including the hair! I did not have that kind of money and even if I did at around 25 I wasn’t spending the money on some HAIR! I went back on-line and discovered a lady called Sarah who did keratin extensions I read up about them and decided it didn’t sound so bad, and so I called her up and she was so nice she explained everything to me and sent me to her Facebook page so I could see her handiwork, one of her photos was of a black girl with relaxed hair so I contacted that girl and asked her a few questions, I was satisfied with her responses so I booked an  appointment with Sarah. On the day it was all very straight forward and around 4 hours, £200 and 400 bonded extensions later I left with 22 inches of silky straight Indian hair which was not at all bumpy and I could part the hair any where I wanted and even have a high pony tail! I was back,! fashion forward and rocking a type of hair extension that of my friends or family had ever done. I loved those extensions, I wore them for months and months, my hair grew out but I didn’t see any reason to take them out, I just relaxed my edges myself and flat ironed the middle of my hair, I curled the hair and ironed it and dyed it and so on it was like I’d always had that hair… 
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Until finally after about 4-5 months I thought it would be time to take the extensions out, they had grown out too much, I was instructed to use needle nose pliers and pure acetone to remove the keratin bonds (why didn’t alarm bells ring when I was told this?!) I soaked each bond in acetone then used the pliers to crack and crumble the bonds away after about an hour I’d done maybe 3 bonds and I had 397 left! I asked my then Boyfriend to help me and it was slow painful experience, I’d left the extensions in far too long and with they heat I’d been using I’d fused my hair onto the outside of the bonds and fused several bonds together in clumps it was an impossible task. In the end I asked my Boyfriend if he minded me cutting my hair to get rid of the extensions he didn’t mind and so I hacked away at the middle of my hair and got rid of it all, I wish I’d taken photos I really do but getting a camera was the last thing on my mind. Just imagine a few inches of natural regrowth with straggly relaxed ends round the perimeter of my head then crusty choppy hair in the middle it was a mess and no amount of conditioner was allowing me to de-tangle my whole head so I cut out some more hair but managed to save my edges. I still hadn’t woken up so I decided to get kinky twist extensions until my hair grew back a bit and I could get a relaxer, during that time I decided that I did not need a relaxer if my hair was always going to be in extensions, I discussed this with my Boyfriend and he didn’t mind me quitting relaxers so I stopped relaxing but I didn’t want to get rid of my (remaining) length I don’t know why I was hanging on to it , I really don’t and my hair was in a terrible state when I would take out my extensions and wash my hair my relaxed hair was getting so tangled it was too painful so I eventually ended up cutting off most of my relaxed ends I had been thinking more and more about going natural and that was as good a time as any. 


Thinking back on it I was transitioning but I did not know the term for it, I wore protective styles intending to keep wearing them until my hair was long. That lasted only about 8ish months during that time my Boyfriend asked my Father for my hand in Marriage, my dad accepted and we got Married on a TV show (yes it happened that quickly more about that in a later blog if I get any requests to explain it.) I had very short natural hair when I was getting preparing for my wedding and filming the lead up to the big day and I had worn along dark brown weave the entire time, for continuity I had to keep the same hair style, I could have pretended I cut my hair for my wedding day and rocked my short natural but I was not confident enough, I wanted a sweeping up do for my wedding day so I asked advice from a friend and she suggested we go lace wig shopping so one day we jumped in the car and went to Harlesden in North London to do some serious wig shopping! Luckily I knew exactly what I wanted and quite quickly I found a loosely curled, human hair, lace front wig in chestnut brown with light brown/caramel highlights. My hair on my wedding day did look beautiful but I wish I’d had the confidence to wear my short natural hair.            

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After my wedding I wanted a weave that looked more realistic so I spent around £200 on long Afro Kinky Weave hair from Holland (of all places) the hair looked really nice but I made the mistake of telling a girl I worked with at the time where I got the hair and the next week she rocked in to the office with my hair style my EXACT hair style down to the layering and side parting. ImageI was so VEX  that night I went on-line for some new weave and found a US site that specialised in silk based closures, I thought that was a good idea so I did some research and went to YouTube and made, up my mind to order the hair it was around £400 for shipping and a hair bundle which was two long tracks of Brazilian wavy hair and a closure the site said that was enough for a whole head weave. I received an email from the US postal service saying that my hair was stopped at UK customs, I followed the link and found out that I had to pay £97.00 UK taxes for my hair to be released! I was so mad but I couldn’t leave the hair there so I had to pay for it. Once I’d collected the hair and had it installed it was pretty but not worth practically £500.00 around that time my nephew was born and I went to the hospital to see him and lots of photos were taken.
 
My hair looked so fake and shiny in the photos I hated it, I told my husband I didn’t want to wear weave any more and he was fine with it, he said he didn’t marry me for my hair and he wanted me to be happy so I took that weave out trimmed my hair and rocked my TWA for the first time mid February 2012, it was liberating and it only took about 1 week before I dyed it!