Becoming A Siren | JTHL

If there is any hairstyle that I’m known for amongst my friends, it’d have to be box braids (or singles as I call them), specifically my black braids with green streaks. But, for the millionth time, recently I decided to be venturous with braid colors again. Up until this past summer, I have had green, orange, dark blue, burgundy, and honey blonde braids. In every case, though, these colors were all complimentary colors. My braids were predominantly black (usually a 1B) with strands of color peeking through. But then I came across this website. I had never seen so many different colors of Kanekalon hair on one screen and I wanted to try them all. I revisited that website countless times, making various pairings of colors I could see for myself until one day I finally gave in and bought a few packs of hair.

I had decided on a color scheme one would associate with the ocean. I was calling the look “becoming a siren” (because “mermaid” was too mainstream). I went through all the shades of blue and green that were available at the time, trying to create the perfect color gradient from a light tint of blue to a darker shade of green. It took me at least a week before I figured out which colors seemed to create the nice transition I was looking for. I wanted enough blue to remind you of water and marine life, but enough green to capture the actual color seawater tends to reflect (which isn’t always a commercial blue, but more of a soft turquoise). Once I was satisfied, I ended up purchasing six packs of hair. Three were green, two were blue, and one was a mix of blue, green, and a hint of purple. I also added a 7th pack later when I discovered the website also sells glow-in-the-dark-hair. I just had to have it; all or nothing, right? The hair didn’t take long at all to arrive. I ordered the hair on a Sunday and by Wednesday I was opening my mail. I was more than excited to start my hair. Seeing the packs of hair in person, you notice how vibrant the colors are and how true the colors are to their advertised picture (which can be rare in the e-commerce realm). Conveniently, I had already pampered my hair the Friday before, so my hair was in plaits. So, the coming Thursday, I decided to start my hair (in case I don’t sound impatient enough). I had a ribbed chair in my room at the time that I draped the packs of hair over, so I could keep everything separated. Installing the braids was not the difficult part. Keeping the mess to a minimum, however, was absolutely trying. But beauty has its sacrifices, and this one was well worth it in my opinion.

Caption: I was sitting on my floor at the time.

Just as I did the last time I used Kanekalon hair, I made sure to pre-taper the ends of each bundle of hair. I pulled up my laptop, found a good few movies, a Korean Drama series to binge, had a snack beforehand, gathered my styling tools, and got to work. The most tedious part about this go-round with braiding my own hair was separating locks of hair from their respective bundle. Once I got into a rhythm, I decided parting several pieces at a time would be more efficient. But I was also more focused on improving my technique as well. I wanted these braids to look more polished than my black and green signature look. I wanted to look like a sophisticated entity emerging from the water, preparing to seduce you and lead you to your own demise. So, try I did. I started at the front of my head, which is significantly different than anytime I style my hair. But I did this for two reasons. Firstly, I was weary I wouldn’t have enough hair (which I did) and, secondly, I wanted to judge how big I wanted my parts and braids (which I eventually stopped caring for once I went to the back of my head). Once I had gotten a general idea for how I wanted my braids to look, I fell into the rhythm of braiding and let myself relax with the sounds of a main character falling in love with their unachievable love interest. The first two back rows of braids were one consistent color. Afterwards, I finally opened my glow hair and started adding strands at the ends. The glow hair was more “piecey” than the rest of the hair, probably due to the chemicals on it that allow it to glow (a reason why it was added farthest away from my actual hair). This made it much easier to separate. I ordered the glow hair in the 12″ length, just so I’d have a feel for the hair for future reference.

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Caption: I’m pretty sure I squealed when I took this picture

Around two days, a K-Drama, several movies, and multiple bathroom and snack breaks later, I finally finished my entire head. I probably would’ve finished sooner, but I decided to be good to my body somewhere on Friday morning and actually sleep in between the process. Once I finished, the first thing I did was to give myself a nice long break from doing anything overly strenuous with my hands. If you ever want to build the muscles in your hands and wrists, I definitely recommend a braiding marathon. I think I actually went to sleep afterwards, it’s the only thing that’d make sense at least; I don’t remember doing much else during the day. In the evening, I finally went to seal the ends of my braids after doing some cleanup. Surprisingly, cleanup was minimal; it was nothing more than dusting off my bed and clothes, storing away the leftover hair, and putting all my tools back in their places. I had an old sheet lain on the floor under the chair that held my hair, so I dusted everything onto that since it was going to be washed later. After cleaning, I went to boil some water to seal my ends, did so, and towel dried as usual. My braids were uncharacteristically straight (for me, that is), so I did one last thing before turning in for the night officially. I used all the perm rods, curlers, or rollers I had to give as many braids as possible at the front of my head a bit of flare. For the back sections, I put them into big buns.

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Caption: Ignore the photo quality and the mess in the background

Sleeping actually wasn’t as difficult; I made sure to do the buns up in a way where I can actually lie down. By morning, I felt a bit more energized than the past few days and was excited to wake up and see my new hair. I took down the various types of curlers first and, I will say they did their jobs well. Unfortunately, using a bunch of different rollers and expecting uniformity is a little unrealistic – but I did it anyway. To make up for it, I came up with a simple, yet classy and wearable style: a classy half bun, with two streaks to frame my face and expose some of the curly texture they held. I loved everything about my hair and I couldn’t wait to leave the house and show it off. It was a Sunday, so we had church; I feel bad for wanting to be showy more so than attend church. I couldn’t help it! I actually felt confident in how I looked for once and I think I deserve a little pride here and there.

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I kept in the braids in for around two months. I had great timing in when I had installed them, as it was then when we later moved. Braids are always my ideal style for pool season anyway, but more so in any case where you can’t do your usual hair regimen. I kept my scalp cleansed and hydrated as normal, also being sure to care for the length of my hair. When time came, I finally took my hair down, and I never felt so heartbroken. Is it weird to develop an emotional attachment to synthetic hair? If so, know that I am your local weirdo. I was relieved to finally be able to give my hair a good cleaning and deep condition after so long. However, I continue to miss my siren locks to this very day. Somewhere in the future I may redo them for nostalgia. But let’s not forget the numerous other colors I first saw as well. Maybe I’ll do something different with another pairing…

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Caption: yes, I did buy cosmetics specifically for this look…

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Colors I Used

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Completed 11/30/2017

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Colors of My Strands | JTHL

I have a habit of doing things on short planning, if any at all. Messing around with hair dye is one of those things. Perhaps you guessed it by now that after all of the color I tend to include in my hairstyles that use extensions, I would eventually dye my hair. But of course, I wouldn’t make that kind of commitment only a year into my natural hair journey.

Not too long before that one Myrtle Beach trip in May, I managed to get my hands on some chalk dye. Now, while I may sound like the spontaneous type, this wasn’t as sporadic is it may sound. I had actually been meditating on ways to color my hair without contracting all of the damage that comes with the traditional methods. After a fair amount of research, digging, and YouTube videos, my decision left me to choose between spray dye and chalk dye. I couldn’t choose, so I agreed to let whichever opportunity present itself naturally. And so it did. It was a day where I was in one of my favorite accessories stores, Claire’s, that I spotted some chalk dye. It was a difficult decision that was made for me. I wanted to save my money for a more thought out decision, but my grandmother decided to be kind. She purchased a pack of “hair chalk” for me. I couldn’t wait to try it out. Of course, I had to take some precautions. I went back to YouTube to see how opaque the color would be and how much it would stain. After hard, stressful searching, however, I came to the conclusion that this would be a trial-and-error kind of thing; many of the videos I found involved someone with looser textures or straight hair. So a few days later, it was me and my DIY instinct.

I did a few spot tests on my hair to see how the pigment would stain my hair and for the most part I was excited to experiment with the colors. There were 12 pastel colors in the pack. I made sure to swatch every color at least once. I made sure to pick spots near my nape; the hair there seems to always get wet while I shower so this would make it easier to remove the color. Of all the colors, I think there were only two or three I was sure I wouldn’t use. While some of the darker colors actually showed nicely on my hair, the lighter tints like yellow and pink looked more… “ashy”. I wasn’t too fond of them. But I wasn’t going to dispose of them as a whole. I had a trick up my sleeve.

Some forevers ago, I bought a small jar of Softee’s Mango Butter with the intention of using it as a light edge control. Let’s just say it ended up sitting around for a long time. That is until this moment. While I may have liked the dye, it didn’t seem practical to color my hair by just rubbing the pigments down my strands. I don’t wear my hair in its shrunken state much, usually I wear twist-outs of some kind. Using the traditional pigmentation method may stretch the texture out of my hair as well as weigh it down. Then, I had this brilliant memory: once upon a time ago, I was going to attempt to make lipstick (which I never did). The method was to melt down whatever color crayon I wanted, add in some oils, and let it solidify. I figured I could use this same method where the pigments would be my “crayon” and my Softee’s jam would be my “oil”. I first attempted with the darkest blue color. The end result gave me a thin wax that melts into an oil with body heat. And maybe my first instinct should have been to test this on my hair, but somehow, I found that it made a really pigmented lip stain! This excited me even more.

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Caption: Why I thought to put grease on my lips, I still do not know

I saved my dye in a small container that I recycled (because I recycled all of my containers of course). As mentioned, I later took a trip to Myrtle Beach. This was where I tested my dye. It was the Friday evening I believe and I decided to make use of my time. We had planned to get in the pool the next day so I figured, “why not do it all at once” (baby naturals, don’t try this at home, ever). I did bring my 2-in-1 shampoo with me as I always do when I’m traveling short term, so I did make sure to cleanse my hair later. But we’re not here to talk about my foolish decisions. My hair was in one of my favorite styles at the time: my rendition of a twist-hawk. The sides of my hair were flat-twisted towards the middle portion of my head to mesh with the two-strand twists. Those twists were where I tested my color. I set up a good movie on my laptop, gathered my tools, and started twisting. Granted, I was hogging the bathroom because I didn’t want to stain the carpet of the hotel room. But I went through, untwisting my two-strand twists and using the dye as my styling product instead of a twisting gel. At one point, I did run out of dye and had to improvise (at the cost of my eyeshadow). But I did get through my whole head.

It was such a nice, vibrant color and I loved it. My hands looked like Smurf’s and my comb had changed colors, but it was worth it so I didn’t care. I let the twists set overnight, wrapping my hair as I would any other time and wearing a bonnet over it. In the morning, I unraveled and fluffed out my twists to achieve a fluffy, blue tinted fro-hawk. I wore my hair like this for the day and I loved every moment. Any time I was in sunlight, I tried to capture a picture to catch the light showing my color. Surprisingly, my shorts didn’t have any blue stains by the end of the day (why I chose to wear white is beyond me).

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By the time evening came, I was over the hype of my hair and ready to get in the pool. Now, I will admit: I was naughty. I made it a practice to wet my hair before I get into a pool so my hair doesn’t absorb so much chlorine. This time, I did not. This negligence is exactly why I usually wear my hair in protective styles during “pool season”. I made up for it all by my next full wash day. After I was finished in the pool, I made sure to thoroughly shampoo out all of the dye and I sealed with my whipped Shea Butter. When we returned home, I couldn’t wait to wash and deep condition my dry, crying-for-help hair. After that short experiment though, I can say I let my hair and scalp rest and recuperate for a good while. But I think the blue left an impression on me. I still have the rest of the pigments to experiment with in the future, but I’ll document those moments when I get there.

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Caption: Still a favorite picture

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Completed 11/6/2017

More Faux Locs | JTHL

I can’t quite remember the time frame, but it was somewhere near the middle of my first semester in college. Perhaps it was Tumblr photos or YouTube suggestions that sparked the idea, but I wanted to give faux locs another try. But this time all my own. I had wandered into a beauty store and saw this really pretty pack of lavender Kanekalon hair that I thought would do well for this particular style. I didn’t buy it right then but I kept a mental note of it. I also knew that my own hair isn’t long enough to achieve the length I wanted so I had to… well, extend it. But instead of buying a bunch of Kanekalon hair, I looked into yarn braids. This venture became two hair experiments at once. Once I finally decided to buy everything I felt I’d need, I ended up with four packs of pretty lavender hair, two packs of black hair, a large bundle of black yarn, and two lighters.

Before actually styling, I wanted to make sure I touched all bases, one of which involved preparing the yarn. I was reluctant with putting the yarn straight out of the packaging into my hair, but I wasn’t sure how I would go about washing it, since it behaves more like clothing than hair. After going through many videos on how people had prepped their yarn before installation, I decided to go my own route. I took a large tub I had in my room which was holding all of my reading books at the time, emptied it, and used it for a yarn bath. I filled it up about a third of the way with water, pouring in two or three cap-fulls of apple cider vinegar and adding drops of Tea Tree oil. I would let the yarn soak for about 30mins, checking on it every so often and moving the yarn around so as not to create layers. During this step, I was actually glad I made this decision; the water from the bath had changed from a clear, slightly yellow tint, to an increasingly more opaque black. I had figured there would be factory set dye on the yarn but I suppose I hadn’t anticipated how much. Once I felt the yarn was clean enough, I filled the tub once more with clean water, adding a few more drops of Tea Tree oil to fight away any lingering bacteria, as well as mask the vinegar scent as much as possible.

Luckily, I had decided to do this at the beginning of the week because it took just about every day after for the yarn to dry. I had draped the yarn over a hanger and let them drip onto a plastic bag. By the end of the week, they were dry enough for me to feel comfortable enough to begin braiding. Once the school day ended on Friday and I made my way home, I didn’t bother to do too much school work (at least, none that I remember). I set my bed up for braiding my hair, put on a good show (which I believe was a Korean drama), and got to it. Because I knew the wrapping part of faux locs would take long, I decided to do more of a bob length for my braids. I finished braiding rather quickly, in comparison to how long it typically takes to finish braids or singles any other time. I almost regret going through the next step because I really enjoyed my yarn braids. Not only did they frame my face nicely, I’d say they were very flexible in terms of style and aesthetics.

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Can you see the purple peeking through?

I started wrapping the braids from the back, as always. This was quite the task because I was having difficulty securing the hair from the root — additionally, this was the back of my head. This problem persisted through the extensive styling process. And by extensive, I don’t mean longer than a day or two. I mean, there were many times I went to school with my hair half styled between yarn braids and faux locs until my entire head was done. It was a trying process, but eventually, a week, three lighters, a sore thumb, and a K-drama later, I finished my entire head. I was, for the most part, satisfied with the look initially. I was happy that I was finished, happy that my thumb could rest, and happy that I wouldn’t have to come home and worry about another yarn braid to wrap and re-wrap. I had ran out of lavender by the time I reach the front so I did use some of my black hair. Nevertheless, the look still was pretty… initially.

Remember that I was having a problem securing the Kanekalon hair to the root? I also had this problem down the braid as well. I found myself having to readjust the Kanekalon so that the black yarn braid was not peeking through underneath. I also had the problem that the ends of the loc, where I had burned, would occasionally become unraveled. By the end of one week’s worth of wear, the entire style had begun to fall apart. As much as I love the weight and color of the style, this look had gotten out of control. Tearfully, I spent the next week removing the style — periodically hating myself, constantly criticizing myself, and regretting investing so much in a style that I had planned to wear for at least a month.

I actually think about that hairstyle a lot. I enjoyed it, though it was short lived. I’m not sure what it is but one of the reasons I love protective styles that involve extensions is to feel the weight of the hair. Those locs definitely had their fair amount of weight to them and sometimes I miss it. But I don’t see myself going through that process again. At least not any time soon. However, there is still some fun things I had the chance to do later along my timeline. I’ve always loved colorful extensions and the more I wore them, the more I wanted colorful hair. There was a time where my wish was granted…

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(Completed 10/5/2017)

Singles | JTHL

There were two incidences where I decided to try and handle my own extension-involved protective style, but only one of the two came out decently. Towards the end of the summer, perhaps a week or two before I would become a college freshman, I was really craving to have my beloved green box braids back – or singles as I know them. My mother had offered to set me an appointment with my usual braider but I was feeling adventurous and thought, “Those twists came out pretty okay… why can’t my braids?” So, I set out to take on the challenge of putting my own singles in.

I went out and bought five packs of Kanekalon hair, two were green and three were in 1B. Before I even started, I had made up in my mind I would cut the bundles in half; I didn’t care to have them super long and I did not favor another three days of doing hair for length’s sake. I also decided to have my hair sectioned beforehand, so the week before, I had twisted my hair into the section sizes I wanted. Of course, I made minor changes but the pre-separation made the process go a little smoother. Whenever I do my hair, I always start from the back, so the back three or four rows were mostly 1B. I wanted to conserve my green packs as much as possible, as well as make sure the visual parts of my head were well colored. I didn’t use a brush or comb as far as I can remember unless I absolutely needed to detangle something; I let the curly nature of the twists assist in locking into the braid, only going over my hair with a spritz of water and some of my Shea mix.

The styling process went by rather smoothly. By the evening, around the time I decided to sleep, I had finished half my head. Perhaps it was the movies and shows that helped things fly by, but I managed to finish in less than three days – about one and a half. Sealing the ends was done later, at my sister’s house (No, my mother didn’t suddenly have another child, I consider her as close as blood is all). To give my braids a nice crimpy texture, I braided the braids into bigger, jumbo braids… if that made any sense. I dipped the jumbo braids into boiling water for a few seconds and made sure to be cautious as not to burn myself. After pat-drying them a bit, I left the braids in overnight. The next day, I got dressed and did my casual makeup that I usually do, and took down my jumbo braids. I was very pleased with my results. I was not expecting them to look as good as they did, especially with a middle part. But for my first attempt, I’d say I did pretty good. The test was durability.

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Was and still is one of my favorite selfies

Later in the day, we went to a picnic-like thing, me, twin, and mother dearest. However, it was very hot that day and there was a pool; twin and I wasted no time to enjoy it. After changing into our bathing suits (and taking a few pictures of course), we went to the pool. We had our fun, we ate, we got back in the pool after we digested, and probably more that I can’t remember. For some reason, my favorite thing about swimming is when I have my braids. While some pull their hair back into a ponytail, I like to leave mine out and swim freely.

I slept the entire ride back, I’m sure. When we got back, mother dearest had pre-established everyone was washing their hair. I had no problem with this, I usually do so after marinating in chlorine anyway. The shampoo twin uses has sulfates in it, which some aren’t opposed to. I’m not “some”. She offered me a conditioner of some sort instead, I think a Sea Breeze product. I used that to co-wash, also letting it sit while I showered. I sealed with my Shea mix afterwards, as well as helped her with her hair. I offered to detangle before she started twisting her hair and I used my mix as well. Not only is it great at detangling but it softened her hair as well. She watched anime while twisting her hair; I fell asleep during the process.

My hair hadn’t held through the way I’d have liked it to. It became frizzy rather quickly and my hair started to poke through the shaft of some of the braids. Luckily, I had hats and hoodies to help me to the end of the month at least, where I cut and removed the braids. I do wish they had held out a little better, but I’m not opposed to trying again. Maybe I’ll do so later, but let’s skip to the second of the two trials…

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My eyelashes look so long and luscious… thank you, mascara

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(Completed 2/8/2017)

Consider The Customer | JTHL

Throughout the rest of the school year, I kept to my current hair regimen. Typically, I would do coil-outs on my hair, not only because it was the most familiar, but also because it was the closest to my curl pattern (the little bit that was there). Occasionally, I would dabble in experimenting with flat twist styles – they, too, became twist-outs. But as aforementioned, my next protective style was installed during prom season. Naturally, prom season was a stressful one, but that’s a story for another time. After I had gotten my dress, I had already known exactly how I wanted everything else to go: gloves, silver jewelry, dangling earrings, and a braid-bun with a swoopy bang thing… Don’t judge my vernacular. It was a simple enough concept, but to make it easier to explain to others, I went and found a picture example to show my stylist(s). The lady who usually does my braids was not available at the time so my mother had set me up for an appointment with her stylist instead. The way my mother had talked her up, I felt comfortable and well placed; I felt I was in good hands (stylist, if you’re reading this, I am not speaking against you; these are just my opinions and an honest review).

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The braid-bun swoopy bang thing

To be fair, I will say I was pleased with the end results: my braids were neat, tightly braided as I prefer, and overall well done. Unfortunately, the process outweighs the product, at least for me. Being at a point with my hair where I was focusing on regrowth, I had made up my mind that I wouldn’t be using heat for a while. Considering that good customer service implies thorough communication (and the fact I’m not a very vocal person), I didn’t think to voice my opinion before my stylist pulled out her blow dryer. Not only was I skeptic of unapproved heat usage, her handling of my physical head and hair was not… preferred. Much like my aunt, there was no heat protectant, water, or moisturizer when combing. There was only the oils on my hair prior, nervous sweating, and a comb that probably should not exist. Why anyone would use (much less invent) a wooden comb is beyond me… By the end of the agony, however, I had these really nice braids. And for the first time in probably years, they were all one color. Initially, I hated them because I’m used to having highlights, but when prom night came around, the only name I went by was Brandy. My outfit and hair came together better than I had in mind (though I couldn’t see it immediately; I was under a lot of stress in the moment). But a note to stylists:

Dear Stylists anywhere:

While your customer understands that the product is the important part, good reviews stem from the making process. Please consider this before raking the cerebral cortex from my skull.

Sincerely,

Naturals Everywhere

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I promise, it hurt to do a pose this slight…

I kept this set of braids in for a month – the shortest time span I ever kept braids. The only reason this was so was due to the color, or lack thereof. I wasn’t used to it and it was starting to bug me majorly. I waited until the week after graduation to cut them, as I do always before removing the extensions. I measured the cut according to where I wanted the hair to fall on my shoulders, grabbed my shears, and snipped away. I braided various jumbo sections and scrunchied them before dipping them in hot water to give the individual braids a nice, crimpy texture. It was around this time I also installed Senegalese Twists (also called rope twists, I believe) for someone else – my hair mentor, and best friend. I made sure to watch plenty of tutorials over and over, to practice a little, and anything else beforehand.

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I still think I’m wearing my aunt’s aesthetic…

He wanted them to be longer twists so I decided not to cut the full bundle of hair in half, as commonly done. As nice an end result this produced, the process was very, very, tedious. Because I was new to not only the technique of Senegalese twisting but installing extensions as well, what may have been a handful of hours if done professionally took about 2-3 and a half days. Between measurements, micro-perfectionism (if I can call it that), food and bathroom breaks, finger and leg cramps, mini-naps, and goofing, it took about three days to produce a set of really pretty twists. As the stylist, I hated them for many reasons initially: the parting was weird, there were small errors here and there, and a few other things (but it was probably just me grouching because I was severely sleep deprived and delirious). However, ironically, every time I see the photos of the finished product, I get jealous… of myself. “Those came out sooooo good”, I think to myself, “Why didn’t I do that on my own hair?” It’s actually funny when I catch myself thinking as such… Nonetheless, he loved the look, he wasn’t in dire pain during the process – be it a longer one – and, of course, we had our fun during the breaks (the many breaks we had). And, as expected, once they went home, I crashed hard.

 Eventually, my own hair was back to its natural, extension-less state a week or so later. I caught up on my sleep, and the numbness and rawness of my fingers went away with time. As much as I may have disliked the product I had previously done, it set a good basing for my own skill which I used shortly after, in two ways. Over the summer, I stuck mostly to the basics: coils, twists, flat-twists, and I even tried Bantu knots. It was a weirder experience. My mother had always put Bantu knots in my hair when I was younger and I could not stand to look at them one bit. I hated them, mostly because I was teased for having them, but also because I believed the style just did not fit my round head (and I had a really round head as a tot). When I had tried them for myself, it looked more… mature, if I can say. But I’ll save the selfie spam and bragging for a more appropriate time.

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You didn’t think I’d miss a chance to flaunt, did you?

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(Completed 2/4/2017)

Faux Dreads Indeed | JTHL

January was the month I had my first protective style installed as a natural. To this very day, it is still my absolute favorite look on me — next to my signature green braids. I wanted to try this new “crochet braid” trend that was popping up around me but I wanted to try faux dreads even more. As always, I went back to the web and looked for “crochet faux locs”. The results weren’t as helpful as they usually are… Nevertheless, I had made up my mind. It was a Saturday, the 9th to be exact. My mother took me to my aunt’s, who took me to the hair store. We picked up five packs of pre-dreaded crochet hair (or whatever you would call pre-styled hair), and went back to her house. I can’t quite recall what I was intending for my braid pattern in terms of “wearability”, but I wanted the front to be cornrowed back and the back to be braided horizontally. After a lot of clarification, my aunt went to braiding. And yes, it did hurt. My aunt deals with her own hair and that is all. She occasionally does my cousin’s hair but I can see the pain she is in when I sit and watch. There was no water, there was no moisturizer, there was no detangling cream; there was only the coconut oil I had coated my hair with the night prior after a thorough wash. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my aunt, so I made sure to equip my hair for whatever may come.

Once we got past the raking and braiding, the actual crocheting went smoothly (and painlessly… er, significantly less painfully). I had to make sure I had some sort of color because I always do; I had picked out the color closest to my hair color and a lighter honey blond. There wasn’t a specific pattern to color dispersion, just a “make sure they aren’t too close”. When we had finished, I had a plop-full of big, long “dreads”, by which I mean tightly coiled curls. When I found out they weren’t as loc-like as I wanted them to be, I wasn’t completely bothered. In fact, it excited me a little. The very next day, I had a plan: I will wear these “dreads” for three or four weeks, and when I get bored of them, I’ll cut them down a size and separate the curls. Never have I ever been more excited to become bored of anything.

Daily wear and care was another story. Because the hair was so bulky and I no longer had a “shapeable” hairline, it was either wear a headband, side-part or have some face fall, or tie it back with a scarf. I only had one headband elastic enough to make it onto my head, so when it fit into the color scheme of my outfit, I’d wear it with all the hair to either side. A side part was a one-time thing, after learning how sparsely the hair was crocheted. We had ran out of hair so my aunt had to spread the dreads out more than expected. Thusly, a side part exposed the braid underneath and the side-part was a no-go. In conclusion: I wore my hair tied back regularly, using a scarf that didn’t match anything. I grew tired quicker than I did bored. Then, the fourth week rolls around.

I never felt so comfortable and happy having scissors so close to my face. No, I did not shave my head, despite the temptation. Friday, I went straight home after school and practically ignored my homework entirely until the next day. During the four weeks, I had already gotten curious and cut and separated two or three dreads into curls, so when time had come, I was more than impatient. But I took my time, measuring how much I wanted to cut according to where it would fall on my shoulders. I used some of the snips to fill in the gaps a 6th pack of hair could have filled. Then I began separating after I put on a movie — I didn’t bother to before because I needed a mirror. When I was done, I fluffed through my hair to see if I had missed anything. I almost shrieked when I looked in the mirror; I had this head full of Shirley Temple curls in an afro-like shape. I took pictures and sent them to my hair mentor and best friend, a few other people, and plastered it anywhere I could. I loved my “new” hair.

The style was supposed to stay only for two weeks but it felt more like three and a half. I wasn’t sure what to do with my own hair once I took the crochet hair out. I didn’t mind the extension of course, but eventually I figured something out. I decided I would flat iron my hair so I could give it a trim. Another Friday rolls around and I began tending to my hair, taking the curls out and undoing the cornrows underneath. Before I took the braids out, I felt my head for a little. There were these two bald-feeling patches behind my ears, where the braid pattern split. I waived it off of course but it bothered me in the moment.

I went through with my current wash process, and boy does it feel nice to have warm water run through your scalp after a long term protective style. My heat protectant of choice was another Cantu product, their protectant spray. Perhaps it was because it was my first use, but the “spray” came out as a stream. I was confused, but I coped. I spritzed it onto my hand (a lot of it), and rubbed it through my hair until I felt my whole head was well coated. I grabbed my blow dryer, the concentration nozzle, and my Denman brush and a comb. It was such a trying process, it hurts my arms to think about. I’m more than sure blow drying my hair without a comb nozzle will produce fit arms quicker than bench-pressing. My comb nozzle was a generic attachment I bought separately and it almost hurt to learn it doesn’t work for any of the blow driers in my house… Enough about biceps and blow driers, onto burning myself.

Because I’m such a jumpy, easily heat-frightened person, flat ironing my own hair was probably a good decision. The flat iron made the sizzling noises I hated, but I watched the color of the smoke closely with each pass: white smoke is steam. That means the heat protectant and coconut oil products are doing their jobs. As I got closer to the sides of my head, especially where my ears were, flat ironing became more difficult. My hair was significantly shorter there, and this plus a bulky flat iron does not equal easy. I tried to make sure I finished the sections that I couldn’t see as quickly as I did the shorter sections. The entire flat ironing process was mostly regretting not asking someone to help me and arguing why doing it myself was a good decision. And a lot of jump-scares a.k.a sizzling. I did finish eventually. Seeing my hair after the fact reminded me that my virgin hair doesn’t take to flat irons the same way as my permed hair. The major thing was getting it flat enough to trim precisely.

I wore my flat hair for all of four days before reverting. I hated myself for it, but I didn’t have a choice. My scalp was majorly irritated and I wasn’t sure why. I tried to think of anything that could cause it but came up short. The following Tuesday, I rinsed my hair and wore my shrunken hair the rest of the week. From then, I didn’t try too many new styles or products; the small spots behind my ears had lost about half their length so regrowth was my biggest goal. My theory was that the crochet hair that kept snagging was actually pulling at those patches. That was my only crochet style, and as much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t see myself reinstalling another set for a while. With few changes here and there, I continued my basic routine of washing on Friday or Saturday and styling for the week. My next style wouldn’t happen until Prom Season came around.

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Caption: A slideshow of process pictures; please excuse the background and expressions I made

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(Completed 10/28/2016)

Wash With Care | JTHL

December was the month where any new changes to the shampoo part of washday occurred. It was in this month, I looked into the deal with Sulfate in Shampoo. “Sulfate is stripping and could be why your hair and scalp are dry and itchy!” Is that so? So it seemed, and so it was proven. I did find my way into buying a sulfate free shampoo to use with my hair. It was the second of my Cantu Hair Products buys (my first being the Coconut Curling Cream). I did know before buying that introducing too many products to your hair isn’t the best. Thus, I waited just a bit after buying before using; this was due to what I just stated but also being conscious of if it would clean as well as I’d like it to. I do understand shampoos with sulfate are necessary for removing buildup if there is a lot, but I also wash my hair weekly. This reasoning for myself was why the wait wasn’t very long.

I was comfortable with this new shampoo after the first trial. The only thing that bugged me was the uncomfortable inelastic feeling it gave my hair before I conditioned. After I applied my deep conditioner, however, I didn’t really think much of it. A few uses and some spare time later, I came across my new point of interest, a new term I had never heard until mentioned in an article or blogpost: Co-washing. “Co-washing?” It was time to refer to google again. What does co-washing mean? Co-washing is washing your hair with only conditioner, hence the name: conditioner washing, co-washing. It was foreign and irrational to me. Conditioner doesn’t cleanse, it conditions your hair: makes it slip, sleek, and softer… Well, that is unless you have a cleansing conditioner. Luckily, my favorite product line had just that. Cantu Cleansing Conditioner. I was left amazed and confused but it was only alluring to me because of the occasional clump-of-product feeling I felt on my hair and head during the week. I desperately wanted an alternative to shampooing more often than once a week and it was just presented to me.

My next visit to the hair store was to buy a refill of Castor Oil as well as this “co-wash” thing that was still alien to me, to my hair. When I bought my items, the oil was definitely put to immediate use; it was a wonderfully scented Mango & Papaya this time. The co-wash sat on my dresser next to the rest of my hair trinkets for about two weeks; I refused to use it because it still made no sense. But on a lucky Tuesday, my scalp was irritated by something, still unknown to me. Perhaps it was because flat twists were still a new style to my hair; for some reason new styles that cause tension create hair bumps and irritate my scalp. So I untwisted my hair, grabbed this “co-wash” and went to the shower with it and my night clothes. I went in disgusted with my decision to even buy the item and left happy with the results. Co-washing felt like a combination of sulfate-free shampooing and deep conditioning at the same time. It’s not something I would be comfortable with doing in place of shampooing weekly, but it would be a midweek cleanse as needed. In fact, this same bottle would have had only two uses two months after its purchase.

Forgive me. I did mention flat twisting, and I have a lovely anecdote on the task:

I often saw pictures of the lovely style and wanted to try it for myself and when I did, it replaced single-strand twists and finger coiling for me almost completely and immediately. It was how I achieved my twist outs, it was my moisture-locking method for washday, it is my favorite. Finger coiling became my trim-day routine. In fact, I was so proud of my flat twists, a friend who tagged along with me and my family on our Christmas vacation asked me to twist her hair for her. They came out well and showed her the length of her hair that she rarely saw (I was subtly jealous).

But it is now January; It is a new year. By this time, I would be going into my third month of being completely natural. From here forth, the goal is hair health and, consequently, length.

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A side-twist style attempt (I look horrid in this picture)

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(Completed 10/28/2016)