First Impression: That One DIY Clay Mask

Ever since I first came across it, I’ve always been tempted to give into the hype surrounding clay masks – namely, Bentonite and Rhassoul clay. But one of my favorite natural hair gurus, FushionofCultures on YouTube, also piqued my interest in hibiscus. So, after a lot of digging and research, looking for places to purchase, and waiting for money to fall into my lap, I finally caved.  This is me, sharing my firsthand experiences using Rhassoul Clay and Hibiscus Powder.

I decided to go with rhassoul clay over bentonite because I concluded that this would be the gentler or milder of the two. Bentonite clay is often said to have higher reactivity; many opinions I’ve considered said not to use any metals while working with the clay because it will react. Being a novice to the world of clay masks, I decided to take baby steps: rhassoul clay, it is. I bought this at the same time I purchased my hibiscus powder. I didn’t have to do as much heavy research as with rhassoul clay; hibiscus, the herb, is not a very complicated thing. It’s pretty, it’s multifaceted, and it’s beneficial – a summary. My rhassoul clay and hibiscus powder came in the mail about a day apart. I had already known what I would do with them, it was only a matter of them getting here.

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Caption: Links to place of purchase after post

I have been really into skincare as of late, so my first use with these products would be a DIY face mask. Prior to use, my most recent addition to my skincare routine were green tea and apple cider vinegar (AVC). I am overly grateful that I made this decision but I’ll save that for another post. I have been using this mix as a toner but I had excess in storage in the fridge. This would be my liquid base when mixing my mask; it was perfect and well fitting. One of the things I looked up while waiting for my packages were the pH of some of these items; the pH of our skin is around a 5 or 6, thanks to sebum. Green tea is around a 9, ACV is around a 2, rhassoul clay is a little less alkaline than green tea at about a 7 or 8, but hibiscus was about as acidic as ACV. This was surprising… until I opened the parcel.

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Caption: Including this photo is weird; it’s like showing you a bottle of water… but this is my liquid base.

The same way that beautiful scent of apple cider vinegar graced your nose is no different than how lovingly the aroma of some divine hibiscus powder would kiss it. Sarcasm heavily intended. Half way through mixing the mask, I ran to my storage to grab my peppermint oil and I spared nothing. I, quite literally, drowned the mask in peppermint oil. I severely regretted that decision. Let’s just say you should never drink cold water with mints or gum in your mouth. Similarly, do not drown your face masks in mint-based oils with the air conditioning on full blast. I pushed myself to at least let the mask sit for two minutes before washing it off.

Luckily, I was persistent to have a successful face mask experience (as well as to not waste what I felt was well-spent dollars). Later in the week, I had decided to give it a second go. I prefer to wait at least a week between face masks but I didn’t think it’d count if I only had the mask on for 2mins. This go-round, I use a few drops of lemon oil to mask that wonderful scent as well as tea tree oil to give me that nice (mild) tingle I liked and to deal with my acne problem. Not only was it a significantly better face mask experience, it was relaxing as well. I applied the mask, prepared a bath, and enjoyed myself. There was no minty burn, no smell that would take my breath away because it was just that celestial, and no stress.

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Caption: This was the first attempt but they both looked the same. I looked like a brick after applying but that’s irrelevant information…

As a first impression (er, second impression), I give these two products a pass. I do intend to do this DIY face mask again in the future and maybe give it a go as a hair mask as well… We’ll see.

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Remember You

  • It’s always been a childish dream of mine to be printed. Ever since I found writing and my love began to grow for the realm of writing, I imagined that one day I’d write something good enough to read it on paper. And not just because I printed it at home, but because it was published for a larger audience to read my words, and see my potential. And I’m a step closer to that goal. I wrote something good enough, and for the first time I read my words in a book. Sure, the entire book wasn’t my work but that one page let me know that it’s not so impossible.
  • I have a habit of taking a liking to things I happen to come across at a random, especially on the internet. The most recent occurrence of this was when I came across videos of remodeled furniture. So I’ve taken on the task to restore and repaint a few furniture pieces. I need a new dresser anyway. Thus far, I’ve managed to prep all the pieces very well for priming and recoloring. All that’s left to do is to paint everything and put things back together. I’m more than excited for things to come together and to see the finished product.
  • If I had to choose a single thing that I’ve done to be proud of, it’d have to be how much I’ve grown into taking care of myself. They say that the stylists who do the best work usually look the worst. I can’t say that that’s an accurate statement, but it certainly has a ring of truth to it. I’m the type of person who can easily consume themself with the well-being of others, making sure that everyone else is fine and doing great but I always put myself last. I’m so preoccupied with my loved ones being okay that I forget to make sure that I’m okay. And I think I’ve been getting better at amending that. Not only do I take the steps to do so, but it sort of shows. I can feel myself being a little happier, a little lighter, a little less easily stressed. The only challenge I have now is to keep this up. But I think I’ll do okay.

 

Sometimes you let yourself down with the things you’ve yet to accomplish so take time to remind yourself of the great feats you’ve already done.

Venting: Shut Up and Deal With It

I’ve been… better…

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I’ve been happier, cheerier, in higher spirits. I’ve seen days where the only thing on my mind is how to make others feel as great as I do. But as of late, I don’t feel the same fiery joy that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying before now. I don’t want to say, “I don’t know why I feel like this” because that’d be an outright lie; I know why I’ve been antisocial lately, I know why I haven’t been feeling adequate enough, I know all of this. I just don’t know why I can’t get over it as easily as I’ve taught myself to – it hurts almost because I felt I’ve worked so hard to better myself at doing exactly that, at feeling less…

I had high hopes for this semester, for this year. But the more it progresses, the more I lose that hope, that bright hope, that I held so close to my heart. I yearned for the change so bad. Now it feels like it’s not even there. I’m not surprised; a strand of good has a caboose with a loose wheel, always. This is never not the case. I want to look up and I want to see light again. I want to be able to wake up for more than three days straight and say, “Today’s gonna be a great day”. I’d love to look at things I’ve done and call it amazing without an ounce of doubt in my mind…

My expressiveness has been mood-point crafts and filling my time with schoolwork to avoid thought; the more down time I have, the more vulnerable I am. I hate that. I hate that this is how I am. I hate that this is what I have to deal with. And I feel like I’m whining the entire time.

“This? People are dealing with worse. Suck it up.”

I have been. I don’t want to anymore…

Singles

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

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)

Growing My Own Lemons

(I feel this song is appropriate for this post…)

The more I think about it, the more complex the idea becomes – the more anticipant I become… I’m not particularly one for “New Year’s Resolutions” because, for me at least, they tend to be unrealistic. I won’t lie: I have made a dietary or “weight loss” resolution once or twice because it sounds nice of course; who doesn’t want a hot summer body? But I’ve come to a point where there are bigger, more accomplished goals that I really want to work toward (not to cast my health aside). I want this year to be different, I’ve wanted the New Year to be different for the past few years should I be honest. But this is one that I want to work towards, even if I have to force myself to.

Economic Maturity

Since this is the easiest one to talk about, let’s address the obvious facts. It’s nothing new that I’m ready to “leave the nest”. The only new thing is that I legally can, all my own, and no one can stop me. And no, this isn’t an “I’m 18 so I can do adult things now”; it’s more of a breathing and recuperation type of deal. I won’t detail all of my driving forces but more or less, it’s more of something I need to do, ready or not. So, even though I’m still financially dependent, one of my goals is to change that. I want a small little place that I can come and go as I please, where I don’t have to worry about much other than bills, I guess. A car would be nice too I suppose but whichever comes first, I’m willing to adapt. The only thing I have going for me financially is Etsy*. I’m still working on a few details and preparations but if I can sell enough products on there and put it into savings, maybe I’ll get somewhere. For now, however, we wait on a magic phone call.

Hobbyist Habits

 If possible, I really desperately want to get back into my various hobbies and passions and crafts and every other pass-time that I love and hold dear… I have so many that I miss so much because either I haven’t had the time, haven’t had the means, or just haven’t been in the state of mind to do so.

I cannot begin to express how much I miss writing: how much I miss critiquing my work because it doesn’t flow logically, how much I miss griping about being unmotivated, how much I miss brainstorming – all of it. I have mounds of half finished or incomplete planning for various stories I started; I haven’t even thought about poetry since last year. The only place I can open a blank page and actually have something to say is this blog, where there is no particular format, where I don’t have a perfectionist standard (not entirely at least). I can remember moments, staying up until the break of dawn, tiring my wrists with frantic typing because I was worried if I didn’t write it down, I won’t remember the idea or thought… and so many more things that I miss. Anyone may be reading this and thinking, “Well, if you miss it so much, why not just start writing again? Write right now in fact!” And my response is, it isn’t so easy… I haven’t been in a mentally stable place for just about a year. My writing didn’t particularly stop during then, but the mood of it changed drastically. The last “happy thing” I can remember writing dates back at least a year and a half. In short, I guess I’m trying to say I don’t think I’m able to anymore… But, I also said I’m not cut out for college either… Writing and authorship may not be right now, but I don’t see it disappearing entirely from my hobby list.

Next to it, however, I want to get further into photography and videography. I’ve always had an interest in pictures, picturesque scenery, the cameras, video editing, “capturing the moment”, and any and everything else relevant. Ever since my last birthday, I’ve been a little sad in terms of this passion. For my birthday gift, I had gotten a Fujifilm Polaroid* camera, one that I’ve had my eyes on for the better half of a year. I haven’t had a chance to use it since and it breaks my nerdy little heart a bit. It’s why I can’t wait until the summer or any time where I may be traveling. I hope to have a scrapbook or something that I can put my pictures in; I’d like to have a decent camcorder that I can record bits and pieces of the entire experience with as well, and allow myself to be tickled with humorous but cute amateur video edits that usually surface on YouTube or something or another. But until I get those opportunities, I’ll work on other things in the mean time.

Nurturing my Career

The last and perhaps the most important goal I have is to take more steps along my career path. As is obvious and repetitively mentioned, I am in school. My science major is for Veterinary Technology so my goal is really to have more accomplishments related to it. For example, the biggest accomplishment as of last year was becoming a volunteer with the SPCA. I consider my role minor but I know it isn’t. Whenever I’m on my shift, there’s a certain therapeutic calm that flushes over me when I take the shift after someone else’s, greeting customers and helping in the adoption process, or even having to clean cat poop. Animals have a big, special place in my heart; no matter the service, I’m always ready and willing – even at the olfactory sacrifice of my precious nose. As I have been, I’ve been working to get employment at places you’d expect that handle animals, like pet accessory stores, grooming shops, et cetera. For now, even if employment doesn’t work out the way I’d like, I’ll keep reaching for my best in school.

I look forward to how this year will play out; I feel it’ll be interesting for some odd reason. Whatever the future holds for me, I hope it’ll be only good things. If not? I will make the best of it all.

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My birthday gift, my baby

*Etsy will be linked once all the details are finalized

Faux Dreads Indeed

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)