My Signature DIY: Whipped Shea

If you’ve been following my posts long enough, you may remember that one post called “Things I’ve Done” or something like that. I talked about opening my Etsy shop, which is currently decommissioned while I sort through details, among other things. The main reason I opened the shop was to sell one of my staple DIY products and probably the one product I’m best known for amongst my circle of friends: my whipped shea hair and body butter. This is the lengthy description I typed around the time I put my Etsy shop together as to how such a great product came to life and why I continue to use it (original content with very light editing).

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Caption: a “beta” picture before I got around to printing colored labels

My Whipped Shea Hair & Body Butter is packed with amazing benefits that are just too numerous to summarize. With that in mind, I thought I’d shed a little light of expounding on how this mix came to be and why I love it so much.

The original intent for my Whipped Shea mix was solely to nourish my hair, so it began as a rather simple recipe. Coconut oil, castor oil, honey, and olive oil are some of the oldest ingredients in the book for many people, myself included. Coconut oil has always been popular for hair and skin for a number of medicinal qualities it has: it is anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and is a great natural sun protectant. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy all of this? Luckily, there was some around the house when I had first began my hair journey, so I picked up on using it. I had also found a bottle of Jamaican Black Castor Oil at home and was intrigued. I read on the bottle’s label that it’s a very multi-purposed oil, being useful for both hair and skin as well. I know Jamaican Black Castor Oil most for its extremely restorative properties, a claim based on both many readings and months of witnessing it at work. If there is any product that became a staple the moment I used it, this would be #1.

Olive oil is often associated with how much shine and smoothness it brings to the hair and skin. Of the three mentioned oils thus far, olive oil is arguably the lightest in texture. I have always had issues with keeping my hair nicely moisturized, detangle-able (if that is a word), and overall smooth. After reading on and learning about olive oil and its benefits, I had to include it in my DIYs. With these oils alone, my tangle issues began to melt away and my hair health increased like I hoped, but moisture retention was still a bit of an issue. After going back to the drawing board, I came across this magic, mysterious term, “humectant”. A humectant draws water from the atmosphere, promoting moisture retention within the hair strand. Learning this, I went to find which products were best to do the job. Many things I found were Glycerin, Vitamin E oil, and honey. Because it is also a household item, naturally I chose honey. Not only is honey a great natural humectant, it is also an antioxidant and antibacterial. Another great fact of pure honey is that it has a really extensive shelf life when properly stored.

When I first adapted these four products into my haircare regimen, it was used mostly for a DIY hair conditioner mix that I threw together. For my first hair DIY, it was… functional. The natural texture of my hair began to peak through and the elasticity of my hair strands increased as well. These four basic ingredients were so good to me and my mane since my hair reversion.

I can’t remember an exact date or time period, but there was a day when I came across Shea Butter and Tea Tree Oil. I know I came across the two around the same time, but I believe it was from watching a video by one of the many hair gurus I follow. African Shea Butter has been used for ages and is best known for its buttery smooth texture. Shea butter is derived from the nuts of the Karite Tree, indigenous to parts of Africa. Shea butter is a considerably medium butter, meaning that it’s not so thick that it takes long to melt down but it isn’t so thin that it smooths like olive oil on the skin. Shea butter has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is also rich in many vitamins our bodies would greatly appreciate. Shea butter is best used as a sealant for hair because of its thickness, especially for those with thinner hair or higher porosity.

Around the same time I learned more on Shea Butter, I came across essential oils. There are so many on circuit, ciphering through all of them would take forever. But there was one that stood out to me: Tea Tree Essential Oil. Much like the rest of these ingredients, it has anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties, but what I hadn’t seen yet was a product with anti-microbial properties. Anti-microbial is a fancy way of referring to a product that can fend off the growth or activity of microorganisms growing or deteriorating the health of a given product. I found that tea tree oil is a great preservative for this reason, but also makes for a great bug repellent or small pest control (something that I had quickly made use of, and seen decent results from). I grabbed hold of shea butter and tea tree oil as soon as I could because I had a new DIY in mind.

Taking all of these ingredients and a hand mixer, I made my second haircare DIY and the first edition of my Whipped Shea Hair & Body Butter. I loved every ounce of this stuff. Every mix came out differently but I knew which consistencies worked best for me. I liked my whip to be a frothy batter initially because once it settles, it becomes a thicker butter that melts upon contact with the skin. Applying this to my hair after washing kept the moisture in for anywhere from 5 -7 days and made my hairstyles smooth, fluffy, and bouncy. After my showers, I would always rub some over my face, as I still do to this day. I noticed my skin to be softer and more radiant, as well as seeing a few dark spots start to fade.

The last addition to the mix was Jojoba oil, which is actually more of a liquid wax. Jojoba oil is known to be the closest to mimic the body sebum, a natural oil produced anywhere hair grows. Sebum is purposed to coat the hair strand and protect it from the environment, a reason some may find “water washing” or a rinse-only hair regiment to aid in helping sebum do its job. However, a fair alternative to a rinse-only method is incorporating jojoba oil into your routine, something I decided to do.

I have been using this body butter ever since I found out how my body can benefit from all of these ingredients, and haven’t looked back since. The health and quality of my hair and skin have been increasing thanks to this DIY product. Naturally, I received inquiries about the product; of course, I responded with presents. Thus, I decided to add it into my Etsy shop for any who wish to try it as well. Hopefully, all who do will witness the amazing additive benefits this product has, and will continue to support KraftyCatZiller.

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Infusing Oils with Citrus Pt 2: Stitching Success

Note: Here’s a link to part one if you missed it or want a quick refresher

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In the first half of this crazy experience, I shared the full process of my first attempts with oil infusions. If you want a condensed version: it was a mess. I did come up with a product after it all, but it doesn’t end with that batch. So, in this second half, I’m going to point out all the mistakes made and how I rectified them in a third attempt.

All My Errors

Let’s start with trial one. In trial one, I (unknowingly) was infusing petitgrain essence with my oil by using fresh orange tree leaves. I cut my choice leaves, rinsed them and towel blotted them, then let them sit in the same bowl I rinsed them in overnight to dry. To reiterate and fill the gaps of information that my lazy self excluded: I took the leaves out of the bowl after rinsing, laid them out on paper towels, used more paper towel to blot them once and a half, lightly wiped down the bowl with more paper towel, placed another paper towel at the bottom of the bowl before dumping all the leaves back in and leaving them to dry. The next morning – despite my efforts – there were a few droplets of water that I figured were negligible, so I blotted them away (with more paper towel – it’s okay if you called me wasteful a million times by now). Then, I proceeded with the rest of the infusion procedure. Stick a pin in this, and let’s jump to trial two.

In trial two, I used fresh “l’orange” zest to infuse orange essence. The important thing to note in this instance is that, firstly, oranges are citrus fruits and, secondly, this was fresh produce. We all know citrus fruits are those tree fruits that are considerably “juicy” and occasionally tart or sour, so we can assume that citrus fruits tend to have higher available water content. This assumption, in addition to the fact that my produce was fresh and the fact that I didn’t use some drying process to rid the produce’s water content, can allow us to deduce that there may have potentially been water exposed during the infusion process.

You see, water exposure when working with oils can create difficulties both known and unknown. In context, we know that water and oil don’t mix; we also know that bacteria love moist environments. So, how comforting is it to know – or even be able to validly speculate – that bacteria may be growing in your infusion? It surely was unsettling for me to see strange black gunk floating around in mine.

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It went something like this. There were two substances that started to appear in my infusion. Once I started looking into what it may be, I found that the first was simply precipitation. Simply put, some of the olive oil just condensed on itself and amidst the oil droplets I put in my hand was a small chunk. So, with a little heat, it melted back down to its liquid state and was more applicable. Then, chunks started not to disappear when I rubbed them around my hand, and that was concerning. Finding an answer for this took a little more digging, but eventually came across the term “botulism” (BOT-choo-liz-um). Botulism is a rare form of food poisoning that most commonly occurs from improper care of homemade kitchen products. Of course, my product wasn’t something I was ingesting, but I definitely didn’t want to take any risks. The botulism bacteria are a naturally occurring bacteria which is usually inactive unless under certain conditions. And according to my overthinking and speculations, I might have created those conditions – but I wasn’t going to wait to find out.

While it lasted, it was a nice, lightly fragrant night serum, but it was best to dump it and make amends to my mistakes.

Trial #3

To be fair to myself, I poured out all the bottle’s content to have a good look and make sure it wasn’t just me being paranoid as usual. I poured them into a small container bowl on top of a paper towel, so I could see the difference in solids within the oil (don’t ask how many paper towels I use in a day). One of the solids were more of a lighter brown; this was the oil precipitate that melts with body heat. The other was more of a deep, opaque brown; this was the substance in question. I poured the dying batch down the drain with a hint of sadness. Instead of jumping right into making a new batch, though, I took my time this go-round.

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I washed my recycled amber dropper bottle with a touch of bleach, and soaked it in a warm water and vinegar solution to thin any stubborn oil clinging to the container. I’m actually not sure how long I let the bottle parts all sit in the solution, but I’m sure it was longer than a few hours. I poured out all of the solution and gave the bottle and its pieces a final rinse before towel drying and then setting them to air dry for a day or two more. In the meantime, I read up on different methods to safely infuse oil when using fruit peels. Once I figured out my new method, it was a matter of gathering the materials. Luckily, we had just stocked up on mandarin oranges (for some strange reason, despite there being an orange tree out back), so I had a snack and saved the skins for later.

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When I was ready, I gathered up all my tools and materials, which included something new. While working on something else that calls for jojoba oil, I decided to substitute it for grapeseed oil. Not only is grapeseed oil cheaper and more accessible, but it’s been said to be considerably lighter and absorbs into the skin just as easily (I’ll link articles with more information on grapeseed oil below). Comparatively, grapeseed oil is a lot less like olive oil and a lot more like jojoba oil, when it comes to texture and application behavior. It was actually a good decision in my opinion, and so it shows as I use it.

 

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As mentioned, this trial called for an extra step: the drying process. It was simple but a little tedious, since I had to make sure I didn’t burn the skins. Originally, I laid all of my skins on a small toaster-oven pan covered with foil and let them heat in the oven at 200°(F) for about 15 minutes at a time. I also used this time to sterilize the container I would be using by simply placing the open glass jar in the oven as well. After the first 15 minutes, I took out the tray, turned each piece over, and put them through another 15 minutes. Once the timer sounded, I put all the skins into my freshly sterilized jar. However, there was condensation on the wall of the jar, an indicator of present water content. So, I continued to heat the peels, eventually switching from using the large oven to using the small toaster-oven’s bake setting instead. After the tedious process of removing a few at a time (since some pieces took longer to dry than others), I was finally able to put all the peels in the jar without seeing condensation. Now, I could finally add my oils.

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I poured enough oil in the jar to cover all the peels, and figured I’d also use heat to jump-start the infusion process. I put the jar in a hot water bath for a little (less than an hour), and later removed it and left it to cool. When I was ready, I added two choice essential oils: lemon oil, as I did previously, and tea tree oil as a preservative. I kept this batch in a dark, cool place to infuse. I did fill my dropper bottle with some of that first batch, but later changed out batches because I wanted it a little more potent. I don’t remember seeing any signs of aging for a good month with this infusion. My personal preferences, however, is to only keep unstable solutions for a month max. But, while the actively infusing batch may have been discarded, I’m still going through that second fill, to date. I use it every night after washing my face and applying toner. Not only do I love the soft feel my face has and the improvement of my skin, but it’s, oh, so nice to know there’s no potential of bacteria growing in my infusion. In fact, I haven’t seen any solids, and it’s almost like I’m only using grapeseed oil itself. I still catch a whiff of roasted orange peels now and then, though.

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As always, I remind myself that it’s important to slow down and be patient when working towards a new DIY. I tend to get overwhelmed with the excitement of having a new product and all its benefits, I forget to actually make the product as best as I can. No matter: experience is a great teacher, though, only a fool goes to learn from it. And as foolish as I may have been in the start, I leave the experience with new knowledge and wisdom.

Links & References

Question

If you’ve infused oils before, what oil(s) have you used? If you haven’t, what oil(s) would you consider using?

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…

Links

Colors I Used

Last

Completed 11/30/2017

Infusing Oils with Citrus Pt 1: Whims & Mistakes

My favorite part about making DIY beauty products is adding in my favorite essential oils. I just love adding in those extra benefits and making my products smell nice, too. But the only downside that comes with it is the price bracket of purchasing essential oils when I need to restock. So, I eventually found myself looking for cheaper alternatives. I came across two solutions: buy your own distiller or make infusions. Clearly, I don’t have a money tree where I can spend anywhere from $30 or more on a distiller, nor am I acquainted with the process. I took to the latter option. It’s feasible and simple and cheap – just like I like it. I had a couple available options for carrier oils and I had fruit on hand to test things out with. Why not give it a shot?

I had actually been contemplating making my own oil infusion for a while, ever since I found out that we have a sweet orange tree in our back yard (though, the growing fruit look more like lemons, but we’ll see once they ripen). When I first started considering this, I was planning on using the leaves of the tree, so as not to use up all the fruit. But this was a naïve, prematurely conceived decision. There are three types of oils that come from the sweet orange tree: neroli, petitgrain, and orange (fruit) oil. Neroli oil comes from the flowers that blossom on the tree; Petitgrain comes from the tree leaves; orange oil comes from the actual fruit skin. First of all, I didn’t even know orange trees flower; I thought they just give us oranges! Either way, it was nice to learn that, despite how late in timing I had learned it…

Trial #1

One night, while my mother was still up, I went out and trimmed a few stems of leaves from the tree – taking the stems that were sticking out in a funky way. I cut away the leaves from the stems and collected them, removing the ones that either looked a little too wilted or not up to my desire. And yes, I did prick myself a time or two; orange trees have thorns. If I had a dollar for every time I learned something new in this process, I could buy so many fries… Away from talking about food, though, I collected my leaves and put them through a few rinses. I collected them all in a large bowl, ran them under warm water, and mixed them around with my hands. I did this a few times until I felt they were well enough to use. Overnight, I left them to dry in the bowl after blotting excess water away with paper towels.

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The next day, I decided to begin the process. All of the references I had looked at said that whatever carrier oil you’re infusing should be enough to cover the produce – in this case, the leaves. The oil I wanted to use was Jojoba oil, because I’m familiar with and it’s known for being rather similar to our natural body oil, sebum. Luckily, I had just restocked; unluckily, it wasn’t enough. I was very sad that I had used an entire bottle in one go, but I didn’t want it to go to waste. So, I later went to grab my olive oil, since it was the other carrier oil I had on hand that didn’t have a strong aroma (at least, compared to coconut oil). So I made up for the rest in olive oil and set up a double boiler system: a pot of water, brought to a soft boil, with the bowl over top. Now, the reference I was using used a method where they’d heat the mixture, allow it too cool, and then repeat, so I set myself hour-interval timers. I was also working on something else to fill the time, so it seemed to pass quickly.

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After a while, the aroma started to fill the air, and this was around the time I found out about petitgrain oil. It was a suffocating smell of roasting nuts – but not that sweet, cinnamon smell like on the holidays. I’m not sure if this is a great description, but it smelled like how it’d feel if you could turn roasted acorns into slime. It was quite unbearable. The smell, in addition to the fact that I found out this wasn’t, in fact, orange essence I was infusing, lead me to eventually dump the entire thing. It was extremely disheartening. I had wasted effort, I had wasted product, and I felt really… well… stupid. And I know that’s harsh, but it’s the truth. But it does get better.

Trial #2

Having new knowledge of exactly what parts of the tree produces what oils, I made a whim decision to actually use one of the growing fruits. Yes, I used an unripe orange for this second attempt, but in the same way we use unripe lemons (limes), I figured why not? (Side note: is there a name for unripe oranges? I’ve been calling it lorange…) According to new sources I found, I took my orange, rinsed and dried it, grabbed a cheese-grater, and “zested” the orange skins, as it’s called (fancy). I used a much smaller bowl this time because I had less produce. Inherently, I used less olive oil.

Using the same heating and cooling process as before, I left the little bowl to float around on top of the boiling water, checking on it from time to time. The aroma was still lingering – which I eventually assumed was the smell of the olive oil – but with a hint of citrus. This time, I knew I was doing something right. Once the infusion started to smell less like bad, slimy acorns and more like citrus, I decided it was finished and ready to cool and be strained. I took the bowl out of the heat and set it aside to cool before straining. I later transferred the strained oil into a recycled amber dropper bottle. I also added tea tree oil as a preservative and lemon oil to get rid of some of that scent. I gave the mix a good shake and stored it on my closet shelf – a dark and cool place.

What was most interesting once I started using it was how the scent changed over time. At first it smelled of light mint with a hint of lemon; later, it was more fragrant of oranges and didn’t smell of lemon at all. I wasn’t bothered by this, it was just an interesting phenomenon to observe. I’d use the oil as a sealant after washing my face and using toner, only at nights (cold-pressed citrus essential oils like the lemon oil I have, are typically phototoxic). It applied much like a serum, which I had liked. Before, I would use my whipped Shea which usually left my face with that greasy look. Though I didn’t mind it, I most prefer that during the day where I’m in the sun and have that layer of protection.

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I kept this batch for about two weeks before I ran into some interesting problems, which I’ll save for part two. All in all, I enjoyed the learning and creating process. I do apologize if this isn’t as information heavy as my other DIY posts tend to be; I wanted to more so share the experience of trying something new. And, while it may have been kind of an all-over-the-place fiasco with a million and one mistakes, I won’t say I didn’t take anything away from it. Besides, I haven’t had one DIY to date where I got it right on the first try.

Links & References

 

I decided to split this into two parts because I use two different processes for trial 3 versus 1 and 2. In part two, I’ll share what I did and why, as well as talking about a lot of mistakes from the first two trials that I made up for.

Question:

If you were to try infusing oils, what produce would you use (citrus or herbs)?

A DIY Story: Green Tea and Me

While my frequent use of green tea is more recent, I’m actually no stranger to green tea. It was one of those things that seemed to just appear and float around the house. I never thought to drink it much less use in topically; I was always told it was tasteless or bitter, so I assumed it was useless. I was missing out on so much because of that uneducated notion. So in light of those who may be like my younger self, let me introduce my new found friend, Green Tea.

Sinensis Species AKA The Tea Plant
Credits: American Camellia Society

Green Tea comes from a plant scientifically known as camellia sinensis. Varieties of this plant are native to parts of Asia, specifically China and India. The camellia strain sinensis has its botany traced back to China. Sinensis leaves are smaller leaves of the camellia plant, which can be found growing along mountain sides up to 15 ft. tall. The strain camellia assamica (ah-SAM-ih-kuh) is native to the Assam region of India and has larger leaves that grow from a camellia plant that can grow as large as 60 ft. tall. Green tea is attained through a heating, cooling, and drying process that can be done by steaming or pan-firing.

I currently use Green Tea in three ways. As may be expected, I drink it. I have tried green tea by itself, but it does, in fact, have an odd taste. It’s not particularly a “taste” but it’s more akin to drinking water that leaves behind the dry, chalky feeling in your mouth. However, green tea does make a great blending tea. I like to mix it with Chamomile or Mint teas the most, but I have also tried other mixes as well. There’s not specific reason as to why I started drinking it other than pure curiosity, but I’ll include links to articles detailing some of the internal benefits of green tea.

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Caption: Sometimes I add a little milk but I didn’t this time.

Drinking green tea was not my first use. Around the time I first started experimenting with face masks (and tried to create a peel-off mask – that is a horror story in itself), I looked into using green tea as my base. This wasn’t particularly a spontaneous decision. I chose green tea based on a store-bought clay mask I had used and fell in love with. Among all the things on its ingredients list, green tea was the most available to me. There was a period when I hadn’t used green tea on my skin so when I was ready to get back into the habit, I had to refresh my memory as to what’s so great about. Green tea has seen and passed multiple tests as to how effective an acne treatment it is. Not only does it have anti-microbial properties, but its anti-inflammatory traits also help to sooth the scarring and sores that acne may cause. Green tea has also been found to have anti-aging properties as well as sun protectant agents that repel UV rays. There is a list of other benefits that come with using green tea, but these were the ones the convinced me to use green tea again.

As I began to incorporate green tea into my beauty routine, I also started considering it for my hair as well. This was a more “hype-influenced” decision that I’m glad I gave into. Most of the times I came across green tea within the hair community, it was used to reduce shedding. Shedding has always been a problem of mine that I assumed was just a fact of life – one of those things that you can’t “fix”. I was skeptical, so I did some more research and was often times pleasantly surprised. When it comes to green tea and hair, it is probably best known for two particular chemicals: epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and dihydrotestosterone (DHT)  inhibitors. EGCG is a chemical that prevents oxidation but is responsible for stimulating hair growth in green tea; DHT is a chemical best known for its ties to male pattern baldness, but green tea has been found to have DHT-inhibitors. Finding this among other articles citing studies to support this information pulled my arm. So it was time to see how others use green tea. I can’t think of any one video where the person disliked it, but I learned that green tea can be drying for your hair. I later found that green tea is considerably alkaline, having a pH range of 7-10. This is where its partner-in-crime chimes in.

I typically use green tea in conjunction with apple cider vinegar for the specific reason of satisfying my body’s pH needs. The pH of our skin is mostly attributed to sebum and sweat, giving our skin a pH of about 5.5 (give or take 1). The pH of quality apple cider vinegar should fall somewhere around a 3. Knowing this, the math was simple: green tea by itself is too alkaline and ACV by itself is too acidic. Using AVC with green tea just made sense. Aside from all the science, ACV does have its own benefits of course. Next to being a great pH balancer, apple cider vinegar is great for fighting acne and wrinkles, detoxifying and soothing the skin, and cleansing the hair and scalp; it is anti-bacterial and antifungal, and also has internal benefits when ingested as well – just to name a few. Like green tea, I have used apple cider vinegar in the distant past before incorporating it into my regular beauty routine. I used it as a hair rinse once or twice when I felt I needed it. Using ACV by itself is still a tool in my arsenal but I use it significantly less often.

But now that all of the information is out of the way, let’s jump into some recipes… er, recipe, singular. The truth is, there is only one recipe with a variable ratio according to how I wish to use it. I usually don’t measure much but I think a decent base would be something like this:

  • 4/10 water
  • 4/10 green tea
  • 2/10 apple cider vinegar

Since I use essential oils, I allow them to act something like a buffer when I feel the mix is too ACV-heavy (as well as giving it some fragrance, of course). Otherwise, I just add more water, never more green tea. Adding more green tea makes the solution too alkaline and more inclined to be drying for hair and skin. If you’re more particular, you’re welcomed to use distilled water, store-bought or boiled; if you’re like me and prefer the easier route, however, tap water has been doing just fine for me.

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This solution functions most frequently as my toner. I usually try to restock my toner on a day I decided to make tea. I’d boil my water, have my choice tea set out, and have my green tea bag on standby. Once the water is at a boil, I put the teabag in the pot of water instead of in my mug. Not only does this allow me to mix my tea to my taste, but it gives me more control over the concentration of green tea that goes into my solution. Now I’ll add a suggestion. I shared this recipe before and was asked what to do if this turns out to be too drying for your skin. My suggestion would be to mix in a touch of honey with your green tea before you add your ACV and essential oils. Honey is great with moisturizing the skin because it is a natural humectant. That is, honey draws moisture from the air and into the surface of your skin. In any case though, your toner should always follow your cleanser, especially if you exfoliate regularly. When you cleanse and/or exfoliate, you open your pores – more so if you use warm water (which you should be doing anyway). Your toner closes your pores after you’ve cleansed them.

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Caption: Try to be more diligent than me so you won’t have to strain herbs out of your tea…

When I do use this solution as a hair rinse, I usually have about an ounce applicator bottle. As a hair rinse, the ratio looks a little different because I want the strength of the green tea to do its magic. So I’d say a good hair rinse ratio would look something like:

  • 3/10 water
  • 5/10 green tea
  • 3/10 apple cider vinegar

I’ll be honest: there has been a time where I was bad and used green tea and ACV separately. I had put my tea into the applicator but forgot to add the vinegar before applying. However, my rations were actually about the same. Whenever I use ACV by itself, it is always diluted with water. When I do use this hair rinse, I always do it on a clean head and it is only applied to my scalp. There are ways to use these ingredients for your hair strands but for purposes such as reducing shedding and balancing your pH, that is all related to scalp health. I usually don’t let this sit for more than 15 or 20 minutes under a shower cap or plastic bag. I make sure to follow up with a moisturizing conditioner afterwards to make up for any solution that made its way down my hair strands.

The only other way I use this solution is as a base for my face masks, something I discussed in a previous post. Currently, I am also testing my green thumb at fermenting my own apple cider vinegar – a long, patient process I’m watching closely. Until that’s done, store bought ACV will fill the gap.

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Caption: My tea, toner, and leftovers. Don’t mind my bad handwriting…

I’m not sure what else I’ll make with this solution, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. Until then, tell me how green tea and apple cider work for you. Do you use them differently?

Links & References

(This long list has all of the articles I referenced for this article)

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

Last | Next

Completed 11/6/2017

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.

Links