Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hair: Is It Really That Big of a Deal?

This was originally posted on "" May

I find myself flipping and flopping between wanting to learn more and more about naturally kinky hair, on practical, scientific, spiritual, communal, political levels... but why? Ain't it just hair? Isn't that what we call SUPERFICIAL? Being obsessed with vanity, appearances and things as frivolous as hair.

But what if hair hasn't been a frivolous thing in your life? What if you hair has been a source of embarrassment and shame? What if no matter what you did it never retained length; you never had that "get up and go" hair; doing it was painful and/or disappointing? What if your hair made you feel out of control of yourself?

That’s how I felt for a long time. Completely out of control! I did not understand how I could spend so much time on my “hair days” but even after years of giving up relaxers my hair was no longer, no softer, no more manageable than it was when chemically processed. I always managed to make my hair look nice, but I was truthfully unhappy not being able to accomplish what everyone should be able to do without trying- grow hair.

Jump to today and I am astonished at the amount of length I am retaining and I can’t lie, feeling hair on my shoulders for the first time since I was about 11 years old feels friggin’ great! I mean really, I feel sexy and glamorous and cool all at the same time. And what got me to feel this good about myself? My “superficial” obsession with growing long, healthy, natural hair, that’s what!

Seriously, I really put my mind to accomplishing this goal that I had pined for since junior high school when my long thick hair from childhood began its bout with chronic breakage. Let’s do the math: 5 years of bad relaxers courtesy of Chez Pia’s DIY Home Salon plus, 8 years of fumbling around with the mineral oil-filled “Black” products I recalled from my press n’ curl days that never made my hair look quite the same as my childhood pictures plus, 2 years of obsessive research and trial and error to figure it all out. I’d say its about dang time I stumbled across some answer! So yes, I am proud to be able to grow my natural hair long and healthy, but the sense of accomplishment doesn’t come exclusively from retained length.

The quest for healthy hair has led me to a healthier lifestyle and an expanded awareness of all that nature has to offer. I’m a Brooklyn girl (Brooklyn we go hard!) and growing up in NYC with very little exposure to natural landscapes had made me pretty ignorant about natural remedies. My mind was blown the first time I came across Avocado Coconut Milk Conditioner... WHAT?!
Baking soda rinses to clarify, apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinses to neutralize, olive oil to condition?! Then I began learning about essential oils, and teas and how to apply them to facials, steam baths, massages. A whole new world was opened up, Planet Earth was opened up to me, the world that I had always lived in but had been out of touch with.

So is this obsession just frivolous, superficial, nonsensical? I would beg to differ. I think the topic of hair is deeply layered. It is interconnected with so many other aspects of life: self esteem, health, nature, politics, culture, fashion, etc. Do I feel ashamed of my obsession with my hair, that I spend so much time writing, photographing, videotaping and talking about it? I most certainly don’t and neither should you!

Stay positive. Stay Beautiful.

~In Hair Solidarity,


The Kitchen Salon: Flaxseed Gel

Firstly I must give thanks to Naptural85 of YouTube for her Do It Yourself: Homemade Natural Hair Gel with Flaxseeds video that introduced me to this miracle concoction. I used her video as a guide but followed my own instincts with measuring and mixing oils. Here is my process:

Prepare a glass container (this can withstand the heat and allow you to see what you're doing) with a knee high stocking or other mesh material stretched over. Its a good idea to secure the material over the opening of the container with a rubber band or hair tie. Allow ample stocking or material inside the container.

Bring 1 cup of tap water to a boil. Add 1/8 cup of golden or dark brown flaxseeds to the boiling water. Stir occasionally. The mixture will gain viscosity, and become a thick mucus.

When mixture becomes very thick and begins to foam slightly (about 10-12 minutes) turn off heat and pour mixture (seeds and all) into your container prepared with mesh/stocking.

Lift the mesh/stocking and allow gel to strain into container. You may use tongs to squeeze gel through mesh/stocking (or I made "tongs" out of a pair of chopsticks).

As mixture cools it will thicken. Before completely cool stir in Vitamin E, flax seed oil, vegetable glycerine, 1 teaspoon of your favorite oil (olive, castor, etc.) and a few drops of your favorite essential oils for for scent and enhancements. I'll include suggestions at the bottom.

The last time I decided to reheat the flaxseeds and see if I could make more gel, and it worked. I wouldn't suggest boiling them more than that, but I got 2 servings of gel from 1/8 cup of seeds! Store your gel in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The oils will help preserve the mixture, but I suggest using it within 7-10 days though Naptural85 stores hers for longer.

The Results
My braid outs and twist out are wonderfully defined each and every time, but my hair is never hard and stays moist and defined the whole day. To refresh I spritz my hair and rebraid/twist at night. The results are just as defined the next day. The gel is extremely light, so it doesn't produce a lot of build up over time. I've slept in my curly updos with a silk bonnet and my curls were intact the next day!

Essential Oils for Enhancements
Grapefruit, Orange and Lavendar: adds shine, increase circulation and smells wonderful
Sage, Rosemary and Lavendar: increase circulation, stimulate growth, minimize dry scalp

Try out this recipe and share your tips for enhancements and variations!

~ In Hair Solidarity,


Coconut milk & honey & avocado moisturizing protein deep conditioner

This was originally posted on "" May 19, 2011

This deep conditioner was my introduction to kitchen-made hair products. It is a staple product in my regimen, and now that I've been using it for over 2 years I can switch up the recipe to fit my hair needs in that particular moment. Further down I will list various ingredients and their benefits. Try it out and tell me what you think. What's your favorite variation of this recipe?

This is my original recipe; after trying different versions that I learned from other people this is what I came up with and stuck to for nearly a year straight before switching it up frequently. However many people use the basic recipe of coconut milk & avocado with oil for a deep conditioner.

- coconut milk - protein rich; deep conditions; defines curls and coils; makes the liquid base of the mixture
- avocado - protein rich; high fat content; high fiber content rich in vitamins E and K; thickens the mixture

(I would not suggest trying all of these at once.)

- aloe vera oil - emollient; promotes rapid hair growth
- avocado oil - heat protectant; rich in vitamin A, D and E
- flaxseed oil - promotes circulation; high fiber content; essential fatty acids
- glycerin - humectant; adds slip for easy detangling
- grapefruit essential oil - promotes hair growth; adds sheen; smells great
- grape seed oil - heat protectant; promotes hair growth
- honey - emollient; humectant; thickens the mixture
- lavender essential oil - soothes eczema and psoriasis; smells great
- oilve oil - emollient; deep conditions hair
- raw mango butter - emollient; rich in vitamin E; softens hair; sunscreen
- raw shea butter - emollient; rich in vitamin E; softens hair; sunscreen
- rosemary essential oil - promotes circulation; cleanses the scalp; combats dandruff; cures alopecia
- sage essential oil - cleanses the scalp; promotes hair growth
- vitamin E - sunscreen; promotes circulation in the scalp
- yogurt - rich in B vitamins, loosens curls/coils for easier detangling; mildly cleanses the scalp; adds sheen
*there is a bit of debate over using fat and non-fat yogurt, but I always use non-fat because that's what's in my fridge. I'll add an update when I see yogurt with fat in my grocery store!

~In Hair Solidarity,


The Kitchen Salon: Come On In!

This was originally posted on "" May 20, 2011.

Hey Fam!

I've been grappling with this idea of blogging for a while, but didn't have a specific topic that motivated me to write consistently. Then I became obsessed with growing long healthy natural hair using all natural products. That obsession expanded to making my own hair products from items that were in my kitchen and finally led me to this idea of blogging on DIY hair products, experiences I've had with various ingredients and how others could use them for their own hair.

So welcome to The Kitchen Salon, my blog series on DIY hair products made from all natural ingredients, mostly items that can be found in your kitchen and bathroom. I will not claim to be the originator of the ideas, but I do put my own personal spin on every recipe I come across (cause that's how I do... even as I kid I never followed directions too closely).

As often as possible I will post links to the places where I first learned of the successful recipes, but some of the recipes I acquired from many sources over a period of time and I don't recall the sources. I will also post step by step directions in how you can make the product yourself, and offer ideas for variations. What I enjoy most about making my own products is having the ability to switch up the ingredients if I find my hair needs more or less of a certain effect.

I do encourage anyone who tries the recipes to post their feedback. One of the most exciting (and sometimes frustrating) aspects of hair is that it is just as unique as our DNA. Two people with seemingly identical hair types can have different experiences with the same product and regimen. So please keep this a flowing discussion and offer your feedback.
At The Kitchen Salon, the door is always open!

~In Hair Solidarity,


This post originally appeared on "" January 28, 2011.

Asien (from Natural Sunshine) asked me what happened two years ago to change my understanding and maintenance of my natural hair. Well I got a story, like to hear it? Here it go!

In the summer of 2008 I met a beautician who wanted to do only natural hair, she was so happy I came into the shop. I had about 4 inches of hair, that I had never cut and rarely trimmed the 8 years I had been natural by then.

I was telling her of my chronic issue with dryness and breakage, that I was very careful with how I treated my hair but nothing worked. She asked if I were using the same products that I did with a relaxer, and I was. That was the issue! I was applying chemicals to my virgin hair, and they were doing nothing for me. If I looked for natural products I would see better results.

She introduced me to the Caramel Treatment & Jane Carter Solution, and used those products in my hair. I loved the results! I got the CT a second time, but it was too expensive to maintain. It stretched my hair and made it easy to straighten. I had forgotten the name of the JCS line, so it would be a few years until I came around to them again.

I started using Nubian Heritage & Burt's Bees shampoos & conditioners which are generally 97% natural. My hair began to respond immediately. It maintained moisture and was softer. But I still had breakage! Then I started looking up ways to make conditioners with household foods.

If I were going to use products that were as natural as possible, why didn't I just make my own?! The day I met the coconut milk & avocado conditioner... I was enlightened! When baking soda rinse and apple cider vinegar rinse joined in... I was ecstatic! And so was my hair!

I chopped my hair off just before New Year's 2010, down to about 1 1/2 - 2inches. My hair was supple. It had shine. It had bounce. It still had constant breakage... WTF?!

Then I discovered the seamless comb in July 2010. At that time, my longest strands were about 4 1/2 inches. Now in January 2011, my longest strands are about 8 inches. 3 1/2 inches in 6 months, I'd say that's progress!

To wrap up this rather long stroll down memory, the lessons I've learned in the last two years are:
- natural hair benefits best from natural products
- a seamless comb helps to eliminate breakage and lessen shedding
- I really enjoy blocking out a few hours (or an entire day) to make my products, prewash, rinse, deep condition, stretch and style my hair! It is my ME TIME!!

I hope you all enjoyed my story.

In Hair Solidarity,