The Curly Chronicles

Every naturally curly haired person knows the perpetual struggle to find the best products or “Holy Grail” for their coils. The journey can be frustrating, exhausting and expensive. With frizz as our arch nemesis, followed by his goons; knots & dryness. I have been an active participant in the search for the “fountain of curls.”  To those of you paying compliments to our bouncy ringlets; you have NO IDEA the amount of tears it has taken to get them this way.

In current times, the amounts of natural/curly hair products are limitless. Long ago, the problem was that there were barely any products available to help tame the mane. Nowadays, the problem is choosing the right ones to suite your personal curl pattern and needs. Do you shop by item or by collection? Do you shampoo, pre-poo or co-wash? Conditioner or Deep conditioner, etc… This can be as overwhelming, as not having any products.

I have been a member of the natural hair community for over four years. The experience has made it easier to know the kind of products my hair will like and react positively to. Sometimes it can be as simple as reading the ingredients on the label. Not to say that I don’t encounter a few setbacks now and again. Case in point: Recently, a good friend of mine gifted me some products that she found worked perfectly on her tresses. We had always been convinced we were curl twins, with almost the same exact pattern.  She wanted to share her new and exciting find with me. Sadly, the products were not effective for me and made me look as puffy as a cloud. She had good intentions (Thanks M)!

I have drawn up a curly girl’s guide for getting your hair to play nice, which I call Karen’s Guide to Curls and Coils:

  1. Pre-poo: The process before cleansing. This is a good time to apply your perfect hair oil to both scalp and shaft. This provides much needed moisture to our thirsty curls. Favorites: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Almond Oil, Tea Tree Oil.
  2. Shampoo: Many shampoos now are sulfate and paraben free, making them Curly Hair Friendly. Personally, I prefer Co-Washing. Co-washing is a clarifying conditioner, used to both wash and condition, without the harshness of shampoo. Shampoo tends to strip the hair of natural oils our hair produces. Favorites: As I Am Co-Wash, Matrix Biolage Cleansing Conditioner, Jasön Pure Natural Restorative Biotin Shampoo.
  3. Conditioner: I look for conditioners with great slippage. This helps with the detangling process. Use a wide tooth comb.  Favorites: Curls Coconut Sublime Conditioner, Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deep Conditioner.
  4. Deep Conditioning: MOST IMPORTANT PROCESS. Deep conditioning is a necessity for textured and curly hair. Curls and coils are very fragile. Deep conditioning helps to strengthen the hair shaft. It helps mend split ends and promote hair growth. I recommend deep conditioning once a week. You’ll see the difference immediately.  Favorites: Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deep Conditioner (YES, again), Mielle Babassu Oil & Mint Deep Conditioner, Soultanicals Curl Elastic Deep Conditioner, Silicon Mix Deep Conditioner
  5. DO NOT TOWEL DRY! Use a t-shirt. This limits the amount of frizz production.
  1. LOC
    • Leave-In Conditioner: Apply a good leave in conditioner throughout your hair. Favorites: Ouidad Moisture Lock
    • Oil: Apply a light oil to seal the conditioner and avoid moisture. I prefer a light silicon based oil, as anything to thick can weigh my hair down.
    • Favorite: Fantasia IC Hair Polish with Olive Oil Moisturizing.
    • Cream/Styler: Use your favorite curl styler.  Favorites: Curls Berry Bliss Gel, DevaCurl Super Cream Coconut Curl Styler, Uncle Funky’s Daughter Curly Magic Curl Stimulator
  1. Diffuser or Air Dry: I like a combination of the two. First I air dry for about an hour (if I got that kind of time), then I use my diffuser. I prefer the bouncy, voluminous results from the diffuser. Air drying leaves my hair a bit limp. With air drying, I use a hair pick to create the definition I get with the diffuser.
  1. NO TOUCHING! This is hard, I know, but your hands only create more frizzy results. We are trying to avoid that at all cost.
  1. Nighttime Routine: I like to wear my hair up in a pineapple style (gather all your hair high above your head towards the front, tie once with a band or scrunchy). Sleep with a silk or satin pillow. This helps to avoid breakage or snags.
  1. Refresh: To revive your curls, use a spritz bottle filled with water, your favorite conditioner and a small drop of oil. Run a dime size amount of Leave-In Conditioner through your hair.
  1. Cutting your ends regularly is important, as well as taking multi-vitamins.

Natural/Curly hair is beautiful, but it does take time and patience to find the formula that provides the results you want. At times, it can be frustrating, but there are many protective styles you can try as an alternative. These styles involve low manipulation and can really help. Youtube is a haven for videos and tutorials on protective styles. Give it a try. And don’t give up! It is so well worth it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

*I am grateful for my family and friends who read and support my blog and all my posts. Blessings to you all!

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Beauty in Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of the year. New York during this time is like a magical dream filled with arrays of earth tones; rich reds, burnt oranges, golden yellows and rich browns. Albeit, the weather is crisp and often cold, some of us don’t mind. There is beauty in these colors. And if you’re really bothered by the cold, slip into an oversize cozy sweater, grab some hot chocolate and bear witness to the beauty of fall.

*Skin Care

We’ve talked about moisturizing in previous posts. If there is ever a better time to start a skin regimen, it’s now. Keep your skin extra hydrated during this time. As the temperature dips, your skin can take a huge beating. Moisturize regularly and keep hydrated. Drinks loads of water; your skin will thank you for it.

*Makeup

Fall makeup trends resemble the season with rich, beautiful, earthy hues. When it comes to looks, my personal preference is to make a bold statement with my eyes, accompanied by a simple and minimal look for the cheeks and lips. OR, you can also do a very dark and bold lip, using natural tones for the eyes and cheeks. Cheeks should remain a nice, natural flush.

Nude lips have also been on the go-to list this season. I recommend getting help finding the perfect nude. I’ve always tried picking them out myself, but never loving the actual outcome. If picked incorrectly, you can end up looking pale or bland.  After many unsuccessful tries at nudes, I walked into Sephora and begged a sales associate to help me pick the “right” nude for me. We chose a creamy shade from Make Up For Ever (#C107) and paired it with a matching lip liner from Sephora’s collection (rosewood).GORGE! It has a subtle hint of mauve, but presents very naturally.

Season Colors: cranberry, oxblood, metallic gold, burnt orange, chocolate brown, taupe

Favorites:

Kat Von D, Raw Power (eyeshadow single)

Anastasia Beverly Hills, Modern Renaissance Palette (eyeshadow)

Kylie Cosmetic, Burgundy Palette (eyeshadow)

Tarte, Tartelette Amazionian Clay MattePalette (eyeshadow)

Urban Decay, Naked and Naked 2 Palette

Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick, Femme Fatale (lips)

MAC, Rebel (lips)

Shiseido Laquer Rouge, RD607 (lips)

L’Oreal, Nude Ballet (lips)

Make Up For Ever Artist Rouge Creme, C107

*Scents

With fall come warmer, smokier scents. This is the time I put away my favorite light, floral or citric scents. There are people who are loyalist and keep to their signature scent 365 days of the year. That’s fine! If you’re like me, you have your staples, but they vary to match the seasons.  My personal favorite is YSL Black Opium. This scent mixes coffee accord, orange blossom, cedarwood and patchouli to create a warm and sexy fragrance.

Scents: Warm, Smokey, Musk, Cedarwood, Patchouli, Vanilla, Oakwood

Favorites:

Yves Saint Laurent, Black Opium

Prada, Candy

Calvin Klein, Euphoria

Dolce & Gabbana, The One

Elizabeth James, Nirvana Bourbon *New* 

Fall in New York is a busy time for fashion trends. We are inspired by the rich colors around us. The colder air doesn’t deter us from making fashion or beauty choices, but rather, aides in providing the canvas to create our own beauty statement.

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A Curly Haired Girl and the Unicorn

When I began dating my husband, almost two decades ago, he would always say things like, “I love your curly hair,” “You should let your hair out,” or “Your hair makes you look wild. I like it!” My response was always a quick giggle and I’d swiftly change the subject. I did not want to hear anything about curly hair. Curls just were not my thing. To me, they never came out right or looked coily enough, so I just ditched the idea and got weekly blow outs.

Throughout my life, I struggled with the image of what beauty was. For most of that time, it did not include a head of curly hair. To my defense, the market was flooded with images of straight, glossy hair and little to no products to tame this wildebeest on my head. I still remember being made fun of in school, especially during those rainy or humid days, when the animal stirred. My poor mother struggled. We tried it all; hot comb on the stovetop, wired hot comb, mom-made rollers with a dryer that looked like a space contraption and finally, the inevitable… The Relaxer. I was told it was the best and “only” way to quiet the beast.

Back in the days, Paul Mitchell and Sammy were amongst the first brands that brought along some change for curly heads. Their initial products were filled with so much alcohol; however, the move generated signs of hope. With the emergence of these products, I remained undeterred from my quarterly relaxers, but they did strike a nerve. Those first days of trial were HORRIBLE! It takes time to figure out a product. If you follow the package directions, they always say use a “dime size” or a “dollop” amount. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH HAIR IS UNDER HERE?? ME NEITHER!!!

In college, I met a unicorn who would help change my view. This mythical creature came galloping into my Philosophy class with the biggest head of curls I had ever seen. She had attitude, a cascade of dark brown hair and a name I could barely pronounce. It would take months before I could properly say her name and realize the initial attitude she strode in with was just a lame gimmick. She was actually more Queen Geek than Queen Swag…lol!

My new friend was super smart, full of confidence and believed her hair had super powers. She felt very much like Samson from the biblical story Samson and Delilah. She did not straighten her hair, unless for a special and rare occasion. She did not believe in the hair salon. Those trips always lead to TWO hairdressers tugging simultaneously at her head. On regular days, a normal hair band did not grasp this great head of hair. She would use this coily, shoe lace looking gadget. I’m pretty sure it held magical strength.

During the summer months, when I found it too hot for a salon and would forego my visits for my less than impressive curls, the unicorn would say, “I like when you leave your hair curly.” I would then regress to self-deprecating comments and eye rolls. With time, my friendship with the unicorn would deepen and so would my relationship with my hair.

In the fall of 2007, five years after we first met, the unicorn dropped a bomb on me; she had found a marble sized lump in her breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was distraught. I was in complete shock. We were only 27 years old. I was five months pregnant with my first child. We don’t get breast cancer at this age. That just doesn’t happen! She was in her second year of law school. It just can’t happen. What did this mean?

While we grieved around her, my friend dismissed all chances of failure or defeat. She underwent a double mastectomy, chemo therapy and radiation like a true champ. Rather than go through the torment of watching her tendrils fall away, she did the bravest thing ever, she buzzed it all off. Those days seem so long ago in my mind.

It would be a long 4 years of pain, tears and more laughter than one would expect from the situation. Her cancer eventually spread and in the winter of 2012, she was told there was nothing they could do for her but make her last days comfortable. I immediately rushed to her side to be with her. It was around this same time that I stopped visiting the hair salon to straighten my hair. I began searching for products that would allow me to “fuss” less with my hair and spend more time on important things, such as preparing to say goodbye to someone who had become an important part of my life.

One day while visiting her, I remember telling her, “You know, I have been wearing my hair curly in Homage [pronounced ohhh-mage…it would always make us crack-up] to you.” She responded with a big smile and her signature response, “Ayooooo!” Thus began my transition. I quit the salons and blow dryers cold turkey. It was not a pretty transition. I did not do the “Big Chop,” but I did have to submit to the scissors and cut off a lot of heat damaged ends.

I began to embrace my new found hair. I loved the freedom it brought me and the questions that were always asked like, “Is that really all yours,” “Can I touch it?” It was nice not worrying about humidity and rain or the hours in the hair salon with rollers, under a dryer or waiting for my turn to be burnt crisp at the end of a blow dryer.

It has been over 4 years since I gave up the “straight life.” I admit to rare visits to the salon for a wash and set, but I much prefer my wash and go, instead. I’m so proud of my head of hair. It is such a part of my character and my identity. Being natural is extremely important to me. It is my badge of honor, a gift from my ancestors and my culture. It shows my children how proud I am to look the way I do and how confidant I am in my own skin.

My biggest curl supporter is still my husband. He recently found some old videos of us and I couldn’t help but cringe at how fried my hair looked. I made him shove those videos back in the garage. I’d like to pretend I have always loved my hair, but hey…we all have a story. The journey to self discovery must begin somewhere.

I dedicate this blog post to my unicorn, Yadisa Disla, the curliest headed girl I have ever met. She lost her battle to Breast Cancer on May 30th, 2012. Halloween was our favorite time of year, so it is fitting that I should post this today in her honor. You were a mystical creature, whose laughter and spirit will be forever missed. I love you my bone pony!

Breast Cancer is a real threat to women throughout lines of color, language, religion and financial means. As we draw a close to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, support the cause however you can. We all know someone who has been affected. Help the Fight!     http://makingstrides.acsevents.org

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