August 18, 2010

You Do WHAT with Your Hair?

Hey, all!

I'm almost outta here, but I thought I would pop in to describe something about me that I have never addressed before: how to take care of hair like mine. Many of you, who may actually remember when I was planning my wedding in the olden days of 2008-2009, know that one of my biggest issues was making sure that my hair was looking a-okay for the big day. If you don't remember my hair adventures, take at look at this, this and this (with some background here and here).

In case you don't remember, here's what my hair looked like on my wedding day.

Ditto re: Dante Williams

I SOOO should not be the poster child for anything hair related because I often do not treat my air with the graciousness it deserves. I should be doing way more to it on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, I'm surprised my hair doesn't jump up and backslap me. :( That being said, this post's purpose is to just give you a sense of what caring for locs entails. There are many people better than me out there who have whole blogs and websites and are WAAY more knowledgeable. I'll get to them below.

Before I begin though, I should say that I can only really speak about MY particular experience with locs based on the fact that my hair would be this texture/curl pattern if I didn't have them:

Not this ...

Or this...

In other words, if your hair is like Kim K.'s or Sienna's, I'm not really sure how locs work on your hair texture/curl pattern (or lack thereof of a curl pattern). I can only speak about mine. Does that make sense?

Okey doke. Moving on....

I remember that I kept mentioning that my hair appointments would take a minimum of three hours (often more). Well, luckily I've switched hair salons, and that's been cut to a much more manageable two hours and definitely less than three. What the heck am I doing at the salon all that time? Usually when I arrive at the salon my hair looks like this:

Do you see the triangle of hair at the top of the loc? My hair can grow pretty quickly sometimes. I took the picture myself, so it is a little blurry.

I have a lot of new growth at the top of each loc that will require it to be twisted and fused with the rest of the loc.

Click on this link to see how locs are "groomed" (code word for washing and retwisting them) and what my hair goes through during my hair appointments. By the way, the woman in the video has done my hair before, and while she is hawking some of her products, they are good. Pretty much the loctician (cool word, huh?) has to retwist each and every single one of my locs. That can be VERY time consuming if you've got slow hands. The most "fun" part is having to sit under the dryer for about 40 minutes to an hour depending on how long your hair needs to dry (which depends on the length and thickness of your hair). My drying time was an hour when my hair was at its longest earlier this year and also depended on whether I was styling my hair a certain way. It's good reading time though. :)

Then after or during retwisting you can do all kinds of things that will give the locs more texture. If my locs are braided while they are wet, I go under the dryer and then the braids are taken out resulting in my hair looking crimped like this:

My old Weddingbee profile pic!

Sometimes I keep in the braids and take them out a week or more later. The crimp can last anywhere from a couple of days to up to a week depending on what my hair feels like doing.

Other times my locs can be set with rod or other types of curlers for another look. Sometimes it takes a few days to get springy like this:

This is the best picture I could find with my hair like this.
BIL & SIL Swan's wedding a few years ago.

Here's a better pic with a model:

Okay, here are some things you should know. I'll need many of you to suspend what you know about YOUR hair as whatever you do to yours, I probably do the exact opposite.

1. My locs are NOT braided extensions. If I want to get rid of my locs, I have to cut them off (although some people apparently can simply comb their locs out. Again, different hair textures behave differently.). Locs are often seen as a committment. You have to really want them. At this point, I know I am not ready to break up with my locs. That being said, when I made the transition from chemically straightening my hair, I never cut my hair off completely (a method that many Black women use to make the transition from chemical straightening). I'm pretty anxious (in a good way) to see what I would look like with a cute little 'fro. I know I am not ready yet because I watched another woman getting her locs cut off completely just the other day, and I had a pretty visceral reaction. They're here to stay for now.

2. I don't wash my hair every other day....or even every other week. Yes. You read that right. Ewww, Mrs. Swan!!! Hold on now. This isn't particular to locs. Even when I did have straightened hair I didn't wash it constantly either. My hair and its texture are, by nature, extremely dry and constant washing would strip it of valuable natural occurring oils that provide much needed moisture. Also if I wash my hair I have to re-twist it all over again. Time consuming!!! Instead, I use natural astringent on my scalp like Witch Hazel (using cotton balls or Q-Tips) to gently cleanse it or a dry shampoo. I have also heard that some people use SeaBreeze. That being said, there are some people with locs who wash their hair themselves 1-2 times per week. As with anything, each person knows their hair and their schedule best. I would love to be well off enough or have the time to get to the salon every two weeks or the time to really concentrate on my hair 1-2 times per week, but I don't. Also I am lazy. That I do know.

Dos and Don'ts

So yeah. Since I have already admitted to you that I should be better to my hair than I am, I thought I would at least share with you some things that I have picked up along the way. Again, I AM SO NOT an expert!!!

1. I've found that using heavy, non-see through oils are not great for locs. That means no mineral oil or Vitamin E oil. Almost all essential oils are great for moisturizing locs. My favorites: jojoba, ylang ylang, and rosemary. If you don't want to make your own oil (I don't), I am a fan of Carol's Daughter, Khamit Kinks and Nubian Kinks oils. Also NO BEES WAX!! NONE!!! Again, I'm only saying this from the perspective of someone who has MY hair texture, BUT bee's wax and any other heavy non-light oil based product in your hair is setting it up for disaster down the road. You don't want anything in there you can't wash out. Also moisturize daily.

2. Find a good loctician. Seriously, it can be very helpful to find someone who understands how to care for and style your hair even if you choose to take care of it primarily on your own. Some people do fine on their own. I am not one of them.

3. Wear something on your hair at night while you sleep, preferably a satin or silk scarf or bonnet. You can buy satin bonnets in drugstores. Why sleep with something on your head? Well, the constant rubbing of the hair against a cotton pillow robs it of the oils and makes it dry. Also it prevents the locs from collecting lint.

4. Watch out for woolen hats and scarves. In my experience, my hair is like velcro. So many things stick to it. I have to be very careful about wearing certain sweaters, scarves and hats that shed. Mohair is my enemy.

5. Be patient and love yourself. Please know that locs will look different from person to person, and for some people it does take awhile for locs to fully fuse or "lock." Again, everyone's hair is different and is on its own schedule and journey. One of the things my hair taught me was being patient with myself and self-acceptance about the way I look. When I first started to lock my hair, I had go through yet another time of reflection and period of personal growth regarding how I thought about my appearance. I had to come to terms with the fact that I could be/am beautiful in my own way. Being happy with the way you look is important for everyone regardless of the way you choose to wear your hair.

Here are some good resources for caring for locs (or natural hair in general) that I have found online (By the way, it's exciting that these are around now. Almost none of these resource existed when I stopped chemically straightening my hair in 1996 or when I started my locs in 2004):

Okay, hopefully I demystified something for ya. I hope you all don't ask me any questions that I can't answer. I may just refer you to Google:)

By the way, people with locs can have Post-Wedding Chops too. Here's mine 10 months after my wedding.

On our honeymoon back in June. This is the first time my hair's been all one length in forever! :)

Thanks for reading, everyone!

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