Category Archives: African American Hair

Newborn And Infant Hair Care

Standard

My oldest daughter Taylor at three months of age. 

There’s nothing more natural than the hair of a newborn baby. Most, but not all, African American babies are born with a head full of hair. New mothers, including myself, are often full of questions when it comes to caring for the hair of a newborn baby. For African American mothers, the questions are usually How often should I wash their hair? What should I put in their hair after washing it? Do I put oil in their hair, and if so what do I use? Thankfully I was blessed to have my mother (who raised six kids) to help me through it all.

But what if you’re a white mother or father who adopted an African American baby? Not knowing what to do or where to begin with your child’s hair can be overwhelming, and I’m here to help. Now let me be clear (*disclaimer*), as a mother of four children, I’m speaking from my own experience as an African American woman and from what I know to be true or common when it comes to African American hair. Your experiences may not be the same as mine, so please feel free to make adjustments as you see fit.

Hair Textures & When to Wash

No two heads of hair are alike, and this is especially true for African American hair. That is why it is vital that you learn about the different hair textures that we have so you’ll know how to care for your babies hair. At birth your baby may have fine, soft, straight, or curly hair. However, around four or five months, your baby’s hair will go through “the change” where that fine baby hair changes into thick, coarse, soft or curly or wavy hair. Or it can be a combination of any of those textures. Because of our textured hair, it tends to be drier and can easily break off. So it is a must that you handle your babies hair with gentle care

While it is very common for other cultures to wash their hair once a day to remove excess oil from their hair, African American hair needs those natural oils. Frequently washing African American hair strips it of its natural oils and can leave our hair dry, brittle, and frizzy. When it comes to your baby, washing their hair once a week with a mild baby shampoo is perfectly fine. Because they have such sensitive scalps and a soft spot on their head, you should not wash their hair every day. Unless of course they have some kind of medical condition and are under doctors orders. Also, when washing your babies hair, there is no need to work up a lather when using shampoo. Just gently distribute the shampoo through their hair enough to clean it and rinse with lukewarm water.

After their hair is washed, add a small amount of baby oil to their hair and gently massage it in. Then you can comb it with a wide tooth comb (the teeth in baby combs are too small and tend to snag in curly, textured hair and can be painful to the baby) or brush with a fine bristled baby brush. Other oils that are mild and safe to use on your babies hair are extra virgin olive oil, jojoba oil, or organic coconut oil.

Texture Change 

As mentioned earlier, you may notice around four or five months that your babies hair texture is changing. Their hair may become thicker and longer with tighter coils or curls, which will require more care and attention. It is important to keep their hair detangled and moisturized as it will become even more prone to dryness. Continue to use a mild baby shampoo, but this is also a good time to use a mild conditioner as well. It is also a good time to use cream based products to keep their hair moisturized. Oil alone will not moisturize their hair. See the link at the end of the blog for suggestions of products to use on your baby’s hair after the texture change.

How to Detangle

Once your babies hair texture has changed, it is best to detangle your babies hair after it’s been washed or when it’s slightly damp. NEVER comb or detangle your babies hair while it’s dry. You will encounter a lot of tangles and knots that can snag in the comb. Again, this will hurt your babies sensitive scalp. To detangle, start at the ends and gently work your way up. If you notice knots or tangles, try to detangle with your fingers first with a little oil on our fingers. If it’s not time to wash their hair, you can take a wet washcloth (a soft one) and ring out the extra water and gently rub it over your babies hair just to dampen it. Then add a little oil (jojoba, coconut, or baby oil) and gently massage it through their hair and proceed to combing and detangling.

 

Sisters

                                    My daughters Taylor, age 2 and Talya, age 5 months wearing ponytails and curly afros.

Styling

Nothing makes new mothers happier than to be able to put pretty bows, headbands, and barrettes in their little girl’s hair, especially when they have enough hair to put into ponytails, plaits or braids. For some babies, it is a necessity to style their hair to cut back on tangles and the matting of the hair. This is especially true with African American babies. Depending on the length, a few ponytails with cloth rubber bands should suffice. If you have to force your babies hair into a ponytail with a lot of pulling, don’t do it. Leave their hair alone. Try to stay away from styles that require a lot of pulling of the hair, and avoid tight ponytails and braids. Two of my children were born with a ton of hair, and it only got longer and longer as they got older, so I had no choice but to put their hair in ponytails, plaits or braids to keep it from tangling or matting.

As time goes on, you will develop a hair care routine for your baby, and you will learn what works and what doesn’t for their hair. It’s nice to have a guide of what to expect as you experience your babies hair changes and growth. Did you find this information helpful? Did I miss anything? Please leave a comment and let me know!

For additional information on what products to use on your babies hair – African American or bi-racial, check out this website:

https://www.mom365.com/baby/baby-care/dry-hair-solutions-for-baby

 

Advertisements

My Natural Hair Needs Braids To Grow

Standard

Arnold shoulder shrug

As a little girl, through my tween years, my mother and older sisters kept my hair braided in various styles. When I say braided, I mean regular braids without the addition of synthetic hair. My hair always flourished this way. When it was time for my hair to be washed, the braids would come down, my mother would wash and deep condition my hair, give me a hot oil treatment complete with a scalp massage, and my hair would get braided up again.

Fast forward to today, and one of the most common ways to braid hair is with the addition of synthetic or human hair. This practice is by no means new. It has been done for centuries by African women all over the African continent. It allows for a myriad of styling and color options, and it adds to the longevity of the style. I know there are those who swear by the rule that you can grow your hair without the use of protective styles (mainly protective styles that require the use of synthetic or human hair via braids or wigs.)  by simply taking better care of your hair and following strict hair care routines. To that, I say no two heads of hair are alike.

Since being natural for five years now, I can honestly say that I have experienced the most growth when my hair was in braids. When my hair is simply left alone in a protective style, it thrives. I keep it moisturized, I keep my scalp and braids oiled with castor oil, and I simply let it be. I have learned how to minimize the shedding and breakage, and I don’t tug and pull on my braids because of trying to put them in cute buns or other styles.

I have decided that my girls and I will wear braids more this year. As long as our braids are not tight and we practice edge-saving techniques and healthy maintenance, we’ll all be fine, and our natural hair will love us for it.

I would love to hear from you! Does your hair fair better with or without braids? Hit the comment section and let me know!

Xoxo

African Head Wraps

Standard

“African women wear the head-wrap as a queen might wear a crown.”

To say that I’m obsessed with head wraps would be a huge understatement. If you looked at my Pinterest page https://www.pinterest.com/eyeznsmiles/wrap-it-up/ for head wraps, you’d understand. While I’m not the greatest at wrapping my hair, I do enjoy finding beautiful fabrics and scarves to use.

In the African and African American community, wrapping one’s head is more than a fashion statement. It has cultural and historical significance as well. I found an informative article (see link below) that explains the origins of head wrapping, which started in sub-Saharan Africa. It is important to note that other cultures practice head wrapping as well, and this is discussed in the link as well.

https://www.thepatriot.co.zw/old_posts/african-women-and-the-significance-of-a-head-wrap-dhuku/

Living in the mid-west where we have some of the coldest winters, it is important to protect your natural hair. This is the time of year that wrapping my hair – even if it’s in a protective style – is a must. Put your crowns on, queens!

 

 

 

Natural Hair In Review – 2017

Standard

that's a wrap

Every year I learn something new. New techniques, new natural things to use on my hair such as herbs and oils. While I may not have tried them all, they’ve definitely been added to my “to-do” or “wish” lists.

Lessons Regarding My Hair

The first important thing I’ve learned is to let go of the bad ends. I neglected to clip my ends for quite some time, and I paid for it. My afros,while big, looked scraggly. When I finally got rid of those bad ends, my afro looked healthy. Let go of the dead weight people. Don’t hang on to bad ends for the sake of length. It will always hurt you more in the end with the amount of hair that you end up having to cut.

The second important thing I learned about my hair is that it grows better when it’s braided or in some type of protective style. For a good portion of 2017, I wore my hair in its natural state. I let my fro fly free. While I enjoyed rockin’ my big hair, it became a chore at times. I felt pressured to find and try new styles that weren’t always good for my hair.

For one, the temptation to twist my hair into two strand twists or plaits every night to have fresh curls in the morning was something I had to fight against. Also, the temptation to semi-straighten/stretch my hair more than I should (in the attempt to try new styles) was also there.  Both things can cause breakage when done in excess, and after finally clipping my bad ends, more breakage is the last thing I want. I also noticed that my hair growth seemed slower when not in a protective style. Having observed all of these things about my hair, it’s time to listen to what it needs. I will be more diligent about my protective styles to promote healthy hair growth.

Lessons From The Natural Hair Community 

We have a long way to go with education, acceptance, confidence, support towards one another, and respect. While I’m happy to see many women making the change from chemical relaxers to natural hair, many of them need to be educated on African American hair so they can better understand their own hair. They need to learn our history about hair braiding, head wraps, designs, and why certain negative terms and views that date back to slavery and beyond still have a vice grip on many of us today that prevent us from seeing the true beauty of our hair. Educating yourself is one of the most important steps in your natural hair journey.

It makes me happy to see that there are so many natural hair events all over the states that celebrate all types of African American hair, and I hope to attend a few of them that are close to my neck of the woods. I’ve heard nothing but good things regarding those events, and we need more like them.

I’m going to continue to do my part by encouraging hair-positive messages in the natural hair community through my blog. My focus will be on the positive stories in the natural hair community and less on the negative ones. And as usual, I will continue to strive to take better care of my natural hair.

Thank you all for supporting my blog, and here’s to healthier hair in 2018!

Celebrate

Sonya

 

 

Mango Butter Hair and Body Moisturizer With Castor oil, Lemongrass and Sweet Orange Essential Oils

Standard

mango butter

I’ve kind of kicked Shea Butter to the curb in favor of Mango Butter about two years ago. Raw, unrefined mango butter is divine for your skin and hair. It’s packed full of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the fatty acids oleic and stearic, which act as emollients that soften and soothe the skin and hair.

Over the weekend I decided to make a batch of mango hair and body moisturizing butter with organic castor oil (natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and is high in Vitamin E, minerals, proteins, and Omega 6 and 9 beneficial fatty acids. Its unusually high ricinoleic acid ratio makes it beneficial to skin and hair),

Castor Oil

apricot seed oil (contains vitamins A and E which support skin health and repair. It is a great home remedy for dry scalp, psoriasis, dandruff, and eczema. Restores moisture to dry or flaky scalp or dull and dry hair),

Apricot oil

vitamin E oil (combats wrinkles, promotes hair growth, shine, prevents hair loss),

vitamin e capsules

and lemon grass (full of vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folate and vitamin C. It also provides essential minerals such as magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, zinc and iron. Adds shine to hair, fights dandruff, tones skin, great for fighting blackheads)

Lemongrass

and sweet orange (antiseptic and anti-inflammatory which makes this oil an ideal addition to your skin and hair routine. Known to increase the ability to absorb vitamin C, collagen production, and blood flow, all of which are essential for anti-aging) essential oils.

essential oil and lavender flowers

Disclaimer: I don’t measure when making my concoctions, so please don’t be angry with me! I make big batches because I have a family of six and we all use this mango butter mixture regularly, so it’s just me measuring with my eyes, and that’s it. *It is important to use carrier oils with lemongrass essential oil (such as sweet almond oil, apricot, jojoba, coconut oil, olive oil, rosehip or argan oils)  otherwise it can burn or irritate your skin if not properly diluted. Always test essential oils on your skin first before using.* Below is what I did:

Ingredients: 

1 lb of raw, unrefined mango butter

Organic castor oil

Organic apricot oil

4 vitamin E capsules

Lemon Grass essential oil

Sweet Orange essential oil

Tools: 

Large cooking pot

Water

Microwave safe bowl (medium size)

Rubber spatula

Spoon

Hand mixer

Air tight container(s) to store your butter (I used two containers)

Directions: 

Fill up your pot with water and bring to boil on the stove. In your medium size microwave safe bowl, add your mango butter and put it in the hot water. Take the pot off of the stove and allow the butter to melt slowly. You don’t want to cook all the vitamins and nutrients out of the mango butter with high heat. When needed, reheat the water in the pot (without the mango butter in it) to continue the melting process.

Once the mango butter is melted, take it out of the water and add about 1/2 cup of castor oil,  1/3 cup of apricot oil, 20 drops of lemongrass and 20 drops of sweet orange essential oils. Add your vitamin E oil. I only had capsules, but if you have vitamin E oil in a bottle, that’s much easier! (*You don’t have to use 20 drops of lemongrass or sweet orange oils. I used that amount because I wanted my mango butter to have that citrusy scent.)

Place your bowl in the freezer for about 15 minutes or until the oils solidify, but don’t let it get too cold or freeze. You need it to be soft enough to mix.

Take your hand mixer and on medium-high speed, mix the oils until it becomes light and fluffy like a meringue or whipped cream. Once that’s accomplished, take your rubber spatula and transfer the butter to your airtight container(s) and you’re done.

The way this butter melts and absorbs into your skin upon contact is amazing! I especially love to use it after a shower. Your skin is left feeling very moisturized and soft with no greasy feel. It absorbs so well! As for the hair, it definitely makes my 4C hair feel softer.

All of these ingredients can be purchased on Amazon or at your nearest health store such as Whole Foods or Trader Joes.

Happy DIY-ing!

 

How to Be Hair-Positive In The Natural Hair Community

Standard

Positive

The emergence of the natural Afro in the late sixties and early seventies was not only meant to be a political statement because of the injustices of the times but to instill a sense of pride in African American’s natural hair. A returning to one’s natural roots if you will. Fast forward to the mid-2000’s and the natural hair movement is on the scene once again calling for natural hair pride. Today, many African American women have answered that call, denouncing chemical relaxers and fully embracing their natural hair while encouraging others to do the same. Never before have there been such an abundance of natural hair products available to us on store shelves or online. We’re also seeing natural hair in the mainstream (commercials, television, movies, etc.) now more than ever. These are all positive steps in the right direction, but there is still a lot of negativity within and outside of the natural hair community. How can we stop the negativity and be hair-positive?

It Starts With You.

Negative views of African American hair goes back to slavery. Terms like nappy, kinky, and wooly were used in derogatory and demeaning manners to describe our hair. It was also used to divide the slaves based on hair texture (and skin color). The mulatto slaves (or mixed race) were said to have “good hair, ” but the much darker African slaves had the bad or “nappy” hair. This caused division and resentment among the slaves and the negative distinction became ingrained in slaves and passed down from one generation to the next, and it’s still happening today. This thinking must stop. Here are a few things we can do to be hair-positive when it comes to natural hair:

  1. Change your thinking. Before we can move forward, changing our way of thinking is crucial. We must put out of our minds all the negative connotations and speech associated with natural hair that we’ve been taught by our parents, people in our community, television, or society as a whole. Kinky, coily or “nappy” hair is not bad hair. It’s not something we should be ashamed of or dread having. Our hair is not uncombable, untameable, or ugly in its natural state. Our hair does not need to be tamed, which is code for chemically relaxing or straightening it for it to look presentable. Straight hair is not the definition of beauty.
  2. Educate yourself. It is important to educate yourself so you can better understand African American hair and it’s many textures. With that knowledge, you’ll understand why our hair has different curl patterns, textures, why it requires moisture and certain oils, and why our hair can be styled in so many different and artistic ways – all of which makes our hair truly unique and beautiful. Your appreciation for our hair will deepen, and hopefully, it will motivate you to spread hair-positivity.
  3. Change your speech. Many times we knowingly or unknowingly say negative things about our hair to our friends and family, and even our children because that’s what we’re used to hearing from our family, media, etc. Starting with ourselves, we must stop speaking about natural hair in negative ways. How many times have you looked at yourself in the mirror and said: “Ugh, my hair is so nappy!” I’ve done it a million times myself, especially when I was getting chemical relaxers and had new growth! With your children, start at an early age speaking positively about their hair. Tell them their hair, and its texture is beautiful and unique. When they are old enough to understand, explain to them why.
  4. Make it a point to compliment others. Being natural is not always easy. Styling and maintenance can take a lot of time, depending on the length and thickness of your hair. However, we all know how good it makes us feel when someone compliments us on our hair. Hair that we put a lot of work into maintaining and caring for. When you see a woman rocking her natural hair, compliment her. Not only will it make her day, but you will feel good giving out that genuine, positive energy. And who knows, maybe that same person you compliment will compliment another natural too. Keep putting out positive energy!

The conversation needs to change in the natural hair community from negative to hair-positive. Let’s learn to love and understand our hair. Be more understanding toward those who may use different protective styles or care methods than you. It’s time we listen to one another instead of sitting in instant judgment. We can do this by making a concerted effort to have hair-positive conversations.

Hugs and Love.

The Erasure of Kinky Hair

Standard

Purple and black fro

The erasure of kinky hair is a real issue, and I’ve been speaking on it since I started this blog and big chopped over four years ago. One glaring and utterly disturbing thing I noticed after becoming natural was black natural haired women’s obsession with having curly hair and all the bloggers, vloggers, and hair products that promote this trend. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now. For many African American women, being natural isn’t pretty unless your hair is curly. I’m talking about those who aren’t happy with a simple twist out or braid out; they want that curly hair on a constant basis from using one or a bunch of products that will magically make their hair curl. What they fail to realize is that for many, despite the products they use, their hair still may not curl up the way they want it to – especially if they have kinky hair. I’ve even heard women say that they stopped being natural because their hair wouldn’t curl like the other naturally curly women (mixed race women or the bloggers who have 3b – 4a type hair).  I’ve also heard women say that they refuse to go natural because they know  their hair won’t curl up. All of these sentiments sadden me.

I always thought that the natural hair movement was about encouraging black women to embrace their hair as it grows out of their scalp and to learn to nourish it, take care of it and most importantly, love it. At least that’s what it means to me. But the constant barrage of images of women with curly hair due to their mixed heritage or whose hair type is simply naturally curlier than those with kinky hair has many black women seeking something that may never happen for them unless they become product junkies and buy a bunch of products. This, in turn, does not allow them to love and appreciate their hair for what it does naturally on its own and accept their hair for what it cannot do. In turn, they give up on their natural hair journey because of disappointment and unrealistic expectations.

I have nothing against curly girls. I love and appreciate them. But we cannot ignore the fact that there is still a lack of representation for those who have kinky hair. I place the bulk of the blame on the companies who market false hopes and misguided ideas of beauty to women with kinky hair that they too can have instant curly hair by using a cream, gel or shampoo. Curly hair is not what makes natural hair beautiful. Being natural and no longer poisoning your hair, scalp, and essentially your body with chemical relaxers is what is beautiful.  Caring for your hair with all natural oils and products is what is beautiful.

Making the decision to rock your natural hair is not something you should take lightly. It’s an emotional journey, it’s time-consuming, and it’s full of highs and lows. Sticking to that decision when experiencing the frustrating lows is even harder. But one of the worst things you can do is to go into your natural hair journey with unrealistic expectations. If you’re a kinky haired girl, learn to love your kinks and coils and don’t be ashamed to rock them. It is completely okay if your hair doesn’t curl up magically after putting a curling pudding on it. Don’t allow our kinky hair to be erased because society and hair care lines are catering to and promoting curly hair every time you go to the store, or look at a magazine or watch a TV commercial. Kinky hair is beautiful. Kinky hair needs representation. We are not the stepchild of the natural hair community. We will not be erased.