Baby, It’s Cold Outside! Protecting Your Natural Hair in the Winter

 

It is undeniable that in many parts of North America, Fall is now in full effect…which means that Winter will be with us soon enough…le sighSo, with that, we must take extra steps to understand the effects that the chilly winter air may have on our kinky, curly hair, and work with our tresses to prevent the potential damage that can take place due to the colder temperatures.

A change in the weather can cause not only changes in our energy levels and skin health but also impacts the way our body grows hair, and how it produces and distributes its natural oils. Even so, it’s a common half-truth that cold temperatures can cause one to lose quite a bit of hair due to excessive shedding. While it is true that colder temperatures can cause the skin- including the skin on the scalp- to become excessively dry, in terms of hair loss vs. hair growth during the colder months, the body is actually at a slight advantage.

The reason why is because, like other mammals, humans tend to grow thicker manes during the winter months; this happens because when it becomes colder, the human body responds by producing and releasing melatonin (a hormone which regulates biorhythms, such as sleeping and waking). Melatonin is said to cause your body to balance out its natural hair growth cycle, which in turn causes the hair to become stronger and potentially grow thicker to counteract the cold.

So, what does all of this mean? Well, it means that you should have no problem retaining your hair length as well as maintaining your hair health despite the winter season, provided you make certain changes to your hair care regimen. (Click here to find out more about the behaviour of hair in winter weather.)

Here are some key changes you should make to your hair regimen to preserve your tresses during the cold weather:

1. First, if you already have a good hydrating, conditioning, and moisturizing hair care routine, please keep it up- you’re already ahead of the game!

2.  Coat your hair, as usual, from roots to ends with your moisturizing/conditioning product(s), paying special attention to the ends.

3.  Make sure you seal-in your moisturizing product(s) by using your preferred oil. ***Keep in mind that low porosity hair prefers lighter oils whereas high porosity hair has an easier time absorbing either thicker or thinner oils- you can also seal high porosity hair by using a natural hair butter (shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter etc).

4.  Spray a mixture of water, a little oil, and some aloe vera juice on your scalp to help protect, mitigate, and/or reverse the effects of the very drying cold air.

5.  Deep condition once biweekly, at a minimum.

6.  Put your hair away in protective styles: wigs, braids, twists, faux locs, etc- there are a variety to choose from, and they’re all beautiful!

***Do not neglect to properly treat your hair before you put it away; keep it hydrated; and maintain proper scalp care while wearing your protective style, to ensure that your hair will continue to thrive*** 

7.  Consider purchasing a silk or satin lined hat for when you venture out into the cold. Silk and satin cause little to no friction against the hair and are wiser choices in comparison to cotton and knitted hats that can potentially snag and damage your strands.

8.  And finally, as always, please do listen to your hair! Give it what it’s asking for, and it will show you love through its beauty and glory…even though it might be cold outside!

 

How do you plan on protecting your hair this winter season?

 

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Aloe Vera Juice Recipe

Hey everyone, here’s a quick recipe to make your own aloe vera juice!

Although this recipe is directed towards the use of aloe vera juice in the hair, it must be noted that this green miracle plant, also known as Aloe Barbadensis, Aloe Indica, and Aloe Barbados, has been used for generations around the globe. The popularity of the aloe vera plant stems from its great medicinal qualities, as well as its potential to be utilized to replenish and rejuvenate damaged and dead cells. The aloe vera plant has so many natural benefits that it is not uncommon for it and its extracts to be used in cosmetics, hair products, lotions, body butters, and even beverages for consumption.

Using aloe vera juice in your hair will help to soften and moisturize your strands, acting as a humectant that will draw water from the air into your hair. The juice will also work to reduce irritation and itchiness on the scalp when applied directly to the scalp, as aloe vera juice possesses anti-inflammatory properties. To find out more about the history and various uses for the aloe vera plant, please click here.

***Warning: When preparing to use any new product, whether homemade or store-bought, you should perform a 24-hour skin test to see if any allergic reaction sets in. To perform this test for aloe vera, cut a small piece of the plant, and then cut that piece in half to expose the gel/sap. Next, take the sap side of the stalk segment and rub it on a small section of your inner forearm. Allow it to sit for a minimum of 4 hours to a maximum of 24 hours and monitor for any reaction.

In like manner, before using a new product on your hair, you should try it out on a small section first. Results may vary, depending on your hair type and porosity. Use at your own discretion.***

DIY Aloe Vera Juice:

To prepare this mixture which will be utilized on your hair you will require a couple of items/tools:

  1. Aloe vera stalks (2 to 3 stalks)
  2. 1 and 1/2 cups of water
  3. A couple of drops of a preferred oil (ex. avocado oil works well)
  4. A spoon (to scrape the gel/sap from the inside of the aloe plant)
  5. A sharp knife
  6. A bowl
  7. A blender
  8. A strainer or cheesecloth
  9. A spray bottle

Method:

  1. Using the knife, carefully remove the barbs along the perimeter of the aloe vera stalks
  2. Take knife and carefully cut the aloe vera stalks length-wise down the middle; have bowl situated underneath to catch any gel/sap that drips from the stalks
  3. Using the spoon, scrape out the gel/sap from the inside of the plant into the bowl
  4. Transfer contents of bowl into blender; blend for 20 seconds
  5. *Optional: add scraped aloe vera stalks to blender and blend until smooth*
  6. Add water to blender, blend for 10 seconds
  7. *If aloe vera stalks were added to blender, strain*
  8. Transfer aloe vera juice to spray bottle
  9. Add a couple drops of preferred oil to spray bottle and shake
  10. Store in fridge to keep fresh
  11. When the time comes to use your aloe vera juice, remember, a little goes a long way! Shake spray bottle well, spray juice into hands, and rub throughout hair; or spray directly on to previously-sectioned hair. Afterwards, apply your regular hair care/styling products according to your personal hair regimen, and enjoy!

 Do you use aloe vera in your hair or skin care regimen? How has it worked for you?

 

How to Bantu-knot your hair

Bantu knots, also known as Zulu or Nubian knots, chiney bumps, pepper seeds, or hair nubbins, is a traditional African hairstyle, made by sectioning your hair into triangles, diamonds, or squares and coiling those sections into knots.

What you will need:

  • Sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner
  • 
Towel
  • Spray bottle
  • 
Wide-toothed comb/Detangling brush
  • 
Tail comb
  • Butterfly clips/Snag-free ponytail holders
  • Water-based moisturizer
  • Twisting gel/cream
  • Bobby pins (optional)

Steps:

  1. For best results, start with damp hair that has been recently shampooed and conditioned and towel-dried.
  2. Spritz hair with water using a spray bottle.
  3. Use your fingers or a tail comb to divide hair into about 6 to 9 sections, depending on the thickness of the hair.
  4. Separate the sections using butterfly clips or snag-free ponytail holders.
  5. Starting at the back of the head, loosen one section of hair (one on either edge of the nape is usually best).  If the section feels dry, spritz it with some water.
  6. Apply your favourite water-based moisturizer to the section, paying extra attention to the ends of the hair.
  7. Use your fingers/wide-toothed comb/detangling brush to detangle the section of hair.
  8. Apply your favourite twisting cream or gel to the section to the moisturized, detangled section.
  9. Separate with your fingers or part a piece of the section with your tail comb into your desired shape (starting from the edge of the nape makes it easier), keeping in mind that the bigger the piece the bigger the size of your Bantu knot, and clip the rest of the section to the side.
  10. Bend the strand close to its base and pinch the bump created between the thumb and pointer of your left hand, and use your right hand to wind the length of the strand around the bump at the base to form a coil.
  11. Keep winding the length of the strand around the coil with your right hand, gradually winding closer and closer to your head with each round, until all of the strand has been completely wound up, to form a Bantu knot.
  12. If your hair is curly, and your knot is coiled tightly enough, the ends will likely stay coiled under the knot; if your hair is looser, then you may need to use a bobby pin to hold the knot in place.
  13. Unclip the remainder of the section, and repeat Steps 9-12 until the section is completely knotted.
  14. Move on to the next section of hair, and repeat Steps 5-12 until all of the sections are knotted.

***You can also create Bantu knots from two-strand twists: once your two-strand twists are completed, follow steps 10-14 above.***

To keep your Bantu knots neat, wear a satin bonnet or tie your head with a satin/silk headscarf when you go to sleep.

Choosing new ways to part my hair: setting boundaries for success and self care

After 3 years of intermittent contract work, in February, I finally landed a full-time gig.  I was excited and grateful for the job, as it’s a very good position that would give me the opportunity to learn and gain new skills.  (Not to mention, it was nice to finally have some steady predictable income!)

However, ever since I started my new job, my personal ventures have suffered, in terms of the amount of time and dedication I’ve been able to commit to them. To say that I’ve been struggling to balance the demands of my job while trying to manage the blog, book, and business would be an understatement!

For the past 4 months, I’ve been feeling like, wow, I just can’t win“: now that I finally have the money, I don’t have the time; and when I had the time, I didn’t have the money!

I was getting really stressed out, trying to figure how I was going to get everything done, and feeling like I was failing.  I was so stressed out that it was impacting my ability to get good sleep, resulting in chronic fatigue; I also kept getting sick; then, most recently, I started getting back-to-back migraines, which I’ve never experienced before; and, generally, I was feeling like crap.

I knew it was bad when my husband (who is low-key pro-workaholism) told me to STOP! To stop stressing myself out; to stop beating myself up; and to start giving myself credit for what I had been accomplishing, despite my huge workload.  I tried to take his advice but still found myself struggling to give myself permission to relax and recalibrate, especially knowing that I wasn’t on top of everything. The over-achiever in me would not let me be okay with allowing some of the balls I had in the air to drop.  So I literally had to pray about it.  I had to ask God to help me find peace in the midst of the madness because I really didn’t know what to do or how to handle it.

And since I started praying about it, I started receiving the same following messages from various sources: 1) Life is about choices, 2) Boundaries are necessary, and 3) Prioritize yourself.

1. Life is about choices: I’m realizing that I can choose to be miserable or I can choose to be happy.  I can choose to be stressed out or I can choose to pursue peace. Since I don’t want to be miserable and stressed out, I’m making the choice to be content with my situation and to make the best of it.

2.  Boundaries are necessary: I’m realizing that as much as I’d like to excel at my job, working every evening and every weekend was negatively impacting my well-being- and my body started acting up as a result to get my attention. My husband was also getting annoyed because we weren’t spending quality time together anymore (one of his Love Languages; one of mine too!)  So now I’m making a concerted effort to try to leave work at work, to carve out time for not only myself, but also for my husband, family, friends, and loved ones, and to do the things that I like to do that bring me joy.

3. Prioritize yourself: I’m also realizing that if I don’t prioritize my ventures, who will? In addition to making time to take care of myself, I recognize that I need to make time to take care of my personal projects, if I want them to succeed. And I do want them to succeed, so I recognize it’s time to take a new approach.

 

I thank all of you who have continued to support me during my unexpected hiatus.  Thank you for encouraging me to keep going, to keep writing, to keep blogging, in spite of.

Thank you to my siblings for praying with and for me.  Thanks to my aunts and uncle for your pep talks.

Thank you to my wonderful husband for speaking sense to me, for believing in me, for pushing me when I’m ready to give up, and for carrying me when I feel like I have nothing left!

It’s time for this over-achiever to get a new look; so, here’s to parting my hair a new way!

Here’s to setting boundaries for future success and self care!

 

 

How to cornrow your hair

Cornrows or canerows (or track braids) is a traditional African braiding technique. Cornrows are made by braiding the hair onto the scalp’s surface, after parting the hair into a design.

  1. Part a section of the hair starting from the hairline to the nape, keeping in mind that the thicker the section the thicker your cornrow will be.

2. Clip the rest of the head of hair to the side or put it in a ponytail holder to keep it out of the way while you cornrow the parted section.

3.  Starting at the hairline, take a small piece of the parted section and split that piece into three equal strands.

TIP: Anchor the right strand of hair in-between the middle finger and ring finger of your right hand; and anchor the left strand of hair in-between the middle finger and ring finger of your left hand, and brace your hands against the head, leaving your thumbs and pointer fingers free to pull the outside strands under the middle strand as you braid.

Try to brace your pinky fingers against the head, and hold the strands as upright as possible, to help you get the right tension!

4.  Start braiding the strands like a regular plait using the underhand method (opposite of a French braid) for about two stitches/notches: using the pointer/index finger and thumb of your left hand to pull the right strand under the middle strand; using the pointer/index finger and thumb of your right hand to pull the left strand under the middle strand; the right strand under the middle strand, and the left strand under the middle strand.

5. Now you will start the cornrow.   As you make the motion of pulling the right strand under the middle strand using the pointer/index finger and thumb of your left hand, pick up extra hair from the right side of the parted section and pull it into the right strand. Pull the right strand with added hair under the middle strand.

6.  Then, do the same thing as you make the motion of pulling the left strand under the middle strand using the pointer/index finger and thumb of your right hand,  pick up extra hair from the left side of the parted section into the left strand.  Pull the left strand with added hair under the middle strand.

TIP: As you pull the right and left strands under the middle strand, run your fingers through to the ends to prevent the free ends from tangling.

TIP: As you cornrow, try to keep your hands at an angle of as close to 90 degrees as possible/upright against the head (as opposed to following the direction in which you are cornrowing). Holding your hands at close to 90 degrees/upright will help you get the right tension to keep the cornrow neat and tight (without yanking the hair).

7.  Continue to cornrow, by repeating Steps 5 and 6: picking up extra hair on each side as you pull the right strand under the middle strand, the left strand under the middle strand, the right strand…until there is no more hair to add from the parted section.

TIP: Try to pick up the same amount of hair on each side to make the stitches/notches of your cornrow neat and even.

8.  Once all of the hair in the parted section is cornrowed against the scalp, continue to braid the free ends like a regular plait using the underhand method.

Keeping the cornrow from unwinding:

9.  Once you get to the end of the plait, if the hair is very curly, the cornrow may hold itself together. If not, you can either spiral the ends around your finger, using a little twisting gel/cream, or you can secure the cornrow with a snag-free/covered elastic band, clip, or barrette.

Finishing the style

10. Unclip or loosen the unbraided hair and repeat Steps 1-9 until the entire head is cornrowed.

TIP: How you part the hair will determine the size and shape/design of your cornrows; so, to keep them even, in Step 1, part the new section the same size and in the same shape as the cornrow beside it.  

Also, keep in mind, if you are cornrowing straight back, as you part the hair, you will have to taper the section toward the nape—the hairline and the crown of the head covers more area than the nape, so if you don’t taper the sections, you will run out of hair to cornrow at the back of the head.

Finally, to keep your cornrows neat, wear a satin/silk scarf or headtie, or use a satin/silk pillowcase when you go to sleep. Depending on how curly your hair is, how small the cornrows are, and whether you tie your hair at nighttime, your cornrowed style could last for a few days or up to a week or so.

Happy cornrowing!

Available Now: What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair?

Everyone knows Zuri as “the girl with the puffy hair.” Her afro is big and fluffy, and not even gravity can keep it down. People often ask her, “What are you gonna do with that hair?” Zuri finds the answer in her cultural hair-itage and shows she can sculpt and shape her curls and coils into beautiful works of African art—braids, ‘locks, bantu knots—in other words, whatever she wants!

This illustrated non-fiction book encourages Black girls to celebrate the beauty and versatility of their natural hair and learn the rich history of natural hairstyles.

 

Get your copy today!

Available in Canada on Amazon.ca: Click here to purchase.

Also available in-store at Knowledge Bookstore: 177 Queen Street West, Brampton, Ontario L6Y 1M5.

Available in the United States on Amazon.com: Click here to purchase.

Every day is a good hair day!

 

What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair? Book Launch

book-launch-collage

Let’s celebrate Black History Month together at the book launch for “What Are You Gonna Do with that Hair?” at Knowledge Bookstore (117 Queen St W, Brampton, Ontario L6Y 1M3) on Saturday, February 25, 2017, at 2pm!

This is a FREE event! Please register on Eventbrite: zurisbeautifulhair.eventbrite.com

For more information, please visit www.knowledgebookstore.com or www.thenaturalhairadvocate.com

Follow us on:
Facebook: The Natural Hair Advocate
Twitter: @TheNHAdvocate
Instagram: @zurisbeautifulhair
#ZurisBeautifulHair

How to two-strand twist your hair

two-strand-twists-with-close-up-blog

Two-strand twists are one of the basic styling techniques for natural hair. They are similar to braids, only you intertwine use two strands of hair instead of three.

What you will need:

  • Sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner
  • 
Towel
  • Spray bottle
  • 
Wide-toothed comb/Detangling brush
  • 
Tail comb
  • Butterfly clips/Snag-free ponytail holders
  • Water-based moisturizer
  • Twisting gel/cream

Steps:

  1. For best results, start with damp hair that has been recently shampooed and conditioned and towel-dried.
  2. Spritz hair with water using a spray bottle.
  3. Use your fingers or a tail comb to divide hair into about 6 to 9 sections, depending on the thickness of the hair.
  4. Separate the sections using butterfly clips or snag-free ponytail holders.
  5. Starting at the back of the head, loosen one section of hair (one on either edge of the nape is usually best).  If the section feels dry, spritz it with some water.
  6. Apply your favourite water-based moisturizer to the section, paying extra attention to the ends of the hair.
  7. Use your fingers/wide-toothed comb/detangling brush to detangle the section of hair.
  8. Apply your favourite twisting cream or gel to the section to the moisturized, detangled section.
  9. Separate a piece of the section (starting from the edge of the nape makes it easier), keeping in mind that the bigger the piece the bigger the size of your twist, and clip the rest of the section to the side.
  10. Split the subsection into two equal strands, pinching one strand in your right hand and pinching the other strand in your left hand.
  11. Twist the two strands together, overlapping the left strand over the right strand, left strand over the right strand, and continue overlapping the left strand over the right strand, down to the end of the twist.
  12. Apply some twisting gel or cream to the ends to keep the twist in place.
  13. Unclip the remainder of the section, and repeat Steps 9-12 until the section is completely twisted.
  14. Move on to the next section of hair, and repeat Steps 5-12 until all of the sections are twisted.

To keep your two-strand twists neat, wear a satin bonnet or use a satin/silk pillowcase when you go to sleep.

 

When you wish to wash your cares away…

shower

Going to the hair salon has always been a luxury to me- I’ve been blessed to have a mother and a sister who are both amazing at doing hair (my sister, Sarah, is a gifted natural hairstylist, actually), and I’m not too bad myself; so I’ve never really “needed” to go the salon to get my hair done, except for when I’ve been away from home.

Last week, though, I went to the hairdresser for the first time in over five years (I went to Urban Curls Toronto, to be exact. It was also my first time going to a natural hair salon, and it was wonderful).

hair-salon

I decided I needed to go to a salon to not only get my hair done for the sake of getting it done (it was in desperate need of a professional treatment, as it was dry and breaking a lot), but I also felt like I needed to go just for the experience of being at the hair salon.  I personally needed some T-L-C to soothe what has been a pretty rough start to 2017 with the passing of one of my best friends, my dear Grandma.

Being at the hair salon always feels like the royal treatment to me: someone else is taking care of you, and it feels great.  I especially love having my hair washed by somebody else (though it hasn’t always been this way: as a child, I loathed the process!) With this mass of 4b/4c hair that I’ve got, washing my hair is always a bit of a chore; so it’s nice to get a break! I love the sensation of having my scalp massaged and really feeling like my hair’s getting a deep clean. I love the sound of the water running, as it lulls me into a peaceful catnap.  I find it very therapeutic.

drain

This time, though, I really took in the process of washing my hair.  This time it was symbolic.

This time I was trying to get some serious stuff out of my hair: the stress of 2016, and the end of the year, in particular…

Transitioning from a job.

Struggling to get my book finished.

My Grandma falling ill.  The weeks in the hospital.  The trips to Sunnybrook for radiation.  My last Christmas with her.

That awful Monday morning.

Making the plans. Sending her off in style.

Laying her to rest…

As the water ran through my hair, I paused and reflected on it…a metaphorical attempt to wash my cares away…In that moment I remembered how much my Grandma enjoyed having her hair washed by the nurses at the end of her life. I thought how she too must have found some peace from the water running through her hair, washing the pain away, if only for a few minutesIn that moment I felt close to her.

hair-washingI realized that there is just something that we all love about having our hair washed with gentleness and care.  It comforts us and helps us to forget about everything else- whether at the beginning of life (like this sweet newborn baby: http://www.today.com/parents/watch-blissful-newborn-have-her-hair-washed-first-time-t105333), at any point in the middle, and even at the end.

 

I think the hairdresser will be seeing me a lot more often this year…