I Can’t Stop the Itchiness: When your scalp just won’t cooperate

Thanks for stopping by for another post, we welcome you warmly and hope you enjoy today’s read!

Today’s post is dedicated to the naturals who have to do double duty– caring for and maintaining their hair while also treating a skin or scalp condition. While there are many scalp conditions that can make growing and caring for your natural hair a bit more difficult, the focus of this post will be on a condition called Seborrhoeic Dermatitis (or SD).

What is Seborrhoeic Dermatitis (SD)?

Seborrhoeic Dermatitis is known to affect the areas of the body where sebum (your skin’s natural oil) is released, such as the folds of the nose, eyebrows, behind the ears, chin, scalp, genital area, etc. SD commonly manifests itself in the form of patches of dry, flaky, scaly skin that can range from super-dry to incredibly oily. The affected area can be very itchy, tender, swollen, bruised, and sensitive to external stimuli. There are many triggers that may cause SD to flare up, including stress, extremely dry or humid weather, excessive sweating, ingestion of certain foods, contact with common allergens (pollen, dust, pet fur, etc).

Treatment:

Currently, there is no permanent solution to SD.  The best thing to do if you suspect or know that you have this condition is to get referred to a good dermatologist to find out the severity of your individual case (severity varies between each individual); from there, s/he can prescribe you with medicated ointments, creams, shampoos to help you get the condition under control and to better manage it.

However, if you’d prefer to get an over-the-counter remedy, there are many options available to you.

Here’s a list of shampoos that can be used to help with your SD:

  1. Head and Shoulders Anti-dandrufff Anti-SD Shampoo: Active ingredient- 1% Selenium sulfide
  2. T-Gel: Active ingredient- 0.5% Coal tar
  3. Nizoral: Active ingredient: 2%  Ketoconazale

In general, all of these shampoos are used to help relieve itchiness, lift and remove flakes, soothe the scalp, and reduce inflammation of the affected area.

Now I’m sure you’re all asking the same question: What’s gonna happen to my hair? The truth is,  yes, all of these shampoos will dry out your hair to a certain degree; moreover, it is recommended that you use these shampoos frequently to keep the condition under control (a naturalistas nightmare!) However, don’t fret, as there is a work-around  that will keep your scalp happy, while also allowing your natural hair to thrive!

Here’s what you need to do on wash day:

  1. Wet your hair and apply your conditioner before your shampoo– this will help minimize the drying effect of the medicated shampoo on your hair.

2. Take your medicated shampoo, rub it between your hands, and then massage into your scalp- just focus on getting the scalp.

3. Let the shampoo sit for several minutes to ensure that it penetrates your scalp.

4. Wash out the shampoo and conditioner.

5. Follow-up with a deep conditioning masque or treatment.

6. Apply your leave-in conditioner and then seal your hair with whichever oil you prefer.

7. Cover your head with a plastic shower cap or bag for 15 to 30 minutes.

8. Uncover your head and style your hair, as desired.

On a final note, it’s important to be diligent and consistent when treating your scalp. Keep in mind that not every solution works for everyone across the board; so, yes, there will be a little trial-and-error involved in the process of finding the right SD regimen for you.

Finally, don’t despair about the shampoo completely drying out your hair- it’s okay- as long as you focus on the scalp while washing and ensure that you replace the moisture in your hair, as instructed above.

Getting your scalp condition under control is essential to your hair’s overall health and longevity- your hair’s home is your scalp– it can only be as healthy as your scalp is! So here’s to healthier scalps and optimal natural hair growth!

Do you struggle to maintain your hair health due to SD or a similar skin/scalp condition? Let us know your story, techniques, and remedies in the comments!

 

 

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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

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#ZurisBeautifulHair

The Greatest Love of All

IMG_20150621_0001

My father (and me- sadly, my face didn’t make the cut!)

Why yuh a fry dem hair? (Why are you frying their hair?),” my father would ask my mother on those rare occasions when she would press our hair out.  He couldn’t stand the smell of burning hair coming from the sizzling hot comb on the stove.  “Listen, nuttin’ nuh wrong wit’ yuh hair,” he would tell my sister, Sarah, and me.

My father was all about us keeping our hair in its most natural state: no additions, no alterations, no nothing.  He would even get upset when my mom would braid extensions into our hair! “Unuh a put in di horse hair, again? (You guys are putting in horse hair, again?)” he would question.  He didn’t think that any of that was necessary (even though the fake hair was actually plastic). “Jus’ plait it” was his recommendation.

My father, along with my mother, reinforced in our minds that our hair was fine the way it was.  Our parents were both adamant about us not perming our hair until we turned 16. “Nuh bodda cream it (Don’t bother with perming it),” my Dad would say. And when I turned 16, I didn’t bother: to know that my father thought that my kinky, curly hair was beautiful made it so much easier to cope with the pressures to change it coming from outside of our home.

But it wasn’t only about hair, my Dad made it a point to teach us how to love the skin we were in—both literally and figuratively.  “Look how yuh skin black and nice,” he would say.  He let us know that our dark skin wasn’t a curse, but rather a blessing.  My Dad knew how important it was for us to be proud of who we were.  He would make us sit and listen to his vinyl records of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches; watch videos about the lives of Bob Marley and Nelson Mandela; and read books about Black history.  He taught us to be proud of our Caribbean heritage and our African ancestry.  He also taught us to be proud of our family: “You are an Anderson”, he would say, “you are great; and don’t let anyone tell you any different!”

With Miss Minnie

My “Black by Popular Demand” Dad and me, during my 1st trip to Jamaica

Although my father may not have always loved me in the way that I would have liked to receive it, he certainly taught me how to love myself.  Today, on Father’s Day, I thank my Dad for teaching us how to love ourselves, which is, as Whitney Houston declared, the greatest love of all.  Now, as a grown woman, I realize just how fortunate we were to have a father who made sure that we not only knew—but more importantly, that we also loved—who we were.  I thank him for giving us the affirmation that we would need to survive, living in a world where everyone and everything continually tells us that something is wrong with who we are and how we look. I attribute much of my success today to having a strong sense of self and confidence, which made me feel that I could do anything! So, for that, Dad, I thank you!

To all of the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day!  Keep loving on your children.  Remember to tell them who they are, and who you know that they can be, to counteract the lies that society tells us.  The things you say about your children stick—words have power—so be mindful about what you say to them, both implicitly and explicitly, about themselves.  Teach them to love themselves, so that they won’t have to look for affection and acceptance in the wrong places.  Always affirm them, so that they can face the world with the confidence that they will need to succeed.  Your kids love and are counting on you!

My father, back in the day

My father, back in the day

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be…

Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

(Excerpt from “The Greatest Love of All”, written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed)

Happy Father’s Day! How did you celebrate your father today?

 

“He loves me from my hair follicles to my toenails…”

What are you going to do with your hair on your wedding day?

When I was teenager, one of my guy friends would always ask me: “what are you going to do with your hair on your wedding day? You’re not going to wear it natural, are you? You’re going to have to perm it!”

I used to say to him: “if I met a guy who liked me enough to want to marry me, that would mean he would have had to have liked me, natural hair and all! So why on earth would I change my hair on the day when I would want to look my absolute best for him? I highly doubt that he would appreciate that kind of shock on his wedding day.”

My friend would laugh at me, and insist that I would perm or at least straighten my hair on my wedding day. He was also ready to put money on it because he couldn’t imagine the thought of a bride not having straight hair on her Big Day. What he was basically saying to me was that “you can’t look pretty with natural hair on your wedding day!”

May 31st: a day to celebrate love

Well, today is my 1st wedding anniversary, and it’s also, coincidentally, International Natural Hair Meetup Day– so, for me, it’s a day to celebrate love for my husband and love for myself, too!

A year ago, I married the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful, amazing man I know!

And on my Big Day, my hair was natural…

Wedding - Natural Hair #1

Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Hair: Danika Battieste-Geddes Makeup: Soraya Prado

Wedding - Natural Hair #2

Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Hair: Danika Battieste-Geddes Makeup: Soraya Prado

Wedding - Natural Hair #3

My Mom and Auntie – both naturalistas – tying me into that dress! Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Hair: Danika Battieste-Geddes Makeup: Soraya Prado

 

Believe it or not, my now-hubby would not have wanted it any other way…

Back then…

When we were still dating, one day I decided to switch it up and flat-iron my hair. My-then-boyfriend was not happy- and I was shocked! Why? Because I was so accustomed to guys giving me a lot more positive attention when my hair was straightened.

I have a distinct memory from undergrad of the first time I went to Mass Appeal salon in Atlanta to get my hair “whipped”. When I left that salon, please believe, my hair was “laid”—and the reaction I got from my male friends was astounding! It was as if they had never seen me before—all of a sudden, I had been transformed into this “hot” girl…who they now wanted to talk to, lol! (To be honest, I enjoyed the attention, but what I didn’t enjoy was that my hair took the press too well: it took several weeks to wash it out of my hair, and some of the ends refused to turn back…so I had to cut them! Not cool!)

At the time, I didn’t realize that straightening my hair was such a big deal. I figured, I’m the same person, with the same face, just with a different hairdo; but clearly, straightening your hair was the “sexy” thing to do.

Needless to say, I was expecting my boyfriend to go crazy about my new ‘do. But his response was less than satisfactory:

 “Why did you do that to your hair?” he asked when I got into the car. “It’s so flat and weird now,” he said, as he ran his fingers through and rubbed my scalp.

 “Um, what’s that supposed to mean? You don’t think I look pretty?” (I can honestly say I was a little bit irked by his reception because it had taken me over an hour to straighten it by myself, and this was not the reaction I was expecting.)

 “Yeah, of course you look pretty; but it’s not the hairstyle that looks pretty: it’s your face!”

And that, my friends, was the day I fell in love with him! I’m just kidding! But knowing that he liked my hair—just the way it was—did make a world of difference to me! From then on, I didn’t have worry about whether he was just “accepting” my natural hair—I knew that he actually liked it. Which also meant that there was no pressure on my end to try to change it to “keep” him.

I count myself blessed and I am so grateful for his love.

My soul sista, Jill Scott, captures it so well:

You love me especially different every time

You keep me on my feet happily excited

By your cologne, your hands, your smile, your intelligence

You woo me, you court me, you tease me, you please me

You school me, give me some things to think about

Ignite me, you invite me, you co-write me, you love me, you like me

You incite me to chorus, ooh…

 You’re different and special

You’re different and special in every way imaginable

You love me from my hair follicles to my toenails

You got me feeling like the breeze, easy and free and lovely and new…

(Excerpt from “He Loves Me (Lyzel In E Flat)” by Jill Scott and Keith Pelzer)

He loves me

He loves me… Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Hair: Danika Battieste-Geddes Makeup: Soraya Prado

 

When you meet someone who loves you from your hair follicles to your toenails, and everywhere in-between, be sure to hold on to them!

Happy Anniversary to The Love of my Life!

And Happy International Natural Hair Meetup Day to all naturalistas around the world! Visit this link for events near you: http://nnhmd.com/about-the-event/

How are you spending your International Natural Hair Meetup Day?

 

Do (Black) Blondes Have More Fun?

Photo by Shandi-Lee CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo by Shandi-Lee, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

While Black women have been on a continual quest to achieve straight hair, I’ve learned that most White women long to be blonde.  The joke is, I used to think that straight-haired White women had it made—they had the flowing hair that everyone else seemed to want! I had no idea that they had their own hair hierarchies and hang-ups.

This desire for blonde hair makes sense though.  While the relative popularity of brunettes vs. blondes has varied throughout history, blondes have generally epitomized beauty in mythology and literature, since flaxen hair is associated with notions of youth, fertility, and attractiveness [1].  There’s also a theory about why blondes are considered to be more desirable based on natural selection: in populations where brunettes are the majority, blondes will be the preferred pick because they stand out from the crowd (and vice-versa).

Photo by Poldavo (Alex), CC BY 2.0

Photo by Poldavo (Alex), CC BY 2.0

It was a 1960s Clairol ad campaign, however, that started suggested to us that being blonde is indeed the better choice for the modern-day woman: “Is it true that blondes have more fun?”, their commercials asked [2]. Fifty decades later, the idea that blondes are preferable is still ingrained in our culture; and based on what we see in the media today, it seems that golden-haired ladies still live “the good life”. But is the same true when a blonde is Black?

Photo by dorofofoto - CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo by dorofofoto – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Earlier this month, Farryn Johnson, an African-American woman from Baltimore, was awarded $250,000 in damages, after winning a racial discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, Hooters. Apparently, she was fired from Hooters for wearing blond streaks in her hair, because “Black people don’t have blonde hair,” according to her ex-supervisor.

Photo by mp3waxx.com, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Photo by mp3waxx.com, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Although “Black” people are usually not expected to have natural blonde hair, contrary to Ms. Johnson’s boss’ belief, there are dark-skinned people from various ethnic groups who do have natural blonde or light brown hair, like people from the Melanesian Islands in the South Pacific and persons in the African Diaspora with European ancestry.  That’s the power of genes!  In any case, many Black women—just like many women of other ethnicities—opt to go blonde, whether by dye or using hair pieces. Take Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah, for example. (I guess Ms. Johnson’s supervisor didn’t get out much).

Photo by LG 전자, CC BY 2.0

That being said, there does seem to be an unwritten rule that women with darker skin are “not supposed to” wear lightly-coloured hair: it is either frowned upon or is just not considered to be a good look.For example, when Gabrielle Union dyed her hair blonde for her role in Top Five, she received backlash—she was accused of trying to be White.  Meanwhile, my sister, Sarah, and I, as mocha-shaded girls, grew up thinking that blonde was simply a no-no for us—we were told that we were too dark.  This month, however, Sarah decided to that she wanted to “have more fun” too: she defied the odds by throwing some blond highlights into her latest ‘do.

Sarah goes blonde!

Sarah goes blonde!

So far, her bold choice has been met with raving reviews.

What do you think? Should women of colour stick with their “natural” hair hues, or is it okay for them to “have more fun” too?

Notes [1] and [2]: The Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History by Victoria Sherrow, Greenwood Press, 2006.

Tress Stress – Pt. I (or “Have You Ever Tried to Straighten a Slinky?”)

stress

/stres/

noun

  1. 
pressure or tension exerted on a material object.
  2. 
a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

 

tress stress

/tres stres/

noun

  1. Stress caused by one’s hair.

Tress stress is a condition that can be suffered by anyone whose hair does not meet the societal ideal, whether in texture, thickness, abundance, length or colour. The cause of this condition is two-fold: it is brought on by external factors putting pressure on you to wear your hair a certain way; and it also comes from within, from the internal pressure you put on yourself to try to meet those external demands.

For people with textured hair, tress stress can be chronic. This chronic stress is caused by constantly seeking to achieve a straight-haired or even wavy-haired norm for the sake of “beauty”, in conjunction with trying to loosen your curl patterns for the sake of “manageability”. In this series of posts, I’m going to discuss different forms of tress stress and how they can be alleviated.

 

 Have You Ever Tried to Straighten a Slinky?

This past Sunday was Easter, which is the one day of the year when churchgoers wear their “Sunday’s Best”, if at no other time. When my sister and I were younger, Easter Sunday’s Best meant that we would be getting our hair pressed (essentially, ironed with a hot comb) the night before.  This was an occasion that was always met with great anticipation because for the rest of the year, it was only braids and Afro puffs for us (how boring! we thought). Having our hair pressed meant that it would blow in the wind, it would look longer, and we would pretty much feel prettier; BUT it also meant that we couldn’t do anything– we’d have to make sure that our blankets weren’t too hot, that our shower wasn’t too steamy, and that we didn’t run around too hard at church—otherwise, that “pretty” press-and-curl would sweat right out—and our hair would turn back (curl up)!

The wonderful thing about straightened kinky (tightly curled) or curly hair is that when it’s exposed to moisture, it coils right back!  This phenomenon of turning back is the reason why many Black girls avoid jumping into the pool, even when it’s boiling hot outside—it’s not because they don’t like to swim—it’s because they know that once that water hits their hair, it will ruin their hairdos which probably took them a long time to get done (and will probably take even longer to re-do). Another reason for the hesitancy is usually because detangling extremely curly hair can be very time-consuming, especially if you don’t have the proper tools on hand or know the right techniques.

The uniqueness of “African” hair

Due to the unique texture and properties of “African” hair, Black hair care methods are generally different from that of most other ethnic groups.  Though there is no such thing as “African” hair (since the continent of Africa is populated by many diverse ethnic groups from different climates, each having its own hair texture), what we tend to call “African” hair is the type that is found in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is kinky and frizzy. Ethnic groups have various traits, like skin colour and hair texture, partly because of the climates of the environments where their ancestors lived. People with Sub-Saharan African ancestry tend to have coily hair, which provides insulation from the sun to keep one’s head cool,  but it is also prone to getting tangled, and tends to be drier and duller than other types of hair.

A source of frustration

Though my sister and I only experienced our specially pressed hair but once a year, for many other Black girls, straightened hair was the norm (and for many, it still is). Our friends’ mothers would relax (chemically-straighten), press or flat-iron their hair on a regular basis, in order to make it straight, sleeker, and more manageable.  These processes were supposed to make life easier.

But as my brother observed, “Black women straightening their hair is like trying to straighten a slinky.” Have you ever tried to straighten a slinky? No matter how hard you tried, you wouldn’t be able to get all the kinks out, and it would either revert to its original state or just end up completely destroyed. The same idea applies to trying to smooth down frizzy hair. It’s like playing a game of Whac-a-Mole– those curls will just keep popping up! So what does all of this mean for the kinky- and curly-haired people of the world? It means frustration!

 

frus·tra·tion

frəˈstrāSH(ə)n/

noun

the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something.

  • an event or circumstance that causes one to have a feeling of frustration.
  • the prevention of the progress, success, or fulfillment of something.

I think a lot of the frustration we experience comes from us trying to make our hair do what it’s not supposed to do. In the name of “beauty”, we spend so much of our time trying to make our hair do things that are contrary to its very nature: we try to make our hair look sleek, straight, or wavy, when it all it wants to be is curly, puffy, and fuzzy. In the name of “manageability”, we alter our curls, whether through heat or by chemical means to make it “easier” to comb and style. But all of these efforts only serve to frustrate us.  In the same vein, it’s no coincidence that the origin of the word “frustration” is the Latin word frustrare which means “to disappoint”. As long as we continue to try to achieve straight styles and to manipulate our hair using the same methods intended for straight hair, we will only be disappointed.

So what’s the cure for this kind of tress stress?

cure

kyo͝or/

noun

1. 
a substance or treatment that cures a disease or condition.

  • restoration to health.
  • a solution to a problem.

To relieve this condition, rather than frustrating ourselves with trying to make our hair do what it doesn’t want to do, I think we should try to “lean in” to our curls, by:

  • Accepting and making the most of our texture or length, no matter how kinky or short our hair may be.
  • Changing our definition of what looking “good” means for our tresses.  We need to stop trying to compare apples to oranges—it will never work.
  • Gaining an understanding of the properties of our hair and adopting new methods and techniques for maintaining it. For instance, on a basic level, curly hair cannot (and in some cases should not) be combed in the same way as straight hair—the curlier your hair, the wider your comb teeth should be. And sometimes it’s even better to use your fingers instead!
  • Figuring out what your hair does well, and doing that!  Find out what styles work for your hair, and then wear them like nobody else! For some people, that might mean keeping their hair short. For others, it might mean having their hair braided. Whatever you choose, do you!
  • Keeping in mind that Black hair itself is unique by nature, so it cannot do the same things that straight hair can do; but what that also means is that it can do things that straight hair cannot do! For example, it can stand on end! It can also be formed into designs that keep their shape. We need to start harnessing and celebrating these qualities of textured hair!
  • Remembering that your hair is unique to you, and it will never look like exactly like anyone else’s.  So, instead of trying to get what someone else has, learn to appreciate your own.

The more we begin to embrace our hair for what it is, and start letting go of our unrealistic expectations, I believe the less stress we’ll feel.

 

Do you suffer from tress stress? How do you try to alleviate it?