Baby, It’s Cold Outside, Pt. II: Hair Armour (or All Things Protective Styling!)

Winter is now in full swing, which means it’s time to suit your hair up with some protective styling armour for the chilly season, if you haven’t already! Protective styling is used as a means to shield the hair and scalp from exposure to harsh external factors, such as extreme cold, and to halt unnecessary manipulation that could lead to potential breakage.

When preparing to “put your hair away” for the winter, it’s important to ensure that your hair and scalp have been properly washed, conditioned, and treated, to keep the hair in a strong healthy state before styling, as such styles are meant to be kept for a prolonged period of time- anywhere from 3 to 9 weeks, depending on your individual preference and level of maintenance. To learn more about proper winter hair maintenance, click here.

Hair Armour: Protective Hairstyles

There are a number of different protective styling options that can be used to help preserve your hair during the winter season, including, but not limited to: box braids, goddess locs, faux locs, twists, crochet braids, wigs, and simply wearing a head wrap.

Box braids

Box braids: Extension braids made by incorporating either synthetic or human hair into sections of your own hair, and usually braided down your back. (Be mindful not to get these installed too tight or too small, as they can cause serious breakage along the hair line- preserve your edges!)

Extension twists: Extension hair twisted into sections of your hair, to create Senegalese, Marley, and Havana twists, depending on the texture of hair that is used. This is a relatively safe and beautiful style- even for those with fine hair– as long as the base of the twists are not done too small or too tight, and the extension hair is not too heavy.

Goddess Locs & Faux Locs: Hair is box-braided or twisted, and then wrapped with Kanekalon, Marley twist, or any other type of kinky extension hair. (Note: Goddess locs have a loose curl at the bottom of each loc; faux locs do not.) For these options, try to pick a brand of extension hair that is relatively light in weight, as the loss can become heavy depending on their size and length. Also, make sure that your sections are parted large enough to support the weight of the extensions.

Faux Locs

Goddess Locs

Crochet braids

Crochet Braids: One of the most versatile and time-efficient protective styles. Hair is cornrowed to act as a base for the extension hair that is then crocheted through the cornrows using a latch hook. This styling method is also one of the safest- just be sure to let your stylist know if you feel any pulling from your scalp, even if it’s slight. You can choose any type of extension hair to be crocheted into the cornrows.

Wigs: Wigs are a great way to quickly put away your hair- throw one on, and you’re done! Choose a wig that fits properly though: make sure that the wig doesn’t rest directly on top of your edges, because there is a chance that the constant friction of the wig against your hairline and potential movement could cause thinning (again, preserve your edges!)

Head wrap: Self explanatory: find a nice piece of fabric that doesn’t snag easily on your hair (for example, silk); wrap your hair up in a way that makes you feel fabulous, and go about your day! Avoid tying the wrap too tight– no need for a headache or damaging your hairline- and make sure that all your hair is tucked underneath the wrap; otherwise, it’s no longer protective! For more on head wraps, click here.

Now you can put your hair away and let it take a rest! And what’s great is that all of the styles mentioned above are pretty low maintenance: once installed, all you need to do is to tie them down at night, and you’ll be looking fly for the weeks to come!

Protective Style Tips

Once you’ve started wearing a protective style, it can be easy to completely forget about your scalp while your hair is on vacation! But here’s the secret, and it’s really simple: every now and then, spritz your protective style with some water or a protective style refresher (London Ivy Products and Up North Naturals both have great ones!); and no more than 3 times a week, just rub a little oil in-between the parts of your style (and by “oil”, we’re talking about the good stuff- the ones that can be consumed- 100% oils with no additives). The use of a good oil, in conjunction with some water, will help keep your scalp healthy throughout the lifespan of your protective style.

Finally, to clean your scalp, mix some shampoo with some water in a spray or applicator bottle. Apply the mixture directly to the scalp; massage with your finger tips; and rinse.

When it’s time for you to take down your protective style, do so with care, so you don’t cause unnecessary damage during the take down process. Return to your normal hair care routine, and then give your hair- and your scalp, especially- some time to rest before jumping back into another protective style.

Have you tried any of the protective styles above? Let us know which one is your go-to in the comments!

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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?

 

Why braiding matters

Braiding school in Senegal

Honing my braiding skills in Senegal

Ten years ago, I embarked on a journey to learn about the practice of hair braiding around the world. Why? Because, at the time, I noticed that even though hair braiding, in its various forms, was (and has always been) a universal styling technique in various cultures, people seemed to have a negative view of African stylized braiding; and I wanted to know why.

I’ve always loved braids, both wearing them and doing them.  To me, hair braiding is an artform, and I couldn’t understand why people have had a problem with it (and I still don’t know why).  So, I wanted to help people acknowledge the beauty and significance of hair braiding, not only to persons of African descent but to humans all around the globe; I really wanted people to recognize the value of hair braiding as a human practice.

Also, at the time I wrote my Watson project proposal, most of my girlfriends from college and many other Black women I knew had never been taught how to braid– and in many cases, they had no real desire or a need to learn- since, for the most part, they wore their hair straight. So, what this meant was that the practice of stylized braiding, a long-standing tradition in Black culture, was no longer being passed down from mothers to daughters.

Braiding O.N.'s hairThankfully, things were slowly starting to change: more and more women were beginning to return to their natural state.  As a result, braids (which, for a long time, had been reserved simply for the maintenance of little girls’ hair) began to be considered as an appropriate styling choice again.  Even so, many women were still not learning how to braid themselves, or teaching their daughters, for that matter.

Ten years later, that trend toward “going natural” has turned into a movement; and with the Natural Hair Movement now in full effect, I believe the art of braiding has become all the more important.

Spelman Naturalistas

10 years later, and we’re all natural!

Though I don’t expect for anyone to be as crazy about braids as I am, here are a few reasons why I think braiding matters (and why you should learn and also teach your children):

Braiding facilitates day-to-day maintenance and manageability

  • shrinkageBraiding can help stretch your hair if you’re experiencing shrinkage.
  • Braiding your hair into sections can make the washing, conditioning, and moisturizing processes easier, especially if your hair is thick.
  • When your hair is braided, it is easier to oil your scalp.
  • Once your hair is braided, you spend less time on a day-to-day basis doing your hair.
  • Being able to even just plait your hair before you go to bed at night can make a world of difference between having a manageable head of hair or having to spend time detangling your matted tresses the next day.
  • Braiding can be used to create heat-free crimps (also known as a braid-out).

Braids can help with the transitioning process

  • If you’re going natural, and are not ready to go the full nine yards yet by doing a big chop, wearing properly-installed extension braids can help during the process of growing out your hair (which can be a particularly frustrating time, in terms of styling, since your hair is two different textures at the same time).

Extension Braids (front)Extension braids (back)

Braids serve as great protective styles (provided they are done properly and are well taken care of)

  • Braids (which also serve as the basis of many protective styles, such as crochet braids and weaves) are great for protecting your mane from the wear-and-tear of constant manipulation; friction from your clothing, pillowcases, etc; and the elements.
  • Make sure you don’t braid your hair too tight, or leave your braids in for too long, otherwise you could do more damage than good to your hair and/or scalp. (Click the following link for Protective Styling Do’s and Don’ts tips from London Ivy ProductsProtective Styling ebooklet)

Ancient Egyptian braidsBraids connect us to and are a celebration of our African roots

  • Since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, braiding has been an important cultural and hair maintenance practice throughout the entire African continent.
  • Stylized braiding serves as a cultural souvenir of our African heritage, and is one of the main practices that survived the Middle Passage.
  • By learning how to braid and teaching your children how to braid, you would be carrying on a treasured ancient African tradition.

Braiding and bondingBraiding is bonding

  • Braiding creates bonds between the braider and the person whose hair is being braided- whether it be stylist/client, parent/child, between sisters or friends, etc- given the amount of time such styles may take and the conversations which take place.
  • The act of braiding is very intimate: when someone allows you to braid her hair, she is inviting you into her personal space and trusting that you will handle her hair with some TLC.
  • Braiding your own hair allows for deeper interaction and a better understanding of your tresses.

Braids are beautiful!

  • Braided styles are art: they are essentially hair sculptures!
  • Braiding highlights and displays the unique properties and beauty of textured hair; it’s a styling technique where your kinks and curls work to your advantage!
  • There’s nothing like a well-designed, neat braid-up to make you stand out from the crowd!

Natural Updo

Do you know how to braid? If not, would you like to learn?

Those Times When Your Hair is Yours Because You Bought It

Curly Weave

Me with my curly weave

It’s that time of year again when those of us who live in wintry climates hide our hair away in protective styles. Why? To protect our textured hair, which already has a tendency to be dry, from the aridity and harshness of the cold winter air.  (For more on winter hair care, check out London Ivy Products’ Do’s and Don’ts of Protective Styling e-book and Dr. Susan Walker’s Cold Weather Curl Care webinar). Protective styles can be accomplished using one’s own hair (i.e. buns, cornrows, etc), but they are more often than not achieved with the assistance of artificial hair, such as extensions, weaves, and wigs.

Artificial hair (whether synthetic or human) is not only used for protective styling, but also to achieve styles that may require extra length and body; to provide a temporary colour change; or for pure maintenance reasons, because doing so cuts down on the amount of time needed for daily styling.

The funny thing is that people tend to make a big deal about Black women wearing fake hair (if and when it is even detected); yet, wearing false hair is nothing new! People have been wearing false hair since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, dating back to 3000 BC. Almost everyone in Ancient Egypt wore wigs or extensions made of black wool, cotton, human hair, palm-leaf fibres, or horse hair.

Nowadays, many women, of all walks of life and ethnicities, wear wigs or weaves; but I think the main thing that bothers people is when Black women wear fake hair that doesn’t look like their own.

As a matter of fact, last year, I had the following chat with a cousin of mine from Jamaica:

Convo with Cous #1

Convo with Cous #2Convo with Cous #3

The statement that really gave me pause was:

“I am not aware of any other race that wears another race’s hair”.

Sarah and Me - Artificial Hair

Me with extensions; my sister Sarah wearing a wig

I began to think about it; and I had to admit that my cousin was right. Most hair pieces that I had seen (or even used myself) throughout my life were not made to imitate my kinky, coily hair: they were either too straight or too shiny.  They were made to look “White”.  And that was synthetic hair.   When it came to human hair, there was nothing more desired than some long, sleek bundles of Asian hair.

Ever since weaves became popular in the ‘90s, the human hair industry has been booming: hair is purchased from Asian women who cut and sell (or are robbed of) their long hair, or is collected from temples in countries like India, China, Korea, and Indonesia; the hair is then processed in factories, and then sold to salons and beauty supply retailers in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. (For more on where human hair pieces come from, click here to see a scene from “Good Hair” (2009), where Chris Rock heads to India (or “Weave Paradise” as he calls it) to investigate the source of the human hair industry, namely tonsure ceremonies at Hindu temples).

As my cousin rightly noted, before the Natural Hair Movement, there wasn’t really a demand for hair that looked like mine—it just wasn’t “stylish” enough, as seen in this other scene from “Good Hair” (2009).

Today, however, almost 7 years since the release of the film, things have certainly changed.  Now, there is an increasing demand for hair pieces that look like natural hair, as Black women are embracing their own hair textures; and so retailers are beginning to provide for that need.

Keep ’em guessing

If you’re looking for some protective styling hair that emulates textured hair, check out these options:

1. Kinky Curly Yaki: http://www.kinkycurlyyaki.com

Kinky Curly Yaki is a Toronto-based company, which sells natural hair extensions and clip-ins.  Their shipping time within Canada: 1-7 business days; to the U.S.: 1-8 business days; and to Europe and Australia: 2-10 business days; shipping rates vary.

2. Toni Daley: http://www.tonidaley.com/collections/wigs

Toni Daley sells natural hair half-wigs (along with other natural hair accessories), and is based in Toronto, Canada.  She will ship to the Canada and the U.S. for $10 USD; to the U.K. for $18;   France for $50; and Australia for $55. Shipping time within Canada: 5-7 business days; to the US: 10 – 12 business days; and to everywhere else: 10 – 14 business days.

3. Curl Genetics: http://www.curlgenetics.com

Curl Genetics is based in the U.S. and sells natural hair weaves, clip-ins, and wigs.  They will ship to international addresses for a flat rate of $35 USD.  Shipping time is about 3-7 business days.

4. Kurly Klips: http://kurlyklips.com

Kurly Klips is a natural hair clip-in company based in Washington, D.C. They will ship to Canada for about $25 USD. Shipping time can take up to 6 weeks for international shipments, and international shipping rates vary.

 

Sources:

Sagay, Esi. African Hairstyles: Styles of Yesterday and Today. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983.

Sherrow, Victoria. Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2006.

 

What do you think about artificial hair? Is there something wrong with wearing fake hair that doesn’t look like your own?