Nov 20, 2014

Review: ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor (Thanks for Saving My Hair)

aphogee-keratin-2-minute-reconstructor

Lately on social media and the blog I've been talking a lot about getting back to the basics of healthy hair care. It was driven in part by my laziness (when you're lazy about your hair it shows, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise!) in caring for my hair, and in part by the fact that my curls seemed a little lackluster after getting color almost a month ago. They didn't seem really damaged (although I started noticing an increase in little wisps of breakage), just dry/rough and a little limp. Like, on the precipice of damage. My hair was essentially at the point where it was telling me "if you don't do something like, now, you're gonna regret it."

I'm no sucka, so I listened.

aphogee-keratin-2-minute-reconstructor

One of the first things I did was run to Sally's and pick up the Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor, because I knew my colored strands could use some serious strengthening and pH balancing. It's important to note before I start the review that the ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor is different from the ApHogee 2-Step Protein Treatment. The Reconstructor (which this review is about) is more of a conditioner. The 2-Step Treatment involves an intense protein mix that makes the hair stiff (and smells awful). I'm trying to avoid the 2-Step Treatment like the plague, which is why I opted for the Reconstructor.

Ingredient List: Water (Aqua,Eau), Glycerin, Stearalkonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum, Huile Minerale), Cetearyl Alcohol, Hydrolyzed Keratin, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol, Trimethylsiloxyamodimethicone, Mauritia Flexuosa Fruit Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil, Linoleamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Hydrolyzed Glycosaminoglycans,Panthenol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Collagen Amino Acids, Squalane, Phytantriol, Petrolatum, Polysorbate 60, Amodimethicone, Cetrimonium Chloride, Polyquaternium-10, Trideceth-12, C11-15 Pareth-7, C12-16 Pareth-9, Arachidonic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Stearyl Alcohol,  Hydroxyethylcellulose, Citric Acid, Fragrance (Parfum), Disodium EDTA, DMDM Hydantoin, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Benzoate

sidebar: if you find yourself using this ingredient list, please properly attribute it to me. It took A LOT of effort to type this out -- the ingredients lists for Sally's and Naturally Curly.com do not accurately reflect the ingredient list on the bottle.

Top Ingredients 411:
  • Glycerin: Generally vegetable-based humectant that absorbs and retains moisture from the air.
  • Stearalkonium Chloride: Cationic surfactant derived from stearic acid, a fatty acid found in plants and animals. It is an antistatic agent, and positively charged salt that attracts and binds proteins, which are negatively charged. It is found to increase luster and improve the condition of wet or dry hair, often serving to detangle the hair.
  • Cetyl Alcohol: Considered "fatty alcohol" -- NOT to be confused with drying alcohols such as ethyl. Acts as a lubricant, thickener, and emollient. Gives conditioner its velvety feel without making hair greasy. Also used to keep product ingredients from separating.
  • Mineral Oil: An occlusive agent that creates a barrier between the hair and the air, acting as a sealant.
  • Hydrolyzed Keratin: Protein that is responsible for keeping the hair strong and pliable. This is the strongest of the(hair product) proteins and is actually the one that hair is made from. Keratin restructures hair that has been damaged or broken down by chemicals. It helps to replace the amino acid cysteine (the main one lost during chemical processing).When Keratin or any protein is hydrolyzed, the molecules have been broken down and are small enough to go beyond the cuticle and penetrate the hair shaft. It will strengthen all 3 layers of the hair.
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein PG-Propyl Silanetriol: Also known as Keravis Protein, a vegetable-derived protein and silicone blend that was designed specifically to strengthen, fortify, and revitalize dry and damaged hair. Although its composition makes it not Curly Girl-friendly, Keravis protein is able to penetrate the cortex of the hair, helping to build strength from within while coating and conditioning the hair to protect the surface. The end result is hair with significantly improved tensile strength, which helps reduce the damage our hair sustains from dye jobs, environmental factors, and mechanical stress from styling.
Availability: ApHogee products in general are available pretty much everywhere from your corner store BSS to Sallys and online retailers like CurlMart. I purchased mine from Sally Beauty Supply.

Affordability: One of the good things about the Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor is that it comes in a number of different sizes. If you just want to give it a one-time try, there's a 0.75oz packet for under $3. There's also an 8oz bottle for less than $8. I chose the best value and opted for the 16oz bottle for around $11. It's not wildly expensive, and can easily fit within any given product budget. If you use it as intended (every few weeks or monthly), it will last a long time.

Product Claim/Description: Adds strength & softness in one step. Quick & effective against heat and chemical damage. ApHogee products are pH optimized for maximum results and contain our exclusive PropHytamine Complex, utilizing precise levels of protein for strength, emollients for shine, and humectants for softness. Repair and protect your hair with ApHogee.

This blend of keratin amino acids, botanical oils, and vitamins restores elasticity and softness to dry, brittle hair. In minutes it penetrates and repairs damage caused by chemical services, styling, and heat. Dry, itchy scalp is eliminated. Even bleached, permed, or relaxed hair feels healthy again. ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor helps displace mineral deposits from swimming pools and hard water. Recommended for weekly use until hair feels and appears healthy again.

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Performance/Delivery: When it comes to pH and protein/moisture needs, I always look to ApHogee. I feel like they never steer me wrong. I love the Keratin & Green Tea Restructurizer Spray, Curlific Texture Treatment, and Curlific Leave-In Conditioner. I had zero expectations for the 2 Minute Reconstructor, because it was difficult for me to find comprehensive reviews for using it on natural hair online. I just figured at best, it would work and at worst, I'd be returning it to Sally's.

But this bottle ain't going back! I couldn't send it back if I wanted to -- it's empty! I wanted to use it at least 4 times before I gave a review, because I wanted to get an honest feel for the reconstructing capacities of the product over time. Honestly, I'm in love. It has become a new staple in my regimen. The Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor has me realizing exactly how much I needed a super-duty protein treatment in my regimen.

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After 4 Reconstructor treatments
aphogee-keratin-2-minute-reconstructor
Before ApHogee

I used it the exact same way each time on wash day. While in the shower after cleansing (with either a cowash or shampoo), I applied the ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor for 5 minutes. After I rinsed it out, I applied a moisturizing deep conditioner to balance the protein I had just infused into my hair. The moisturizing deep conditioner was just an extra step, by all counts it isn't vital. The 2 Minute Reconstructor does an excellent job of keeping the hair soft, pliable, and moisturized while infusing the protein necessary to strengthen the hair.

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This is less than half of what I normally lose on wash day :)
Normally during the course of wash day, I lose a good amount of hair and find a handful of wisps of breakage from weathered ends (we'll discuss how much breakage is considered 'normal' on another day). I noticed that each time I used the 2 Minute Reconstructor, my shedding significantly decreased. The photo above shows what I'm losing on wash day now. This much hair, or less. Prior to incorporating the 2 Minute Reconstructor, I could easily run my fingers through my hair and pull out some wisps of breakage. But now, that phenomenon is virtually nonexistent. I'm not finding wisps of hair anywhere between washes and on wash day, I'm seeing two or three, tops.

I also noticed that the areas where my hair felt rough due to the color have smoothed out. Although I'm sure it's just the protein temporarily filling the lifted cuticles from the dye, it's working. I'll take that over nothing! And my curls? Serious poppage! My curls seemed kind of blah before, but now they're spring loaded. My curl pattern has improved, and my hair has tons more body and vitality. As opposed to hanging and clinging on to dear life, they're fuller and stronger. My hair's elasticity has been restored -- hallelujah! Every ounce of damage that color job was about to do to my tresses has been undone. It started working on the first wash day, and just got better with each week.

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The Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor has the consistency of a watery conditioner, similar to that of a hair lotion. It spreads and absorbs easily into the hair. It has decent slip and is able to be worked through the hair without snagging, although I wouldn't recommend using it to detangle (it IS a protein treatment). The smell is gentle, sweet, and in no way overbearing.

Let's address the baby oiled elephant in the room -- mineral oil. Yes, it's in the top 6 ingredients after water, which means there's more than just a few drops. I seriously have not used mineral oil on my hair since my Lusters Pink Lotion days! I expected some big greasy monster to come out and bit me. But to my surprise, the mineral oil didn't adversely impact my hair. My hair didn't feel greasy, weighed down, or coated in buildup. I've written before about how mineral oil is overhyped as a no-no ingredient, and it looks like it's high time for me to take a sip of my own medicine. Do I wish it didn't have mineral oil in it? Yes. But even with the taboo ingredient, the 2 Minute Reconstructor works just fine.

Drawbacks: Although the mineral oil doesn't hurt my hair, I'd still like it more if the product was mineral oil-free. Give me some coconut oil, castor oil, shea butter -- something! The Curlific line doesn't contain mineral oil -- they couldn't borrow some formulations from there? But hey, who am I to question the genius of ApHogee?

Bonuses: I really like the fact that the Reconstructor only takes 2-5 minutes to work, and can be used weekly to restore the health of the hair. Another bonus is that it doesn't require sitting under a dryer to achieve maximum benefit. It's pretty much a foolproof treatment!

Bottom Line: If your hair seems lackluster, or appears to have lost its vitality, this Reconstructor is a must. Fair warning though -- although it says it will repair chemical and heat damage, take that with a grain of salt. If you have severely damaged hair (like mine circa 2012), this product won't do much for you. But if you need to rebound from a flat ironing session or color job, this is the one. Especially if you're not interested in that 2-Step Treatment with the God awful smelling protein concoction. This Reconstructor, quite honestly, saved my hair!

Best Practices: It pays to follow the directions on the bottle sometimes. I highly recommend using this only on clean (co-washed or shampooed) hair. It doesn't need to stay on the hair more than 5 minutes, I promise. Lastly, try using it weekly or every wash day until your hair rebounds. After that, every two weeks or monthly should suffice for upkeep.

Overall Product Rating: 4.5 stars. If they could swap out that mineral oil (and the petroleum waaaaaay at the bottom of the list) for something more natural but just as effective, I'd be a happy camper. But even still, this is a must-have, holy grail item for me. It's in my regimen to stay!

Have you ever used the Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor?

Nov 19, 2014

The New Natural Aesthetic: Shifts and Trends in Natural Hair Styling

pRoy, www.steelfeatherlaceelephant.com
As seen on Black Girl with Long Hair!

When I first began my transition to natural hair, I was concerned about two things: thickness and length. All of the articles I read re-enforced the same things -- gentle hair handling, proper moisturizing, pH balancing, and endless bouts of protective styling to gain and retain covetous length. Ladies would debate (and some still do) if coloring your hair made you any less natural, and a perfectly defined twist-out was everything. Now that we're in the tail end of 2014 and on the precipice of 2015 (wasn't it just May like two weeks ago?), a new natural aesthetic has taken over. Of course there will always be loyalists who won't roll with the changing tide, but many of our favorite naturalistas and hair crushes have jumped in hair first and embraced change. Let's take a look at 4 areas that are shifting and defining the aesthetics of natural hair:

1. Shaped & Tapered Cuts instead of Endless Length
Hair length has been a point of obsession for Black women long before natural hair even came about. Somehow, our beauty and social value became linked to the length of what grew out of our scalps. Many naturalistas are taking a "been there, done that" approach to long hair, and getting second big chops, tapered cuts, or frequent trims to maintain a certain length and shape. This shift in style takes the focus away from hair growth challenges, length check videos, and the pressure to hit certain growth benchmarks along the natural hair journey. Short cuts are about self-expression, convenience, and of course, style. 

Jenell Stewart, www.kinkycurlycoilyme.com



2. Not Being Afraid of Hair Dye
Kala, www.youtube.com/thekglifestyle
Somewhere in the mystic handbook of everything natural, there is a clause that states one can no longer be considered natural if she uses anything other than henna, juices, berries, and plants to dye her hair. Fortunately for us, that clause is outdated. I think I can safely say that we've arrived at a place where the full spectrum of what defines natural hair does not dis-include ladies that like color. Even with that acceptance, there are still plenty of ladies are still on the fence about hair dye, and the concerns are valid. Especially those pertaining to potential damage from color. But with all the knowledge and information circulating the web about how to care for colored hair, why not take the plunge and switch it up a little bit? Naturalistas everywhere (myself included) are stepping outside of their comfort zones and embracing new colors -- from honey blonde highlights to purple ombre (and everything in between).
Donna, www.youtube.com/donedo

3. More Creativity with Protective Styling
photo credit: www.mommynoire.com
Protective styling used to be a loathsome chore, full of unflattering tucked twists and braids. Even on their best day, most protective styles were still nothing more than glorified buns, or a straight wig that looked nothing like your natural tresses. Thanks to the ever-present creativity and ingenuity of naturalistas everywhere, protective styling has become more inventive and glamorous than ever. Companies like Heat Free Hair, Big Chop Hair, and even Indique are offering wigs and weaves that can look just like your own natural hair. Faux locs took off after the box braid and marley twist trend, allowing transitioners and naturals alike to experiment with the look sans commitment. And I don't think I even need to mention what crochet braids have done for folks in terms of protective styling.

www.youtube.com/thechicnatural


4. A New Relationship with Frizz
Bianca Alexa, www.youtube.com/simplybiancaalexa
It used to be all about achieving perfect curl definition for wash and go's, or getting that uber defined braid-out. Combatting frizz used to be a major part of the conversation in caring for and styling natural hair. A few fro' picks and upside-down diffusings later, the right amount of frizz is everything! Using lighter styling products and a little more fluff action to get that "day 3 look" on day 1 is the new goal. Perfectly defined hair has its place too, but the shift in embracing frizz (whether on purpose or because of the weather) is fly.

Sumetra Reed, www.youtube.com/supernaturalmetra

Nov 14, 2014

Natural Hair + Beat Faces...Is It Really Necessary?


Note: I read some of the comments on NaturallyCurly.com. I knew this was going to be a controversial topic -- and ya'll know I'm always here for healthy debate. You guys know I'm not the shade-throwing type, I simply raise questions and I'm equally interested in contributions from all perspectives. But what I'm not here for is draggings. You don't have to agree with me, or with anyone in the comment section. I can respect differences in opinion, because we have differences in experience. Just don't be a petty betty, please. Let's keep it classy ladies!

On any given day, I look the same:
Wash and go, no makeup, no earrings, and no jewelry -- save for my nose ring and anniversary necklace. I own only a handful of makeup products, and know even less about applying them properly. The extent of my expertise is mascara and a little bronzer (eyeliner too, if I feel adventurous...or like poking myself in the eye).

I wasn't always this way -- back in my "straight hair" days, I wore makeup all the time. I felt like I needed makeup to "complete my look" -- rather than a means of enhancing my appearance, makeup became my crutch. I didn't feel attractive, pretty, or ready for the day without it. When I began dating my current boyfriend Samuel in 2010, I was still pretty into makeup (although I had ditched the bright eyeshadows). He insisted that I didn't need the makeup, and that I was beautiful as-is. I only halfway believed him (haha) at the time, but the real change came when I decided to go natural.

During my transition, I embraced more natural products, and got invested in my health and wellness. In truth, my decision to back away from the makeup had less to do with being "more natural" and more to do with the fact that I was working out regularly and leading a more active lifestyle. Fast forward about two years from my transition, and I'm just as described above:


And this is on one of those more adventurous date nights.

My decision to ditch makeup (and only dabble in a little bit on date night) almost entirely is a reflection of who I am at this stage in my life. Anybody that knows me knows that I'm all about comfortable. I wear wash and go's because they're easy, and I don't have to worry about my hair should the weather change (but seriously, I'm in LA) or if I decide to embark on a random adventure. I own more workout clothes than regular clothes, because I'm active and the clothes are sooooo comfy. I avoid heels like the plague. I don't wear any makeup because I've grown to feel comfortable in my own skin. Besides, if I go missing -- I want to  help make it a little easier to find me (please laugh, that was a joke).

In more recent months, I've noticed a trend in the natural hair community. A lot of ladies love makeup. Bold makeup. I'm talking beat faces like they live at MAC (and some of them do work there!) or have a personal MUA at their vanity every morning. Now, I'm not here to knock or judge. By all means, do you! But I do have some questions. Forgive me now if any of this offends you. I don't mean to offend, disrespect, or shade anyone. These are just my honest thoughts and feelings, and are in no way the gospel according to Naturally Curly.

You guessed it! To read the rest, head on over to NaturallyCurly.com....

Nov 13, 2014

4 Major Mistakes I've Been Making with My Natural Hair (and How You Can Avoid Being Like Me)

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I know a lot of you guys visit my blog (and I most humbly thank you....seriously) for tips, information, and product reviews. I put a lot of my time into making the information that I read, research, and come across widely available and accessible to you all. I double and triple fact-check things before I share them, because I want to make sure that you and I are getting the best and most accurate information available.

But you know how sometimes you dole out advice, and don't take it yourself?

Yeah, that's been me for the past few weeks.

A part of me wants to make excuses, and offer up a few reasons for why. But deep down inside, I know there's not a single good enough explanation. Except for the fact that I'm human and prone to err.

Either way it goes, I've made a few boo-boos. Here they are, and how you can avoid being like me:

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Color: Amazing. Hair: Dry.
Mistake #1: I Got Color & Didn't Change My Regimen
I wasn't naive enough to believe that I could get real color (not that ammonia-free Garnier stuff) and just treat my hair however. But I did think that I could make minimal (and I mean minimal) tweaks to my regimen and be just fine. This article by Kala G (The KG Lifestyle) cosigned on my thoughts exactly. I was already washing my hair twice a week, deep conditioning weekly, and moisturizing regularly. I figured I would just incorporate a heavier moisturizer, do more cowashing, and keep it moving. But as I eventually discovered, that wasn't enough. Now, don't misunderstand me. I love me some Kala G, she's my blogger BFF and mentor in my head. If it wasn't for her laying the foundation, my transition from heat damage wouldn't have been as successful as it was. But the regimen tweaks that worked so well for her were not giving me any sort of life whatsoever. My ends remained rough-feeling and dry (my color is on my ends), and were tangling like crazy. To make matters worse, it seemed like every time I touched my hair I ended up with wisps of breakage in my hand. I felt like my hair had gotten weaker and wasn't responding to the teensy weensy changes I had made in my regimen.

I started rummaging through my mental Rolodex of solutions. I hadn't henna'd in a while, so I tried that. No luck. I upped the number of times in a day I moisturized my hair, and just ended up with sticky, frizzy hair. I increased the amount of protein-ish conditioners I used. No luck there, either. Finally, it dawned on me after poking around the internets (and reading old articles from like 2011 by Jc of The Natural Haven). Christina, when was the last time you did a real, live protein treatment? I didn't even need to answer myself -- I knew it had been entirely too long. My first and last protein treatment came early in my transition, when I did the ApHogee 2-Step Protein Treatment. The smell was so horrible, and the process was so freakishly precarious that I swore to never do it again. But I knew a protein treatment was something I seriously needed to consider if I wanted to get my healthy colored hair back on track. I decided to baby-step my way in to protein, and picked up the ApHogee 2-Minute Reconstructor. My prayer was that it would work well enough for me to avoid the dreaded 2-Step Treatment. To make a long story short (and save more for my final review), it's working out well for my hair in conjunction with all my other changes. I'm layering in products like I know I should, using more potent moisturizers, cowashing more (hey Tresemme Naturals!), and sealing my ends. I'll report back soon with more updates on restoring the health of my hair after dye.

The Fix: Colored hair requires different care, period. Don't be lazy about it, or wait until it's too late to start investing in the health of your hair. Cuticles have to be lifted (and are sometimes damaged in the process) in order to lift and deposit color. Therefore, using products with heavy-duty hydrating and moisture-retaining properties are key, as is maintaining a protein balance. I'm layering products in the LCO order, with an emphasis on more potent leave-ins and moisturizers. Restructurizing protein treatments and sprays to fill in and strengthen cracks and chips in the cuticle are a must. To get my hair back on track, I'm backing away from twice a week wash and go's for now, and using ApHogee's 2-Minute Reconstructor every week before deep conditioning. 

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One of my quasi-successful attempts at big day 1 hair.
Mistake #2: I Kept Trying To Make My Hair Something It Wasn't
To add insult to injury (and breakage too), I found myself lost in the social media sauce. The internets have been going absolutely nuts over big hair, and I found myself craaaaaving that Instagram-cropped-my-curls-tho look. Normally, my hair would get somewhere in the ballpark around day 3 or 4, and sometimes 5 depending upon the products I used. But I got impatient. I wanted big hair on day 1. So I did all kinds of ridiculously out of character things. I diffused my hair to hell and back. If I didn't like the way my hair was setting with a particular curl definer, I'd wash it out and start over. I know this is asinine, I can't believe I'm even telling ya'll this. I experimented with an afro pick, my Q-Redew, and even used the prongs of my diffuser to separate curls and fluff. Then about a week ago (week ago! lol), I realized that what I was doing made no sense. Not only was I competing to play in the big hair olympics of Instagram, I was sacrificing the health of my hair because of it. So I stopped playing, and now my hair is rehabbing in chunky twists. 

The Fix: Step away from deficit thinking. Focus more on what your hair is and can do, instead of what it isn't and can't. Easier said than done, and I'll be the first to admit it. I'm still learning to appreciate the beauty in others without feeling the need to "be like that" myself. I'll probably do a social media detox soon.

natural-hair-regimen-mistakes

Mistake #3: I Let Outside Voices Influence How I Treated My Hair
After my dalliance with the Max Hydration Method, I was at an impasse. Should I continue the MHM, or certain portions of it? Should I go back to shampoo or just cowash? Am I gonna use cones or nah? Believe it or not, I did all of the above and then some. And slowly but surely, I began turning my back on the time-tested things I knew worked for my hair. I let henna (which has done wonders for my hair and scalp) take a back seat to clay masks (mistake). I neglected holy grail status deep conditioners, leave-ins, and moisturizers because they contained cones (like I gave a hoot before MHM). And perhaps the most egregious offense, I gave in to this trend of doing the least when it comes to caring for our hair. I started cutting corners, and cutting out products altogether (my LCO became a LCD -- just leave-in and curl definer...no moisturizer, no oil). Some days, I wouldn't even bother trying to moisturize my hair before bed. And I'll be the first to tell you that my hair suffered for it. The worst part about this mistake is that I knew better. I say it all the time -- do what works best for you and your hair. And here I was, being about as impressionable as they come. I need a whoopin'.

The Fix: Nobody knows your hair like you do. I was silly to fall in with all the silcone fear-mongering and the lazy natural crowd. I know almost too much about silicones to be afraid of them. I said it before, and I'll say it again -- nobody knows your hair like you. If Vaseline gives you the bomb twist-out, don't let anybody tell you that you shouldn't do it. Don't be a victim of the natural hair fear-mongering campaigns. With that being said, you're back on Eva NYC Therapy Session Hair Mask!
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Current situation.
Mistake #4: I Stopped Doing Basic Stuff That Got Me Where I Was
Have you ever been in a relationship where you or your partner got kind of complacent, and stopped doing the little things that made you smile, feel special, and warm your heart? That's pretty much what happened to me and my hair. I stopped oiling my scalp for scalp massages, stopped doing coconut oil pre-poos before detangling, stopped sealing my ends, and stopped attempting to make my wash and go's as low manipulation as possible. In the lazy vein of #3, I stopped doing all of the things that afforded me a successful transition and months of completely natural growth. I figured I could do the least, and just put some 'tussin on it (aka deep conditioner) twice a week and be fine. No. No. NO. Contrary to popular belief, deep conditioning is not going to solve all of your problems. Will it help, yes. Is it going to allow you to get slipshod in all other aspects of caring for your hair? Take it from me, the answer is no.

The Fix: Back to basics. Back to doing all of the things that caused your hair to thrive. For me, that means regular scalp massages, coconut oil pre-poos, more cowashing (and then using shampoo  like once a month), my ApHogee treatment weekly, deep conditioning with time-tested products, layering things the right way in my hair, being patient and let it get big on it's own (hey day 3 hair), sealing my ends, monthly henna treatments, caring for my edges, and occasional protective styling. Your hair may not require all of these things, but each component of this plan lent itself to the success of my hair journey. Think long and hard about what your hair responds best to, and do those things.

Well guys, I've bared my natural hair soul. Am I the only one that fell off and had to get back on board? Share your stories below! Let's support each other -- no one is perfect!

Nov 11, 2014

7 Ways to Live a Cleaner Lifestyle, Starting with Your Hair


When we first go natural, we're all about finding the perfect products to moisturize and define our curls, kinks, and coils. Then, we get a little ingredient-conscious and learn to focus our attention away from the package advertisement, and more on the first 5-6 ingredients after water. And finally, as we become more ingredient-savvy, we become more health-conscious. Natural hair inspires us to live healthier lifestyles, and we begin to get active, and take control over what goes into and onto our bodies -- including hair products.

Francheska Medina (Hey Fran Hey) has been the face of the clean living movement in the natural hair community since 2011. Her videos on everything from her hair regimen, to oil pulling and making your own natural eyelash growth serum have garnered her over 100k YouTube subscribers and clean living devotees. Her healthy lifestyle is something to be admired, absolutely! I'll get there one day. As I'm transitioning to cleaner eating, I'm making cleaner choices about what I'm putting onto my hair.

What does that mean?

While there is no real definition about clean hair products that exist, there are some general suggestions around what characteristics clean hair products should and should not have:
  • Organic/Non-GMO (when possible, especially if it contains soy)
  • Most ingredients if not all should be plant-derived
  • Free of harsh chemical additives and formaldehyde-donor preservatives
  • Free of artificial colors and/or fragrance (phthalate free)
  • Unique/exotic ingredients are sustainably sourced
  • Free of sulfates, silicones, parabens
  • No mineral oil or petroleum
  • Cruelty-free
  • Environmentally friendly
That seems like a tall order of nearly impossible and incredibly expensive proportions. But I promise, you probably have some products that fit the bill in your stash already. Besides, the list above is not concrete, it is only full of suggestions to help you determine what products will be best for your hair. Not every product will meet every bullet point, but that's okay. The point of clean living isn't perfection. It's about making healthier choices, given the circumstances (your budget, product availability, etc.). Even the cleanest eaters cheat sometimes. 

To help you get started, here are some brands (but I know there are PLENTY more out there) that offer pretty wholesome products that won't break your budget.

Bonus: you'll be able to support a lot of small businesses owned by fellow naturals, too. Head on over to NaturallyCurly.com to see some of the cleanest natural hair brands around!

Nov 10, 2014

Edges on Fleek: My 6 Favorite Edge Tamers & Tricks for Best Use


edges-on-fleek-6-edge-tamers-and-hacks-natural-hair

No matter how I style my hair, I'm always looking to make sure that I finish off the style with slick edges -- you know, those edges that look tamed and restrained, but not so much so that they've been slicked within an inch of their lives. Yeah, something like that. I've done lists about products for slicking edges before, (here and here), but this time around I'm going to share my edge slicking hacks.

Theoretically, you can use virtually any product to lay your edges down. But it takes a little something else to make them stay. These products and methods have stood the test of time, the test of gym, and the test of keeping my edges on my head. Here are my 6 combos that keep my #edgesonfleek:
eco-styler-argan-gel-sunny-isle-jbco

1. EcoStyler Argan Oil Gel + Sunny Isle Jamaican Black Castor Oil
Almost everyone loves EcoStyler. It's cheap, comes in a lifetime supply vat, and can be used for anything from braidouts, to wash and gos, to edges. Eco's one drawback? Sometimes it works a little too well. I like to soften my gel cast with Sunny Isle JBCO, by either applying it to my edges directly before the gel, or mixing the two together in my palm then applying. I've tried the Eco Styler with other oils, and it seems to work the best (in terms of frizz-free hold) with the Jamaican Black Castor Oil. I purchase my Eco Styler and Sunny Isle from Sally's. Eco Styler is on sale for $3.99 this month, and Sunny Isle JBCO is $1 off!

More: Eco Styler Argan Oil Gel Review

Lay Them Edges Trick: A spray bottle of water is your best friend here. Not only will a little water make your edges more pliable (plus rehydrate them), it allows the gel and oil mixture to capture your hair as it is in the wet state, knocking out the frizz halo.

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2. Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Control Edge Glaze
In my eyes, Eden BodyWorks can do no wrong. Their Control Edge Glaze is no exception. It's clear, thick, smells like smiles from heaven, has just the right amount of tack, and comes in a 6oz jar for under $10. For the record, most jars of edge control products are 4oz or less. I love using the Control Edge Glaze with my wash and go styles, or for that rare occasion bun. It provides slickness, shine, and keeps the edges hydrated and nourished with a water-based blend of aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, and more. I purchase mine from Sally's, whenever there's a good Eden BodyWorks sale to take advantage of.

Lay Them Edges Trick: Because this glaze is water-based, there's no need to apply even more water to your edges. The best way to apply Control Edge Glaze is by taking a small scoop on the pad of your finger and dabbing it along the perimeter of your edges, then using your finger to go back over and smooth the product on your edges in small sections. You want to apply a moderate amount of pressure (without poking yourself too hard in the head) when slicking back the Control Edge Glaze. This helps plant it in place.


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3. Obia Curl Enhancing Custard
Obia's Curl Enhancing Custard is my ultimate 2-fer. Not only does it produce some super fly wash and go's, it will surely have your edges slicked back and under control. Made with olive, grapeseed, and argan oils, the Curl Enhancing Custard gives hair softness and shine along with major definition. And your edges? Tamed without being crunchy and hard.

More: Obia Natural Hair Curl Enhancing Custard Review

Lay Them Edges Trick: My favorite time to use Obia Curl Enhancing Custard is when I'm setting a wash and go. After applying the Custard to my hair, I like to (while it's still wet), apply a little more to my edges by rubbing the Custard in my palms and using them to slick the edges back. If you're not rocking a wash and go, using a spray bottle before hitting your edges with the Custard and tying them down for 10 minutes with a satin scarf will keep everything in check. I purchase my Curl Enhancing Custard directly from www.obianaturalhair.com. Word on the street is there's a great Black Friday sale coming.

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4. CURLS Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Paste
Whoever works on the fragrances over at CURLS needs a pay raise for this one. I fell in love with the BlueBerry Bliss Curl Control Paste from the moment I opened the jar. It smells sooooooooooooooo good. Like, if they ever came out with a Blueberry Bliss Hair Fragrance Spray...I'd be the first to sign up and buy. Anywho, between the Blueberry and Passionfruit pastes that CURLS has, I'm a fan of the former. The Passionfruit Paste is good too -- it just isn't as stiff and doesn't have nearly as much hold as its blueberry brethren. In addition to smelling like candy, sunshine, and rainbows, the Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Paste hydrates the edeges (it's water based), and provides nourishment and re-inforces them with glycerin, castor oil, keratin, and hydrolyzed quinoa. CURLS originally sent me my first jar of Blueberry Bliss, but I replenished at Target.

Lay Them Edges Trick: See Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Control Edge Glaze. These two are of a similar consistency and function. I just keep them both around because well, I like them both.

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5. Ion Pomade Wax
This edge tamer is really only one I pull out when I'm finishing off a look with straightened, stretched, or blown out hair. Basically, hair that I don't want to revert back due to water content in the product. Although the Ion Pomade Wax does contain water, for whatever reason it doesn't cause the same level of reversion as the others I mentioned previously in this list. It contains castor oil and glycerin, among about a dozen other ingredients I don't recognize. It's anything but natural, but it gets the job done. I purchased mine at Sally's.

Lay Them Edges Trick: I know you still have a fine tooth or rat tail comb somewhere. Get it out and dip the smooth side into the pomade, scooping it out. Use the backside of the comb to apply the product around the perimeter of the edges, and applying moderate pressure, sleek them back. You can alternate between using the teeth of the comb (on the edges only!) and the back of the comb to slick and shape your edges.

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6. Kyra's Shea Medleys Rejuvenation Butter Cream
This super moisturizing butter blend isn't really an edge tamer per-se, it's more like an edge saver. It can be used to stimulate thinning or weak edges, keep them soft and moisturized, and even work miracles on your skin. Rejuvenation Butter Cream is a part of my nightly regimen, and has been for some time. But it can be used as a soft hold edge tamer too! Grab yours at www.kyrasheamedleys.com.

More: If You Stay Ready...The Keep Your Edges Mantra

Lay Them Edges Trick: If you're looking for a super soft natural hold with tons of shine, spray your edges first with water, and then rub the Butter Cream in your palms. Use your palms to slick the Butter Cream through the hair, and follow it with a soft-bristle brush. Repeat the steps until you're satisfied, and finish off with a satin scarf for 10-15 minutes while you finish getting ready.

What products and hacks do you use to keep your #edgesonfleek?

Nov 6, 2014

Tutorial: Wash and Go on Type 3c/4a Natural Hair


I love my sister, I really do. She is and always has been my best friend. We talk every day, about everything and nothing. She has my back, and I have hers. She walks me through baking cheesecakes for Samuel (because that type of baking sorcery is way above my head), and I walk her through what products to buy at Sally's. She's an amazing mom of three boys (yay welcome Baby Ian), wife, and educated working woman. All in all, she's awesome.

Oh, and we're both goofballs.

So how could I not make a house call for a wash and go? She told me that she took notes on my videos and tips, but somehow her wash and go's never came out quite right. So I gave her the full treatment, and then we went to lunch at Lemonade for some sister time (we packed it in as much as possible before baby Ian made his debut).

Side note: never go to Lemonade for anything but Lemonade.

April transitioned to natural hair for about a year (under my guidance of course), before chopping the rest of her heat damage back in April (haha, get it?) at Devachan Culver City. Her hair, by my guesstimation is 3c in the back, and more 4a toward the crown and front. She has very fine hair that frizzes easily, and miraculously never tangles (seriously, I was astounded). By my guess, her hair is medium porosity. She has virgin hair that is not colored. Like me, she has multi-textured hair that is looser in the back and tighter up front. 



Anywho, I gave her the works. Here's a full breakdown of what I used and why:

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ApHogee Curlific Texture Treatment: I used the Texture Treatment as a pre-poo. It works as a deep conditioner as well, but I like it at this particular phase in my routine as a pre-shampoo treatment. It has emollients, proteins, and oils that soften, condition, strengthen, and elasticize the hair. It can be purchased at Sally's for under $10. Read my review here.

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TGIN Moisture Rich Sulfate Free Shampoo: For as long as y'all have known me....you should know! This shampoo has holy grail status. It is theeeee one. My go-to. My always and forever. Except for when I'm like, co-washing. It's super gentle, has tons of slip, and makes your hair feel like you don't even need conditioner afterwards. You can find the shampoo at www.thankgodimnatural.com for $14.99. Read my review here.

Eden BodyWorks Jojoba Monoi Deep Treatment Masque: I started using this DC during my max hydration method challenge days, and it stuck around. It's super duper creamy, moisturizing, and nourishing to the hair, without all the excess gunk. The smell is kinda awkward, but I like it. No review yet, but stay tuned! I purchased it from Sally's for around $9.

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Aunt Jackie's Quench Leave-In & Don't Shrink Gel: As I mentioned in video, I really wish I had picked different products. Not because they don't work (the leave-in is cool and the gel I really liked), but because I had a resolved, slight mini-drama with Aunt Jackie's earlier in October. I'll be spilling the tea on that soon, because well, I'm open like that. I've never sworn off of a brand until now. But if you're curious, click here for a review of Don't Shrink. I purchased both products at a local beauty supply store for $9 each. #staytuned #getyourchai

Eden BodyWorks Coconut Shea Pudding Souffle: Creamy and moisturizing, without being too lightweight. April has a very fine texture of hair, and super-heavy cream would weigh it down too much and give her the greasies. I purchased mine from Sally's for around $9.  Read my review here.

Coconut Oil: It's from Sprouts. Lol.

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My Ion diffuser attachment, blow dryer, and the high output spray bottle all came from Sally Beauty Supply. If you want to know more about the diffuser, click here.

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Two last things: one, forgive my hoarse voice. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I'm JUST getting off of a cold :-/. Two, forgive the super light exposure. My camera settings were way off, and I didn't know until well....it was too late.


maneobjective-april-natural-hair-sisters
#teamnatural #naturalsisters #curlsoncurlsoncurls lol
That's it and that's all! If you have questions or comments, leave them below or on the vid on YT!

Thanks for all the love y'all, and I mean it.

Nov 1, 2014

Hair Update: My Second Deva Cut + Color

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If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, then you know I went in on the 28th for a cut and some color! I meant to update you all on this daaaaaaaaays ago, but life has a way of getting in the way.  Honestly, I haven't written anything here on the blog since October 25th -- I didn't realize it had been that long.

On Monday the 27th, my sister gave birth to the newest addition to our family -- Ian Michael Charles Brown. He's the cutest little/big thing ever (he weighed almost 9lbs and was 22 inches long at birth). While she was in the hospital and my brother in-law was by her side, I had to step in auntie style for my 10 and 3 year old nephews. We had a blast, but they wore me out! So much so that as I write this, I'm battling the ickies.

On Tuesday after dropping them off at school, I headed over to Devachan Culver City to be a hair model for their master class. The opportunity called for a free cut, color, and Devachan products. I had only been to Devachan once before -- last December for my chop by the super fab Sergio. This time around, I had no idea who would be working with my hair. As it turns out, I would get some amazing work done by the super awesome Carleen Sanchez.

The master class cut was pretty much identical to my first experience at Devachan. Carleen did a consultation with me, and we discussed what I wanted. A few weeks ago, I thought I wanted a drastic cut and some bangs. But as I got closer to the date, I realized I just wanted to take off a few inches to maintain the shape of my original cut. Carleen obliged, and totally made me comfortable in her ability to deliver what I wanted.

Here's a little "before" hair action:

before-deva-cut-natural-hair

My hair wasn't in bad shape -- it had just gotten a little flat and less voluminous than I remembered. This was mainly because as it grew, the length of the looser/longer back half really took off -- leaving the front half with the tighter wave/curl looking like a janky mushroom. Really, all I wanted was to get some of the shape back that I remembered from earlier in 2014:

deva-cut-natural-hair
Circa July 2014.
Yeah, something like that.

After explaining the cut and color I desired, Carleen worked her curl artistry magic using the Devachan method. I received the acclaimed dry curl-by-curl cut, followed by a custom color highlight job. While most ladies in the master class wanted blondes and browns, I leaned more toward red -- for a few reasons. One, I've still got some of that auburn Garnier color in my hair, and I didn't want to do anything too drastic that would wreck my curls (like blonde). Two, I henna -- and henna is red. Red on red = red, so no issues there. Lastly, I just think red is a fun color. At the end of the day, I didn't want anything drastic, just something a little different.

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As far as the amount of hair cut is concerned, the most that came off was about 3 or so inches. In the front, Carleen took off less hair, as it is shorter and more shrinkage-prone. This is one of the major benefits of getting a Deva Cut -- cutting the hair dry in its natural state means no surprises, and no "oops, we cut too much".

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Those two little curls are from the back of my hair. They don't look like much, but when you see them stretched, you realize how much was actually cut:

deva-cut-natural-hair

At any rate, I ended up sacrificing some length for volume -- which is exactly what I wanted. After my cut and color, it was time to wash and style. Carleen cleansed my hair and gave me theeeeeeee most heavenly scalp massage (you know these things feel a bajillion times better when someone else does it) with Deva Care No Poo (with the white label), and conditioned me with Heaven in Hair. To set my style, she left some Heaven in Hair in, and applied the Deva Curl Styling Cream on top.

After styling my hair soaking wet at the sink, I sat under the hooded dryer until my hair was about 75% dry and then got it finished off with the Devafuser.

deva-cut-natural-hair

With the Deva Curl styling method, it's all about super-defined, frizz-free curls. And that's cool. Carleen really did an awesome job. But ya'll know I live for the big, day 3 lookin' hair! So you know I was feeling it when I woke up on day 2 with bigger hair:

deva-cut-natural-hair

I have since washed my hair and styled it with my own products. I like Deva Curl products, but I'm not wild about them. I loved my cut and color even more after I let my PJ stash go to work:

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That's day 1 hair with Shea Moisture JBCO Leave-In and Cantu Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream (review coming soon). It rained last night while I was out at Universal Studios Halloween Horror nights, so my hair looked like this today: (don't judge my icky sicky photos)

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You can see more of the color here:

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Before my cut, my hair was below the bra strap, which made me mid-back length? I think? I'm never too sure about these things. After my cut, I'm at or just above bra strap length.

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Don't mind the rolls, I'm workin' on em.
I'm thinking about doing some sort of optimal care/protective styling challenge this month and through December. Let me know what you guys think!

If you're in/around the Reno, NV area be sure to look up Carleen Sanchez at Hair Cut Color & Design!!! Word on the street is she has a waiting list, but her services are well worth it!

Any questions about the Deva Cut? Leave em' below :)

Oct 25, 2014

Come Hang with Me @ Afrolicious Hair Expo November 9th!!!


A lot of my Cali folks have been wondering when I was going to start showing my face more. I haven't been to an event since the KJLH Expo in April, and I'm ready to mix, mingle, take #usies, talk products, and more!

Come hang with me this Sunday, November 9th from 11am to 5pm at the AFROLICIOUS HAIR EXPO at the LA Convention Center! We can meet, product junkie together, take lots of pictures, and just have fun! Plus, I'll be on an amazing panel in the company of fellow LA naturalistas, bloggers and vloggers talking about the business end of things!

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS!!!!!

See you all there <3

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