Monday, June 25, 2012

Lavish Longer Lashes!

Most of the eyelashes in
mascara commercials are
fake. Sad truth.
So you don't exactly have the longest lashes and you always envy the 100% Spanish belles who don't need fake eyelashes to do the mascara commercials. Yep. That's right. If you didn't know this before, I am telling you now. Eighty-nine per cent of the eyelashes you will see in mascara commercials are fake. While your eyelashes give everyone less than 10 feet away the illusion that you have bona fied, thick and full lashes, they will never really look quite like the ad models'. It's time to face the fact that many of us aren't "born with it".

This odd-looking instrument may
be the answer to your prayers
So, my blog is about natural beauty, and this post will be about intensifying your natural allure. You will always have the option of buying fake eyelashes. However, for some reason, I never wanted to go down that route. Maybe it's because after bringing a guy home, I never wanted to traumatize him with the dramatic face alteration that accompanies fake lash and fake hair removal. Maybe it's because I never wanted to be in the middle of a great date when half of my eyelashes begin to fall into my eye as it twitches uncontrollably. (That actually happened to my roommate two weeks ago). Among my alternatives were eyelash extensions, which are a semi-permanent eyelashes, glued individually to your real lashes until the real lash falls out. The main reason this option was never explored was whenever the opportunity presented itself, my pockets were a little too shallow. They are costly! For a long time, I did nothing about my stubby eyelashes, which were constantly entangled with each other, pointing in all directions but the right one. Eventually, I stumbled on a lash-enhancing technique that worked for me and barely cost a thing: the eyelash curler.

All you need is mascara, a
curler and vaseline
I will admit when I first bought my eyelash curler, I had no idea how to  use it. I mean, it looked like a surgical instrument. I believe it reassembled what I had always imagined was use to pry eyes open and rip out eyeballs in horror movies. For a week, I used it the wrong way and when that wasn't successful I, stashed it away in a pile of cosmetics that would not be used for another year (I kid you not). It was only after I washed a "curler girl" commercial that I discovered my erroneous ways and pulled out the curler to use again. It only took a week of use for me to see a notable improvement in the aesthetic look of my lashes. The magic of the curler is that it leaves typically straight lashes curving outwards, giving the appearance of longer lashes. It also presses your lashes in a line, leaving disastrously messy lashes, like mine, uni-directional and neat.

I had to share this photo of an African girl with
fake eyelashes, taken by Luba V Nel. She is
The correct way to use your eyelash curler is to, first, ensure that there's nothing on your lashes and they are dry. Back in my misguided days, I would use it after applying mascara. That actually damages your lashes. Never pull on the lashes, because rather than lengthening or curling them, it will just uproot them. Simply, keep your eyes half open and place your top lashes in the "clamp opening" of your curler. Beginning as close to the eyelid as you can, without pinching your skin, close the curler so your lashes are gripped in the clamp opening.  Hold it in place for 3-5 seconds without blinking. Why? Blinking will tug on the lash roots and high hair tension is your worst enemy. Never drag the closed curler over your lashes while holding it closed- that's pulling on your lashes! Unclamp, move the curler a little further down your lash and repeat clamping. That motion, of walking down the lash, rather than pulling down the lash, is a crucial skill to master. Once your are done curling, apply mascara. The difference will be conspicuous and you will have harnessed your lashes natural allure. Curling, I have found, doesn't have to be a daily thing. I imagine that incessant curling stresses the eyelashes and leads to damage. For the past month, I have only been curling 3 times a week and the results are undeniable. The rest of the week, I use mascara solo.

The results of a curler and mascara on real eyelashes
Finally, strengthening lashes is also important. One way to do it is to thoroughly remove the makeup on and around your lashes before bed. Once the lashes are completely clean, rub a dab (very small) amount of vaseline between your (also clean) thumb and index finger. Then, with the pad of your index finger, apply vaseline in the same way you apply mascara- i.e. underneath the top lashes, from root to tip. Don't rub! If you have too much vaseline on your finger, you will only get it in your eye and you do not want to err that way. Make vaseline-eyelash application a part of your make-up removal regimen and start enjoying that natural glamor in a few weeks.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Detangle. Wash. Work It. For Natural Hair

Our hair can be very brittle
The natural hair girl's nightmare is hair breakage- fact. Well, I suppose not exclusively. I look back on my relaxed hair days and remember lamenting my fragile hair. Ill-informed individuals say things like, "African hair grows slower than other races'." That's actually not true at all. Our hair grows just as fast as other races' hair. When it comes to gaining length, we have two impediments: the fragility of our hair and its extreme tendency to tangle. If you've read my "Leave in that Leave-In Conditioner" blog post, you remember me alluding to moisture not always reaching the ends of our strands. Consequently, our hair is often brittle. We have trouble gaining length because we are frequently breaking hair faster than it grows back. Oh yes, we live in a give and take world, and there is rarely a balance.

Wash regularly. It feels and smells
Washing hair is a crucial part of maintaining healthy hair. It's time to shatter the myth perpetuated in some African communities that washing your hair too often leads to significant breakage because it dries your hair. That myth was started before the age of moisturizers and leave-in conditioners. A good head of hair is washed at least once a week (no exceptions). I wore weaves one year in my life, freshman year of college, and I still stuck to the "once a week" rule even if it meant my weaves were short-lived. Dirty hair stinks and a mass of artificial hair on top of it isn't going to change that.

Fortunately for you natural belles, you're not worried about losing that bone-straight, relaxed look by hydrating your hair. You are rocking your natural curls! However, washing your hair (the right way) still takes more time and effort than extending your hair's dry spell. It is worth it though. Below, I have outlined the things you must incorporate into your hair washing procedure to avoid unnecessary breakage (sadly, some will always happen but mitigate is the key):

Divide that hair into sections as you detangle, twisting
the sections as you go

  1. Detangle your hair thoroughly before washing it! There are countless reasons this is the first point. Firstly, skipping the process will worsen any knots you have in your hair. The worse the knot, the more time needed to eliminate it later, the more hair broken eliminating it and, worst case scenario, you may have to use the sheers. If you are using scissors to deal with your knots, you have let those knots run wild. Heed my warning! Now, detangle your hair in sections and once a section is complete, twist it and hold it in place with a clip of your choice (avoid death-grip clips). I recommend olive oil or coconut oil to give your hair slip as you detangle. That really helps. If you are going to use a comb, use a wide-tooth comb. I usually detangle with my fingers and use my wide tooth to finalize the process. 
  2. Wash the hair in the sections you made while detangling. One step at a time, as the saying goes. Its in the shower where you can completely undo all your hard work detangling and that is why this point is important. I remember my naive days of detangling before washing, going into the shower and scrubbing one big afro, coming out and spending two hours detangling again. Sections are your friend. With your twists and clips still in place, choose one to undo, apply shampoo in the same direction as your hair grows (don't just grab it like a loufah!), rinse it, twist it while you are still under the water and clip the end. Once the shampooing is done, condition in the same way, only don't rinse the shampoo out before re-twisting. You want the head of conditioning twists to sit for at least 15 minutes. This is usually when I watch a bunch of Youtube video- you know the kind of videos that make you lose brain cells. Use that time to do something, don't just sit there. Cover your head in a shower cap and pamper yourself in some other way. This conditioning period really helps moisturize your hair. If you are serious about growing good natural hair, it is no longer enough to conditioner, scrub your body and then rinse hair and body at once. You may kill two birds with one stone but one of them won't be worth very much. Once the waiting period is over, thoroughly rinse out the conditioner. Yes, that means undo twists and redo them. 
  3. Leave in that Leave-in Conditioner. This is where you score the brownie points. Once you have padded your hair till it is damp. Undo one twist at a time and add a reasonable amount of leave in conditoner and a morsel of the natural oil you use to seal it in. Twist that section back and if you tie the very tip of your twist with a small hair elastic, that will not only hold the twist in place as your hair dries, it will also stop your ends from frizzing. The hair elastics can be substituted with metal snap clips, which I prefer. Then let that hair air dry.   

Do as you please as you wait for the hair to condition
When you undo your hair it should be stretched and the twists will give your hair some bouncy curls. That is, unless you rake through the strands with a fine tooth comb the second it is done drying. Naturally, this is a long process. I recommend doing it on a day you have off work or school and start in the morning to give you hair enough time to dry. You should not be undoing your twists before the hair is dry. In addition, dividing your twists into more sections than you used for washing will speed up the drying process. Think back on your elementary science classes, when you were shown how surface area helped accelerate evaporation. 

Washing the right way is a painstaking process. I will admit that willingly. However, as your hair lengthens you can use fewer sections for the shampooing/conditioning steps. Eventually, you will be able to pull off four sections. Still discouraged? Well, let me leave you with this: there's a price for beauty are you willing to pay it? 


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Nuvaring Got Trashed by My Drunken Boyfriend

I really had to share this with somebody and I guess the internet makes it the world, but what I am about to tell you is so ridiculous I am laughing in disbelief. First of all, let me clearly state that this has nothing to do with natural hair or beautiful skin (I might add, that what I am about to tell you about is the reason I went from flawless skin just last Wednesday to far from beautiful skin).

Last week, I paid a visit to my gynecologist for reasons I will not disclose and she recommended a new birth control to me- Nuvaring. I have tried various types of birth control in the past, some worked wonderfully, others not as well. It just so happens that my genetic make-up left susceptible to extremely unpleasant birth control side-effects. So, my gynecologist handed me Nuvaring, which is a genius product for those that it works for. It would not be for me. That night I inserted the Nuvaring into my fun tunnel*, lauding the creators of this plastic ring for the break I was soon to have from scoffing down birth control pills day after day. I turned in that night and woke the next day to find an unusual rash directly below both my ears. Truthfully, I must have given the tiny rash 5 seconds in my morning, during which I thought, "Wow! Both sides, what symmetry!" Later that day, it had spread and was threatening to cover my cheekbones. Now that it was on my face, I could see the nature of the rash. It was rough to the touch and looked like millions of tiny zits the same color as my skin. Here is where I will stop you to say, "I love my skin! You don't get it. I pride myself in my flawless skin." Naturally, I panicked. The next day I hurried right back to my gynecologist to yell, "What is this?!" I was shooting all sorts of questions at her. "Allergy?! Side-effect!" Her response was that it looked nothing like an allergy and she sent me home with instructions to call if it got worse. No one likes a response like that, but I took what I got, slowly starting to loath the ring residing in my fun tunnel, manipulating the hormonal balance in my body.

It was a Friday and I went over to my boyfriends. It had been a rough week so I was more than happy to be able to spend the rest of my day with him. Now, I take full responsibility for initiating the drinking. I suggested we take some shots. He and his brother have been working on building a bar in the house, so his collection of glassware is praiseworthy. Out came the double-shot glasses and the actual liquor went down faster. I will fast-forward past all the drunken dancing and buffoonery that followed and resume playing where we decided to have inebriated sex (not always the best idea). He knew I'd changed the my birth control, he did not fully comprehend the concept of Nuvaring. I brought him the condom and slid it onto him.  He made one thrust into my fun tunnel and withdrew. I was trying to get on top of him but he was resisting.
"Whaaattt," I demanded.
"You can't....We need a new condom... this is broken..."
I remember thinking, "Hmmm...Weird," but an intoxicated attention span is about 2 seconds long.

This afternoon, I was at work and noticed some unusually heavy spotting. Hours later, I walked into my apartment and thought I would double check that my ring was still present. It wasn't. Re-check. Yep! Definitely wasn't there. Re-check. Oh My God! Every explanation ran through my head. I thought, "It couldn't have gone further up; the vagina is virtually a dead end to anything larger than a spermatozoon. It must have been when we were having sex." I ran over to my cellphone and called my boyfriend to ask one of the most awkward questions I have ever asked him."
"Babe, I am going to ask you something. Don't freak out. Did you happen to see a plastic ring when we were having sex this weekend?"
"Why... Did you lose it?" he asked, confused.
"Just answer the question!"
"Okay.... and it was," he responded, still confused
Men! I tell you! so clueless, "It was in my vagina!"
"Uhhhh... Yeah... I did... On Friday... Remember when I said the condom broke..."
"You threw away my birth control!"

Right now, I am trying to figure out how to explain this to my gynecologist when I call her tomorrow. The lesson: alcohol is dangerous and you should always fully describe your birth control to your boyfriend. But hey, my skin's getting better.

* fun tunnel = vagina


Friday, June 15, 2012

Leave In That Leave-In Conditioner!

The Kim Love of Kimmaytube: Natural Hair Guru!
I must have been fifteen years old when I asked the question, "why do black women need to work hard to grow healthy long hair?" Kim Love, one of YouTube's natural hair care gurus, epitomizes that. For a long time caring for her hair was a full-time job. Like her, there are many women who devoted (and still devote) as much time to their curly crowns- some successful, others not so much. Anyway, I looked online and learnt a little about how we ended up with high maintenance locks, while women of other races can get away with torturing their hair for months on end. Follicles. Whoever thought something microscopic who be so important? Turns out, our follicles are flat and oblong, resulting in curly hair. In addition to that, the at the base of our hair strands, where nobody looks, the hair strand is hooked. In conjunction, these two anatomical differences result in the tight curls that have been called frizzy and nappy for years. Ever noticed how the roots of your hair always looked more virile than your ends. That's not just because they are newer. It is also because the oil secreted by glands on our scalp has trouble making it to down the coils that are your hair strands.

Many of you know the benefits of leave-in conditioner, so I should not have to say what I am about to say. But I do. Countless black women women overlook those benefits and don't realize that when they comb their hair and notice thick hair near their scalps and straggly, thinning hair at the ends, the reason is they have parched their hair for too long. The fact is "if you're not leaving in that leave-in conditioner, you are getting left behind." Mull over this for a second: you drink at least four glasses of water everyday, do not moisturize your fore-arms, yet they still look smooth and moisturized. Shouldn't hair be the same? Those of you who do not use leave-in conditioner frequently or practice some other moisturizing regimen have this mentality. The answer to that self-destructive question is NO. Your hair may be an extension of your body but their no blood vessels going to the tips of your locks. It's your responsibility to help that hair so it doesn't look dry and brittle. Leave-in conditioner is the way to go about that. 

Leave-in conditioner is a lot lighter than the regular conditioner you use when washing your hair. They are totally different products and that is one reason why. If you used your regular conditioner as a leave-in, you would end up with an unnaturally alarming amount of product build up and a sticky, disgusting mass on your head- fact. That's why it is so important to thoroughly rinse your regular conditioner when your done washing your hair. Leave-in conditioner should be applied after patting your hair to a damp state. Then you can let it air dry. Many women who have gone natural recommend locking in that moisture, and that is done by using a little bit of natural oil like coconut oil, jojoba oil or castor oil. Steer clear of anything with petroleum jelly or mineral oil in it. 
"If you're not natural, you're not you"

The frequency of your leave-in conditioner use varies from person to person. Some people have oilier hair than others and you should consider that before designing your hair care regimen. One black woman who grew her natural hair to the middle of back told me that she would use a little leave-in conditioner on her ends daily and then apply a small amount of coconut oil. The result was that her hair was thick from top to bottom. Many recommend doing it once every 2-3 days. That's where I stand. At the very least, you should be using leave-in conditioner after you wash your hair and if you are going more than a week without washing your hair then you are doing yourself an injustice. In between washes, it's a good idea to try applying leave-in conditioner once every 2-3 days and doing so to the hair closer to your ends. I use the half-rule: the half that is near the ends of your hair should get the regular (between washes) moisturizing. Naptural85, another successful natural hair YouTube vlogger told her subscribers that she spritzes her hair with water daily and then uses a natural oil to seal it in. That's an equally effective natural method, and so naturally, I approve. However, when using water, more frequent moisturizing is requisite and the natural oil application is more important that before. 

Finally, make a regimen. If you do this once in a month and then abandon the routine for two months, it is not going to work. Never underestimate the value of consistency and regularity. They promotes health and leads to success. Below are some leave in conditioners that I approve.


Great Leave-In Conditioners:

  1. Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-In Conditioner (the best!)
  2. Cantu Shea Butter Leave In Conditioning Repair Cream
  3. Giovanni Direct Leave-In Conditioner
  4. Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) Leave In Conditioner
Your hair care regimen should include a leave-in conditioner

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bye Bye Durag! I'm Sleeping on Silk!

We DO have good hair!

Black women everywhere know all about the sleep complex. Durags, head scarfs, sleeping caps, hair nets and hair wraps. Most of us have bought them. Most of us have worn them. Companies have and continue to make a fortune off us. And before I get mistaken for some anti-capitalism socialist, let me say, 'I don't blame them!" Viva world economies! Did you know that it is widely reported that black women spend more on hair care products than any other race? Marketers know. Ultimately, it can be attributed to the centuries of shrinkage, breakage, heat damage and split ends that led us to believe that we just don't have good hair. We have gone to the extent of nursing our hair in our sleep.

You want to sleep like this? You can.

The benefits of overnight hair care are indubitable. However, lets face it: durags and head scarfs are far from attractive on the majority of us. By day, you have thick, raven, black locks and come dark, you are going to bed with what resembles a shower cap. You look like a hot mess. That's all well and good when you're sleeping solo, but what happens when you have your boy toy or boy friend over. It must be the Hollywood influence, because we want to envision ourselves (and be seen) as sleeping beauties. Delicate eyes closed, gorgeous eyelashes peeking out, skin like still waters and hair draped on the pillow in an aqua-effect... Notice I didn't mention hair net. They've never flattered me. There are a fortunate few who they do. Not me. So you do without the head scarf for a night of passion and the next day you have set yourself back weeks in your hair care regimen. Argh! News flash to those of you who do not know this already: it doesn't have to be that way!

I'm sleeping on silk!
Sleeping on silk... It's about luxury, elegance and guess what my Afro-Caribbean belles: the solution to sleeping with unattractive durags and hair wraps. Silk pillowcases are just as effective, yet few people use them. I was tired of head scarfs and the like, so about a year ago, I went onto amazon and ordered a single silk pillowcase. I have never looked back. Like covering your head at night, they lock in moisture and prevent split-ends. However, they have the additional benefit of letting your hair breathe. You have been smothering your hair at night! There are countless eccrine sweat glands on your face and (guess what?) scalp. You wrap your head up to protect the hair and there's a heat build up. According to the rules of homeostasis, your scalp will sweat, and with nowhere to go, that sweat will sit there and accumulate. Come morning, your teeth aren't the only things with "morning breath". If you are not convinced yet, you have got to admit these affordable pillowcases look and feel great!

Brides should not be the only ones getting silk pilllows