A Guide to 4C Hair for the New Natural: Wash Day Routine

Hey curlies!

I hope you liked the product haul I did not too long ago. Hopefully you’ve found one or a few things that you liked and want to try! Now it’s time to put them to use!

I wash and deep condition my hair about once a week, but sometimes I co-wash if I think my hair is a little dry but I don’t want to wait until Wash Day, or I want to try another style on fresh hair in the middle of the week.

I always start out by sectioning my hair, like so.

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If your hair is super short, then you can probably skip this step. But I find that washing my hair in sections helps to evenly distribute products and manage my hair. Once I’ve sectioned off my hair, I pre-poo it with coconut oil and a light, cheap conditioner.

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You’ll recall those two from last time, I hope!

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You can usually do this step without adding extra water, since your hair will be pretty wet anyway from the products. Afterwards, I go one section at a time and detangle with my fingers. Starting from the ends and working my way up, I separate any clumps I can feel and run my fingers through once I’m done just to make sure there are no major snags. Take your time with this step; rushing can cause breakage and you’ll end up pulling a lot of hair. I always watch TV or Netflix or listen to music while I do this to help pass the time.

Here are my four puffs, fully detangled.

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Once that’s done, I hop in the shower and wash with my favorite shampoo.

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Another great benefit to washing in sections is that you usually won’t have to shampoo your hair twice. It also takes less product. I can always feel the difference from blindly smothering shampoo on my head and hoping that I’ve covered my whole scalp.

I wash each section once, do a quick rinse over my whole head just to be sure, and then apply my deep conditioner. I decided to combine two of them so I could finish off both jars at the same time.

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They worked fabulously together!

Place a plastic shower cap on your head. You have the option of using a blow dryer on a low setting to help speed the process and allow for deeper penetration, but usually I just let it sit without heat for 45 minutes or so.

Rinse that out and follow up with the lighter conditioner for a few minutes if your hair feels dry.

These are my fully washed puffs.

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Dry with a T-shirt, as a towel can be a bit too rough. Apply your leave-in conditioner and oil of choice.

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Then follow up with the cream.

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One thing I wish I’d added is a curl defining cream. It helps the style last longer and adds more definition. If anyone has a cream that they love, please tell me about it in the comments! I’d love to add it to my routine.

After this, the styling is up to you! I always do 4-5 two-strand twists per section of hair using Ecostyler gel.

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You can speed up the drying process with heat if you’re heading out somewhere, but I usually throw on a satin cap and call it a night.

The next morning your curls should be fully dry, although my curls were only 95% dry (there’s always one stubborn twist that won’t fully dry, but it’s usually in the middle of my head and not very noticeable).

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Oil up your hands and undo the twists.

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Then grab that trusty pick, and use to lift the roots and cover up the parts.

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Add a little oil for shine, and you’re done!

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A nicely curled afro, if I do say so myself.

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(Psst the dress is from Forever21 if you’re curious. It’s super flattering and comfortable, and cheap! Jewelry is my mama’s.)

To preserve the style at night, I just do more two strand twists with some cream and oil. As long as you keep it moisturized and avoid the rain, it should last about a week. It’s perfect for any length of hair, and it’s great if you’re lazy like me because it takes very little effort.

Do you have any styles that you’d like to see me try? Let me know!

Until next time, curlies!

-Ash

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A Guide to 4C Hair for the New Natural: Products

Hey everyone!

I’m so excited to finally make this post. People stop me all the time when I’m out and about to ask me what I do with my hair, what products I use, and how I achieve my texture. It’s taken me some time but I think I’ve finally found a regimen that works for me, and now I get to share it with you! Instead of one overwhelming blog post about every single thing I do to my hair, I’m going to break it up in sections starting with this one about hair products.

The key to building the right collection of products is to know what hair you’re working with and what it needs. Here’s a handy chart to see where you fit.
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A few notes about that chart and the thousands of others like it on the internet: it’s not always straightforward. A lot of people, myself include, can experience different textures on different parts of their heads. The hair on my edges is a lot coarser than the hair in the middle of my head. Just focus on the overall texture and when in doubt, yield to the kinkier texture. You wouldn’t want to neglect some parts of your hair and leave them without sufficient moisture.

I always get nervous when people start ‘typing’ their hair, because it can turn into the good hair vs. bad hair debate. I want to stress that the only qualification for ‘good’ hair is having healthy hair. Whether you’re a 2B or a 4A/3C blend or a 4C-but-almost-D-because-it’s-so-coarse, you can take care of your hair and help it flourish into something amazing. You just have to do your homework and have patience! So just use the hair typing as a guide to figure out your hair’s needs, but feel free to deviate if you think your hair likes something else.

One more thing, before I forget: I didn’t include anything about products that involve heat because I personally don’t use it. Other than the two times I’ve sat under a dryer in a salon since my big chop, I haven’t used heat and have air dried my hair instead. I used to be lazy and not stretch my hair, and while the texture is fabulous this is actually pretty damaging for my texture (but more on that later). For now, just exercise caution if you decide to use heat on your hair and try not to do it too often.

Right, now onto the products.

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My trusted arsenal! I know it looks like a lot, but each one serves its purpose. I’ve also included some tools that will help you achieve fabulous styles. Let’s start from the beginning of the wash routine.

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I used to jump straight into the shower and get to shampooing, but I’ve realized how important it is to pre-poo and detangle first. Pre-pooing just refers to coating your hair in your favorite oil(s) and/or a conditioner with lots of slip (nothing too thick). I swear by coconut oil for 4C hair, but PLEASE do yourself a favor and be sure to get organic coconut oil. I got this brand just to see how the quality would change, and I definitely miss organic coconut oil so I’m using it as fast as I can. Thankfully it works very well as a pre-poo and gets my hair nice and moisturized while I detangle.

If you decide to use a conditioner for this step, don’t get something expensive. A cheap conditioner with lots of slip is ideal, and I love this brand for it’s texture and scent (coconuts are a recurring thing with me, for some reason). It gets my hair wet enough to be manageable without dripping all over me.

I’ll go into how to use these later. Time to wash!

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Regardless of texture, anyone with natural hair can benefit from regular co-washing. It’s gentler and more moisturizing than a normal shampoo, and I’ve found that it leaves my hair softer afterwards. I love the Cantu line, although some of their styling products have really strong smells that I tend to shy away from.

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If you decide to co-wash regularly, don’t forget to shampoo every now and then. This eliminates any buildup and residue and leaves your hair feeling truly fresh. I can’t say enough about the Shea Moisture line; I use it in every aspect of my hair regimen when I can and I’ve started using their skin products as well. They’re on the more expensive side, but CVS and Walgreens will occasionally do BOGO deals and that’s when I tend to stock up. It’s truly worth the investment.

The next, and probably most important step is conditioning.

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Our hair texture is very dry, so it needs constant moisture. I recommend deep conditioning once a week with a thick deep conditioner, as this will best penetrate the hair shaft. I slightly favor the Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Masque (I know, shocking), but Creme of Nature makes a great deep conditioner too. After I let it sit for a while and rinse, I usually follow up with the light Ogx conditioner from above. I’d also recommend their Argan oil and Shea Butter variety, as these are two things that 4C hair loves.

Once that’s all rinsed out, I can go on to styling.

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I always start with a Leave-in Conditioner as part of my LOC routine. It’s just a good starting point for styling natural hair, in my opinion.

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You guessed it! Back to the coconut oil for sealing in that moisture. If you don’t like the smell of coconut oil, some great alternatives are olive oil, jojoba oil, and avocado oil.

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I usually follow all of that up with Anti-Breakage Strengthening Styling Milk by Shea Moisture. Whether you’re experiencing breakage or not, it can’t hurt to fortify your hair a bit more. This product isn’t very heavy, but 4C hair does like pudding-like products the most. I’m just showing what works for me, but feel free to try something thicker if you think this product doesn’t do enough for your hair.

And now, for the Holy Grail…

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I’m going to be bold and say that everyone with natural hair should use this gel. It’s amazing for getting control of your edges and adding definition and shine to styles, and it doesn’t get all crusty when it dries. Actually, you can barely feel it. I’ve heard that all of the strengths feel the same, but I can’t confirm that since I only use max strength. I can’t recommend this enough.

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The peppermint tea tree oil is great for masking the smells that some of these products have, and it’s also pretty good for shine and moisture. I love using it around the holidays because it gets me in the Christmas spirit even as I battle final exams. The Super Shine hair silk is incredible for added shine.

That about does it for the creams and gels. But you’re also going to need a few tools to achieve maximum slayage.

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A spray bottle is great for dampening the hair when you don’t want to soak your head or you just want to refresh your curls. The white clips on the left and the ponytail holders are great for sectioning your hair off, but I trust the clips more to do it without tangles. Rat tailed combs are also great for sectioning and parting, but I don’t ever comb through my hair with them. I’m a finger detangler but you could use a wide-toothed comb as well. I use the brush to smooth down my edges, although many people love to use an old toothbrush. And the pick is the key to volume. I’ll demonstrate that later!

That does it for my product haul! Next time I’ll go through my wash day routine and show exactly how I put all of these products to use. Until then, stay flawless!

-Ash

The New Year

I told myself I was gonna save this post for New Year’s Day.

I tried, I really did….but I’m just too excited!! So please forgive my being early.

Usually I make a list of about 10 resolutions every year that I keep up with fairly well…for about a month. For example, last year at New Year’s Eve I vowed that I would do something exciting this year, like watch the Peach drop or go to a party or out dancing with friends. And here I am, with 24 hours left to figure something out…and I’ve got nothing.

But enough of that.

I’ve been thinking about all the things I already have to look forward to in 2014, and this time I’ve created some dares for myself. Some things that I never thought I could accomplish this year but I know are in my sights for next year. Usually I never turn down dares, so hopefully this will work out.

  1. Run.
    Not every once in a while, not just when I feel like it. I’m going to run regardless of the weather, regardless of how stressed I feel, and regardless of if I feel like doing it. I won’t start out like a champ, but I’ll pace myself and take the steps to get there.
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  2. Treat my body right.
    All my friends know about my love of food, especially cupcakes. But I realized that I have to be good to my body from the inside out. I’ll still treat myself every now and then, but I’ve got to get better at this whole ‘moderation’ thing everyone talks about. So I’ll swap cupcakes and cookies for yogurt and healthy smoothies, and see how that goes.
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  3. Love my hair.
    A year ago I never thought I’d cut almost all of my hair….buuuut here I am. And I’m loving it so far! But as my hair grows I know I’ll face challenges like tangling and not knowing how to style it. But this year I’m going to love my hair, through good times and bad, in sickness and in health…well, you get the idea.
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  4. Sing!
    I know, I know, obvious right? Choir is taking care of that for now, but my mom was just telling me today how she hasn’t heard me sing in a long time. I’m not the type to sing in showers, while doing dishes, or anything like that. So I’m gonna sing more, a lot more.
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  5. Travel.
    I’ve been bitten by the wanderlust bug. I have some plans to travel next summer and maybe around the winter holidays, but I’ve realized that I don’t have to cross oceans or state boundaries to explore new places. Here’s to a year of exploring!
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  6. Embrace my inner shutterbug.
    Now that I have an amazing camera, I think it’s time for me to stop being so camera-shy. I love taking pictures, but having pictures taken of me? Not so much. But this year I’m gonna get over that.
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    (Ayy, throwback!)
  7. Escape my comfort zone.
    I’ve done that in 2013 and I’m so thankful for it! I’ve met amazing people and had experiences that I’ll never forget. But I could always do more.
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Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I wish everyone a happy new year, and I hope you make good on all of the resolutions you make.

Xoxo,
Ash

The Chop!

Today was the big day!!

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I made the decision last month to cut off all my relaxed hair and I finally made it home this weekend to get my hair done.

I brought my best friend Tatyana, a veteran of the big chop, to the salon with me as moral support, as well as my mom. These are some of the before pictures…
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And the after!
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I know, probably the most attractive face I’ve ever made. But I think I redeemed myself later today when Taty and I went to the playground to play with her camera.
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Personally I think she belongs on Pinterest…ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

After our little photo shoot we went back to my place and made some awesome smoothies!

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If you’re interested, here’s the recipe!

To make enough for two you’ll need:

4 large strawberries, quartered

A couple of pineapple cubes (I used about 4 or 5)

One kiwi, sliced

A handful of ice

Optional: vanilla protein powder, about one tbsp.

To make, just throw everything into a blender and blend away!

The protein powder adds a little sweetness and takes away a bit of the sour taste.

It’s my go-to smoothie recipe and I never get tired of it!

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Right now we’re watching The Diary of a Mad Black Woman, full and happy.

I can’t begin to express how much I love my hair. I knew I wouldn’t regret the decision to cut it, but I didn’t know I would fall in love with my texture again so fast. It’s funny how little it takes to give my hair curls and softness. This was a big step on my journey to natural hair, and even if it takes a long time I look forward to enjoying every moment of it.

-Ash

To Chop or Not to Chop… My Hair-story

If you had asked me if I would ever cut my hair when I was, say, 16…I probably would’ve laughed in your face.

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme.

But I would never ever ever EVER consider cutting my hair. And I definitely wouldn’t have considered going natural. To give you an idea of what I was working with…

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I was also no stranger to micro-braids and Senegalese twists…

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And for Graduation/Senior Banquet/my last week of high school I had some extensions put in, just for fun.

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I relaxed my hair for the first time when I was 11 and was really content with how my hair looked throughout middle school. Honestly the braids were only for more versatility and convenience. But I never realized how much I was damaging my hair and how hard it would be to keep my hair healthy when I went off to boarding school, where I wouldn’t have my mom to help me.

So I started wearing braids more frequently, which would break off the sides of my hair. And when I went back to relaxers I always experienced breakage throughout my whole head. It got especially bad near the end of my senior year, to the point where my hair was basically a bunch of dry split ends on my head. But I knew that I would be getting it done at home for Graduation so I paid it no mind. I got my extensions in late May and wore them all the way through June (for the Choir tour I went on), and I think I washed them once somewhere in the middle.

When I finally took them out in July….oh it was terrible.  There was so much breakage as I took them out and after I washed my hair I had a pile of hair a bit bigger than a golf ball. I knew I needed to go natural with a better protective style that wouldn’t be as expensive as micro-braids, so I turned to my current obsession: Havana Twists.

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I definitely had a lot of fun with these….but they were difficult. There was no rubber band in the world that could hold all that hair, so I could never really put it in a ponytail and the best I could do was to get half of it off my face. They were also extremely heavy and my neck hurt for the entire month that I had them in. As much as I loved my dad calling me his Rasta girl, I was more than happy to take them out.

So, back to square one I went. I decided to fully transition with the ever-popular twist out.

Mine was pretty good with my mom’s help…

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But now that I’m away from home again it’s hard to keep up.

Here’s the way it looks now:

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Could be worse, I guess. And I seriously need a trim, I know.

Speaking of trims…I might be getting one. A pretty big one. Actually the biggest one I could possibly get…the BIG CHOP.

I started to really consider it this summer. My mom has done it plenty of times, and because she’s such a fierce and confident woman she’s pulled it off beautifully every time. I would definitely let my roots grow in some more first (it’s about an inch thick right now and I’d like about 2-3 before I chop off the relaxed part).

I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the past three months and I honestly can’t wait. But a tiny part of me is holding back. It would be nice to transition without cutting my hair, but I don’t know how possible that is for me. And it would be so nice to just start over…

What do you think?

-Ash