So Fine Natural Hair- Sealants

by Cassidy of Natural Selection Blog

There's a lot of buzz in the blogosphere about the necessity of "sealing" hair by using silicones or oils (which are natural water repellents) to retain ideal moisture levels in the hair. Sealers (aka "anti-humectants") are like a ziploc bag for your hair: the moisture in your cuticles can't get out and excess moisture in the air can't get in.

This is your hair.

This is your hair with a sealer.

I know for a fact that many people out there use oils and butters religiously because to seal in moisture as well as combat over-hydration caused by high dew points and humid temperatures. The truth is that I never use a sealant. Ever. I find that many oils and butters are way too heavy for my fine, low porosity hair. Shea butter sits and leave hair boogers. Oils leave me greasy stranded and crunchy. I tried for a while to force the sealers, but after a couple of ruined pillows I decided to let them be.

Then it dawned on me, that perhaps I don't need the anti-humectants not because they don't work for my hair, but because they don't work for my climate. For better or worse, San Francisco is temperate; there is no heat here, just a foggy, costal mediterranean climate that's never too warm or cold all year round. It might sound nice (and it is), but when July is one of the coldest, grayest months of the year, it can really grind your gears.

When considering hair products and regimen, it is crucial to consider the climate in which you live to determine products with the best possible fit for your unique hair needs. According to an article by the Curl Chemist on NaturallyCurly:

Curly hair seems to really thrive in moderate climactic conditions, and dew point ranges of approximately 35°F to 50°F seem to be optimal....When the dew point for your area is at 60°F or above, it might be a good idea to apply some product with anti-humectant properties.

Sounds about right. The average dew point in SF is about 48, which is right in the range of not needing an anti humectant. This weekend I'll be traveling across the country to Florida to check out the CurlyNikki meet up and covering the Premiere Orlando show for NaturallyCurly.com! I'm very excited for the trip in general, but also to give anti humectants another chance and do some real-time So Fine field research in while I'm on the ground where it currently reads as having dew points in the upper 70's! Stay tuned for the results to see if its me or the weather!


So Fine Natural Hair- Part 9

Dishing on Detangling
by Cassidy of NaturalSelectionblog.com

Fact: textured hair is prone to tangling.

Fact: detangling can be damaging.

Fact: it doesn't have to be.

Tangles come in all different forms from fairy knots to matting roots to wishbone snarls at the end of your strands to shed hairs caught mid strand to a pony tail elastic that has somehow ensnared itself in your coils. Each of these tangles is unique in its own way and requires a different way of dealing with it. But before we talk about different detangling methods for different tangle scenarios, let's start with basic assumptions about prepping fine hair for detangling.

Detangling 101

  • Start with a wet head. Hair doesn't have to be soaking wet, but it should at least be damp.
  • Scratch that, before your head is wet, make sure its deep conditioned. Dry hair is more prone to break. A recent deep conditioning is a great way to ensure that your hair is in tip-top condition.
  • Add some slip. I like to use creamy conditioners to help my detangling tool glide down my strands. Other options are oils and butters depending on your preference. Whatever you choose, be sure to have some sort of lubrication on your hair to help out the process.
  • Eyes on the prize. If you are busy, in a rush, or distracted, drop the comb and step away. Improper detangling can break your hair and cause irreversible damage. To prevent both of these tangle travesties, make sure you've got time, energy, and focus to dedicate to the process.
  • Bottom up not top down. Never detangle from the root to the tip. Make sure you go in the other direction from the tips of your hair towards your scalp. Going from root to tip will just cause more tangles at the bottom of your hair.
  • Work in sections. This will help you manage the process and keep your task organized.
  • Shed hairs be gone. The human head sheds on average 50-100 hairs each day. If you have curly coils, these little buggers are probably getting stuck in your coils rather than slipping out on their own. Detangling will help you get these hairs out and prevent tangles from reforming.
  • Timing is everything. Chances are you don't need to detangle once a day. Take sometime to figure out how often you really need to be detangling in your regular regimen. Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly are all good choices!

Ok, now that we're done with the foundation of detangling, lets talk about the various detangling methods. I am a firm believer that each of these methods have their own time and place. The great thing about being the boss of your very own self is that you can mix and match these techniques as you see fit within your own routines and hair care regimens.

Finger Detangling

Perhaps the most gentle of all detangling methods. Your fingers are like nature's combs and the great part about using your own hands is that they are part of your own nervous system, meaning that unlike plastic, they can really feel out knots and use their dexterity to work through them. Finger detangling is great for focusing on major knots and working to break them up one strand at a time. Never ever ever do the thing where you stick two fingers into a section of hair and pry them open to pop open a knot at the tip of your hair. That popping sound is your hair breaking. Sad.

Finger detangling is also a great option to use before combing or brushing to get rid of any big snarls before really getting into the nitty gritty of the process.

Brushing

The most polarizing detangling method in curly hair-dom. While some curlies' hair starts to break at the mention of the word 'Tangle Teezer', others should be posed on the cover of a Harlequin romance novel with their modified Denman D3. The thing about brushing is that if it works for you, it WORKS. With all of those rows of teeth, after a thorough brushing there will be no tangles to be found on your head. The key with brushing is that you must, must BE GENTLE. Be delicate, be tender, be soft. You are not MarciaMarciaMarcia Brady and should not aimlessly brush your hair as if you were. If you hear snapping: stop. If you see short strands covering your sink: quit. If you notice split ends: call it a day.



Combing

Probably the safest bet in the detangling department. It's thorough, it's efficient, and unless you're not following the basics, it's gentle. Select a model with widely spaced teeth and a good grip for holding. A basic wide tooth comb will run you a couple bucks at a beauty supply store, but you can upgrade to jazzier versions such as a seamless comb, shower comb (hangs in the shower), or the Ouidad Double Detangler (with it's 2 rows of teeth) to name a few.



Ok, fine I get it. But what do YOU do, Cass??

Ouidad Double Detangler all the way baby. That thing is a workhorse (and probably as heavy as one too). The double spans of teeth slice and dice my detangling time in half, while the wide width of the spaces between the teeth ensure that I'm not doing damaging my fine strands while I pull the comb through my hair. I also like that it's pretty sizable so that I can work through large-ish sections of hair. I've noticed no breakage or splits with this comb and its more efficient than using just a single wide tooth comb. I detangle religiously once a week, and if I push this any longer, I will really be paying for it and cutting out locs that form at the end of my coils. Again, sad.

I am in the process of considering - just considering - using the Tangle Teezer once a month on my hair. I tried it for the first time just yesterday and I loved the smoothness I got, but I've read enough reviews about TT imposed breakage to know that frequent use of this tool could wreak havoc on my fine strands. I am considering using it because it really did a great job of pulling out my shed hairs and I liked the thoroughness of the tool.

The Moral of the Story

Detangling is a way of life for naturals and for fine haired naturals is can be a dangerous endeavor. Just make sure to listen to your hair and find a method that works for your your curl pattern and your porosity. Remember that fine hair is more fragile than most so treat it as such. Do not rip, pull, or tug. Break out the scissors if and only if you can't get a tangle out with any of the above methods (some tangles just won't budge). Get your combs and brushes through gently and with ease. If your tangles are unrelenting, think about using a different method or getting a trim.



CN Says;
Y'all know my fine self pitched the Denman, aka 'Shredder', and threw the Tangle Teezer out the window, despite my brief love affair. Both of these left me with horribly torn and split ends that would pop off if I looked at them wrong. I've also recently parted ways with my Denman Paddle Brush. I crave the smoothing action of these tools, but in the long run, they did more harm than good.

These days, I use the Ouidad Double Detangler on wash day (once a month), and my fingers the rest of the month (to detangle, smooth, and re-twist).
I oil my ends every night before donning my satin cap, and all is well :0)

So Fine Natural Hair- Part 8

Footloose and Protein Free

by Cassidy of NaturalSelectionblog.com

As promised in the last segment of So Fine, I wanted to present to you a round up of protein free conditioners for those of you who have protein sensitivities due to higher porosity strands. When you're shopping for a protein-free conditioner, you must read the label closely because often times proteins might sneak in there where you least expect them. Here's a little guide to help you out when you're looking for your protein-free conditioner.

Avoid the words:
  • Amino acids (the building blocks of protein)
  • Keratin
  • Collagen
All of these are are fancier words for saying "protein", which is obviously a word you should avoid too.

What to look for:
  • WATER! Always water. When in doubt: water. Never not water. Did I mention....water?
  • Aloe vera. (second to water because nothing can beat the moisture of water. Aloe does a darn good job though!)
  • Behentrimonium Methosulfate or behentrimonium chloride (big words that basically mean 'softeners')
  • Oils (jojoba and shea to seal in moisture)
Here's some of my favorite protein-free conditioners that pack a good dose of moisture without the risk of any of the crunchy-crispness that you might find in a protein-filled conditioner. Drumroll please...



Jessicurl Weekly Deep Treatment
Water infused with herbs and spices, shea/cocoa butters, and aloe are the starlettes of this rich conditioner. Jess herself recommends using heat for 20 minutes with the product for maximum deep conditioning benefits. But let me let you in on a little secret: when more crunched for time, I smooth on the conditioner and leave on for a few minutes in the shower for a quick moisture fix! Works like a charm!


Tresemme Naturals Conditioner
From the shelf of your local drugstore (or superstore) to your shower, this is one of my favorite and most easily accessible conditioners! Fantastic for detangling and super moisturizing in a pinch. Not to mention it is about $5 for a big bottle. Super slip and crazy cheap: can't beat it!


Curl Junkie Curl Assurance Smoothing Lotion
I'm so pissed no one told me about this product sooner--- this stuff is the JAM! I goes on like a satin sheet over your curls, instantly infusing moisture. Rinse it out or leave it in! It's definitely light enough that it will not weigh fine strands down as a leave in. Great, refreshing scent too.

Want a little bit of protein? Not to much, but just a little? Try these on for size!


Aubrey Organics Honey Suckle Rose Conditioner
This is one of the richest conditioners I've ever used. Great for moisturizing and add a touch of oil for slip if you'd like! It's also great that you can get this one for a reasonable price from a heath and natural foods store.


Jane Carter Solutions Nutrient Replenishing Conditioner
At first, I was hooked on this stuff because of the scent. I would have willingly dipped myself into a vat of this stuff just to carry the scent around with me all day. Then I tried it as an actual conditioner (not just a perfume fantasy) and LOVED it. Rinse it out or leave it in-- either way you can't go wrong!

There you have it! A round up of some of my favorite protein-free conditioners! Heavy on the moisture, yet won't weigh your hair down, the perfect combo for you and your SO FINE selves!

So Fine Natural Hair- Part 7

SO FINE: The Protein Posse
by Cassadie of NaturalSelectionBlog

A few So Fine's ago, I used my Sponge Theory to explain how protein interacted with hair cuticles to produce both awesome and horrible results depending on your fine hair porosity. Conditioners, as you are all well aware, are key to any hair regimen, and also a great place to get your protein fix (if that's what you need). Here's a round up of some of my favorite protein-based conditioners for fine hair.

Aubrey Organics GPB Conditioner

Aubrey Organics' Glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner is great for maintaining a good protein level in the hair (hence the name). The smell is a bit strong and is definitely not anything in the realm of some of the flowery, desserty, herbal scents you might be used to. I love this stuff because you can get it on the ground (at Whole Foods or a local health store), it's reasonably priced, and using it as a quick conditioner AND a deep conditioner really makes my curls pop!

Curl Junkie Repair Me! Reconstructive Hair Treatment

Let's just get this out there that this is a *strong* protein conditioner, but it does a bang up job of providing both a good dose of protein and conditioning. Some keratin-based protein treatments do not include enough conditioners and will leave your hair hard in the process of conditioning, but we have the opposite here as this one combines stronger proteins with top notch conditioners. The keratin is also good for repairing any damage or brittle ends. I find that this one is strong enough to work great as a quick conditioner as well as a deep conditioner.


Yogurt!

Sometimes you're low on goods and are using your back up conditioner, but need to add a touch of protein because thats what your hair likes. My suggestion is to add a dollop of yogurt to the mix! Its not a terribly potent source of protein (about 3%), but it is certainly a good option for enriching a regular old standby conditioner. If you want to concoct a something more rich, may I suggest the Cherry Lola Treatment, which is 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/8 cup Amino Acids, 1/8 cup baking soda. Leave the mixture on about 5-10 minutes, gently rinse and voila!

Oyin Handmade Honey Hemp Conditioner

Slip! Moisture! Protein! Oh my! This conditioner has it all. Featuring a moderate dose of hydrolyzed silk protein, this is a great conditioner for using as your regular rinse out conditioner.

Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle

This one is a staple people, a true staple and can work for almost everyone. I love using this one as a detangler and as a base for making other conditioner concoctions (such as adding oils or yogurt to it). I think it's because its $4 and I can get it at a local grocery store so I'm more willing to mess around with this one. This is another conditioner with a smaller amount of protein. Did I mention that its $4? Oh I did? Well let me say it one more time: this conditioner costs $4.


Komaza Care Protein Hair Strengthener

Yes, I know this isn't a conditioner, but I needed to give a shout out to this product in this round up. This. Is. Pure. Protein. There are no conditioners in it and as such it has a very specific use: to strengthen hair. You apply this treatment, let it dry, rinse it out, then deep condition your hair. It's a lengthy process, but is well worth it to get a dose of protein. I especially like this one because there's no fluff to it, no additives. Its all natural and all protein.

Ok, lovelies, that is all for this round up! What are some of your favorite protein conditioners? Leave em in the comments! I know that some of you are NOT fans of proteins so don't you fret, you will get your dedicated post of protein-free conditioners too. Stay FINE!!!

So Fine: Natural Hair Part 6

So Fine: Let's Talk Protection
by Cassidy of Natural Selection Blog

The online natural hair community is riddled with protective styling challenges, videos, forums, and blogs. There are many people that speak of protective styling as the key to healthy hair and for them protective styling has helped them retain length. HOWEVER, for some of us, particularly those of us with fine hair, protective styling can actually do the exact opposite.

Coily, kinky, curly hair is by definition more fragile because the nooks and crannies of the curl are weak points. You can take a piece of string and twist it into all sorts of shapes with out doing any damage to it.

But if you were to take a filament with more curves in it, you could really do some harm if you play with it too much.

Let's use a slinky as an example. We've all played with these metal coils of joy!

So you're there with your slinky and having so much fun watching the thing walk down the stairs, bouncing back and forth between your two hands, and making cool shapes. Then you get a little bored and you decide to get innovative with the damn thing. So you decide to see how far it can stretch out before slinking back up. You grab a friend and each hold on to an end to see how far you can stretch it.

Then you let go and expect it to slink back up and it doesn't because all of the bends have now been over stretched and your slinky is dunzo. No matter how hard you try to reform the coils this is what you wind up with.

This point of no return can also happen for coily hair in the form of breakage and thinning ends. When you put so much stress on your fragile strands keep up a regimen of protective styling, you can be doing more harm than good.

I have found personally that the best thing that I can do for my hair to retain length and encourage growth is to leave it alone. That is why I prefer wash'n'gos. I find that although my hair is out and exposed to the elements, leaving my hair in a low manipulation style such as this one is truly the best way to protect my coils because my hair is at its strongest when it is not stretched and pulled. Of course sometimes I need to mix things up and so maybe once every two months I'll throw in some twists or braids for fun. But in general, my focus is to manipulate my hair as little as possible. Check out my [Af]Rotation for my quick and easy wash'n'go tutorial that I've used to stretch my wash'n'go to 9 days!

That said, I know that there are a lot of people out there who experience significant tangling when they wear their hair loose and so they prefer to wear styles to prevent this issue. If you have fine hair, instead of twisting or braiding your hair daily, try to extend the life of your style by doing smaller twists or braids, ones that can be left in for at least 1 week. 2 weeks would be ideal, and if you can get 4+ weeks out of one style, you're really golden. Braids and kinky twists are good options for protective styles with a longer shelf life.

So the next time you're thinking of incorporating frequent protective styling into your regimen, remember that the best protective style might just be doing nothing at all!


**If you're in the SF Bay Area, please join Cassidy of Natural Selection and her fellow Bay Area Naturals for NATURALS NIGHT OUT this Saturday April 9th. For more details please visit naturalselectionblog.com/events"**


So Fine: Natural Hair Part 5

So FINE: Protein. How a Good Thing Can Be Too Much
by Cassidy of Natural Selection Blog

For some of us with fine hair, protein-packed deep conditioners can work MIRACLES. If you’re like me, protein conditioners clump our coils together, strengthen our strands, and give weight to our otherwise lightweight hair. However, for others, protein can wreak havoc on their heads by making their strands brittle, stiff, and rough. If you have experienced either end of this spectrum, you’re probably wondering one question: WHAT’S UP WITH PROTEIN? And why does it have such an awesome/horrific effect on my hair?

Protein’s affect on your hair has everything to do with the porosity of your hair. To explain this more in full, we’re going to bring back our old friend Mr. Sponge. In today’s little lesson, we’re going to have the part of protein played by Elmer. Yes, as in the glue.


This sponge represents hair with low porosity.

This sponge represents hair with high porosity.

In each of these sponges, the holes represent the hair’s cuticle. (Think of a cuticle like shingles on a roof).

When protein is applied to the lo-po sponge, the holes in the surface of the sponge pull in small amounts of protein relative to the size of the entire sponge.


When you apply protein to this hi-po sponge, the protein seeps into the larger holes on the surface of the sponge. Because the holes are larger, the sponge has more surface to absorb the protein. In fact it absorbs TOO much, leaving it stuffed with protein like a Thanksgiving turkey.


As you can see there is a lot more protein intake in the hi-po sponge than the lo-po sponge.


Now applying this logic to actual hair, low porosity fine hair does well with protein because there are not as many cuticle openings. High porosity hair gets crispy because it takes too much protein in because it has more cuticle openings.

Of course there are exceptions because like glue, proteins come in many different forms and sizes. Some proteins, such as hydrolysed proteins, can actually benefit high porosity hair by working to fill in the cuticle layer. So if you have high-po hair, be sure to take a look at the product label and see if this type of protein is on there before judging it too soon.

Lo-po naturals should try using a heat cap, hooded dryer, or steamer with their deep treatments so that you can raise the cuticle layer get maximum protein benefits.

By using the right technique and type of protein, you can be sure to find the right type of strengthening conditioner for your So Fine strands! Stay tuned for the the next installment of the series when I’ll be going over deep conditioner how to's and product recommendations!

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