Pursuit of Natural

life, levity, & the pursuit of natural


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Hand Coordination

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The hardest part of doing protective styles that are secured along the scalp is mastering hand coordination. There is a learning curve. The more complex the weave, the steeper the curve.

When you’re just starting, it seems like you’ve lost all motor control. Your fingers and brain are in disagreement. You’ll miss a stitch, forget what maneuver comes next, and have to undo the whole thing, otherwise go around with janky-looking braids.

Ultimately, practice makes perfect. But here, I’ve collected a few tips that have helped me build muscle memory and get those braids done quicker. And I’m still learning!

The Clasped Hands Test

Here’s what you do: Clasp your hands behind your head, leaving your palms apart and flat against the back of your head. Now, without unclasping them, shift your hands around to the left side of your head, the front, the right, and back. You’ll notice that at each point, your elbows are facing opposite directions, and at either side one arm is reaching over your head. This is how your arms and hands should be positioned when you’re working on your entire head. If your elbows are together or facing the same direction, you’ll run into the original problem once your row reaches towards the back of your head. Use this test to get into proper hand & arm positions. The sooner you get in the habit, the more consistent and natural it will feel.

BONUS: Watch YouTube Tutorials

I can’t recommend Breanna Rutter enough. She is out here teaching the children how to do all the braids. She’ll get you together.

 

Keep Your Fingers Close to the Scalp

Whenever you pick up hair or exchange hands, always try to keep your grip at the roots, close to the scalp. It’s harder than it sounds. It took me a long time to get it, and my situation was always puffing up or unravelling no matter how tautly I pulled each stitch.

This one just took time (and practice) for my brain to believe all those tutorials where the women were just stitching away using only their fingertips. I didn’t need 2 inches of slack to execute the complicated hand maneuvers, nor did I need to use my whole hand to hold on for dear life, lest everything slip free and I lose my place. It’s in the grip, not the tension, so when done correctly, you shouldn’t get hand cramps or an aching scalp.

BONUS: Relax

If your styling sessions take as long as mine, the tension and strain will creep in. Every so often, straighten your back and drop your shoulders. Shake out any tightness in your fingers. Take breaks when you need to!

 

If You Can’t Let Go, You’re Doing it the Hard Way

When braiding or twisting along the scalp, you should be exchanging hands, not permanently holding hair in both. Whenever you execute a stitch, it should always leave one hand free.

This was so critical for me to master. Aside from providing the opportunity to detangle any clingy strands, having a free hand distinguishes which hand should be doing what job next. Again, I used to be inclined to hold on for dear life, but the more videos I watched and practiced, the better I understood.

BONUS: Tips for Those Parts

Hand coordination is hard, but making straight parts is time-consuming. For that I have three tips:

  1. Do a rough part with your hands first, just to get most of the hair out of the way. Then go in with your comb.
  2. Getting straight parts in the back of your head is a challenge when you don’t have hands-free mirrors to see. Instead of parting and checking multiple times, look in the mirror and use the thumb and middle finger of your non-dominant hand to mark the start and end of where you want the part. Then, like connect the dots, draw your comb from one finger to the other. Parting blindly this way will take fewer tries to get it right.
  3. 4c/4b hair, or just clingy when dry and pliable when wet? Make your parts ahead of time after a wash. I recently started doing this, and comparatively, I breeze through those parts when my hair is wet. I create my parts, let those sections dry in some stretched twists, and the next day I install my long-term protective style.

 

I hope you found some of these tips helpful. If so, like this post! How often do you protective style? Are you into protective styles currently or nah? Leave a comment below. And if you’re a fan of The Pursuit, subscribe and follow me @edinPON.

 

 

 

 


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That Time I Invented a Hot Comb to Avoid the Hot Comb

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True story–don’t try this at home.

As a child, I hated the hot comb. It felt like punishment when I didn’t even do anything wrong. Also, I hated all forms of grooming and hygiene–a waste of time, I thought, with which I could be playing and getting dirty again.

Anyways! One fine afternoon my mom informed me she would be pressing my hair with the hot comb. You would think I’d been told to take a bath. Oh, the sulking. Oh, the whining noises! When that had no effect on her resolve, I had to take matters into my own hands.

I came up with the brilliant idea to do it myself! It would be super-quick and painless because I’d be using a wide tooth metal pick instead of that horrible instrument of torture built like a cast iron skillet. And I wouldn’t go so close to my skin or burn my ears. Of course my hair wouldn’t be the least bit detangled but that’s my grown self interjecting into this story.

Now, I just needed a safe heat source, and by safe,  I meant covert, because if I got caught fooling around with the open flames of our stove, the tongue-lashing I’d get from my mother would straighten my hairs all on its own.

So the space heater it was. Yes. I stuck a metal hair pick through the grill of an electric space heater to avoid the hot comb. Apparently, electrocution was a less scary prospect.

Anyways! I did that a couple of times (who knows if I even finished my whole head?) and skipped off to tell my mom not to worry about firing up the old gas stove because I had successfully “straightened” my own hair. With a wide tooth pick. And a space heater.

I’m not sure what in my few years of existence led me to believe my mom would be anything but horrified at that. She was, suffice to say, unimpressed by my ingenuity. And I still had to get my hair pressed.

The End.

 

What sort of hair shenanigans were you up to as a child? Share below and like this post. If you’re a fan of The Pursuit, subscribe! Share with your friends and follow me @edinPON


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Dryness or Texture?

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Going natural, there’s a lot to learn about our hair. What type of texture do I have, porosity, density, and so on? With so much unfamiliarity it’s easy to misunderstand how our hair is supposed to look and feel. How it’s supposed to work.

After years of being used to straight and silky smoothness, any amount of texture can feel rough or dry. But it’s not always the case. For example, sometimes it feels like my ends are unusually rough and knot-ridden when they are only tightly coiled around each other, and when I unravel and inspect them I sometimes find there aren’t any knots at all. It’s maddening.

And how can I tell when my hair is actually dry? Well, I let it dry out once, sans product, to see what that looked and felt like. I believe I first got the idea from a CurlyNikki post, but I decided to do it on purpose so I could really learn the difference.

I didn’t expect there to be much of one, but was I ever wrong. When my hair is actually dry as in parched, it feels bare or chalky. It is not soft and pliable but nightmarishly clingy and stiff. On a day-to-day  basis, my edges are the easiest areas to tell the difference. They are very resistant to manipulation when dry and are a good indicator on when I need to remoisturize my situation.

So, before you misperceive there’s something wrong with your fro, get to know what it’s like when it’s really dry and rough. You might be surprised to find your everyday hair is far, far from a “brillo pad” thanks to your regimen.

How does your texture behave when it’s really dry? Is your everyday hair happily moisturized or do you still struggle with moisture balance? Share below in the comments. And if you’re a fan of The Pursuit, like this post, share with your friends, and follow me here and @edinPON.


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Cover Your Hair At Night

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If you get a full night’s sleep (that’s a big If, I know), that’s nearly 3000 hours a year your hair is subjected to friction and stress. It will take its toll and undo all the hard work you put into caring for your hair.

I should know. I never saw any need to wrap my hair with anything. It seemed so extra. Until one night I went to bed on a clean pillow, and the next morning I woke to a horror scene. Broken hairs everywhere. Not just one or two, but all over my pillow case.

That sent me straight to DEFCON 1. I promptly cut up an old shirt and sewed it into a bandana, as if my survival depended on it. By the time I went natural, I was not playing around. Got that mid-sleep sixth sense to tug my wrap back on when it slips off, because these hairs are staying on my head.

The PSA here is sweet dreams are made of bandanas, satin scarfs, bonnets, durags–or whatever you use. They are essential. Cover your hair at night.

 

How do you protect your hair at night? What’s your night time routine? Share below in the comments. And if you’re a fan of The Pursuit, subscribe! Like this post, share with your friends, and follow me @edinPON.


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Finger Detangling

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Some people do it in the shower. Some people do it with oil. Some people use tools such as combs or brushes. I’m talking about detangling natural hair, and everyone’s got their own technique as well as favorite products for the job.

Many naturals, though, swear by finger detangling. But when I started doing it, I just wanted to swear at someone. How were they all just gliding their hands through all those kinks and curls? And then they had the nerve to say it only took forty-five minutes, tops! I’d give up and grab my comb, but as my hair got longer, I had to face the music.

It took hours to finger detangle. My shoulders hurt. My neck hurt. I couldn’t keep organized, and my hair still felt tangled in places. Needless to say, it took a long time to tailor all the internet advice to my own technique, and I’m still improving upon it years later.

First things first: I must work in sections. It keeps me organized, and it keeps me from being overwhelmed.

Secondly, I discovered it was better to work on my most fragile areas first. I’m much gentler and more patient at the start of a session than when I’ve been at it for an hour and just want to be done. I do my least tangly textures last because they won’t break as easily if I get tired and speed it up a little.

Much, much later I got the mechanical motions down–how I hold my hands to be gentle yet thorough in removing shed hairs, how to flatten and separate strands between my fingertips, and how to incorporate the harp method.

Later still, I found Urban Bush Babes and gave up going over the ends first in favor of starting from the roots. I then traded in raking for criss-cross parting, going horizontally followed by vertically. Once the grid is complete, I move on to the next section.

Finger detangling does not come naturally. It takes practice, a lot of diligence, and quite a bit of mental cursing. But getting mad at my hair was not an option, and I am stubborn when it comes to mastering a new skill.

How about you all? Are you still working on your detangling skills? How long did it take you to get the hang of it? Share in the comments. For even more detangling tips, check out my Dear Newly Natural Me letter, “Let It (Combs) Go”.

If you’re a fan of The Pursuit, subscribe! Like this post, share with your friends, and follow me @edinPON.


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Mini Hair Vaycays

 

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Full-sized wallpaper coming soon!

 

Sometimes I don’t realize just how much hair I have on my head until it’s time to take it down for a break down session. Girl. It is a blessing & a time sink.

So, then I think, “Ah! I’ll just put it all away in an fancy protective style!” and soon remember that, too, is a blessing and a major time sink.

There is a happy middle, which I like to call the mini hair vaycay. I just put away some, not all, of my hair for a few weeks. It’s faster than installing the protective style on my whole head, and with less free hair, it shaves off time from my regular styling and maintenance.

I did this with the sides of my head, AKA my struggle areas. Installing mini twists took no time at all and lasted weeks. My daily sessions went by much quicker, since I didn’t have to slowly, gently, meticulously detangle those fragile sides.

If you want to try a mini hair vaycay, you do have to be strategic about which part of your hair to put away, so that you can have multiple styling options or cover up the protected areas, if needed. For example, the mini-twists on the sides of my head can be shown off with an updo, or I can cover them up with a middle part and a bun or ponytail. I can even still incorporate the mini twists into a larger halo twist. When I do a mini hair vaycay for the back of my head, however, like flat-twisting up towards my crown, I am stuck with high puffs and high buns for the duration.

With all this extra free time on your mini hair vaycay, you can get lulled into laziness. Taking a break from your hair doesn’t mean taking a break from proper care. I never wear any long-term protective style past one month, because dirt will build up–even if I’m diligent–and buildup causes matting, knots, and tangles. As always, you must stay on your moisture game. There’s nothing worse than coming out of a protective style with damage you didn’t have going into it.

 

What’s your favorite way to take a break from your hair? How long do your hair vaycays last? Share in the comments!

If you’re a fan of The Pursuit, subscribe and stay in touch! Follow me here and on Twitter @edinPON. ICYMI, you can find the latest “Dear Newly Natural Me” letter here.

 


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How Much Did You Have Left, Though?

 

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See the Gallery link in the menu up top? The full sized version of this image is coming soon!

 

We all fall prey to the act of comparing our hair to other naturals at one point or another. You’ve seen the meme: Eddie Murphy scowls at a woman who, after only six months, has the nerve to be at bra strap length, probably, while he’s over there with a two-year-old TWA. I used to wonder what magical combination of product and technique, or lack thereof, yielded such results.

I soon realized not everyone is using the same math.

To go natural, some people cut off all their hair in the Big Chop, usually leaving only an inch or so behind, if that. Others transition, trimming their relaxed ends a little at a time. The general idea would be to grow an inch of natural hair and trim an inch of relaxed hair. There’s in-betweeners who transition for a couple months, not trimming at all but blending the two textures through styling, and then they do a big chop, leaving maybe five inches or more.

All three may say they “went natural” when they cut the last of their relaxed hair on, let’s say, New Year’s Day, but come July, the Big Chopper will be way behind the In-Betweener, who may be lagging behind the Full-Transitioner. Not everyone includes the months or even year of transitioning in their natural journey. I could ask how long a natural has been natural, but unless I know what they consider to be the start of their journey, I’d need to follow up with, “But how much hair did you have left, tho?”

So, I just do the math. If she says she went natural six months ago but she got armpit length hair, I’m assuming transition time until photographic evidence of a TWA from six months ago surfaces.

Whichever way a natural chooses to count the days of their journey, it really shouldn’t matter more than your own. But if you are going to compare, make sure you’re working with all the facts. Don’t be a bitter Eddie Murphy. There’s nothing magical about long, healthy natural hair. It just takes time and a lot of care.

 

 

Are you a fan of The Pursuit? Like, share, and follow me here and @edinPON! Looking for the Dear Newly Natural Me series? Hop over to myyeka.wordpress.com or click here.