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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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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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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Is This a Good Time or Nah?

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When my scalp is unhappy, my roots are unhappy, I’m unhappy. I’m walking around with frizzy, dirty hair and a ton of takedown work the longer the task is delayed.

If you’re one of those women who can clear a whole day and fend off all interlopers, you are wash day goals. I haven’t been able to keep a strict schedule, though with my current protective styling regimen it has improved. If I see an opportunity–several free hours or a half-day–I take it.  But, when my wash day unexpectedly becomes jam packed, I have to ask myself: is this a good time? Most often, I do not even try it.

I don’t know about you, but when I need to do my hair but can barely fit in the time, I get into a bad mood. This is not the best frame of mind when I finally do get to my hair. I’m not as gentle or patient as I should be. Cut corners, break strands.

Instead of punishing my hair, I find a way to freshen my look or cover up my situation until I can properly devote some TLC to my fro. I re-do the perimeter of my head if it’s in twists or braids, or wear a bandana or headband to hide those puffy roots.

When the situation calls for it, I will break up the process into manageable chunks. Once, I was forced to prepoo undercover (h/t @OlenaRosanne) for a day. Another week, I had to detangle my hair over four days, there was so little time. I styled in twists to camouflage that I was in the middle of a prolonged pre-wash takedown session.

Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do, because leaving your hair neglected for too long is not an option, but attending to it in a bad mood when you’re pressed for time isn’t any better. I aspire to @kimmaytube hair “spa” days, but until then, I have to be mindful about transitioning the state of my hair throughout the week and be strategic with the multiple tasks that make up my sometimes not-so-relaxing wash days.

And if you’re scratching your head at all this ado about washing hair, don’t worry. Next week, I’ll break down why wash day looms large for this natural and many other naturals as well. Like, share, and follow me here and @edinPON to stay up to date on all new content!

 

 


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Transitional Styling

 

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Not to be confused with transition styles, which blend your textures when you are growing your natural hair but still have relaxed ends. I’m talking about how I take my hair from one state to the next, through the week and towards wash day with less mechanical damage. To that end, it does not include extensive re-twisting or resetting.

These days, I’m all about those cornrows and low buns, so the only transitioning I do is from post-wash twists or rollerset (to stretch my hair while it dries) to my long term style. But when I’m rocking my hair out, transitional styling helps minimize the inevitable wear on my fro by keeping it stretched while reducing the amount of time I have my hands in my hair.

I would start with stretched free hair for about two days, which is how long my stretched puffs last before looking tired. Then, I’d transition to a full or partial protective style that did not require too much sectioning or strand separation, because those are the top two ways I experience breakage. Halo twists and buns are my go-to for this reason. I’m either gathering my hair or doing one part down the middle. Finally, I’d go into a prep state the day before wash day. Each stage is an opportunity to lightly re-moisturize and lightly remove tangles and shed hair, but this last stage is where I would do a proper breakdown before putting my hair into twists to facilitate a tangle-free and organized wash process.

The goal, for me, is to be mindful of every point of contact with my hair. How many times a week am I messing with it? How many times in one styling session am I re-arranging and re-pinning? When it starts to fro out in my hands, I know I’m doing way too much. Having your hands in your hair doesn’t need to be a major production. If you’re on a length retention regimen but still want to show it off once in a while, keep it simple and let it thrive.

Quick shoutout to @Kimmaytube, who also has good weekly regimens with similar concepts.

Do you wear your hair out currently? How do you style it through the week? Comment below, and if you enjoy The Pursuit, like, share, and follow me here and @edinPON.

 

 

 


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Battling Knots & Split Ends

 

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The kinkier your hair texture, the more you have to stay on the offense when it comes to knots and splits. Yes, texture matters–with my mixed textures, I can see that my looser textures are nowhere near as knot-ridden as my tighter coils where the knot fairy army has apparently encamped. Yet, my looser textures are more prone to split ends than anywhere else on my head.

Over the last year or two, I’ve finally begun to beat back the scourge of raggedy ends, and the following are my technique-focused lines of attack.

Wash Your Hair

We all get a little lax every now and then. That’s when the enemy advances. Dirt and lint are tangle magnets–I’ve found a teeny bit of debris at the center of some gnarly knots. So keep those strands as free and clear as possible. Wash regularly. Even a cowash or vigorous rinse can remove some debris, and every little bit helps between proper cleansing.

Moisturize & Seal Your Ends

Parched hair is prone to catching, matting, breakage, and split ends. Keep your moisture balance up between washes, and leave the enemy no quarter. You don’t even have to do your whole head (though you should). If you are tired or short on time, just spritz and smooth the ends with a water-based product and some oil.

Stretch & Protect Your Hair

The enemy never sleeps, so cover your hair at night. For such a simple act, this is a major line of defense against repeated, hours-long friction and the damage that goes with.

It’s not everyone’s preference, but keeping your hair stretched prevents your ends from curling up on each other, doing the nasty, and producing a warren of knots.

Finally, regular protective styling is a more involved process but highly beneficial, because your ends are constantly hidden from harmful elements. Think of it as recoup time for your hair. I do mini twists for a month at a time and buns or a halo twist when I need a quick protective style to last the week. Just don’t neglect hygiene and moisture during your hair vaycay.

Search & Destroy or Trim

I used to trim no more than every three months. I’d try to take off only a quarter-inch. Still, when three months rolled around again, the enemy horde would have overwhelmed old battle lines and gained new territory. I’d often have to cut back a half-inch or more–basically all my growth in the interim! There had to be a better way.

Girl, get on those search and destroy missions. I’d heard of it way back in the beginning of my journey, probably from CurlyNikki, but it sounded painstaking. Recently, I gave in and it has turned the tide.

The trick is to always have your scissors in reach, and go in when you’re going to be all up in your mane anyways, so it doesn’t feel like extra. I do it every time I’m thoroughly detangling. My hair is now long enough in most places to eyeball the knots, and where it isn’t I feel it out a little bit at a time as best as I can. Splits are a little more difficult to detect, but I do know they are mostly localized to my looser textures so I pay special attention there.

I haven’t had to trim in I can’t even remember. The more you do search and destroy missions, the less there is to do each time, and the easier it gets.

Bonus Tip

You know how they say you shouldn’t snap off knots with your fingernails because you’ll create a split end? I tried it. Presto, bingo, a split end appeared right before my eyes.

I snatched up that scissors like, “Back! You, fork-tongued devil!”

 

What are your go-to products and techniques to combat knots and splits? Comment below or @edinPON on Twitter, and EdinPursuitOfNatural on G+