Pursuit of Natural

life, levity, & the pursuit of natural


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The Deceptive Pick-Out

 

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The one thing I couldn’t wait to do when I went natural was pick out my fro. And pick it, I did, but unbeknownst to me I was obscuring some major issues beneath a kinky halo.

A Kinky Cloud of Awesomeness

For the first two years after my big chop, I applied my products and went to town with my black fist afro pick. I picked and patted until it was uniform, and I rocked that glorious kinky cloud of awesomeness every day. And when you make your hair look uniform, it’s impossible to tell just how not-uniform your true texture is, let alone how to work with it.

Cloudy with a Chance of Mixed Textures

It wasn’t until I stopped picking out my fro long enough to examine my curl pattern that it really sunk in I had mixed textures. And when picking and combing my hair in general became detrimental, I had to figure out how and why my hair shrunk differently and shaped itself differently than when I manipulated it.

Clear Skies Ahead

For a quick demo on how combing can change the way hair behaves, check out Cynthiarf’s video on the matter. Once I understood that, and came to understand how to work with my real textures, I developed a set of techniques to get those varying curl patterns to work together in harmony and look good.

These days I rarely wear my fro, and when I do it’s my full-shrinkage or banded-overnight 2nd-day fro. In fact, I just unleashed it of recent after an extended protective styling period, and it looked more amazing than I remembered. I don’t use a pick (or combs) except to part my hair, but if I did, I’d go with Naptural85’s afro tutorial which uses minimal combing on the ends, and which I’ve written about before.

Let me know in the comments if you pick your fro on the regular and what, if any, changes you see in the way your hair behaves. And if you liked this post, take a second to “like” this post. Share with your friends, subscribe to The Pursuit, and follow me on my other platforms via the links in the sidebar.


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Treat Yourself to Mini Twists

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When me and my hair need some time apart, I treat us to a month long hair vaycay with mini twists. At first blush, the idea of installing this style myself seemed anything but relaxing, but I picked up some techniques to make the whole process, from start to take down, go smoothly.

Why Mini Twists?

Mini twists are great for length retention and they save so much time in day-to-day maintenance. I can style them like loose hair, wash in them, and did I mention I can take a break from my regular regimen?

But That Time-Consuming Install, Tho

My first set (above) took 9 hours over 3 days. My second set took 3 hours in one. The difference was in which instructions I followed. Google implied it was best to allot three days so that’s what I did. Originally, I made my twists really tiny and my parts precise. To prep, I stretched my hair in regular twists, which has always taken time to separate into a new style when dry.

It Only Took Three Hours

For my second set (below), I followed the advice of a different YouTuber, ProtectivePrincess. I stretched with rollers, which meant all my sections were ready to go when dry, no extensive separation needed. I didn’t bother with perfectly straight parts, and I darn sure did not make extra small twists. Three hours, ya’ll. I save way more than that in the month I don’t have to detangle my hair every week.

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But That Time-Consuming Takedown, Tho

The main source of angst with the take down is matting. It is bound to happen when you don’t free those shed hairs for a whole month. Keeping your hair clean can reduce the problem but just cancel all your plans when detangling day arrives. And pray for extra patience.

Prepoo With Coconut Oil First

Again, ProtectivePrincess’s after care videos for long term protective styles saved me so much stress. I followed her advice and let my hair marinate in coconut oil (you could probably use a substitute with slip). I left mine in overnight and tackled those matted roots the next day. Most of them came apart with careful detangling. Some needed an extra dousing of melted coconut oil with an applicator bottle and then they, too, loosened up.

Give it a Try

It’s always a good idea to follow up a long-term protective style with deep conditioning, and I usually take the opportunity to snip any split ends or knots. I did a set after some heat damage and a major trim, and by the time I came out of mini twists, I’d recovered a lot of my length. It really is a style that lets me focus on giving my hair extra TLC before and after, and in between I can just get up and go, and enjoy all the hard work I invested in being natural.

Let me know what you think about mini twists, whether you do them yourself or pay a professional. If you liked this post, take a second to “like” this post. Share with your friends, subscribe to The Pursuit, and follow me on my other platforms in the sidebar.


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Coconut Oil

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Errbody and they mama were singing the praises of coconut oil. Meanwhile, I’m checking the price tag (you know Organic ain’t cheap.) Five bucks wasn’t much, but would it last through all the prepooing, oil sealing, and DIY deep conditioning? I decided to give it a go to see if it proved more protective for my ends and the integrity of my strands.

I slapped it on. Every time I remoisturized I oiled up. Then came wash day. I still found the stuff clinging to my ends. You know, the ones I dabbed with coconut oil for a little extra TLC. It was just sitting there not penetrated into the hair strands.

Clearly, I’d overdone it and had to scale way back. I recommend looking through some of NappyFu’s videos for your coconut oil and natural hair education and tips. Y’all, she breaks it all the way down. I definitely could’ve benefited from these videos at the time.

These days, I only use coconut oil occasionally and lightly. Once a week, if at all. I also mix it with my regular oil (pretty sure that was a NappyFu tip), which works just as well by itself and my hair is doing okay. I used coconut oil to detangle and prepoo after a month long protective style, and I will again if I ever return to that style. It works wonders on matting and complex tangles.

But for everyday use, I stick with my tried and true regular degular oil. Coconut oil builds up too fast. It may melt in my hands but it re-solidifies on my hair.  Like grease, I found it attracted dirt and trapped odor. That being the case, I also wouldn’t apply coconut oil to a long-term protective style. It’s hard enough to get rid of buildup locked into braids or twists, let alone buildup as water resistant as coconut oil.

Rather, regular use of coconut oil is probably most effective for those who wash more than once a week. Frequent washing could mitigate buildup and this oil will mitigate hygral fatigue.

So, that’s my experience with coconut oil so far. It’s good used sparingly and on occasion, amazing for detangling, and probably best for regimens that include frequent washing.

What’s your experience with coconut oil? Share in the comments. And if you’re a fan of The Pursuit, like this post, subscribe, and follow me @edinPON


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Moisturizing Protective Styles

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Lately, I’ve been talking about protective styles a lot here at PON. Last week, I covered hand coordination and dropped a link to my favorite braiding tutorial maven on YouTube. Now, what about maintenance? Particularly, staying moisturized.

If water wasn’t your curlfriend before, you’ll be BFFs in no time with protective styles. Mist it, mix it, soak it in. Your regular products won’t distribute well without help. If they aren’t liquid, liquefy them.

Grab an empty spray bottle from your stash and test some ratios. I like to water down my leave-in conditioner and apply oil separately, but you could mix them all into your own special concoction. Test the mixture on your skin to see how it feels and how it dries. If it feels and dries exactly like water would, you’ve diluted the product too much. Adjust the ratios.

As I said, I apply my oil separately. This is to ensure I pay special attention to my ends and the scalp of my parts. Finally, after I’ve thoroughly misted, I baggy and finish my morning routine. If you don’t have time to baggy, sealing with an oil is even more important. I’ve found that just adding water to my hair and letting that dry makes my hair feel even drier. Hard water is most likely the culprit, which is all the more reason to properly apply my products.

How often to moisturize your protective style depends on how your hair feels. At the very least you need to remoisturize mid-week between washes. It’s tempting to avoid the task because it would cause frizz and shrinkage. That may keep your hair looking cute but there ain’t nothing cute about all the breakage you’ll see when you say goodbye to that dry, old style.

To mitigate the unavoidable frizz, I prefer to press and lightly squeeze products in, gently smooth a little, and never rub or agitate my hair too much, especially those roots. I also give myself time to let my hair dry stretched, pinned down, and tied down to combat shrinkage. Also, also? I plan a way to wear my hair towards the end of that style’s run, so that my frizz and shrinkage are concealed (wide headbands, beanies and bangs for the win!)

How do you maintain your protective styles? Comment below. If you’re a fan of The Pursuit, like this post, subscribe, and follow me @edinPON!


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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”.

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