Monday, November 26, 2012

Lizzie...Hair Care...

I only recently discovered (how silly/naive of me) that the organic shampoo and conditioner that I've been using for Lizzie's and Seth's hair has alcohol in it...which is very drying for natural hair.  I'm mad at myself for not checking the ingredient list sooner...I made the mistake of trusting the word 'organic' plastered on the front of the shampoo/conditioner bottles and assumed that it was an awesome brand.

It was pretty good timing to make the discovery, though, because I've been needing to change up Lizzie's hair care regime anyway.  Over the past couple of months I've been spending dozens and dozens of night time hours watching Youtube videos and reading many black hair care blogs, all with the mindset of learning more about Lizzie's hair type and how to help it to really flourish.

You see, as you may well know about me already, I'm terrible with all things hair.  My own hair generally hangs limply from my scalp or scraped back into a ponytail and I haven't had it trimmed or highlighted since's in real need of care.  Though I take far better care of Lizzie's hair than my own, I haven't been doing everything I could have been doing.  I am determined to change this.  So all of my Youtube watching and haircare reading stuff has been exclusively with the view towards understanding Lizzie's hair and figuring out what products and regime will work with Lizzie's hair.  I have made notes on products and techniques that people with similar hair to Lizzie's use and last week I prepared my first experimental concoction for her hair.

Sulfates, parabens, alcohols are all horrible for natural hair, and so I have now sourced and purchased shampoos, conditioners and other products that are free of all of these things without costing the moon.  My first use of the new shampoo and conditioner last week left both younger kids' hair very soft and touchable, so I figure that's a good start.  I wash their hair every 7-10 days; any more than that and it becomes quite brittle to the touch and breaks - Lizzie's hair, in particular, is very susceptible to this.

After washing and conditioning Lizzie's hair, there's a matter of treating it with oil to provide and seal in moisture.

There is a difference, I have learned, between sealing oils and penetrating oils.  Because water is the best way to provide moisture to Lizzie's hair, after I wash and condition her hair I need to apply a sealing oil to her wet hair, in order to seal in the moisture that the water provides.  So, after quite a number of weeks of trying to figure out oils and stuff, last week I purchased aloe vera gel (not an oil), almond oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, and lavender (a few drops for scent) and I measured these together in amounts that I have come up with as my first formula attempt.  Almond, argan and jojoba oils are sealing oils, each with their own benefits and fan bases, so this is the mixture that I am now spraying and working into Lizzie's (and Seth's) hair after it's been washed and conditioned.

After washing and conditioning and sealing her hair, there's the matter of combing it through, a job that can take me up to 75 minutes before any styling even begins.  Combing is not my favourite job because, even though Lizzie wears a satin night cap to bed (and under bike helmets and hats) to help guard against tangles, her hair tangles and mats extremely easily...especially because it's usually left free instead of in a protective style (such as braiding or twists).

I recently invested in a Tangle Teaser brush, which I'd heard for a while is awesome for combing through longer natural hair.  I was skeptical about it, but finally just bit the bullet and bought one.  Well, the first time I used it, a couple of weeks ago, I was amazed!!  Not only did it reduce the amount of time that it took to comb through Lizzie's hair, but it didn't pull nearly as much at her scalp.  Most importantly, it worked.  The first time, after brushing through all of the sections of her hair  with the Tangle Teaser, I found it so much easier to use that I thought it might be too good to be true - so I 'double-checked' its effectiveness by using our usual extra-wide-tooth pick comb to see how well the Tangle Teaser had worked.  To my shock, her hair was easy to comb through (at least for the moment)!  

There are some cautions out there about the Tangle Teaser brush for some types of hair, the main concern being that some hair types might be easily broken or split at the ends, particularly if not enough conditioner is put into the hair before combing it through.  So I'll be keeping an eye on that.  But for now, it's like a miracle brush, spreading conditioner evenly through the hair from root to end and taking out tangles along the way.  I have no idea why it works with its small, soft bristles, but it really does.  I'd say my only complaint about it is that it leaves her hair a little more compressed than the old way of combing it through - ie. the hair shrinks into itself more as it dries so it looks quite a bit shorter than it really is.  But at the same time, using the brush seems to provide her hair with a little bit more of a spirally look, which is a good look on her.

So that's wash day, every 7-10 days.  Then there comes the care required on all of the days between wash days.

On the days between hair-washing days, I have learned that I need to apply a penetrating oil to Lizzie's hair, which will permeate her hair shaft and root and leave her hair soft and manageable and healthy. At least, that's the theory!  The best penetrating oils, as I understand it, are olive and coconut oils (though many people apparently misunderstand/misapply coconut oil as a sealing oil).

So, I am now using a simple combination spray of olive oil and water on her hair on the mornings when I don't shampoo/condition her hair.  It's astounding to me how her hair just sucks this oil up - I can work quite a bit into her hair and within ten minutes there is no greasy feeling at all.  I guess it really does penetrate! 

Although it's still too soon to tell how these changes will impact her hair, I'd have to say that in the past week, Lizzie's hair has looked spectacularly healthy and beautiful, and has been soft to touch.  Detangling will always be an issue, but that's a topic for another day.

I also need to learn to braid hair.  It's more than a little embarrassing to admit that I can barely braid anything, but it's true.  I have a friend who was kind enough, some time ago, to teach me how to braid with yarn, and so I know the mechanics of it.  But I've been terrified to try this on Lizzie's hair, for who knows what reason...there's just so much of it that it's a daunting task, I guess.  But I really, really need to learn how to do this, in part because I think it would adorable on her and in part because it would be a huge help in the detangling department as her hair continues to get longer and longer.  She needs her hair in protective styles (braiding, twists, etc) more often and I just need to get going on learning this stuff.  An online friend with two Ethiopian-born daughters (whose hair seems similar in texture to Lizzie's and whose hair always looks great) recently told me that I need to braid, braid, braid, for precisely the reason that it otherwise gets so tangled.  So I gottta bite that bullet and conquer my fear of braiding.  

I have another secret reason for wanting to learn how to braid her hair.  That same friend who taught me how to braid strands of yarn also gifted us a box of pretty little hair beads (as well as a beading tool) around the time that we got our referral of Seth and Lizzie.  That box has remained unopened for these two years, but has often been ogled and admired by both me and my daughter.  We are dying to see a bead in her hair and, though she's been home for seventeen+ months, I have yet to do it.  It's time.

I began this new braiding adventure on Friday when, with more than a little fear and trepidation, I put three little braids in her hair, towards the front on one side of her head.  I have to tell you that she looked adorable!  No beads yet (I have to figure out how the heck that beading tool works 'cause it looks like one big mystery to me!), but that's coming.  And when it does, you can be sure that you will see a picture of that bead right here!

What an adventure (and learning curve) this hair issue has turned out to be...but more and more I'm loving it.  I think Lizzie has spectacular hair and I want her to understand it (in all of its complexities) and to love it as much as I do.  I think this might be a nice gift to pass along from a white mama with plain brown hair to her brown-skinned daughter with the most beautiful hair in the world.



  1. I just want to come over and play with her hair! Experimenting is fun even if you take it out right away. I do this with my niece's hair. Maybe you're feeling the stakes are too high? It's just hair--a new experiment can happen tomorrow...and the next day...and the day after that.

  2. You may want to start with twists as I find them easier to do and you can still put beads on them. Plus I find twists are a little "stretchier" than braids and my daughters like to pull all their hair back for a pony tail and twists work easier for that. Plus I find them much, much easier to take out than braids.

  3. Well, Joanne, if you know about braiding, you're on!

    Yes, I do find it daunting. Just the three little braids I put in her hair the other day took me almost ten minutes to get out! Granted I'm not good at this stuff, so even the simplest experiment takes a whack of time if I'm going to 'do' her whole head...her hair is just so dense!

    Anonymous, yes, I love twists and have actually done them a few times on Lizzie's hair. But I didn't know that you could put beads on twists - that's awesome to know. Now I just need to figure out that beading device thingee - but I'm sure I've seen a few youtube videos floating around on that topic!!

    Thanks guys...I'm making progress!


  4. I have found stretching Tes' hair is very helpful and makes a neater end result. After a bath and detangling, I band the hair overnight. In the morning, I take out the bands, spray her hair and braid.


  5. Lianne, lovely to hear from you. Banding is something i've just been learning about this WEEK! But I don't understand exactly how it's done. I know you section off damp/wet hair but I'm not sure what kind of elastics to use (I've read something about Pony O's???) or how to put them in her hair. Can you explain??



  6. I will never go back to life without our tangle teezer. :) Love it.

    Keep trying, trying and trying- I am and now I love hair days! (I am not good with my own hair either.) I agree-once Lizzie's hair is kept in braids, it will be SO much more easy to detangle.

    Have fun!

  7. Sharon thank you for the note - and for the encouragement to keep trying!!! I will, and I'm determined on the braid thing...and I'm stubborn!



  8. For banding, I use those Terry cloth covered elastics. I might use three on each group of hair, so that they go down the length of her hair. I will email you some photos. The idea is just to keep the hair straight when it dries so that it doesn't curl up. It makes it much easier to braid.