Hello ladies (and any gents reading this). Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I had a jam packed day, ate way too much, and stayed up for 29 hours straight. Eek!
The Kinky Apothecary is now closed for the year. I just wanted to take a second to say a HUGE thank you to all my friends and customers for your support during the year. Its been a fantastic one for us, and we really could not have done any of this without all of you. I truly appreciate each and every one. I look forward to more of the same in the coming year.
We have so much planned for 2012, and I am really excited. You can look forward to more products, more events, and yes, more blog posts. But for now, its time to turn my attention away from all things hair-related (I know, will I actually cope?) and concentrate on the things that really matter at this time of the year, like my family, reflecting on my life and my amazing blessings. I am also leaving Lagos for a wintry climate for a couple of weeks, so I decided to put my hair away for the rest of the year and most of January, and get it braided.
Braids with extensions were my go-to style when transitioning the second time, and since after you've put them in you are not manipulating your hair for several weeks, they can be a good protective style IF you are careful when getting them done, and also look after them properly.
Please note that if you’re damaging your hair while stretching to put them in, during the process of braiding, while they are in and when you are taking them down, it defeats the purpose of having a no-manipulation style, as you will lose the length you retained, and possibly more.
So here are my tips to ensure you make the most of having your hair in this no-manipulation style. I have followed this regimen for my annual braids over the last 3 years:
PREPARING THE HAIR
This may be a bit OCD of me, but I ALWAYS make sure to wash the hair I am using beforehand. I usually do this using a mixture of shampoo and warm water, or by soaking the hair in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and warm water for half an hour.
Make sure your hair is adequately moisturised before you even think of braiding. You should have been following a good deep-conditioning regimen up to the time of braiding, and make sure you deep condition when you are washing in preparation for the braids.
I would avoid blowdrying hair before putting it in braids. I generally avoid heat, except for deep conditioning. In times of desperation, I do use indirect heat, such as rollersetting or doing fat plaits in my hair, and going under a hooded or inflatable dryer, or by using a hairdryer with a diffuser. However I have totally eliminated the use of a blowdryer with a comb/pick attachment. The last time I used one was about 4 years ago. I was getting my hair braided one morning, and it had not dried after washing it the night before. Desperate to have my hair ready for braiding, I succumbed to the blowdryer with comb attachment, and as I was ripping it through my hair, I could see that I was breaking off about an inch of my hair as I went along, the amount I would have retained in braids anyway.
This time, after rinsing out my deep conditioner, and then applying my leave-in and Whipped Shea Batter, I put my hair in about 10 bantu knots, which I kept in all day until they dried completely.
The photo isn't really good for showing the size of the bantu knots as I wasn't actually thinking about blogging when I took it, but I hope you get the general idea. Also I wish I'd remembered to take a picture of how stretched my hair was when I took them down, but this was at 6am, after having gone to bed at 3:30am (its been a hectic week), so documenting the stages wasn't really at the forefront of my mind. You just have to take my word for it when I say my hair was stretched out enough for the braiders to part it without too much snagging or pain. Pretty much about as stretched out as if I'd used heat. If there was any need to detangle, and I saw the braiders about to attack my dry hair with a small-toothed comb, or felt them attempting to rip knots out, I made sure to jump in, and detangle it myself.
THE BRAIDING PROCESS
Try and avoid tiny or micro braids, as these can cause breakage, especially around the edges. I took a couple of pictures to show the size of my braids, and these are about as small as I will go.
Also do not allow the braiders to pull too tightly, even if it means you end up with edges that look slightly messier. I never compromise my actual hair to make any style look nice, and would rather have messy edges while in braids, and still have edges when I take them out, if you catch my drift. Contrary to popular belief, it is my opinion that you should actually not feel any pain while braiding or after. If you do, they are too tight!
While in braids, make sure you keep your hair moisturised. I do this by spraying with a mixture of leave-in, water and a bit of oil, on a regular basis (generally every day, or every other day). If you oil your scalp normally (which I need to), make sure you do so while in braids as well. I prefer castor and jojoba oils.
Additionally, although it makes braids look messy quicker, I cowash once a week or every two weeks to increase the amount of moisture my hair is getting. I also ensure I get rid of any build-up on my scalp (allowing build-up leads to terrible tangling, knotting and locing of my braids, which are really difficult to remove when I am taking them out), by using a mix of apple cider vinegar and bottled water (1:4 ratio) on my scalp, letting it sit for a couple of minutes, loosening the build up with my fingers, and then cowashing scalp and braids with my usual cowash conditioners. I then spray wet hair with the leave-in concoction and seal the whole braid until where my hair ends with a bit of Whipped Shea Batter emulsifyed in my hands.
REMOVING THE BRAIDS
Finally, the method used to take out braids is very important. I will do a detailed post of this when I am taking these braids out, but as a brief summary I generally cowash, and then slather on shea or castor oil, cover with a plastic cap and leave overnight, and then start taking the braids out the next morning.
Also find I get far less breakage when taking braids out damp, so I make sure to keep a water bottle handy to dampen the sections if they dry as I am going along.
I make sure to detangle each loosened section carefully, and when I have a big enough section, I braid that up into a fat plait to stop it re-tangling.
Once the braids are out, I wash and then do a protein treatment (and I will post my protein-pack recipe when I do the post on braid removal), followed by a serious deep conditioning treatment, and then I usually twist and try and leave them in for 2-or-so weeks.
So that's about it. I've had these braids in for a couple of days now, and so far am enjoying not having to do anything when I get up in the morning. However, and this is really strange considering braids were my signature style when transitioning (I pretty much braided constantly for 18 months) and I have braided at least once a year for the past 3 years, I can't help feeling like a bit of a sell-out with all this fake hurr! Lol!! I keep feeling the need to explain to everyone I meet that I normally have a 'fro but that I am braiding for a few weeks.
|Me with my cousin Flo, a huge Kinky Apothecary fan and one of our most valuable helpers, rocking our festive lipsticks|
I was also out last night (when the above picture was taken- check out my under-eye bags! #seriouslysleepdeprived), and in addition to the genuine compliments, I was amused to notice that several ladies who have never once commented on my usual braid-out or twist-out were going out of their way to compliment me on my braids, and you could almost hear the underlying sentiment of "Phew, at last, you've finally done your hair!" Yup ladies, we still have a long way to go with natural-hair domination in Nigeria!
But that can all wait until 2012.
Until then, I wish you all a very happy conclusion to 2011, and wonderful New Year!