Ayurvedic Hair Treatment Update

I have to reiterate, if you don’t use ayurvedic herbs in your regimen, you are soooo missing out—no matter the condition of your hair, it could benefit from ayurvedic herb pastes, oils, and/or teas.

However, to my fellow protein-sensitive peeps: Although in my post on my ayurvedic herb paste, I shared how I use dry milk powder in my paste, you may want to avoid it. I use protein in small doses, and usually only once a month, since my hair is a mixture of coarse and medium strands. Despite my sensitivity, I do need protein to repair the very visible holes in my hair.

I’ve also learned that some people who are protein-sensitive can’t use aloe vera or jojoba. I don’t have that problem, but beware. Feel free to omit the aloe. And the key to using oil is in this paste is to make sure it’s an oil that can penetrate hair, such as avocado, olive, camellia, or whatever works for you.

Now, go forth and explore ayurvedic love!

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Ayurvedic Herb Love

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Um, has it really been this long since I’ve written here? What’s up with that?

Well, it looks like I forgot about more than writing in my blog. About a year and half ago (?), I read a thread on Naturally Curly about ayurvedic herbs that discussed the results from using the herbs in a paste as a hair treatment, including increased strength, moisture, thickness, etc. I was all up in that (!), so I ordered a slew of herbs (amla, bhringraj [maka], brahmi, and fenugreek) from a few different sources. After the first treatment, I got immediate results: My hair felt stronger, it was incredibly soft, and my hair shed less.

Then there was a recall on Hesh powdered herbs, and that was the brand I’d bought. I couldn’t find any reasonably priced herbs that weren’t Hesh, so my ayurvedic herb love waned until I just forgot about it.

Fast forward to now: I got my hair trimmed (three freakin’ inches!) about two weeks ago, and I was so upset that my ends still felt rough and thin (not to mention split), and the single-strand-knot fairy crept into my room and wreaked havoc on my head. Ridiculous. After spending the last two weeks trimming every split and knotted end, I thought to buy some protein treatment (my hair only likes protein in few doses) and ayurvedic herbs.

Why didn’t I remember this earlier? Those herbs are no joke. Again, their effect was immediate: my hair was soft, strong, and well-moisturized with greater curl definition. I’m going to continue with the herbs, because I need all the help I can get when it comes to strength and thickening. Next time, I’m going to use hibiscus tea in place of the plain boiled water.

I ordered my herbs from Smallflower Apothecary and The Indian Food Store (I’ll post the link shortly), but there are many other sources out there. (EDIT: I now order bhringraj (maka) from From Nature with Love and amla, brahmi, and fenugreek from Smallflower. They both have the best prices of any shop I’ve seen so far.)

Here’s my recipe:

  • 1 part (3-4 heaping teaspoons) bhringraj (maka)
  • 2 parts (6-8 heaping teaspoons) amla
  • 2 parts (6-8 heaping teaspoons) fenugreek
  • 2 parts (6-8 heaping teaspoons) brahmi
  • 10 tablespoons jojoba oil (or another oil that penetrates hair)
  • 1/2 packet dry milk
  • 1/2 cup aloe vera gel
  • boiling water hibiscus tea (prepare at least 4 cups; you’ll add small amounts, several times; I keep it in an electric kettle and re-heat it)
  • essential oil, if desired, for fragrance
  • rubber or plastic gloves (it’s hard to clean the paste from under your fingernails, and it’s just easier to apply the paste with gloves)

Mix the herbs together well. Add the oil, milk, and aloe (don’t mix). Add boiling water hot tea (about 1/4 cup at a time) to make a paste that’s slightly thinner than cake frosting. Allow the paste to sit for at least three hours. Add boiling water hot hibiscus tea periodically (every 20 minutes/half hour) to retain the consistency. The herbs will continue to absorb the water tea. Continue to do this every 20 to 30 minutes until all the tea is gone. Note: For me, it’s more pleasant to apply the paste when it’s warm rather than when it’s cooled.

When you’re ready to apply the paste, spray your hair with water, especially if you have dry hair (like mine!). Put on your gloves, section your hair, and apply to each section from roots to ends; massage the mixture into your scalp as you apply it. Continue until your entire head is complete, and cover your head with a plastic cap or bag. Allow the paste to sit for at least two hours (I usually sleep in it). Rinse your hair thoroughly, shampoo, and then use a deep conditioner (don’t pass on the deep conditioner—trust me).

You can freeze any remaining mixture. This amount usually makes about two applications for my shoulder length hair, so you can tailor the amount for your hair length.

In the summer time, when the weather is hot … (my hair care changes!)

This week, I finally began to understand the importance of knowing how dew points, humidity, and product ingredients all play a role in determining my hair’s appearance on a given day. I understood humidity and ingredients, but dew points? They made no sense to me.

Enter this week: It’s been in the 90s, with lots of humidity, and nearly every day this week, I had to leave my home office and commute to various locations and a conference. I thought I was ready—the first day wasn’t so bad because the humidity was relatively low, and though I had a smidge of frizz, my hair turned out almost how I wanted it. I was lulled into thinking my normal routine would serve me.

Day two brought cotton candy to me! “Cotton candy?” you ask. Yes, cotton candy … on my head. Now, I don’t really care about the whole 1-4 hair typing system in terms of what products to use; I’ve learned that has little to do with anything. However, I think my hair is mostly 4b with a few 4a patches. Rather than curls, I have waves. I’m trying to be grateful for what God gave me, but, man, I love those 4a and 3c curls! Oh well. So, anyway, instead of my (ahem) 4b wondrous waves, I got the cotton candy puff, which I admit wasn’t terrible because of my hair cut, but it still wasn’t what I wanted.

I checked the weather forecast, and the dew point was 70; then I reviewed the ingredients on the BioInfusion conditioner I use as a leave-in (with some shea oil when I do wash-and-gos) and sure enough: There’s glycerin in there! Finally, it clicks that glycerin is a big no-no for me when the dew points are high. Finally.

If you need help understanding how porosity, texture, humdity, and dew points dictate what products you should use and when, here’s some help:

For the record:

  • my hair texture is coarse, so I avoid protein most of the time;
  • my hair is porous (or perhaps very dry), so I need to use products that will close my hair’s cuticle;
  • this time of year, I need to avoid humectants; and,
  • the product junkie in me is elated that I had to purchase two new products that don’t have protein or humecants—Sprial Solution’s Deeply Decadent Moisturizing Treatment and Curl Junkie’s BeautiCurls Leave-in Hair Conditioner—for this lovely summer season.

If you’ve been in the wild, like I’ve been, read about porosity and texture at Live Curly Live Free, and forget about making product choices based on your curl type rather than your hair type’s specific needs.

History of My Hair: Part I

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I always get in trouble because of my hair.

Seriously.

When I was a little girl, despite wearing ponytails, much of my hair would get loose and stand up all over my head. I have a school picture of me smiling with all the joy of a carefree child—with my hair sticking up all over. (My teacher, who walked each of us over to the photographer, didn’t try to smooth it down for me.)

I got in trouble when the picture proofs came in, and if I’m not mistaken, I got in trouble when I got home that day from school.

When I was 12 or 13, my father saw me leaving for school one day, and yelled at me to go fix my hair; I suppose he didn’t like the way one half of my hair responded well to rollers, but the other half hung there limply. He told me that I had to see him before I left for school every day. After that, I’d compensate for the limpness by wearing a ponytail or using styling combs to pull back the offending strands. That lasted for about a month before he said I could leave without “Daily hair inspections, SIR!” at 0700 hours.

Some days, I’d leave home with perfectly coiffed hair, but by the time I’d get to the bus stop, all my roller-set curls fell quicker than a cat on ice skates. When I’d get home, I’d often get the “what-did-you-do-to-your-hair-girl?” inquisition from my mother.

My sister’s hair wasn’t quite like mine. She could hold a curl, “so it must be something you’re doing to it!”

Even when I got my hair relaxed, it didn’t look like other peoples’ hair. I remember some stylists shaking their heads saying, “It doesn’t look like I did a thing to it,” because my hair would still have a lot of waviness to it after a relaxer. I never understood why my hair was always so thin and wiry after processing when all the other girls’ hair was straight and beautiful—unlike mine. (Or so I thought at the time.)

When I was in my late teens or early 20s, I started french braiding my hair each night and wearing the resulting waves. For once, I thought my hair looked good. My supervisor didn’t agree. So I started styling my hair straight but bumped the ends. I was told by many people, “Now you’re trying to look like a white girl. CURL your hair!”

The edges of my front hairline have always been thin. The thinness increased so much that my father actually thought I shaved it, and told me that he didn’t like it shaved. I’d try slicking it down with curl activator gel, and sometimes that helped. However, one day, a man I’d never seen before walked up to me and criticized my hair: “Why is your hair so pouf-y, and what is this gel? It looks so greasy.”

Sigh.

Even after going natural and accepting my hair for what it is, I still get flak. Not many people like my curls/waves (even some of those who told me to curl my hair), and go out of their way to tell me so. Eyeing my headful of curls, some ask me, “So what are you going to do with your hair now?” The difference is, I don’t care about their opinions anymore. I’m glad to be on my natural hair journey and discover what works for me.

No more hair fights … including with other people.

My latest styling routine

Well! I’d better get crackin’ over here, hadn’t I?

I’m really excited because I think I’ve finally found a great wash-and-go routine. And not only the routine, but the right products as well! (Okay, unless I find something better …hey, I’m a product junkie; what do you want from me?)

Yesterday, I was going out to dinner, and I knew I wanted to show off some curl, so I co-washed with Suave Tropical Coconut, as usual. I conditioned with Aubrey Organic’s White Camellia (I can’t rave about it enough—it’s far better for my hair than Aubrey’s Honeysuckle Rose, but that could be because of the wheat protein that the Honeysuckle Rose contains). I detangled my hair, rinsed, and then put it into about 10 sections.

After my shower, I spritzed my sectioned head with more water (a bit of time had elapsed between my shower exit and styling time). Then, to each section, I applied a large gumball-sized dab of BioInfusion Hydrating Balm (I’m still looking for a natural replacement!) and a squirt of shea oil (not shea butter). Aha! This is the key for preventing white glops and flakes as my hair dries.

I really wish I had a decent camera (I’ve really got to work on that) to show you all how it turned out, but for a change, the back of my hair was well-defined, plus it had less shrinkage. Gee, I suppose I have to do more than glop my leave-in on the top of my head, huh? 😉

Even better, I pineappled my hair last night and my second day curls are still cute—not quite as defined as yesterday, but they’ll more than just do.

Office ‘Do

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It’s freezing cold where I live, and wash-and-go hair do’s aren’t ideal for my commute to the office. I work from home some days, so when I do go into the office, I need an easy quick-fix to get myself out the door (I’m definitely not a morning person, so the emphasis is on quick).

This morning, it was about 20 degrees (!) and snowing when I finally dragged myself out of bed. Two days ago, I’d put a deep conditioner as a pre-poo treatment in my hair. (Yes, really, two days ago; my hair loves this, because it’s chronically dry.) After smacking the snooze bar a few times, I knew that I wasn’t going to have a lot of time to get some jazz in my ‘do, nor would I have time for a co-wash and conditioning, plus styling.

Enter MsVaughn’s YouTube video on hair typing and defining curls. Since I was in a hurry, I modified her approach. After I rinsed out the remaining conditioner, I:

  • parted my hair into four large sections;
  • took one section and sprayed it with water;
  • applied about one tablespoon of Kinky Curly Knot Today (KCKT) leave-in conditioner;
  • spritzed the section lightly with more water;
  • applied about a half teaspoon of unrefined shea butter (I melted it in my palm first); and,
  • finger combed the section, twirled it around my index finger to form a flat “curl,” and secured it with a bobby pin.

I finished the remaining sections, and, in total, this took me about 15 minutes. When I was done, I got dressed, put a hat on, and began my frigid commute to work. When I first arrived, I didn’t have time to take out the pins, but after two-ish hours, I was able to get to the ladies’ room and remove them. My hair was still quite wet. No matter—the office air is so dry, my hair dried fully within an hour. No kidding—it’s a very green building, so there’s little humidity.

I wish I had a good camera to show the curl definition I achieved, but my cell phone’s camera is so crappy, my hair just looks like a big poof—unlike how it really appears. Honestly, my curls weren’t quite as defined as MsVaughn’s. With this amended method, my curls’ definition falls between her undefined and defined hair. I think that’s because I skipped the step of running a paddle brush (or my wide-toothed Denman) through my hair. Or perhaps it’s because I put my hat on my dry hair about five times, and that frizzed it up a bit.

It also could have been the KCKT; I’ve really tried to like it, but it neither conditions nor detangles my hair very well, yet some people swear by it. What-ev. For wash and go’s, I use BioInfusion’s Professional Hydrating Conditioning Balm, which conditions and defines my curls beautifully, but as I’ve mentioned before, I want to stop using it, because it contains parabens (Riviera Brands, take note!). I also alternate my wash and go’s with Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie, which conditions my hair quite well, but it doesn’t do much for defining my curls—that’s paradoxical, since the more moisturized my hair is, the better the curl poppage.

So, on my to-do list:

  • Try this method with a different conditioner, and use a paddle brush or a Denman; and,
  • Get a real camera, so I can post decent pictures here (I know! I’m so behind the times …).

Still, all things considered, this is a fab, quick way to get me out of the house on time, and have an attractive, office-appropriate ‘do.

—V

Update (14 December, 10:05 PM): I also need to try doing this with smaller sections of hair. I think that will make a difference in the curl definition. After I try that, I’m going to experiment with some homemade flax seed gel (in the next few days, I’ll post a recipe that I liked from a site that’s no longer online).

These dreams go on when I close my eyes …

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There I was, walking down the street, window shopping and eyeing all the goodies my budget won’t allow me to buy. My hair was bouncing, and it was long. Just like it was about seven years ago, when it hung halfway down my back—the days when people asked me, “Is that your hair, or is it a weave?” Suddenly, I caught a glimpse of myself in a window. My hair was straight!

Oh, no! After all that conditioner, walking around the house wearing plastic bags on my head, the research, the … detangling.

I went and straightened my hair again!

Are you kidding me? What was I thinking?

I have to laugh at myself. I keep having these dreams where I “accidentally” relax or texturize my hair, and all my hard work at staying natural goes to naught, and I have to begin my growing process all over again. This is ironic considering, every now and then, I keep thinking, “I should cut my hair into a teeny weeny afro [TWA] again!” And I’ve had that very thought as recently as last week.

What lures me back to that style? Is it the easy care of a TWA? the fact that my curls seemed more defined? the wash-and-go’s, even in winter? I’m not sure, but I do miss that hair style. My hair grew like wildfire then, probably because I didn’t stress my hair as much, though I did have a hard time keeping my hands out of my hair, since I loved the feel of my curls.

Perhaps that was it, after all. That’s actually when I fell in love with my curls—my natural texture—and I felt comfortable with myself, after all those years.

So, why all these dreams of destroying my natural hair handiwork? I must be working through my suppressed fears or something. Deep down, maybe I want to go back to that, because if I relaxed my hair again, I’d definitely do a big chop again, and love my resulting TWA.

Sigh.

Time for another pre-wash deep conditioning treatment …

I’m Doing Better

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Well, a little resolution goes a long way. I’ve managed to co-wash about every two to three days, plus twice-daily oiling my temples with Jamaican black castor oil (JBCO). Great! My hair feels really good. I only need to get back to my weekly deep conditioning and ayurvedic treatment. And I need to go see Dickey for a haircut.

Recently, I was traveling and ran out of conditioner (or, perhaps, I forgot it). I bought a bottle of BioInfusion Professional Hydrating Balm, in a tube, and fell in love with it. It actually reminded me—scent and all—of Biolage’s Hydrating Balm (which comes in a tub instead of a tube). This conditioner works for me as a leave-in, because it moisturizes my hair well, and it doesn’t flake like most other conditioners do. The only problem with BioInfusion are the ingredients:

Water (Aqua), Myristyl Alcohol, Cetrimonium Chloride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Iso Decyl Oleate, Propylene Glycol, Fragrance (Parfum), Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Coumarin, Linalool, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hydroxycitronellal, Amyl Cinnamal, Polysorbate-20, Geraniol, Algae, Algae Extract, Rosemary Extract (Rosmarinus Officinalis), Golden Seal Extract (Hydrastis Canadensis).

Now, I haven’t researched all the ingredients in this, but I definitely don’t want to use parabens. I’m looking for a similar conditioner without yucky parabens, and without any petroleum/mineral oil-based ingredients, proteins, or silicone. This is going to be a challenge. I figured that, while the ingredients are completely different, I’d try Giovanni Smooth As Silk* and see how that works for me.

Wow, I’m really pleased with my progress! I just hope I stick with this and don’t get bored.

* Ixnay on the Smooth As Silk—I re-read the ingredients, and it has soybean protein in it. I don’t know if my hair will tolerate soy protein, given that coarse hair and protein don’t do well together. I’ll have to get my hands on a sample. Otherwise, my search continues …

Consistency is the key …

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There’s something about me—laziness? boredom, perhaps?—that prevents me from settling into a routine for anything. Over the years I’ve tried to correct this flaw, but to no avail. I’d rather shoot from the hip. However, there are some things in life that just require a routine. Like my hair.

Add to this trait flaw the fact that I am a product junkie (PJ) of the worst kind: I buy products and quickly abandon them—it’s not always that they don’t work, but also because I get bored. So, my bathroom area is full of half- and quarter-used products, with a few mainstays scattered in the wasteland.

If I could pin down my routine, I think my hair would grow more, be softer and more radiant, and be easier to maintain. Ahh, my personality flaw has far reaching effects!

So, consistency in my routine … and posting here, will go a long way. Coming soon, I’ll be writing about the products I use regularly and what I’m trying to incorporate in my routine. I think “putting it out there” will help. Comments and suggestions are welcome.