Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Indigo Experiment!

So I think I did pretty good with my little henna experiment for a first timer and I'm quite looking forward to layering another application on top of this one. Gotta be careful though. Henna can cause a loosening in my curl pattern and I love my curls! Next time I'm thinking about adding Amla, another Ayurvedic herb (traditional medicines native to India), that is said to prevent the loosening effect.

Unfortunately, I couldn't take a pic of the final dry result because I had other plans for my mane...

Indigofera tinctoria or Indigo
Photo courtesy of
I wanted to dye my hair jet black with Indigo. Indigo, often called "black henna", is not henna at all (like the colorless cassia obovata or "neutral henna" from my previous post).  It is super important when purchasing products that are labeled "black henna", to make sure that the ingredient is actually indigo, or indigofera tinctoria. Otherwise it may include the harmful chemical Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) which are often included in chemical hair dyes. And if you're looking for a natural way to color your hair, the inclusion of the chemicals would defeat your purpose. It can also result in a terrible allergic reaction!  Because the packaging of many ayurvedic herbs are not Americanized, an easy way to tell if you are getting actual indigo is to look for a greenish powder (said by some to smell like frozen peas, to me it smells like spinach). The powder should not be black!! It only turns dark after mixing in water and after the dye releases. Even then, it is not black. You can read more about PPD's here.

On to my experiment!! I know I said I wasn't happy with the Light Mountain brand of cassia obovata (neutral henna). However, that may be due in part to some errors on my end (not using enough, etc.) I still returned the empty box to Whole Foods and was promptly given a refund. Yay Whole Foods!! But since indigo doesn't seem to be readily available at the Indian grocer where I found the henna (probably because of the extremely short shelf life) and I didn't feel like waiting and paying for shipping from an online retailer, I went ahead and picked up a box of the Light Mountain in Black (around $6 bucks). I carefully checked the ingredients to make sure that it was actual indigo and yep, indigofera tinctoria was listed. It also listed henna as ingredient and I knew that it was also common in commercially sold indigo to include a mix with henna. I knew this may lessen my chances of getting that black black BLACK that I was looking for but I decided to give it a try anyway. I could always return it right ;-)

I must say I was totally prepared for my henna treatment. Plastic gloves, ready! Newspaper, ready! Old towels, ready! But the process moves A LOT faster with the indigo. Once it is done being mixed ( I mixed with rose water found at the Indian grocery store for $2.99!...this stuff costs $10 at the health food store, but I digress...) you only have a few minutes to apply. It is said that the dye actually loses its dying ability after about 30 minutes. So it was GO time.

The Henna Experiment!!

When I get intrigued with something, I truly don't quit until I've conquered it. Enter my new obsession with all things henna! Henna, Lawsonia inermis, is a flowering plant usually associated with the beautiful temporary tattooing primarily done in Indian cultures for brides before their wedding, ceremonies, etc. However, henna has long been used as a natural hair dye also (fun fact: Lucille Ball got her signature bright red locks usually courtesy of henna treatments) and hair strengthening treatment. Currently, it is taking the natural hair community by storm. Given my research on the benefits and  effects on natural hair, I decided to finally take the plunge. I started by experimenting with "neutral henna", a colorless version that still provides conditioning effects, resulting in shinier, glossier, smoother, and more manageable hair. Neutral henna isn't actually henna at all though. It is a very similar plant, cassia obovata,  that doesn't have the dying characteristics of the henna plant.

Me after a night with Cassia Obovata ("Neutral Henna")

This stuff is like mud bath for your hair. The process is definitely a weekend job. It involves a lot of prepping, mixing ... waiting, applying...waiting, rinsing...rinsing...rinsing, conditioning...waiting. Not for the impatient. And it's messy. The henna more than the cassia obviously, but still.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Denman Large Paddle Brush Review

Denman Large Paddle Brush #83
 So six days ago I was reading this post over at Curly Nikki about the Denman Paddle Brush #83. Enter my usual intrigue. I have been intrigued like this before of course. It happened with Denmans original brush loved by the natural hair community, the D3, now affectionately referred to by some as "the shredder." I remember running out to purchase the D3 from Sally's when I first heard about it. People raved about it on and other blogs and forums. When I layed my eyes on it, even with the $9 price tag (this was the most I had spent on a comb/brush thus far), I didn't blink before throwing it in my cart. I even made my sister buy one too! When I got it home and tried it on my hair, I thought I loved it. Thought! I started noticing how much hair was left in my brush after detangling in the shower (even when I packed loads of conditioner in it while detangling). And this was not as easy a process as I thought it would be. But I had no experience with anything else. Sure enough, several weeks later others were complaining online.

Denman D3 aka "The Shredder" 

Needless to say, I was skeptical about purchasing the #83. But as always, I ended up giving it a try. 2 days later I had it in my hands (purchased from Folica for $11.99, currently 25% off).
Denman Large Paddle Brush #83

I have tried this brush on wet hair with conditioner applied. Love it! I have tried this brush on dry hair lightly moisturized with a butter or cream. Love it!! And for me, detangling dry hair is taboo. But this brush makes that a thing of the past. I wouldn't say it eliminates pain from the process. But it does cut my detangling time down by more than half. It doesn't snap my hair when it can't easily get through. No snarls, no snags, no breakage (so far)!! I can see myself using this for the occasional blow dry or before setting with twists, braids, or my curlformers. This is a win! If I change my mind in a month, I'll let you know :-)


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hair Hazards!! The Risks Involved with Hair Straightening Techniques

I'm stuck at home with the kids today. Who told teachers and daycare providers that they could have breaks?? I kid I kid!! (Shouts out to my beautiful teacher-friends!) Anyhooo, I was able to catch the homey Dr. Oz today. I loooooove me some Dr. Oz. Oh yes I do. Not only is he a gorgeous old Turkish stud (I'm weird, I know it) but this cardiovascular surgeon and media sensation (offspring of the Oprah family of experts) is also extremely knowledgeable on many health topics. He offers so much insight into health in such a hands-on, graspable way, giving the average Joe the knowledge to take an easy step in the right direction.
The amazing Dr. Mehmet Oz
Every time I happen to catch his show I find his topics to be super informative and relatable. I was not surprised when I flipped right in time to see the topic "The Dangers of Hair Straightening". Along with Cheryl Kramer Kaye, Beauty Director at Redbook Magazine, Dr. Oz examined the harmful ingredients and risks associated with three of the biggest mainstream techniques in hair straightening. Discussed were the controversial "Brazilian Blowout", flat ironing, and of course our dear creamy crack, relaxers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Curlformers Part II !!!

My most anticipated item of the year arrived in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago, the super innovative Curlformers!!! ($11.99 - $12.99  quantity varies between 6-8 per pack, depending on width & length, available at Sally Beauty Supply)

I purchased 4 packs of the Extra Long & Wide and 2 packs of the Long & Wide
I seriously could not wait to rip open these babies and try them out. I was pretty confident that I could figure them out easily. But as I began the process, I found that they were a little trickier than they seemed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winterizing!! Beauty Essentials

So obviously the hawk is upon us with a vengeance here in Chicago. I've been living here all of my life but still I'm never quite ready! But I'm learning...

One of the things that I've struggled with during the last three years being a natural haired vixen is maintaining a healthy, thriving, quenched mane during the brutal winters here. I admit, protective styling is not my thing. I try, I keep it up for a while, then all of a sudden I'm back to hitting the pillow with my hair in all its unkempt glory.  Most days, I wake up to a dry and matted mess...and this is in the summer! Imagine my unruly hair battling against my lack of nightly maintenance AND the elements outside! Fortunately, my hair springs back to life as soon as the steam from my shower hits it. I'm a wash and go type of gal and my hair craves water!! But that's not enough and attempting to go outside in this weather with even a slightly damp head could leave me in a whole heap of sickness!! Soooo... I'll need something that will keep my hair moist ALL day and keep me from waking up in the morning with a thirsty brillo pad on top of my head. Coconut, grape-seed, castor, and olive oil are usually my best friends. But when the weather is cooler, I need more.

I've heard so much about Qhemet Biologics amongst the natural hair community. However, when it comes to spending a nice piece of change on a much hyped product, I'm a little hesitant. I've learned my lesson many times with these products (Miss Jessie's, Carols Daughter, etc). Most times, you can find something thats just as good or way better than those high end products marketed to natural ladies. You can even make a comparable or better quality product yourself!! Well, I decided to take the leap and try the Amla & Olive Heavy Cream only because I could hardly find one negative review and I knew I was in need of something great to conquer this feisty winter approaching.