Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grease: Twist out results

I had no idea my new tub of grease was such a vintage staple. Though my first introduction to Three Flowers Brilliantine happened yesterday by chance at Wal-Mart, apparently it's an old-faithful product line with nearly a hundred years on shelves internationally, particularly in Hispanic/Latino communities:

Three Flowers was launched in 1915 by the American perfumer, Richard Hudnut.  Three Flowers was also known as Tres Flores in Spanish speaking countries.

Three Flowers was a complete line of toiletries and by 1964 the fragrance was available in perfume, cologne, brilliantine in both liquid and solid, after bath dusting powder, face powder, talcum powder, cream hair dressing and conditioner, cleansing cold cream, vanishing cream, tissue cream, lipstick, rouge, and cream. (Source website)

My results from the first grease twist out were good, as you can see on the video. I still get better twist-out definition from Curls by Sisters Smith Curly Pudding, but the softness of using grease as a sealant -- this is what makes it a winner for me. Plus, I don't care as much as I used to about curl definition. Explode that curl, sculpt your hair!

Some say grease isn't recommended for fine hair, but I think it depends on what kind of grease you get, how you use it, and the viscosity and weight of it. TFB is light-weight and slick, and a little goes quite a long way. Another thing I noticed while putting the twists in (on lightly misted damp hair, of course) was how the tangles I did have just melted away in my fingertips. Wow, now I can see why Mom used it so consistently.

*Hanging my head in shame* I have officially unlearned my lesson, the one I picked up from years of looking at hair blogs, fotkis, and YTubers. I thought the best approach for me to take was avoiding the stuff I used when my hair was relaxed, and even the stuff my sweet mom used on my hair when I was a kid, but I admit I was incorrect. Petrolatum is not the devil. But there is a right way and a wrong way to apply it.

Here's an article about how to use grease, some videos by someone who tested it in her hair for a month, and (just in case you've been under the rock with me, lol) CurlyNikki's post about her new-found admiration for it.

For those of you who knew about this grease thing all along, thank you for gracefully holding back your "I told you so, you fancy-pants newbie natural!" I still don't think I'll ever go back to the Pink Lotion, but I also never thought I would use grease, so... ?

Hair Grease?

In 14 or so years of wearing my hair in its natural state, here are some things I've learned:
  • My mane is thick (a great number of hairs on my head) and fine (individual strands are slender).
  • My hair is porous. It drinks water and water-based products like people guzzle sweet tea in NC.
  • It's prone to dryness and breakage without (a) enough moisture, (b) a proper sealant and (c) topical protein on a consistent basis.
  • The most effective protein treatments for me are often straight from my fridge -- yogurt, mayo, egg, etc. Henna is so-so, but I'll keep trying, plus I like the reddish color.
  • Combing doesn't work as well as finger detangling for me. It doesn't matter if my hair is soaking wet with conditioner or just damp. Fingers work better.
  • The best oils/sealants for me thus far are olive oil, grapeseed oil and shea butter, but they must be used sparingly and never on dry hair.
  • Straight shea butter creates build up. For me it's more effective a whipped/blended state with aloe, for example.
But what about hair grease?  Until recently, I haven't put much effort into re-visiting the things Mom used on my hair when I was a kid, but blog posts and YT videos over the past several months have piqued my interest. There's no shortage of stories out there about women having great success with minimal products + plain ol' hair grease -- Dax, Royal Crown and such. The argument still is and continues to be "do what works best for you."  

But wait... what really is "best?" The ingredients in grease aren't healthy, or at least that's what I've heard/read over the past several years. Petroleum by-product ingredients and cheap fillers clog hair follicles, are carcinogenic and will cause your thighs to double in size overnight... right?  Hmmm. Maybe.  

But perhaps it's also a more effective and less expensive sealant. Maybe it handles heat styling better than those bottles of CHI. I mean, Mom used to apply grease before searing my hair straight with the hot comb off the stove. As much as I hated it as a kid, looking back at the pics all I see are ropes of long, thick healthy hair. Back then I was concerned about reverting (of course I didn't call it that as a kid), because it meant I couldn't go swimming. I couldn't sweat my straight hair out, and I didn't want to have to go through the hot comb business any more than necessary. I didn't start having scalp issues until relaxers came into play. After relaxers, my scalp flaked and itched all the time.

All other things taken into account -- aging, environment, different techniques -- something about good ol' fashion hair grease is mysteriously appealing. Appealing enough for me to (finally) give it a shot as a natural-haired adult.

For more on my foray back to grease, including a mini-meltdown, check out this recent video.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Natural Beauty: Maria

Maria is one of many making the Triangle's natural hair scene so rich. We met at a Christian spoken word event in Durham a few years ago, and then I saw her growing portfolio of hair pics on FB -- so dynamic with the styles. Maria, thanks for sharing your story!  :-)

The lovely Maria
1) What lessons did you learn about hair/beauty when you were younger? 

            “Your hair is your glory!” Those 5 words were ingrained in my brain at an early age. My mother was adamant that women should have loooong hair! My hair was long, but it was always (and I mean ALWAYS) swoll! It wouldn’t stay straight if my life depended on it. My relaxers didn’t seem to ever “take” which resulted in a nice hot straightening comb being added to the mix. I would get a relaxer almost every 4 weeks as a result of trying to “tame” my hair. It’s a miracle that I kept ANY hair on my head. HA! Needless to say, I had MANY hair challenges. I wanted it to be silky straight and it WOULD be for about a good week.
            My hair was such a challenge that I used to keep one of those portable thermacell curling irons to curl my bangs on the school bus because they had started to rebel before I was able to make it to class. It was just so sad J. Everyone always said I had this pretty thick head of hair, but I could barely stand it because it never did what I wanted it to. Can you imagine the frustration of spending countless hours on your hair only for it to look like a puffy mess??? Oh and DON’T SWEAT! Or let it be raining! OMG!  Hair slicked back in a ponytail with some Dax Pomade became my constant companion.
            I was drilled in my head that your hair should be nice and neat, long and straight, so I think it was a “not-so-subconscious” act of rebellion that I chopped it all off when I turned 21. I thought a haircut was best thing that EV-ER happened to me. With enough spritz and gel, my hair was fiercely fabulous and untouchable (literally LOL). My mom almost put me over her knee for a beatdown when I came home from college with about 1.5 inches of hair. She nearly lost it. HA! Definitely an unforgettable moment.

2) How has your perspective about hair/beauty changed over time?
I’d never admit this to my mommy, but I’ve truly come to believe that my hair IS indeed my glory. It’s an extension of who I am as a woman, God’s magnificent creation, fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s my responsibility to be a good steward of the vessel God has given me (mind, body, and soul) and this means treating it with tender loving care.

3) When and how did you decide to go natural?
When it comes to my hair, versatility is a must. I’d done just about everything, including long hair, short hair, fingerwaves, ponytails, etc. The only thing I hadn’t done was rock a natural ‘do. It was something I always wanted to do, but I was stuck on trying to be “silky straight.” Unfortunately, in 2008, I began having issues with immune system that caused my skin to blister. This included my scalp. I felt that it was in the best interest of my health to stop the chemicals. I was unsure what the cause of my autoimmune disorder was, but going natural would be a good place to start the healing process.

Since I’d worn my hair short for 11 years, it was easy for me to transition to natural hair. As it grew, I’d have my stylist cut out the relaxer a little at a time. In the meantime I tried several other styles like kinky or senegalese twists to help me maintain during the times I felt like giving up. Now I’m happy to be healed from the autoimmune disorder and have a head full of naturally curly hair.

4) What three hair products/tools are must-haves for you?
It’s difficult to narrow my “must-haves” down to only 3. I guess I’ll start with my Ecostyle Olive Oil styling gel – I just LOOOOVE it! I use it for my twists, up-dos, wash-n-go, etc, etc, etc. Next would be my paddle brush. I could break into song when I think of my brush. “I need thee! Oh I need thee!” With all this thick hair, it’s very helpful in my detangling process. The final must-have is shea butter…I couldn’t pick just one hair product in particular, BUT, most of the ones I use have shea as their base.

5) Where do you go for natural hair inspiration or advice?
YOU-TUBE and GOOGLE!!! These websites are my main source for hairstyles and product reviews. Other major sources of inspiration are my friends. Several of my friends are natural and have gone through the tests and trials of finding the right products for their hair. It’s helpful to be able to bounce ideas and recommendations off of each other.

6) What are the best aspects of being natural? The most challenging aspects?
The best aspect of being natural for me is the ability to play in the rain or workout without freaking out about the moisture. I also like the fact that my hair isn’t brittle or over-processed. It’s healthy, strong, and longer than ever. Another great aspect is that I have LOTS of styling options that don’t require heat or spritz. It’s so liberating.

Before going natural, I would use just about any product that would give me the desired result.  The most challenging aspect of being natural is that I must pay attention to the ingredients of the products I use and I may pay more money. I try to stay away from products that have mineral oil or petroleum. Because so many products contain these ingredients, I have to do more research. Find the right products for my grade of hair has been a challenge as well. My bathroom cabinet often looks like a science lab. It is definitely trial and error. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa.

My biggest challenge has been to resist being affected by other people’s perception of my hair. When I first started with about an inch of hair, folks either loved it or HATED it and God has blessed me with friends that don’t mind speaking their minds. In addition, people that don’t even “know me like that” made and still make comments like “I don’t know if I like that,” “Wow your hair is really big!”, or “I like it better the OTHER way”. Let’s just say that it’s been an interesting journeyJ.

Thankfully, though it took me a while, I walk with confidence and the belief that my hair is beautiful and so am I regardless of the style choices I make on a particular day.

7) What's the best compliment you ever received regarding your natural hair/beauty?
“Girl, people pay good money for hair like that!” Hearing those words put a big old’ smile on my face because I have actually been one of those people to PAY good money for hair just like this. As a matter of fact, I still have a few hair pieces stored away somewhere.

8) In closing, please share anything on your mind regarding natural hair.

I have said “DO YOU!” so many times over the past couple of months. As I mentioned before, many of my friends are natural or contemplating the journey. While I listen to their struggles or concerns, I have to admonish them to do what feels good or right for them. Don’t do it because it seems to be fashionable or because somebody said you should or shouldn’t. Do it because it’s what you want to do. If you see the benefits, it’s worth a try.

Going natural is definitely a process! It takes time to adjust especially if you’ve been getting relaxers all your life. This journey requires patience and the ability to persevere because the urge to give up may come tap you on the shoulder.

Honestly speaking, there are those rare times that I just want to cut it all off and slap a perm in it because I admit that I miss the days of just taking off my wrap cap, finger combing, and rolling out! But when I think of all the chemicals that I’m not putting in my body and see the glorious sheen and curl of my natural hair, I put the thought in the trash can of my memories and relish in the fact that I made the best decision for me, myself, and I.