Phenomenal . . .

Phenomenal . . .
Life, Growth, and Connection (This sunflower was nourished by my hands.) 2010; Photography by Benita Blocker. Please become a follower of this blog.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

One Year Locks Anniversary: Raw Honey Retightening

 July 24, 2012 was my Sisterlocks birth date.  July 24, 2013 marked my (dread) locks one year anniversary.  What a journey?  God has the Master Plan.  Because my Sisterlocks are not super small, I have began to convert my tightening method to finger twisting.  I have been using all natural aloe based gels and natural oils because apparently, based on my interviews, all those "twist and lock gels" have by-products that can cause build-up on your locks.

People with the healthiest locks are the only ones that I am interviewing, and some people only use shea butter and olive oil.  No gels at all.

I like the idea of using natural products for my locked hair.  I also realized that with the Sisterlocks being an interlocking technique that it seems to "uncoil" my natural hair pattern.  My finger twisting seen to have been in vain the last few self-tightening sessions because my hair kept unwinding until reaching the interlocked area of the lock.  So out of desperation to secure my new growth from unwinding, I decided to try the "Sweet Locks" approach using honey.  I purchased local raw honey.

I poured the honey in a disposable container.  I tasted it too.  Delicious!  Based on my research, one lady said "bees make honey from nectar, not honey from honey."  So far, no bees have been buzzing around me, but if I sweat too much I may attract some flies. Smile.  The honey seems to be holding the new growth in place. I will probably continue using the honey for my tightening until the locks get trained to coil and stay, then I will go back to the lightweight aloe vera gels.

Please note: Add an hour or more to your tightening time when using honey. So I believe it took me about 4.5 hours versus 3 hours this last self tightening session.

I used the French Perm Stabilizer Plus as my final conditioner.  It is an acidic rinse, and according to reviews, it silkens natural hair.  The foamming action was great. It left my locks soft.

It is designed to be a post-relaxer conditioner. pH is 2.5.  You do have to rinse it out. I purchased it from Sally's Beauty Supply for about $5.00 USD.  I will probably write a separate article on this conditioner at a later date.

Also, on a separate note, I have done articles about comb twisting locks, but now, I believe, only starter locks make sense to comb twist.  The finger twisting technique seems to be the best tightening technique for me.  I will continue to update you on my lock journey . . . until next time.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Create a Crown using your own Locks!

 Do you like my hump in my crown area? Well, I used my own locks to create the volume under my stocking cap wig. (Please see separate blog article for instructions on making the actual stocking cap wig.) But continue on to see how to re-create this crown area!

Well, my locks are over a year old now, and I created two puff balls with just my own dreadlocks and two scrunchies.  No fillers. Then when I put the stocking cap wig on, I placed the faux part between the two puff balls and pat the crown down.  No one will ever know that I have two puff balls of locked hair creating my crown area.

Fuji Hands Free Perm End paper Dispenser System

I love this "end paper" dispenser!!!  It is obviously refillable with "Fuji Perfect Paper"only.  The Fuji end paper has a woven look.  It really was helpful in my last soft curl service.  I was able to rod the hair much quicker.  I also used it recently to roll a mesh roller set.  The end papers are interlocked inside the dispenser so they easily allow the next end paper to pop-up ready to use.  The refills are interlocked as well.  You just neatly drop the refill in and feed the top end paper through to begin the ease of use.  You will never want to buy cheap end paper again.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

There is Nothing Relaxing about Relaxers

In this article, I want to address everything from relaxer shelf life to relaxer getting into the hair follicle below the scalp.

First of all, many new clients tell me that their stylist goes behind closed doors to get the relaxer and then re-emerges with relaxer product in a bowl ready to use.  They really do not know what type of relaxer is being used on them.  Then some hairstylists even in my own personal experience will put what they want in the bowl despite your special request.

I personally offer full transparency in my salon.  I want my clients to know that I am not trying to play a "switch-a-roo" game on them.  I do not purposely position the styling chair so that the client can not see the mirror.  I know some hairstylists intentionally keep the client from out of the mirror until the very end of the service.  When performing haircoloring services, I do recommend keeping the client out of the mirror only because every colorist has times when they have to tone or correct some undesirable results.  There is no use in alarming the client when you know that you can fix the issue.

Now, back to the relaxer topic, Avlon relaxers typically have an expiration date of three years from manufacture date listed on their tubs of relaxers, but many relaxer tubs do not have expiration dates just batch codes.  That can be a problem because I read online that one relaxer brand ( I don't remember which brand) claims the relaxer shelf life is only one year unopened and four months when opened.  So does that mean twisting off the top to see and smell a relaxer starts a separate countdown for shelf life?  That is scary because with so many hairstylists working independently in styling studios in addition to the "natural hair" movement, relaxer tubs are no longer being constantly turned over because of the decline in relaxer services.

Los Angeles, California residents have been practicing the natural hair movement for awhile because of their low humidity weather.  One of my friends who was working temporarily in the LA area asked for referrals for relaxer services, and no one had a referral because they felt all hairstylists had "old relaxers" because of the low volume of relaxer service requests in the area.

Something else to consider about relaxers is that it is cosmetic and not strictly regulated.  So the consistency of the manufacturing of the relaxers can vary.  There is one brand of relaxer where sometimes when I would purchase it - it would be creamy  and other purchase times, it would be stiffer.  One time, it looked horrible and separated and upon calling the company, they said "due to the heat of the summer, the shea butter had risen to the top, and to just stir it up."  Who wants to pay top dollar for new, fresh product and it is defected????  I asked them take it back and exchange it for some better looking product/tub.  I am seriously planning to discontinue offering this particular brand as soon as I get everyone switched off of it.

I say all of this to say, we really do not have any control over what is in a relaxer tub.  It is a toxic chemical, and I believe, that as the toxic chemcial is softening/relaxing the new growth, it can seep below the scalp and into the hair follicle.  If the relaxer does seep below the scalp, proper neutralizing may be difficult below the scalp resulting in hair shedding.  If you suspect the relaxer to be causing shedding, then I suggest a thorough cleansing with Paul Mitchell Shampoo Two.  It is a clarify and neutralizing shampoo.  It should help detox the scalp and hair follicle.  You will probably need to re-hydrate the hair because the Shampoo Two can be a little drying to ethnic hair.  The dryness can be fixed with using the conditioner that comes with the relaxer system.  If it is the Paul Mitchell relaxer system, then I recommend using an ethnic conditioner to rehydrate.  No pure protein.

Please understand that I am not anti-relaxers.  My pre-teen client who just received her first virgin relaxer (separate blog article) a few months ago is doing extremely well.  Less tangling.  Less time to service.  More styling control.  The relaxer seems like the most beautiful thing on the planet.  Yet, I cautioned her that the chemical is still toxic and should not be performed too often.

Ultimately, relaxers are not going anywhere.  For 50% of ethnic women, they will probably have no relaxer challenges.  Then there is probably another 25% whose hair will not completely relax, but it will become vulnerable to breakage.  Then there is another 25% that will forever have relaxer challenges.  Relaxers and Recovery will become a vicious cycle.

So Relaxers are nothing to be too relaxed about.

Facing the Fear of the Jumbo Rake Comb

Every time I look at this comb, it makes me shiver.  I can never get out of my head when a past hairstylist rapidly and unexpectedly ran this comb from my roots to my ends during the shampoo service of my hair appointment.  I felt raped and violated.  I was wearing my hair relaxed at the time with a fair share of new growth at the roots.  Between my body language, facial expression and widening of my eyes, this hairstylist had to know that she violated my trust.  She did not offer any apologies; only smiled.  With such a rapid comb through during the shampoo phase, I did know what "hit me" until the ordeal was over.  I was laid back in the shampoo bowl when this violation happened, and I have no idea how much hair I lost that day.

Between the limited conditioner selection that she had at a $35 roller set price point and the actual rolling of my hair, I lost a lot of density that day.  I never returned to this hairstylist again.  And I never wanted to see that comb again.

I know it sounds crazy, but I wanted to face my fear of this comb because I knew there had to be a more practical benefit to a comb of this magnitude.  So I purchased one and actually found it beneficial in combing the conditioner through my clients with mid-back length.  My clients are sitting up as I comb their conditioner through, not laying back.

This jumbo rake comb now has fonder memories and purpose . . .

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Net Weaving and Thinning Edges

With so many people going natural and leaning on sew-in weaves to maintain some control over their hairstyling, netting questions have come up as well as concerns about adding additional hair to the braids to give extra styling control.

First of all, commercial hair adds extra weight to your own hair.  If you already have thin edges, and you have extra hair attached to the thinning areas, then the stress from the heaviness of the attachment can eventually cause more hair loss.

Netting can bridge a support system for bald patches or become a support system when a limited number of braids are used to complete a sewn in weave.

If the weight of any commercial hair is not evenly distributed, then it can cause damage to any area that is bearing the bulk of the weight.

So adding hair to the braids where the hairline is thinning and/or attaching a net to support additional commercial hairstyling will probably cause damage to the hairline within 2 to 4 weeks if too much stress is on the hairline.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hair Focus at 2013 Justice for Trayvon Protests

Zimmerman was found "not guilty" after using the Florida "Stand your Ground" law to justify profiling and killing an unarmed Black youth named Trayvon Martin.  This acquittal has caused an uproar on the scale of when O.J. Simpson was acquitted for the murder of his wife.  Protests nationwide were held to voice the widespread dismay in the verdict.  One of my friends active in protest organization captured this brother with his dreadlocks in fishtail braids.  Nice.  He definitely has a very dense head of hair.  The fishtails look great!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Dreadlocks almost a year Later!

So my mom says "So how long are you going to keep your hair like that?  When are you going to take those things loose?"  My response: "Ummm, they are permanent."  Her response: "Oh." Our facial expressions were both priceless during this brief discussion of my locks. LOL!

My mom is a diehard for straight hair, but she loves me unconditionally.  As my dreadlocks get longer, they will begin to grow on her more.  I still have wigs as an option for a "straight hair" look.

Product Review: Goldwell Elumen Hair color

Goldwell Elumen Hair color has been on my wish list for awhile.  It is a sem-permanent color.  There is no mixing with developer.  Just a direct dye.  I like it.  It seems to absorb better in the hair than the Sebastian Cellophanes.

There is some sodium hydroxide toward the end of the ingredient list.  So if you or a client has a soft curl or thio based chemical, then I would not recommend the Elumen color because it may not be compatible.

I used this color on a client with relaxed hair to cover her gray in between relaxers, and it covered gray decently considering the last relaxer touch-up was a few weeks prior.

The consistency of the Elumen seems wet enough to cocktail with conditioner if a quick fix is ever needed.  So far, I have only tried the NA@2 color which is a natural black color, but I plan to add a few more color options at the salon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Trend Overview: Havana Twists

According to, Solange has been sporting the Havana Twists within recent months.  They are larger than Kinky Twists, and they give a "DreadLock" parting look.

Marley braiding hair is used to create this look.

  Online tutorials show how to make the roots invisible and natural looking.  There are a few different techniques on youtube.  Based on your hairtype, curl pattern, and density, you can decide which method is best for you.

The Havannah or Havana Twists seem to be the latest hype!

Mizani Lacers: New versus Old Version

 The new Mizani lacers are brown in color and more firm compared to the green colored ones described in one of my previous articles on this blog.

 There are about three basic ways to use these lacers.  Two of the techniques are shown above.  1) Figure 8 lacing of the hair or dreadlocks (far right).  2) Spiraling the hair or dreadlocks. (first one from the left)  The third technique is similar to using  "Soft Spikes" and "Lock Loops" which are discussed in another article on this blog.

If you still have the green Mizani Lacers on hand, I suggest using two at a time plus end papers to protect the hair from pulling to achieve the same effects of the new and improved Brown Mizani Lacers.

These lacers can be used as alternatives to flexi-rods.  The lacers fit under the platform dryer easier than a head full of flexi-rods.  Also, the lacers are said to be less painful than the flexi-rods as they dry and need to be removed.

Three Years Natural and Still Longing for Length?

I just completed a Mizani natural hair class, and my final questions about natural hair behavior finally came clear.  Remember in my past articles, we have talked about the curliest hair being most fragile?  Well, I am going to take that discussion even deeper.

Imagine every twist and turn in a hair strand to be vulnerable for breakage.  So the most wiry, kinky, zig zag hair has the most possible break points.  Right?  So when you see people who have been "going natural" for three years and their hair is still not any longer than three years ago, you ask what is wrong?

Well, It is breaking.  It is tangling. It may be shedding more because it is tangling.  Then it is trimmed regularly to keep some shape to it and to keep it from tangling as much.  It is a vicious cycle.  For some women, only sections of the head may have a really kinky texture to it.  For other women, they are dealing with a full head of "hard to manage" hair.

So what do you do to stop the breakage and start gaining length?  Here are the choices that I have come up with:

1) Relax it -  Pros:  Relaxers, soft curls, and texturizers eliminate some of the break points by reducing the curliness of the hair.  Cons:  The scalp which is living may suffer damage.  Also, chemicals plus heat styling could still weaken the already vulnerable hair.  So you may gain length short term, but you may lose density long-term.

2) Lock it - Pros: The natural shedding of the hair drops down into the dreadlock and compacts so that you never lose length.  You may still get breakage if the locks dry out, but otherwise, you are never combing out any hair as when you comb out loose natural hair.  Cons: Dreadlocks are not always accepted by certain social classes, jobs, and work environments.

3) Hard Press it- Pros: Hard pressing will eventually permanently straighten the hair or train it to stay straight.  Cons:  Healthy hard pressing has become a lost skill set because of the relaxer/ creamy crack generation.

These are the only three choices for kinkier hair types who want to gain length.

If you have a loose natural curl pattern, then you should have no problems gaining length regardless of chemicals or NO chemicals.  This topic really would not concern you unless you have a child whose hair is kinkier than yours.

So in hindsight, I wished that I had started my dreadlock journey a long time ago.  My scalp was always sensitive to relaxers from my childhood days and continued into my adult life.  I was always tenderheaded.  My hair has always been very hard to manage.

I think that I and my mom have spent much of my forty something years trying to control my hair.  If I only knew then what I know now,  I would have chosen to lock my hair a lot sooner, but we are on God's time and ordered according to His plan for us.

I appreciate the journey and knowledge gained along the way.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Definition of Natural Hair

Hair by Benita Blocker, this model had a keratin smoothing treatment completed without extensions . . .

Is her hair considered natural?  If a person has dreadlocks, are they considered natural?

If you ask a White man what is his definition of "natural hair?"  His response is likely to be

If you ask some Black women what are their definitions of "natural hair?"  There would be multiple responses such as

  1. No texturizer
  2. No relaxer 
  3. No haircolor
  4. No keratin treatments
  5. No Heat
  6. No Weave
  7. No Extensions
  8. No Wig
  9. No Vigorol
  10. No Body Wave

So if a White woman is wearing strand by strand hair extensions, then her hair is NOT considered "natural" according to some definitions of "natural hair."  Actually, some White men are considering dating outside of their race because they want a woman who is extension free.  Interesting . . .

Also, if dreadlocks are colored (with permanent haircolor), then the dreadlocks are NOT Natural by some definitions of "natural hair."

In a nutshell, there are very few people on this planet wearing their "natural hair."  So there is NOT a natural hair movement - only a "CURLY hair" movement.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Soft Curl Look: Wave by Design

Another "very, Very, very" happy customer who had been accustomed to the Wave Nouveau system, but she was willing to try the Wave by Design System with me.  She loved it!  I did a few things different from my "body wave" client that I highlighted on my blog from a few months back.

1) I used the Design Essentials Restore to pre-protect her hair prior to performing the re-arranger step.
2) I used the "gray" perm rods.
3) I used a neutralizing bib in addition to cotton around the hairline to apply the neutralizing solution while she sat upright the entire time.
4) I re-used the neutralizing run-off from the neutralizing bib to reapply to the hair after removing the rods.  Then rinsing again.
5) I used a semi-permanent black haircolor for about 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature at the very end of the service.

I only trimmed about a good half inch off in order to keep her in a short style.

I have noticed that some people are inquiring if "phase 2" be skipped during the soft curl process assuming that they want the "straight hair" look versus "curly hair."  So my suggestion for those people who want the straight look, do NOT skip phase 2 of the wave nouveau or wave by design systems, but instead, use super size perm rods in lieu of the smaller perm rods.  Please see my separate blog article on "super size" perm rods.  The jumbo perm rods will give you a brazilian wave which is going to enhance the body in the hair, but still leave you with an overall "straight" look.  Skipping the phase 2 step entirely will probably leave your hair looking "stick straight." I highly doubt if anyone will be excited about that.

Surprisingly, with this client, I do not think that I would do anything different in the future except purchase an end paper dispenser tool to speed up the rodding time.

Her final maintenance was heavy moisturizing with the "Mist and Shine" spray, then Lotion sections at a time as I scrunch the hair with my hands.  Styling was simple!

Leave-in Solutions for dry Extension hair

On wet or dry extension hair, hands down, these two leave-in styling aids are a new "must" have.
1) Paul Mitchell's Awapuhi Wild Ginger Styling Treatment oil and
2) HairUWear All Day Softness Leave-in Conditioner and Detangler

Of course, the Paul Mitchell Treatment oil is my "go to" serum for my regular "non-extension" blow-outs because the Pureology Smoothing Elixir seems to be discontinued.

You will love the smell of both of these products as well as how they assist with keeping your extension hair maneageable all day long.

Hairspray with Jojoba and Rosemary

It's official!  Paul Mitchell's Extra Body Finishing Spray is my favorite hairspray for flexible hold, flexible styling and shine!  It has joboba and rosemary extracts.  You can spray at the roots for volume or spray all over for hot curling support.

You will love the shine and manageability of the hair.  There is a firm version of this Extra Body Spray if you need some extra hold at the finish of styling.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

DHT Blockers and Hair Transplants

As most people are aware that "pattern baldness" has been associated with a "DHT" hormone suffocating the hair follicles.  Please feel free to research more on the DHT hormone if you want more information.

Now, regarding pills, shampoos, treatments that are designed to "block" the DHT hormone allowing for a healthy hair follicle leading to more hair growth, these DHT blockers can and probably do work.

However, if you stop taking the "DHT Blocker" then the DHT hormone will return to causing the hair loss condition again.  So if a DHT Blocker helps with hair growth, then you will need to continue taking the DHT Blocker for as long as you want to keep blocking the DHT hormone.  For example, the rest of your life . . .

Other alternatives would be to have the hair from your nape area medically transplanted to your "bald" areas.

The nape area is almost never an issue as far as baldness is concerned so that would be the area where you would take healthy follicles from and allow them to regenerate in that back area. The gentleman who shared his hair transplant story with me suggested flying to wherever a highly experienced and highly referred hair transplant specialist is located if considering this medical procedure.  If the transplant is done correctly, you should see fuzz within a few months and a full head of hair within one year.  After getting past the first year, it is life as normal.

The gentleman did mention that new hairstylists that cut his hair do notice something different about the hair in the area that was transplanted, but because it is still growing from out of his own scalp, they have no clue why the hair seems different in his head.

Think of hair transplants as skin grafting except it is for the scalp.  Please feel free to research more about hair transplants.  The gentleman that I interviewed went to a "California" hair transplant specialist.  It was quite pricey, but it worked!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: LocALoc Pony-Connect

 I recommend the LocALoc Pony-Connect for long hair whether the hair is straight or locked.
 2 or 4 ponytail quadrants can be used to create a partial or full updo.  The Pony-Connect comes in other neutral hair colors as well. I purchased the black ones because they blended in with my locks.
 I flat twisted two small rows near the front hairline to create a headband look with the Pony-Connects, but I think that I will save this hair accessory for when my locks/hair gets longer.
Not bad . . .  I see the potential for the future!  Believe it or not, I purchased this hair accessory from the hair aisle in a CVS drugstore.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Salon Concerns for Clients over 300 pounds

People of all shapes and sizes need salon services at one time or another.  For most people, the salon visit is routine, but if a client falls into an "excessively obese" category, then it can be awkward.

1) Shampoo capes may be too small to secure around the client's neck.  A "Jumbo" cape has to be on hand. I do have some plus size clients that I know to pick up my largest cape in order not to cause embarrassment when a regular cape will not close around their neck.  I would rather error on "too big" than to have to try different capes to find one that will drape the client.

2) Platform dryers and styling chairs have armrests.  Luckily, I purposely selected styling chairs with some seat width to accommodate plus size clients.  I have heard of clients breaking the armrests of chairs due to their weight.  I have to admit that the hydraulic lift of my styling chairs have been challenged at times.  Usually, pumping up the styling chair is effortless, but occasionally, I do get a client that I have to really put some "leg grease" to pump them up.  Typically, for these clients, I try to limit using the hydraulics because their weight could cause some equipment damage.

3) Finally, there was situation in the nursing home where the client was in a wheelchair and she was too big to come through the door.  She literally had to be briefly transported out of the wheelchair sideways into the salon and the wheelchair had to be folded to get through the door and then open it back up for her to sit down.  Of course, at the finish of the hair service, she and the wheelchair had to get through the door separately again.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Chemical Review: Vigorol Liquid Hair Relaxer

 First of all, I love the new Vigorol packaging.  It's a fresh new look!  I bought two different Vigorol leave-in conditioners as well.  One is Olive and soy for moisture, and the second is Keratin and Avocado for protein support.  I prefer the Olive and soy version because everyone is going to need the moisture more than the protein.
So for all the natural hair folks that are considering this,  save your shedded hair from your next shampoo and detangle session.  Try the Vigorol on your sample of your own hair first so that you can see what the Vigorol does to your hair and how fast it works.

 I used hair samples from three different clients.  The first two samples from the left have very similar curl patterns, BUT the middle one was excessively resistant to the Vigorol relaxer compared to the first one on the left.  Even after 20 minutes, the middle sample still had some bounce back when it was stretched so I kept the Vigorol on it over 20 minutes.

As you can see the first sample on the left was a 4b/c curl pattern and it softened without much bounce back almost immediately.  I am not sure if this particular hair sample had any permanent color in it already.  The third sample to the right (picture below) definitely had some demi-permanent color in it, and it immediately softened as well.

In conclusion, I do not recommend the Vigorol for color-treated hair. I think the liquid works too quickly and with it being liquid, you need to apply slowly and carefully not to make a mess or get it running off on your face or clothes.  I would say 10 to 15 minutes max for color treated hair.  I only left the Vigorol on for the sample of hair on the far right for 10 minutes.  The far left for 20 minutes.  The middle sample about 25 to 27 minutes.

For the really resistant hair without any haircolor no matter the curl pattern, I think the Vigorol is a good texturizing option versus a relaxer.  If your hair is truly resistant, texturized hair works well in combination with heat styling.

As far as chemical smell, when you open the bottle there is a definite odor, but the rinse and the Vigorol neutralizing shampoo washed all the odor away.  The neutralizing shampoo smells nice and fresh.