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Showing posts from January, 2010

Please leave that baby's hair alone!

I'll never forget the first time I saw Mocha Girl One (HmG) . She was an emergency c-section, and had to spend several days in NICU. She was born four days past her estimated due date and looked huge in her incubator. I imagined her to be especially delicate and feminine. I couldn't wait to frill her up, and more importantly to do her hair ! The only reason she wasn't sporting a barrette the day we took her home from the hospital, was because the one I brought to match her lacey outfit, slid right out. Mocha Girl One's baby hair was silky straight and fine. As the weeks rolled by, it became wavier until she had a lovely curly fro. I washed it all the time . I brushed it several times a day . I tried snap clips, and moved to velcro barrets when the clips slid out. I bought a different head band for every outfit. Meanwhile her curls continued to wind tighter and tighter. I kept everything in a pretty box, dubbed the hair bin . I was really frustrated at not b

The Nappy Princess

When I was a little girl, I loved to cover my head with a towel, and dance around the house flinging it back, and forth as though I had the longest hair in the world. I wanted hair like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. Whether on TV, movies, books, or magazines, I was drawn to long hair that hangs. I thought this was only a little mocha girl thing, but I've observed this behavior in little girls of various ethnicities. Everyone seems to love long flowing hair. It is beautiful. I'm not against dressing up and playing pretend. It's fun to have a different experience sometimes. We can play with wigs, and weave extensions in our hair on occasion to enjoy something new. Personally, I've never used extensions, weaves, and wigs on my daughters. While I don't condemn mothers who occasionally use braid extensions, I've even stopped using them in my own hair to send my daughters a message. My main concern is that we don't want our girls to cling to these thi

Mushy Naps

Have you ever overcooked noodles? Did you know that noddles keep cooking if you leave them sitting in hot water? One busy evening, I boiled a pot of spaghetti, and left it sitting in the water. As I ran around the house managing one crisis after another, the spaghetti soaked up much of the fluid in the pot. When I finally returned to the kitchen to dish up our meal, I was amazed by the sheer size of the water logged noodles. I thought I could save the meal by drowning the spaghetti further in sauce, but as I watched in dismay, large chunks sloshed off the serving spoon in the transfer from pot to plate. I encouraged myself with the thought that sometimes food tastes better than it looks, but when I gingerly sampled a tiny bit, it disintegrated in my mouth in a gooey, mushy mess. I quickly spit it out, and reached for my phone to call in pizza. Mushy naps can behave like water logged spaghetti noodles. We all know nappy hair can be dry, and many of us go to extremes trying to kee

Mocha Girl Style: Half Cornrow-Twist

One of my favorite styles to do on the girls is a Half Cornrow-Twist. Follow me step by step: Tools of the Trade Rat tail comb for parting. Paddle brush for detangling. Spritz bottle filled with plain water. Clips to hold the hair you're not working with. Shea butter mix Recipe : 1 part 100% raw unrefined shea butter, 1/2 part coconut oil, 1/4 part grapeseed oil, 3 drops vitamin E oil Directions: Melt shea butter and coconut oil in a pot over low heat. It will become clear with no lumps. Remove from heat and add other oils. Mix well with a spoon and pour into containers. Allow to harden overnight in the refrigerator. Once it is solid you may store it at room temperature. Step One Use your rat tail comb to section out a small section in the front for the braided side bang. Cornrow until you get to the part of the braid that no longer touches the scalp but hangs in a single braid. Instead of continuing a three strand braid, merge two of the strands and finish the corn row with

Making Oils Work For Nappy Hair

Oils don't moisturize nappy hair. Many Mocha Moms remember sitting on the floor between an older woman's knees to have their scalp greased and hair oiled. We've all made the mistake of trying to moisturize nappy hair with grease and oil. Some naps thrive anyway, but I never experienced optimal nappy hair until I began to moisturize with water. The hair shaft is full of tiny openings. When applied to dry hair, greases, and oils coat the shaft and seal the openings. This prevents the absorption of water. Water makes the nappy hair shaft moist and supple. Oil can make it outwardly greasy, crispy and brittle over time. Grease and oils play an important part in the moisture process. They lock in moisture. While nappy hair loves water, it evaporates from the shaft quickly. Moisture is balanced when we are able to trap small amounts of water in the shaft before it evaporates. This is achieved by applying oil to damp or wet hair. Some oils are thicker and heavier than ot

Fuzzy Naps

Mocha Girl Three has fuzzy naps. Her hair is silky soft and fine. It stretches long when saturated with water. As it dries, the individual strands clump into curly little coils. If I apply gel to Mocha Girl Three's wet hair, small ringlets and waves are set all over her head. If I allow Mocha Girl Three's hair to dry naturally, applying only a thin layer of shea butter, it frizzes up within several hours no matter how I style it. At one time, I frustrated myself by constantly trying to smooth her hair with a brush. I styled her hair almost daily, but had to stop when I noticed it was breaking excessively. Fuzzy naps can be delicate. I began matching her outfits with caps when we left the house. I did my best to force Mocha Girl Three's hair to adapt to the methods I used with her older sisters, but failed miserably. Her strands are fine, and many of the styles that work well for her sisters, made her hair look sparse . Mocha Girl Three's small braids were thi

Happy Birthday HMG!

Age 11! We started a family tradition several years ago of celebrating our children on their birthdays by granting them the royal privilege of being in charge of the day. We crown our girls queen and our son king on each of their birthdays. We do fun things, eat their favorite foods, and share it all with our far away loved ones online through pictures. We can't believe what a big deal this has become for our children. It's a highlight of the year every time. Head Mocha Girl's birthday fell on a Sunday, our busy worship day, so we're following our tradition today.


I seldom choose to style my daughters' hair in tiny box braids. They are time consuming to put in and remove. I usually save this style for special occasions. It's a big favorite for stretchability. We can achieve about an 85% stretch with tiny braids, even though I put them in without first stretching the hair with heat. Tiny braids also mimic loose hair and can be worn in variations everyday. My girls love putting their hair in a pony tail, removing it and putting it back up again a million times a day. Tiny braids permit my daughters to enjoy the freedom of independent styling without filling their loose hair with knots. I'll never forget Mocha Girl Two's (age 7) first experience with tiny braids. I can't remember where we were going when I decided Mocha Girl Two was finally ready for tiny braids. She sat perfectly, for hours as I put them in. We all thought the finished style was spectacular. Mocha Girl Two was ecstatic. She danced around and swiveled

Detangling 101

Frustration is an enemy I greatly respect when detangling my daughters' hair. It can cause me to rip through knots and reach for the scissors when I encounter resistance. I also watch out for haste. I'm tempted to take ineffective short cuts when I'm rushing. These lead back to frustration. What a shame to sacrifice the health of my daughters' hair because I chose to approach a task I lacked the time to do right. Nappy hair is easier to detangle when we approach the process deliberately from ends to root. My girls and I began to enjoy our sessions more when we set aside a special time just for hair maintenance. On Hair Day , I make sure the answering machine is ready to pick up my calls. We set up a comfortable location. If I'm sitting, I make sure my daughters are positioned so my back doesn't start hurting. I generally like to stand behind a high stool which lifts my girls to the perfect height. From the time my daughters were little, I trained them to sit sti

Choosing the Right Conditioner

The most important thing I've learned from experimenting with products and regimens for my daughters' hair is to read labels. Conditioners are formulated to do specific things for specific hair. A host of conditioners are made of expensive ingredients, and promise to deliver miracles. Many people hope conditioners will reverse hair damage. I try to keep my daughters' hair healthy by avoiding heat, and chemicals relaxers. I treat their strands gently. I encourage them to drink lots of water, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. We grow strong strands from the inside out. I don't believe a conditioner will force my daughters' hair to grow. I don't believe a conditioner will repair split ends. I don't believe a conditioner will make my daughters' nappy hair shine like the straight haired image on the packaging. I don't believe the weekly application of a conditioner will restore the moisture balance of hair I routinely stress and dry out. I don't

Choosing the Right Shampoo

Nappy hair is full of loops, twists, and bends. Some people's strands swirl in "s" and "o" shapes while others angle in "z's". The important thing to remember when considering a shampoo is the degree to which the strands you are trying to cleanse curve and rotate from scalp to ends. The more dense the coilage , the more difficult it is for the natural sebum secreted from the scalp to wind its way down to the ends before wash time. This translates into dry hair. When you wash nappy hair, the goal is to remove dirt, dried sweat and product build up. It's important not to strip the hair completely of the precious natural sebum which promotes elasticity. Consider straight, wavy and loosely curled hair. When sebum is secreted from the scalp of someone with hair these textures, it meets little obstruction and travels down quickly and easily. This translates into greasy hair. A strong detergent is needed to regularly lift excess sebum which

Her mother needs to do her hair!

I've been through a difficult season, but it's taught me a valuable lesson. In February of 2009 I became pregnant with our fifth child. While healthy, the pregnancy was a challenge. I began contracting early and had to radically reduce my activity. This greatly impacted my hair maintenance routine with the girls. Whereas in the past I was constantly changing their styles, I could now only fashion quick styles which were left in longer than ever before. My girls had a new look, and I wasn't sure I liked it. Over time, their hair frizzed dramatically. It looked painfully dry and neglected to me. I felt strong condemnation when a friend offered to take my girls one by one and style their hair for me. I'll love her forever for reaching out in my time of need, but believed it was my personal responsibility to groom my daughters' hair. I imagined I was failing miserably. As I rested and struggled to find foods my body would tolerate to support the pregnancy, I b

Nappy Expectations

Most of us expect nappy hair to behave like straight hair. We wash our hair like the women in shampoo commercials and marvel when we're left with a mass of tangles. We detangle with small tooth combs, expecting them to slide through without interference. We stretch our nappy hair out, walk into a mist, and huff when it shrinks back up. We purchase one product after another to make it shine, and conclude something's wrong when it doesn't. Our biggest problem is a lack of understanding of what we can expect from nappy hair. Nappy hair is full of tight twists and coils and bends which refract light. As a result, it won't shine in its shrunken state. I saved myself lots of money and frustration when I stopped expecting my daughters' hair to shine like the straight haired models on television. I learned to expect a healthy sheen, and stop assuming my daughters' hair was dry because it wasn't shiny. I learned to test for dryness by rubbing the strands betw

Why "Nappy"?

I really struggled when trying to find a term to use when describing my daughters' hair to the masses. Words are so powerful, and evoke such strong responses from people. The word nappy has a history of being used negatively. Many people are offended to have their hair identified as nappy. In deference to these feelings, I thought about using kinky , coily , or natural when referencing our hair but these terms mean different things to different people. The term nappy , however, evokes a clear and consistent image. My message is that nothing is wrong with this image. We can learn to care for and appreciate it as much as any other texture. Our struggles largely result from ignoring the unique needs of nappy hair. When our poor methods fail, we blame it on the hair. For the purpose of our discussion, I define nappy as the unique hair texture of tightly shrinking coils, curls, and zig zags typically seen on people of African descent. In fully embracing it, I respect it's un