One Month Down

Wanted to update you all on the progress of my loc journey. About a month ago (November 7th) I started my second set of locs after having a personal crisis need for change in my life. Well, it's been a month so far, and here's where things stand:

Although my loctician had advised me not to wash my locs for 2 months (?!?!!) I couldn't take it anymore and went against her orders and washed it a few days before this picture was taken. Cleaning my scalp with astringent just wasn't cutting it, and if anything was making my scalp go berserk (I have dermatitis issues that get worse in the winter). I also work out at marital arts class 2 to 3 times a week. I needed water and soap.

So here's what I did: I rubber banded the ends of my hair in about 5 sections in attempts to minimize untwisting. I didn't use the shower head to wet my hair; rather, I used a water bottle and poured the water gently over my head. This was to cause the least amount of disturbance to the coils. I used T-Gel shampoo (remember, no "creamy" shampoos cuz they contain conditioner.... a no-no for new locs) which I applied using my fingertips and gently rubbed my scalp. Again I rinsed using the water bottle. I wrapped a towel around my head for several minutes and squeezed, not rubbed, to dry off the excess water. The goal in this whole process is to hold the coils intact as much as possible.

I retwisted my hair using double prong clips, diluted setting lotion and a very small amount of Organic Root Stimulator Loc 'n Twist Gel. I didn't really use a palm rolling technique since the twists are still mostly hollow coils, but instead I very gently twisted them with my fingertips to smooth down the loose hairs, using just enough ORS gel to barely coat my fingertip. I finished off with some oil and let it dry. Everything turned out beautifully, although it was a little flat at first, but a few days and an evening of sweating in tae kwon do class took care of that.

I've since switched from using astringent in between washing to using witch hazel, which also has astringent properties but contains a lot less alcohol to dry and irritate your scalp. I do this about once a week and very gently retwist (over twisting can cause breakage). I just can't go weeks without doing anything to them, one because of my scalp issues, and two because I believe that just because you have locs it does not mean you cannot groom your hair.

So far I am absolutely loving my hair and am not regretting starting over for one minute. I think the curly-qs at the ends are rather adorable, and I'm starting to see the beginning of budding about 1/2 inch from the roots which I'm very excited about because it means I can shampoo more often. I'm still taking things slowly because, like many things in life, when you get to eager and rush you make mistakes. But so far, so good.

Stay tuned for more updates, my pretties!


Why I will NOT do your hair

Back in the good old days when I had a full head of long, happy, mature locs, I used to do my own hair. I had my locs started by a loctician, but I quickly figured out how to wash and retwist them myself ($65 every two weeks is one helluva incentive to figure it out). It's not rocket science and locticians aren't doing anything fancy in a basic loc grooming appointment. I would reserve my trips to the loctician for color and trims, and maybe the occasional special occasion style. After awhile I started to figure out how to do more than just retwisting and loc grooming. I read discussion forums and watched YouTube tutorials (Shawnta715 has some good ones) and just started playing in my locs. Roller sets, crinkles, flat twists, up-dos....I taught myself to do all that. Because my hair was hardly ever worn straight down the way most people are used to seeing locs, I would get tons of compliments with people asking who my stylist was. They were astounded when I said I did my own hair.

And then the dreaded (no pun intended) question would inevitably follow from any guy (and a few women) who himself had locs: "Can you do my hair??" I've always seen it as a lame attempt at a pick up line, but even if it's not and you really just want need someone to do your hair, the answer is still the same: NO.

And here is why:

1. I don't KNOW you!! I'm not about to be all up in your house or have you all up in mine doing your hair! I don't know what sinister plans you may have for me at your place, or whether you'd believe that the lame pick up line actually worked and assume that I'd accept payment in sexual favors. I'm really not cool with just anybody knowing where I live either. I have stranger danger, and that's just.....no. McGruff the Crime Dog would be disappointed.

2. Whatever you're gonna pay me isn't worth it. There's an element of economies of scale with stylists. They are getting $50+ per head all day, every day. They have all their supplies there and ready to go. And in bulk. I would have to take time to go to your house (but see #1), bring all my products (because obviously if you are needing someone else to do your hair, you don't have much by way of your own), and work with some ill equipped bath tub or shower (I have a WaterPik.... it's great, but still not a shampoo bowl), which is way more time and hassle than the average stylist who is set up to do hair. Add to that the fact that you will probably want a hook-up on the price, and after all that $40 just wouldn't be worth my time.

3. I only deal with the dirt of people I love. Being that you don't know how to groom your own hair, I would be willing to guess that it doesn't get done as regularly as it should. And by regularly, in my world that's once a week to every 1.5 weeks. Washed, oiled, retwisted, everything. I have a 15 year old son who plays football and lives with his dad, so I've seen (and smelled) what neglected locs are like (as much as I'm on him about doing his own hair regularly). I will get down and dirty and use some elbow grease (and clarifying shampoo) to get all the dirt and buildup out of my kids' hair, but I birthed them and have been dealing with their disgustingness for 15 years (diapers, puke, sweaty uniforms, etc.) Yours.... um, not so much.

4. Doing hair is kind of.... well.... intimate. My weakness.... the thing that will have my knees weak and, um.... well yea..... is for someone to play in my hair. There is nothing like a good scalp massage. Stylists are different because they tend to be very business-like with their hands (i.e. heavy handed) even though it still feels good. But when I do hair, I have to get a little more involved in the process because this isn't just another day at the office for me. First of all, think about washing.... I don't know too many people with a shampoo bowl in their house (except for my friend's momma who still did curls for those who just couldn't let go), which means that I have to be leaned over the tub scrubbing locs (because, see # 3 above, it probably needs it). I'm not too comfortable with having my DDs hanging 5 inches above your head for 20 minutes while I wash your hair (even though you might be). Plus it makes my back hurt, so add that to # 2 above. Then the retwisting..... keep in mind I've been doing my kids' locs for 5 years, and for 5 years my goal has been to cause the least amount of pain (i.e. crying) as possible. No matter how frustrated I get, doing their hair has always been approached as a labor of love. And for that reason I only do the hair of people I care about, because I really have no other motivation.

5. There's a mirror image problem. This particularly is an issue when doing styles (which are most often requested by women). Styling my locs with my hands above my head while looking in a mirror is a totally different thing from doing a style with someone sitting in front of me. My hands, arms and eyes are used to seeing and feeling my hair in a certain way. The different approach is disorienting and it just doesn't come out the same. I can throw some flat twists in my hair in 5 minutes, but doing the same thing to my daughter's locs takes a bit more effort. I would hate for someone to come to me thinking they are gonna get the same style they see on my head and end up with some travesty of a style instead.

So what's the lesson here, loved ones? Just because a person has locs does not mean we do locs. Stylists chose that profession for a reason, and on the flip side I did not choose it for a reason. So if you ask if I can do your hair and I hesitate or outright say no (my usual response is "I only do my and my kids' hair... that's enough"), don't take it personal. Unless you are my friend-- and a good friend at that-- do not ask me to do your hair. And even in that case, see # 4 above.

Really, what everyone with locs should do is learn how to do them yourself. It's not mission impossible. Locticians aren't doing anything magical up there. Twist and clip, that's basically all it is (maybe I'll give you a step-by-step blog post later). I did the equivalent of throwing my son in the swimming pool by refusing to do his hair again until he learned how to do it himself, and eventually he did (and I agreed to do his hair for him again, but now he can keep it up in between seeing me). In this economy it would behoove you to take an evening, pull up a YouTube tutorial and just try it. That way when you have that extra sweaty workout, or walk through that raging dust storm, or want to go swimming, you don't have to wait til your next appointment and drop $75 to get your hair back looking right. Then eventually random people in the mall will be asking you to do their hair, too.


And so it begins..... again

That's it....I couldn't take it anymore. I desperately miss my locs. Yes, that first set had to go, and I'd had all intentions to "enjoy" my un-loc'd hair... the curls, the two-strand twists, the afro puffs. But I've come to the conclusion that I hate doing my hair every morning locs are just more.... Me.

I went to a new loctician/natural hair stylist this time named Eboni. For reasons I'm not going to go into here, going to my old stylist just wasn't in the stars (but mainly because he never responded to my messages). It's cool because it fits with this whole notion of "change" and I'd seen Eboni's work on one of my good friends, plus she did my daughter's locs (my stylist wouldn't do kids' hair). I had her start them smaller this time and she did them perfectly... the size seems to conform much better to my natural curl pattern and (so far) seems to stay better. I'm still taken aback from time to time when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror because it's just so short.... the shortest it's been in over a decade. But.... oh well. It's hair. It'll grow back.

So for anyone out there who has ever been curious as to how locs "work", I'll enlighten you with a few of the basics of the loc cultivation process:

1) You don't have to "do" anything to locs to create them.

One of the most common questions I used to get was "how do you get your hair to do that??" The simple answer is... nothing. Locking is a completely natural process in which the curls of the hair intertwine with each other over time to form locs. If all you did was simply quit combing your hair, you would eventually end up with locs (albeit rather lumpy and uneven locs, better known as "freeform" locs). Yes, I go to a loctician for the initial twisting to form the base pattern for the locs, but after that it's all about time and proper care. Retwisting and palm rolling are grooming techniques, NOT locking techniques. You may do a search for locking techniques and come across sites that talk about backcombing and such.... this is NOT for black hair. Locs on caucasian hair (or any other extremely fine hair texture) is a totally different thing. Black hair locs on its own.

2) People with "good hair" have locs, too.

In the month since I took my locs down, I've been telling people that I eventually planned to start another set. The response across the board has been "Whyyyy?? Your hair is so PRETTY!" or, the response that makes me cringe, "Girl, you've got that 'good hair' why would you want to loc it?" (the term "good hair" makes me see red). When I went to my appointment, Eboni tried to talk me out of starting my locs, even jokingly refusing to twist my hair. Yes, coarser hair textures tend to loc easier.... in fact, that's the main reason I started my daughter's locs, because combing her hair was torture (for us both). But locs aren't just a last resort for those who are happy to be extra nappy. But "good hair" will loc, too. It may take a little more patience, but that aspect actually appeals to me. Everything worth having is worth working and waiting for.

3) Locs can (and should) be washed..... but just not at first.

This is my least favorite part of the locking process. I'm used to washing my hair at least every 3 or 4 days. Eboni said not to wash my hair for the next 2 MONTHS, meaning basically I can't wash my hair until 2010. Not to get all Mr. Wizard on you, but water breaks the molecular bonds between strands of hair. This is why curls (and presses) die in humidity and rain. When locking, you want those strands of hair to stay as close and intimate as possible until they start to intertwine and tangle together. Before you say "ewwwwwww!" let me stress that not washing does not mean not cleaning. During those initial few weeks (and in between periodic washings) the scalp should be thoroughly cleaned with an astringent like SeaBreeze.

(Tip: if your boo-thang has locs, sitting and helping them SeaBreeze their scalp is a great way to ensure that your night ends happily. Trust me.)

4) When it comes to products, more is less.

You don't need any products to form locs. It's very common for new loc-ees to get excited and join all kinds of forums where people are telling you to try this product and that product, and before you know it you're a product junkie. People will espouse to using bees wax or pomades or gels that are supposedly designed to form locs.... wholly unnecessary. Not only will this stuff build up in your locs, but it also attracts dirt. Think about what happens when you spill something sticky on the floor and don't clean it up all the way. You know how that spot gets dirtier than the rest of the floor? Yea, same concept. This was one big eff up that I made with my first set of locs. I used way too much Organic Root Stimulator Loc 'n Twist gel, noticed it was building up, then tried a regimen to remove the buildup. Well, in the process I basically removed the budding locs.... or rather, the buds (the part that starts to tangle) came unraveled and slid down the locs, making them lumpy and uneven. Eventually they looked ok, but my hair never really recovered from that initial screw up and they were always lumpy in some places.

Basically all you need is a light oil (shea butter or olive oil based oils are good, as well as a few others), water and some setting lotion. The only product I might recommend is the ORS Loc 'n Twist gel, but even this should be used very sparingly. Run your finger over the surface of the gel to put just a thin coating on your fingertip. Again, I will stress.... locs form on their own. The products do NOT form the locs, just groom them.

5) The main key to locs is patience.

There is no way to speed up the locking process. It's all about time. It takes at least 9 months to a year for locs to form, and even after that they continue to mature and firm up. The locking process starts about an inch or two from the root with "budding". Small masses of tangled hair start to form that look like... well.... buds (yes, those types of buds). These buds continue to extend down the loc as the hair further intertwines and the locs mature. If you want to read about the 5 stages of locking, you can find a good blog post here. For me, locs are a labor of love, and it's something that many people admire but few have the patience to actually do.

So, ready to see the beginning of my new crown? *drumroll*

*claps hands excitedly* (and yes, that is my kung fu uniform, and yes, they actually held up pretty well through my workout)

So there it is. I'll keep you periodically posted and updated on the progress (for anyone who's ever wanted to know how all this works). With my first set of locs I had a whole blog dedicated to my loc journey. I think it's gone now, though.... it may be some poor abandoned zombie blog out there in the blogosphere.


The Aftermath: Life Without Locs

A few weeks ago when I decided to lop off my locs, there was one teeny tiny consideration that I didn't fully think about: I actually have to do my hair everyday now. For seven years all I basically had to do to my hair every morning was take off the scarf. Anything elaborate or time consuming was usually done the night (or several days) before....the most I'd ever have to do is unbraid/untwist/unroll it. Even when I'd forget to tie a scarf on it, I'd still wake up looking presentable, which was great during those times when I needed to rush out real quick or be an early morning vixen.

But now..... entirely different scenario. I actually have to DO my hair. I've been told I have that "good hair" (which makes me cringe every time someone says that and restrain myself from hopping up on my natural hair soap box) which basically means I wet my hair, throw in some curl defining gel (mixed with some good ole Ampro Clear Ice for hold and shake. Voila! Little ringlett curls. Which are nice and all. But it's getting to be winter time, meaning that I'm perpetually leaving the house with wet hair, and my inner mommy is screaming at me to 1) not do this so I don't catch pneumonia, and 2) put a hat on, but the hat will mess up the still drying curls and get all wet and gross from the gel. Ok, so you say blowdry it first..... but then I'm still left with the hat hair problem. Then I hate the fact that I have all this product in my hair that I have to wash out all the time and how it makes my hands sticky. I miss one tub of Loc n Twist Gel lasting me 6 months.

At night, I either have to wear a scarf to bed (very un-sexy) still with no guarantee that it will look like much of anything when I wake up in the morning, and if I don't I wake up looking like Buckwheat and Darla's long lost love child. Sure the ringlett curls are nice during the day, but at night it's just another lopsided fro. No more sexily pushing my locs out of my face or running my fingers through them.... now I'm just trying to smash it down into some half way presentable shape so my dude doesn't feel like he's waking up next to Don King. And if there was any wild rumpusing going on the night before.... forget about it. It's definitely NOT looking good.

I have rediscovered the two-strand twist as a way of styling my hair, either wearing the twists or untwisting them into crinkles. That seems to be a little more lasting (for 2 or 3 days anyway) and slightly more rumpus-proof, but not totally because of this "good hair" problem which makes my hair not quite coarse enough to keep its hold. But now I'm back to the same problem that lead me to loc my hair in the first place..... two strand twisting is so effing TIME CONSUMING! I spend at LEAST two hours on it, whereas retwisting my locs took all of about 30 minutes and lasted at least a week (even factoring in rumpusing). However, I haven't tested out its ability to withstand martial arts (twists yes, crinkles no), which I have a feeling is going to totally destroy any two-strand twist induced style from all the sweating.

Ok, loved ones..... this was merely a rant. I'm not trying to discourage ANYONE from going natural, because at the end of the day I'm still doing a HELLUVA lot less than what I had to go through when I had a perm. I love being able to wash my hair whenever I want to and not have to plan out a block of time to wash, dry, straighten, curl, etc. I love the fact that my hair isn't damaged and breaking off due to heat and chemicals. I love that I can walk in the rain, go on water rides, and go swimming without fear of the water's effect on my hours of work spent pressing it out.

(Sidenote: That the thing I never really understood about perms. You STILL have to press it with heat!! Sheesh.....)

All I'm saying is..... I miss my locs. A lot. And this just further demonstrates and reiterates what a sacrifice (in the killing goats on an alter sense) that was for me. I don't regret doing it, but I'm looking forward to the day when I can get twisted back up.

And then that's going to be a whole 'nother long difficult process......


The END = Entirely New Direction

(originally posted October 20, 2009 at Idiosyncratic Thoughts of an Unheeded Prophetess)

There's a saying or myth or theory that our bodies are completely regenerated every seven years, meaning the cells that you had seven years ago have been completely replaced. Basically, we are not the same "people" that we were seven years ago, at least from a biological standpoint.

In October 2002 I started my "loc journey", and in October 2009, I ended it.

If you have locs or know someone who has locs, you will often hear the concept that locs transmit and hold energy, both positive and negative. Honestly, when I first started locking my hair, I thought this was a bunch of malarkey. But as time went on I started to notice that when I was in a good mood and happy, my locs looked fantastic. When I was feeling crappy or was sick, they acted a fool. I could use the exact same grooming regimen, the exact same styling techniques, and the exact same products, but my mood made the ultimate determination as to whether they would look great or just okay.

As I've alluded to in previous posts (and discussed in depth in my predecessor blog), I've been through A LOT of challenges and hard times over the past three years, primarily dealing with a divorce and career implosion. My locs would have their good days and bad days, but I could always manage to get them back to looking good.

Well, in the past few months, they finally crapped out on me.

In the past several weeks I've been dealing with a tremendous amount of sadness and regret and hurt stemming from my own bad decision making, and I really, really hurt someone I love very much over things that were from or should have remained in the past. I got fed up with myself and fed up with my baggage and fed up with EVERYTHING and went on a delete and purge mission. Contact numbers.... deleted. E-mail and chat...... blocked and deleted. Old pictures transferred from one Blackberry to another..... deleted. Then I turned to myself..... deleted my blog dedicated to my experiences with my divorce, deleted my Twitter account, and I told myself once and for all that I was going to be the person that I KNOW that I am, not this person that got mired down in drama and hurt and negativity.

Whenever I'm feeling particularly stressed I feel an urge to cut my hair as a means of freeing myself from negativity, but I (luckily) never had the cajones to do it. But last week I finally looked at my locs and said "You have got to go." My scalp was a dermatological nightmare, my locs were thinning (several of them had to be "married" to the adjacent loc so they wouldn't fall out), and they just stuck out every which way. They just started to feel like a weight that I had to get out from under. I knew that this was unlike the previous feelings I'd had about them before..... this time was for real. I felt like if I were truly committed to change and growth, I had to get rid of the locs that were holding years of negative energy.

At first I was just going to cut them off myself down to the roots... the urge was very strong because I just wanted them GONE, but I didn't want to be rash and end up really regretting my decision. I really wished I had someone close to me that could have helped me.... I've heard of people having friends and loved ones do the honors, but honestly, I had nobody around who would really understand. I also have NO money to pay a professional to do it, but I thought I'd ask my loctician anyway to see how much he would charge. He told me that if I allowed him to do a "trend cut" and take pictures that he would do it for free (he's VERY artistic and does these wild, impractical styles on his clients who are about to cut their locs off anyway) which I was excited about, but then I didn't hear back from him after asking when he thought he could do it. I was literally getting panicked at the thought of having to go several more weeks. So I took that as a sign that this was something that I would have to do myself.... that I NEEDED to do myself.

The way I went about removing my locs I would NOT recommend to anyone unless you have a helluva lot of patience and the texture of hair that would allow for it. Basically, I unraveled my locs. Call it vanity or whatever, but I really was not looking forward to the idea of having to sport a TWA (teenie weenie afro) for a few months, but I was willing to do it, particularly considering that I somewhat wanted to make myself less "hollerable" (i.e. no desire to get back into the dating game any time soon.... not saying that guys don't like short naturals, but I think I personally look better with longer hair). I knew from years of having the ends of my locs unravel about 1/2 cm or so every time I washed them that they would come undone with only a slightly unreasonable amount of effort. I went and got some detangling shampoo, some Organic Root Stimulator Hair Mayonnaise Deep Conditioner, and some metal picks and got to work.

First I cut about 5" off the back, which was longer because of the way my hair had been cut, making the locs all the same length in a bob just above my shoulders. Then I washed and conditioned my hair, leaving the deep conditioner on for about 2 hours to soften up the locs. I was going to cut the locs down to about 2" of loc'd hair, but then I tried one test loc to see if I could undo it without cutting off any more length, and sure enough..... I could.

This is what I used to pick each individual loc apart:

Um yea.... that all used to be one piece. And there were actually 4 prongs on the pick portion (I have no clue where the last one went). And they used to be straight. I used the metal prongs to to unravel and remove the loc'd hair bit by bit, which probably took about 5 minutes for EACH loc. Then I used the comb part to rake out all of the shedded hair that makes up the bulk of locs. In total, this is all that came out:

You can see the only part of my loc that I actually cut.... not very much. I was actually really proud of how little buildup I had in my locs, thanks primarily to my loctician's insistence that no products are necessary to loc your hair, and a little product, if you use anything at all, goes a LONG way. Also, I washed my hair a lot.... actually more than I ever did when I had a perm, which is contrary to what many people believe about people with locs. I'd hate to see what this would have looked like if I'd used some heavy wax or pomade to loc my hair.

It took me three days to finish all of this. Yes, 3 DAYS. I started Sunday night and finished Tuesday afternoon (I was home sick with my daughter, so no, I did not take off work for this). Let me just say..... I will NEVER do this again. But right now I felt like I NEEDED to do this, that the time and the struggle and the work was my penance, my symbol and reminder to myself that I could not change and eliminate negativity so quickly and easily, but rather it took a lot of time, patience and work. And I literally paid in blood as well:

That's from the pick slipping and the metal pick scraping across my skin (and yes, it still stings). My thumb is gouged up as well from holding each loc and pushing the metal prongs through each one over and over and over. I ended up with quite a bit of hair left, enough to pull into a small ponytail. And being that I didn't do much cutting, I still maintained a decent shape and don't really need to trim it up (for now).

So..... my "crowning glory" is gone. My attribute that got me the most (publicly verbalized) compliments is no more. This was my sacrifice to myself, to my life, to karma, to everyone I've loved and everyone I've hurt. This isn't lip service, loved ones. This is REAL.

Before (at the height of their "glory").......


For now I shall sport my natural, but one day I do plan on going back to locs. They are just "me". It was just time for that first set to go. Although I loved my locs and will probably miss them, I'm content with my decision. I'm sure many people won't understand it, and think I was nuts for cutting my "long pretty hair" (I'm NOT looking forward to my 90 year old grandmother's reaction). A few people know where I'm coming from, and those are the people I really count amongst my friends.

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss