Reader E-mail: Traveling, Climates & Natural Hair

by West Parsons on April 18, 2011 · 2 comments

in hair care, peek into my world, reader e-mail

Cane Garden Bay courtesy of British Virgin Islands Tourism

Mia: Hello West, I have been Natural for about 5 years. During that time I have been living in different places with completely different climates. I feel like my hair is dry and it hasn’t grown much in length. Do you have any suggestions? Right now I live in the Caribbean where it is extremely hot. Please Help!!! (lol)
West: Mia, I completely understand where you are coming from! On my last trip to the islands, I was reminded of how climate can really affect your hair’s texture/appearance, product performance, and for me, my overall self esteem. Some people may be reading this and thinking ‘whaaaa? self-esteem?‘ Yes! Self-esteem. I do dub my hair as my Crown & Glory, so when my hair just isn’t behaving they way I expect, it brings me down. Now back to answering your question šŸ™‚ On my last trip back home I styled my hair before leaving the States. As soon as I stepped off the plane — POOF! Humidity did a number on my hair, my skin, EVERYTHING. My hair became frizzed and swollen. By the next day, the moisture seemed to be gone and I hadn’t even hit the beach yet.

I expected that I would have to do my hair at some point while I was on vacation so I planned accordingly.  I brought V05 conditioner, Lottabody setting lotion, jojoba oil and rollers. I immediately realized I was in for a rude awkening at the airport. The pic of my nieces and I is how I styled my hair before leaving the States. The pic below is what my hair looked like after my hair was washed and styled in a twist n curl while I was island hopping.
My hair is actually APL in this pic and all the others.

I was not content. While the products I packed work great for me when I’m in Atlanta, GA, I don’t think they were heavy enough to combat the effects of the ocean air of the Caribbean. I washed my hair once in the week and a half I was there.

Hindsight is 20/20. I think I would have brought more conditioner to co-wash more often. That would have helped to restore the moisture balance my hair was needing.  I also would have brought heavier products like Cantu Shea Butter Leave-in, styled with Curls Curl Souffle and sealed with a silicone based oil like Argan Oil. Not only does the silicon based product help to seal the moisture in my hair, but it would also work to prevent frizzing.

Additionally, dry-feeling hair may be as a result of a pH imbalance / porosity issue. If I were staying for an extended time, I would have also check out my porosity and made adjustments accordingly.

Some suggest a few ways to determine if your hair is porous or not:

1. Place a shed hair in a cup of water. If it sinks your hair is porus. If it float your hair is not porus.
2. Run your fingers UP a strand of hair on your head. If it feels rough, the cuticles of your hair are lifted which suggests porosity. If it feels smooth, you cuticles are flattened and porosity may not be an issue.

Porous hair allows for moisture to easily enter the cuticles of your hair, but it also allows for moisture to easily escape as well.  This results in loss of the moisture that our texture of hair so badly needs. Roux Porosity or plain old apple cider vinegar are both products that can help in restoring the pH balance and closure of the cuticles. When using either if these, it is good measure to complete your final rinse using cold water. Cold water also aids in closing your cuticles.

Regarding your issue of length retention, I am going to suggest protective styles and low manipulation. Being that you are in the Caribbean, there is never a shortage of women who have skills in braiding hair, if you lack them yourself. Myself, I have increased my use of protective styling as of lately.  I wash once a week, then I do a braid-out or twist-out for texture and I follow with some sort of updo with use of my banana clip, side combs, or bobby pins with a headband. I take out the styling devices every night, moisturize and tie my hair up with a silk scarf. I re-style in the morning.

Mia, it is really a trial and error situation.  Hopefully, my suggestions of what I would do differently can help in your Caribbean stay.

Pictured are my nieces, my mom, and granny (she is rocking a boy cut) šŸ™‚ at Megan’s Bay in St. Thomas.

What suggestions would you offer Mia for her stay in the Caribbean?

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{ 1 comment }

Ella April 19, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I live in the Caribbean full time, BARBADOS, and i guess i am accustomed to it. But most of the time as westNDbeauty said i wear my hair braided, in twists or cornrows because outside is usually super hot sometimes humid and all that hair on your neck and face and stuff just makes it worse. I have MBL hair about 4" NG and all the rest texlaxed. I wash my hair once a week and usually only moisturise twice a week but that may not work for you hair

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