Saturday, 30 August 2014

Rain drops and morning dew

Once again, it is the rainy season in Kumba. The hot dry spell has long gone and I am reveling in the splendors of the wet season. I love this about Cameroon. At every turn, there is something old that seems completely new. Things I've probably seen a million times, that I'm only now noticing, as if for the very first time. There are many little details that are so unique to this hemisphere. I've recently started exercising... finally! I do a 3 mile power-walk/jog every morning, on days when the rain is not pouring to the point of the muddy roads becoming completely flooded. Photography is not a very good companion for my exercise routine. I have had to throw out timing since I tend to make frequent stops to check out details and take pictures. The way water droplets catch the light in the morning, before the full force of the rising sun makes them vanish into the humid air, is beautiful to behold. In the early morning, there are little twinkles of water on pretty much everything. Some of my favourites are seen here on grass floret spikes, grass blades, giant coco-yam leaves (colocasia) and spiderwebs... enjoy!


Saturday, 23 August 2014

It's just hair: A case for the full beard

Most people who don't have a beard are probably unaware of the varying opinions and perceptions people have about men who wear beards, or just the actual beard... most often negative... without much consideration for the person wearing it! Men's facial hair might not seem like a relevant enough topic simply because it is such a natural occurrence but people's reactions to facial hair is interesting and sometimes even puzzling to me. I can't actually grow a beard of my own... not yet anyway, but some of my male family members and most of my best friends happen to be men who choose to wear beards. They have me wondering why it is that people are so against the full beard. It may just be that since I experience people's aversion to my natural mane on a regular basis, I understand what it must feel like for men who, in an attempt to flaunt their natural masculinity, or better cope with the challenges of shaving (especially for men with afro-textured hair), choose to wear a beard. 

Contrary to what I've heard, when a man decides to stop shaving, it does not mean he is lazy, self-negligent or rebellious. Not every man can grow a beard and not everyone who can grow a beard can grow a full one.  Most men figure this out by the time they are 20 but usually, the ritual of shaving has started much earlier. Men shave for various reasons, but the most common reason is so they can maintain the social standard of clean-shaven baby soft faces... much like those of boys and women! Some men who are prone to skin problems associated with regular shaving find that letting some facial tuft grow eases their problems considerably. Other men just like to show off their natural physiognomy as a way of demonstrating healthy masculinity... much like a lion does!  Yet again others, choose to wear their facial hair cut in a variety of styles as an extension of their personality and/or self-image.

I have yet to hear an argument against facial hair that doesn't in someway, try to out-rightly control people and how they choose to look. I obviously love men with beards. I see them as confident statements of masculinity and I've never found one too "rough" or abrasive to kiss. It is true that some beards are a result of some neglect; it might say that a man is "down on his luck" and either can't afford to or doesn't care to visit  Sweeney Todd! The collection of beards I've managed to put together are no such beards. These are some of the most stylish men of our present time with Afro-beards. I decided to only do Afro-beards to highlight the issue of skin problems men with very curly hair have with facial hair and regular shaving.  Ladies, feast your eyes...

My all-time favourite beard belongs to no other person but American hip hop recording artist and actor, Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. Better known as Common. I don't think I've ever seen him without a beard, and each time I do see him, I'm speechless...

Next up, is the perfectly stylish Allen Onyia. Co-founder of one of the most popular men's style websites His iconic  full beard is revolutionalising the image of young, successful and stylish men on social media.

British rapper Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu, better known as Tinie Tempah, wears a cropped beard quite handsomely.

Source: Tinie Tempah

Keep calm and give us a smile Mr. Tempah!

There you go!

American rapper William Leonard Roberts II, better known as Rick Ross wears his beard like a Boss!

Usher who needs no introduction is looking very suave with his beard.

Tim Howard, goalkeeper for the United States football team during the recent FiFa world-cup tournament might prove to be the most memorable goalkeeper this year, not only for his excellent performance on the field, but also for that beard that had everyone talking.

Charles-Hubert Itandje, goalkeeper for the Cameroon national team during the world-cup may not be as memorable but we ain't mad at him and he takes the trophy for the most iconic Cameroonian beard only because I dare not nominate Alexandre Song... as bearded as he may be most of the time! Good on you Charles for showing up and doing your job...

Taye Diggs best known for his role on Broadway musical, Rent, but also for starring roles in movies such as How Stella Got Her Grove Back and The Best Man; looks debonair with his full beard and preppy ensembles.

Mr. sexy himself, Idris Elba wears his "silver-back" salt and pepper beard like a badge of honour...

Cameroonian rapper/producer Jovi, first got my attention with his lyrical flow in a blend of pidgin English and French. His talent and creative home-grown lyrics represents Cameroon beautifully on the African urban music scene. He must have heard I was doing this post and started growing a beard! Na bie-bie no bi poto-poto (It's just hair, it's not dirt)... :-)

I don't know who this guy is, but he looks gorgeous with that beard so I've thrown him in to further reiterate my point. Now I forget what my point is... haha ! Nice...

I'm sure all these men look just as stunning with clean-shaven faces, but they do with beards as well and maybe even more so. Regardless of how they choose to portray themselves, a little or a lot of hair on their faces, it's all very fine by me. If you can think of any iconic and stylish beards, please leave a comment. If you don't see beards in quite the same light as I do, leave a comment and let me better understand your side of the argument...

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Natural hair-care: Three years into my minimalist approach.

Rocking twist-out on 3 years natural hair growth while soaking in the Cameroonian sun... In the shade mostly!
Twist-out on 3 years natural hair growth

White asymmetric button front tank - H&M (old)
Green/ecru print shorts  -  Zara (similar)
Nude leather crystal encrusted ankle-strap flats  -  Next (gift)
Silver hoop earrings with braid motif -  Unknown (gift)
Silver bangles - Accessorize (old)

This month is my 3rd anniversary of starting the natural hair journey. I have not been very keen to document my hair-care because quite frankly, the way I go about it is rather basic and there never seems to be much to talk about.  I did an introduction and rundown of my minimalist attitude towards natural hair-care a year into it here. I've pretty much stayed faithful to a simple routine and 3 years into it, I haven't had a reason to change. I've managed to retain 15 inches at the longest point, though I went through a period of obsessive trimming. I've now decided to only trim once every six months.

My routine falls into these four sections of care: Protective styling, moisturising, detangling and washing while paying attention to hair and scalp needs. I've discovered this routine works really well for me, considering my lifestyle and personal preference.

Protective styling:

Medium two-strand twists

Now that my hair has gotten longer, I find that I can't easily manage wearing it out as much as I used to and I tend to live in two-strand twists, ranging from mini ones and medium ones, to Jumbo ones.  After a wash and condition, I usually put my hair in twists right away. The size depends on how much time I have to work with. When I don't have a lot of time, I usually go for jumbo twists and leave them in overnight. When I can find some time the next day or whenever, I gradually undo the twists and re-twist them into smaller sections (great for finger detangling and a chance to moisturise between washes). I really like two-strand twists because they never feel too tight on the scalp, they keep hair stretched thus reducing tangles, and they are very versatile... I found that while I have twists in, I can still do all sorts of pinned up-does for dress up, or high untidy buns.

Jumbo twists styled in an up-do
Medium twists pulled into a high bun. My everyday style.

The last time I got braids put in, I only had them in for about a week. I've always had a difficult time dealing with the discomfort of braids with extensions and I've noticed some hair loss along the hairline when I've had extensions. I no longer braid my hair with extensions as a protective style. I can't say I'll never do them again, but I might try putting them in myself if I decide to wear them again.

Jumbo box braids a la Poetic Justice

When I do wear my hair in twist-outs, I always pull all the hair up into a high puff before I go to bed at night. This keeps the hair stretched, prevents tangling and prolongs the twist-out for a few days.

Second day twist-out on 2 and a half years natural hair growth


Coconut oil and Naked Style's Little Miracle leave-in conditioner

Aside from using a moisturising conditioner after shampooing, I always use a leave-in conditioner and a natural oil like coconut oil, olive oil, Jamaican black castor oil or palm kernel oil. I try to spritz water and seal with oil on particularly hot and dry days between washes. The rainy season is in full gear now so I've gotten even more lazy and hardly spritz at all. My morning jog or a walk to the corner store is usually enough to get a little drizzle into my twists.


Re-twisting damp natural hair after shampooing, conditioning and moisturising with oil and leave-in

I've found that in order to retain the hair that is always growing, I have to be gentle. I wash my hair in twists so detangling is even more simplified. I hardly ever comb my hair anymore and just use my fingers to detangle. When I use my fingers I can feel where a knot has begone to develop and I take extra care detangling it or cutting it out with scissors. I only detangle on wash days when my hair is moist and I try to pick days when I have time and don't need to rush over my hair. When I do run out of time, I just pull everything up into a puff of some sort (both twisted hair and loose hair together), till I have more time, then I spritz with water before I continue detangling. I detangle each twist and re-twist into bigger, smaller or the same size two strand twists.

Paying attention to hair and scalp:

Garnier Fructis' fortifying shampoo and TESemme's nourishing moisture conditioner for naturals

I soak my scalp in diluted apple cider vinegar for ten minutes before each wash

It is important to keep hair clean, paying attention to hair and scalp needs while avoiding styling practices that can damage hair. I wash, condition and moisturise about once a week. Sometimes when I get really busy, I push it into the second week when I can find the time. I try not to leave it for too long as I have a problem with itchy scalp and regular washing with an apple cider scalp treatment gives me enough relief for about a week.

Hair-care bad habits:

I read all those natural hair-care blogs and watch a lot of videos, but for the life of me, I can not believe how disciplined some women are with their routines. I happen to have two bad habits that I can think of. I mean some real don'ts, such as:

-I don't wrap my hair with a silk scarf or cover it with a bonnet before I go to bed. I can't seem to keep them on through the night and I'll be damned if I'm going to wake up in the middle of the night to turn on the lights and go looking for the scarf that has migrated from my head to who-knows-where! So I might be loosing valuable moisture and causing more tangles by not covering my hair when I go to bed.

-I don't deep condition regularly. When I have done it, it has been more for the benefit of relaxation after a long day, with soothing scented ingredients like coconut oil and honey. The thought of something like bananas, mayonnaise or avocado in my hair just makes me think of how much longer I have to spend in the bathroom trying to get it out.  

Hair goals:

My goals for the next year are as follows: To fix this problem with the scarf at night. I should be able to make a few satin pillowcases. Deep condition more often. I will be reading up about deep conditioning to find the best combination for my natural hair. I hope to grow at least 4 inches in the next year and I think some slight adjustments might help in that aim. I'm presently looking for a remedy for itchy scalp that will actually work. If anyone has tips, I'll be very grateful if you can leave a comment. 

That's the run down of my 3rd year of natural hair-care. What is your approach to natural hair-care? What are your product/styling preferences? What are your goals and how do you plan to achieve them? Sharing our individual tips for successful natural hair-care makes for continued fun and enjoyment on this journey of self-discovery. Information from all the talented women who share their different stories online, a lot of patience and a little bit of experience have helped me embrace my own natural hair more fully. My advise to anyone who is just starting out is to try and figure out what works for your own Afro-textured hair, keeping in mind that your hair does not have to look, feel or behave like anyone else's. It is very easy to feel discouraged by having expectations that are based on standards that are not realistic for one's own hair. Just because your hair does not do what A or B can do does not mean that it is not perfectly fabulous. I know it is very encouraging to find people with similar hair texture who are totally rocking their do. If you can't find anyone who's hair is similar to yours, then maybe you can fill in that gap and help others like yourself if you begin to share your own story. For some people, it takes time to get comfortable with wearing hair naturally, but once you find your own potential, all you have to do is... Enjoy...
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