Articles By HJ Lutz

Bun

I’m one of those people who love to make resolutions on my birthday. September is my birthday month, which is cool because it’s the start of a new season. The weather starts to cool off and you feel that change is on its way. What better time, then, for all of us to re-evaluate and recharge?

I think I’ll take a cue from one of my favorite celebs, Beyonce, and take the next year to fully discover and pursue my passions and reconnect with what’s important.

One of these passions, which I have in common with my naturally curly family, is my curls. So in celebration of another blessed year on this earth, I will do the following to honor my body and, by doing so, my curls.

Curly Hair Care for the Whole Body

Despite fall fairs and candied apples, eating healthy is good for my body and my hair! Totally worth skipping this time around.

Reversing Bad Summer Habits

 

  1. Cut back on the sugar. I put enough sugar in my morning cup of Joe to sweeten 10 more cups, and this is no joke. Oh, and did I mention the bucket of hazelnut creamer that I put in before the sugar. Ok, this has to stop! Sugar is a known beauty saboteur. According to Prevention Magazine, too much sugar in your diet can lead to wrinkled and sagging skin.
  2. Eat fresh! And I do not mean at Subway! Rather, I plan to minimize the processed food that I tend to fall back on when pressed for time and replace it with — wait for it — real food.  What a concept!  I will now opt for more salads containing cancer-fighting tomatoes. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant phytochemical that helps keep heart disease at bay. Tomatoes are also chock full of vitamins A, C, and E. This will be not only better for my health, but my wallet too, as tomatoes are cheap and easy to find or grow during the summer.
  3. Actually take my vitamins. I tend to be a collector, mostly of hair products, but lately of vitamins too. I have quite the stash of supplements that are collecting dust on my countertop right now. I owe it to myself, and my curly hair care, to be more consistent with taking my vitamins.
  4. Simplify! We’ve all heard the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Sister. I don’t like to call folks stupid, so I’ll say Sister, instead. The point is, the more complicated your plan, the more difficult it is to execute, provided that you have a plan in the first place. So for me, the first step is to devise a plan. Then keep it simple, doable, and more importantly, be consistent with it. Easy right?

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Final Thoughts

My plan for the next year is to take better care of my health and well being starting with just a few simple, doable changes. As these changes become habits, I’ll re-evaluate yet again and maybe add a couple more.

What are your plans for renewal this fall?

 


Well, I did it! After much internal debate, research and a very convincing conversation with a mom from my son’s school who happens to be a hairstylist, I decided to get the Coppola Keratin Complex treatment on my 4a/4b type hair. I was very leery about the so-called Brazilian blowout treatment as I’d read that it contained formaldehyde and wasn’t sure how that would affect me. The stylist, who I will call Joan, assured me that it was safe, as she not only got the treatment herself, she also applied to her young daughter’s textured hair. Ok…sure. Another concern was the price. Most of the area salons were charging upwards of $250. I did not want to shell out that kind of cash unless it was a sure thing. Joan’s salon charged $150 so I decided to go for it. The worst that could happen is that I’d get an overpriced blowout and cut.

The Process

Before Keratin

First, Joan washed my hair several times to remove any product reside. Next, she applied the solution. Ok…here is where it gets tricky, and when I realized that this is truly a chemical treatment and why am I doing this again?! The claims that liken this to a simple protein conditioning treatment are very misleading. This is a chemical treatment, folks. The smell was horrible. My eyes burned, Joan’s eyes burned…it was worse than anything I’d ever experienced. I had to sit under the dryer with this solution burning my eyes for 20 minutes. After which, she blow dried my hair then flat-ironed it. I had to keep my hair straight, not even the slightest bend, for 3 days, which was torture as my hair is short. My visions of a cute pixie for 3 days were shattered. She let me put a little bend in it on day two, so I just went home that first day and hid. By day three, I couldn’t wait to wash my hair.

The Big Reveal

Also Before Keratin

The morning of day four, I washed my hair and immediately felt the difference in texture. It felt lighter, softer and the curl was a bit looser. I really liked the result of the treatment. The only drawback has been finding the right products. The heavy gels that I’d been using are now too heavy but my hair still needs more than a mouse or serum. I’m still experimenting with my product junkie stash to find the right mix of products. I recently went to a Dominican salon for a blowout and found that my hair does blow out faster and smoother, and didn’t revert as quickly as it did before treatment. Since I don’t wear my hair straight, it wasn’t a big concern but definitely a nice bonus. My main objective was hair that styled and dried in less time, and that’s exactly what I got.

Some Pros and Cons

After Keratin

Pros

  • My hair dries in a fraction of the time that it used to.
  • My curl pattern is a bit looser and my hair feels lighter and smoother.
  • The treatment lasts 3 – 6 months. Mine has been in for almost 2 months and is showing little signs of fading.
  • The keratin treatment is semi-permanent so it simply grows—no new growth to deal with.

Cons

  • The price—the service generally costs $250 and up
  • It’s time consuming—it took 2 ½ hours from start to finish.
  • It is definitely a chemical process—so your hair is chemically altered.
  • For the purists out there, this is not for you.
  • The formaldehyde—many companies are trying to downplay this but it is the critical ingredient in the process that binds the proteins to the hair, according to WebMd (see article here). Don’t believe the “no formaldehyde” hype…I didn’t get burning eyes from protein!
Straight After Keratin

Bottom line: Would I do it again? The jury is still out. I really like the feel of my hair and that it dries so quickly, especially now that we are in colder weather. Yes, it is a pricey service but it lasts a long time and even longer if you use maintenance products recommended by the company. The sales person at Ulta Beauty told me that she extended her treatment to a year by using the maintenance products so I promptly purchased the Coppola Keratin Complex conditioner (which is amazing, by the way) and will use the Keratin Complex Infusion the next time I straighten as it will reinforce the keratin. The formaldehyde is a problem for me. The thought of subjecting myself to burning eyes for 2½ hours for the sake of beauty is really no different than the oozing scalp burns I endured from relaxers which set me on my natural journey to begin with. There are a ton of new products on the market now that contain keratin which are designed to strengthen and smooth the hair sans the formaldehyde so that will likely be the path that I take.


It’s been six months since I did the BC and, boy, have I learned a lot! There is so much to be gained by being a curly girl. Here’s what I discovered...

You become more confident

Post-BC, I had 1 inch of hair so confidence was key for me. Not only was I going against the grain, my face was exposed for all to see. I’d been wearing bangs before so having my face exposed in that way was a huge adjustment. For me that meant that third eye I get at certain times of the month and the occasional jacked eyebrow wax is on full display. I’ve learned to keep my head up and keep it moving no matter what…or don a cute hat (with a brim) then keep it moving.

You become more educated

Since my BC, I’ve become a product-label-reading fool. I don’t buy anything without checking ingredients. Thanks to my natural sisters and sites like NaturallyCurly.com, curlynikki.com as well as youtube.com, I’ve gained invaluable knowledge on how to care for my hair and how to find the best products for my hair type.

You become a mad chemist

One of the advantages of my PJism is that I’ve learned how to mix and layer products to get my desired look. Of course, after much trial and error and watching numerous YouTube tutorials, I’ve figured out how to get the defined curl that I like. An equal mix of curl activator gel and Eco Styler mixed in my hand first then worked through my hair seems to be the ticket for now. As we all know, what’s working now may not work in a couple of months so I continue to experiment and try new product combinations.

You have styling options for days on end

I’m still in the TWA phase but I’ve found that there are so many things I can do with my little 4 inches of hair. I’m a wash-and-go girl at heart but I’ve flat-ironed, twisted, coiled, slicked my hair straight back, donned headbands, scarves and hats on different occasions as well. Of course, braids are a staple as well when I need a break from it all—like now!

You become more creative

See above!

You discover a whole new world

Not only do you have unending styling options, you have new LIFE options as well. I love to work up a crazy sweat at the gym. Yes, sweat! When my son is in his swim class, I swim too. Yes, I get in the pool! And when it’s raining outside, I don’t have to break my neck trying to find shelter.

You learn who your real supporters are

I’ve been lucky to have friends and family who’ve been supportive of my decision to go natural. I suppose they’re used to my constant style changes. However, not everyone is so lucky. I’ve read some sad and disturbing testimonials on the blogs and message boards posted by some of our natural sisters who don’t have that support. Fortunately, we have a strong online community to turn to when there is nothing else.

The biggest and most important lesson in all of this has been to embrace my natural hair regardless of what it’s doing or not doing, what it is and what it isn’t. My texture is 4A so there is no use trying to get 2B ringlets…it’s just not what comes out of my scalp. On the days that I get frustrated with my hair, I take a break and wear braids for a few weeks. When I go back to my hair, I treat it to a new product and welcome it back in with open arms. It’s what God intended...I get that now.


What is it about curly hair that makes people so uneasy? What do people see when they see curly hair? I don’t get it. I think the problem is that we’re misrepresented. Maybe it’s time we hired a publicist. We need someone to send our message of hope and prosperity and quite frankly competence to the world. Our current public persona is just not working for us. Don’t get me wrong—as curly girls, WE know what we’re capable of but what about everyone else?

As I see it, our current image is that curly girls are free-spirits, rebels, scatterbrained, new-agey and flaky, which loosely translates into unreliable, irresponsible and possibly dangerous (think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction). This could also mean unemployable, unreliable and not to be trusted around small children.

Where did this perception come from? Women with curly hair are always portrayed in the media as somehow being different and less appealing than everyone else. Rarely do you see curly girls looking smart on the political round table shows, anchoring the news or even getting the guy as the leading lady. Curly girls are the quirky best friend, the precocious little sister, or the crazy mother-in-law.

This image certainly doesn’t help the career curly girl. I’ve read some interesting articles recently that opened my eyes to just how biased employers can be without consequences. Appearance-based discrimination happens all the time and there isn’t much that can be done about it unless you can prove without a doubt that that is the case. If you go on a corporate job interview with your five-day old twist out that gets bigger by the day then expect to stay unemployed. Common sense should have prevailed. However, what about the more subtle biases that we don’t expect and certainly can’t prove. Maybe your ringlets got a bit frizzy from that short, humid walk from the train station or that extra five pounds you put on over the holiday has made your interview suit just snug enough for someone to take notice. These seemingly minor issues could mean the slight difference between you and someone else.

As I read these articles, I also thought back to my own experiences. I’m a 40-year-old African American woman who spent 20 years (half of my life) in the military. Only after retiring a year and a half ago have I felt confident enough to fully embrace my curls. I’ve been natural for periods in my life where I thought I couldn’t take another relaxer but I always went back because it was in my best interest career wise. Over my 20-year career, I’ve been either well-received or ill-received based on how I wore my hair. It appears that your hair is an important part of your resume…Masters degree – check; 20 years experience – check; natural curly hair - Not qualified! Hair can make or break a career. I’ve advanced and been given opportunities when I conformed to the standard of beauty embraced by my superiors (straight hair) and been pretty much invisible when I didn’t. Once I went back to relaxers, I was readily accepted, promoted and decorated. Of course, this was not simply because I had straight hair…some hard work went into that as well. The point is I was a contender because I conformed to the standard of beauty was laid out in front of me.

Community member Redcelticurls had a similar experience. She writes: "Early in my military career (1988 or so) I would get reduced marks on the Military Bearing section of my evaluation because my hair was 'unkempt and flyaway.' I still had short hair at the time, and this was the reason I started growing my hair. I needed to get it long enough to put up in a bun. Even then, it was a hassle. If I put my hair up dry, as opposed to wet and slicked back with gel, I would get comments about my hair not being neat enough. It still showed up on my evaluations now and again for most of my 22 years of service. The only time I had my hair chemically straightened was mostly due to frustration in the workplace."

“A lot of people with curly hair have had this pressure to conform to the standards of beauty that are often put forth in fashion magazines and the corporate world, like the image of the woman who is very controlled with stick-straight hair, no frizz,” says Titi Branch, one of the founders of Miss Jessie’s Salon and hair care products in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Unfortunately, as a result, it has meant that curlies have had to straighten their hair to conform with what they thought was the ideal in corporate America. But people have started to change.”

I spoke with Human Resource Consultant/Blogger Susan Heathfield. “I do not believe that curly hair places a woman at a disadvantage in the workplace. In these days of relaxed dress codes such as casual and business casual, hair style is less important. If a woman exudes wisdom, competence, knowledge and experience, her hair will play a small role in the total image,” she says.

Hmmm…ok. I also spoke with a hair stylist who’s been working with clients in the corporate arena (including television) for over 20 years and she has a different opinion. She shared that many of her high clients with high profile positions were “very adamant about having the straightest hair possible. They balked at every little kink or crimp.” Ok...THAT I believe. It’s not to say that every curly girl will be met with discrimination but let’s be real here. There is a corporate look which is why we don’t go to job interviews in skinny jeans and a tank (unless the interview is for a VH1 reality show). That corporate look is usually topped off with a conservative hair style and curly doesn’t always fit that mold.

CurlTalker aishamodel writes, "During my transition from relaxed hair to natural I decided it would be easiest for me to wear my hair in braids. I was working part time as a waitress at a local restaurant. I started working in the restaurant with braids. One day, the manager, who is a relaxed-haired African-American woman, came to me and said 'I want to talk to you about your hair. You can't wear your hair like that.' I asked her why? She said because in the handbook it said employees are not allowed to wear braids in their hair. Only natural styles are permitted. I told her well did you know that braids are a part of natural hair, and told her that her hair wasn't natural. I asked her what she would like me to do with my hair? If she would like me to relax it like hers? She said "not necessarily" and proceeded to point out other employees hair styles that I could do. Most if not ALL of those styles were WEAVES and RELAXERS. I said, "Let me get this straight. You would rather me wear fake,colored, or chemically altered hair than to wear my own clean natural hair to work? I continued wearing braids and they never bothered me about it again."

Clearly, as a society, we have a long way to go in terms of diversity and acceptance. I do believe that it starts with the images we see in the media and how they are presented. I will say that I’m noticing more curly girls being featured in ad campaigns and the image that they are projecting is fun, healthy and fearless. We just need to convince employers that fun, healthy and fearless equals successful.


I love, love, love the start of a new year. It’s an opportunity to leave the past behind and begin anew. I always spend some time thinking about what I want to accomplish which usually ends up being what I didn’t get done the previous year. This year is different for me—I’m newly natural—BC’d on the first of October. My goal was to be natural by my 40th birthday on September 5th. Well, that day came and left and I was still wearing braids because I was afraid to take that leap (even though I’d done it before). On September 29, I saw Solange Knowles on Oprah with her fabulous TWA talking about how much time and energy she used to spend on her hair. Wow…me too! I knew it was meant to be when I was able to get an appointment with my “always booked” stylist the very next day. Ok God, I hear you. Just do it already! Now that 2010 is fast-approaching, I have a new outlook on life and I’m ready to share my resolutions for fabulous curls.

First and foremost—tame my PJism

Ok…I got it bad! If hair products were crack then I’d be a crack head for sure. I can NOT resist the promise of healthier, shinier, more fabulous, maintenance-free hair no matter how unrealistic the notion. Walking into a beauty supply for me is a high. I can spend hours looking and reading labels and fantasizing about how gorgeous I’ll be after using that product. Crazy? Yes, but I know I’m not the only one…I read the forums! I resolve to stick with the products that work. I’ve found a few, but, of course, I’m on a perpetual search—surely there is something better just waiting for me. In 2010 (at least the first 6 months), I plan to devise a routine with what I already have and stick with it.

Pop my Pills

I resolve to take my vitamins religiously. I have them in my pantry but if my husband doesn’t put them out for me, they never see the light of day. It’s no secret that proper nutrition is essential to healthy hair. With this in mind, I plan to actually take my vitamins and add biotin, flaxseed oil and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane, which provides sulfur, a vital building block of joints, cartilage, skin, hair and nails), to my regime to maximize growth.

Clean it up

I resolve to clean up my diet. Not only do I plan to add more fish and nuts, I’m also going to cut back on the sugar (the word eliminate is not even in my lexicon at this point). A clean diet is another component to achieving healthy hair. My diet is pretty good but my sweet tooth has a death grip on me, especially around the holidays. Now that I’m 40, I’m finding that sugar is beginning to have an adverse affect on my hair, skin and energy level. This is going to be tough one but I’m way too vain to not give it the ol' college try.

Drink like a fish

I resolve to drink at least 2 liters of water a day. We all know how important water is, as it makes up over 50% of our bodies. It also aids in eliminating toxins which can wreak havoc on hair and skin. One of my favorite celebs, Eva Mendes, claims water is the secret to her glowing skin. I’m sold. I bought a cool new water bottle that allows me to track how many bottles I’ve guzzled right on the bottle. The promise of skin like Eva is worth choking down the extra water.

Get my blood pumping

I’m a pretty consistent exerciser already, which is one of the reasons I went back to natural hair. I refuse to give up my runs for the sake of preserving my hairstyle. I find that my hair grows faster when I’m breaking a sweat on a regular basis. I resolve to kick up my routine a notch by training for a race in the spring. I plan to do another half marathon with some friends and keep getting my butt kicked in PiYo (pilates/yoga fusion) class. My booty will look just as fabulous as my curls.

Condition, condition and condition some more…

Want to learn more about henna?

I resolve to do henna/deep conditioning on a regular basis. I’m a bit late to the henna craze but the message boards have got me excited to try this! I plan to start henna as soon as my loot comes in the mail. I’m also excited about coconut oil. I’ve read amazing things about the benefits of this versatile oil when used internally and externally. Right now, I’m taking coconut oil pills (when I remember to) and massaging Vitaki coconut oil on my scalp at night. I will continue this into the new year.

Keep it in check—stress that is.

I resolve to keep stress at bay. Stress can wreak unbelievable havoc on your hair. I can personally attest to this. When I moved back to the US from Japan a couple of years ago (we’re a military family), I had a 2-year-old, a 2-month-old and a demanding job. My husband was on sea duty and was always gone. I was on my own dealing with 2 babies, the commute from hell and a job that I didn’t like. The combination of post partum hair loss and stress caused my shoulder length hair to fall out in sad, little clumps. The hair I had left was a dry, brittle mess. Not a good look.

Set it off

I resolve to set off my curls with amazing skin. The combination of a healthy diet, kicked up exercise routine and increased water intake will have my skin glowing. If you’re rocking a TWA like mine, your face becomes center focus. When I did the BC, my first thought was wow…now I can see my face.

Submit to my man

Ok…big sigh. I resolve to let my husband run his hands through my curls. For years, it was a NO-NO…ok?!! NOOOOO…don’t touch my hair. Don’t even think about it! Now that my hair is natural, my goal is to find the right product combination that keeps my hair soft, touchable and still fabulous.

Last but not least – ROCK IT!

I resolve to rock my curls with amazing confidence! Bottom line: nothing looks and feels better than good health. What better way to show of those fabulous curls than with a healthy body, glowing skin and an open mind? 2010 is my year!


Bun

I read an interesting article in the November issue of Essence magazine. A panel discussion was conducted with several African-American celebrity women to debate the issue of “our hair” in light of Chris Rock’s new movie “Good Hair,” which is in theaters now. One of the panelists made a comment about how “white guys don’t understand”. Hmmm…really? I beg to differ. My white guy does understand and after 12 years of marriage to me, an African-American woman, he understands completely.

That article got me thinking about how my husband truly felt about my hair issues. I mean, he’s been with me through it all—braids, weaves, relaxers, highlights and the big chop FOUR times … not to mention the money spent on products and services. Heck, we could send a child to college with the money I’ve spent over the years. Well … maybe community college for one year, but you get my point! I decided to just ask my husband what he thought. What was his preference? How did he feel about my natural hair? Well, I wasn’t surprised by the fact that he prefers long and straight but I was scratching my TWA wondering what he saw in me since long and straight hair was something that I’ve never really had.

When my husband and I starting dating back in the mid-90’s, I went from a short, relaxed “Halle Berry cut” to a braided, asymmetrical bob. I knew he was a keeper when he didn’t run the minute he saw that look. Over the years, I’ve worn everything from a short afro to relaxed hair past my shoulders; braids of every type, size and length; 3 disastrous weaves, and now I’m back on my natural journey once again. I’ve also managed to turn our bathroom into a beauty supply store that rivals Sally’s!

Hilary and her husband Bob

The one hairstyle that I know will invoke emotional vibes is micro braids. The mere suggestion of it puts him in a minor tizzy. It’s not that he doesn’t like the look … he loves it, actually. The problem is taking them out. He knows he will be recruited to sit with me for 4 or 5 hours performing hand-cramping, back-breaking, butt-numbing work. Not his ideal way of spending a Saturday night. Mine either, for that matter — given that he loves to remind me during those 4 to 5 hours why I’m so lucky, and what other white guys are doing this or would any guy do this, for that matter. Blah, blah, blah.Most of my hair issues have been met with measured reactions. My husband is a military man who rarely gets emotional. After returning home from my latest big chop, I was feeling empowered and free. I’d kicked my creamy crack habit for good! When he saw me, he just looked at me, expressionless. "So, what do you think?" I asked. I could almost hear the debate going on in his head ... ”If I tell her the truth, which is that I hate it, then she’ll be pissed. But if I lie, then she’ll know I’m lying …”. His was response was a very careful “It’ll grow on me.” He clearly didn’t share my enthusiasm, but I’ll take it.

My hair is a constant work in progress and my dear husband’s reaction to my ever-changing, ever-growing, never-ending hair saga? A simple “do what makes you happy”.

Final thoughts

I’m not saying that you need to marry a white man to feel comfortable exploring all of your hair options. This just happens to be my story. What I am saying is that we should all feel comfortable enough to do whatever we like with our hair whenever the mood strikes regardless of who we choose as a partner. Today I’m rocking a 1-inch curly ‘fro but next week I may feel the need for a weave and guess what? My husband probably won’t love it but he will definitely understand.



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