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As I begin my first column for NaturallyCurly.com, I am proud to share my knowledge and expertise with all the curly girls and boys of the world. Have you looked at the award shows, magazine covers and runways of New York, Milan and Paris lately? Tell me what you see? Textured hair - wavy, curly and coily hair -- is in style big! Now that Hollywood and the fashion and beauty industries have finally caught on to our curly beauty, we are not about to go back into the box. Curly girls are here to stay! I wrote 'Textured Tresses: The Ultimate Guide to Maintaining the Styling Natural Hair' in 2004 to guide women with wavy, curly and coily hair and help them achieve the maximum flexibility to maintain and style textured hair. Thanks to NaturallyCurly.com, you're now all able to reach me through this column. I have worked with chemically processed and all types of textured hair for over 18 years. In my journey, I've found that textured hair is the universal word for all curl patterns. Textured hair is naturally straight-wavy hair, wavy, curly, very curly and tightly coiled hair. once you accept what you have and stop fighting your hair, you'll be able to achieve all possibilities. This includes styling curls, locs, braids, twists and texturized hair with the right products, tools and techniques. Let's remember to nurture ourselves, mentally physically and spiritually so that textured hair is always beautiful hair!

Q: Are petroleum products 'bad' for highly textured hair?

Diane: Petroleum products are so-called 'bad' for any hair whether highly textured or otherwise. Products that contain petroleum, mineral oil and lanolin may cause the hair to weigh down excessively as well as attracting unnecessary dirt and debris from the environment.

Q: With the recent availability of 'natural' soaps such as African black soap, shikaikai powder, alma, aritha (soapnut), shikakai and need -- are they good for naturally kinky hair or are they too drying?

Diane: African soap, soapnut, shikakai and need are great products that have claimed to relieve scalp irritation and have anti-bacterial properties. These soaps are generally used for the face and body to soften rough skin, for oily skin, dry skin and for acne, blemishes and other skin problems. While these soaps may be great for scalp disorders and very oily hair, they can be very drying for very curly and tightly coiled hair (kinky). If you would like to take advantage of the soaps to relieve any scalp irritation, one should use a second deep moisturizing clenaser as your second shampoo followed by a deep penetration conditioning.

Q: What is the best way to use butters and natural oils? Should it be used only on the scalp? On the ends? A combination?

Diane: Natural butters and oils are great for hair treatments and pomades. However, butters and oils can be too heavy to apply straight to the hair shaft. Butters, like shea, when combined with other natural light oils work wonders as daily pomades; as wrapping pomades and when used to hold and mold your natural curls daily. Especially great for repairing and preventing split ends. You can try my new product TAI - Texture Whip Creme sold right here on NaturallyCurly.com CurlMart.

Q: For those of us with multi-textured and multi-curled hair, what is the best method for cutting and shaping the hair? (Side note: From my personal experience, blowing hair out into a semi-straightened form and cutting it does not properly compensate for the inevitable uneven shrinkage that comes with multi-textured hair.

Diane: As explained in Chapter 6 of 'Textured Tresses,' multi-textured curly hair and wavy hair should be cut on the spring-back method. This is where the hair is cut wet -- held in the hand straight down and then slightly released to accommodate for the curl pattern. Then the hair is cut in between the S-shape patter, where each S-Curl begins and ends. Some textured curly hair should be slightly blown out -- cut dried and then reshaped with the hair damp or slightly wet to accommodate for curl formation. Another great technique is the slicing, slithering, chopping method that cuts right into the curl pattern, reducing volume without cutting the length. I personally use all these techniques on my clients, depending on their texture.

Q: Can you address the phenomenon known as 'scab' hair? How exactly does the relaxer impact hair that has not grown in yet?

Diane: Apparently 'scab' hair is the terminology that the lay girls have given to leftover relaxed hair that has not completely been cut off when growing out one's natural hair. Frankly, I wish people wouldn't use the word when they can easily cut off all the relaxer or simply use natural sets and products to create beautiful styles while going through the process. Most often, the remaining relaxer acts as a curly buffer, which visually makes the hair look texturized with the proper products. (The word scab in the medical world is a term for dried skin that forms over a wound to protect the skin while the healing process takes place.) Why not take this healing time to appreciate the growing-out process and use natural sets described in Chapter 8 of 'Textured Tresses'? The demarcation line where the relaxed hair and natural hair meet can be affected while natural hair is growing in. Depending on one's curl pattern, there may be a considerable amount of breakage. That's why using deep penetration and moisturizing conditioners are very crucial during this period. There are a few options. You usually have about five to eight months before you'll have to cut hair completely off or if the hair is wavy and curly, you can slowly cut the relaxer out.

Q: Many black women grow up believing that oil is the answer to moisturizing our hair. But since I've been natural, I find that natural oils can be a friend or foe, depending on the type. Why do some women have horrible luck with oils, while others have no problem at all?

Diane: Essential and botanical oils are great for the hair. However, they should be very light oils like lavender, rosemary, jojoba and carrot oil. These oils are conditioning and light enough for everyday use. Heavier oils should only be used for herbal deep treatments and not every day use. Some companies combine heavy and lighter oils to give the maximum benefit of a natural oil pomade that works great for coarse, dry hair and as a pomade for twisting and grooming.

Q: I am trying to grow out my natural hair after years of relaxers. I have been relaxer free for about a year now, and my hair is 'nappy.' Are there any products out there that will make it a little easier to manage and perhaps define the curls I have? While it is growing -- my hair grows slow and dries out very easily -- are there also any good moisturizers that might weigh it down a bit so that it's not constantly sticking out in all directions? Thank you!

Diane: It sounds like you have very curly or tightly coiled hair. I would definitely recommend that you start by shampooing and conditioning with a highly rich conditioning sshampoo an conditioner that you can read about in Chapter 3 of 'Textured Tresses.' TAI - Texture Whip Creme, my newest stylng product, is wonderful for moisturizing your natural coily hair daily or as needed. You can also look into having your hair softened or texturized by your stylist with a low-sodium relaxer like Design Essentials Losodium relaxer to loosen the curl pattern and make it a little more manageable. However, if you're looking for a product that can temporarily loosen your curl, you can try a conditioner like Graham Webb's Synchronicity or The Relaxer by Phyto.

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