Natural Hair: Who’s Afraid Of the Big Bad Wash Day?

Even for people with a long history of natural hair, wash day holds a certain horror.

We all remember that day when we were little, when our mother or father looked grimmer than usual. The conditioner was produced. The combs were laid out like instruments from the Tower of London. If we had known what waterboarding meant, we would have applied that term as our parents pushed our heads into the stream, desperate to get the montage of shampooing (Read: “IT’S IN MY EYE IT BURNS OH STOP)”, detangling (Read: “DO YOU HATE ME MOM? DO YOU?! OH I ALWAYS KNEW YOU DID OH DEAR GOD STOP…”) and dryer-combing (Read: *quiet sob*) over with.

Even now when the process is no longer traumatic, we still dread the day for two reasons: combs, and time. How long will it take this time? An hour? Two? Will you have any working  muscles left after eons of holding your arms at various angles to your head, washing, combing, sectioning? Will you have any hair left as the curlicues mount to clog your sink and shower?

These were the questions that haunted me when I first made the decision to go natural. So you can imagine my surprise, when, less than a year later, my wash days hold no horror at all. Because I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: with natural hair, you don’t need to use a comb.

In fact, for defined curls a comb might actually work against you.  Since you’re not going for straight hair, your only aim in detangling should be to avoid hair matting up and breaking off, and for that all you need is your hands and a good product. So without further ado, here’s my recipe for a quick, painless, and effective natural wash day.

Ingredients:

  • Wash-out Conditioner. No shampoo. All the cleansers you need are in conditioner, which is often sulfate free. Plus, the cleansers in shampoo are meant to strip oil from straight hair, which is precisely the opposite of the help you need. You want to get rid of dirt and product, but keep as much moisture as possible.
  • Hair ties/Scrunchies. Small soft ones; rubber bands don’t tend to be very healthy.
  • Leave-in Conditioner- a yummy one! This is what you’ll probably smell like all day.
  • Microfiber towel (optional)

Steps:

1) Wet hair thoroughly.

2) Apply wash-out conditioner to all layers of your hair, giving extra attention to ends. This is your main detangling time, and the wetter and condition-slick your hair is, the easier it will be:

Jordan Ifueko

3) Put back in a bun with one of the hair ties. Leave for as long as possible. Usually I just use that time to shower the rest of me…

Wash Bun

3) Rinse out. You don’t need to be overly thorough; it’s been my experience that a little conditioner residue helps your hair stay defined and hydrated. You don’t want residue on your scalp though. As you rinse, make sure to give your scalp a good scrub and get rid of any product, dead skin, or dirt.

4) Shake out extra water. Never use a cloth towel; they cause curls to frizz and break off, and ruin your cute post-shower layers. To keep this natural definition, shake side to side:

Side to Side

and then bang!

Head Bang

5) Apply leave-in conditioner to your still-wet hair, once again paying attention to ends. This will seal in hydration and keep your curls from matting.

Leave In Conditioner

6) Your hair is now clean and tangle free! If you’re at the beginning of your day, then now’s the time to style. This is usually the point I apply a curl-defining creme and a gel to hold it. Tutorials on my favorite choices are coming soon. If you’re at the end of your day, however:

7) Section your hair out in three of four wet puffs. This will help keep your curls stretched over night.

8) Let air dry, and then cover with a sleeping cap. If you’re going to bed right away, tie on a small micro-fiber towel to soak up water before putting on the cap, so you don’t get a cold!

And there you have it: a natural wash day, tangle and scream free. It shouldn’t take you more than twenty minutes, and when it comes to conditioner, there’s really no need to splurge- though I’m a big fan of anything with tea tree, to keep my scalp dead-skin free.

Usually I wash about once a week. As a last important tip, remember: water is your reset button. Buy a spray bottle, and use it every morning between wash days to reactivate your leave-in product, or even at night to coax out tangles on your ends.

Happy washing!

New posts on jordanifueko.com every Friday!

Writer’s Toolkit Quiz: What Kind Of Notebook are You?

stacknotebooks

A while ago I wrote an article about why every writer needs a notebook, but I didn’t even attempt describing the epic pilgrimage of the selection process.

Think of it as being sorted for a wand at Ollivander’s. You wander into the journal section of Barnes and Noble or Powell’s and there they are: the tempting leather handmades, the flamboyant PaperBlanks, the understated Moleskins, the humble 5-Star spirals.

But how on earth is a novelist (or poet/blogger/nonfictioneur) to know which one to pick? You’re in luck! This handy quiz is all you need. Get your results and then scroll down for more details on your notebook.

Before you begin, here are some universal dos and don’t for your quest:

DON’T:

…buy anything with “Journal” or “Diary” on the front. First it’s inaccurate, and second, if you use your notebook often (as you should!) then it will be awkward to write in public. Unless you want to constantly explain to nosy onlookers that you’re making art, not obsessed with your feelings, steer clear of these titles.

…ignore the binding. That twine lacing up the spine may look cute now, but it’ll be a pain when it breaks, or is too tight to keep the book open. Also, no pretty notebook is worth cheap glue or plastic spiral binding. Your heavy messenger bag will rip that apart before you can say Emily Dickinson. Some hardback covers will also slip off of spiral notebooks, though this can be fixed by dotting the spiral tips with hot glue.

…buy a lined notebook that’s not college-ruled. Maybe this is just a quirk of mine, but I can’t stand wide-ruled lines. I feel like I have to write bigger…and I feel like I’m five. Enough said.

DO:

…Buy the notebook in person. I’m the empress of online shopping, but this is one purchase you need to hold in your hands. Notebooks are a long-term relationship, and if you’re OCD like me, you won’t feel justified starting a new one until you’ve filled up the last one. Make sure you’re enthralled before coughing up the money!

…Make sure the design is inspiring, something that will encourage you to write. Do be realistic… there will be days where you won’t feel like picking up your notebook even if it shows Richard Armitage covered in clotted cream and strawberries. But still, a dreary cover won’t get you anywhere…

…Check to see if it has a storage pocket in the front or back. This isn’t mandatory, but it’s helpful to store scraps of inspiration that didn’t quite make into the notebook, or even pages from a computer draft that you’re continuing on paper.

…Smell that sucker. I don’t care who’s watching. You’re a writer: embrace the bounty of your geekdom. Sometimes everything will seem right, then you give the book that last conscientious sniff and—ugh. Sour processed paper and glue. Then another book will waft sweet handmade leather, fresh ink, or that faint milky paper scent. Think of it as being fitted with the perfect core for your Ollivander wand. That’s what I said— find your Elder Notebook.

Now for what you’ve been waiting for—the quiz! Have fun, and if you like, post your results in the comments!

To view this quiz you need to have Flash Player 9 or newer installed and JavaScript enabled.

Option 1:

How to Recognize a Victorian Diarist Notebook:

Interior: Lined

Exterior: Hardback, elaborate design

Size: Medium to Large

Suggested brand(s): Paperblanks (Good gravy I love these people. They are freaking geniuses. If I have any secret admirers or benevolent stalkers out there, keep in mind I’d rather have a box of Paperblanks than flowers and chocolate any day…)

Option 2

How to Recognize a Starving Artist’s Notebook:

Interior: Lined or Unlined

Exterior: Paperback, cardboard, plastic; solid colors or simple prints

Size: Any

Suggested brand(s): 5-Star, general composition notebooks, various school/office supply/book stores. (These are usually inexpensive, so you can get away with buying more than one. Though if you’re a Starving Artist, you may want to save that extra 6 bucks towards rent or Ramen Noodles.)

Option 3

How to Recognize a Fantasy Novelist’s Tome:

Interior: Lined or Unlined, preferably the latter so you can make sketches, maps, etc.

Exterior: Hardback or Leather

Size: Medium or Large

Suggested brand(s): Paperblanks, Etsy, various book store selections. (Note that these will often be an investment, budget at 30 dollars at least. I’ve always found impressive Fantasy Tomes at Barnes and Noble, though this is one case where it’s okay to break the no-online-shopping rule. Etsy has some incredible specimens!)

Option 4

How to Recognize a Minimalist Draft Book:

Interior: Unlined

Exterior: Hardback or Leather

Size: Medium to Large

Suggested brand(s): Moleskine. (I’ve never been Minimalist enough to shell out for a real Moleskine, but from what I’ve seen these are really quality products. Prices range from 10 to 25 dollars.)

Option 5

How to Recognize a Scribbler:

Interior: Lined or Unlined

Exterior: Any- hardback, paper, colorful, solid, etc.

Size: Small, pocket size

Suggested brand(s): Paperblanks, Moleskine, Etsy, various book store selections. (The more the merrier!)

So now you know, and happy shopping! I’d love to hear about your results below (and pictures of your findings!).

New posts on jordanifueko.com every Friday!

Writer’s Rant: Why Write, or, How to Lie For the Rest of Your Life

Jordan Ifueko, YA Writer

Part One: Lofty Thoughts

I once heard that writing is the only socially acceptable way to be a compulsive liar, and in my case, it couldn’t be truer.

Jordan Ifueko, YA Writer

I miss how in high school and college, writing in public could so easily be masked as “studying.” Now it’s “just writing an email,” or “making really long shopping list…”

I’m quick to launch into metaphysical reasons why art is necessary. But honestly? When I fumble for my notebook or whip out my laptop, I’m not thinking of “reflecting the image of God” or “the significance of aesthetics.” Instead, my thoughts are a minefield of images, ideals, and emotions—passions that give meaning to life but find little place in everyday routine. The heartache I felt in tenth grade is healed and buried, but there was something exhilarating about it…so it seeps into my love stories. The hope that springs from lifelong friendships is too precious to log in texts, Facebook messages and conversations I only half-remember. So that hope finds immortality in character arcs and plot lines.

A story is a place where passion can be preserved in tact, like a pressed flower, and perhaps painted over to be more vibrant than before.

Here the “compulsive liar” part comes into play. Often, art serves me as a way to bring my mediocre epiphanies to their full potential. Friendships blossom into lifelong journeys complete with prologue, climax, and denouement. Favorite places explode into universes and kingdoms. And of course, every life experience could use some ruby-eyed dragons.

But these reasons for art discontent me sometimes. I feel self-absorbed and ungrateful, like I can’t accept my life the way it is, or appreciate the fantastic reality God created. Then again, my compulsion to spin shadows is driven by fulfillment as well as longing…from joy and wonder, as well as sadness.

I don’t want to replace my experiences but to extend them: to see them in different colors and with new eyes.

In short, I write and act from an innate longing for eternity. Art serves as a way to fully appreciate concepts bigger than myself, to examine and admire them from every angle, and to perpetuate their significance in my life. Humans, in their hearts, experience many things in similar ways, but often those experiences are never validated. We think we’re alone in our deepest desires. Sometimes seeing our hearts in print gives us permission to let them beat—and I hope that my art will give that validation.

Part Two: the Actual Work

Well, that was fun. But now I have to take off my philosopher glasses and put on the old ink-stained apron.

Jordan Ifueko, YA Writer

Just because Jo March’s writing process wasn’t realistic doesn’t mean I can’t dress up as her sometimes…

To any person who has read Little Women, the idea of a fiction writer is glamorized. A true writer, or so we think, is struck by inspiration and, driven by a passion beyond her control, shuts him or herself in an attic for a night. Ten hours of concentrated genius, and then—poof—a novel! Many years ago I crawled out my shell to participate in a teen writing group, and the director asked all of the participants why and how they write. The responses were dramatic, ranging from “The ideas just come to me” to “the voices in my head tell me I must write about them!”

Imagine how dull I felt when I described the incredibly technical process I follow when writing. Yes, the fantastical aspects of the immense worlds I spin from my pen are organic…but if I stayed in Inspiration Land all the time, I’d never finish a thing. “Voices in my head” don’t come up with literary structure, consistent voice, and clear delivery.

That said, most of my stories spring from an experience. The inspiration for my current project, for example, grew from memories of my time with prodigies at a tiny private high school. Real life experience feeds a story like kindling on a fire. It’s all very well to know that I want a quest, a monster fight, and a kiss in the end, but priceless moments from real life are what cause me—and probably my readers—to take a story seriously.

Anyone can learn to notice the world around them. Turning experience into stories is like pressing flowers, and then taking their seeds and planting new, immortal ones. If I could give one piece of advice to fellow writers, it would be to hoard their memories, every emotion and sensation. Don’t experience an important life moment and then let it slip away.

Of course, then there’s a danger of your stories being autobiographical, which dampens a story’s ability to grow. You really can’t re-plant a pressed flower. You bury seeds from it in a new place, and then give it space to become a life in its own right.

But again, all inspiration starts with something real. You can avoid being autobiographical by changing the setting (a music gig at a coffee shop, for example, could become a small concert hall in a palace) changing the people, and most importantly, changing the stakes. The singer for the “music gig” could be singing for the last time in her life, rather than her last time at Coffee Cottage. Once one becomes accustomed to repainting real life memories into stories, everything becomes an inspiration, and ideas appear around every corner.

Jordan Ifueko, YA Writer

Unsurprisingly, the Oxford Bodleian Library makes for wonderful castle scenes…

Next, I get a feel for the setting of a story, and if I have enough inspirations linked together, I will already know quite a bit. But I must always resist the urge to plow ahead without asking myself questions. What do people value in that place? What is the climate like? What does it smell like? What would I like or dislike about the place if I visited it? The small details are what make stories come to life for me.

After that, I establish a skeleton for each character. It’s not enough to know that a person is handsome, impulsive, and good with a sword. I must continue to ask questions—why is this person impulsive? Is he afraid of missed opportunities? What happened to him to make him afraid? No one can flesh out a character completely up front, but if I preset “rules” for how a character acts and stick to them, I avoid sounding like I am making up something as I go.

At last, after I have generated ideas, a world, and character skeletons, I scuttle through an instensive outline. While voice will change with each person, an integral, teachable part of this step in process would be that I always try to write from what I “know.” If I have done my homework, I should not have to make up what a character would say. Rather, I can ask myself about their past and discover, rather than create, how they would react. Writing from what I know is probably the most defining characteristic in what separates my weak pieces of fiction from my strong ones. It does not matter if a scene takes place in a modern day college campus or a glittering castle; if I give characters reasons to do what they do, the situation will appear realistic.

To briefly touch on the beast of editing:  I find it most effective to edit for content simultaneously with writing a chapter or section, and then go back and edit for delivery when I am finished with the initial draft. I know this goes against the “serious writer” philosophy of draft draft draft, but really? There’s no one way to write. Do what works for you—not what’s most comfortable—but what works. That’s your true style.

Still, it’s helpful to try out new ways, which is partly why I’m sharing my process. Mostly, though, I’m just grateful for all the people that have supported me in my journey, and I wanted to share with them a little of how I do what I do.

Thanks for reading—but now it’s your inky apron time. Make some art out of life today.

Thanks for reading! Remember to comment or share, and check back for new posts each month.