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Afro and curly hair blog with news, reviews, opinions and tutorials from journalist Lynda Moyo.

Afro Hair & Skin Company review

Lynda Moyo

The Afro Hair & Skin Company - Bloom hair oil

The Afro Hair & Skin Company - Bloom hair oil

Earlier this year when I'd only just started this blog I received a lovely email from Ibi, founder of The Afro Hair & Skin Company. She said she liked my writing style, my hair story and would love me to guest post on her blog. I was flattered. After all, it's normally well established blogs and Instagram accounts with tens of thousands of followers who get companies interested in them, not little old me.

Ibi said I could blog about anything hair or skin related that tickled my fancy so I used the opportunity and platform to share my experience of facing my fear of hairdressers. The post is all about me getting my hair cut to wear curly rather than straight for the first time in my life and how a good cut with a hairdresser who understands afro hair makes all the difference.

As a thank you Ibi sent me a couple of her products - 'Bloom' and 'Flourish' - and the timing couldn't have been more perfect for my freshly trimmed ends.

Twist out

Twist out

You see there's no point getting your hair cut and then not looking after it properly. With my aim to wear my hair as nature intended for the foreseeable future, I needed some new products to help me stay committed because in the past it's been too tempting to reach for the straighteners as soon as I feel like my curls aren't behaving.

The first thing I must say is The Afro Hair & Skin Co products look the absolute business. Clean and classic, they're basically nothing like any of the afro hair products I'm accustomed to. They're modern looking products for modern black women who aren't looking for a 'magical' or 'miracle' 'pudding', 'mayonnaise' or anything else that sounds too good to be true, but rather just something that's simple and helps keep hair healthy. End of. I've lost track of the amount of money I've wasted over the years in overabundant hair shops after being lured in by labels full of false promises.

I decided to test these new understated products on a twist out. I sectioned my hair and spritzed it with water until it was damp all over. Starting with a few squirts of The Afro Hair & Skin Co Bloom hair oil rubbed into my palms, I worked it throughout my hair from roots to ends as directed on the bottle.

The Afro Hair & Skin Company - Flourish hair butter

The Afro Hair & Skin Company - Flourish hair butter

You don't need a huge amount which makes it really good value for money, and I think Ibi has got the balance of oils just right. I've experimented with various oils in my hair before and had mixed results.

Castor oil is too heavy, coconut oil too greasy and avocado a bit too light. Bloom contains oils I'd never even considered; thistle oil, sweet almond oil, poppy flower seed oil, camelina seed oil, crambe seed oil and flaxseed oil as well as coconut oil. The combination works and the scent is sweet, earthy and fresh. Again, so refreshingly different to the pungent black hair products that seem to dominate the market.

For the twisting process I rubbed The Afro Hair & Skin Co Flourish hair butter into my palms and it really helped encourage the twists to stay in place without making them stiff or flaky. I also used it the following day when I was ready to unravel my twists and finger comb my hair.

Finished result

Finished result

Flourish tames stray frizzy curls with ease and gives you that defined look with such a beautiful natural looking shine. To think once upon a time I would have reached for gel or hairspray. Eurgh!

It feels good to actually use a product where there's not one ingredient on the list that sounds like it belongs on a bottle of oven cleaner. I've tried natural and organic products before and liked them but always ashamedly reverted back to the big uncaring brands.

Twist out - finished look

Twist out - finished look

This time I'm happy to say I'm totally sold. Ibi never asked for a review, but when an experience is this good it seems selfish not to share. I've spent decades looking for products that work. To finally find some and know I'm supporting an independent business with nothing but the best intentions for afro hair and brown skin from her own first hand experience, well.... that just makes it even sweeter ;-)

Bloom hair oil, £22 for 100ml and Flourish hair butter, £18.50 for 100g

 

Is no makeup the new black?

Lynda Moyo

No photoshop trickery. This is half a face of makeup and a half a face natural.

And by 'new black' I of course mean the latest trend, but also more specifically a trend among black women in 2016?

This week actress Sanaa Lathan has joined Alicia Keys in her no makeup movement.

Sanaa Lathan and Alicia Keys

And while these two women have been public about what they're doing and why, on the whole we are seeing more women of colour than ever toning down and embracing their full natural selves. 

"What should be an enhancement has actually robbed me of my defining features, leaving me with half a face that’s more glamourous yet more plain, depending which way you look at it."

I too am not adverse to going makeup free. Sure, I may wear a bit of makeup most days, but I’d certainly never describe myself as ‘made up’.

That was until I asked my local MAC counter to 'Kardashianize' me. The sight of own face looking as smooth as a freshly laid ostrich egg, and just as likeable to crack, got me thinking...

Some women do this every single day?

Of course a good magician never reveals his secrets, but the illusion of beauty is now being proudly shouted from the virtual rooftops of the world wide web via Youtube tutorials rather than being kept to the confines of the beauty underworld.

kimkardashiancontouring

Lipstick feminism would argue it’s about celebrating our choices in the modern age and eliminating social stigma toward wearing makeup, as one example. I’d say a woman who is just as happy to show her natural face as she is a fantasy face, is just as comfortable in either skin. 

Korea and Japan also have huge beauty subcultures, namely Ulzzang a popular South Korean term literally meaning ‘best face’ and Gyaru a Japanese transliteration of the English word ‘gal’. 

Staple elements of both styles include lots of dramatic makeup and contouring, contact lenses or circle lenses, dyed hair, false eyelashes and wigs. The results are often startling. Though fun when done for a one-off makeover, anyone choosing this type of cosmetic ethnic cleansing as a lifestyle choice needs to look deeply into their own sad circle lenses, to the heart of the matter. 

It was actually the image below of a half made up face which left me so taken aback that I just had to try it for myself.

'Ulzzang'

MAC with their vast collection of makeup artistry for every skin type and skin tone, immediately came to mind. Rising to the challenge of transforming my face unrecognisably, Olivia – a MAC artist at Selfridges Exchange Square, Manchester - set about using transformation techniques such as contouring, highlighting and enhancing. You can see the full list of products used in the box at the bottom of this article. 

Speaking to MAC Senior Artist, Cher Webb about this new beauty buzz word ‘contouring’, she said: “We are seeing a lot more emphasis on how to create carved faces with strong bone structure. You can achieve dramatic results with sculpting makeup, defining the shape of your face and enhancing your features. Every element can be enlarged or decreased in size, look more or less prominent with products that are subtle and applied in the correct places.”

My husband’s reaction to my half face was simply “that scares me” while other men were equally shocked that it is even possible to create such an illusion. Many saw it as deceit in a way, but surely no more so than a Wonderbra, Spanx or people who Photoshop their own Facebook profile pictures? Makeup is just one piece to this puzzle of supposed perfection. 

Female colleagues and friends on the other hand, found it intriguing. 

Some showed concern for the fact that what should be an enhancement has actually robbed me of my defining features, leaving me with half a face that’s more glamourous yet more plain, depending which way you look at it. Others were keen to know how the look was achieved adding they can’t believe there’s no Photoshop wizardry involved. There really isn’t by the way.

I was also compared to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange book cover, minus the bowler hat and two-faced from Batman. There’s always one. 

But they do make a good point. It’s the fact only half my face is made up that makes it all a little too freaky. We’re only ever used to seeing the completed look, so the revealing of the process, in my case, exposes just how far you can go with makeup. Look at the made up half on its own however and, dare I say, if you didn’t know my natural face you might not stop and stare at all. It is in fact, a picture you’ll see multiple times on any given Saturday night round town. Now that’s a scary thought. 

This experiment has certainly been an eye opener that’s made me appreciate and detest makeup more, in equal measures. There’s no denying, I love what I’ve learned about contouring throughout this process. 

As Cher said: “The modern sculpted face is more creamy and three dimensional. Contouring is one of the most frequently left-out steps in makeup applications as it is a less obvious part of a makeup regime.”

There is however no need to eliminate defining facial features, such as freckles in my case. It’s our differences that makes us interesting and even top makeup artists such as Cher favour subtle enhancements over complete transformations when it comes to everyday makeup. She added: “I definitely think making the most of your natural features is key to achieving a wholesome look. Enhance your favourite elements so you still look like you.”

Seeing the two dramatically different sides of my face felt like an epiphany. It’s not only given me greater appreciation for my natural self, but also for the happy medium I tend to define as me on most days. When snakes shed their skin, they metamorphose into a new being and as I wiped the makeup off my skin, I too was shedding any physical illusions and subconscious beliefs I may have had about what defines a perfect face. 

It’s also highlighted something we all know but too often gets literally glossed over in magazines. A point Cindy Crawford once addressed head-on when she said: “Even I don't wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.”

Trowelling makeup on to hide what you can’t face certainly takes the joy out of makeup. So for those who do like to wear it, here’s my advice: Treat it like fine art. Invest in some decent brushes, learn the strokes, explore the one-of-a-kind canvas mother nature gave you, by choice not requirement. Makeup can certainly add definition, but shouldn’t define you. 

Special thanks to Olivia at MAC, in Selfridges Exchange Square, Manchester. 

Lynda’s MAC Makeup:

Skin

Studio Fix moisturiser

Skin Base Visage primer

Face

Studio Fix foundation (NC42)

Studio Finish concealer (NC42)

Cheeks

Powder – Translucent 

Contour - Studio Fix Powder (NC50)

Highlight – Prep &Prime Light Boost &

Blush – Dollymix

Eyes

Brow -  ‘Spiked’

Brow highlight - ‘Vanilla’

Eyelid – Chilled onice, Woodwinked, 

Crease – Brown Down, Carbon 

Eyeliner - Feline, Bootblack

Mascara – Extended Play

Lips

Pencil – Chatterbox

Lipstick - Inantucipation

Contouring tips from MAC Senior Artist, Cher Webb:

-You can use a concealer in lighter shades to highlight naturally as well as a darker foundation to contour. If you want your highlights to stand out go for a highlighter that boosts radiance like MAC Cream Colour Base in Pearl or Shell. This gorgeous creamy texture melts into the skin beautifully, leaving a pearlescent glow. Apply to the higher planes of the face with fingers or a MAC #195 brush. 

- Contour shades tend to be matte textured and highlights creamy and illuminating. The two textures marry well together and are the perfect combo.

- Use MAC Prep and Prime highlighter to sculpt the higher planes of the face, such as; under the eyebrow, down the nose panel, cupids bow, and cheekbones. This technique instantly lifts and can slim down areas of the face.

- Contour the cheek area and temples with MAC Pro Sculpt Sculpting powder. It is a cooler skin tone shade that mimics real skin shades, bronzer shades look more obvious and more like a tan rather than a definition.

- Add a touch of MAC Strobe Cream to your foundation; this will instantly lift the skin giving it a healthy radiant glow. We use this technique on many shows at fashion week.

 

 

 

 


 

Crochet braids - the pros and cons

Lynda Moyo

After many hours, possibly days, surfing the Internet for crochet braids and subsequently going crochet braids pin crazy I decided it was time to give it a try.

Using Aftress bulk wave hair in F4/27 and T27 shades and Futura Cherish in DE27 (I use the darker shades underneath and lighter on top), crochet hook in hand I was ready to go. It's been a love hate experience and I'm undecided if I'll go there again. Here are my thoughts...

All about the base...

All about the base...

Pros

1. It didn't take as long as I thought it was going to. Once the base is done, the crocheting itself is pretty fast once you get into the swing of it. And you quickly realise that the underneath doesn't need to be as thorough if you're using curly hair like I did. The curls conceal a lot! As you can see from the photos above my base is quite simple. I did 12 cornrows going straight back on top, and then I did a spiral cornrow at the back. I then used a weave needle and thread to sew any tail ends down. 

2. It looks natural. I've had it in over a week now and no one has asked me what I've done to my hair. Hell, all but one person at work has even noticed it's any different at all! 

3. It's cheap. This cost me £14.97 for the hair (3 packs in total) and the crochet hook which is worth about £1 was given to me for free by the hair shop anyway!

The hair brands and colours I used...

The hair brands and colours I used...

4. It may look like Afro hair, but when it rains this hair does not shrink!

5. It's the perfect opportunity to experiment with colour without dying your hair, as I have done here.

Cons

1. Synthetic hair tangles quickly and it becomes annoying. I'm constantly ripping rogue tangled strands off. I'm permanently sat among tumbleweave.

2. It takes a few days to settle. When I first did my crochet braids, they looked 'wiggy'. They didn't lay right. I looked like I'd had a facelift because of the tight cornrows beneath too. It took about a week for it to feel like mine.

3. Windy days are a no-no. But only if you're lazy like me. I really should have done tiny invisible part crochet braids all over instead of just at my parting because when the wind blows, the full scale of my laziness is revealed!

4. You can't tie it up high. Well, you could if the crochet braids underneath were a little neater (see previous point) but then that would have took a lot longer.

5. It gets itchy like a weave. Pass me the knitting needle, damn it.

10 reasons why I love box braids

Lynda Moyo

boxbraids

1. Ten hours of intensive hard labour = over a month of hair freedom. Amen to that.

2. They make me resist moments of utter madness when I think I want to chop my hair off! Growing your hair can seem to take forever, so braids can give you that length you want instantly (whilst you carry on growing sloooowly in the background.)

3. Same as the previous, but for colour. No need to dye it when you can just buy it.

4. Speaking of buying it…. braids are so cheap. Like £1.99 per pack of synthetic kanekalon hair.

5. They’re therapeutic to put in. For me anyway. I love sitting, watching TV, braiding for 10 hours whilst my husband brings me cups of tea and complains about the hair tumble weed all round the apartment. Oops.

braidsbun

6. My hair mantra in the words of an Alicia Keys song that’s absolutely nothing to do with hair, is as follows… ‘You gotta love it or leave it alone.’ Personally I have a habit of forgetting to love my hair, damaging it with the dryer, scorching it with the straighteners etc, so wearing box braids is me leaving it alone. It’s the best protective style.

7. Braids don’t end at just braids. You can wear them in a ponytail, bun, braid, wrap and the list goes on.

8. You’ll never get bored of them because you can experiment with different lengths, thickness and colour.

9. They’re in fashion again! I like to think I set the trend, not Solange. Been whippin’ mine with Brandy since the ‘90s ;-)

10. Braids unite. Check out one of my favourite websites for braid stalking, I LOVE BOX BRAIDS which also inspired my braids board on Pinterest

 

 

 

Wash and go with Cantu Leave-In Conditioner

Lynda Moyo

curlyhair

First up I wash my hair. Today I used Herbal Essence shampoo and conditioner for dry hair. Nothing fancy or specialist, just what I had in the bathroom.

Personally I don’t think it matters so much what shampoo and conditioner you use so long as it’s for your hair type, mine being dry.

The night before washing I tend to douse my hair in any kind of oil - avocado, almond, castor, olive etc. The reason for this is so that when I apply shampoo the next day the shampoo doesn’t strip all my natural oils out, instead it takes off the oil I applied and therefore stops my hair becoming too dry. 

With shampoo I use a very small amount and put the majority of it on the roots and scalp. The rest will coat my hair when I rinse anyway.

I use a lot of conditioner. No not a dime size amount. Come to think of it, I have no idea how big a dime is. I probably use a dinner plate sized amount. I’m not even kidding.

I tend to leave conditioner on for five minutes after I’ve combed it through with my Denman brush. Yes that’s right I detangle with a brush when my hair is wet. Shock horror. I know this is an afro hair faux pas for many people but it works for me. In fact trying to detangle my hair when it’s dry causes far more breakage and damage.

After rinsing I then give it a good squeeze and put it in a towel turban. No I don’t dry my hair with a t-shirt before you ask. I understand the logic but my hair would take forever to dry if I used cotton and not towel. Again, you have to do what works for you.

I then section my hair in four and apply the Cantu leave-in shea butter repair conditioner, brushing it through each section with my brush. Again, plate sized not dime sized people. Saturate your head in the good stuff.

 

Now this next bit is what makes this a 2 hour 15 minute process rather than just a 15 minute process… I leave my hair to air dry for two hours. 

The reason for this is to avoid too much heat damage. My hair holds water very well. A bit like a sponge; you think it’s dry but it’s soaking inside. So if I were to use a hairdryer straight away I would be blasting it with heat for at least an hour.

Instead, by allowing it to air dry, I only have to subject my precious follicles to 15 minutes of heat which I think is a good compromise.

I use the hottest and fastest setting on my dryer so I’m not prolonging the agony anti-heat squad. I focus the dryer on the wet areas which tend to be my roots. I grab sections of my hair and pull them taut whilst drying to get some length back to my shrunken wet hair. I also turn my head upside down and dry it some more to gain volume.

curlyhair

How to take box braids out quickly

Lynda Moyo

When you’ve spent ten hours putting your box braids in, the last thing you want is to sit there for another ten taking them out. Well over the years I’ve managed to pick up some speed when it comes to removing braids. I don’t use a comb or any props, just my two index fingers (preferably with longish nails). 

Holding the braid with the rest of my fingers, I alternate my index fingers through the centre of the braid, dragging them down until they’re off the end of the braid. It’s kind of like climbing a ladder and as you get better at it, you’ll pick up a rhythm and speed.

It now takes me about 30 seconds to take out one braid and about an hour for the whole head.

At the end of each braid I always separate the roots of my own hair, especially where it’s collected dust and dirt. If you don’t do this you’ll have a tougher job detangling it later trust me! With afro hair it’s always better to work in small sections no matter what you’re doing.

By the way, I tend to take my braids out after they’ve been in a maximum of 6 weeks. Any longer than this and the roots become so filthy and matted. I find this is a good amount of time to leave for healthy hair and to see some growth. And if you really want to see mega growth, braid your hair, leave it in for 6 weeks, take it out, rest it for a week, put it back in braids for 6 weeks. Repeat this cycle for a year and you’ll see amazing length results from keeping your hair protected.