How to Safely Heat Style Natural Hair

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Image of Bb Repair blow dry heat protectant

Despite common belief, heat is not inherently damaging for hair. There’s a right and wrong way to use heat, and it can be utilized in a way that is safe for hair. There’s even research that shows that low heat - 116 degrees Fahrenheit or less - can be as safe as air drying. But, of course, high heat and daily heat styling can cause irreparable heat damage.

Here are steps that I recommend for using heat safely. If you go to a stylist, I recommend that you make sure they follow similar steps. Remember that not all stylists are informed on natural hair, despite telling you otherwise.
  1. Starting on freshly washed, conditioner, and detangle hair, create 4-8 sections and apply your leave-in, oil, and heat protectant. You will need an actual heat protectant, not an oil. There is a misinformed belief that an oil is a heat protectant, but it comes from the misunderstand the definition of a smoke point. 
  2. From that 4-8 sections, make a total of 10-16 sections. The more sections, the faster it takes to dry those sections. Less time from the blow dryer means less chance of damage. I Bantu knot or twist the sections to keep them stretched and detangled. 
  3. Using a good blow dry with 3 heat settings (if you only have 2 heat settings, you need to use the lowest setting), undo a section, and blow dry hair on the cool or medium heat setting using the tension method. Do not go above medium, higher heat increases risk of damage. Blow dry until you get to your desired level of dryness. Unless you have to go somewhere, I recommend about 90% dry, then two strand twist or Bantu knot and let hair air dry the rest of the way. 
  4. Work through all the sections until each one is dry. 
Use heat no more than once a week, and in between washes, use non-heat stretching methods like two-strand twists, braids, and bantu knots.

If you need information beyond blow drying, you’ll need to search online and watch some YouTube videos. I don’t have any recommendations for flat irons or hot combs since high, direct heat is very damaging for my hair.

And now you can go forth and style your hair safely. Happy heat styling!

Got a question or just want to say hi? You can connect with me on my social networks!

9 Tips to Decorating a Home in the City

Friday, June 1, 2018

9 Tips for Decorating a Home in the City header image

I love city life. The food is delicious, there's always something to do, and getting around is really easy. But finding a place to live, that's another story. Of course, cities come with a higher price tag, but something people don't always see is that it's hard to decorate. From super small square footage, funky layouts, and windows facing dark alleys, creating an inviting, personalized home is a challenge. But, it doesn't have to be impossible.

I teamed up with Decor Aid, an in-home interior design and decorating service, to help you create a beautifully decorated home in any city, regardless of size, layout, and lighting.

Make Use of Forgotten Spaces
Whether your home is large or small, there should always be various rooms in your home that have non-decor spaces as they’ll give the eye a break and keep your home from looking cluttered or over-styled. That said, there are also several spots in every home that you probably aren’t taking advantage of, say above your kitchen cabinets, toilets, and even on the floor - perfect spots for decoratively arranging books, framed art pieces, and collectibles.

Organization is Vital
In smaller homes and spaces, keeping organized is vital as small messes will lend a chaotic energy when you’re working with limited square footage. By having a designated spot for everything and creating a system to quickly tidy up, you’ll save time and create a maintainable order.

Our interior designers often suggest adding shelves above desks and virtually just about anywhere from room to room to make the best use of every area while cleverly displaying essentials.

Stick to a Core Color Scheme
By selecting pale hues and elements you can easily make any area appear larger and more expansive, however, be careful and ensure the space doesn’t end up looking too clinical while keeping in mind that small homes often have dirtier looking walls as things rub against them more commonly.

living room
The best advice we can give you about decorating a small space is to source as much multi-purpose furnishings for the space as possible as you’ll open extra room in your home. Think ottomans boasting hidden storage, a table that can do triple duty as a dining table, conversation zone, and desk, and the ilk.

Bad lighting will not only make it harder to perfect your makeup, it will also make a small space look even smaller. Dingy, dark corners will close off parts of any room, lessening the visible areas.
Make it a priority that each room is well-lit throughout your home. Eliminate dark zones with a variety of easy to install options from kitchen cabinet lighting to simple wallsconces as it just takes a little structural adjusting to trick the eye into making your home appear larger.

One of the easiest styling tricks to making your home appear more expansive is using mirrors to reflect light and trick the eye into thinking the space is bigger than it is.

Place them adjacent to your windows to reflect the outdoors and make a room seem as if you have another window as the more windows you have, the larger your home will appear. Affordable and easy to score, mirrors provide a practical touch of glamor and should be considered a must for small house interior design ideas.

Budget-Friendly Decorative Moves
With scores of budget-friendly small home decorating alternatives easily available we guarantee any interior designer will swear by the invaluable money-saving resources that antique shops, flea markets, and even junk shops provide.

Peruse local thrift shops for steals and browse free furnishing listings online with items people no longer need as these unique, curated scores will lend your home conversation starters while adding a hint of vintage flair.

Furnish Wisely
small space
When decorating narrow rooms and compact spaces, opt for slim, low-profile furnishings that are appropriately sized to keep the area from feeling cramped or over-crowded. Stick to a general rule of thumb that pieces should reside away from your walls than against them. Another great tactic is to keep furnishings the same scale as they won’t compete with each other or overcrowd. Same goes for glass top tables as they are visually much lighter looking.

When considering the best approaches for decorating a room that’s short on space, there’s something to be said about the practical magic of symmetry. You’ll find that a sense of symmetry will trick the eye into surveying a small home as wider, and more spacious than reality. That said, remember, it’s all about the right balance and being too rigid on placement will give your space a strict, uptight vibe, so be sure to practice a relaxed take on symmetry as it’ll lend smaller rooms a charming, comfortable energy.

What are some of your tips for decorating a city home?

Got a question or just want to say hi? You can connect with me on my social networks!

My First Time Crossfit Experience

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Crossfit MPH photo

Let me first start off by saying, I’m pretty active. I do high intensity workouts, I jump rope, and, of course, I do a lot of yoga. But none of that prepared me for my first Crossfit class. But do not let that scare you! I absolutely loved the class and, even better, got a great workout.

I went to Crossfit MPH’s intro class back in February. I was in a class with three other people, which was great because we all were able to get feedback on our technique and any issues we had during the workout. Head coach, Rebekka Ellman, gave us a quick ten minute overview of Crossfit, and we went right to work.

Always important, we started off with a quick warm-up, and then were taught four basic Crossfit movements: a squat, a press, pushups, and burpees. We spent between 5-10 minutes working on each movement because in Crossfit, form is everything. This is because when the pace is sped up and weight is added, it’s important to follow proper form to prevent injury. It was at this part in the class that I gained one of the most valuable lessons in my fitness experience…I’ve been doing squats wrong!

Whenever I squat, my knees naturally go in. I’ve never been corrected on this before, despite the many fitness classes I’ve taken. As a result, and as an avid squatter, specifically the ballistic, plyometric kind, it doesn’t take much for my knees to take a beating. Because Rebekka really wanted us to get our form down, she corrected me each time I did it. Now whenever I do squats, I make sure that I’m actively pressing my knees out to prevent them from caving in.

After going over key movements, we went over our WOD, or workout of the day. This is what makes Crossfit really unique. A WOD can be any length, and the challenge it poses is really up to the Crossfitter. For example, if you’re a beginner, you may reduce the weight or pace to make it more applicable to your skill set. While someone who is more advanced, can increase weight and go faster to make it more challenging for them. And for those who may get bored easily, Crossfit workouts change day to day. Some days, you may find yourself on a rower, and another day you may be doing pull-ups.

Our WOD was pretty simple: a short run around the block, a few medicine ball squats, some shoulder presses, and burpees. It was a timed workout, so we had to do four rounds as fast as we could. Now, I said the workout was simple, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. And boy, was it hard. If you remember in the interview, I said that we ran outside and I didn’t have a coat. Grant it, I didn’t need it because I warmed up pretty quick, but running outside in the cold air was pretty hard. And I felt it a lot more than when I run in warmer weather. Coupled with weights, and I was done after three rounds instead of four. Despite this, I felt like I got a good workout and was pretty exhausted afterwards.

I had a really great time doing Crossfit. It was fun and challenging. But what makes Crossfit really great are the coaches and the gym. Rebekka was an amazing coach, and she was really attentive, making sure each person felt like they were getting a private lesson. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience as a first-time Crossfitter.

If this piqued your interest on Crossfit, check out my interview with Crossfit MPH head coach, Rebekka Ellman.

Got a question or just want to say hi? You can connect with me on my social networks!

Crossfit 101: An Interview with Crossfit MPH Head Coach Rebekka Ellman

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Crossfit MPH DC header image

Despite living in DC for six years, and the bustling crossfit community in and around the District, I have never done crossfit before. This may not seem too significant, but every year in the summer, I tune into the annual Crossfit Games. I am amazed and stunned at the amount of strength, endurance, and resolve Crossfit athletes possess. So, this year, I decided to get in on the action and make it a point to stop by a few gyms, also called boxes, in the area.

 A few months ago, I had the pleasure of doing an intro class at Crossfit MPH in DC, and although my workout was really intense, I had a lot of fun! I'll post about my experience on Thursday, but if you're interested in Crossfit, but haven't tried it, or don't even know what it is, Rebekka Ellman, head coach Crossfit MPH, is going to give you the 411 on everything Crossfit, and even talk a little bit about the MPH community.

Tell me how you got into CrossFit, why you became a coach, and why you opened a gym?

I discovered CrossFit back in 2009 as part of my search for a fitness program that would help me rehab from an unexpected bone graft surgery months earlier. I have been hooked since day one! I became a coach (and jumped at the opportunity to help open CrossFit MPH) because I want to help others discover a level of fitness that is both mentally and physically empowering. CrossFit is often called intense, but that reputation simply comes from each participant's willingness to work hard, push past preconceived limits, and develop a level of grit and resiliency that benefits all aspects of life.

What do you love most about the CrossFit community?

When I think about the CrossFit community, I think about two things. The first is the CrossFit community at large. There are now over 14,500 CrossFit gyms worldwide. That is insane but what it also means is that when you take an interest in CrossFit, you also gain access to a global network of like-minded individuals, essentially one big shared experience. You can walk into a CrossFit gym anywhere and automatically feel welcomed and supported. The second, is the MPH community, specifically, and while I am very biased, our community is special. MPH is truly about fun, challenging workouts because we all want to live healthy and long lives and have fun while we do it. No judgements, no egos, just lots of hard work and lots of laughing.

What makes CrossFit MPH special compared to other CrossFit gyms?

CrossFit MPH is unique in our level of organization, style of coaching, class structure, and emphasis on customized workout modification! You can read more about how we are different here. We challenge you to try one class with us, that is all it takes to understand our unique approach and level of service!

How is CrossFit different than other types of workouts?

CrossFit is different than other types of workouts in that it places an emphasis on a broad and general fitness. Often, programs specialize in one type of workout using the same movements, loading, and workout duration each day. In CrossFit, however, this is not the case, because there is constant variance day to day. For example, we use everything as light body weight to as heavy as hundreds of pounds (of course, depending on age, size and fitness experience level). Workouts can last anywhere from seconds to upwards of 35-40 minutes. In terms of movement selection, the options are nearly limitless, although CrossFit does focus primarily on functional movements including squats, presses and deadlift variations, gymnastics movements, and Olympic weightlifting. The variance in workouts in CrossFit is what gets results, the body constantly has to adapt and thus keeps getting more fit.

When I went to the intro class, I remember only taking a water bottle. But when I found out we were running outside, I wished I had brought a light jacket, and I remember you said that with CrossFit, you have to be prepared for everything. So how should beginners prepare for their first CrossFit class?

That is a great question! Often, people will tell us they feel like they have to get in shape first before they can do CrossFit, and that is simply not the case. At MPH, our approach is to meet YOU where you are! In other words, we make CrossFit work for your current experience and fitness level, and not the other way around. From day one, our coaches work with you to modify any and every aspect of a workout so that it is appropriately challenging (so that you feel like you got a workout in), yet fun and motivating. And when I said that in CrossFit you have to be prepared for everything, I was speaking to the inevitable mental and physical growth that results from doing CrossFit. If every workout you do is done inside, away from ambient conditions and any other imperfect factors, then you miss the opportunity of training your fitness when the environment is not ideal.

When I first went to your class, we worked on form in preparation for us to lift heavier weights. Can you talk about how important form is, and why it matters when doing a lot of the explosive movements that you see in CrossFit?

Form, or technique, is the foundation of what we do at MPH. When we focus on technique, we are emphasizing correct muscle activation, correct and safe positions in each phase of a particular movement and how and when to apply force to a movement or weight. The idea is that you must be able to move safely and correctly at low speeds and minimal loads in order to cultivate the body awareness and body control necessary to move at higher speeds and heavier loads.

While going through our WOD (work out of the day), you said that CrossFit makes you comfortable with being uncomfortable. This really resonated with me because it’s something you can take out into the real world with you. What other real life lessons can you learn from CrossFit?

Yes, exactly! The biggest take away is being comfortable with being uncomfortable, and rather than fearing it, using that uncomfortable feeling as a signal to dig in harder. It is about challenging yourself to go beyond what you thought was possible, whether that's getting your first pull-up, kicking up into a handstand for the first time, or being able to squat a certain weight. In order to achieve those things, you have to practice, be open-minded to learning new things, work hard, and mentally tell yourself that it is possible. A great quote that really ties into CrossFit and the process of learning new and challenging skills is "if you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done!"

Anything else you would like to add? 

My hope is that my answers will help shed some light on CrossFit, and, in particular, MPH. We are just regular people who like taking on challenges, who want to have fun and to feel supported while doing it. We work hard so that we can live long, healthy lives.

Did Rebekka pique your interest about Crossfit? Or thinking about taking a class? Let me know in the comments!

Got a question or just want to say hi? You can connect with me on my social networks!

Olaplex: Review

Friday, May 11, 2018

My Thoughts on Olaplex header image

As I write this review, I am currently grazing hip length. Retention has been, to say the least, difficult. I notice small, broken hairs everywhere, regardless of what I’m doing. I keep on top of moisturizing and sealing, deep conditioning, and being gentle, but breakage has been persistant…until I used Olaplex.

What’s Olaplex you ask? Well, let’s rewind a bit and address protein first. Protein, found in many different hair products, like deep conditioners and leave-ins, help to repair hair. As Natural Haven describes, proteins are “deposited” in the hair shaft, sticking to and forming temporary bonds to hair.
Protein is effective, but has a few drawbacks. It can make hair feel hard, and for those with low porosity hair, can sometimes do more harm than good. In regards to me, even with protein, this longer length of hair often makes it difficult to retain more length. About six months ago, I noticed I could retain more length by doing protein treatments weekly, but this technique is no longer working now that I’ve retained another two inches. That’s where Olaplex comes in.

I first heard about Olaplex from one of my Facebook friends, Heather, who is like seriously one of the dopest people I’ve ever encountered, and she has some seriously enviable tresses. She mentioned it in passing, and I tucked it away in the back of my brain to revisit later. A few weeks ago, I was thinking of making another hair product infographic and was reminded of Heather’s recommendation, and I decided to do one on hair bonders, which is where Olaplex falls under. Unlike a protein, which forms temporary bonds using amino acids, hair bonders repair the actual bonds in hair. While it’s not permanent (hair bonds break with normal wear and tear on the hair), hair bonders return hair as if it were new and undamaged. If this sounds confusing, check out Lab Muffins super science-y explanation.

So what does this all mean in terms of hair care? It means a few things. For one, Olaplex and other hair bonders are more superior at repairing hair than protein treatments. I’ve done two treatments so far, and my breakage has stopped almost completely. I had recommended Olaplex to another Facebook buddy, and she noticed 70% less breakage after her first use. Second, because proteins bond to hair, it often can make hair hard, or for those with low porosity hair, prevent moisture from getting to the shaft. With Olaplex and other hair bonders, the bonds repair themselves, so you don’t have to worry about hard hair.

Olaplex has one down side…the cost. At almost $30 for 3oz, it’s the most expensive product in my regimen. The bottle says to use once a week, but since Olaplex was designed for those with color treated hair (you don’t need color treated hair to use this), if your hair isn’t colored or extremely damaged, you can probably get away with using it once every other week or once a month. There’s also cheaper alternatives, but from what I’ve read, Olaplex is the industry standard, so results may vary.

All in all, if you’re having trouble with breakage and protein treatments aren’t working, your low porosity or protein sensitive, or you have color treated or really damaged hair, I would highly recommend picking up a bottle of Olaplex.

Got a question or just want to say hi? You can connect with me on my social networks!