Length Retention Secret from the Women of Chad

Long hair is coveted by many in the natural hair community. While there are definitely some naturals who prefer to maintain a TWA or tapered cut, there are those, myself included, who can be described as “length whores.” Lol. Yep! Give me ALL the inches!! My healthy hair goal for 2017 is to reach tailbone length. But notice how I mentioned “healthy.” Desiring length is fine as long as the health of your hair is not neglected in the process. It wouldn’t make sense for me to achieve my hair goal, but the last five inches of my hair consists of split, dry and frayed ends. So, you may be wondering, how can I achieve my hair goals while ensuring my hair is healthy? Like many paths in life, there is no one way to get there. There are many techniques and products that can be used to help you reach your goals. The key is developing a regimen that works for you. Trial and error, internet research, reading blog posts, and watching YouTube videos, can all provide ideas on how to improve your regimen to help you reach your desired results. I believe I have a pretty solid regimen. But it’s definitely not perfect and there’s always room for improvement. So when I came across a video on a length retention secret from the women of Chad, I was intrigued.

The video creator is a descendant of an African ethnic group in Chad known as the “Basara Arabs.” She decided to travel to her native Chad to uncover the haircare practices of the women in this ethnic group. The women who belong to this group are widely known for their long, kinky hair that often reaches past their waists. Their ability to reach such length lies in the application of a mixture consisting of Shebe seeds, Mahllaba Soubiane seeds, “Missic” stone, cloves, “Samour” resin, scented oil of their choice, and a hair grease or pomade, also of their choice. Most of these ingredients can only be sourced in Chad or Sudan. To create the mixture, all of the seeds and the cloves are grilled and separated. Then the hair grease or pomade and the oil are mixed together, separately. The powders are then combined in a mortar and mixed together along with some of the oil/grease mixture. Then all of those ingredients are mixed together to create a substance that mimics soil. Then the Missic and the Samour are mixed together and ground into a fine powder and added to the soil-like mixture.

After the hair is damp with water, the mixture is applied from roots to ends, with extra mixture applied on the ends. They ensure the hair is thoroughly coated with the mixture before moving to the next section of hair. The mixture is applied every 3-5 days beginning at childhood. There are some who attribute their hair length to genetics. However, the documentarian notes how her mother and grandmother are members of this tribe and do not have hair this length. So the length they achieve must be attributed to their unique mixture and the frequency in which the treatment is applied.  The women in the tribe also state their length is not due to genetics, because it is not applied to their edges, which are very short. If genetics was the primary factor, all of the hair on their head would be that length.

This mixture provides extreme moisture to the hair. So after the treatment is applied, the hair is sectioned off and braided to retain moisture until it was time to apply the mixture again. The mixture is applied by hand without any styling tools, which helps reduce mechanical damage. Mechanical damage is normal “wear and tear” that occurs just by us handing our hair, such as when we wash, comb or brush it. While this regimen fits the lifestyle of the women in this region, it may not be realistic for any of us since the mixture is not washed out. So imagine applying deep conditioner to your hair every 5 days, never washing it out and then repeating that process your whole life. In addition to that aspect, there are no local suppliers who source the ingredients. And even if you found the supplier in Chad or Sudan, I’m sure the shipping transit time would be lengthy and expensive.

So….since it appears none of us will be using this mixture anytime soon, how about I share with you some practical length retention tips from Sharae in Seattle?! Lol. Does that work? Ok. Great!

Length retention picture

1.       I keep my hair moisturized by doing the LOC (liquid, oil, cream) method 3 times per week. I make sure the section of hair is thoroughly coated with product and I add extra product to my ends. After moisturizing, I put my hair in 6 braids

2.       On the nights I don’t do the routine above, I spritz my ends with a combination of water and aloe vera juice

3.       At night I always sleep with my hair tied with a satin scarf or sleep on a satin pillow case

4.       During the week, I style my hair in buns or a soft braid. I usually don’t wear my hair out in a twist out, braid out, or wash-n-go until the weekends

5.       On wash day, I make sure to deep condition my hair. After applying the deep conditioner, I use my Hair Therapy Wrap to open my hair cuticles to allow for maximum product absorption

6.       When I am detangling, I only do so on soaking wet hair with lots and lots of Aussie moist conditioner. I detangle with a wide tooth comb since that works better for me than a Denman brush

7.       I rarely apply heat to my hair. On occasion if I do a wash-n-go, I will diffuse my hair. The last time I blew out my hair was around 2010 or 2011 when I had box braids. And I can’t even recall the last time I flat-ironed my hair. It may have been when I had my last relaxer in 2009

8.       When I am styling my hair, I try to use my hands as much as possible to reduce the possibility of suffering any mechanical damage

9.       I try to keep my ends trimmed. I don’t trim on a set schedule. I just look at my ends and trim if needed

10.   By experimenting with different products, I’ve learned what ingredients my hair likes. So I intentionally search for products that contain those ingredients. In addition to aloe vera juice, I know my hair thrives from glycerin, coconut oil, honey, and shea butter

After seeing the health and length of their hair, there are some obvious benefits to this treatment: all natural ingredients, applying the treatment on a consistent basis, handling the hair with the least amount of manipulation as possible, and maintaining a long-term protective style. If the ingredients were more widely available, I think it would be worth it to try the treatment as part of your wash day regimen, perhaps in place of your current deep conditioner. Oh, and of course, you would wash it out!

What are some of your favorite length retention tips? Or are there some new things you will now incorporate into your regimen to help you achieve your healthy hair goals?

 

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Shop Smart: Meal Prepping & Grocery Shopping for Success!

“So many aisles! So many signs! Where do I begin?!! Ohhh…samples? Yes, please!” Hold on, girl!! Pause. Before you get too excited, let’s rewind! Read this post first, because I’m going to be giving you my TOP tips to help you meal prep for success and shop smart!

First things first, go with plan. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. It’s cliché, but very true. If you walk into the store aimlessly, you may waste your hard-earned coins buying food you don’t need. So make a list first by deciding what you plan to eat the following week for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. When I am using a recipe, I make sure it serves between 4-6 people; that way I know I have dinner covered for the whole week. I typically eat the same foods for all my meals throughout the week. This may be boring for some, but this works for me. An alternative could be to prepare two different dinners so you have a couple of options during the week. Or you could prepare a few different veggies, lean proteins, and healthy complex carbs. From there you could “mix n match” your meals throughout the week. For instance, lunch on day 1 could be brown rice, baked salmon, and asparagus. Dinner on day 1 could be turkey meatloaf, mashed sweet potato, and broccoli. Day 2 lunch could be turkey meatloaf, brown rice, and asparagus. Followed by dinner that’s baked salmon, mashed sweet potato, and broccoli. Whichever method you choose, make sure it’s the right one for you. Consider which option will be sustainable for YOU over time.

Typically on Thursday evenings, I plan my meals for the coming week in a chart that has a space for me to write out what I plan to have for each of those meals. I then use that chart as my guide to help me create my grocery list. If I am following a recipe, I check my pantry and fridge first to see if I already have the ingredients. If not, I add them to my list. I usually go to the store Friday after work or on Saturday morning. I then set aside 2-3 hours Sunday afternoon to actually prepare my meals. That amount of time also includes me cleaning up the kitchen – washing dishes, taking out the garbage and sweeping the kitchen floor.

Before you even head to the store, ask yourself, “am I hungry”? If so, have a healthy snack BEFORE you go, such as a piece of fruit, protein bar, veggies dipped in hummus, a handful of almonds, or string cheese so you can stay focused on your list and you’re not tempted to buy un-healthy foods. Trust me! When you’re hungry, things you wouldn’t normally consider will start looking good. Like that cheap, greasy pizza. Fix it, Jesus!!

When I get to the store, I start with the perimeter and then work my way down the aisles. The perimeter is where I get a majority of my food, including fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, almond milk, gluten free bread, gallon of water jug, cheese, and eggs. Down the aisles is where you will find many of the processed foods and refined carbohydrates, such as white pasta, cookies, and chips.

When I plan my fruits and veggies, I consider what’s in season. Purchasing seasonal fruit is more cost effective and it also means the fruit will be at its peak freshness. Depending on the store layout, the bulk food section may also be located along the perimeter. Since I am cooking for one person, buying in bulk is cheaper and allows me to get just the amount I need. In this section I get my quick oats, seasonings, gluten free flours, quinoa, brown rice, nuts and seeds.

My last stop around the perimeter is the frozen food section. I always grab some frozen fruit and vegetables for breakfast or my green smoothies. Frozen fruit is packaged at its peak freshness, so you can be sure the food will still have its flavor and nutritional benefits. You can also get a better deal buying frozen when you’re purchasing fruits that can still be pricy even in season such as raspberries, blueberries, cherries, mangos, and blackberries.

Down the aisles, I like to purchase condiments, such as balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, hot sauce, salsa, stevia, maple syrup, and reduced sugar ketchup. The aisles can also be a way to get low priced fruits and vegetables, such as canned pineapples, green beans or corn. If purchasing fresh produce is not in your budget, then canned is also a great option. When it comes to canned fruit, I typically stick with pineapple since that’s the one fruit I found where there is no syrup added. I would definitely try to avoid fruit that’s canned in syrup, even if the can says light syrup. Fruit is nature’s candy. It’s sweet enough on its own!

Even though most of the snacks down the aisles aren’t the healthiest options, there are still some good choices. Some of my favorites are rice cakes or popcorn. The Smart Food brand is my go-to, because it just contains corn, salt, and oil. Tortilla chips, portioned out, are a good option as well as protein/snack bars like Quest Nutrition Bars, Kind Bars, Think Thin, or Lara Bars, unsweetened applesauce, peanut butter with no added sugar or oil, and even crackers. The Mary’s Gone Crackers are the ones I really like!

When I can, I purchase the store brand since the quality is still there, but you’re not paying the extra markup for the fancy brand name. If there is no store brand option, I look at all the options and go with the cheapest one. I always make sure I keep freezer bags on hand. If I buy a package of meat and I don’t plan to use it all for the coming week, I will separate out what I need for my recipe, portion out the rest and stick that in the freezer. I also use freezer bags for my green smoothie ingredients. When I meal prep, I grab a handful of collards (or whatever green veggie I am using for the week, usually 1 cup), chop up a banana, and then whatever other fruit I am adding, and then freeze the bag. The evening before, I dump the smoothie ingredients in the blender along with my unsweetened vanilla almond milk, vanilla vegan protein powder, Greens, ground flax seeds and blend away!! Oh, and don’t worry. I plan to discuss green smoothies in more detail in a future post. So stay tuned!!

During the hectic work week is really when you will see the benefits of meal prepping! The small sacrifice you make to take a few hours one day a week is definitely well worth it. Having healthy meals prepared means I can avoid the vending machine and office treats. I don’t need to waste money buying lunch every day. Plus when I get home, all I have to do is pop dinner in the microwave, relax, and enjoy! Since my meals are prepared, I can’t justify picking up fast food on the way home just because I don’t have anything to eat at home and I don’t feel like cooking. When we’re tired, the last thing we want to do is think about what to eat and then stand over a hot stove to prepare it; especially during these warm summer months. If you decided not to cook and instead opted for your favorite fast food restaurant, you may tell yourself on the way there that you’ll get a salad. You start off with the right intentions. But…..once you get there, that one meal you told yourself you would stay away from, your trigger meal, is now staring you right in your face. Yep! That double bacon cheese burger, deluxe curly fries with some ranch on the side for dipping, and the soda to wash it all down! You devour it and then reality sets in that you’ve just pushed yourself further away from your goal for the week. You vow to get back on the wagon tomorrow. But the same thing happens the next day. You’re too exhausted to cook so you go for comfort. You go for what you know; what you’re familiar with and what will satisfy you in that moment. See where I’m going with this? Meal prepping leaves you with ZERO excuses to make food choices that are not in line with your goals. Meal prepping also means you’re consuming enough calories and nutrients throughout the day to sustain yourself. Some people still think eating 1-2 times a day will help them lose weight. The truth is that over time, your metabolism will slow down and your body will go into starvation mode and store fat because it doesn’t know when it will get more food. So it’s not about eating less; it’s about eating better quality food.

Weight loss and weight maintenance are 80% diet and 20% exercise. Your food choices play a huge role in either helping you reach your goals or pushing you further away from those goals. Don’t allow all of your hard work in the gym to be in vain due to consuming too many calories and by making poor food choices. Working out for an hour a day is the easy part. It’s what we do the other 23 hours of the day that can either really help us or hinder us. I hope these tips were helpful to you for the next time you make a trip to the store! I really hope you see the benefits of meal prepping and will give it a try!

Now, I want to hear from you! What are some of your top tips for shopping smart?