AJ and I just came back from Iowa where we attended his brother’s wedding. It was absolutely everything I consider beautiful in a wedding– farmy, modern, and simple. AJ took a week off and it was disappointingly a time warp. Of course, we had Panchero’s, I realized I missed two homework assignments from five weeks prior, and I watched way too many sports. I wish I could’ve contributed to the bridal party more but there were more than enough hands. My mother-in-law, who is the matriarch to four boys, had her hands full with girls running all around. Now, we’re back in Delaware and I just need one more day in the weekend to get me through the week.

Cedar Rapids, IA

Anyway, I wanted to talk about natural hair of course. It’s about to be a year since I’ve transitioned come February. My progress could have been expedited had I stopped straightening my hair but I’m still very happy with what I’ve gained. I did a length check two weeks ago shortly before we left for Iowa. It wasn’t as flowly as it used to be. I gunked my hair with heat protectant and argan oil to avoid damage. I’m sure a good Dominican Blowout will fix this sort of dilemma but we won’t do that, as I mentioned. My plan is to keep these braids in until mid-January, get another set until beginning of March, and then one more until mid-April. By then, I will most likely have reached my goal.

I usually consult my old friend Sindy who reached this length in one year. In my own experience, however, I’ve found that box braids are the trick. For the first week, I let the braids loosen comfortably, and then I start spritzing my scalp with an olive oil-water mixture every morning. As my edges sprout from the braids, I wipe them down with some water after washing my face (I wash my face twice a day) and seal with shea butter and coconut oil. I apply shea butter and coconut oil to my scalp if it’s especially itchy but I haven’t had that problem in a while. I want to try to spritz twice a day but it’s hard keeping up. I usually meditate as soon as I get home and then run to the fridge.

Moving on to my wash regime. With my first set of braids, I used coconut milk like I usually do but I added some oils and protein because I knew it was probably going to sit in and nourish my hair. One day, I used shampoo as a base to get rid of the buildup, cleansing with ACV and sealing my roots and edges with oils. Two days later, once the braids are dried, I begin to spritz again with my water/olive oil.

My first sesh was a good box braids session. I lost little to no hair during takedown, washed with those neutralizing shampoos they give you in those perm boxes, and then washed with a conditioner-based coconut milk mixture with everything in it (my hair was too course for just coconut milk and oil). I knew I had gained length because my new growth took over my head in a big pile of shrinkage. I barely saw any permed ends. But I was frustrated because I didn’t know what to do with my hair. The texture wasn’t quite what I expected. It was so full but so tightly coiled.

Now, a few posts ago, I also mentioned that I undid a couple of braids, focused on moisturizing them, and loved the texture. My lack of doing so on the rest of my hair may have been the reason why I was dissatisfied with my post braids texture. Maybe I shouldn’t be afraid of buildup city. It’s tough because it’s so early but I’m convinced that the over-oiling and over-proteining and over-deep conditioning works for me. I want to wash with a simple shampoo-coconut milk mixture next time but, knowing myself, I would eventually be drawn to a lazy, simple shampoo-conditioner mixture that would toxify my hair. But then, a shampoo-conditioner mix could work (maybe even better) and save me a shitton of time. I’ve just started watching this vlogger’s channel and I’m even realizing that wearing my hair out may expedite growth. But it may also promote breakage particularly in this weather. For now, I won’t fix what’s not broken.

As a result of my dry texture, I sealed my entire head with shea butter and coconut oil post-takedown. I figured it would also combat my anxiety for dry hair and eliminate having to oil and butter my scalp when it’s already in braids. I didn’t bring my spray bottle to Iowa because I like to pack light– I used wet fingers to moisturize instead (hopefully the coconut oil and shea butter was prominent). I finally washed just yesterday after having the braids for two weeks and I’m proud to have done so with just coconut milk. I cleansed, sealed, and will normally spritz tomorrow. These braids were a bit longer, too. They’re getting kind of raggedy really quickly.

I will try to straighten better and do a length check next time. As I look at photos from this past summer, I’m so proud of my commitment today. It’s home free from here. I say I’d like the length I had in high school but I really want long Chime Edwards kind of hair.

To wrap this up, I’m exhausted after AJ insisted we have IHOP for breakfast. He fell asleep over the Bengals-Browns game and, as I watch him snore, socks kicked off and sticking to our couch’s armrest, I am reminded of how much I appreciate having a television. I also love evenings like this– overcast, gloomy, the room dimly lit by our Christmas tree and a small plug-in in the corner. #blessed