May 16, 2014

How I Straighten 4a Natural Hair with Bantu Knot Stretching Method

I don't even know how long it's been since the last time I did this...but I straightened my hair! I went what I think was several months without straightening it because: 1) I try to avoid fine tooth combs, 2) I try to avoid dry brushing/combing, 3) I try to avoid split ends/breakage, and 4) because I broke my Chi and had to throw it out :( So typically when I straighten it, I stretch out my hair first with a blow out. To cut back on brushing, breakage and heat from a blow out, I decided to try a new method of stretching -- bantu knots! 
Chi Ultra dipped in teal blue -- check out the other cute spring colors on Ulta.

My motivation to randomly straighten it after several months? My handy dandy new Ultra CHI! From the Chi Spring Collection -- it's basically the same classic Chi, but in a variety of fun colors. It was on sale for $90 in stores. Also, fate or luck or karma did me a favor because some lady walking out of the store gave me a 20% off coupon. So I got what could have been $150 for $72. Online, they're on sale right now for $100. So these aren't cheap straighteners...but they're more affordable than some of the other higher end lines out there. In my opinion, anything that's 1 inch wide and heats up to 400 degrees F with ceramic plates is essentially the same thing. And overall I was VERY impressed with the results. These were my best results straightening my hair since having a relaxer. This could have been the straightener, maybe the products...maybe all of the above.

I think the number one rule of straightening hair successfully so the style to stay away from humidity. Don't take a steamy shower and then straighten your hair in the same bathroom minutes after...either wait a few hours for the steam to go away or straighten in another bathroom that doesn't have a shower. 
The Products I Used:
Smooth N Shine Polishing Silk N Sleek Straighten Polisher
TGIN Argan Replenishing Hair & Body Serum -- buy it here!
Trader Joe's Nourish Spa Balanced Moisturizing Conditioner

The Process:
First I washed my hair with shampoo and conditioner, washing all of the conditioner out thoroughly. When my hair was still wet, I reapplied about two quarter sized globs of the TJ's Nourish Spa evenly throughout my hair. I just raked it through with my fingers. It's not supposed to be a leave in -- but I don't see why not. It has a ton of botanical extracts and is very moisturizing. So this gives your hair a boost of moisture before all of the oils and heat.
Next, I sectioned wet hair into 3-4 chunky sections. I worked section by section -- dividing each section by half and then applied a very small dime sized amount of first TGIN hair serum and then the same small amount of Silk N Sleek to each half. Then brushed it through to distribute evenly, and was sure to give my ends a little extra serum loving. Being careful not to put too much product on any section...or hair will dry greasy.
About this much hair
About this much of each product -- oil first, then the cones.
The TGIN oil works great as a sealant and moisture boost. The Silk N Sleek is full of other botanical oils as well as silicones -- which help smooth the hair and lock in the straight style. I can see why some people avoid silicones...but if your hair is damaged or you straighten it often, I think silicones are actually helpful. They help hold the straight style longer. 
One strand twist

After applying a conservative amount of product to each section, I divided it further into 3-5 smaller sections, twisted them into one strand twists, and then wrapped them around themselves into around 16-18 bantu knots (the thicker your hair, the more bantu knots).
Bantu Knots
I spared myself the embarrassment by not taking a picture of it, but I sat under my bonnet dryer (hooded works too) with the bantu knots in for a long time. I would say an hour and a half or two on high heat for the first 45 minutes or so. A good time to sleep or catch up on blogging or watch a movie :) The thinner your twists, the less drying time will be. If you want to avoid the added heat of a dryer, then let air dry for a day or overnight.
I worked section by section brushing out the section gently. Then ran the straightener once over the brushed out section to smooth.
Then, I split the brushed out section into three smaller workable sections. 
Then using the wider end of a fine tooth comb, combed through the straightened hair, then ran the straightener over once more after combing.
Then, I comb the smaller straightened section again using the finer tooth side of the comb and run the straightener over a third time, touching up as needed. I didn't add any more product to my hair after it was dry. 
And I repeated these steps on every bantu knot one at a time. First with the brush, then straighter, then fine tooth comb, then straighter, then touch up. My hair isn't thin, but it's not super thick either -- if you have very thick hair, then you may have to run the straighter over more times and use even smaller sections. As you can see, the products helped make my hair very shiny and smooth--and good smelling.

When I was done, I just went through lightly touching up any areas I thought needed it and added a bit of volume accentuating layers with a slight curl at the bottom. 

The Results:
My hair was (and still is!) super soft and straight. I actually found that this time, even when introduced to some humidity, instead of frizzing, my hair became slightly wavy. It got a bit frizzy over a few days and needed touch ups, but it didn't look bad, it looked more wavy, almost as if I styled it wavy + full on purpose. you can's definitely grown! I got it cut (again) almost exactly a year ago right before I graduated college which put me back around 4 inches on my hair growth mission. I would say that now it's longer than it's ever been and hangs maybe 3-5 inches below my collar bone. I'll do a length check sometime soon!

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