Holiday Gifts for Naturalistas

It is that time of year again. Tis the season for hot chocolate, fuzzy socks, red and green coffee cups, and all the moisturizer you can get your hands and hair on (We all know how this weather can dry up your curls).

So as you are exchanging Secret Santa gifts at your job and checking your family’s Christmas list…twice, share with another natural the gift of hydrated, perfect curls. Here are a few gifts that are most likely on every natural’s Christmas list.

1. Diffusers. Can’t go wrong with one of these babies. Everyone wants that perfect wash ‘n’ go but without the frizz. Diffusers help eliminate that while bringing an elongated and defined look . Pay attention to some of her favorite natural Youtube vloggers and see which diffusers they are using. I recommend buying a regular blow dryer, and going to a beauty supply store and buying an attachment there. Feel free to throw in a matching heat protectant while you’re at it.

2. Natural Hair Expo. I cannot speak from experience, but I can speak through referrals. I always hear great reviews from people who attend Curls over Brunch or natural hair expos. It can be a ladies night out where you and your girlfriends rent out an apartment in the city and attend a natural hair event during the day and do dinner and drinks at night. Tickets are usually not very pricey, but make sure to get them early because they always, always sell out.

3. A Gift Basket of Hair Products. Shea Moisture, Mane Choice, Carol’s Daughter. There are so many brands out there with incredible lines. Pick one that she has been wanting to experiment with. Choose a line and create a gift basket with all the products from that line. Choose a shampoo, co-wash, leave-in conditioner, oil or serum, and a deep conditioner. TIP: you may want to double up on the deep conditioner, after all it is winter. Buy a woven basket from Hobby Lobby or Target. Pick up some clear tissue or wrapping paper and a bow. After placing all the products in the basket, wrap the basket with the paper making a knot at the top and place the bow around the knot for a cute presentation under the tree.

4. Gift card. When in doubt, gift cards NEVER FAIL. If you are afraid she may have all of the above or she may not like what you picked out, a gift card to ULTA can definitely do the trick.

Hopefully these tips above can make the rest of your holiday shopping a bit easier. Another tip: stay updated with sales, discounts, coupons, and giveaways on social media. Many companies use this time to reach out to all of their customers, so stay on your toes, or should I say finger tips, so that you can buy all the best gifts without breaking your wallet.

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Drop the Scissors: Alternatives to the Big Chop

Three years ago, after my failed attempt and short lived experience going natural, I decided to give it another try. I watched Youtube video after Youtube video, read blog after blog, and was sure this time I was ready. But seven months after my last perm and four months into my natural hair journey, I was over it.

I started out well with braid outs and twistouts, (braidouts were my favorite) but as my new curls grew in, my styles would not look as nice anymore because of my stringy, straight ends. On top of that, my hair was shedding by the pounds. I was not sure if it was due to the stress I had senior year or if this is what vloggers warned me of. I am talking about the infamous demarcation line.

Whatever it was, I was sick of transitioning. I wanted to be fully natural already, but I was not ready for the big chop. And for the ladies reading this blog who are finding themselves in the same position I was in, I have a few words of advice that may help ease your natural hair journey.

Instead of going for the big chop and heading straight for the TWA, I decided to do a mini chop, multiple ones. As scared as I was, I got the scissors and handed them over to my sister (there was no way I could trust myself) and she cut about 1/3 of my relaxed hair into the trash bin. The next day I got braids for the first time. I was not used the heaviness of it on my neck but I got used to it. I left them in for a tad bit too long, but when I took my braids out in March, I could not believe how long my hair was. It made me wish I just went for the TWA instead.

After taking out my braids, I worked with a bun for a few weeks. Soon it was time for prom. At that point, I cut off what I thought was the last of my perm and had a weave installed. I had leave out, not realizing that I would have to re-straighten it every, single, day, but I made it work. I left my weave in for graduation and then tossed it. I realized I still had a few relaxed ends leftover. I cut those off and had braids put in one last time for the summer, which resulted in my hair growing incredibly once again. I straightened it in August for my sister’s wedding and a year and a month later my hair was down to my shoulders.

So rather than doing the big chop, I chose the mini chop instead. Thanks to protective styles, I was able to maximize moisture and retain length throughout the entire process.

For ladies who are not ready to go for the big chop all at once, I definitely encourage you all to take it step by step, cut little by little, or in increments. If all else fails, remember, it is just hair. It will always grow back.

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My Four Staple Shoes for Fall

When thinking about fall, thoughts of pumpkins, dark colors, and images of falling leaves usually come to mind. While we’ve already discussed fall fashion here on CurlyInCollege, I believe it’s time to zero in on another aspect in fall fashion. Shoes! *cue the OMG Shoes! YouTube viral hit from 2006 here* There are hundreds and thousands of different shoes one can wear this season but I’m going to focus on my four go-to pairs. After all, the shoes are what make the outfit.

Doc Martens/Combat Boots

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Featured: Macy*s / Missguided.com

Doc Martens are a classic pair of combat boots. In all honesty, I haven’t broken mine in yet and I have had them for almost a year (sorry mom). Nonetheless, I do reach for these due to the edgy look they instantly give my outfits.

I purchased these glossy maroon combat boots from Missguided last winter and love the pop of color they bring to an outfit. Maroon is also a staple color for this season and these boots incorporate it easily into outfits. Both pairs are comfortable which is important when I’m running around campus going to work, class, and grabbing food with friends.

Doc Martens usually retail for over $100 but can be found cheaper here from Amazon. A similar pair for my patent maroon combat boots can be found here from Missguided.com.

Ankle Boots

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Featured: Kohls

Ankle boots are an easy way to take an outfit and make it look more put together. This is another pick that allows you to be both comfortable and stylish. Ankle boots are always in style whether there are leaves on the ground and a chill in the air or flowers blooming with a shining sun. Simply slip these on and you’re good to go! The pair featured can be found here from Kohls.

Lace Up Flats

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Featured: Boohoo.com

The lace up trend has found its way into every article of clothing this season. From head to toe, you can find lace-up detailed clothing. As for footwear, lace-up flats/heels are a huge trend. For comfort reasons, I opt to pursue the trend in the flats variety. Flats already give an outfit a feminine touch but there’s just something about the lacing up detail that makes flats so much better. I personally am not a lover of flats but this pair just kept grabbing my attention and now I absolutely adore them. A similar pair can be found here from Boohoo.com (also love the fact that they come in red, might just have to get them myself) and here from Topshop.

*EXTRA: How I Style My Lace Up Flats (brought to you via Snapchat, of course!)*

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Cardigan: BCBGMaxazria, Top: Forever 21, Boyfriend Jeans: Topshop

Desert Boots

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Featured: Marshall’s

Last but not least, my go-to pair of shoes for fall are desert boots. Mine happen to be a more pointed toe pair but the more popular style features a round toe. Comfortable (like all my choices), desert boots can also be dressed up or down. From jeans and a cozy sweater to a nice cardigan and dress combination, desert boots are super versatile.

Hopefully this post inspires you to go out and incorporate new footwear in your fall wardrobe. Being that I own way too many pairs of shoes (I like to be prepared for all life/footwear situations okay? Don’t judge), I’ve made it my goal to wear a different pair of shoes for the duration of November. You don’t have to go as far as that, but stepping out in a pair of shoes not usually in your routine can be the start of switching up anything else in your life. Take that first step!

LaToya’s Natural Hair Journey

In November of 2013 I received my last relaxer. I did not realize it would be my last until a feeling of guilt came over me as my hair dresser applied the chemical to the very intriguing waves that had started springing out of my scalp. I felt bad for my natural roots. I felt like I was denying them or like I wasn’t giving them a chance.

As I sat in that chair I decided that it would be my last relaxer. I was going to give the “natural” thing I try. Mind you, before I made this decision, I was that girl that declared I would never go natural and would continue to use relaxers until they stopped manufacturing them.

My relaxed hair: Dec. 2013
My relaxed hair: Dec. 2013

I had a negative opinion of my natural hair because I didn’t like my hair when I was younger. I didn’t understand why it didn’t lay flat like the other girls in school. I guess I felt too different. I viewed my hair as ugly and not beautiful. When I was in 7th grade my mom allowed me to get a relaxer. I continued to relax my hair up until my sophomore year of college, November of 2013.

I decided that I would transition instead of doing the BIG CHOP. I wasn’t comfortable with having super short hair. My plan was to transition for two years but just after the one year mark, it became too difficult for me. I was wearing weaves or braids throughout the majority of my transition, but I became tired of that. I wanted to have my own hair out. I wanted to feel my own scalp.

So around the year and four months mark I tried to wear my hair out, but it just did not look right. My roots were super thick and my ends were pretty much see-through. It was not a cute look. So I decided when the semester came to an end, I would do my big chop, or transitioning chop, and I would finally be completely natural.

Leading up to the day, I was really excited but super nervous. I did not know how I was going to look with shorter hair. I had no idea what my hair texture would be, but I was determined to learn to love it.

In May of 2015, I invited some friends over and we had a Transitioning Chop Party! I ordered pizza and we played music. I think this was the best way for me to shake my nerves and to celebrate this turning point in my life.

Before big chop vs. after big chop
Before big chop vs. after big chop

And it turns out, I loved my hair! I was so surprised to see curls on my head. I had no idea that my hair was curly. It’s weird to think you’re 21 years old, and you are just discovering what your hair looks like.

That’s why I think this natural hair movement is so important. Although everyone has the right to wear their hair in a way that makes them feel beautiful and confident, I think it is important that we all learn to love and embrace the hair we were born with. There is only one you and we are all unique in our own way. So embrace every part of you.

It has been 5 months since my big chop and I can still say that I love my hair. My hair is not like anyone else. My curls are just for me and I love them!

Photo by Siu's View. www.siusview.com.
Photo by Siu’s View. www.siusview.com.

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DIY Halloween Costumes Straight from Your Closet

Halloween is a day with a different definition for everyone. There’s the person who absolutely hates the holiday and the scary ghouls that come along with it. Next, you have the person who moderately tolerates it but decides to stay home to “hand out candy to the kids” but in reality will eat said candy while enjoying old Disney Channel Halloween movies. Finally, you have the person who goes all out for Halloween. Whether you fit into any of these categories or you just need some costume inspiration but your wallet is slacking, no worries.

For the Halloween lover on a budget, look no further than your closet. Digging into my own closet, I was able to come up with three costumes made up of staple pieces from my closet. If you don’t have the exact piece, I’m sure you’ll be able to find something similar in your own closet.

Costume One: An American In Paris

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Sweater + Skirt: Forever 21, Flats: Boohoo.com, Bread from BJ’s

You’re probably thinking “Michaela what even is this costume?” but hear me out! The Parisian stereotype of high neck sweaters, berets, neck scarves, and a baguette in hand is somewhat embodied in this costume. As an American in Paris and not a Parisian in Paris though, you’re going to fail at emulating that stereotype. In fact, I broke it so hard that I substituted a baguette for a loaf of whole wheat bread (gotta stay health conscious people). Granted, if you don’t want people questioning why you’re holding a loaf of bread all night, just hit up your local thrift store and try to find a beret. If you don’t like answering the same question over and over again, this costume probably isn’t for you.

Costume Two: Where’s Waldo?

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Sweater: Shein.com, Jeans: Forever 21, Slip On Sneakers: Vans

Everybody’s favorite hidden guy! This costume is really a no brainer. If you don’t wear prescription glasses like myself, I would recommend finding an old pair of big sunglasses you no longer wear and punching out the shades. Glasses or no glasses, people are bound to know who you are already just from your sweater alone. A simple pair of jeans and any pair of basic sneakers and you’re good to go! Just remember to go AWOL a bunch of times during the night to remind your friends just what being Waldo is all about.

Costume Three: Rosie the Riveter

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Denim Top + Jeans: Topshop, Boots: Doc Martens, Bandana: C/O Joy Taylor

An American icon, Rosie the Riveter embodies the idea that women are capable of doing a man’s job. A simple denim on denim ensemble plus some combat boots and you’re ready to get down to the nitty gritty at the factory. Bandanas can be purchased at any craft store usually for $1. Honestly, why wouldn’t you choose this costume? Beyonce was also Rosie the Riveter for Halloween one year. You’d be one step closer to Queen B. Is that not everyone’s goal?! But aside from that, make sure to spread the message that yes, we CAN do it.

Now that you’ve seen these DIY costumes, put down the cat ears you’ve been wearing for the last 3 years and put your own twist on these for Halloween. A huge thank you to my friend Joy Taylor for photographing me and lending me her bandana without which the beloved Rosie the Riveter costume would have been incomplete. Have a great day and stay inspired!

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Winterize Your Hair Regimen

As the temperatures cool, leaves change colors, and shorts and tanks are substituted for jumpers and jeans, experienced naturalistas everywhere are gearing up for their cold-weather hair regimens. We all know that the cold weather makes our skin look dry and lack-lustre, but did you know that a similar phenomenon happens with our hair? To be quite honest, combating dry, dull hair in the winter is easy. The secret? Moisture.

Moisturizing the hair always seems more of a chore than a necessity, because let’s face it, laziness is too real and sometimes our hair just doesn’t want to retain moisture due to either the elements, color treatments, heat damage, or even wrong product usage.

Unfortunately, figuring out a regimen with products that work is the hardest part, however, follow these tips to winterize your hair regimen on a budget.

STEP 1: Cleansing the hair
Now whether this is with a co-wash once a week and a shampoo once a month (or any other washing method), what I can say is that you want to reach for shampoos, conditioners, and co-washes that are free of sulfates and parabens. Sulfates and parabens have a tendency to strip (or even over strip) the hair of its natural oils causing the hair to feel even drier and aid in breakage.

Instead, reach for those that have moisturizing agents in them. Some inexpensive products to try that I like are Suave Naturals Almond and Shea Butter Shampoo and Conditioner (retails for under $3), Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Shampoo & Conditioner (retails for under $4), As I Am Coconut Cowash (retails for about $7), Eden Bodyworks Coconut Shea Cowash (retails for about $9), and Organix Coconut Milk S/C or Moraccan Argon Oil S/C (retails under $8).

STEP 2: Deep Conditioning
This is the most fun part because creativity really comes in handy. A good deep condition to the hair really penetrates and rejuvenates dry, brittle, or otherwise “thirsty” strands. The best part about this is you can find ingredients to make your own in your kitchen, and tailor your recipe to what your hair needs. A simple recipe for a deep conditioner with all the benefits is as follows:
2 parts conditioner (acts as the base, adds slip)
3 Tbs. Mayonnaise (gives your hair a protein boost)
1.5 Tbs. Honey (is a humectant, which means it draws moisture to your hair)
3 tsp. Oil (moisturizing/sealing agent)
Egg (gives your hair a protein boost)

TIP 1: Hot Oil Treatment
I know that this can sound a little jaded, but doing a hot oil treatment gives your hair that extra boost of moisture-locking protection. If you do this before the shampoo, is disallows the shampoo to strip too much oil from the hair, and similarly, if done after the shampoo, it allows you to seal in any moisture that the conditioner left behind.

TIP 2: Steaming
Avoid that shower cap! When you shower, throw your hair up into a bun and allow the steam to work its magic. This probably sounds the most bizarre, but this little step does wonders. Steam is moist heat as opposed to dry heat and creates a humid environment for the hair, which is optimal for the absorption of moisture. It also promotes elasticity and strength, while enhancing your curl pattern by promoting clumping without sacrificing volume, and the best part is, it is completely free!

STEP 3: Moisturizing
This step is the most crucial. There are different methods to try, so finding a method and products that work for you will take trial and error, but what I can suggest is doing a method that is referred to as the L.O.C method (Leave-in, Oil, Cream). Essentially, you want to use a leave-in conditioner, oil of your choosing or a butter like shea or mango butter, and a creamy styler or gel (if you would like). During the colder months, it is almost imperative to use a thicker moisturizer no matter you hair texture. This will seal in the moisture and really keep your hair soft.
Some inexpensive leave-ins are Cantu Shea Butter (< $5), Giovanni’s Direct Leave In (< $6), and Elasta QP Leave In (< $5). As for the oils, any oil that works well with your hair is fine.

TIP 3: Protective Styling
Wearing your hair in a protective style shields your ends — and whatever else is protected — from the biting winds and chilly atmosphere. Wearing your hair in low-manipulation styles not only allows your hair to take a break, but it also aids in length retention. A style can be so varied too from crochet braids, to weaves, wigs, twists/braids, up-dos and sleek buns, the possibilities are endless.

Have fun with your hair, but don’t forget to moisturize!

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Black Women In Media

Black women in media are embracing their curls, Afros, braids, and natural beauty on the red carpet and on TV. There is a long history of black hair and whether it is “acceptable” and “appropriate” under society’s beauty standards. It is evident now that those barriers are slowly being knocked down. This idea of what is and what is not acceptable in black beauty has left women feeling underrepresented in the media. Recognizing this is important for the growth of the black community.

What we see on media outlets greatly influences the way we interpret beauty, style and different perspectives. The lack of black women in the media makes it hard for other black women to relate and understand our own identities.

Growing up as a 90s kid, one of the television shows that I could relate to was That’s So Raven, it featured a black family and lifestyle. As a black girl, seeing a black main character was important to understanding my relevance in society and in the media as a young girl. I felt somewhat connected to the show and grew up understanding that there are girls like me out there that share part of my identity. I saw Raven change hairstyles and outfits all the time and that gave me cool ideas that I could possibly do with my hair and wardrobe. It is important for young girls to have this kind of representation in the media to boost self-confidence. When kids are young, they primarily learn by ‘monkey see monkey do’, and I wanted to be just like Raven. Kids try to understand their identities and beauty at a young age by copying what they see. If they don’t see people they identify with, its hard for them to find themselves.

It is not only important to have the representation of black girls on TV but also make sure they are acting in principal roles. The perception of black women, as a whole, can change by simply putting a black woman in a leading role.

I wish I saw more black women with natural hair in leading roles on TV . Although I had That’s So Raven, growing up there was a great gap between middle school and college where natural hair was not being represented. I am glad to see a recent rise in its representation on TV.

On prime time TV, more leading black women are in series that are reaching wide audiences. We see Kerry Washington in Scandal, Gabrielle Union in Being Mary Jane, Taraji P. Henson in Empire, and many more. These black women are in the forefront because individuals, who are behind-the-scenes, gave them the opportunity to be there.

Now, a popular TV trend is #TGIT, Thursdays on ABC, where three shows running back to back are produced by Shonda Rhimes, an African American woman who has greatly increased black influence on TV.

Actress Viola Davis recently won a historic Emmy making her the first African American woman to win Best Actress in a Drama. She stars in Rhimes’ show How To Get Away With Murder and has an amazing scene that changed the way I thought about the representation of black women on TV. In her legendary scene she removes her wig and makeup displaying her natural hair and natural beauty and completely changed my perspective on women in the media.

It was a real moment in TV where black beauty was truly defined in ways that it hasn’t been defined before. It was shown in its purest form and it was completely beautiful and courageous and a breakthrough in TV for black women.

It is important for these kinds of scenes to be shown on TV so black women may feel represented. The people we see in the media are trendsetters. When we have black producers and writers, we have more black actresses and representation in the media. Black writers create opportunity for black actors to achieve black greatness and black role models that inspire the generation of young black viewers.

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The Curly Girls Guide to Fall Fashion

The autumn season is finally upon us and has taken no time in filling the air with that chill many of us have probably been waiting for since mid-July (you know, that point where everyone is over the blazing summer heat). Ringing in autumn comes with a multitude of changes. You opt out of your favorite cold summer drink for a warmer one (most likely of the pumpkin flavor variety) that will help you fend off that fore mentioned autumnal chill. Your favorite shorts and tank tops get packed away for the space in your closet to be filled with an array of jeans and sweaters in fall-appropriate colors. In relation to hair changes, you’re probably about to give up that wash n’ go you’ve been sporting for the last three months in order to save yourself from the misery of having to deal with cold, wet hair for the impending cold months ahead. September 23rd may have signaled the end of summer bliss but I, with the help of three other beautiful CurlyInCollege ladies, present to you the perfect way to get out of your post summer depression and have you fall-ing in love with fall! Princess, Jas, and Ziajah modeled their go-to outfits for this transitional time of year along with their go-to hairstyles.

Look One

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First in this lookbook is Princess. She conquers fall with an olive green crop top, medium wash high waisted jeans, velvet combat boots and a leather jacket to keep out that infamous chill in the autumn air. Her accessories include a double choker necklace, a bowler hat, and an edgy, zippered shoulder bag to finish off the look. Princess’ style tip for fall is to wear neutral colors. “Colors like greens, nudes, and blush tones. They look good on everyone!”

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As for her hair, Princess went with two side twists with the rest of her hair down. She says the twists are simple and easy to do plus they’re fun. Her one tip for handling natural hair in the fall? “Keep it moisturized! Use your oils and play around with it.”

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Look Two

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Next up is Jas! The outfit she chose just screams ‘autumn’ with the abundance of warm colors. Draped in a tribal print poncho, her long sleeve burgundy crop top, ripped jeans, and moccasin flats are the epitome of a cozy fall ensemble. Her style tip for dressing for the season is, “Keep it comfortable! You don’t have to do a lot to be cute. Also, fall color schemes. Burgundy, grey, beige, and olive – my personal favorite.”

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For her hair, Jas is a protective styling enthusiast. “It’s convenient and easy! I prefer to keep my hair in protective styles because I have a lot of hair that can be hard to manage with school and cold weather.” So, her tip for managing hair in the fall is to use protective styling. “You can achieve every hairstyle in any color with a nice protective style.”

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Look Three

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This last look is brought to you by Ziajah. The dark colors of her outfit certainly contrast her bright personality that shined through when we were shooting her look. She’s ready to take on the season with her velvet moto jacket, neutral toned dress, tights, and chunky lace up boots.  “Fall is a transitional season so jackets are a must!” she says in choosing the cool jacket she’s sporting. As for style tips, Ziajah says, “Dark lipstick colors! Deep reds and purples. Also, try to be comfortable and stay warm.”

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Ziajah put her hair in Bantu knots but tells me the struggle she had and how she solved it. “I tried to do Bantu knots but it didn’t work out so I just put the two out and put the rest up in a bun.” Buns are a quick and easy style that anyone can accomplish and can keep your hair away from your face when the wind blows endlessly. Her advice for fall hairstyles? “Try out different hairstyles that don’t require your hair to be wet. Trying it out now during the fall helps prepare you for the winter.”

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I hope these three ladies inspire you to go out in your best fall duds and try out a new ‘do for this season. A huge thank you to them for tapping into their inner model and strutting their stuff. Have a great day and stay inspired!