I’m in love with a Shampoo Bar…

WARNING: This is going to be a long review.  It can’t be helped.

The title of my post is pretty self-explanatory.  For those who read my review on Curl Junkie, you will remember me saying that I had two pieces missing which were needed to complete my picture of great hair.  The Curl Junkie review addressed the first problem, which was that I needed styling products that worked for me.  The other missing piece to the picture boiled down to one very basic item: shampoo.  For quite some time now, I’ve been using whatever suited my fancy to wash my hair.  It’s been a rotation between a SLS-free shampoo, a cheap bottle of Suave, and Dr. Bronner’s.  Did my hair like this regimen?  Not really.  It wasn’t too fussy about it (ie. it wasn’t stripped or damaged as a result) but I believe that one of the reasons it was able to tolerate this madness was because it didn’t have the extra stress of having to contend with heat.  I really wanted something gentle that would work, and so I set out looking for that special shampoo by reading reviews galore.

Enter Chagrin Valley Soaps.

I put in my order and received it in 2 days.  I had heard about how good the shipping was, and I was nothing less than impressed.  Ida has quite a selection on the website, and I was very tempted to order the full-size bars.  I ordered the samples (which are generously portioned) and am happy that I did because I was able to give everything a decent try and really find out what worked for me.  I ordered the following shampoo bars: The Ayurvedic Bar, Olive & Babassu, Babassu & Marshmallow, Neem & Tea Tree and the Nettle bar.  I also ordered a couple of soaps (the honey butter bar and the Chamomile & Calendula bar).  A little information about the products: They are ALL NATURAL.  I have to stress that Ida’s products are as far from commercial as one could possibly get.  Everything is unscented, or smells herbal because of (obviously) the use of herbs and essential oils.  I have no problem with this, in fact, I love it.  However, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t care for a strong herbal scent while showering or you want to smell like cotton candy, this may not be for you.

The first shampoo I tried was the Ayurvedic Bar.  I was most excited about trying this one because of its ingredients.  It is full of things that I know my hair likes: Amla, Hibiscus, Castor bean oil and a few things I had never heard of like Bhringraj, which is supposed to act like a ‘multi-vitamin’ for hair (according to the website).  Using the shampoo bar was a different experience, I have to admit.  It didn’t produce a big lather for me, but I washed my hair with it 3 times and took my time rubbing and working my hair and scalp anyway.  After I rinsed my hair of the 3rd wash, it felt a bit waxy, but I was prepared and had my Apple Cider Vinegar diluted in water and proceeded to use it as a rinse to restore my hair’s acid mantle.  It worked well.  My hair and scalp did feel clean, but also different.  It wasn’t waxy or stripped or anything like that, so I have to assume that my hair probably needed to acclimate to the product.

The results of the Ayurvedic Bar were okay as far as my hair look and feel.  I really didn’t give the shampoo bar much thought until three or four days later.  I had left my hair out with its curls the day that I washed it, and had forgotten to oil my scalp that night and onward.  A few nights later, I had parted my hair expecting to see the flakes that were always present when I didn’t baby my scalp but found nothing.  I really didn’t want to get excited, so I kept on parting my hair and looking for flakes but my entire scalp was clean.  The Ayurvedic Bar is a definite keeper for me because of this.

The second bar I tried was the Olive & Babassu.  I wasn’t going to order this sample at first, but quite a few people recommended it when I was watching and reading reviews.  I liked it.  It has a creamy lather and is very mild.  Perfect to use on a child since it is unscented and moisturizing.

The Babassu & Marshmallow shampoo bar is my favorite, hands down.  I had read from some one that marshmallow root helps define the curl pattern and I have to say that it definitely did.  This shampoo bar is moisturizing and creamy.  My hair felt silky and my curls popped before even applying any product to them.  I found that this shampoo bar produced the same result when I used it on the kids’ hair. I’m going to be ordering a big bar of this.

Neem & Tea Tree is a shampoo/face/body bar.  One can use it where ever it is needed.  Neem and Tea Tree are great for skin conditions such as dandruff, acne and eczema.  I cut the sample in half and gave piece to my husband while I kept the other part to add to my black soap for my problem skin.  My husband really likes it.  He’s been using his bar as a shampoo and body bar.   It has helped clear my skin in a few problem areas, and so I do like it.

The Nettle bar was the last shampoo bar that I sampled.  By the time I got around to using this bar, I knew how to manipulate the shampoo bar properly to make it sud the way I expected it to.  This bar is supposed to be good for dry scalp and minimizing hair loss.  I found it was mildly clarifying, which I like.  I would invest in a big bar of this shampoo as I really enjoyed using it.


I’m making space to address, specifically, my experience with the infamous Honey Butter Bar.  The Honey Butter Bar has a cult following among we Naturalistas.  The HB Bar is actually a soap bar, but because of its content (think lots of good butters and oils) it is also used in the place of a conditioner by quite a few women.  It didn’t work for me.  Not at all.  I did my best to give it a few chances, but I didn’t like how it made my hair feel.  I guess if it works then it works darn good, cause it has some stellar reviews as a conditioner.  I advise buying this bar as a sample if interested.  I will say that I’ve been using the piece I have left as a regular soap to bathe with and it leaves my skin incredibly smooth.


Okay, so getting a review on how well something works is all fine and good, but I think it’s even more helpful to let you know what to expect if you want to make the change to a shampoo bar.  First off, it isn’t like using a liquid shampoo. There is a slight learning curve involved with learning how to lather up the bar and to get it to sud properly for your hair.  Like anything else, the more you use it, the better you get with your technique. Keep in mind though that it will never give you the kind of lather you get with a commercial, liquid shampoo.  The shampoo bar is made of things that a beneficial to the hair and scalp with no preservatives.  Although it is very effective, it is also gentle, and so you do have to manually massage and rub your hair and scalp really good to get it clean.  It’s kind of scary that regular shampoos don’t require a lot of agitation to get your hair to feel ‘squeaky’ clean  (take that as a sign of how harsh they can be).

When using a shampoo bar, it is a good idea to give your hair and scalp a chance to make the adjustment.  If your scalp’s balance is out of whack with how much oil it produces or such, then the shampoo bar (if you’re using the right one) will most likely address and solve the problem.  There are people who have used shampoo bars and found their scalp over producing oil (because they used to use a harsh shampoo).  Sticking with it, the scalp will soon realize its oils are not being stripped and it will stop over producing.  Also, using a shampoo bar in a hard water zone will produce a waxy feel on the hair.  A good solution to this is the Apple Cider Vinegar rinse which will get rid of the waxiness.  Also, the rinse is good because it brings the hair’s acid mantle back to what it should be.  I like how my hair feels after the ACV rinse, but hate the fact that even after rinsing the rinse, I can still smell the vinegar (not sexy).  I use my regular conditioner instead since it does the same thing as an ACV rinse in regards to restoring the proper PH to the hair (and I don’t have hard water).

Finally, with the Chagrin Valley soaps, it is important to store them out of the shower/bath when you finish using them.  They are made of butters and oils, and they will melt away in a warm, humid bathroom.  Ideally, you want to keep them on a soap deck (where the water can drain) instead of a soap dish.  I recommend her soaps also, as I’ve used a couple and really like how they make our skin feel. If you’re prone to itchy, dry skin, you would be doing yourself a huge favour.




It’s Official: I am a Curl Junkie.

First and foremost, I have to apologize for my failure to upkeep this blog.  My plate has been full, very full, and in order to live somewhat of a balanced life, time and priorities must be taken into account.  I put the blog on the back burner because of this reason.  Now that I’ve addressed that, on to my mini-review!

Lately, I’ve been cruising the hair boards, blogs and vlogs, much to my own detriment (money wise).  My hair is doing great but I noticed that there were two pieces missing from the puzzle: I really, really long for curls that are bouncy, silky, full of body and low on frizz.  I can achieve it using Qhemet, but it’s not easy, nor do the results last.  QB products nourish and condition my hair (and strengthen it, too) but I’ve realized that I need actual styling products.

Well, I found out about Curl Junkie.  I watched review, after review, and I came away impressed.  I also felt a feeling that I recognized.  It was the feeling of certainty that I felt when I had made my first QB purchase.  Some where in my bones I knew this stuff was going to work for me.  I went to the website and read recommendations, but ultimately ordered the products from a different online retailer because the shipping was better.

What I ordered: I ordered the Curl Assurance Smoothing Gellie, Aloe Fix Hair Styling Gel, and Curls in a Bottle.

Curl Assurance Smoothing Gellie: I bought this because it seemed suited for my hair type, which appears to defy the hair chart cause it’s a thorough blend of 3 -4 a,b & c, thanks to my many ancestors.  It looks like a cream (or think jelly) and smells delightful.  I used it on damp hair and scrunched and it held well. Tamed the frizz just fine.  I really like this Gellie because it is kinda lightweight, but does it’s job.

Aloe Fix Hair Styling Gel: This gel will have to get its own spotlight because I really haven’t used it properly.  I used it once to smooth my hair down for my ponytail.  It worked like a charm. No build up, flakes or frizzies.  It smells good and it non-drying.  I have high hopes for this baby.

Curls in a Bottle: I wasn’t going to buy this product.  I’m glad that I did.  I’ve used curls in a bottle a few times since I got it last week.  It is very lightweight.  I can’t use this by itself.  It helps make curls pop, which is a good starting point, I think.  Two nights ago, I washed my hair and after putting my Olive & Honey Hydrating Balm in, I added the Curls in a Bottle.  My hair was still damp and my curls really developed with it in.  I decided to do bantu knots, so I combed through and added the Smoothing Gellie.  The next day I undid my twists and separated them.  They looked amazing.  I had no frizz and my hair was soft while the curl held.  It held through a romp with the hubby in the afternoon and through 26 degree weather (Celsius, cause I’m Canadian).  It held.  It wasn’t hard or tacky at all.  I’ve found my styling winners.

I also have to add that the CIAB and CASG work wonderfully in my littlest one’s hair.  Hair hair is a wild, silky, curly riot.  With these two products, her curls stay defined and frizz free without drying or damaging her hair. It’s exciting for me to see her hairstyle last and not end up the big, puff-ball it usually is at the end of the day.

I really like Curl Junkie so far and recommend visiting the website.

I Love This Book!

ilovemyhairIf only I had owned this book when I was little.  I bought I Love My Hair! a few years ago when my eldest daughter was going through her own hair tribulations.  Like the heroine in the book, my little one hated having her hair combed, no matter how gentle I was.  So many of us have hair issues that start when we are still in single digit years.  Sometimes these issues are handed down to us by parents (whether consciously or not), or from our own experience with having our hair combed out.  I remember being in kindergarten and looking at the hair commercials for Flex and Finesse.  They always had some glamorous blond swishing her long, silken tresses.  I would do the same, of course.  This memory is so vivid for me that I guess it must have been a really big deal on some level.  I even remember asking my mom why no one in the commercials looked like us (as in, black people).  Thankfully, I haven’t been traumatized by the media in any way that I can think of; however, I find myself worrying about what my children will swallow from all the junk being fed to them from media’s various sources.  How can a young girl grow into an able, confident woman if she is unable to embrace who she is?  If I could have my way, this next generation of young ladies would be one with poise, intelligence and integrity.  Forget about beauty making the top three.  The truth is, beauty is nice and all, but it doesn’t last and it can’t stand on it’s own.  Besides, since it really is in the eye of the beholder, chances are someone will always find you attractive anyway.  I’m rambling on, it seems, but there is a connection to my ramblings and I Love My Hair!.  The heroine of this book describes her natural hair poetically.  It is compared to fine wool, a forest, wings for her to fly when combed in two.  Her mother has not fed her the all too common rhetoric about needing straight hair or having naps.  Instead, Mama nourishes this child’s spirit and esteem by telling her why her head of hair is so special.  There is also a book written for little boys, Bippity Bop Barbershop.  I have not read this book, but have heard good things about it.  Both books are written by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley.  Also highly recommended is Whoever You Are, by Mem Fox.  It’s a simple book that teaches children that though we all seem different, we really are the same.  The only beauty that will not fade is that of a kind heart.

The Journey to Great Hair?

Qhemet BiologicsOkay, so my co-worker got me interested in Qhemet Biologics.  I tried resisting, but found myself doing some research on the web.  The more I read, the more I wanted to try a few of the products.  I had previously tried Miss Jessie’s Curly Meringue and the Stretch Silkening Creme. Thank goodness I only bought the travel sizes because I was beyond disappointed with the results for both products. Ironically, I tried Miss Jessie’s because of a co-worker (again). She loves their stuff and it works for her. Let’s just say, the lucky girl will be getting my full jars. Anyway, back to Qhemetic Biologics. This time I was more careful with my research and I decided to spring for the stuff. Problem No.1- This stuff is regulated like a controlled substance. No eBay, no long list of on-line shops selling QB. I was going to order from their website, however, the products I wanted most were sold out. Incredibly, there is one (yes, only ONE) brick and mortar store that carries Qhemet Biologics. Today, I left my home in Queens and made the journey to Brooklyn (Back to the Land Natural Foods) in order to get my hands on some. I dunno, maybe I wanted it more because it was so hard to get??? In the store, one of the employees commented on how fast QB sells out. They didn’t have everything I wanted, but they had what was at the top of my list: Egyptian Wheatgrass Cleansing Tea (SLS free!), Cocoa Tree Detangling Ghee and Olive & Honey Hydrating Balm. So, I’m going to try these out tomorrow (with my curl-ease towel, of course), and I’ll be sure to let ya know how it goes!

Curls with Ease

So! I was browsing honeyfig.com several days ago and came across this hair towel that intrigued me. I guess I’m a little slow when it comes to new hair products because I basically like to keep my line up simple. Anyway, the Curl-Ease towel is touted as being the “the only towel for girls with curls.” (catchy like a nursery rhyme, right?) I am a serial review reader. I love the Internet particularly for this reason. Imagine my delight when Afrobella had some info available on the curl-ease towel! I decided to buy the towel using my Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% off coupon to help out, figuring that if it didn’t work for me, I could use it on my daughter’s hair.
I love this towel. I’ve used it twice so far. Yesterday, I washed my hair and did the whole curl primer found on Tightly Curly (see blogroll for the link). Side note: I think Teri is on to something with her technique, at least, it works for my unruly tresses. My curls have never looked so great. I’m loving the attention and compliments they attract. (lol) Back to the towel. I did the turban thing that most of us ladies do, and left it wrapped for about 20 minutes. When I unwrapped, my hair was damp and my curls were beautifully defined. I think that next time I wash my hair I’ll leave it wrapped for an extra 15 minutes just to have it a little less damp. Today, I used the towel again as I was getting ready for work. I used a spritz bottle with water to moisten my hair, and added a little conditioner. Than I wrapped my hair in the towel for about 5 minutes. My hair was barely damp, but when I removed the towel, like magic, my curls had bounced back and were quite lovely to look at. I really want to experiment with this product some more, but so far I am very pleased. When I was getting the towel, BB&B had a few other choices (one was microfiber). There are those who swear by them, but I could just see curl-easemy hair being a fuzzy, frizzy mess with that, so I stuck with the curl-ease towel. It’s cotton, thin like cheese cloth, and nothing special to look at. I’m happy.

Good Hair

  There’s been quite a bit of talk about Chris Rock’s new movie, GOOD HAIR.  I must admit, I’m interested and look forward to watching it.  It amazes me that though we seem to have come so far we are still hung up on the same negative junk.  No matter how we tell our daughters that they are beautiful and precious, they are still bombarded with someone else’s idea of what beauty should be!  Why can’t we liberate ourselves from the cookie cutter ideal of beauty? 

  A couple of months ago I saw something so beautiful, so amazing, that I had to pause and give her all of my attention.   A black woman I could only really describe in one word as a glamazon (tall, dark skinned and beautiful in every way that defied the euro-centric ideal).  What was amazing was her hair: she was rockin’ the biggest Afro puff I’ve probably ever seen.  She was confident and unapologetic which definitely added to her appeal. 

  I’ve been natural for about four years.  My first return to my roots (pardon any pun), started back in 1999.  I was starting my last year of university in England and my hair was a disaster.  I had entered higher education with long, thick (albeit, relaxed) hair, but quickly discovered that the UK was not exactly hair friendly for black women unless one lived in London.  While home in Toronto during  the summer break, I cut it all off and kept about an inch. 

In 2005, I cut in down to an inch again.  My decision was partially due to the massive amount of hair I was shedding after having  my youngest child.  I did decide, however, that I would never, ever chemically relax my hair again. 

My hair would definitely fall into the “bi-racial” category.  Like most people from the West Indies, I’m pretty mixed up. I’ve struggled and had a love/hate relationship with my tresses for most of my life. My hair is: curly, kinda silky, kinda kinky at the roots.  In my youth, I felt as though there was never quite a perfect fit for me in terms of hair products.  There was just some stuff that ‘worked’.  I guess that’s because my hair wasn’t silky like my dad’s (he  looks as though he’s Indian) and it wasn’t the same texture as my mom’s. 

Anyway, like most ladies I know (a few of us went natural together…great for morale!) going natural the first time is usually a little bit of an eye opener.  You can’t treat your hair the same way or use the same things on it.  Also, I had this crazy idea that natural hair would be naturally healthy and low maintenance.  Not true.  It still takes work, and if you have no idea what you’re doing, it can become so frustrating that the thought of relaxing it will seem like heaven.  My advice would be to look at your hair differently.  Embrace it with love.  This is the hair God gave you, and it’s beautiful.  When I was small, my mother used to say, “This hair is as unruly as its master.”  I always took it as a compliment, meaning that I couldn’t be dominated by anyone.  Why then, was I so intent on ruling my hair and trying to change it? Needless to say, that like me in attitude, my hair decided to rebel and give me trouble when I forced it to conform to something it wasn’t.   

For those of you who need help on how to manage, there are a lot of websites and blogs that can give great insight.  Afrobella is great, as is Tightly Curly. I don’t believe in one answer working for everyone where hair and beauty is concerned.  Some ladies love relaxing their hair and it works for them.  I say, it if works and you’re happy, then great!  However, if it isn’t working, then maybe it’s time to try something new.  Just remember to educate yourself on how to handle your natural ‘do.