Thursday, May 23, 2013

Homemade Coco-Shea Lotion

The Twin Tornados' skin could become very dry if not moisturized and protected on a regular basis. For the past year, we have used coconut oil with a few other oils added to keep their skin soft and moisturized.

We began using coconut oil to address recurring MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which basically means a really nasty bacteria that survives most antibiotics). By the time Scholar was a year old, he had had 5 infections resulting in strong antibiotics and 2 hospitalizations for procedures to remove the infection. We visited several specialists to try to find out why he was getting these infections and how to prevent them. We followed their advice even though their reason for him getting the infections were "some people just have bad luck". They did not offer us much useful advice and what they did suggest was not effective. I believe they were at as great a loss to the answers to our questions as we were.

Around that time, I read about coconut oil. From what I read, I believed that there was a good chance that coconut oil could help us beat the MRSA. At about the same time, our elders from our church prayed over Scholar. I do not know if it was the prayer or the coconut oil, but I do know that we have been almost a year infection-free. In either case, I attribute this amazing result to God. He answers prayer and He created the coconuts and led me to learn about the ability of coconut oil to fight bacteria.

We continue to use coconut oil on both boys' skin on a daily basis. We have no need of any other moisturizers and they have the softest, most beautiful skin.

The problem with coconut oil is that it melts when it gets slightly above room temperature. At 76 degrees Fahrenheit, coconut oil is, well, an oil. It becomes completely liquid. During the winter, the coconut oil is hard. In fact, it is so hard that I have had to add other oils to make it easier to use. I mix olive oil and vitamin E oil (sometimes jojoba and other oils) into the coconut oil to keep it softer and also for the added benefits of the other oils.

Now that summer is approaching, our oil mixture is softening and will soon be a liquid. It can still be used this way, but I know that it will not last long. With two toddlers, Tornados at that, the oil will be spilled quickly and frequently. I, for one, do not care to clean up an oily mess from the carpet or hardwood floors.

To keep the oil from becoming liquid, I have mixed it with cocoa butter and shea butter. The result is a wonderfully smooth, fragrant lotion. I have been using the lotion on myself for a few weeks, too. I love how it makes our skin feel and I love even more that it does not contain harmful chemicals as do many commercially made skin lotions.

The following is how to make our Coco-Shea Lotion.

Add equal amounts of cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil to the top pot of a double boiler. (I never actually measure them, but add what looks to be equal amounts of each.)
Bring the water in the bottom pot to a simmer. Do not boil the water.

If you do not have a double boiler, a metal or heat-safe glass bowl on top of a pot of water or a pot on the stove-top over low heat would work, too. If you make your own double boiler with a bowl, do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water or the bottom of the pot.

Place top pot, with oil and butters, on bottom pot when water is simmering.

This was after only 1 minute over the heat. It has already begun to melt.

After 4 minutes over the heat, the butters and oil have melted. Stirring with a wooden spoon once they have begun to melt helps it to go faster, but is not necessary.

After the oils melt, pour the mixture into a large measuring cup. For every cup of liquid oil mixture, add 1 tsp jojoba oil, 1 tsp vitamin E oil and 1 tsp olive oil. Other oils can be used in addition to, or in place of, these oils.
Stir the mixture gently with a wooden spoon so that the oils and butters and mixed together.

You can skip the measuring step and guess at how much oil mixture you have and add other oils based on your guess. It may change the final texture of the lotion if you add too much or too little, but unless you are wildly off, it should still work out just fine.

After chilling in the refrigerator for two hours, the oil mixture is ready to be whipped. The mixture on the sides of the bowl has hardened and the center is the consistency of gravy.

Use a wooden scraper or spoon to scrape the hardened mixture off of the sides of the bowl. Once the hardened mixture is scraped off the sides of the bowl, begin whipping the mixture on a high setting.
A hand mixer would probably work just as well as a stand mixer, but may take longer.
After a few minutes of mixing, the oil mixture should begin to look like whipped cream.

Every few minutes, stop the mixer and scrape the sides to make sure that all of the mixture is being whipped.

I whipped the oil mixture for about 25 minutes, stopping every 5 minutes or so to scrape the sides. The consistency was very fluffy and soft. I spooned portions of the mixture into smaller containers. Eight ounce canning jars work well.

After sitting for a little while, the lotion will become more dense. It is easier to put the lotion into smaller containers while it is still light and fluffy.

I have read that mixing for as long as 2-3 hours will help the lotion to maintain the light, fluffiness, but I do not want to burn out my mixer since it is not a commercial grade mixer. The more dense consistency works fine for us.

After sitting for some time, the lotion will have a consistency similar to butter at room temperature. It melts very quickly when it comes into contact with skin. A little bit goes a long way to making skin smooth and velvety soft.
I keep a container of the Coco-Shea Lotion in my room, the boys' room and downstairs. I refrigerate portions that I am not currently using to keep them fresh longer.

Update 7/24/2013: I made this lotion again (yes, the batch I made last time lasted almost 2 months!). This time, I changed the ratio of cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil. I used 1 part cocoa butter, 1 part shea butter and 2 parts coconut oil.
I wanted more coconut oil because Scholar's skin has been acting up. He has gotten a few pimples, which have led to MRSA infections in the past. I also added a teaspoon of tea tree oil (to 3 cups of melted shea, cocoa and coconut). Tea tree oil is known to be anti-viral and anti-bacterial.
I did not add olive oil because of the warmer summer temps. I had added more coconut oil and in the heat it will not harden. The new mixture came out very soft and smooth.

Do you have your own recipes for lotions? Feel free to share in the comments!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Coils with Organic Parts

I like to take a break from braids and cornrows every few weeks. About two weeks in braids or cornrows is enough for Scholar's hair. Since he is still young, his braids and cornrows do not last too long. He spends at least half of his life on his head. I mean, standing on, rolling around, rubbing the top of his head on the floor, couch, bed, anywhere. He is upside down more often than he is right-side up. So, we get a lot of fuzz after a short time. When his hair begins to look fuzzy, it is time for something new.

Allowing his hair to take a break, either being free or in coils, gives his scalp a chance to rest and also allows me to have a break from doing a more involved style. The downside is that free hair and coils do not protect his hair as well and there is more daily maintenance, not to mention his hair is harder to detangle when it comes time to wash and style again. (This is especially true since he spends so much time on his head.) For these reasons, I do not keep his hair free or in coils for very long.

Just for the record, if you see Scholar's hair free, it does not mean that I did not do anything with it. In fact, it takes more time to maintain his free hair than it does to care for his hair in a style. So, when people say, "Oh, mommy didn't do your hair today," it is rather insulting, not to mention, untrue. The truth is, I choose to do his hair free some days for specific reasons. Fortunately, not too many people have said something like this, but when they do I smile and carry on.

But that is a topic for another post. Moving on to coils...

Truth be told, I was attempting to do 3-strand twists in Scholar's hair. I must be doing something wrong because they turn out looking like coils. The upside is that they are nicer coils than I have been able to do when I actually try to do coils.

There are several different ways to do coils, all of which can be seen in YouTube videos. There are comb coils, finger coils and palm coils (I have not tried these yet, as I only recently read about them). Apparently, there are also the trying-to-do-3-strand-twists-but-turning-out-to-be-coils coils. Yeah.

On this particular day, I did not need to give the Tornados a bath (they get a bath twice a week, no more), so I washed Scholar's hair in the kitchen sink. He thought it was pretty funny.

Don't mind the dirty dishes in the sink.

I used Babycakes' new hair and body soap, Simply Clean, to wash Scholar's hair. I usually do not use any soap or shampoo in his hair, but I wanted to try the new soap.
I liked how the Simply Clean left his hair feeling clean and a little moisturized.
After washing, and rinsing, I applied an ACV rinse, thoroughly rinsed his hair again and then  used an Aubrey Organics conditioner. I detangled while the conditioner was in his hair.
I rinsed out the conditioner and wrapped his hair in a kitchen towel to keep it from dripping everywhere.
Then it was time to style.

You can see the coils that I already put into his hair. I did not use a comb to part his hair, rather, I used my fingers to make organic parts. I made large coils because I only had a short time to do his hair. I think it took about 45 minutes start to finish (including washing).

I began working with damp hair, but by the time I made my way to the back, it was beginning to dry.
I used the water bottle (water, aloe, oils) to dampen his hair.
Since I was doing his hair right after washing, I needed to add oils to his hair before styling it.
I took a section of hair that I wanted to coil and brushed through it.
Then, I worked Babycakes Hair and Body Butter through that section of hair to retain the moisture.

After applying Hair and Body Butter, I put a tiny little bit of Curlicious Cream on my finger, rubbed it between my fingers and thumb and coated the hair.
Then, I coiled the section of hair. Or, I should say, I attempted to 3-strand twist the hair, but the result was a coil.

The end result.
I lightly sprayed the coils after finishing. As the hair dries, it shrinks and coils a bit tighter.

Happy to be finished with sitting still.

From the front, top
Notice the parts. They are not as crisp and defined as they would be had I used a pintail comb to make the parts. Organic parts are quicker and can give a style a different look than parts made with a comb.

From the side
One of these days I will learn how to do the 3-strand twists properly. Until then, I will content myself with coils. These coils lasted a few days, which was perfect. By the time bath day came around, they were ready to be removed and Scholar had free hair for a few days following.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Chevron Cornrows

This is our go-to style for cornrows. It is simple and quicker than some other styles. Since Scholar's hair is too short along the sides and back to cornrow (we cut it that way for summer), this style only takes about 30 minutes. When his hair was longer on sides and back and needed to be styled, most styles would take about an hour to an hour and a half. He can sit for about 30 minutes at a time, so we make sure to take breaks so he can play and run around.

Top Left: The first time I did Chevron Cornrows on Scholar, 10 months ago
Right: Chevron Cornrows Style now. The braids extend about 2 inches longer than they did the first time.
His hair is at least two inches longer, even with having been trimmed a time or two.

Styling usually follows a bath. I either style his hair the same day he's had a bath or the next day. I want his hair to be clean and moisturized before it is put into a style. The style helps to hold in the moisture. Read this post about how we moisturize after bath.

When I am styling Scholar's hair, I sit with my legs "criss-cross applesauce" (sorry, preschool teacher coming out there) and have him sit in the "nest" that is formed. This keeps him from wiggling as much and it's comfortable for both of us. Soon, he will be too tall to sit like this and I'll have to have him sit on a chair while I do his hair.

These are our styling essentials:

  • a pintail comb for making parts,
  • alligator clips for holding the loose hair out of the way,
  • a washcloth to wipe my hands as needed
  • a spray bottle with water, aloe and oils to wet hair,
  • Babycakes Honey Butter
  • and, most importantly, the Roku remote so we can watch endless episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine while styling.

I also have books and toys nearby in case he wants to play or look at a book to keep himself entertained. Most times, though, he throws all the toys and books away from him in the first 5 minutes and then has nothing else to do.

Fortunately, he is the one of the two boys that is most likely to sit quietly for a little while.
Unfortunately, when I am working on Scholar's hair, Explorer is, well, exploring. By exploring I mean that he is tearing up the living room and making it look like a disaster struck. That's my little tornado.

First, I spray the section of hair I will be working on with the spray bottle. I make the first part with the pintail comb.

For this style, the part begins at the front and moves at a diagonal toward his right ear. This particular day, I started the  part just to the left of center, so the whole Chevron pattern will be slightly off-center. At other times, I've started the part at the exact middle of the front of his hair and that centers the pattern on his head. Either way it turns out well, so it is only  a matter of preference whether to start at center or to the left of center.

I place the alligator clips on the hair that I will not be working with to keep it out of the way and to maintain my part line while working. 

Before beginning the cornrow, I spray the section of hair with the water bottle again, to make sure it is wet enough to work with easily. Then, I scoop out a little bit of Honey Butter. It is firm, but softens on my fingers. I rub my fingers together to smooth it and melt it to be applied to the hair.

Taking small sections of hair at a time, I work the Honey Butter through all of the hair that I will be braiding. I use my  fingers to gently detangle the hair as I go. It is much easier to braid the hair if it has all been detangled before beginning the cornrow.

Starting at the left side, I cornrow the hair that I've prepared, adding more Honey Butter as needed.

There are many good videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to cornrow.

Braiding my Barbie's hair when I was a kid definitely got my fingers used to working with small sections of hair and making small braids. I had several Barbies, but one I remember most was a Miko Barbie doll. She had long, black, shiny hair. I used to love combing and braiding her hair. Scholar's hair reminds me of hers when I am braiding it. His hair is so black and shiny.

Here is a side-view of the first cornrow. If he had longer hair on the sides, I would have continued the row down the side of his head, to end by his ear. Or, I may have braided it a little farther, then put horizontal rows on the side. For now, the row ends up high and I continued to braid the hair until I was almost to the end. I put a little more Honey Butter on the end and twisted it around my finger to make a coil. His hair will hold itself without using any thread or rubber bands.

The second part line forms a V with the first part. I removed the clips from his hair, sprayed the hair with the water mixture and made the second part, starting just to the right of the beginning of the first part, moving diagonally toward his left ear. I used the clips to hold the hair that I wouldn't be working with out of the way.

I repeated the process as for the first cornrow: spray the hair again with the water mixture, work the Honey Butter through the hair,detangling the hair and then cornrowing from the right to the left, ending the braid with a coil.

The third row is parallel to the first row. The part is made, about 3/4 of an inch from the first part. I cornrow as previously.

I work the cornrows, alternating sides, keeping the left rows parallel to each other and the right parallel to each other. Like any good farmer, plowing rows in his field, I try to keep my rows the same width and nice and straight.

I continue to work in this way until there is a small triangle of hair remaining to be cornrowed. I cornrow this section of hair and the style is complete.

To maintain this style, I spray the hair every day with my water bottle mixture and add coconut oil to the hair with my hands if it seems to be too dry. I add Babycakes Hair and Body Butter to the ends of each braid every few days to keep them from drying out and becoming brittle.

After about a week, the new hair growth is becoming apparent and the style begins to look a little fuzzy. Keeping the hair well-moisturized helps with this, but I've come to realize that we're going to deal with fuzziness when we try to maintain a style for longer than a few days.

This type of style has lasted for 7-10 days most times. It would probably last even longer, but I start to get bored of a style after a week or so and want to try a new style.

Update: On day 8 of this style, his hair was beginning to look a bit fuzzy. Instead of taking the style out and doing another style, I chose the 4 fuzziest rows (one had a whole tuft of hair sticking out because he must have caught it on something) and redid those rows. I sprayed them with the water bottle, took them out and, applying more Honey Butter, cornrowed them again. This took about 15 minutes and cleaned up the fuzzies. I was able to leave the style in for another week.

From the back - the braids are evenly spaced. 

Side-view of Chevron Cornrows

Scholar noticed his braid hanging down.
We recently cut his hair on the sides and back, so until now, he had cornrows all the way down, without
any braids hanging free. So, having braids hanging was a new experience for him.