Turn thin low porosity type 4 natural hair into glam curls



Call me smug because I am. It took me a lot and I mean hours of trial and error to achieve this glam wavy curl on my type 4 hair. I’ve seen other naturals with this loose curl and wondered HOW DO THEY DO THAT!

My hair is…

  • Super thin – I get loads of gaps when I do single strand twists. There just isn’t a lot of it on my head.
  • Low porosity so it doesn’t retain moisture and I have to remember vital rules when washing and styling – warm water open cuticles and lets moisture in whereas cold water closes cuticles and traps moisture in.
  • 4c and 4b at the back and 4a in a section at the front so I have to adjust the amount of product and sometimes the product itself when working on certain parts of my head.

So let me give you a step by step guide to this style. Basically it’s a flexi rod set with a few modifications.

Step one – clean scalp

I washed my scalp with a non-sulphate shampoo that contained wheat protein. I kept my hair in six twists for this part so I could just get my scalp clean.

Protein tip: I rarely use protein in my hair but I knew I needed to this time because it was lacking springiness and I needed that for a wavy finish. Usually I just use Aunt Jackie’s purifying co-wash cleanser because it doesn’t have any sulphates, parabens, mineral oil or petroleum.

Step two – clarify

My mud mask recipe is rasul clay with peppermint essential oil, coconut oil and water. I untwisted the twists covered them in the mud  mask and twisted them back up again. The leftovers went on my face and neck because waste not want not. Then 10 minutes later it was time to rinse it out with warm water.

Clay tip: Peppermint tingles and encourages blood flow to the scalp and therefore hair growth.

Step three – condition

I deep conditioned with ´Beautiful Textures Rapid Repair.  It’s awesome stuff. I applied it the same way as the mud mask but then I covered my head with two plastic bags, a scarf and a hat to create heat. The wait time was 20 to 30 minutes before it was time to rinse it off with cold water.

Conditioning tip for low porosity hair: Heat is super important for low porosity hair. It makes the hair cuticles rise and let in all the goodness. With this in mind it is important to trap that goodness in so you MUST and I cannot stress this more rinse your conditioner out with COLD water.

Step four – section hair

Now I had super soft clean hair to work with. It was wet and I was unsure whether I would get decent flexi rod curls, but I powered on. It’s important for me to separate my hair into four equal sections and twist them to make the hair easy to work on. My hair is super thin so I usually get four to five rods in each of the sections.

Detangling tip: I do a lot of twisting and sectioning because it prevents my hair tangling. Doing this reduces breakage. Also my hair is so thin the tangles fall out when I condition. I detangle with my fingers and never use a brush.

Step five – application

Time to apply the rods. First I added a pea size amount of Beautiful Textures Leave-in conditioner to a small piece of hair from one of the sections. Just a pea-size amount is enough because my fine hair strands can easily get weighed down by products. It’s tempting to lather product on but the only way to get that light airy wavy look is to be stingy with your hair products.

Then I added a pea-size amount of my homemade shea butter mix (shea, jojoba oil, argan oil, black seed oil, lavender essential oil and castor oil) to seal in the moisture.

Frizz-free curl tip: I wanted to make the curls easy to separate so I took the hair and single strand twisted it an eighth of the way down before wrapping the hair around the flexi rod. I also held the rod and inch from the root to leave that part at the root with less curl and more kinks to add body at the root and give the illusion I had more hair on my head! 😉

Step six – set

Once my whole head was covered in flexi rods I wrapped it in a satin bonnet and went to bed so it could dry overnight.

Drying tip: the smaller the sections the quicker the drying time.

Step seven – take down

In the morning, with a little coconut oil on my fingers, I took down the rods. It was so easy to separate each curl by unravelling the twists at the top.

Great curls tip: It is essential that the hair is dry before you take it down.

Step eight – fluff!

My hair was looking cute and curly but I wanted more umph so I carefully picked the roots a bit with an afro comb and voila!

Picking tip: Be very gentle and take sections of curls and lift the hair from the root just a smidge to avoid ruining your curls.

Step 10 – overnight maintenance

I was loving my curls all day but when night came I thought, how am I supposed to keep this style overnight? Braiding or twisting creates a different curl and simply putting a satin scarf over it, even in a pineapple, is sure to leave me with a matted tangled mess in the morning…so I took big sections of hair and wound them around flexi rods. No water or product, I just took them as they were because my hair still felt soft and moisturised. It took eight or nine rods and no time at all. And, of course, I covered my hair with a satin scarf.

Silky hair tip: Wrapping a satin scarf keeps hair neat and silky as well as keeping it safe from breakage.


In the morning I took down the rods to discover I had movie-star wavy hair! Yes!

Adventures in hair: My natural hairstory, style inspiration and how I went from hating my hair to loving it!

This is my hair story. It is a journey through trends, styles, major fails and finally learning to care for and love my natural hair.

Everyone has their own hair story and I would love to hear your experiences so please feel free to comment!

Abena at 5vintage

The beginning – relaxers and desires for European hair.

There I am at about five years old at home in a small town in England.  My favourite thing to do at this age was to wear a t-towel on my head (like a shepherd in the school nativity) because it gave me the feeling of having long, straight hair that moved.

In those days my mum did my hair, usually in cornrows, so I was not allowed to play with it. Mum used to say: “That hair on your head is mine so don’t touch it!”

As a result,  I played the girls’ hair at my school. Everyone was white. I wished I could fit in and have nice blonde flowing hair like theirs – it was easy to plait, comb and style. When it came to playing with each other’s hair my friends loved it when I plaited in French braids like a pro.

At 14 I got a perm. Mum took me to a home hairdresser who relaxed my hair once a month with a cream relaxer. It made my hair easy to manage so, for the first time in my life, I styled my own hair. This mostly consisted of lathering on tonnes of gel that weighed down my fine strands and felt greasy. I would never let anyone touch it.

Relaxers are dangerous. They have harsh toxic chemicals in them. I discovered how bad they are when my brother asked me to relax his hair at home. He went out bought the chemicals from a store. I read the instructions and went about relaxing his hair. My brother trusted me completely so when his head started burning and I said he had to keep the creme on for a few minutes longer he endured the pain. The relaxer burnt his scalp, patches of his hair fell out and I was in big trouble. He was lucky no permanent damage was done…

After relaxers came braids!


1934307_20143474858_979_n This is a memory clear as day – I was sitting in my bestfriend’s kitchen with my boyfriend. He was stroking my friend’s thick, dark and long caucasian hair marvelling at how gorgeous it was. He looked over at me (who was feeling left out, awkward and jealous) and said: “Don’t worry, you’ll have your braids put in tomorrow.”

I wore single braids for the first time when I was 18 and have continued to wear them at some point or another up until now. Those first braids gave me that feeling I was searching for at five years old: being able to feel my hair move.


Is an Afro socially acceptable?

I went to see my extended family in the north of England, wearing my natural hair in an afro. My auntie thought I was crazy.

She was going to plait braids into my hair and COULD NOT BELIEVE I would go outside amongst people with my nappy hair ‘out’. We drove to the hair shop to get braiding hair and I was pretty sure she was embarrassed to be seen with me.

I worked as a journalist for the local newspaper. My boss was intrigued by my natural hair and one day he asked me to write a feature about the afro hairstyle. I went out on the streets and took pictures of people who wore their hair in afros and included a picture of myself. After that more and more people in the town, black and white (but mostly white because hardly any black people lived there), sent in pictures of their afros. I had no idea there were so many! We ran another story featuring all the pictures. It became a celebration of natural hair and boosted my confidence.                 230549_6207301409_6939_n

I wore that style for a year until I suffered from bad breakage because I was not looking after my natural hair properly and using the right products. I used a hairdryer on high heat everyday! A big no no for kinky hair, which is super fragile.



Getting other people’s hair and sewing it in mine!

Crazy thing happened.  A black hairdesser opened up into my town! This was a big thing and meant I didn’t have to travel a minimum of 10 miles to get to the nearest hair salon that catered for natural hair. I decided to try a weave. I bought some expensive human hair (that probably originated from India where women shave their heads and donate it in a religious ceremony, unbeknown to them it ends up on the heads of black women who pay top dollar for it) and I had this hair sewn in. It went ALL THE WAY DOWN MY BACK! I felt so glamorous and got a lot of attention with my tumbling waves. People said they prefered it to other styles I had tried, some said: “You look so much better!”


After a while I didn’t appreciate the excitement because the weave wasn’t my real hair so not the real me. I started feeling disappointed when people told me how they prefered me with a weave – ‘but this is not how I really look’ I thought.


I did love wearing weaves. The versitility in colour and textures you can get from them is great. Also they can be good for your hair so the breakage I had suffered before this time grew back.



The ‘weave hawk’ was my last weave style. After that I fell back in love with my natural tresses.


Fierce natural styles

This time around I felt more on trend because more people were going natural. I saw the frohawk for the first time at the Afro Hair Show in London, in 2011, and rocked that style all the time. People always wanted to take photographs of me. These pictures (above and below) were done by street photographers.


Despite being completely natural one major problem was I still never did my own hair. I always went to a salon, as a result I had no idea how to look after my own hair.  No idea what shampoo was best, or any products for that matter, no idea about techniques to use, no idea what was good for my hair and what damaged it…I got to 30 and didn’t know how to care for my hair.


No self confidence = no Fro

When I moved to Thailand, I reverted back to my old ways of hiding my kinky hair and stuck to this one style for three years! It was cornrows in a pineapple and then I would add a synthetic hair ponytail. ALERT!!!The combs that kept the ponytail attached caused severe breakage! I had a bald patch on my crown 🙁

Get this though…I found black hairdressers in Bangkok!

Black hair salons in Bangkok


When a black woman has no hair salon to go to nearby, panic sets in. In Thailand some women approached me in the street, with desperation in their eyes, asking where I had got my hair done.

It just took a little out of the box thinking, which happens easily when one is desperate. I flew to Singapore for my first Asian hairdresser experience.

One day I read a magazine article about an African restaurant opening in a trendy part of Bangkok so I called them up asking if they knew anyone who could braid hair – I always trust that my African sistas can braid hair well.

I have never been wrong and wasn’t this time either. The African restaurant had a chef who braided hair! Genuis!

I also found a salon on Soi 17 opposite Central World shopping mall.

I thought the tame ponytail and braid style would increase my chances of getting a job. I felt like I would be the new kid on the block and needed to ‘fit in’ again.


This was my usual look for teaching. I could have worn an afro if I wanted to. There were three other black teachers; one wore dreadlocks and the other wore an afro.


A natural hair frohawk I did myself!

Love me, love my hair

I would love to say that I learnt how to take care of and style natural hair because I thought it was about time I did. This would be a lie. What really happened was, I moved to Germany, I couldn’t find a decent hair salon in the Frankfurt area, where I live. Yes there were salons but I found them so unprofessional it was a joke.

I learnt how to do my hair myself through Youtube bloggers Naptural85, LiveNaturallyLove Jessica Pettway, Nappy Fu, Protective Princess, Chizi Duru, Geraldine the Great and Living With Osa. These women are a part of the natural hair movement.

Natural Hair Movement? Yes, It turned out that I was not alone in my hair journey. Millions of black women around the world have ‘gone natural’ after having similar experiences to mine.

It is so liberating to hear that women now put aside weaves, relaxers and hot curlers to instead wear the natural hair they were born with: out loud and proud.


First attempt at natural hair heatless curls


Natural hair wig

My hair lived happily ever after

So now I give my hair a lot of love as well as simply loving it. I only use natural products in it so I make my own shampoos, conditioning treatments, gels and creams from raw ingredients in my kitchen! I love talking about it, playing with it and wearing it in a multitude of styles. Now when I choose to ‘fake it’ I tend to wear a wig that is just like my hair but a lot bigger and bolder!

Why at 35 my only ambition is to do the splits by age 40

I remember the first time I ever attempted yoga. I was sat in my living room trying to relax with my legs crossed but I was so out of shape my knees were closer to my ears than the floor and my hip muscles hurt.

My priority in life was my ‘so called career’ so I worked day and night and through lunch breaks to climb an illusionary ladder. I had a great job, which I almost forgot to enjoy, and an aching neck from long hours working at a desk. I also had no patience and a tendency to binge drink at the weekend.

That, however, was not the beginning of my yoga journey but more like the beginning of getting fit again. I gave up the yoga out of boredom and frustration and took up Zumba, which I loved. Then came kickboxing and after that, while in Thailand, I learnt to love yoga.



Yoga reminds us to take time for ourselves and that, even when it doesn’t seem so, there are enough minutes in the day.

It doesn’t leave out a single part of oneself – mind, body and soul get stretched, strengthened and balanced.

It gives us patience to learn poses, improve balance and empty our minds and in turn to learn new things, understand the people around us and relax.

Yoga has taught me to listen to my body. I know what it needs and when. I listen to people more too and understand their needs.


Yoga reminds me that challenges are fun and not to be feared.

It makes me really look at the beauty in this world and appreciate what I have.

I am amazed how my body is continually becoming more flexible, strong and healthy as I get older.


Yoga is a free gift. You can share it with people you care about as well as complete strangers. I love heading to Youtube for Lesley Fightmaster’s Fightmaster Yoga channel (click here) for her awesome sessions.

When I lived in Thailand I took my yoga instruction in Thai at a community sports place in Chatuchak Park. I was the only foreigner yet I understood and laughed and joked with the other yoga lovers, even though we didn’t speak the same language.

Abena crane

Most of all yoga has taught me that it is never too late to learn or do anything. One does not need to be an expert or have talent to join in. Just enjoying yoga teaches us to enjoy life.

So I realise that when you have yoga everything else will follow. My first priorities are no longer my emails but my stretches. I am excited when I rest my head on my knees and I am looking forward to one day doing the splits.

I build my life on a foundation of a happy and healthy self and I know now that everything else will follow.

My fave: Muay Thai for girls in Bangkok

Give me a pad and I will punch it. I first fell in love with kickboxing and Muay Thai back in England so when I went to live in Thailand my top priority, apart from finding a job and home, was finding a kick ass Muay Thai gym.

That place was Khongsittha, in Bangkok.


I remember my first time at this gym in the Chok Chai 4 area of the city. It isn’t near a train station so it was hard to find for a foreigner like me because anything far from a the two metro lines in the city is hard for foreigners to find. I used Google maps to direct a taxi driver there (I knew how to say left, right, straight ahead and thank you in Thai).

Everyone was curious about me and greeted me with big smiles and lots of questions about where I was from, my job, how long I had been in Thailand and how I found the gym.

They thought I was a total novice so when I got in the ring and released a seriously powerful kick onto the pad that my trainer was holding everyone stopped what they were doing, turned around and said: “Oooooooooh!” That is Thai for, “I get it.”

The trainers put me through my paces but what they didn’t know was that in England I trained twice a week with MMA champion Denniston ‘Mad Max’ Sutherland so I could of handled more. After my first class I was ready to sign up for the future. I spent 6,000 baht (about 150 euros) on 20 classes.

The gym had everything I was looking for; fighters who trained clients, new equipment, lovely female changing rooms, friendly people, a full workout from warm up to cool down and fair prices (about 400 baht a session but less when you buy in bulk). Some trainers spoke English too but that was never a make or break condition with me. When you live in Thailand you get used to communicating with actions, Google translate and Google images.


I loved training here. It was convenient because it was open for such long hours everyday of the week – drop-in training sessions take place on the hour between 9 and 12pm and 3pm and 9pm.

The routine at these sessions was always the same. Jogging, then skipping, then technique training, then pad work in the ring, then conditioning, cooldown and stretching. I always felt like every part of my body had been bootcamped and stretched. I got really strong and an eyebrow-raising pair of guns to match!

When I started going to Khongsittha it had been open for less than a year and was gaining popularity fast. One reason was because it was good and the other was because its owner was a famous television presenter in Thailand. Matthew Deane is one of the hosts on the Thai Fight show on Thai Channel 3. Guess what? A lot of females started popping up at the gym and sometimes, a TV crew did too.

One day Matt got my friends and I tickets to the Thai Fight Finals at The Thai King’s Palace in Hua Hin! Cheers!!




You could certainly say Khongsittha is a buzzing place. I enjoyed the evening sessions because they are always packed with people and have a great social atmosphere but what I loved was those quiet mornings when the class sizes were smaller and I could get lots of attention.


Naked sauna anyone? Read this first.

The cold weather is coming so you might want to go for a sauna…

I thought I could handle any social situation until my boyfriend invited me meet friends at a sauna in Germany. No problem, or so I thought.

I’ve been to spas and saunas all over the world but before this I had never been to one for mixed sexes and where nakedness is compulsory. This is the norm in Germany, Finland, Austria, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

I didn’t even believe it at first, in fact I slipped on my bikini in the changing room and announced I was ready to which he looked at me and said: “Those panties have to go.”

He didn’t even say it in his flirty teasing way either, but more in a way a doctor might tell a patient they had to stop smoking or die.

Who cares if I wear a bikini? Apparently people complain if you break the no-clothing rule and it can apply to the heated outdoor pool, the sauna and the steam room. The public areas, restaurants and relaxation areas are where people hang around in robes or wrapped in towels.

So many questions went through my mind before my first naked sauna. How is one supposed to feel relaxed in a group of new friends when everyone is stark bollock naked? Is there an etiquette one should follow? Do people hug and kiss to greet one another?’ Where do I point my gaze? Would it be like one of those weird naked dreams I had as a kid?

Since naked socialising was not something my mother taught me nor something I picked up at Girl Guides, I had to wing it. Now I would say I’ve become a natural at being naked in public. Who would have thought?!

Here are my 10 essential things you need to know before going for a naked sauna.

First things first – EVERYONE is naked so take a deep breath and go with it. Different saunas have different rules, which are usually posted up on walls. You can also check the sauna’s website or ring ahead. My guide concentrates on social nuances. So here we go…

Don’t just let it all hang, have some poise.

The sauna pose is something I picked up in an Italian spa. As I sat there legs crossed and slightly hunched over I noticed the other glamorous women were sitting with their backs straight and leaning slightly backwards with their arms behind them to prevent everything going south. Much more elegant.

Don’t eat garlic beforehand.

This is an obvious one. You will sweat so let’s keep odours to a minimum.

People are naked but style is still key.

Work with what you have by preening what will be on show. Go for a stylish bikini shaping, tanned torso and manicured nails. Whiten those teeth and extend those eyelashes. If you have a future sauna date planned. Get down the gym and tone up your muscles. It will give you a confidence boost.

On the subject of fashion…

There are so many stylish accessories I could write a whole blog post just on that. You might want to get an elegant robe or slippers. This robe by Missoni Home is on my wish list.


Pack your bag.

As my sauna trips became more frequent my sauna bag got bigger and bigger. You should take a shower gel, body scrub, body lotion, face mask, shampoo, conditioner, make-up, book/magazine, sleep mask, slippers, towel, robe and money.

Make your seat.

Take your own fresh towel into the sauna and use it to protect your body from the wood. This means every part of your body, feet, hands etc, should be on the towel. Towels are prohibited in the wet sauna so make sure you hose down your seat with water.

To join the crowd ot not?

As a personal rule. I like a crowded dry sauna because there are so many bodies it doesn’t matter. It can be a little daunting for first-timers when it is just you and one other person. On the other hand I like an uncrowded wet sauna because vision is impaired by the steam and dim lights.

Show your gratitude after a sauna infusion – don’t clap!

A sauna infusion is a wonderful treatment where a sauna master adds scents to the coals and then uses and towel to waft the aromatic air around the room. After the session people show their appreciation by knocking on the wooden bench, rather than clapping and sending splatters of sweat everywhere.

Make friends in the relaxation areas.

Inside the sauna is for rest and meditation. People move slowly and quietly so having a conversation is frowned upon. If you want to have a chat go to the heated pools, restaurants and public areas and don’t worry, quiet areas are well signposted.

The eyes say it all.

You don’t have to walk around with your gaze firmly concentrated on your feet! Look people in the eyes when you talk to them and let your eyes scan the room if you wish. Treat it as if everyone is wearing clothes. Don’t stare. People don’t like being stared at even when they have their clothes on. No difference really.

And finally…

In Germany it is usual to kiss your friend on both cheeks when you greet them. I would say, greet your friends and acquaintances in a sauna in your usual way and shake hands with new people.

So you think you can ride a bicycle?

This post includes top tips to make your bike ride go smoothly

Of course I can ride a bike!

Like most people I learnt to ride a bicycle when I was about four years old. I rode a bike with no wheels, a bike with three wheels, a bike with  two wheels and two additional stabalising wheels and eventually a bike with just two wheels. After that I rode a Barbie bike, a BMX bike, a foldable bike and a bike with a basket on the front and then when I hit puberty I decided high heels and taxis were cooler and didn’t ride again until well into my twenties. Does this sound familiar?

So now I’m (ahem) in my thirties, I love going for a bike ride and I always thought I knew what I was doing until recently.

It all started with my boyfriend who is a well seasoned cyclist and has been taking me in the direction of mountains and for increasingly longer distances.

Today he presented me with padded pants and padded leggins (or pussy protectors as I have nicknamed them). He said from now on it’s function over fashion!

There was an unprecedented amount of padding bunched up between my thighs! I felt like I was wearing a nappy 🙁

Once I got going I realised my pussy protectors were like seat cushions!

This was not the only thing I learnt about cycling so I have compiled a list for anyone else who thinks they can cycle but could do with a few tips…

The top cycling tips I learnt today:

  • Check your bike for debris in the chain, air in the tyres and clean brakes. Also make sure the bolts are not loose.
  • Take a backpack and don’t wrap your tops or jackets around your waist because it can be dangerous if they come loose and wrap around the wheel.
  • Place the ball of your foot on the pedals and make sure all of your foot is on so that none of your energy is wasted.
  • peddleAdjust your bottom off of the seat whenever you can to prevent aches and pains.
  • In fact, change position frequently. It’s so much more comfortable.
  • Be loose. Don’t hunch your shoulders and don’t grip too tight as you will stress out your muscles.
  • Play with your gears on clear empty straights. This is a great way of getting the hang of what they do.
  • Use a high gear for downward slopes and on-road riding and use a low gear for upward slopes.
  • When riding down a steep bumpy hill, brake to slow down, stand on the pedals, lean your bum back and hold the seat between your thighs. This will put weight at the back and stop you from flipping forward.
  • Another tip for those downward hills is to keep your legs and arms slightly bent while standing on the pedals. This will help absorb those bumps.
  • Don’t ever slam on both brakes. Instead go for the back brakes first and do it lightly on and off.
  • If you cannot ride up a steep hill. Get off the bike and wheel it up. Don’t stay on and try and walk it up as the front wheel could pop up and send you falling backwards.
  • Cross the road in a low gear to ensure you have good speed.

So there you are. If you have any more tips feel free to post them in the comment box and don’t forget to follow this blog to join me on my adventures.

See you on the next adventure!