Tis the Season!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I spent the time with some of my NY family and we had a great time.  I had plenty of turkey and cranberry sauce…oh and dressing (stuffing) of course!  I actually ended up eating a lot of good food over the course of the weekend but I also got to break the seal on one of my favorite NY holiday traditions…HOLIDAY MARKETS!

In NC we didn’t really have anything like this to enjoy.  If we wanted to go holiday shopping we would just head to a mall or nearby shopping center and go at it.  It’s nothing like here where you can be out in the fresh air sipping on hot cider  and nibbling on delicious baked goods.  This past Sunday I went to the Bryant Park Holiday Market and did a little shopping.  We even got to see some folks fall while ice skating. Don’t you just love the holiday season?  In NY, there are multiple holiday markets to check out and I think they’re all open until Christmas Eve…awesome huh?  The are three Manhattan locations: one at Bryant Park, one at Columbus Circle and the final one at Union Square.  In the next few weeks, I’ll be making the rounds and I hope you will too if you’re in the area.  I took a few pictures with my phone while we were out and about. Check em out below! (Click on the picture for full sized photos)

Sabon
At the Sabon booth. They sell bath and body products and were kind enough to give me a body scrub demo...my hands have never been so soft! Check them out at sabonnyc.com.
Bryant Park
A nice day in NY!
CitiPond at Bryant Park
CitiPond at Bryant Park
Shea Moisture
Finally found the Shea Moisture booth and got a great deal. 3 products for $20! Check them out on the corner of 41st and 6th Avenue.
Bryant Park Fountain
The fountain at Bryant Park. My phone seriously does not do it justice.
Shea Moisture
My Shea Moisture products. I'm finally trying their body products. I'll let you know what I think!

How to Go Natural!

Going natural can mean many different things for different people.  For many women, going natural entails a transition from chemically relaxed hair to embracing the kinks and curls that grow naturally out of your head.  From what I have heard, some of the reasons that many women go natural are fashion/style and sometimes its about personal identity and confidence.  For most people, I think it’s a multitude of ideas and for me I say that much is true. As a guy, growing out my fro was a lot about confidence, identity and embracing a stand out style.

For me, going natural was the process of trying to figure out what products worked well on my hair. I have super thick kinky hair and it took me a bit of time to get down a regimen that I was comfortable with.  I still look for ways to improve my hair’s health and how to get the most from my products.

When my hair was first growing out, I used cheap drug store products that flaked like crazy. I also used traditional shampoo damn near everyday which probably worsened my already dry scalp.  My hair was often crunchy from using too much product and not enough conditioning agents. Now that I think about it, I honestly don’t even remember what conditioner or shampoo I used.  I guess it’s been quite the journey indeed.

Once I began to understand my hair and what it needed, I used more and more organic and natural products. I remember Kinky Curly being the first designer brand that I tried out and it worked pretty well. It gave me defined, shiny hair and it smelled good.  I never gave much thought to what hair products smelled like before and it was definitely a pleasant surprise to start using products that smelled like all the delicious desserts that I like to eat.  I had no idea that there was another world of products out there than what you can find on the drugstore shelves!  These days I try to continue the streak of using mostly natural or organic products because for me going natural really meant becoming more aware of ingredients and becoming knowledgeable about what I was putting on AND in my body.

I have become very curious about all types of products.  It started with hair care but it has generalized to skin care and definitely food.  I’m a serious fat kid at heart and a total foodie so I love learning about how food is prepared and ways to alter recipes to still feel satisfied without going nuts on all the processed foods and preservatives that a lot of our food has nowadays.

So here are a few tips I have for those deciding to go natural in more ways than one:

  • Start Small: For hair, start out using inexpensive products and see if they work for you.  Think about how both your hair and scalp respond to whatever product you’re using.  If they don’t work, then move on to pricier brands.  Hey, there is no need in spending tons of money if you find a good value on the drug store shelf, RIGHT?!
  • Do your research: Read online articles, blogs, and watch YouTube videos to see what works for others.  Maybe  they can give you a starting point and guidance to battle that overwhelming feeling you may be experiencing.  With that, research by product type.  Look for shampoo you want to try then put it on your grocery list. Then decide on a conditioner and so on.
  • Be informed: Teach yourself (and have the patience) to read through ingredient lists.  You may be surprised by some of the things you have put on (and in) your body.  For hair care and skin products, check out a cosmetics database like EWG to learn more.  The FDA doesn’t regulate these products which makes it even more important to be ingredient savvy.  For food, try searching online for brands you’re interested in buying and see if there have been any complaints or grievances against the company.  Searching for recalls may also be a good idea.

All in all these are just some of my basic tips to achieving a more natural lifestyle and becoming an educated consumer.

Weigh in, what tips would you suggest?

Dreadsock Review: The Good and the Bad

Source: Clutcmagonline.com
Dreadsock, "Shortie" (Black)

One of the things that I’ve tried to incorporate into my night routine is wearing some sort of cap or hood.  I’ve read through many natural hair sites that it’s beneficial to use a satin cap, pillowcase or head scarf to retain moisture for your hair.  Sure enough, whenever I sleep with a cap I find that my hair tangles less and retains moisture which really helps when I need to detangle. It may be something you should try out for yourself.  On my search for the perfect cap, I came across Dreadsock and wanted to share my experience with all of you.

The Good: Unfortunately, there is not much to write here except to say that when the Dreadsock arrived I immediately recognized the quality of the material. It’s smooth to the touch and sort of sleek just like my pillowcase.  When I wear it, I notice that it does help me retain moisture overnight.  Not too bad.

The Bad: First off,  a few days after receiving my confirmation I received an email from Customer Service letting me know that my selected color was out of stock. Yes it was terribly annoying that I was allowed to purchase an out of stock item, but not a huge problem, right?   I thought, “I’ll wait for the black shipment to arrive”.  Cool.  About two weeks later after I reached out to customer service, I received notice that their shipment would be delayed about three more weeks.  OK, REALLY?  Again, I waited patiently.  Then it was about three weeks later when I received an email message from customer service stating that there was a problem with the quality of their recent shipment of black shorties. “It could be later November…” they said.  I had enough. I replied, “Send me a different color you have in stock, please.”  I received an olive shortie in the mail about  a week later.

The sock is made of good quality and since I don’t have dreads, I ordered the “Shortie” which is supposedly good for all hair lengths.  I found the sock to be too tight on my fro. The material is good but the delivery issues completely tainted my experience with the product.  Unfortunately, other people have had issues too.  Check out their review on the Better Business Bureau site here.

So for now it looks like I’ll continue to rely on my stretched out Sue Maesta Hood from Ricky’s until something else comes along.

Any suggestions?

MANE MAN: Bryan

Welcome Bryan to the site!  Bryan happens to be one of the coolest, smartest guys I know.  He’s a good friend, a fraternity brother of mine and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his hair to share will all of you.  Enjoy!

Bryan1
Bryan and I, April 2011.

Tell us a little bit about yourself (your name, where you’re from, etc.)

My name is Bryan. I was born in New York and grew up in North Carolina. I currently work at a college in Pennsylvania. I enjoy working out, drawing and long walks on the…wait….I’ve said too much.

Have you always had your current style? If not, what other styles did you try?

I’ve had several different styles throughout my life. Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s I had a box (with the rat-tail of course). In elementary school I had a light caesar and kept it up until high school. In high school I started growing my hair out for the first time and wore twists a couple of times as well. I liked twists as a variation. I considered locking for a while but didn’t decide to until my senior year of high school. Once I locked in high school I loved it. There was a considerable time and monetary investment in it but it was definitely worth it. It gave me a distinctive look. They were also tons of fun to play in and it didn’t hurt when women would ask to touch them from time to time. I had them for roughly two years and they had reached my shoulders. I cut them off when I was initiated into my fraternity. I remember that day very vividly, I remember there being an intense energy being released when I cut them off, not to mention my head was freezing cold a few weeks afterward.

Bryan2
Bryan with locs.

What do you do to your hair on a daily basis (what’s your routine)?

I currently have a low caesar. I usually just shampoo it roughly two times a week, brush it, apply grease and oil sheen and throw it under a durag until it dries. It produces a pretty neat look.

What sort of reaction have you had from friends, family and strangers about your hair (locs vs. now)?

When I had locks I got a lot of curious and inquisitive reactions (i.e. people wanting to touch it). As opposed to now I get more normal reactions. It’s more appropriate for me in a professional setting. Sometimes I reminisce about having them and contemplate what it would be like having them now.

Bryan3
Bryan as a youngster.

Do you have any favorite products or things that you would recommend to others who want to achieve your style?

When I had locks, I loved tea tree oil and gel. I currently use iso-plus oil sheen spray and that green grease…umm…they sell it grocery store…you know the one…(Indian Hemp?)

Anything else you would like to share?

In a few years I’m anticipating going bald so I’m at the point where I’m looking between hair restoration techniques and methods of maintaining a bald head…Say it ain’t so.. (Check out this post for my take on Balding 101: Battling Chrome Dome).

Product Review: Dr. Miracle’s Tingling Shampoo & Conditioner

Souce: TheBeautypot.com
Dr. Miracle's 2 in 1 Tingling Shampoo & Conditioner

I was running out of my favorite shampoo (Kinky Curly Come Clean) and needed to re-up so I decided to switch it up when I headed in to Ricky’s.  I walked in with no agenda and ended up buying Dr. Miracle’s 2 in 1 Tingling Shampoo & Conditioner.  I just used it last night so I wanted to share a quick review with you all in case you wanted to check it out.

Packaging:  The packaging on this product is as no frills as you’re gonna get.  Dr. Miracle’s products come in a simple brown box (seemingly recycled material perhaps?).  The whole line is pretty unassuming and I actually found it tucked away on the bottom shelf at Ricky’s. The bottle itself is nothing to write about and its pretty consistent with the outside packaging.

Consistency: This product is marketed as a shampoo/conditioner and when it comes to consistency it definitely falls in between those consistencies. It’s a thick, viscous product with an amber type color.

Smell: The smell isn’t for the faint of heart.  Menthol is the third ingredient listed and the product certainly reeks of it.  I personally enjoyed it, but I know that for some the smell might be too overwhelming.

Price: I think the product generally retails for over $7 but I got it on sell for $6.29 (for 6 ounces).  Not bad. Even without the discount the product is cheaper than my go to shampoo so I thought it couldn’t hurt.

Overall Impression:  I only used this product once but so far it turned out to be a decent buy.  I have a seriously dry scalp and enjoyed the tingly feeling while I shampooed with this.  I do feel it conditioned my hair but there was no way I could detangle my hair with just this product in so if you have thick, kinky hair like mine you’ll have to follow-up with a good conditioner with a lot of slip.  That being said, during application it felt like my hair a was being conditioned and it seemed to soften up my hair a bit.  Only time will tell if this will eventually be worth a repurchase. Since I only wash with shampoo once a week, I’m sure this shampoo will be sticking around for a while.

25 Men’s Health Tips from Dr. Oz Pt. 1

Source: Mikethefanboy.com
Christopher Reeve as Superman

Every guy wants to feel like Superman and here at mane man we care a lot about our hair, but health is even more important. Since we’re in the middle of Movember I wanted to share with you all some health tips that I came across on Men’s Health.  Check out Part 1 of Dr. Oz’s health tips below:

  1. Laugh More:  It’s now commonly know that laughter reduces stress and brings people together but apparently it also lowers blood pressure.  Who would have thought?
  2. Don’t Skip Breakfast: Not only does eating breakfast help kick-start your metabolism but it also improves cognitive function throughout the day, for kids and adults alike.
  3. Hit the Sack: A healthy mind needs a healthy body right?  Dr. Oz recommends about 7 hours of sleep per night for adults.  Sleep is restorative and good rest will ensure a productive day AND it also improves memory…wait, what was I saying again?
  4. Peep your poop!: If you know anything about Dr. Oz then you know he is serious about his poop.  Examining your poop before you flush it away could provide you with valuable information to how your body is functioning.  “Poop should be smooth and S-shaped, like your colon.”  Good to know.
  5. Fight back pain: Dr. Oz states that guys with back pain should exercise to strengthen back muscles.  Apparently bed rest only worsens the symptoms.
  6. Variety is the spice of life: Dr. Oz recommends that for optimal health you should eat a variety of richly colored food. Check out this list for more help: How to Pick the Best Produce.
  7. Floss away: Adding flossing to your teeth care regimen can help you battle certain bacteria which can lead an increased risk of heart disease.
  8. Belly breathing:  This is by far one of my favorite de-stressing techniques and I often recommend belly breathing to clients to promote relaxation.  Most of us breathe very shallow most of the day but belly breathing opens up your blood vessels and makes you feel happier.
  9. Yoga: I don’t like exercising very much but when I do this is my weapon of choice.  Yoga can lead to relaxation and toned muscles.  Not bad considering that you can do it for free at home with an inexpensive mat and a DVD.
  10. Be a chatterbox: From the get-go guys aren’t socialized to communicate the way girls are and this is a big misstep.  We’re missing out!  Form tight bonds with the men and women in your life and talk about your problems regularly to promote connectedness and overall emotional health.
  11. Skip the diet: Dr. Oz recommends that you abandon “diet” programs and just stick to the basics.  He recommends limiting your daily calorie intake by 100 calories which can amount to 10 pounds per year.  Sounds easy enough right?
  12. Know Your Body: Dr. Oz recommends that every person be their own expert when it comes to personal health.  Your health it what’s most important so if you need to get a second opinion, then do it!
  13. Battle the bulge:  A big gut can be an indicator of significant health risks.  Dr. Oz recommends that men’s waist (measured around the belly button) should be no more than half their height (in inches).  If you surpass that you are at increased risk for heart problems, diabetes and hypertension.  And if that wasn’t enough, a bigger belly usually correlates to lower testosterone so speak with a doctor soon if you have concerns.
  14. Manly men sip tea: Drinking green tea has been shown to improve alertness and promote cancer fighters in your body. Hey, it can also fight dandruff when used as a cool rinse!  Health and hair benefits…DONE.
  15. Break a Sweat: Dr. Oz says that sweating at least one per week can have great health benefits such as decreased risk of heart attack and improved mood.  Sounds like a win, win right?

Check back in the coming days for Part II of Dr. Oz’s 25 Greatest Health Tips.  What are some of your personal favorites?

Tender Headed Me

Growing up, I never had a good grasp on what the women around me were talking about when they said the term “tender headed”.  That is, until I started to grow my fro.  Flash forward to a few months in when I started to detangle my hair on a regular basis…OUCH!  This is what y’all were talking about!?

He feels my pain.

Dramatics aside, I learned quickly that I’m pretty tender headed. Like seriously tender headed.  One time a friend attempted to corn row my hair just for fun, yeah she got through one of them and I backed out.  “Not gonna happen”, I said.  Needless to say, I’ve come to the realization that I really love having a big fro on a day-to-day basis so I don’t have to worry about being tender headed too often.

That being said, the only time I battle with my sensitive scalp is when I detangle on a once or twice a week. I can’t remember where I read it, but when I detangle in the shower (loaded with conditioner) I learned to hold the section of hair near the roots while I use a wide tooth comb to detangle from root to tip.  Luckily, this has worked out pretty well for me but when I’m being lazy and in a rush, I tend to yank away and that’s no bueno.  I also tend to lose more hair when I do that, so it’s a lose-lose.  Fortunately for me, I didn’t grow up with someone yanking on my hair but unfortunately that means I’m probably not going to get used to the feeling of someone else fussing with my hair.  Are you the same way?

Share your tips for managing tender heads/scalps below!

The Politics of Natural Hair

Recently I came across a posting on Curly Nikki’s site that asked the question, “Does Natural Hair Make You Blacker?” If you are a Black American then more than likely you have explored this question or even had a discussion about it with friends. So does natural hair make you Blacker? In  my opinion…yes and no.

For some, the process of growing out ones hair can be a very intimate and political experience. I have mentioned this before but for me personally, this is/was true. Growing out my fro is close to me because when I was younger I often received a variety of reactions to my hair, much of which was aligned with how others interpreted my bi-racial identity as a problem (ironically, my hair was almost exclusively in a low-cut, Cesar style).  I grew up in an area with a very “Black or White” mentality and way of thinking.   My hair was heralded as “good” compared to some of my other Black peers. This was often an uncomfortable experience for me because while a part of me appreciated the positive attention, there was another part of me who felt disconnected from the other Black kids at my school and in my community. I thought I, nor my hair, was any better than anyone else and it took me a while to understand how those reactions actually said more about my peers felt about themselves than about me.

Needless to say, now I know that people have different interpretations of what it means to act or “be Black” and I have come to accept my own personal definition of my “Blackness” and I do my best to not oppress others by expecting them to ascribe to my beliefs.  That being said, “being Black” does refer to a set of stereotypes, both good and bad which sometimes I embrace and sometimes I reject.  I think that is an important part of seeing yourself as both an individual and a part of any collective group.  For me, having an afro does offer me a connection to my heritage as a Black person, most specifically a Black American.  Does it make me Black, absolutely not.  Does being Black make me any less Puerto Rican? Not to me! Does having an afro make me militant and anti-White? Not a chance.

When I decided to grow out my hair, it was empowering for me on several levels. To start, it was a way to both accept and reject the notion of having so-called “good hair”. Showing my fro proudly is a way to embrace my racial identity not only as Black man but more generally as a man of color with an eclectic heritage. For me, the variety of my hair strands and patterns is a nod to my roots in both Africa and Puerto Rico and I am as proud as ever to show that. *peacock strut*

Rocking a fro daily is also a way for me to reject some of those gendered norms set for men (of color). Only with more confidence in my identity am I able to sport my fro and deal with the perceptions from others about my loose natural hair. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked, and very pointedly I might add, “What are you gonna do with it? When are you gonna braid it? Corn rows? Dreads?”  The point I’m trying to make is that people will always make assumptions.  We all do.  That is what people do.

To tackle the question, “Does natural hair make you Blacker?” is an insurmountable task.  I don’t really think there is any way to fully unpack what “Blackness” really does mean.  Maybe it has very little meaning for our day-to-day lives, I don’t know.  Like many of you out there know, the definition varies from person to person BUT (and that is a big BUT), when you think of what it means to be Black you usually think of stereotypes (both positive and negative) that you have learned over the years.  Having natural hair may or may not be one of those stereotypes.  We all have these of each group we come in contact with.  If someone asks you what it means to be White, you also think of a set of stereotypes that you have learned over the years. The same goes for Latino, Native American and Asian people.  Hell, we all even have a set of stereotypes for biracial/multiracial people too.  So does natural hair make YOU blacker? Only you can truly answer that question.

Product Review: Donna Marie Dream Curling Creme

DMDCC
Source: Amazon.com

Since I started to grow out my hair a few years ago I’ve been searching for that “perfect product” that will give me both moisture and definition.  I’ve tried different gels, puddings and creams but I’ve found the gels make my hair uncomfortably crunchy and stiff so for the past few months I’ve been looking for something that gave me a touchable fro.  I’ve heard good things about Donna Marie products and I finally decided to purchase some a little while ago and I have to say I’m pretty impressed!  For more information about other Donna Marie products I’ve used, check out my review of the Donna Marie Curling Gelly.  On to the review!

Packaging: Like the Curling Gelly, the packaging on the creme is bright and pretty feminine.  As you can see from the image above it’s mostly pink with some swirly details and cursive font. I understand that Donna Marie went through a brand redesign not too long ago to get this current label. It’s nice but not really my cup of tea. In general, I usually prefer more simple and natural designs.

Consistency: This is a curl cream (or creme as they call it) so it’s pretty thick and creamy.  I tend to slap on products pretty liberally and this really lends itself to that. The cream holds together pretty well and you can invert the tub for a second or two without too much movement.  Given it’s so thick, it’s probably best for thicker hair types like mine.  It actually reminds me of Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding.  The only real negative for me is that the product is a little tacky and doesn’t slide through my hair as smoothly as I would like.  I usually rake the product into sections and haven’t tried just smoothing it on so that might make a big difference.

Smell: So the smell is a mix between a tasty vanilla dessert and some plastic-y, synthetic type smell.  It’s hard to describe but overall pretty pleasant. I think most people who like sugary type smells will enjoy it without being overwhelmed by it.  A thumbs up for me.

Price: I got the product directly from Donna Marie online and it retails for $18 for 16 ounces, making it a great value for those looking for mostly natural styling products.  I’m heavy-handed with product and this even lasts me a while.

Overall Impression: To date this is one of the best products I have used. With the exception of it being a little difficult to distribute through my hair, it gives me the definition and soft hold that I was looking for.  I stocked up on a couple of jars in preparation for the colder months as the air tends to be pretty dry here in NYC.  So, if you’re looking for a mostly natural product that delivers results then I would say that this product is definitely worth the try. It has a permanent spot on my rotation.

Have any of you used it? What do you think?

A modern man's lifestyle guide to hair, health and everything in between.