Change — even the subtlest kind — is welcomed now more than ever these days in my life. Enter hair shadowing, a technique that is exactly what it sounds like: Changing your hair color using (powder or cream!) eyeshadow. It's the cheap, quick, non-committal, and non-damaging way to switch things up with your tresses at your whims. The technique was popularized by the Queen of Temp Hair Colors herself, Naturally Tash, a natural hair enthusiast who was on Instagram influencing long before being an influencer was really even a term.
I'd see her post a different hair color on Instagram so frequently that I thought, "Surely, sis ain't dying her hair like that every other week. What in the brittleness and breakage risk is going on here?" After further investigation, and talking to her myself several years ago, I was put on to "shadowing" (also known as hair chalking or temp coloring). It's as simple as finding a single eyeshadow pot chilling in your makeup bag (or picking up one at the drugstore for mad cheap) and sliding it down your tresses until the color pops — before or after the style. You can literally take your hair from just black to black with pops of blue, pink, or whatever other color splashes on your heart at the time. And it all comes right back out with a single shampoo. Skeptical?
Behold, Natural Tash. The Rainbow-Brite of natural hair.
She now pulls her looks off with her own line of hair shadow products, called Crown Paint Colors. But before launching the brand, she was using regular-degular eyeshadow pots by different drugstore brands. I don't always have her Crown Paint Colors on hand, but I do always have something in my overflowing basket of beauty products at home. When I feel bored with my color and want something different for the day (or the week), I pull one out.
Now, unlike Naturally Tash, I'm not quite a rainbow gal. That said, I have been feeling the urge to try other natural hair colors because I've been mourning the in-person hair appointments with my favorite natural hair stylist and honestly. Plus, I've just been in a funk about my hair in general because that's just how it is sometimes. Sometimes, my lil' puff listens to me. Some days, I gets tired of fussing with it and just want to cut it off. Whenever I'm that over it, I remember my long-term growth goals and try to treat myself to a brief change with hair shadowing.
First, I pull whatever I have in my bathroom at the time. This creamy one looks like a reddish-pink shade but given my super dark hair color, I was already prepared for it to appear more like a rinse on my head, which I was fine with.
I usually apply it to twists or braids in my hair because it's easier for me to spread the color that way.
And when I've spread the paint on each twist and then taken down my twist-out like usual, here's the result:
It's super subtle and the best part is that you can go as loud or as muted as you want with your colors. The other day, I shadowed parts of my hair for a slightly brighter red look in different spots.
For me, the lower-key shades work. For Naturally Tash, it's the Roy G. Biv. And when either of us get tired of it, we can send the colors right down the drain and start over with a new color — sans the fear of breakage or a texture change due to moody chemicals typically found in some boxes of dye.
This is my small way to switch up my look. Yes, even if I ain't heading anywhere but the grocery store and the mailbox. When I shadow my kinky 'fro, it's about more than just testing new hair colors. For me, it's all about doing one small thing to adorn and celebrate my natural 4C hair even on the days when it's ticking me off the most. Even when my twist-outs fail (as, honestly, they frequently do). Even when shrinkage has gotten in the way of the style I was going for on a particular day. I can always let my kinks and curls fall where they may and spread some color over all of it just to cheer things up and create some temporary change.
So would you try hair shadowing? Or have you already been using the method to color your crown? Let us know in the comments!
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Upon learning that New York's governor issued a stay-at-home order, one of my first concerns was what I saw many Black women fretting about on Twitter and in the last-minute lines at the hair store: Wtf will I do with my hair with no access to my hairstylist for an indefinite amount of time? I wasn't worried about having a style per se. I was more concerned about having access to the professional eyes, hands, and treatments that keep my hair healthy. You see, I have 4C natural hair and while I do adore it, baby girl is very high-maintenance. I also had a bad breakage experience about a year ago due to stress, stress, and mo' stress. I've dealt with anxiety almost my entire life and when things get really thick for me, it has historically shown up and shown out in my hair thinning in certain areas.
COVID-19 shaking up the whole country's employment status certainly files itself in that category of stress — partially because I've been laid off three times before the age of 28, so job security is a soft spot for me that I tend to unhealthily fixate on. Since I could smell the anxiety and stress burning a smoke cloud up the road toward me, I pressed the gas lickety-split on different therapy techniques and self-care regimens I've learned. First things first?
So many candles from Target, the attendants probably thought I was hosting a seance — and virtual appointments scheduled with my hairstylist.
That's right. While I do miss visits with my nail tech and masseuse, there's no service entrepreneur I have a closer relationship with than my hairstylist, Astariea "Star" Martin. She helped me transition into natural hair almost a decade ago, encouraged me to love my 4C curl pattern (a hair type she shares btw, which def helps), and one of the things I love most about her is how easily she can explain the science of hair to a mostly clueless person like me.
Just when I started to panic about potentially reversing all the hard work she's put into my hair, Star texted me just to see how I was holding up. Not to inquire about my hair. She hit me up just to ask about me and honestly, she was that way long before New York made headlines as the epicenter of this pandemic. Finding a stylist who actually views me as more than just one more head and cha-ching on the CashApp has been a godsend in many ways. Her kind text reminded me that we've built up a strong enough rapport over the years for me to trust her to simply view my hair on a video chat and glean exactly what I need to be doing or not doing with it. It's also not lost on me that with hair care services being shut down completely all over the country, her business has undoubtedly been affected.
Thus, my bright idea for a paid video consultation was born.
The consultation, of course, began with Star encouraging me to calm down with all the worrying I was doing about my hair and a few ki-kis about this and that. Then, I showed her the different parts of my head that have been trouble areas in the past. Hearing her confirm that my thick lil' 'fro is indeed in a healthy spot was the relief I needed but that isn't even what made our video conference peak beneficial. She reviewed every single product that I've been using or thinking about using (which included me reading the most prominent ingredients on the label), and helped me create an entire monthly regimen for my normal-to-medium porosity hair.
Star also gave me a few cute cocktail recipes I could use to strengthen my hair until she and my mane are reunited. I especially appreciated the moisturizing mix which is basically my favorite spray-on leave-in conditioner, rosewater, and lavender oil — all of which I already owned, except for the rosewater which I needed to re-up on. I simply told her what I had in my cabinets and she recommended the mix based on that. Easy peasy.
When I say I VALUE this woman?! Sometimes, I feel so lost with styling and caring for my natural hair, particularly since I'm at the 'awkward length' stage where it's too long for some things and too short for others. This leads me to worry about it constantly. Sis calmed me down (which is honestly half the battle) and empowered me to manage my hair on my own with a step-by-step plan. I've been writing about beauty and Black women for years but I still unabashedly prefer a lil' more hand-holding on my hair journey. There are enough Black beauty salon horror stories in my past (and maybe yours) to justify me stanning a stylist who doesn't mind communicating with me about every little thing concerning my hair. If I need to cut, you're not just taking a pair of scissors to my head. Imma need to know how much we're talking and why. If my hair is breaking off, just break it to me plainly and help nurse it back to health, not style around it. If all that sounds like a given, let me assure you that it's not always.
Some stylists prefer to withhold key information, often out of fear that you may become so knowledgeable that you won't need them anymore.
Thankfully, Star and other stylists like her — because more do exist — understand that when it comes to the client and the professional, it has to be a team effort. The client is the person who spends the most time with their hair, so it's really important to equip them with all the knowledge of their unique hair needs plus the products and practices that work for it. This way, on the blessed day when we pop back into their chair, we've not undone all their glorious work. A very dope piece of advice I noted from her was the reminder to not look at doing my hair as a chore (which I often do) but to reframe it in my mind as another self-care process. Hair shouldn't be a source of stress for me or any of us but it often can be because of societal pressures and whatever our personal circumstances are at the time.
If you've been feeling lost without your professional stylist during these times or if you're just concerned about how they're sustaining their business, try scheduling paid video hair check-ins. You could do it weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month until the stay-at-home order is lifted. If you don't have a go-to professional right now, it's still not a bad time to look for one. This'll help you stay on top of your hair even when you feel like you're in a slump and it'll keep a few coins coming to their pockets during these trying business times.
Hopefully, I'll be back in Star's chair sooner than later but in the meantime, I'm riding this stay-at-home situation out with her as my main Quarantine Ting. Doing so has helped me sort out my hair woes and uplifted my spirits because she cares about me as a person and it shows in how she approaches her services. Despite all that's going on, I'm doing everything I can to not let Ms. Rona take away my inner peace or this hair I'm trying to grow out. May we (and every hair on our heads) all stay safe throughout all of this.
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Featured image by Marquaysa Battle
OK, so maybe I lied a teeny bit. By my usual standards, I do need to get my nails done along with everyone else I know who really misses being directed to "pick a color" or asked if we want "the spa or regular pedicure?" You know that meme with Arthur's little sister D.W. staring longingly at something off-camera? Well, I am D.W. and D.W. is me and what we are looking at are the nail salons with gates pulled down in front of them.
Of course, the Twitter jokes flew the moment that folks discovered nail and hair shops would close, with the assumption being that anyone who frequents those places would be "ugly" now that they can't access a professional. "It's gonna be all about personality now," read one tweet that I am paraphrasing. But honey, during this time when my routine is drastically different and I need to better manage all this time I have to overthink, I decided the last thing I need to be doing is labeling anything on my body as "ugly" based on my access to a shop. I am determined to be gentler with myself these days instead of nitpicking at little things.
We're still fine even without a professionally done mani, pedi, wax, or whatever, OK loves?
That said, I still plan to settle my behind in my nail tech's chair as soon as outside re-opens and I can safely do so. Hair and nail salons have long been places many Black women go for using glam as a self-care practice; for some (including me), those places were our introduction to it. We often speak of hair shops doubling as therapy offices but the nail salons offer their own reprieve from life's demands. After a long week of dealing with all the things that pilfer our energy bit by bit, it feels good to get somewhere, sit down, and let someone take care of us for once. Like with hair salons, most of us indeed have a horror nail story or two — but there's still nothing cooler than finally finding your nail person who can do exactly what you want without you having to clock their every move.
It's even better if you link with someone you can trust to freestyle your nails and send you out into the world looking like walking art for the next two weeks.
Certainly, not having my nails done isn't sadder or more important than the far greater problems occurring due to COVID-19 disrupting nearly everything about our lives. This is no effort to downplay them to uplift the sanctity of a full set. Instead, me not having access to the salon brings on sadness in various layers. It sucks to have one of the joys I'd made a part of my de-stress me-time routine stripped away from me. I've been getting my nails done professionally since I was in high school — the good ole days when acrylic sets were only $20. My mom would drop me at the mall (back when it was actually OK to do that, alright?) and I'd head straight to a spot called Exotic Nails to spend two hours or so with whoever could freak a French mani with a flower design on top — and a pedicure too if I had it to spare.
Although a teen, my life was often busy, stressful, and sometimes absolutely tumultuous. Exotic Nails was my happy pampering place where I didn't have to lift a finger or foot to do anything for anyone except to let the person in front of me file, paint, or massage. There was something luxurious about that moment that made me feel so renewed once it was over. That was my time to not have to do a single thing for anybody else. Time to exhale. Judging by the other faces that crowded up the spot — some of their heads nodding off as they got days worth of trouble, hard work, and putting other people first temporarily massaged out of their feet — it was theirs, too.
Over the years, my taste in nail designs has changed depending on the season I'm in or the job I have. But my appreciation for going to the nail shop remains.
Beyond my personal self-care woes, I'm concerned about the employees and shop owners battling being completely blown out of business and scrambling to apply for federal loan relief — many of which are Black and brown people who are already economically worse off than the white folks in the same industry. 71% of small business owners worry they may not be able to financially recover from the effects of the pandemic, according to LendingTree's survey of 1200 people. 47% have already acquired new debt in attempts to keep their business during this time. I look forward to hopefully patronizing the establishments near my home again and helping in any way that I can.
I also feel for other people who lean on their nail appointments for even more support than I do, like the members of the Long Nail Goddesses club in Newark, New Jersey — one of whom made getting her extremely long nails done a part of her road to recovery from drug addiction. "Instead of spending money on drugs," the unnamed woman shared in a 2018 Truly documentary published to YouTube. "I started spending money on getting my nails done. I pamper myself and this is what I love to do."
I also feel for the nail tech I had just recently settled with, Mandy, who was saving up to take her soon-to-be 10-year-old son on his first vacation in life and her first in 22 years. I wonder if they're safe, healthy, and how she's dealing with their (most likely) thwarted plans. Unfortunately, I didn't snag her number to shoot over a "How are you holding up?" text, but I do know that when outside opens up, if the nail shop is (prayerfully) even still in business by then, I'll be back in Mandy's chair so she can get these nails right, I can tip her well, and most importantly — I can relax again in one of my favorite happy places.
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