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Review: Chop-Chop hair Salon, Westfield

Chop-Chop London
Chop-Chop London

Since my big chop (see my blog post Hair Today!), I need to trim my hair regularly to maintain the short style. I’m constantly looking out for good barbers/salons where I can get a quick shape up for a good price. Whilst strolling through Westfield Shepherds Bush, I came across Chop-Chop. It caught my eye as its a small open plan hub located in the aisles of the mall. I immediately noticed there was a black stylist there cutting afro hair. I took their card and decided to look them up. Chop-Chop have a unique concept. 24 hairstyles – 20 minutes – £20. Those 24 hairstyles include cuts specifically for afro hair types. One being a low cut afro, just like mine. Perfect I thought. Both affordable and convenient – I could use them for my regular trim. IThere was some apprehension about getting my hair cut at a salon which did not specialise in afro hair, but felt assured when I read on their website:

“Our stylists are seasoned professionals, who have passed several layers of vetting and training by our management team. We’ve done this so our customers can sit with full confidence, knowing that they are in perfect hands.

We want to celebrate you, in all your unique glory. That’s why our stylists are specially trained by the best in the industry to work with a multitude of different hair types. So you can embrace your individuality and trust you’re in good hands.”

Booking

I went ahead and booked my appointment online, which was a simple process. After creating a profile you then choose one of the 24 cuts/styles, book a slot, then select one of the available stylists. It was my first time so I randomly selected a stylist. All done. My appointment was later that day, after work. I was excited to try this concept out.

Appointment and disappointment

I headed straight there after work. I was 10 minutes early, as their website suggested. There was only one stylist there at this time, who was with a client. He took my name and asked me to sit and wait, as my stylist would arrive soon. I was a little uneasy about getting my hair cut out in the open, on view to passing shoppers, but soon realised that people were not actually paying attention. My stylist arrived in about 10/15 minutes. After a quick debrief with his colleague he approached me and asked me what I was having done. This concerned me since I had booked online and selected my required hairstyle. I know he was given my name, so surely my booking details were to hand. Anyway, I told him what I was having done and to my disappointment his response was. Sorry I cannot style afro hair! I was in shock. Apparently, the person to do my hair had to leave early. This confused me as their claim was they were all trained to do all types of hair. Isn’t that your unique selling point I asked? What’s more, why was I not informed before or immediately on my arrival? Customers are asked to cancel no later than 45 minutes before their scheduled appointment, so I would expect the same heads up. His apology did not pacify me, nor did his offer of a slot the following day. The options were to take a refund, or return within a couple of days, whilst he was still on shift. I didn’t see why I couldn’t have a credit to return on any day. I was not impressed with the customer service. What I actually wanted was to get my hair cut – that day. This was now impossible.

The redemption

I returned the following week to make use of my credit. I was now a skeptic but wanted to see how well they could cut. I was relieved to see a black stylist and a black barber manning the hub. Interestingly, both were styling European hair when I arrived. My stylist, Khadime, was skilled, friendly and engaging. She did a good enough job on my hair and completed it in good time, but I’ve had better cuts at high street barbers.

To summarise, I was unimpressed and disappointed on my initial visit to Chop-Chop. My second visit went smoothly, however, since they failed to live up to their own claims, and certainly did not meet my expectations. I personally would not take the risk of disappointment again. They do however have two other branches in London who may be more organised and efficient.

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Hair Today!

At the Salon
The big Chop, TWA
The Big Chop

I have been toying with the idea of reverting to my natural hair for a while now. Whilst relaxed hair is easy to style, after years of straightening, I found that my hair was beginning to lose its texture, colour and resilience. With thinning hair, breaking edges and brittle ends, I knew I needed to do something imminently if I was to regain a healthy head of hair. I always assumed that I would transition to natural hair gradually i.e. that I would trim off the relaxed hair over time, covering up my natural re-growth with weaves or braids, until it was long enough to style on its own.  However, on my last visit to the salon I looked at my limp hair and immediately knew that this would be my last chemical relaxer.  Something clicked. On that day, I vowed that at my next salon visit, it would be THE BIG CHOP!

 Some of the thoughts that initially delayed this decision were:

  • Will my natural hair be difficult to manage and more time consuming?
  • Will short hair suit me? Would I look boyish or unattractive?
  • Will a short cut reveal a funny scull shape that I didn’t know about?
  • With my hair thinning – will it look even more patchy when short?
  • Will my head feel cold in the winter?
  • How long will it take to grow back, and will it become hard to manage as it grows?

I pondered over these things for a while, but once my decision was made, the only question was – when and where? I had a family wedding coming up so decided to do it after that. My first instinct was to have a barber cut my hair.  They shave heads all the time so should do  good job, and be cheaper.  However, I decided to go to a salon in the end. I wasn’t sure if I would feel emotional on the day, so thought it best to be around females, who could be more sympathetic.  Also, barbers are used to shaving and shaping to suit a male face, and tend to do harder edges. I wanted a softer look and some TLC on this occasion.

I took some time to look at a few photos of shorter natural hairstyles and finally decided on a teeny-weeny afro (TWA). It felt like the right choice.

Today is the day of The Big Chop. My salon of choice was Natural Gloe (who specialise in styling natural afro hair). I was a bit apprehensive when I sat in the chair. My stylist, Marlene, assured me that I was doing the right thing.  As I watched my hair fall to the ground, a part of me felt a loss, but mostly, I felt a sense of relief.  I went for a very low cut – short back and sides. I kept a little height at the front to frame my small face (and a side parting). Marlene did a good job! Once complete I felt quite liberated and refreshed.  I kept looking in the mirror at this stripped back version of me. I didn’t quite recognise the person looking back at me, but instead began to  noticing features (good and bad) that I wasn’t aware of (gotta hide those grays!). I now feel the need to wear more make-up and adorn myself with jewellery, to enhance my femininity.  I know this will pass.

The Big Chop, TWA
The Big Chop, TWA

Now that I’ve done the cut. I have answers to some of my initial questions:

  • My shorter hair will definitely be quicker and easier to wash and style. Short hair does suit me!
  • Phew! I have a nicely shaped scull. My hair is a little patchy in some places, but it’s now easier to identify and treat the problem areas. A good chop and no chemical processing is a major step to healthier hair.
  • I can confirm that my head felt very cold today as it poured down with rain as I left the salon. I am hoping the hot weather returns soon!
  • I will gradually learn how to manage my hair as it grows

I have no regrets so far. In fact I found the experience quite liberating. I’ve purchased some natural hair products and styling utensils and am looking forward to experimenting with my hair and tweaking the style as it grows. I will share more about the products and styling techniques I’ve learned. But for now, I’m embracing the natural me.

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Review: Palms of Bliss (holistic beauty therapist)

Treatment room

Today I went for a much-needed massage. My hairdresser provided me with details of  a local masseuse and highly recommended her. I kept the pamphlet in my bag for over two months with a view to booking a session, but never afforded myself the time until today. I eventually called the masseuse to book my appointment. Margery McKenzie MICHT (Marg), is a holistic beauty therapist, who owns and runs Palms of Bliss from her home in Hillingdon.

I arrived at her home a little early for my appointment and was welcomed by her son who showed me to the treatment room.  Marg appeared shortly after and welcomed me with a big smile.  I was immediately drawn to her. I felt like I’d known her for years.  The treatment room looked professional and was attractively decorated in shades or purple and lilac.  There was soft zen-type music playing in the background and a beautiful delicate aroma in the air (a humidifier appeared to be on also).  The towels and accessories on the bed looked and smelled fresh too.

Before we started Marg first told me about herself, her journey, and what inspired her to become a masseuse.  We then spoke about me, my general health, my dietary habits; my water intake; my job.  She also wanted to know what specific areas I felt needed attention. I explained that I had a lot of shoulder and neck tension and felt that I would benefit from a back/neck/head massage.  She agreed and explained that her back massage included the head and neck also.  I then completed the obligatory health questionnaire and we were ready to start.

Marg warned me that her massage would be very firm and possibly painful.  Usually pain meant that the area needed attention, therefore she would concentrate on these areas if necessary, even if it was uncomfortable for me.  I agreed to this firm massage.  I knew I needed it. However, I was not expecting to feel as much pain as I did in certain areas.  The massage was very thorough, surprisingly starting with my feet! Despite me booking an upper body massage she included some reflexology on my feet (if I had known I would have buffed them up a bit).  Then with pure coconut oil, she moved on to my neck and shoulders, concentrating on one shoulder at a time. Pummelling through my tight knots.  I couldn’t help but grunt and groan. I wanted to cry at times and shout stop! But I endured the pain (I was encouraged to take deep breaths through it, and obeyed).  After each shoulder, she moved down to my back and buttocks and then my arms, hands and fingers with the same intensity.  Who knew I had so much tension in all these areas?  The most surprising revelation was that I had tension in my face.  I was congested and sometimes suffer with sinus but did not expect to feel so much pain around my nose, eyes and ears and crown.

Finally, the best bit for me, the head massage.  This was a combination of firm clasping around pressure points, scalp rubbing and gentle massage strokes (all with coconut oil).  At this point I was feeling quite relaxed and almost fell asleep.  I then I heard those words.  Your treatment is over.

All I can say is wow! I sat up, and immediately felt like a new person.  Lighter, less stiff, relaxed and ache free.  I was handed a bottle of water and to drink and Marg finished up with tailored advice for me going forward. All of this for just £30 (of course I gave her a tip!).

Palms of Bliss leaflets
Palms of Bliss leaflets

If you have painful tension in your body and like a deep tissue massage, I would thoroughly recommend Marg. She is personable, professional and knows what she is doing (call her on 07960 690 231). I am ready to book in my next visit.

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Shelly’s Turmeric Tonic

Shelly's Turmeric Tonic in teapot

 

Turmermic root
Turmeric root. The flesh is bright orange. Be careful how you handle. It stains!

If like me you suffer from muscle aches and pains as a result of inflammation or arthritis, you will be glad to know that there are some home remedies that can help to reduce this pain and inflammation. The Turmeric root has recently become a popular spice (or herb to some) to use as a health aid as opposed to an ingredient to enhance colour and flavour in Asian dishes. It’s the superfood on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Turmeric contains an active ingredient called curcumin, a molecule found in plants which is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is also great for relieving many other disorders such as indigestion, throat infections, common colds, liver ailments and is sometimes used topically, to cleanse wounds or treat skin sores. The turmeric root looks very similar to the ginger root, but with a deeper carrot orange coloured flesh (the powder form is a deep yellowy red, more like curry powder).

Lemons are packed with vitamin C and therefore a good antioxidant which boost the immune system and helps with iron absorption
Lemons are packed with vitamin C and therefore a good antioxidant which boost the immune system and helps with iron absorption

I much prefer the idea of using natural remedies as an alternative to prescribed medicine. However, sometimes with herbal remedies, it can take much longer before you feel the benefits (if at all).  When it comes to pain, a quick fix is usually desired. In my search for natural remedies to alleviate pain caused by inflammation, I noticed that turmeric was mentioned quite a lot. I decided to put it to the test. I eventually came up with the below recipe, which I have named Shelly’s Turmeric Tonic. All of the accompanying ingredients in this tonic are easily obtained from a grocery store, and independently offer relief from inflammation.  They each have a number of other health benefits too, which make this tonic a must-have daily brew to fight a number of common ailments, not least, colds and flu.

Garlic is a superfood rich in vitamins nd minerals. Its an anti-inflammatory, boosts immune system, is used to treat cancer, heart disease and many other infections
Garlic is a superfood rich in vitamins and minerals. Its an anti-inflammatory, boosts immune system, and is used to treat cancer, heart disease and many other infections

Ingredients

  • a 3 inch piece of fresh turmeric (or a  heaped tablespoon of ground turmeric)
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks (or a heaped tablespoon of ground cinnamon)
  • 1 teaspoon of Black peppercorns (or a teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves (or a tablespoon of garlic powder)
  • about a 3 inch piece of fresh ginger (or a tablespoon of ground ginger)
  • 1-2 fresh lemons
  • Manuka honey
  • Water
Cinnamon root
Cinnamon is a natural antiviral, anti-bacterial and has an anti fungal agent that boosts the immune system. It is also high in antioxidants and contains calcium and fibre
Black pepper is known to enhance the absorbtion or curcumin in tumeric
Black pepper is known to enhance the absorption of the curcumin in turmeric and also reduces inflammation in the nasal passage

To prepare:

Finely grate the turmeric, ginger, and garlic (or use the powdered form). Add these to a large cooking pot with about 2 litres of water along with all of the other ingredients (excluding the honey).  The lemons should be peeled and sliced.  Cover the pot and bring to boil slowly. Then allow to simmer on  low heat for about 10 minutes. If the water starts to evaporate -top it up.  At this point you should start to smell a very appealing warm spicy aroma. After simmering, keep covered and let the tonic sit for a while to enable all of the flavours to infuse (the longer  the better). When you have the desired strength, pour into a glass through a strainer and enjoy while still warm.

Ginger has many medicinal properties. to name few, It has been proven to kill cancer cells, reduces inflammation, aids digestion and soothes coughs and colds
Ginger has many medicinal properties. It has been proven to kill cancer cells, reduce inflammation, aids digestion and soothes coughs and colds to name a few

Sweeten to your taste with honey.

I have been preparing and drinking this tonic for over a month now. I make  brew and then have several cups throughout the day. I am pleased to say that in this short time I have definitely noticed a reduction in pain in my joints (specifically my digits which are arthritic) and have less inflammation. It also immediately cleared my sinuses. I am sure that in order to maintain continued benefit, I would need to repeatedly drink this on a daily basis for an indefinite period.  For me, this is more preferable than a daily dose of over the counter pain killers like Ibuprofen or NSAIDS and steroids.

There are various turmeric teas and tonic remedies on the internet. They are usually milky or with a milk substitute base. If you prefer a non-milky drink, then I invite you to try Shelly’s Turmeric Tonic. Each ingredient has been chosen for its anti-inflammatory or other medical benefit, as well as for the taste.  Even if you don’t notice any difference in pain or inflammation, with all of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in it, your immune system will definitely get a boost.  My daughter who has been drinking this daily too, not only enjoys it as a drink, but insist it helped to reverse the symptoms of a bad cold very quickly. Hopefully, you too will  benefit from this tonic or at least find it to be an enjoyable soothing beverage. It’s a win-win!

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Perfectly Pure Coconut Oil – 2017 Best Buy No. 5

Perfectly Pure coconut oil

I have been using coconut oils for a few years now. Perfectly Pure Coconut Oil is 100% raw and a natural cold pressed coconut oil. I use it on my skin as a moisturiser;  blend with Tea Tree oil to use on my hair and feet;  and I use it as a replacement cooking oil in various dishes. It can also be used in baking recipes, for brushing your teeth, or as a daily supplement. It has many uses.

over the years I have purchased various brands of coconut oils and paid various prices.  My cheapest was from a street vendor in Bali.  The oil was definitely pure, but had an off-putting burnt smell.  In the UK, I have found the cheapest brand to be KTC Coconut oil, which you can pick up from any supermarket for about £1.99  I feel this brand is more suited to cooking and refined enough for use on the skin.  My favourite brand, Perfectly Pure Coconut Oil is one of the more expensive coconut oils I have purchased.  Perfectly Pure is Holland & Barrett’s own brand. I usually buy the largest jar (920g) from Holland and Barrett.  This usually lasts me about 2-3 months and cost around £21.99.  I try to make my purchase when Holland & Barrett have their penny sale, and get a second jar for 1 penny, making the price for each jar equivalent to approximately £11.00. However now that I am accustomed to this brand I would pay full price if I needed to.

One of the things I love about this oil is its smell.  It has a delicate aroma of fresh coconut, not too overpowering and not too subtle. Secondly, I find its texture to be very light and silky (almost whipped) when in its solid state.  It spreads very evenly over the skin and absorbs very well. There are no surprise lumps in the jar either.  It really does feel like a pure, refined coconut oil. I am aware that there are other brands that I have not tried in the same price range and maybe I will get around to those one day and do a full comparative review, but for now, this is my favourite coconut oil. I would definitely recommend it. That’s why its one of my top 5 discoveries for 2017.

These are my top 5 at a glance:

  1. HP Spectre x360 Laptop
  2. Samsung Gear S2 Classic Rose Gold Smart Watch
  3. Camel skin Rucksacks
  4. Estee Lauder Train Bag
  5. Perfectly Pure Coconut Oil