As much information as there is at our fingertips these days for how to care for and style natural hair, we can still find ourselves doing things that don’t necessarily promote hair health. We all have #hairgoals but have you wondered if you’re making any mistakes that would compromise reaching those goals? Here are 8 Common Natural Hair Mistakes:
Not Following the Product Directions
I’ll be the first one to admit that in the same way Daenerys is the breaker of chains I am a frequent breaker of ‘rules’ and directions but sometimes as far as products go, directions are made for optimum product performance. When we choose not to follow the directions sometimes we don’t get the results we desire and then we blame the product for not working. As naturals, we’re often heavy handed with a product for a number of reasons but some products tell you to use a dime size amount for a reason.There are some products that perform significantly different on dry hair vs damp hair vs wet hair. In the natural community there’s still a deep mistrust of companies but consider that sometimes they’re right. Know that products are formulated and undergo multiple rounds research and testing that frames the directions on the label. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment. It simply means that sometimes success is as simple as doing as you’re told.
Detangling Dry Hair
Sis, say it ain’t so. Please tell me this isn’t you. Not only does detangling dry hair tend to be painful, it’s an excellent way to promote mechanical damage or breakage. In case that wasn’t clear, that’s NOT a good thing. Curly/kinky hair is prone to dryness because those very same curls and kinks make our scalp’s natural oil (sebum) more difficult to travel down the hair shaft. In addition to that, our hair tends to curl onto itself (and with neighboring strands) causing tangles. Because of this, the easiest and most efficient way to detangle our hair is to add moisture, which will help those curls and tangles to “slip” away from each other with less resistance. If you’ve been in or around the natural hair community for any bit of time you’ve probably heard the term “slip” used commonly. Now you (hopefully) understand why we want products with as much slip as possible for detangling. Whether you finger detangle or use a comb (wide toothed) or brush, make sure your hair isn’t completely dry!
Using Too Much/Not Enough Product
People hate to hear that a lot of natural hair care is trial and error but it’s the truth. Some of that guesswork can be alleviated by understanding your hair (i.e. its density, porosity, thickness) because if your strands are fine, thick butters and creams are going to be too heavy, whereas coarser strands will need heavier formulations or more product. It may sound like a minor consideration but trust it can make all the difference in your final style. Using too much product will leave your hair feeling heavy and greasy, while not using enough product can leave your hair with little to no definition and under moisturized. Be sure to always consider your specific hair characteristics, the current condition of your hair (is it dry? already has product?), and type of product you’re using to help decide how much to use. It’s always better to start with a little because you can always add more if necessary but nearly impossible to go backward (without washing).
I know this will likely be an unpopular opinion but I think of exclusively co-washing as similar to trying to bathe with lotion. Hear me out. The popularity of the natural hair movement brought with it an understandable mistrust of hair stylists and hair product manufacturers. Conditioners are formulated to condition, or to add moisture, not to cleanse. Yes, many conditioners contain some of the same ‘cleansing agents’ as shampoos but that doesn’t mean they cleanse or cleanse effectively. Think of product formulations like a recipe for baking a cake, ratios matter. It isn’t enough to say there’s baking soda in a cake, there has to be enough of it relative to the other ingredients if you want the cake to rise. Before you dismiss this, I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater and neither should you. I do believe there’s a time and a place for co-washing, just like there’s a time and a place for shampoo. Remember that balance is key, anything in excess is detrimental, including conditioner. What naturals generally hate about shampoo is that many leave the hair feeling stripped. Fair enough. What too many of us refuse to accept is that shampoo is just like any other product, they aren’t one size fits all. You have to find a shampoo that works for your hair. If you wouldn’t attempt to cleanse your skin with lotion why would you attempt to exclusively cleanse your scalp and hair with conditioner?
I’ve been pretty vocal over the last few years about my disdain for hair typing. To keep it brief, these hair typing systems are arbitrary at best and provide little to no value for actually understanding your hair and what it needs. How we care for our hair and what products we use on it should be driven by variables such as density, porosity, and thickness. This is why you can see hair that looks like yours but end up frustrated because it behaves differently. I feel pretty comfortable stating that most if not all of us have several “hair types” throughout our heads and therefore it’d wouldn’t make much sense to select products/techniques for our whole head based on singular hair types. The elephant in this conversation is that texture discrimination is still a thing and plenty of women still covet certain hair types over others. Telling yourself and the world you have “3B” hair when it’s really more like “4C,” only does you and your hair a major disservice. The reality is, there’s nothing you or any product you buy can do to make “4C” curls and kinks look and behave like “3B” hair. I believe if we spent more time understanding who our hair is fundamentally instead of trying to give it a letter and a number, we could better cater to its needs and get the results we want. But what do I know?
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Avoiding over manipulation can be challenging because who doesn’t love a well-defined twist/braid out? We love second and third-day hair because it’s generally bigger (and with natural hair bigger is better), but it can be a struggle to strike a balance between getting volume and keeping definition–especially if pineappling doesn’t work for you. All of that said, constant manipulation is no bueno for us, less is more. What exactly does this mean? Chill on retwisting or rebraiding your hair every night, keep the pulling and tugging to a minimum, never detangle dry, scale back the hand in hair syndrome, and say no to combing curly with fine-toothed tools. To put it simply, over manipulation can lead to mechanical damage, i.e. breakage. Breakage is counterproductive to retention and growth so if length is a part of your #hairgoals then keep your manipulation to a minimum.
Quitting Too Soon
My general rule for hair products and techniques is to try things at least three times. Yes, three. In terms of products, how well they work (or not) depends on a variety of things such as how much you used, the state of your hair when used, what products they were used with, etc. Just by virtue of these variables alone, you owe it to yourself to try a product a few times before you declare you hate it or that it doesn’t work on your hair. As an example, I’ve had completely different results with products used on damp hair versus soaking wet hair but I had to try it more than once to figure that out and decide which method I preferred. As far as techniques, that whole cliche, ‘practice makes perfect’ is the absolute truth. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your hair styling skills. It’s true, skills come more naturally to some of us than others but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a learning curve. I cornrow really well but it took me a lot of practice to get it right and even more practice to make it look professional and neat the way I wanted. What I always recommend to people who want to learn how to do hair is to simply practice on yourself or get a babydoll and practice with it. This is also the age of Youtube and tutorials, which I didn’t have the luxury of when I taught myself, so it’s literally easier than ever. It’s easy to get frustrated and feel discouraged but give yourself space and time to be a beginner and learn. Try techniques different ways so you can figure out what works best for you and your hair.
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Care From Inside
This is perhaps the largest oversight because we connect so much of our hair’s health and behavior to what we do to it on the outside instead of how we nourish it from the inside. The condition of our hair is so much more than the products we use and how we style it. Ultimately hair grows from the scalp which is directly affected by how we take care of our bodies from the inside. This means maintaining a healthy diet, a good balance of vitamins and nutrients, and a healthy body i.e. sweating which promotes growth. So consider the moments where your hair is damaged and not responding to good hair care habits, that there may be a deeper issue remedied only by a doctor such as a dermatologist or a trichologist. By the way, trichology is the study of human hair structure, function, and disease. Drink your water, eat your greens, sweat a couple times a week, and mind your business–your hair will thank you!
Are you a frequent offender? What natural hair mistakes do you commit the most? Let me know in the comments!
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