Let me preface this by saying, deciding to invest yourself and grow your natural hair won't be easy. If you're already somewhere on the natural hair journey, then I'm sure you've already heard this. But let's be clear. It's not just about finding a few great products or getting to know your hair in a generally superficial way. Nah ... To really see the results you're looking for, you need to get your hands dirty, take charge, and get intimate. In hoping to fully get your hair to respond, you need to treat it like your lover! Just like your lover, you need to know their like and dislikes ... what makes them happy ... what turns them on and keeps them moist (LOL) ... what triggers cause them to spaz out and most importantly? How to remedy the situation. In short, you need to know your hair so completely, that it doesn't even need to speak to you in order for you to be able to know how its feeling and instinctively what it needs from you. In order to start this process, I have 6 quick tips to get you on the road to being the kind of in tuned lover your hair has been craving!
Maintain Your Nails - Besides looking a hot mess, a rough ragged nail bed and chipped nail polish can lead to unexpected hair loss through your strands being snagged and unknowingly ripped from the scalp when handling.
Hair Only Scissors - For some naturals, scissors are a four letter word, but trust me, if you're caring for your strands in a truly healthy way? You're going to need a good pair of scissors. Start looking for new sharp pair that will only be used on your hair. Dull scissors or ones that are used for other purposes in addition to cutting your hair will have slight erosions in the blades and cause unplanned split ends right where you make your snips. I'll be discussing when and how I conduct trims soon.
Stop Combing Your Hair! - Yes, you read that right. Toss out those combs! In my 1st two years of really caring for my hair, I didn't comb my hair once! This forced me to tune into my hair on a level I hadn't before. In order to fully get to know your texture, kinks, and coils ... plus to learn how your hair truly feels when fully moisturized or dry, using primarily your hands when manipulating it becomes key. In a later post, I'll highlight my exact technique for handling my hair. For now? If you need to handle your hair ... especially if you need to detangle or remove knots, always do so on hair that has a combination of water (just a bit will do) and a light oil added to it. Handling hair when dry and fragile can lead to breakage. While smoothing your hair with your hands in a downward motion, gently work your fingers throughout small sections. It's going to look as if you're very gently combing your hair, but with your fingers. Separate the hair you're working on from the hair that has been fully cleared of tangles and ready for styling (or wash day). The moisture and oil you've added will create a bit of slip which helps tangles slide past each other and release during this process. Best of all? Not only does this teach you how to get in touch with your hair like a pro, but it also helps to retain more of your growth. When using combs, we're a step removed and have no real idea how much force we're actually using, resulting in unknowingly ripping out the very strands we want to keep.
Curb Your Hand- In - Hair Syndrome - Now that you've begun learning to "communicate" with your hair on a more personal level ... Stop touching it! LOL. It may sound like I'm giving contradicting advice, but follow me here. When its necessary to handle your hair, you should most certainly use your hands / fingers. However, when its not time to style, detangle, wash, ect its super important that you learn to keep your hands from mindlessly touching it. As it grows and changes, the temptation to squeeze & play with your new boo thang will be oh - so tempting. Remember, each time you touch / handle your hair, you risk losing strands from unintentional pulling or stress. This is honestly one I still struggle with, as playing in my hair is a calming "tick" I have. When attempting to retain length and density (thickness) every strand counts. Besides, as we know from most relationships, we all need our space!
Review Your Products / No "Sulfates" - Next to learning how to gently work with your hair, reading the labels and ingredients in your hair products are equally as important. The 1st five items listed of a product are its primary ingredients, the amount of each getting increasingly smaller as you go down the list. For example, if something claims to have shea butter boldly printed on the front cover, but has it listed as the 6th, 10th, 20th ingredient? ... More often that not, the actual amount of shea butter contained inside is minimal, or practically non-existent. Additionally, in so many commonly used hair products, you find one of a billion chemical versions of the word "sulfate." While sulfates give you that amazing lather when cleansing your hair, and can help you removed heavy dirt or product build-up, it also causes major hair dryness. I mean major. Typically, the tighter the curl pattern, the dryer the hair. Personally, my tangle prone hair gets bone dry when left unattended. The last thing I need is an ingredient which adds to that. I've purposefully avoided any product with sulfates for years now, and I've noticed how my hair has responded. No more strands feeling like bails of hay.
- Weave-less Wednesdays - Start experimenting with very simple styles that involve using only your own hair. Sounds simple, but as I mentioned in Part 1 of this natural hair series "More Than Just Hair," it can be a bit intimidating wearing your own hair, especially if styling is a concern of yours. To combat this, early on in rediscovering my hair, I was completely clueless on where to start with styles, so I started small by doing what I called "Weave-less Wednesdays." It was the one day a week I knew for sure I wouldn't hide behind a head-wrap or wig. Instead, I started small and began with fashioning my mini twists into cute little styles. Finding quick, no-heat, low maintenance style "go to's" made the prospect of wearing my hair out in confidence more of a sure thing. Slowly, "Weave-less Wednesdays" turned into weave-free everydays! LOL! Below is one of my favorite looks I mastered during that time ... Two strand twists that I unraveled and styled with bobby pins.
With these simple tips, you're well on you way to forming the long lasting relationship both you and your hair have been longing for. Stop treating your hair as as the side piece and upgrade it to the main! I promise the path of growing together will be amazing. The journey continues!