If you ask any African American women with natural hair, she may tell you that her natural hair journey was less than thrilling. Almost every natural has experienced the roller coaster of ups and downs, love and hate of their natural hair. The majority of naturals may also tell you that their hair suffered through a series of missteps that made the journey less than stellar. This is common for even the most seasoned naturals. Therefore, whether you are new to natural hair care, are contemplating going natural or if you have been a natural for years, there are a few avoidable faux pas.
Silicones, Sulfates and Mineral Oil
These three products are natural hair’s worst nightmare. Many naturals are not aware of the impact of silicones based hair products. Silicones aren’t necessarily a bad thing, however, silicone’s after effects are somewhat different. Silicones coat the hair which makes daily moisturizing impossible as moisturizers are not able to penetrate the silicone coating. Therefore, if you are a natural with a daily moisturizing regimen, silicones will make the feat near impossible unless you plan on washing your hair daily. In either event, naturals are advised to steer clear of non-soluble silicones. Sulfates are required to remove non-soluble silicones from the hair but on the flip side of this, sulfates equal dry, moisture stripped hair. If you absolutely need to use silicones, make sure that your silicone products are water soluble. Water soluble silicones are washed away with water and don’t require sulfates to remove them. Remember water soluble silicones = water washes and non-soluble silicones = sulfates to remove them. Mineral oil is found is actually what baby oil is comprised of. I doubt that you would put baby oil on your hair. Mineral oil has the same effect as silicones in coating the hair with a non-permeable coating. Unless you want dry, brittle hair, stay clear of these three products.
Moisture/ Protein Imbalance
If you are natural and experience frequent breakage, dry hair, brittle hair, or if you feel that your hair simply isn’t reaching its full potential, it is probable that you are not concentrating on the right type of products. When I say the right type of products I am referring to those that are moisturizing or protein rich. When the hair is not receiving the proper amounts of both protein and moisture then breakage is a likely outcome. If your hair is receiving more protein than moisture or more moisture than protein then it is likely that your hair will not retain length again due to breakage. This is quite common but it can be solved with one simple test. Take a strand or two of hair and stretch it. If it stretches without breaking easily then you have a good balance of protein and moisture. If you stretch your hair and it breaks within seconds of pulling it then you have too much protein. If your strands stretch and stretch and stretch without breaking then you have too much moisture. Use this test accordingly to determine what your hair needs. Balance the protein and moisture with weekly or bi-weekly protein treatments followed by a moisture rich deep conditioning treatment.
Often at times, naturals go overboard trying to load every product in their arsenal onto the hair. In theory it may seem like a good idea to have a heat protectant, a moisturizer, a protein product, an anti-frizz product, deep conditioner, and even a leave in treatment mask. However, while these products are ideal separately, together the combination may not mesh well. Like with other combinations, these products may leave a sticky residue on the hair when applied on top of each other, thus encouraging the lack of penetration that these products need to positively affect the hair. If you think about it, applying too much product leaves buildup similar to that of silicones. If too many products are applied to the hair, the buildup on the hair creates a barrier that prevents vital nutrients from reaching the hair shaft. To avoid this misstep, find a few staple products that perform multiple tasks. For example, for frizz moisture and sealing use a combination of raw shea butter and olive oil instead of three separate products. Additionally, shea butter and olive oil combined mesh very well together without weighing the hair down with buildup.
Lack of Consistency
Have you ever tried a product and declared that it doesn’t work in a matter of days? Have you ever switched products and routines so often that you can’t remember what your regimen was to begin with? If this is you then you are guilty of partaking in a common yet detrimental natural hair misstep. Switching products and routines is sometimes necessary as some things simply do not work. On the other hand, depending on the state of your hair, products like leave in conditioners, protein treatments, moisturizing treatments, and shampoos need more than just a few uses to be fully optimal. Give products a chance before moving on the next one and once you have found a product and technique that works, stick to it. Natural hair responds to consistent products and regimens. Formulate a steady regimen of washing , co-washing or pre-pooing, moisturizing, protein treatments, detangling and styling that works and remain consistent at all times.
A big no-no in natural hair care is manipulating dry natural hair. Unless your curls and coils are super defined at all times, manipulating hair as in brushing or combing when it is dry will set you back in your natural hair journey with unnecessary breakage and shedding. The best way to handle tightly curled and coiled hair is to only manipulate it when it’s wet and saturated with conditioner. Conditioner acts as detangling mechanism and increases fluid manipulation when combing or brushing. Also, use a wide tooth comb at all times. Never opt for a fine tooth comb or brush. If you absolutely must manipulate your hair when it’s dry, spritz with water and lightly finger comb.
No Protective Styling?
This is somewhat of a subjective method as what works for one person may not be feasible for another, but to simply neglect all protective styling is careless for your natural hair. Natural hair that is manipulated often is bound to experience breakage and abnormal shedding. This is where protective styling comes in. Whether its weaves, wigs, twists, buns or whatever works for your hair and lifestyle, protective styling may be the answer that you need. If you seem to be doing everything right and you still have problems with length retention, you should give protective styles a try. Since the type of protective styling is subjective, you should choose whatever is suitable for your lifestyle and hair care needs. Protective styles are vast, but there seems to be a style for almost everyone.
Although this tactic is not necessary for just natural hair, it is equally as important for natural hair as it is for other hair types. Cotton may be ideal for clothing but it is not for your hair. When cotton comes into contact with your hair when rubbing against clothing or against your pillow when sleeping, it removes the natural oils moisture and it also creates friction which can lead to breakage. The solutions are simple: Maintain a safe distance from cotton contact and use a satin or silk hair scarf when sleeping or resting. If your wear cotton daily at work, during exercise or when you are out and about, keep your hair from coming into contact with it by pulling it up or wearing it in a bun or ponytail. The cotton friction is enough to draw out moisture and promote breakage. Satin or silk is obviously of higher quality than cotton but the quality alone isn’t why this method works. Satin and silk does not draw out the moisture in your hair. In fact, it does the opposite in helping the hair to retain moisture. Additionally, a satin or silk scarf also protects the hair from damage, tangles and matting during sleeping.