The very first step to going natural and growing your hair out is to LOVE yourself. Our hair is an extension of us, we need to love it in its natural state. Black women have tried so hard to fit into this world’s standard of beauty that it has wreaked havoc on our self- esteem, our identity and our hair. Most women will not go without a relaxer, straight weave or flat ironing their hair and we will go through extraordinary lengths to keep the outside world from seeing their real hair, because society has convinced us that it’s not acceptable, it’s ugly, it’s nappy. Our hair was not meant to be straight like everyone else’s. God made us different for a reason. Nobody else has what we have. We are the most imitated people in the world, everyone wants to be like us, but us. Crazy. When many women go natural they don’t know their true hair texture and most dream of having loose curls but many will not be happy with their real hair after they learn that it is not as wavy or curly as they thought it would be. There is texture envy in the natural hair community. Nothing will change your texture except chemicals. You may very well have the kinkiest, coolest hair when you go natural or you could have curly spirals, don’t trip, you are beautiful.
You will learn to care for it and love it. Don’t have expectations because once you go natural, in my Forest Gump voice “you never know what you’re going to get”. Black women are growing their hair out to lengths never before seen, all because we are learning to love and appreciate what God gave us. I will show you how in this article.
Breaking old habits:
When going natural you’ll need to know that almost everything we learned about hair care when we were younger was wrong. As kids, our parents simply did what their parents did to their hair, most of which was very damaging. Now, there is a wealth of info online to help us grow our hair. I studied all things natural hair for 4 years and learned everything I could in order to grow my hair and to help others do the same, now I consider myself a GURU for sure! Together we can break these old habits and grow gorgeous hair.
Hair porosity, density & strand thickness
Do not focus on what type of curls you have. This is the least important thing. The most important thing to know from the beginning is your hair porosity. Porosity is how porous your hair is. Porosity ranges from Low-normal-high. Knowing this will tell you how to keep your hair moisturized. Which is crucial in keeping your length. If your hair is low porosity the cuticles on your hair strand lay flat and you have trouble getting moisture in but once you do, it will stay moisturized for a while. Warm water will help to open up the cuticle. Heat is also needed to deep condition. Your hair will take a long time to dry. It usually takes low porosity hair a long time to dry. Low porosity hair can become high porosity with the use of heat, chemicals and, rough handling. Low porosity doesn’t need as much protein as high porosity hair. If your hair is normal porosity you don’t have many problems with moisturizer. If you have high porosity hair like I do, your hair has holes/gaps in it. It May or may not be from self- damage it could just be how your hair is. High porosity hair will soak up moisture fast but because of the gaps in the cuticle, it won’t hold the moisture. High porosity hair dries quickly and easily, mattes and tangles no matter what you do, especially if your hair is kinky. You’ll need to keep your hair stretched to retain length and prevents knots, this is extremely important. Heat is not necessary when deep conditioning because the cuticles (outer most layer of hair) are already open.
Any kind of heat styling on high porosity hair will further damage it and make it more porous. It will break easier than any other hair porosity. High porosity hair, like all natural hair, needs to be handled with extra care and loves protein treatments. Check out “green beauty” protein or try rice water rinses. This temporarily fills in the gaps. Apple cider vinegar and cold water rinses help to close the cuticle (outer most layer of hair) after washing and it helps with your hair’s ph balance. There are many tests to see what your porosity is. Your hair may be in between these porosity levels.
Now hair density and individual strand size (width) are another thing. There are ways to determine this. If you can easily see your scalp, you have low- density hair. If not, you have high- density. You can be in between and have medium density. I have high density, thin strands but my strands don’t look thin because I have high density (a lot of ) hair. Your hair may look like mine but hates the products that my hair likes. High porosity hair usually has thinner strands because of the gaps in the hair. All of this will determine what products and hair styles your hair will like.
I know this is all overwhelming but it becomes easier and you will have to try many products and go through trial and error to find what works for you. Nobody can tailor your hair regime but you. Thinner density strands don’t need thick products. They will weigh the hair down and they will sit on the hair. Thicker hair needs thicker butter, cream and oil to moisturize and seal.
Education and research:
You have to educate yourself about your hair. Nobody will care for it as you do. No stylist will listen to your needs and concerns. It’s a Fact. They want to do as many heads as they can to make money. They only care about the end result, not the care of your hair. If you want long hair you need to do everything yourself. EVERYTHING! You have to get used to all aspects of natural hair care. Most naturals who are waist length or longer will tell you that they do their own hair. Very few trust stylists. I only let others touch my hair for twists or braids. Even then, make sure you know how to choose the right person, research them. If they pull to tight on your edges, hold the hair or tell them. If they continue to braid too tight, get up and leave. Period! Don’t be scared or you will pay them and lose your hair or pay them and go home to take the braids out.
Growing up we were taught to stay away from water. Our hair is like a plant, plants dry up and die without water so does hair. Water is a good way to Moisturize hair. It is essential for hair growth. We were taught that water dries our hair out but how much sense does that make? It’s water! When we wet our hair it shrinks, shrinkage lets us know that it’s healthy and undamaged. But letting your hair shrink after washing it is a no, no. It causes tangles and matting, which will cause unnecessary detangling and extra handling. If your hair is colored, relaxed or heat damaged, and won’t curl, it is damaged. These things break down the bonds in our hair and they can’t be built back up. It has to be cut. Protein is only a temporary fix. Applying water to the hair adds moisture but we have to seal that moisture in with other products. This is called sealing in moisture or moisturizing and sealing. There are different methods to seal in moisture. I use the LCO method, on wet hair I use a leave-in conditioner or regular conditioner as the liquid. Then I use an Organic whipped butter that I make as my C or cream and O because it has oil in it or good oil grease. I do this every wash day, which is once a week after my hair routine. But your hair may like the LOC method better. I use to do this but my hair likes the LCO better. During the week my hair needs to be moisturized often so I still spray my ends daily to keep them moist. For this, I do the LCO in a spray bottle and just spray my ends in the morning. Your hair may need to be moisturized daily, once a week or every 3 days. It depends on your hair. But your hair should never get dry. This causes your hair to break and you will not see length. Cowashing will make your hair feel moisturized but if you cowash too much without clarifying with a Shampoo, your hair will begin to feel dry and brittle. This is because the conditioner has built a film on the top layer of your hair and is blocking moisture from getting in. Cowashing only is like washing your body with lotion, it will feel moisturized for a while but it won’t be clean. If you use heat too much you will experience more dryness. For maximum length retention, I recommend no heat. even blow dryers. Your ends should be moisturized really good all the time. They are the oldest and most fragile and need the most care.
Deep conditioning is crucial to maintaining moisture levels. Depending on your hair it should be done at least twice a month. I found that I had hard water which caused my hair to be dry and brittle. You may need a shower filter. Also, many products contain alcohol in them, some alcohols are good for our hair and some are not. Some will cause you to have dry and brittle hair, do your research on these alcohols.
And last but not least, many women have hair that is sensitive to protein and Coconut oil. Some people find that any product that contains protein or coconut oil will make their hair dry and brittle, I’m one of those people. Our hair needs protein but you have to find the right protein and moisture balance.
The hair myths
Black women have hair that grows slower than the rest of the world. Searchers say that our hair grows the same way as the rest of the world, we just don’t know how to care for it because it’s so kinky and curly. Hair growth rate can vary for many reasons.
a) Genetics play a part in it. What we eat can help our hair grow longer and healthier, taking supplements, exercising, & drinking water but for the most part, our hair grows just the same as everyone else’s.
b) You need to trim your hair so it can grow. Hair grows from the scalp, not the ends, so how does this make sense to anybody? Our hair only needs to be trimmed when necessary. Hair with split ends will still grow, hair always grows. But if the split ends aren’t cut off, they will split all the way up the strand, so they need to be taken care of. If you are needing a trim every 2-3 months or weeks you are doing something wrong and causing damage. If you are properly caring for your hair, you shouldn’t have to trim often. Many people trim twice a year. Split ends are caused by heat, rough handling and chemicals. If you are trimming your hair every 2-3 weeks or months you will not see growth. U have to figure out what’s causing the split ends and damage. Learn to trim your own hair to ensure you cut only what you want to cut.
There are many methods to trim hair. I usually trim my hair in twists. It doesn’t have to be even, because I never wear it straight. You can blow dry it and cut where you can see the ends looking damaged or see-through or you can trust someone else to trim your hair (not recommended)
c) Our hair needs grease on the scalp. NO! Heavy greases will clog the pores on your scalp and stunt growth. Our scalp produces a natural oil called sebum. White people have straight hair so the sebum travels down the strand easier, which is why their hair gets oily fast. Our hair is oily and curly so the scalp sebum gets trapped and doesn’t travel down our strands as easy hints the dry hair. Grease does not Moisturize the scalp. If your hair is dry and you put grease on it, it only seals in dryness because you didn’t add moisture (water) first. Your scalp needs to be clean at all times to breath and allow maximum growth and decrease bacterial growth. I’m not saying don’t use grease, as a rule, most naturals don’t use it because it has mineral oil and petroleum in it. These things aren’t the best choices for your hair but many people use them as sealants and they work well for them. If you must put something on your scalp because of excessive dryness, use a light natural oil like vitamin E, grapeseed or almond oil.
d) You can wash your hair when it’s in braids or weaves. I don’t care how cute it is. Clean your scalp and hair if you want it to grow. I have washed my braids and twists and sprayed them to moisturize them. I don’t care how frizzy they get. If you have braids or twists and don’t want them to frizz clean your scalp with sea breeze and lightly spray them with the LCO in a bottle. If you don’t care for your hair when it’s in a protective style, it’s not really protected and when you take out your hair, it will be dry and brittle and break. You have to learn how to care for your hair before, during and after wearing braids and weaves to get growth.
e) A regular conditioner is not a deep conditioner. Use a thick, preferably natural creamy deep conditioner. It’s formulated to penetrate deeper.
f) With color and perm, your hair may look healthy but not necessarily
g) Products and techniques do not make your hair grow fast. They only aide it to be healthy and strong. Your hair is going to grow How it grows. Retention is what’s important.
h) Our hair is not unmanageable. It’s harder to manage but with proper techniques, we can get the job done.
i) Natural hair doesn’t cost too much. It costs more to get relaxers and go to salons. It can be as cheap or as expensive as you choose.
j) Silicones are bad for your hair. Do your research. Some hair likes silicons.
k) Our scalp needs to be cleaned. The shampoo is for your scalp and conditioner is for the hair shaft. Co-washing (conditioner washing) is good every once in a while but clarifying your scalp is essential for growth. You can use ACV and baking powder or clay washes to cleanse scalp also.
l) If you have curly, kinky hair, you cannot wash your hair like a Vo5 commercial. You have to do your entire wash day routine with your hair in sections. I use 6 to 8 sections every wash day, you may use more or less depending on how thick your hair is. This makes washing so much easier. I rarely use combs. I use my fingers to detangle my hair in the shower under running water with conditioner or shampoo. Finger detangling is the best way to feel knots and prevent split ends and breakage. It will help to retain more length.
m) We cannot sleep on cotton, we must keep our hair away from cotton headwear or pillowcases. These things suck out moisture and cause dryness, which will cause breakage.
n) You can only fix split ends temporarily with treatments or cut them.
Protective styling can help your hair grow tremendously if done right. I protective style with beanies, wigs, and twists most of the time. I rarely wear my hair out because it has grown my hair out longer than its ever been. Everyone doesn’t like protective styles. Do what works for you. Protective styles are different from low manipulation styles. Look up the difference. When our hair is left out for too long it can become dry from the sun or the cold. Protective styles help to protect our ends from drying and breaking off. Hair will grow without protective styling but chances are it will thrive with protective styling. But, you must still care for your hair in protective styles.
Vitamins, minerals, and exercise:
Most Americans don’t eat enough foods rich in the nutrients that our hair needs. If this is you, you should be on supplements to support healthy hair growth. Supplements in liquid form are even better, they get into your blood quicker and are more potent. They absorb 90% faster. Some really good supplements that help with hair thickness and growth are horsetail, MSM, silica, folic acid, biotin, zinc or a multivitamin with all of these. Biotin has been known to cause breakouts so be sure to drink plenty of water every day. Exercise also aids in growth. It makes the blood flow and circulates to the scalp. It also helps your body get rid of toxins. If you work out a lot, be sure to cowash more often. The salt from your scalp can dry your hair out.
How and when you wash your hair is totally up to your hairs needs. I wash once a week with shampoo. I’m going to try doing every other week because it can be daunting once your hair gets to a certain length. When washing, I only shampoo my scalp to cleanse it. The rest of the shampoo will run down the strands. No need to shampoo all of your hair unless it has grease or heavy products in it, this will dry your ends out. Shampoo was designed to cleanse the scalp and conditioner was designed to Moisturize the hair, not for your scalp. Try to Choose shampoos that are natural with no parabens, fragrance or sulfates. These things are ok to use but not often. There are other all natural ways to cleanse your hair and scalp for Ex: apple cider vinegar, clay washes, cowashes (occasionally), DIY African black soap shampoo, shikakai or soap nuts. The last 2 are Ayurvedic, that’s a whole other article.
The goal with natural hair is to find ways to not strip your moisture. Lack of moisture doesn’t equal long hair.
Always go straight to the ingredients list!! The first 5 ingredients are what the product mostly consists of. There are so many ingredients in most products that we should avoid if we want our hair to thrive, it is very important that you recognize these ingredients and steer clear of them. Using all natural and organic products will help your hair to be its healthiest. I buy store bought products but I also make many of my own. Here is my list of ingredients to avoid: products with heavy perfumes, certain alcohols, mineral oil, synthetic colors, sulfates can be good sometimes because they strip dirt and oil but can also over dry your hair if used too much, silicones can be good sometimes for some people but they can build up and need to be stripped with shampoo.
Caring for your scalp is super important. It is the base, the foundation of healthy hair growth. You must keep your scalp clean to promote growth and ensure bacteria doesn’t build up. Everyone’s scalp is different. We all produce a natural oil called “sebum” some, more than others. If your scalp is dry do not, I repeat, do not grease it. This will only irritate it, clog your pores, stunt growth and make it itch more because the heavy grease will attract more dirt. Instead, use a light natural oil. My scalp hates anything on it, it has to be clean, any oil makes it itch. Using a vanity planet scalp massager on wash day will help to remove dirt and dandruff from your scalp and increase blood flow in your scalp, which will aid in growth. If you have extra oily scalp you may need to shampoo only your scalp once a week. But always deep condition after shampooing to add moisture back in. Never put conditioner on your scalp. It will build up and clog your pores, this may cause further scalp irritation. If your scalp is itchy and you always grease it, try not putting anything on it after u shampoo. If it’s too dry grab a light natural oil instead of heavy grease. Some people have scalp conditions and may need to see a dermatologist.
Breakage vs shedding:
These are 2 different things: Our hair sheds between 50-100 strands a day. It may look like a lot because our hair is so curly. This is normal. Shed hair normally has a white bulb at the tip of the strand because it came from your scalp. This can’t be prevented. There are ways to slow down shedding. Black tea rinses are one. Any strands that are shorter than your hair and don’t have a white bulb are hairs that have broken off. This is not good and not normal and must be stopped to grow long hair. You can also get long strands of breakage if you are transitioning (growing a relaxer out) because your relaxed hair is much weaker than your new growth. This is called the line of demarcation. Possible causes for breakage include protein overload, moisture overload, too much heat, rough handling and improper use of styling tools, not moisturizing at all, relaxers, hair color, stress, medical issues, not drinking or eating healthy, cotton pillowcases and scarves, not protecting your ends.
You do not need a lot of products to go natural, you can find 3-4 products that work for you and stick with them. It’s always better to stick with products with ingredients that you can easily pronounce or to make your own so you can put exactly what your hair likes in them but if you don’t do this your hair can still grow as I said before, read labels and know what the ingredients are. Treat your hair like a baby or the finest silk and it will grow.
By Crystal Fields