Congratulations on having begun your natural-hair journey! You and thousands of other women have all reached a point where you ask yourselves, “How do I grow healthy, fabulous hair?”
Let’s get one thing straight: Hair texture can vary substantially (even within families!), and understanding your own hair’s needs at different points is important during your healthy-hair journey. As with everything else in life, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Let’s start off with those ‘twysted’ tales we’ve all been told:
1. “My hair doesn’t grow”– Of course it does! Everyone’s hair grows! If your hair appears the same length year after year, it is simply that it is breaking at the same rate as it’s growing. Hair retention is a key factor in having healthy, luxurious hair.
2. “Only natural-hair people can have long hair”– Nope. With proper care, relaxed (or creamed) hair can be every bit as long as natural hair! It’s most often recommended because it is much easier to achieve your length goals. Not to mention that natural hair rocks!
3. “Long hair runs in the family”– While genetics contributes to how fast your hair grows (between 4 and 6 inches a year), only your hair habits will determine hair retention. You could have the fastest-growing hair, but if your hair is breaking at the same rate that it grows, it remains the same length.
Set your hair goals: THIS IS IMPORTANT! Whenever you start out on a new project in your home or work life, you should always have an end goal in mind. Your hair journey should be approached the same way; state what EXACTLY you want to achieve from your journey. If all you ask for is healthier, thicker hair, then most likely this is what you will get. If you want waist-length hair, then start your journey with that goal in mind.
Wash your hair once every 7-10 days: I can almost imagine most women with natural hair cringing at this point – “Wash it every week? But I just got it to behave!” The curly and super-curly (aka ‘kinky’) hair type is the most fragile of hair types because it is dry and porous. Try using a shampoo that does not contain harsh agents such as sulphates and alcohols that will contribute to excessive ‘drying out’ of your hair. Your hair is more likely to break when it is dry, so weekly deep conditioning will restore the hair’s moisture balance.
Moisturize and seal regularly (every day or every other day is a good routine): Oil is not a moisturizer! Oil is only great for ‘sealing’ moisture into your hair when applied straight after the moisturizer or water, and it works superb as “pre-poo” (pre-shampoo) treatment to prevent excessive dryness from shampooing. An effective hair moisturizer should either be plain water or should at least have water as the first ingredient. Contrary to popular belief, water is not the enemy. Find out how your hair reacts to certain carrier and essential oils at certain times or seasons in the year. Remember that not everything works for everybody, so even if your granny swears by olive oil, it does not mean it’s going to work for you and your hair!
Get protein treatments every 6-8 weeks: Protein treatments are used to replace protein lost during chemical treatments. Protein is the main component in hair, and some of it is lost daily during most styling processes, including heat styling, combing and just general manipulation. The protein in hair keeps hair strong and helps to prevent breakage. If protein that is lost is not replaced, the hair will become weak and eventually break. This will limit the length the hair can grow.
Use appropriate hair care products & tools: This step will involve a learning curve, as we all have uniquely original hair and the hair care products that you eventually choose will reflect this. Natural hair care products are numerous and diverse, and it can become a bit confusing trying to decide what products to buy. In truth, this is a trial-and-error phase. You may find that a product that everyone else is raving about doesn’t do much for your hair, while you absolutely adore a product that everyone else has dismissed. Once you learn which ingredients to avoid, finding new products to try will be a wonderful learning process. Natural hair needs different care from relaxed hair, so find out what your hair type is and what works well for you!
Style your hair for success: One of the more effective tips for long-term hair care is protective styling. Lots of us probably take styling for granted, but how you wear your hair most of the time is probably the single most important determinant in how long your hair will eventually become. Excess manipulation will be the death of your long hair dreams. No promises on the packaging of hair growth oils or other black hair products can beat the retention power of a low protective hairstyle.
Develop a solid hair care routine/regimen: A regimen is simply a routine that you follow in all aspects of your hair care, and all the steps above will help you develop a killer regimen. Committing to a hair care regimen not only makes you see visually what you will be doing to your hair and when, but it also frees your mind from the notion that you will have to be “dealing” with your hair every day in order to grow it. That is simply not true – in fact the best way of retaining length is to do as little to your hair as possible while still doing what is necessary!
Avoid rubber bands, tight braids, sharp hair clips and any products that contain alcohol.
Remember the important factors to maintaining healthy hair: proper protective styling, moisturising and surface treatment.
Have questions? Feel free to ask!