When it comes to natural hair, one size most definitely does not fit all. It takes trial and error to secure a firm grasp on what our individual heads of hair like and dislike. Such is the case for nearly everything in life. However, with the emergence of natural hair blogs, forums, and YouTube videos, naturalistas now have an extra set of hands that serve as guides to finding the right styling methods, tools, oils, puddings, and pomades to help their springy locks flourish.
If you’re like me and you’ve spent hours upon hours scouring the interwebs for any crumb of information on how to make your ‘fro grow, you’re well-aware that there’s an unwritten set of rules for naturals to abide by—such as, ‘Thou shalt only utilize juice and berries from the Earth’ and ‘Thou shalt not utilize direct heat in any capacity.’
You chucked every last product with any trace of a synthetic, completely neglected your prized blow dryer and flat iron, and stockpiled your hair arsenal with beaucoup coconut oil, shea butter, and silicone-free conditioners. Convinced that you were armed and prepared for battle with your coily crowning glory, you finger detangled, pre-poo, sealed, and cowashed ‘til the cows came home.
Again, if you and I are anything alike, these seemingly advantageous routines worked like a charm for a brief moment, only to eventually forsake you during your most desperate hour. You constantly racked your brain and pleadingly sought help from your hair crushes, wondering where you went wrong.
Well, I’m here to bestow upon you a smattering of comfort—it is okay to bend “the rules” a bit. If you find that the supposed “best” methods are a bust, fret not. As a reformed apostle of The Natural Hair Bible, I’m going to share with you five natural hair “don’ts” that have been greatly beneficial in my hair journey:
1) So Fresh and So Clean, Clean – Cleansing your hair with conditioner (more commonly referred to as ‘cowashing’) has become a staple for tons of women with naturally curly/coily/kinky hair. I remember diving headfirst into this phenomenon at the beginning of my transition, but after my third cowashing session, my scalp tapped me on my shoulder and whispered, “Uh, sis… what you doin’?”
It was then that I discovered my hair and scalp’s tendency to accumulate buildup fairly quickly. To remedy that, I adopted a ‘wash weekly with a gentle shampoo’ routine; for the most part, my scalp is happy. My personal staple cleanser? Shea Moisture’s Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo. Liquid gold, I tell you.
2) The Root of the Matter – Detangling has got to be most dreaded part of the wash and style process, am I right, ladies? It’s practically a bicep workout. Even during the Creamy Crack Era, we were instructed to comb through our hair from ends to root, in order to prevent breakage. This may seem nonsensical, but for me, that particular approach resulted in adverse effects. Slowly working my fingers and combs up the hair strand only put unnecessary stress on my already fragile ends—causing snaps and more frequent trims.
My detangling sessions now consist of the following: applying my preferred moisturizer to a medium sized section of hair, slightly separating major tangles with my fingers, spreading my sealant along the section, and (starting from the root) gliding a wide tooth comb down my hair shaft. I gently work the comb through my ends; if I encounter a big tangle, I put down the comb and gently rake my fingers through it. With this technique, I’ve incurred significantly less breakage.
3) Can’t Get Enough of That Gunky Stuff – Silicones and petroleum and mineral oil. Oh my! We’ve been conditioned to believe that synthetic ingredients are practically the Devil materialized and should be avoided at all costs. Numerous internet sources (and sometimes, our own natural hair sistren) warned us of how these synthetics could be both internally and externally harmful. Initially, I avoided silicones, mineral oil, petroleum, and other so-called “unhealthy” ingredients like the bubonic plague.
It wasn’t until I picked up the Garnier Fructis Leave In Conditioning Cream that a lightbulb went off in my head. I soon realized that the very ingredients that supposedly prohibited moisture retention actually left my hair feeling softer, stronger, and springier than ever. Just to be on the safe side, I detoxify my hair with a bentonite clay mask (on a bi-monthly basis), in order to clear it of all residue. My personal favorite “gunky” hair products are the ORS Hair Mayonnaise aaaaaand…
4) Stay Greased Up – …Blue Magic. You heard right. Blue Magic hair grease. Now, I don’t recall my mother using Blue Magic on my hair as a child, but she always kept a jar of grease handy for braiding sessions. Actually, my mother still uses hair grease to this day; although she hasn’t yet crossed over to the natural side, my mom has been able to maintain healthy relaxed hair over the years.
I personally rediscovered grease through YouTube and, once natural oils no longer worked for me, I decided to give it a whirl. After moisturizing my hair, I take a small dollop of Blue Magic, smooth it through, detangle gently, and twist. The result? A lustrous, bouncy, stretched, uber defined twistout that lasts for days. Magic indeed.
5) Tuck It Away – Protective styling is not for me. It just isn’t. Most natural hair gurus make the suggestion of tucking away your ends as a means to grow your hair longer, stronger, and faster. As for me, protective styling only leaves my hair feeling dry, brittle, and weak—even after a hot oil treatment and deep conditioning session. I’ve found that keeping my hair in a stretched state (via a twistout) works for me. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If you’re following all “the rules” only to find frustration, I hope you give at least one of these tips a whirl. Please remember that your head of hair is uniquely beautiful and has the potential to flourish to your heart’s desire.