on hair- lessons learned
So I’ve been natural (chemical free) for almost 14 years. By many online standards, I’m a “Nappy Vet.” While that might be true time-wise, I’m still learning how to care for the health of my hair. Most of those 14 years were spent wearing my hair in a TWA (teeny weeny afro), cut close, or in locs. The times I tried to grow my hair out, I damaged it either with excessive heat, combing it with dye, and/or dye. Actually, since I cut my locs in 2004, I had to gradually cut 2 years of growth due to dye-damage.
14 years later, I’m getting closer to figuring out what works and doesn’t work for my hair. I’m trying to develop a hair “regimen” so this blog is as much for my records as much as it’s for anyone else that’s curious about Black natural hair.
What didn’t work
- Suave conditioners– I swore by these for YEARS only to discover that it was not doing enough for me
- Combing my hair dry.
- Blowdrying my hair with every wash.
- Old school marcel irons
- Aloe vera gel
- Hair “grease”/petroleum-based products/greasing my scalp
- Pure glycerin in dry weather
- Shake-and-go (after a certain length and with no manipulation)
- Going more than 2 weeks without washing (trust me, that’s REALLY pushing it)
- Using oils or butters as the only means of moisturizing
- Coconut oil (way too light)
- Sleeping with no head covering
- Dye of any sort (permanent, semi-permanent, etc)
- Washing with twists in
- Twisting my new growth (when loced–I needed to latch instead)
- Detangling with conditioner. See my alternative method below.
- Using a brush that had any sort of balls or beads at the tips. They snag and rip the CRAP out of my hair.
- Trying to concoct all my own products. I have NO time for that.
- Airdrying roller-sets to flat iron. This led to dry, crinkly roots. I’ll leave that to the professionals.
- Using spray heat protectants for flat-ironing. Applying the heat protectant right before you flat iron. Using too low heat so you have to make several passes.
- Anything that’s not the regimen below.
What IS working
- Using Porosity Control after I wash but before I condition. Using diluted apple cider vinegar was okay, but not as good as PC for me. This solved 50% of my dry hair issues. I thought my hair didn’t “like” certain ingredients, only to discover that I had very porous hair which meant that moisture escaped it as soon as it touched it.
- Moisturizing my hair with a water-based product. Sealing it in with an oil-based cream. This solved the other 50% of my dryness issue. For TOO many years, I was doing one or the other, never both, and had the crunchiest, driest hair ever. I thought it was normal to snap off sprigs of hair daily.
- Detangling before I wash using only the pressure of the shower head and the oils already in my hair. Using conditioner just gunked up the comb, snagged my hair, took forever, and was gross. It takes me less than 5 minutes to detangle my hair.
- Washing, PC, Condition once a week. Co-washing (PC and Condish) mid-week. (Unless it’s a flat-iron week/10 days)
- Deep-conditioning my hair weekly with one of these 3 methods: Steaming my hair with conditioner is the ultimate. A close-second is pre-pooing with conditioner and a thick oil such as castor oil (let it sit with plastic cap and knit hat for about an hour or more, wash, PC, regular conditioner for like 5 minutes). Deep-conditioning once a week (thick conditioner with plastic cap under hooded dryer or with knit cap for 45 minutes minimum to all day if you like).
- When I flat iron, I let my hair mostly air dry, then apply moisturizer and heat protectant one section at a time, then blow dry on a cool setting while using a denman-type brush. It is key that hair was already thoroughly detangled so as not to stress the hair out any further with the dryer.
- During the winter, wearing my hair straight for about 2 weeks and then taking a 4 week break really helps minimize any type of manipulation I need to do for my hair. The timing and the above prep-method really minimizes heat damage.
- Deep conditioning, the prep method, and the right temperature leaves the best flat-ironing job with no heat damage.
- When wearing an “out” style, setting my hair in twists with clipped roots under a hooded dryer to achieve the style versus air drying really leaves my hair soft and detangled, which further minimizes breakage.
- Using old pantyhose as hair scrunchies/ties (just wrap, wrap, wrap, tie) instead of elastics also saves my hair.
- For shampoo (in order of what’s working best): Deva Curl Low Poo cleanser, Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa Balancing Moisturizing Shampoo, Splash Organics Amla Soap (I think that’s the name of it. They are changing their name and company). When I do the pre-poo or my hair is just extra I’ve been using Neutrogena Triple Moisture Shampoo. I don’t love it, but it’ll do for now.
- For conditioners, I’ve gone back to stuff that used to work for me in the past (newly natural, childhood natural days)–> Pantene Curls Conditioner for regular use (and even my deep conditioner too). Im using Herbal Essence’s Hello Hydration but it’s a bit too thick for my co-wash needs and I don’t like it as much as Pantene. I’m not sure if I’m going to repurchase it and keep it as a backup, but it’s going back in the drawer instead of my shower shelf. Finally, I like Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa Balancing Moisturizing Conditioner if I’m doing a light co-wash.
- My moisturizer and sealant of choice are Karen’s Body Beautiful Hair Nectar and Hair Creme. If I feel the need to moisturize and seal between washes, it works best if I do it at night and use a lighter oil instead of creme if my ends will be hidden the next day. If I’m going to be wearing an “out” style, creme is a necessary sealant for mid week.
- I must, must, must put something on my hair when I go to bed whether it be a satin scarf or satin bonnet. I make sure that I tuck my ends (braid, twist, twisty bun and tuck, or just fold and tuck) and I sleep on a satin pillowcase, as a back up.
Okay I know that’s a pretty long list (and trust me that this is the edited version), but after 14 years I think it’s necessary.
I do want to state that I didn’t make up any of these methods, but have picked them up over time from black hair care message boards. I’ve tailored the ideas to what works best for *my* hair.
Shout outs to: