1. Just because my hair is not chemically treated does not mean that it will automatically be healthier and grow longer. My hair is naturally thin and dry, so I have to be gentle with it, keep it moisturized and protect it from drying factors like wind, cotton sheets and wool sweaters/coats. When I first decided to go natural, I had this idea that with no chemicals and little heat, my hair would be so strong and resilient that I'd be able to wear it out all the time without any consequences. This is NOT the case. I get single strand knots very easily, which I did not get when I was relaxed, so this is something I didn't anticipate. This leads me to my next discovery.
2. Since my hair is prone to single strand knots, I have to keep my hair stretched most of the time to avoid them. I stretch through banding, braiding and blow drying. Although my favorite style is a twist out with no rollers at the end, my ends do better when they are stretched with a roller. I make sure that I don't blow dry more than once a month, and I keep it on the medium setting. In the summertime, I don't blow dry at all. I hardly get regular split ends at all anymore, which is great. But damaged ends are still damaged ends, so I have to keep certain hairstyles to a minimum to avoid the knots.
3. Protective styling is the best thing I can do for my hair for length and moisture retention. Like I said earlier, I really thought that I'd be able to wear my hair down all the time if I was natural, but that just doesn't work for me. Yeah, I get bored with it sometimes; but since I've been bunning for the past couple of months, my hair has really been thriving, so it's worth it. Plus, I find all kinds of ideas for styles online and it forces me to be creative. There are so many options with natural hair and my hair is now thick enough and textured enough to give me lots of options.