Understanding – Observe your hair under different circumstances, different climates. Learn to understand what your hair does, not what you want it to do and build on that. Look inward at your own hair, not outward at someone else’s.
Look, listen and learn – It’s a given that other naturals know more than I do, especially if their hair is thick and long and beautiful, right? I’m so teachable!
Protection: At night, protect the hairline with a silk head wrap, guard against friction with a silk pillowcase. Anchor the hair in a loose puff or large twists so it doesn’t shift or rub against itself. During the day, I wear my hair out 95% of the time. Protection means the right products applied to each strand and a soft, aloe-vera based gel for hold. And no touching! (that one is hard.)
Know your hair’s width and porosity – More important than knowing if your curl type is 3c, 4a or 4b is knowing whether your strands are fine, medium or coarse and how porous they are. Fine and coarse refers to the diameter of your hair strand, not the feel of your hair. Porous refers to how open or smoothed (closed) the surface (cuticle) of your hair is. Fine, porous hair reacts differently to products and the environment than does coarse, non-porous hair. It also needs to be handled differently. Each hair type has its own issues. Fine, porous hair tends to need more moisturizing and strengthening products. Coarse, smooth hair can be subject to quicker product build up.
Layers of moisture – This means water. Moisturizing shampoos like shampoo bars or cleansing creams or a gentle castile soap (they aren’t all equal). And liberal doses of conditioners with great slip, moisture and a little of the right protein for my hair. A little butter or oil. More conditioner. And those aloe-vera based gels. Dirt-based deep treatments (Rhassoul clay, sisyphus spina christi) year round, moisturizing deep treatments in the winter.
Gentle detangling – if my cleanser is cleansing without stripping and my conditioner is loaded with slip and moisture, then I can finger detangle easily. A little Karens Body Beautiful Hair Milk added to conditioner boosts its detangling ability. I do this at most twice a week.
Regular trims - I get ends trimmed and shape adjusted 3 times a year. My hair is easiest to style a month after a cut.
Low manipulation – After I style my hair wet, I leave it alone for up to 3 days, except to gather it into a pony puff at night, let it down in the morning and scrunch a little DevaCurl Set it Free and butter into it. No combing or brushing. When I dry twist at night, I use my fingers only to separate, and a little more product to smooth.
Forget about growth, learn how to retain length –
If you’re healthy, growth is a given. Retaining length is the hard part. Transitioning to gray showed me just how fast my hair grows — and how fast the ends break. By babying my ends and boosting moisture to keep them hydrated, smooth and soft, I help my fragile ends stay put instead of snapping off like dry twigs. If I’m doing dry twists, a moisturizing custard or lotion gets smoothed on the ends of those twists. If I’m bunning, the ends get moisturized with a lotion and a little baobab oil. On the second and third day of my wash and go I scrunch a moisture lock lotion and a little butter onto my ends. When my ends stay soft, my hair retains length.
Celebrate each success, and learn from the challenges.