When I first went natural over 5 years ago, not nearly as much information about going natural was available as there is now. Most of what I learned was through trial and error—lots of error. Truth be told, if I could do it all ever again, I’d change a lot of what I did. There are definitely some basics to going and being natural that would have helped me back then.
Here are five basic things every new natural should know that will definitely help you avoid hardship down the road. If you’re a seasoned natural, share these tips with someone just starting out. Or, share some of your own in the comments!
1. Protective Styling is a method, not a way of life.
While protective styling (tucking your ends away in a style such as wigs, braids, twists, or buns to help retain length) can certainly be beneficial to natural hair, it can easily become harmful for a couple of reasons. For one, if you over-protective style, especially with extensions, your hair can become extremely dry, which could potentially worsen the state of your hair.
Secondly, if you protective style too often, you’ll never really get to know your hair because it’s always tucked away. So when you do choose to wear your hair in a natural style such as a wash and go or twist out, you won’t know what works for your hair and it might result in an epic fail. Your hair needs to “breathe” in between protective styles. And whenever you remove a style, you should always do a deep treatment to replenish the moisture your hair hasn’t been able to receive while put away.
2. Natural hair isn’t “one size fits all.”
I say this a lot because I even have to remind myself of this sometimes. Just because another natural’s hair looks or seems like yours, doesn’t mean your hair will respond the same as theirs to a certain style or product. Some naturals can get away with using heat and/or color often and without damage while others can cause heat damage with just one pass.
The key is to get to know your hair, what works best for your texture, and what’s going to be the most convenient method for your lifestyle, which can change overtime. Be open to tweaking your method and your products until you discover what your hair responds well to.
3. The health of your hair is your responsibility.
So do your research. I’m constantly researching and learning about natural hair- not just for the sake of writing about it, but because I want to know the best ways to keep my hair at its optimum health. If you engage in poor hair habits such as excessive heat styling/coloring, over-manipulation, or neglecting your hair by not moisturizing, properly detangling, and deep conditioning the hair, then you shouldn’t be surprised when you have to get it cut or find that it stays around the same length.
If your goal is to grow longer hair or even to just maintain healthy hair, it will require effort but it will also be well worth the effort when you achieve your hair goals. For me, the best part about going natural was learning that I could grow my hair longer and healthier than it had ever been when I was going to stylists regularly, all because I made the health of my hair my business and therefore starting treating it with extreme care.
4. A word on major hair decisions…
… such as a drastic cut or color job. Some will tell you, “go for it!” while others will say, “take some time and think about it first” but really, that completely depends on your personality. Many Type 4 naturals have colored their hair on a whim or even after having pondered the decision for some time and still regretted it. Others have been completely happy with their decision, even it means having to nurse their hair back to health later. And others find that their hair prospers after a major cut or remains healthy after coloring.
Whatever you do, always take a page from tip #3 and do your research. Know what you’re getting yourself into and find a stylist who comes highly recommended. You may not know how you’ll feel about it 6 months or a year later but you can an idea because you know yourself better than anyone.
Another thing to consider: what are your hair goals right now? If it’s health and length, will this major hair decision help or hinder that? If you just want to have some fun with your hair, is something permanent the answer? Ask yourself first.
5. Enjoy your hair!
It really is just hair, after all, so don’t get so lost in all the do’s and don’ts that you end up disliking your hair. Your hair benefits most from you giving it TLC. Don’t be afraid to try new things and enjoy the journey!