By Chinwe of Hair and Health
The setback. Your stylist cuts off much more hair than you anticipated. Your first time at flat-ironing results in permanently straight, heat-damaged strands. Your attempt at a henna treatment leaves your hair brittle and breaking.
Many of us have heard “horror stories” about a setback that stunted a hair care journey. Some of us have actually experienced one in the past and never want to experience one again. Whichever boat you’re in, the following six steps can help you avoid a future setback:
1. Speak up at the salon
Before you allow the stylist to touch your hair, voice your preferences. Do you want heat used on your hair or not? If so, what level of heat? Do you want a trim? If so, how many inches? I have heard so many stories about clients leaving a salon with heat damage or more hair cut off than desired. I, myself, experienced a setback years ago – breakage and a cut – after a visit to a popular salon. Just because your stylists are professionals or the salon is well known, does not mean that your hair is invincible to experiencing a setback. Speak up to your stylist and be assertive while you are at it. Let your stylist know your limits when it comes to your hair. Do not be passive.
2. Care for your hair yourself
Sometimes, the best way to avoid a setback is to care for your hair yourself, or to become a do-it-yourselfer (DIYer). I know that, for me, this was the best decision I made for my hair. The reality is, that while stylists are trained to style and care for hair, they may not know how to style and care for “your” hair. Each individual’s tresses are unique to that person. What works for me may not work for you, and vise versa. When it comes to our own hair, sometimes we know it better than anyone else. This is all the more reason why caring for your hair yourself may be a better option for you.
3. Do a strand test or a section test
Unfortunately, doing a strand test (or even a section test) is underrated. When it comes to damage from heat or chemicals, some setbacks can be avoided by merely doing such a test. In order to reduce the possibility of heat damage, try experimenting on one small section near the back of your hair first. Then wet that section and see if it reverts successfully. If it does, then chances are you are good to go ahead with the rest of your hair. If not, then you can easily disguise that section and have avoided a possible disaster to the rest of your hair. For color, try dyeing a small section of hair and seeing whether breakage or texture change occurs in the weeks or months to come. If not, then chances are you are fine to color the rest of your hair. If so, then you, again, have avoided a potential setback.
4. Do your “own” research
I emphasize “own” because the World Wide Web is not free from misinformation. Just because a particular hair care guru says, “shea oil is bad for the hair,” does not mean his or her statement is true. Doing your own research can decrease your chances of experiencing certain setbacks.
Additionally, learn all you need to know about a technique or product before trying it. If you want to use heat, learn what temperature ranges are dangerous for the hair. If you want to try co-washing, learn what conditioner types are unsafe to leave on the hair. When it comes to products, familiarize yourself with the ingredients label in relation to what substances your hair likes and dislikes.
5. Be patient
Patience is extremely important when it comes to progressing in your hair care journey and avoiding setbacks. If you detangle your hair in a hurry, you can potentially experience more breakage than if you were to take your time. If you turn to high, direct heat in order to avoid hours of air-drying your hair, you can potentially experience split ends from heat usage. If you skimp on your deep conditioning routine in order to rush to a party, you can potentially experience breakage in the days to come. Practicing patience is key.
6. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Translation: If your regimen and products are working for you, then why try to change them? Sometimes, it is best to stick with what works and leave it at that. Say your hair flourishes with water, glycerin, castor oil, and inexpensive conditioners. Why change what your hair loves? Stick with what works.
These are just some of the many ways to avoid a setback in your hair care journey.
Have you ever experienced a setback? If so, what did you learn?