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6 Ways to Avoid Setbacks on Your Natural Hair Journey

Avatar • Sep 17, 2012

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?

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About Chinwe

Healthy hair care tips and more! http://www.healthyhairbody.com

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Carla
8 years ago

The points about going to a hair stylist are so on point. I try to go to the salon at least once a month so someone else is looking at my hair to make sure that I don’t need a trim or have damage. I feel as thought he stylist who I go to is way behind in terms of taking care of natural hair although she is natural. She mentioned that I shouldn’t straighten my hair because I’d loose my curls all together.…I was thinking maybe we should use an effective heat protectant, turn down the heat on the… Read more »

JENNID
JENNID
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Be careful. She was just warning you about heat damage. The fact that she cautioned you says she cares about the health of your hair.has nothing to do with being “current”. Many modern naturals abstain from the use of heat. All the heat protectant in the world will not stop heat damage. Nor will turining down the dial on the flat iron. Forget about the curls not coming back the breakage and dryness is unbelievable. The sad thing is that heat damage is gradual, and often goes undetected. Not trying to be the voice of doom, but heat damage is… Read more »

goyta
goyta
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

let’s put it this way. if you fear heat damage, then you should avoid heat at all costs. especially if you think your hair may be susceptible. there are only ways to minimize the potential for extreme heat damage, but in the long run, if you use it long enough and or incorrectly enough, it will rear its ugly head.

Heart Curly
8 years ago

Hair dye is a major setback even when you are taking care of it. Dying my hair requires me to pay way more attention to my hair. Now when I want to play with color I dye just the tips or one tiny section.

Heat usage is another one. I used to flat iron my hair way too much. Now I am on a no heat diet because of all the heat damage I have suffered.

Bernadette
8 years ago

My first set back happened when I went to a salon to have my hair straightened. At that time, I myself didn’t know how to take care of my hair, so I left it in the hairdressers hands. I ended up leaving the salon, with beautiful hair.…but to my horror, a week later, much of the front of my hair never reverted back to its curls. So, my lesson learned is…I needed to know my own hair care FIRST before I went to the salon to have someone else to do it. That way I can make my preferences known.… Read more »

KaraJ
KaraJ
8 years ago

I’ve had two major setbacks in my 4 year journey. First was self-inflected by coloring my hair every color in the color swatch (from blonde, copper, chocolate, and the list goes on) and not effectively taking care of my hair. The second set back is getting my hair straightened by someone who used a flat iron of 400 degrees which damaged certain areas of my hair. Through trial and error I have learned how to take care of my hair.

Alwina
Alwina
8 years ago

I agree with all the ladies thus far. The major setback is using heat. I had my hair flat-ironed a few times and heat damage was minimal. I haven’t used a blow dryer to dry my hair in about a year, but I think not using it caused split ends and breakage when I air-dried my hair and had to de-tangle dry hair to do mini-twists. I’m going back to my routine and sticking with it.

Amie
Amie
8 years ago

Yes I’ve had setbacks. 1) Getting a texturizer after my BC because I did not know how to or have the patience to learn how to take care of my new natural. The texturizer broke off my hair and in about a year, I had to start over again. 2. Allowing certified, but yet unskilled stylists straighten and color my hair. Lost a lot of hair thru shedding and breakage. I trusted her because she was the professional and I was just the DIY-er. But in essence, I knew more about my hair than she did, and all the length… Read more »

Cjay
Cjay
8 years ago
Reply to  Amie

I totally feel your pain, especially in that last statement. My hair is really a big aspect of my life. I’m constantly thinking of what new styles to make, what products to use. It seems like a never-ending journey that gets more difficult with time. But I’ve learnt a lot from natural hair blogs. It’s really encouraging to know that there are other people just like me, with not so perfect hair (gosh, some pictures are soooooo.…) Anyways, no matter what, I’m sticking to my curls. There’s no going back!!

Ms. kss
Ms. kss
8 years ago

All the hardwork I put into growing my hair, NOBODY IS ALLOWED TO DO IT BUT ME! After being natural several times I think I got it. So the above list I finally got and understand. Just still working on patience. I’m soooo anxious to see it GROW! But trust me I’m not doing anything drastic to it while I’m waiting. I’m even staying away from color. Enjoying soft healthy hair.

Barbara
Barbara
8 years ago

Aaah, you all have scared me away from heat! I really want to flat iron for my 2 1/2 yr nappiversary but now I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.

leslie
leslie
8 years ago

I just had a setback in my journey. I have my hair colored and hi-lighted regularly.(I’m graying early:( The stylist must have had a lapse in judgement and colored it REAL dark brown with platinum hi-lights!I had a break down and told her that this is ALL WRONG!(I came in with caramel and blonde highlights) She redid it a 2nd time with toner,that made made it blueish!THEN that was a mess,by then i told her I AM NOT LEAVING TILL YOU FIX THIS!So I ended up having color put on 4X!!So my hair is fried, the curl pattern is looser… Read more »

Arian
Arian
8 years ago
Reply to  leslie

Leslie, are you incorporating protein treatments? Do not know how much it will help, but my hair is damaged from color and ever since I’ve been using protein treatments, my hair has improved greatly. I still have to cut some of my hair, but the integrity of it has returned.

Jasmine
Jasmine
8 years ago

I would say one major setback I experienced during my natural journey at the beginning was thinking I could treat my fully natural hair like my transitioning hair.

LBell
LBell
8 years ago

My last BC happened because I overmanipulated my hair…or, rather, I overmanipulated one special spot on my head where the hair is extremely fine and delicate. I thought that because I was moisturizing and sealing pretty much every night prior to twisting or plaiting I was good…and most of my hair responded well to the treatment except for this ONE SPOT. It broke off to the point where it was a good three inches shorter than the hair around it…and rather than putting my hair on virtual lockdown for 6 months to grow it back out, I just said “eff… Read more »

Nana
Nana
8 years ago

Pro-tip: Before dyeing or bleaching, drench your hair in coconut oil! It doesn’t affect the color much but you know what you won’t have? That’s right. Damage. That’s why they always suggest you do colors on dirty hair stead of washed. This is how I keep up my blonde 🙂

lina
lina
8 years ago

using aphogee protein treatment on my hair — totally unneccessary, but seemingly everyone was using it to reduce breakage and shedding. I used that “liquid-to-rock-solid hair” concoction and my hair was breaking off like never before. I washed it out and air dried. Awful for my hair. I had to use my thickest deep conditioner and leave it on my hair for 48 hours to restore the moisture-protein balance. My hair likes protein, but NOT that type, and it responds to a moisture-protein combination better. Yogurt, eggs, mayo and henna work best on my hair for strengthening and I will… Read more »

goyta
goyta
8 years ago

in the last year i’ve had about 3 setbacks- 1)latent heat damage from when i used to avidly flat iron. a few months into my HHJ it came to haunt me and i had to lose about 3 inches. 2) last month i roughhoused my hair when trying to take down too small minitwists. broke it all over my couch with the comb. now i steer clear of anything mini and stick to my tried and true hair styles! now my hair is healthier than ever, no split ends and very minimal breakage. i’m happy and finally at peace with… Read more »

LM
LM
8 years ago

My setback? Trimming my hair while exhausted. I ended up cutting off an inch in some areas and 2 inches in others..smh lol..now i have unwanted layers and will probably try to get them a little evened out at the end of this year(i’m waiting on a little bit more growth).

Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago

My setback was letting myself be convinced that texturising would make handling my hair easier…less than two years later (May 2012), I was growing out my hair then in doing a BC (August 2012) and a follow-up trim in September and now my hair is black again and no longer has any reddish broken ends.
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/20120920-PlaitinHairstyleI.jpg[/img]
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/20120920-PlaitinHairstyleI.jpg[/img]

Amma Mama
Amma Mama
7 years ago

I love that picture! Great tips also! A setback for me was in March when I got my first press. The hairdresser gave me a haircut instead of a trim. I didn’t speak up because I thought my ends were just really damaged so that “justified” her excessive cutting. It wasn’t until I looked in the mirror, that I realized she layered and cut my hair. I have not had one good salon experience since I’ve been natural.

Bianca
Bianca
7 years ago

OVER MANIPULATION SET ME BACK AND BEING HEAVY HANDED. IM REALLY DISAPPOINTED. I HAVE A FEW SHORT STRANDS THROUGHOUT MY HAIR AND HORRIBLE BREAKAGE AT MY NAPE. MY HAIR NOW IS IN MINITWIST. HOPEFULLY THIS WILL HELP

bright_like_diamonds
7 years ago

I can really relate to the last tip. When I first started on my journey, I was a product junkie and wanted to try so many different products on my hair. I soon came to realize that the less products I used, the more my hair flourished. I found my staple products and have stuck to them. I am even at a point where it is very rare that I try a new product.

Dr. J
Dr. J
7 years ago

I was going through a stressful time, turning 39, and staying at my mothers house. I decided o cut off my hair to an inch. UGH! it was growing so nicely. Then I dyed it Red. The dye was so harsh on my head. It was drying and very damaging. I had to cut my hair off to an inch again. I was so upset! I had to go to a music festival during the “in between stage” hair! I manage to wear my hair in slicked down styles, using gel. I go it back to a healthy state and… Read more »

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