By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom
I have often been asked for one tip or trick that has been beneficial but I am never able to narrow it down to just one. I actually do not know any natural who has benefited from just one tweak to their routine. Here are five tweaks which helped me along, there is a sixth one which I took out from this list as I have emphasized quite a lot already — washing hair in braids.
1. Detangle BEFORE washing
The worst mistake many people make especially after long term protective styling, is not detangling hair before washing. This simple step is really good at eliminating tangles that will get exacerbated with hair shrinkage during the wash. Do not think that you can later detangle with conditioner and this will be easier because it almost always never is. It will generally be less hassle to undo large tangles and meshing prior to getting hair soaking wet. I do accept that detangling is not always possible though e.g. if you are washing twists or braids that you have no intention of undoing. The benefits of detangling before washing include less tangling, less breakage and more retention.
2. The simplest pre-shampoo step
I have seen some really complicated hair routines on natural hair forums and blogs. This often leads people to dismiss things that are seen as extra work such as a pre-poo. However, this is the simplest pre-poo step ever! Apply some oil to your hair the night before your wash.…..that is it! You can choose a penetrating oil like coconut oil for greatest effect but any natural oil in general is fine (silicone and mineral oils are the least useful for this purpose). This simple step will help protect the moisture levels in your hair and guard against breakage. The effect of this step is usually immediately noticeable.
3. Dry your hair BEFORE you apply conditioner
It is common to shampoo and rinse hair then gently squeeze out the water before applying conditioner. My advice is to take the time to actually dry your hair (using an old t‑shirt or microfiber towel if you are in the know!) before you apply the conditioner. If you apply conditioner and it immediately starts dripping, it is the case that your hair is too wet and it is possible that your hair conditioner is diluted slightly by this step. To get the most from your conditioner, aim to have damp hair which is not dripping at all simply by soaking up the excess water with a towel. This simple step leads to greater softness, better moisture and strength for your hair.
4. Finger comb
I have seen people say that finger combing does not work for them but this is just not true. Regardless of your hair texture, finger combing should be the first thing you do when detangling. Simply running your fingers through your hair gives you an initial idea of how tangled it is and where the tangles are. This is a step that no-one should miss out on. Adopting a pure finger detangling routine where no combs or brushes are used is really useful especially if your hair breaks easily when handled. The exclusive finger combing routine is not for the faint of heart as it takes time and skill to master. I do think that combs and brushes are most useful for those whose hair can clump/form spiral ringlets as the tools aid in the clumping but even for this hair, a first finger combing step will help to find tangles and reduce breakage.
5. Go heat free
Simply put, heat degrades protein which means heat degrades hair. The less heat you use, the stronger your hair will be and therefore the easier it will be to retain the older hair. Adopting a no-heat regimen also translates to fewer split ends and less breakage. If your hair is the type that requires a lot of babying to progress, try using no heat for 6 months and see what difference that makes. Heatless stretching methods such as braiding/unbraiding, bantu knots/knot outs, banding, African threading and curlformers can help if you want to reduce shrinkage and tangling.
Ladies, what tweaks have helped you retain length? And have any of the ones listed above worked for you?