I am pretty sure that most of us will be guilty of at least one of the things on the list below. This article is really aimed at people who have had trouble retaining length despite following the best of advice or think/know that they have a below average growth rate. In both of these cases, maximising retention is crucial and therefore things that we may ignore or believe to be not that damaging are actually much more important than we think. In both of these cases, every strand and every bit of length is essential to getting longer hair. Here are the 4 bad habits:
1. Ignoring that popping sound when detangling
Let us get it clear, even the gentlest detangler among us will have snapped or popped a strand or two while finger detangling or combing hair. This is not the habit that is under the spotlight. The problematic habit is when you are generally gentle but accept that when you hit rough spots or when you get tired, you begin to think, ‘Oh well, it is just two or three strands, not a big deal.’ It is a big deal when you know your hair is going to break but you go ahead and plough through, you are in essence telling yourself that breakage is ok and will not impact your length gain. Regard snapping or popping strands as a failure on your part rather than accepting it as a norm in natural hair styling because it does not have to be.
2. Letting open hair progressively shrink, letting it rain on your open hair.
For many naturals, if you start an open hair style with stretched or straightened hair, you will notice that each day will bring with it a little more humidity and moisture to the hair. Therefore, gradual shrinking of the hair as the curl pattern and kinks redevelop is inevitable. In general, many naturals can cope with this reversion for a few days but there comes a point when hair begins to mesh as strands intertwine. This is the point when you will need the big guns (water, oil, conditioner and plenty of detangling time) to fix the shrunken hair prior to actually washing your hair. If you can avoid this stage, you are in a better position as you subject your hair to less stress and therefore maximise your retention. Equally, when it rains, if your hair is open and it is the type which shrinks and meshes, it is in your best interest to either quickly control this by compacting the hair into a bun/braid/large twists/pin up. Some hair will be perfectly fine with moisture but some hair needs shrinkage control.
3. Thinking you need to run a comb/fingers from root to tip to confirm detangling
I really loved this article by Geniece. It reinforces the point that some of us do have kinky curly hair that will not really care for ‘full’ detangling. The inherent nature of kinky hair which has tight curls, is that sometimes strands will cross paths and this is not necessarily something that needs to be fixed. Detangling really means eliminating complex knots at the ends of hair and preventing tightly meshed hair especially at the root. Many hairstyles will forgive a few intertwined strands. Thorough detangling is more important if you need to create a straight style but if that is not your intention, do read Geniece’s article linked above!
4. Keeping a protective style in for too short or too long
If your hair requires protective styling in order to gain length, you should know both the ideal time frame for keeping the style and the ideal time frame to undo it. If you spend very short periods with a protective style (e.g. 1 week or less), you may not see any substantial gains in length as you are manipulating your hair too much. However, if you keep the style in for too long (e.g. over 4 weeks), you can end up with the dreaded meshing, lint stuck in hair and serious detangling which can all cause breakage. The time frames I have listed here are general, you have to determine individually what is too short or too long for your hair.
Ladies, have you been guilty of any of these? Do you have any to add to the list?