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Top 5 Mistakes New Naturals Make

Avatar • Oct 11, 2013

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Thanks to the huge impact of social media, many transitioners and naturals are now on information overload — getting tips about regimens, products, practices, tools, styling, and more. Sites like Facebook and Instagram are a huge asset to the natural hair community, and have connected us across cities, states, countries, and seas. While I am ever grateful for the wealth of information that is only a few keystrokes away, I also understand that information overload does exist. As does misinformation. Without further delay, here are the top 5 mistakes transitioners and new naturals make, largely due to misinformation and information overload:

#5: Trying to Follow Someone Else’s Regimen
I get it, I understand. There are some bloggers out there who have been doin’ the darn thing in terms of caring for their hair, and it shows. Some of the most common questions I’m asked (and other bloggers too, I’m sure) revolve around my regimen — how often I do this or that, what way do I detangle, wash, how often do I moisturize, etc. While I am more than happy to share that I wash my hair at least twice a week, detangle with my fingers and Q‑Redew and deep condition weekly, that does not mean my methods will work for you. Or anyone else’s for that matter. As much as we are a community, some things are truly individual. Every time I try to go a full 7 days without washing my hair, it is a disaster. For someone else, washing hair that frequently would be catastrophic. I say all this to say, regimens are incredibly individual. Sure, your favorite natural’s regimen works for her hair, but to blindly treat it as the standard without taking your hair’s own needs into account may do you more harm than good in the long run.

#4: Confusing Shedding and Breakage
This one happens a lot on two extremes. On one side, you have the transitioner or new natural that sees the gobs of hair coming out during detangling and says, “that’s just shed hair”. On othe other side, you have one with those same gobs of hair, rocking back and forth and sobbing that all of her hair is breaking/falling out. There are some key differences between shedding and breakage, and this  BGLH article covers is quite well. In the process of handling your hair, whether it be detangling, styling, cleansing, etc., don’t just assume it is one or the other. Our hair is not “absolute” in the sense that only one thing is happening. Take the time to check. I’m not saying that you have to examine every single solitary hair that comes out of your head when you detangle or cleanse, but do make a habit of being aware. Every time I detangle my hair, I do a quick glance over the hair I just untangled in each section before tossing it. It only takes a few seconds to look it over and make sure what I’m doing still works for my hair, and isn’t causing any excess damage. Every few weeks or so, I go a little more in-depth and examine a number of hairs to see what’s breakage and what’s shed hair. If everything seems legit, I keep doing what I’m doing. If I notice too much breakage, I make adjustments accordingly. You don’t have to stick to my schedule, but at least make it a point to be aware and differentiate between the two!

#3: Buying Super-Expensive Products//Not Understanding Ingredients
Initially when I planned out this article, these were two separate points. But the more I thought about it, the more they fell in the same vein. Often times, new naturals and transitioners will spend TONS of money on products designed to do this and that, without taking the time to look at the ingredient list. While the selection of what product to use is very individual, there are some hard and fast rules I live by. The first rule is I always, always, ALWAYS read the ingredient list. Top to bottom, recognizable ingredients, and incomprehensible ones. But mainly, I’m looking to make sure my ingredient no-no’s are not on the list. Then, I look at the top 5–6 ingredients (after water, where applicable) to get a feel for what the product is truly made of. Then, I look at the price. Do the ingredients justify the price point? Why or why not? Can a product with a similar (or identical) top ingredient list be purchased for a fraction of the cost? Some naturalistas may even encourage you to ponder if you could make the product yourself. The bottom line here is, if you’re interested in not breaking the bank to transition or have healthy natural hair, do your homework first. I personally could not fathom spending $40 on a tiny jar of miracle hair serum “full” of exotic oils, when in truth it is a bunch of silicone and a few drops of said oils. For the perfect example of what I’m talking about, click here.

#2: Protective Styling Overload/Obsession
Whether you’re looking to transition successfully or you’ve recently chopped and aren’t feeling 100% fab about your short do’, protective styling will more likely than not be shoved down your throat. Protective styling will make your hair grow longer, by helping you retain length. Protective styling will help prevent breakage. Protective styling will help you burst through length plateaus. Protective styling will increase your credit score. I’m kidding about the last one, but protective styling is regarded in the natural hair community as something that you almost have to do, as if it is some sort of rite of passage. Don’t get me wrong, protective styling does help with length retention among other things. But as a beginning transitioner, I loathed it. I was used to having my hair out, down, swinging, and flowing in the breeze. You mean to tell me I’ve got to rock a bun (my forehead is way too big for that), or some pre-pubescent chunky twists? While my attitude toward protective styling has since changed, I often see transitioners and new naturals falling into the same trap of succumbing to the pressure to protectively style for months and months at a time. Much like #5 on this list, it is up to you. Define protective styling for yourself — how frequently you want to do it, how often, and what styles.

#1 Not Seeking Medical Help for Major Issues
I saved this one for #1 because it is pretty much the most important one. The natural hair community embraces the DIY/all-natural experience to the fullest. We google, read, and seek out natural ingredients and alternatives to meet our hair’s needs. When we run into issues like breakage, bald spots, excessive shedding and hair fall, we embrace all sorts of treatments from essential oils and scalp massages, to onion juice and Monistat. The truth is, sometimes these issues are signs, symptoms, and visual manifestations of a larger problem. While your run of the mill breakage may be fixed by moisturizing properly, and delicately caring for hair, sometimes extreme breakage is a sign of a larger issue that is triggering your hair to break. Same thing with other symptoms. I’m not advocating that new naturals and transitioners become hypochondriacs and see a medical professional at the first sign of a snapped strand, but I do believe some things require more than a do-it-yourself fix. In the long run, your health is worth more than a $10 bottle of essential oil.

What are some other common mistakes transitioners and new naturals make?

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About Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

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alice
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alice

Great read and I can indentify with all your suggestions being a new natural Myself. And the last point is very important which people in the natural community don’t really emphsise. I’ve noticed how your diet,exercise and overall health can really affect your hair,nails and skin. We really need to have more articles on hair and health.

LBell
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LBell

I agree with all of these points but I especially agree with #5. The ONLY THING women in the “natural community” have in common is that we’re not using chemicals to permanently alter the texture of our hair. Beyond that, EVERYTHING presented to you as a new natural both online and offline should be seen as suggestions and guidelines and not hard-and-fast rules. And ideally new naturals shouldn’t hold themselves back from experimenting with anything and everything. How else are you going to learn? Use common sense, of course, but understand that even if you make a big mistake, HAIR… Read more »

SJ
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SJ

#1 is so true. I stayed at APL for the longest time and followed all the “rules”…Moisturizing when necessary, regularly washing and deep conditioning, protective styling, being gentle when finger detangling, treating my ends like silk, etc. Yet my hair still would shed like crazy and not grow past APL. Found out later on it was iron-deficiency anemia. Ladies, take care of your bodies first then worry about your hair! All the leave-ins, oils, butters, and aloe vera in the world can’t make up for not being healthy on the inside. Also #5 is easier said than done (though very… Read more »

Christine
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I’ve been guilty of a few of these unfortunately :/ http://hallchristine373.wordpress.com

Marsue
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You write so hoetnsly about this. Thanks for sharing!

AnonyChick
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AnonyChick

I only clicked this article to comment on how beautiful the lady in the article is. She is stunning!

Tolu
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Another mistake new naturals make is jumping on every new fad. Vlogger A uses chicken blood and her hair is bsl???*runs out to buy chicken blood*

xyzebra
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xyzebra

Great list. It never hurts to be reminded of these things, even not-so-new naturals. #1 is crucial because many problems at the follicle or in the system have the appearance of “just” breakage. A good dermatologist who specializes in black skin care is really important. Some tests require a blood test or skin patch but there is so much they can garner from them, that it is well worth it!

Kay
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Kay

Also, big chopping by yourself is a mistake! I BC’ed at 8 months. A lot of youtubers BC themselves but you will most likely give yourself an uneven haircut and will have to get a hair cut to even it out.

the mane captain
Guest

lol @ protective styling will improve your credit score. I use to do #5 until i realized that there are sooo many regimens and some don’t even make sense. Like shampooing after doing a deep conditioning treatment?
I think one has to go through those phases and make those mistakes before achieving their autonomy. I don’t care much for ingredients as my hair reacts the same to the no nos and yes yes ingredients.
btw, i wrote about the dark side of protective styling here http://themanecaptain.blogspot.ca/2013/07/when-protective-styling-is-not.html

http://themanecaptain.blogspot.ca/2013/09/hits-and-misses-with-protective-styling.html

http://themanecaptain.blogspot.ca/2013/10/protective-styling-who-what-when-where.html

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[…] Just because you have African American hair doesn’t mean that every black hair care product or styling tip will work the same for you as it does for somebody else. Christina Patrice of Black Girl Long Hair expresses: […]

Sukie
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Sukie

Great advice for Natural Newbies!!

NewbieNatural
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NewbieNatural

Hello. I’ve just taken out my box braids and boy was it a hassle. Everything was fine until this morning. As I took the braids out I detangled my hair in sections. I went to sleep last night and woke up ready to wash my hair. My hair was still in sections but once that water hit my head, my hair started to tangle and become matted. I was trying to be gentle with my hair, but when my mother saw me struggling, she stepped in and started to take to knots out with a pick and comb. I mean… Read more »

AliGraham
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AliGraham

I’ve recently taken down my box braids and I basically had the same issues as you. Im transitioning… and while my natural hair was fine, the permed hair was just beyond tangled! I even tried using my tresseme conditioner, which usually detangles really well for me and that didnt even work. I do think in terms of transitioning having a protective style ie: box braids is really helpful. Just so you arent prone to straighten it or mess with it so much. But i get my hair trimmed in between me getting box braids.. so by the summer i’ll be… Read more »

Chris
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Chris

Do not get braids again. The issue with braids for transitioned is your permed ends aren’t going to be able to stand the products used to braid or twist with extensions. The weight of the braids is also going to be a killer. If the breakage is massive I would just go ahead and BC now. You don’t have the ends to split and spread to your natural hair.

Pam
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Pam

I find the information most helpful. I just recently decided to no longer put chemicals in my hair.

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[…] Top 5 Mistakes New Naturals <b>Make</b> | <b>Black Girl</b> with Long <b&… […]

Alyssa Cabrera
Guest

Great list!I especially loved #5! We all need a jump off point when we first start out but over time you need to figure out what works for you. Each persons hair is different and our hair will respond to products in its own unique way. You can use someones suggestions as a guide but not law:)

Sky
Guest
Sky

Hi. I have never had a relaxer but I have been straightening my hair off and on and I decided to go heatless. But all of this talk about big chops and changing the of the hair, I really don’t feel like I’m starting at the same point from those who are transitioning from relaxers. If anyone knows where I may be able to find info for those who are trying to achieve their natural curl pattern but do not have a relaxes, please let me know.

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[…] Article original : par Christina Patrice sur Black Girl with Long Hair À cause de l’impact grandissant des médias sociaux, de nombreuses femmes qui entament leur parcours capillaire au naturel se retrouvent avec une surcharge d’information –  que ce soit sur les routines capillaires, les produits, les techniques, les outils, la coiffure, et plus encore. Des sites comme Facebook et Instagram sont un énorme atout pour la communauté des « cheveux naturels », et nous ont permis de nous rejoindre d’un océan à l’autre. Même si je suis toujours reconnaissante pour cette information obtenue en quelques clics, je comprends aussi qu’il… Read more »

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