Picture this: You walk into a salon to get your hair styled. Three hours later, you leave with the sinking feeling that you’ve just wasted your money and damaged your hair. After a few days your suspicions are confirmed. Your hair is dyed or fried and limply laying to the side. This is the kind of damage you can detect almost immediately. However, for many of us, it is not these instances of hair trauma that keep us stuck at one point in our hair journey. It is the slow, consistent damage to our hair that can cause greater frustration and discouragement over time.
Protective Styling without Maintenance
I am a huge fan of protective styling and low maintenance. In fact, I attribute my consistent ability to retain length to these methods of hair care. However, I find that some women confuse low maintenance with no maintenance. I know many of you have heard of someone who wore weaves and wigs for two years straight and emerged with long, thick hair. Well, I have also seen before and after hair shots of individuals who use constant protective styling and find that little to no progress occurred, even though the individual was intentional about retaining length. As a word of advice, not everyone can retain length by adopting the “auto pilot” method. Be sure to regularly moisturize and condition your hair, even if you are rarely manipulating it.
The assumption, “if you don’t touch it, your hair will grow,” can prove to be a mistake if your hair is dry and ultimately becomes damaged. Even while in braids, you should keep your hair moisturized using a braid spray (homemade or store bought). There really is no use in protecting your hair with the goal of length retention only to find that after a year or two, you haven’t moved an inch.
Haircuts with a Comb
This one was my downfall. Haircuts with a comb, also known as, combing your dry unstraightened hair, regularly without using a moisturizer will keep you stuck indefinitely. The funny thing is my hair never really got shorter using poor combing practices. I almost wish it had because I might have realized that something was wrong sooner. My rate of growth and combing practices canceled each other out, leaving me with the same hair length year after year. You could use all organic products and keep your ends protected but if you rake a comb through your textured hair when it is dry and unmoisturized, you are likely limiting your length retention.
Too Many Products
Imagine being stunted along your journey only to realize that glycerin or coconut oil were drying out your hair or irritating your scalp for months. Pretty lame, right? Using many different products isn’t inherently bad. I used to be somewhat of a product junkie and I don’t think that hurt my hair journey. However, I caution against using multiple products for the same part of your regimen (i.e. washing, conditioning, etc.) especially when you are relatively new to being natural or have yet to determine the products that don’t agree with your hair. For example, I only came to realize that aloe vera, slippery elm and castor oil worked well with my hair by using products that had those ingredients and without using five additional products at the same time. On the same note, you can determine which ingredients do not work for you if you judge its (in)effectiveness by using it alone versus using multiple products at the same time. Be sure to evaluate what you put on your hair and scalp so that you can detect what doesn’t work as soon as possible.
Did you have hair practices that were slowly damaging your hair? What were they?