One minute we’re singing the collective praises of a product or practice and the next minute we’re villifying it. Sometimes, it’s because something better comes along that blows the old thing out of the water. Other times, we just got the information wrong and science comes to correct us (or show us the long-term implications).
There are three tools in particular that are widely praised throughout the natural hair community as being both beneficial and healthier for textured textured hair. But are they really? The microfiber towel, the diffuser and the Denman brush — should you really be using them? Do you really need them?
Before microfober towels became all the rage, naturalistas were using plain old terrycloth towels to dry hair. However, somewhere along the way, the idea of using microfiber towels for gentler drying and less frizz spread around the interwebs by bloggers, vloggers and hairstylists alike. The idea behind ditching terrycloth towels, had to do with the little loops of material causing frizz and snagging the hair. Microfiber was supposed to be a gentler, more curl-friendly alternative.
Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. Much like terrycloth towels, microfibers have raised surfaces — although they’re not loops, they’re more like “nodes” — that can get textured hair just as caught up. I’ve got a few hair-specific microfibers and I’ve discovered that strands of hair would get caught in them just as often (if not more) as they did with terrycloth towels. This is not to say that microfiber or terrycloth towels are bad — there has been a degree of fear-mongering around towels for drying hair. If you’ve been using either one successfully, then there’s no need to change. But if you’re hearing hairs snap and feeling tugs, it might be time to switch to an old t‑shirt to dry.
I’ll just come right out and say it — I think people give diffusers more credit than they’re worth. (This is coming from someone who owns two of them.) Diffusers are touted as the naturalista’s best friend by enhancing curl definition, creating lift and volume. They are supposed to be infinitely better than regular blow drying alone, curbing frizz and preventing heat damage. While there are a number of reasons why diffusing might work better for your hair than a regular blow dryer, it is still an attachment at the end of the blow dryer. Whether or not the air is decentralized or diffused from the blow dryer nozzle, the fact still remains-you are blow drying your hair. Blow dryers only work one way: by zapping the water from the cortex of the hair.
Of course, you can use products that provide heat protection and delay the dehydration of the hair, which will help mitigate the damage from the blow dryer. Knowing how to properly diffuse (like moving it around your head as opposed to keeping it in one place for prolonged periods of time) will decrease the likelihood of dryness and damage. But is a diffuser still better than a regular ol’ blow dryer with no attachment? Yes and no. Yes, diffusers will decrease frizz by making the air flow more gentle and give you lift and volume (although you’ve got to do some teasing to get that). However, diffusers don’t prevent heat damage and they won’t create a curl pattern that you don’t already have. Are you better off with or without your diffuser? Only your hair can answer that.
I remember when the Denman craze swept through the natural hair community like a wildfire. There were sooooo many videos and blog posts about which brush to buy, how to modify it, whether the knockoff at Sally’s worked just as well and more. Naturalistas praised the Denman for being gentle and really taking their curl definition to the next level. I’ll admit — I took the bait (like many of you probably did). I bought a Denman from Sally’s, modified it per YouTube video demo and set out to use it to define my wash and go. It was a disaster. No matter how much gentleness, patience or excess of conditioner I had on deck, I felt like my hair was coming out more than it should have. There was also some breakage too.
Does that make the Denman inherently bad? Not really. Much like with anything else natural hair-related, everything doesn’t work for everybody. Some ladies find tremendous success with the Denman for styling and detangling. But, it is by no means a must-have tool. Scrunching, praying hands and finger curling are much more gentle ways of encouraging curl and coil clumping and definition without tugging and pulling your tresses through rows of nylon bristles.
So ladies, it’s your turn! Share your experiences with microfiber towels, diffusers, and Denman brushes!