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7 Natural Hair Lessons I Learned After Reaching the 5 Year Mark

Avatar • Jan 28, 2015

elle pic

When I first big chopped at the end of 2009, I was so excited about my hair. I had never known how to care for my hair before (I never even knew that I COULD learn about the science of hair) and I soaked up any bit of information that was available to me.

bigchop

I asked a lot of questions. I mean a LOT of questions. Since that time, I’ve read a multitude of books about hair (including cosmetology chemistry books) and have learned a lot through my own experiences. However, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that no regimen is one size fits all. But there are still some tips that I would like to share with you that may help you on your natural hair journey:

1. The only person who needs to like your natural hair is you.

Throughout my natural hair journey, people have always had something negative to say — your hair is too short, too long, the color is too dark/light, the shape is off, etc. So, I decided to stop focusing on what other people think and love my hair for what it is,and how I want it to be. I think that because natural hair is still not mainstream, everyone has their own idea of what it should be and it differs depending on whom you ask. The most logical solution is to ignore their opinions and ensure that you are happy with YOUR hair. Otherwise, you may be calling the creamy crack sooner that you’d think.

hair

2. Health over length.

Before my hair reached shoulder-length, I never trimmed my hair. I didn’t really think it was a big deal. I also didn’t want to cut off my ends prematurely if I wasn’t having issues with split ends or knots, because it was going to hinder my length journey. However, once my hair started rubbing and getting caught on everything under the sun, trims became imperative to my journey. The ends of your hair get more flack than any other part and they are the oldest part, so it’s important to trim them every few months or so to keep them thick and healthy. No longer do I look at long hair with thin ends reaching the person’s hips and hope that my hair could do that. That stringy piece of hair is overrated.

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3. Curl pattern is not the end all be all of natural hair.

I still find it interesting that lots of women focus on curl pattern for the main source of comparison throughout their hair journeys. To me, curl pattern is nothing more than a loose description of how the hair may look and I certainly don’t base my regimen off of my curl pattern (which has been thoroughly debated to the point where I don’t even know what it is anymore). You might have a tight curl pattern, but if you have fine hair, heavier products will only weigh your hair down. In a similar sense, your curl pattern may not be as tight but you have high porosity hair, so you need thicker moisturizers to prevent your hair from getting dry. Furthermore, a lot of women with loose patterns (like 3a‑b) actually have coarse hair, when you think it may be fine. I’ve found that focusing more on my texture and porosity are more helpful in finding products that work for my hair.

natural hair

4. No two heads of natural hair are identical.

Just because someone’s hair looks like yours, doesn’t mean that you should care for your hair in the same way. You may live in different climates or their true texture could be different from yours. It’s important to listen to others, but ultimately listen to your own hair to decide what’s best for you. I could never copy someone else’s regimen or holy grail product list without running into trouble and being confused as to why it didn’t work for me. You are your own hair expert.

5. Topical growth aides are more trouble than they are worth.

Shapleys-Original-MTG

If you’re still on the length bandwagon, it might be more beneficial to concentrate on internal nutrition rather than apply sulfur mix to your hair or depend on Monistat to grow your hair, especially if you want multi-day hair. Many of these so-called solutions require you to wash your hair in the morning and you certainly aren’t guaranteed results. I’ve tried it all — Mane Tail Groom, Megatek, Sulfur mixes, etc…and all of them were annoying because I had to apply them daily then wash my hair…seriously, who wants to smell like that all day (MTG smells like old bacon)? I’ll stick to a multivitamin and veggies, thanks.

color

6. Color won’t kill you.

After you finally realize how healthy your hair can be without relaxers, it’s difficult to jeopardize those results. Even though I had been dyeing my hair since I was 12, I was reluctant to dye my natural hair because I was scared that I would no longer be natural or I would loosen my curl pattern. Well, depending on how you use dye, you should be okay. I’m not telling you to bleach your hair white blonde every month, but a semi-permanent rinse or even periodic demi-permanent color won’t kill your curls. However, if you have fine hair, make sure you take that into consideration before taking the color plunge, as it is thinner and more susceptible to color damage.

7. Cut newbies and those around you some slack.

After you’ve been natural for x amount of years and have heard it all when it comes to hair care, it may be annoying when every other person in the hair forum is asking what their curl pattern is. But it’s important to remember that you’ve been there and rather than lecture people, it’s more valuable if you educate them while still answering their question. Everyone isn’t at the same place in their journeys and it’s important to remember that we all have different goals and have started at different places within our journey.

Cheers to five years of dealing with this mane and I wish you all the best on your hair journeys!

How long have you been natural? Do you have any advice other naturalistas?

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truthseeker2436577@yahoo.comJuuuumonniejvanx 2801Michelle Fisher Recent comment authors
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Hair Anomaly
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Hair Anomaly

Thank you for this refreshing, relevant post. This is my second time around as a natural girl. I super big-chopped again in 2013 and my 2 year anniversary is coming up in May. I have a crazy hair texture and have enjoyed learning how to accentuate (not hide) and appreciate its uniqueness. I am constantly stopped and asked about my hair by people at various points in their hair journey. My advice is always: 1) Love (and love on) your hair. 2) Never compare your hair to the hair of others. 3) Proper cleansing and moisture retention are key. 4)… Read more »

Dominique Jeter
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Dominique Jeter
jjac401
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jjac401

I always enjoy Elle’s common since approach to hair care.

herlucidsky
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Great advice ElleD. Especially about focusing more on the texture and porosity of one’s hair as being helpful in finding the right products. One may be able to find a product that gives awesome shine and curl definition but at the same time it may contain and or lack certain ingriedients that may have adversive affects on the strands later on. Another important point that you mentioned was giving the new comers some slack. This is so very true because like you said, we’ve all been there. I’ve read some questions that may seem silly to some people but the… Read more »

JazzWife
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JazzWife

Wonderful post. Old bacon … LOL!

darkertheberry
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darkertheberry

The dolls are cute.…I want one

SemiXoXo
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SemiXoXo

I thought the same thing. I still love my barbies at 22. You’re never too old.

Cygnet
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Cygnet

I officially started transitioning in June 2007 and let my mom trim off my last texturized ends in March 2009. I have continued to grow, and get to know, my natural hair ever since. My advice to newly naturals and those thinking about it: 1. Your reasons for returning to natural are your own, and they don’t have to make sense to anyone else as long as they make sense to you. 2. If you’re starting from damage or from short, use this time to learn what works for your hair and what doesn’t. That way, as your hair grows,… Read more »

JenniD
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JenniD

I enjoyed your response. curls control paste may be a good gel replacement for you.

Cygnet
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Cygnet

Oh, and do not attempt anything with your hair when you’re tired, stressed, sick, pressed for time, distracted, or in any frame of mind other than calm. The resulting potential for damage is not worth it; you are better off just rocking a cool piece of headgear or just-one-more-day-please hair.

good2bfree
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good2bfree

It will still grow while I’m not looking.’
I love that!

txgrits
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txgrits

I so appreciate your advice on hair color. Ive seen how much you color your hair and I want to badly but had the same “fears” concerns as you. After reading your advice, I’m not afraid anymore! 🙂 9 year natural goin strong!!:-)

LBell
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LBell

2015 marks my 20th year as a natural. 🙂 Elle, I agree with most of your list (and for the record, your hair is everything!). My one coloring experience was a disaster and I still haven’t gotten over it so I’m loving on my silver hairs as hard as I can. Also, I’m getting a little crotchety in my tenured old age so more and more I find myself leaving the freshman naturals to the graduate assistants, lol. There’s googobs more information out here now than when I first started out, yet the formula for success is still the same:… Read more »

melissa
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melissa

great straight forward tips. I like the way you write too.

Cygnet
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Cygnet

Thanks for the suggestion, and I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I’ve never seen curl control paste before, but I’ll certainly be on the lookout for it :-).

truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com
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truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

This is a great article with excellent advice.

CourtneyrrR
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CourtneyrrR

Sisters hair is gorgeous. She has me beat by an inch or so. 🙂 Seriously love it!!!

truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com
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truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

Thank you for your words Sister and God Bless you.

Aliyah
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Aliyah

I have only been natural a year and hearing people constantly asking about what s their curl pattern what products do you use will it work for my hair how long will it take to grow my hair that length ? Even that annoys me and I haven’t been natural that long . Lol I’m staying natural forever each year I will learn something new like I did this year and hopefully help my hair to get to the healthiest it can be and longest . 🙂

kia
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kia

Damn I wish I high density hair like you

Toniette
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Toniette

I agree. I live seeing the wealth of information out here now. I went natural in 2001 with some olive oil, box braids and hope. There was no hair typing, limited knowledge and support and a lot of independence. I think that the best, most common sense thing that I learned was to love my hair despite any negative comment.

Tieasha
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Tieasha

Awesome article. Love reading tips & advice once a goal is reached & now they’re able to spread the knowledge.

Janice Bradley
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Janice Bradley

Love your post. Just plain commonsense and excellent advice. Thanks for sharing your journey.

Nikki Smith Perry
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Nikki Smith Perry

I have been natural for 16 years and the best advice I can give is is cool to read all the information that is out there HOWEVeR this is your personal journey so don’t stress out just learn by trail and error and ENJOY ur journey!!!

Rachael
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Rachael

I’ve been so afraid of color but I want it so bad! I think I’m gonna try a rinse.

Michelle Fisher
Guest
Michelle Fisher

When I saw your picture and read that you’ve been natural for five years, my immediate thought was “wow, I’m five years natural & why isn’t my hair her length?” Then I read on…lol Great advice about healthy hair over long stringy tresses. I’m so guilty of not trimming regularly as well as being lazy about deep conditioning, so I know my hair can be in much better shape, but knowing is half the battle right? Also, thanks for the reminder to just chill out and love your hair for what it is.

vanx 2801
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vanx 2801

Transitioned beginningb2011. BC’ed early 2013. Naturals- your regime should be simple, efficient, and should allow you to be consistent and patient with your hair. And there is more than one way to do something. My hair doesn’t like moisture via spraying water, etc, but it just looooooves steam! So it’s the shower or Qredew for me.

monniej
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monniej

LOL @ old bacon smell! great list and lots of fun!

Juuuu
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Juuuu

Great article!
I’m two years in and can’t wait to have amazing mermaid hair like you!

Amie
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Amie

I love Elle and her hair, but it’s important to emphasize that everyones hair is different. My hair still isn’t that long and I’ve been natural just as long as she has. I think some types are more prone to breakage than others, but I could also do better with trimming I guess. I’m upping my deep conditioning sessions to once a week as well. I do get lazy and skip at times.

Kay Murphy
Guest

Very good read, I am learning some of these
same things as I approach my 3 yr mark.

Cc
Guest
Cc

I’m 3 and a half years natural. i hope my hair gets as long as yours by my 5th year. right now I am between arm pit and bra-strap length. My advice would be:keep it simple, find what works for you, and whatever you do moisturize

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