Hair forums have long been a source of information for women of all hair types and hair goals. During the mid to late 1990s forums for women of color began to increase in popularity, eventually leading to forums in the early 2000s specifically focused on natural hair care. Some forums have a certain focus, such as growing very long hair, while others offer a broader range of hair care information. Whatever your interests are, it can be a bit overwhelming to sort through all of the information posted on hair forums. My first introduction to hair forums for natural hair was back in 2004. Since then, I have learned both the benefits and the drawbacks of using this platform for information.
Lurk First, Apply Later
Hands down the most useful aspect of hair forums is the steady stream of information shared by women also learning about hair care. Some women have been natural for a decade, while others just big chopped a week ago and they all convene in the same space to discuss the highs and lows of their hair journey. The best way to take advantage of these websites is to simply observe or “lurk” as they say in the forum world. Identify the posters who have reached the goals you hope to achieve or even those who have faced similar challenges. Often times avid users and contributors to forums will list key details about their hair experience or progress in their signatures, which is typically located at the very end of each of their posts. Spending time absorbing information before applying another person’s routine is also helpful because you can avoid some mistakes by learning from the unfortunate setbacks experienced by others.
Don’t Fall for the Bandwagon
Everything isn’t for everybody, so it may be best to ignore, at least initially, the regimens, advice and product recommendations that promise extraordinary results. Just as you might find in weight loss forums or parenting forums, there are often “challenges” that focus on a particular goal. Some are general and don’t prescribe a particular regimen. For example, a challenge to grow your hair to mid back length in 2015, may simply request that participants post quarterly photos that document their progress but won’t advocate a particular hair care regimen. Other challenges, however, do require far greater restrictions. Any hair challenge that advocates ingesting a supplement and using a topical treatment should be one that you join once you’ve consulted with your health care provider. Sure, the “Taking a Daily Multivitamin” challenge is fairly innocuous but taking biotin, MSM, fish oil and drinking special tea should be something you do only after consulting your doctor. Why do I emphasize this so strongly? Because I joined challenges and learned the hard way that while not life threatening, some supplements had adverse effects on my body. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Biotin, hair conditioners for horses (yes, the animals that live farms *hangs head*)–I did all those challenges and not with uniformly good results. For example, MSM caused daily migraines, a condition that I was grateful to only experience once or twice a year with proper diet and hydration. Using biotin lead to cystic acne on my face, a side effect that I felt wasn’t worth an extra ¼ inch of growth per month. The safest bet is to identify users who achieved hair goals without the use of excessive supplements because you may be able to achieve similar result without the potential for health or hair risks.
To be clear, I am not saying that supplements or topical hair treatments are categorically bad. I am, however recommending that if you are seeking guidance on a hair forum, you do so with wisdom and caution.
Have you ever used a hair forum? Which forums have you found to be most helpful? What were some challenges you faced when using a hair forum?