So, you're transitioning your hair to natural hair…or perhaps you’re a seasoned Naturalista who has hit a growth plateau. We all go through this period and most times there is some inconsistency in your routine that causes your growth to slow. No matter the stage you may be in, we all have three common goals we are trying to accomplish. These goals include one defeating breakage, two promoting growth, and three retaining this growth. Sounds easy huh? Well it can be. It is a common belief that going natural is low-maintenance but it can be very time consuming if you don’t have a set of rules to follow to obtain a goal you set for yourself. Common personal goals maybe a certain length. Whether its shoulder-length, bra-strap length, or waist-length these all can be achieved. Hopefully this list of commandments can be an outline for my readers on what to do and what to stray away from. I encourage you to take this outline and do your own research and specialize it to your needs and goals. In addition, this list is suitable for the whole family. With my family, I use the same outline for both my daughter and son and it makes everyone’s hair so much more manageable.
1. Moisture is not only important but a necessary key to keeping textured hair healthy and manageable. I could not express how important this commandment is. MAJOR KEY ALERT!!! Moisture is critical for the growth and retention of hair. The scalp naturally produces its own lubrication or natural oils that travel down the shaft of the hair. However, the more wavy or curly the hair the harder it is for this lubrication to travel down the hair shaft to the more fragile ends of the hair. The cuticle, or the outer protective layer, whose purpose to shield the hair and keep moisture in also plays a role in luster and health of your hair. The healthier the hair the closer the cuticle’s shingles are to each other, therefore, the more moisture can be trapped inside. For naturals because the hair is so textured moisture must be added. For both children and adults I recommend adding moisture after washing and conditioning the hair and also styling. My children and I both use the LOC (Leave-in, Oil, and Crème) method when added moisture to our wet hair. When hair is wet the cuticle is open so added moisture can be passed into the strand freely. I normally part hair into four sections and add first leave-in via a spray and finger through each section. Second I seal moisture into the cuticle and add luster by applying a sealant oil to each section. These oils are vital to keeping ends and hair moisturized when the hair dries. My favorite is pure Almond oil but other options are mineral, shea, jojoba, and grapeseed oil. Lastly I add a crème to each section spreading by rubbing from root to tip. With my son I follow these same steps minus the parting hair into sections. Moisture doesn’t need to be added daily if applied correctly.
2. Trims save lives. Although most times we hate seeing that precious hair hit the floor it is vital to retaining the length we have. I like to envision hair strands as a rope. The ends of the rope are strayed and often unravel. This is much like hair ends that inevitably become split eventually. This is because the further from the root the more damaged hair becomes. If these ends are not cut off or trimmed these splits can travel further up the hair just like a rope unraveling. We are all different, therefore, I don’t believe I could give any person a timeline on when or how much to cut off your perspective heads. However, I do recommend that you trim your hair at some consistent rate. I normally trim my hair every 4 to 5 months and occasionally I dust my hair in-between. Dusting is the act of going through your hair while dry finding and cutting small double strand knots or straight noticeably damaged areas. Children (bless their little hearts) are different. Like a rope once you cut off that end it will unravel eventually. I waited until my daughter was 4 to trim her cut. I chose this age because I observed that her hair had matured enough where it was set in its own growth cycle and growing constantly. Also at this age her hair began to get small knots at the end that would snap when I combed through her hair. I only trim her hair about once a year. This may vary by child. However, I don’t believe small children need their hair trimmed as often as an adult or even a young adult.
3. “You get out what you put in.” We’ve all heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen.” Well that truth also applies to healthy, shiny hair as well. The foods we eat play a major role in our hair growth, retention, or lack of. There are foods, many refer to as superfoods, that help revitalize hair by sending much need vitamins to the hair follicles. Foods such as Salmon (rich in Omega 3s, protein, iron, and fatty acids), Almonds (packed with vitamin E and fatty acids), Eggs (rich in protein), Mangoes and Yellow Pepper (rich in Vitamin C). These foods increase important vitamins and proteins such as Keratin, Biotin, and collagen. I often have people stop me on the street to compliment my daughter on her shiny, thick, curls and I always say the same thing. “Thirty percent is product, thirty percent is care, and forty percent is food and vitamins.” We consume each of these superfoods once a week at least. Vitamins also can help hair achieve these goals. There are many vitamins that are now available that increase keratin, biotin, vitamin E, and collagen levels in the body to promote healthy hair. However, not all vitamins are created equal. Try to find vitamins that are organic, wholefood, and green. It is easier for the body to absorb these types of vitamins than synthetic ones.
4. The less tension the better. This one is an easy one. Hair along the hairline at the front and nape of the head is much more delicate than hair at the crown. Therefore, this hair shouldn’t be pulled excessively tight to prevent breakage or hair loss. If a style feels too tight or causes these areas to hurt, or bump up you should take it down immediately. Also, if the hair is worn pulled back or braided for days it is recommended that you massage these areas with a scalp oil to increase blood flow.
5. Detangling hair should be a process. When detangling hair especially a child’s hair it is important to take your time. I always do a three-step process. First separate the hair into sections so the area I’m detangling is small. Second, finger comb these sections. Finger combing allows you the carefully and gently identify problem areas and neutralize them. Finally, I use a wide toothed comb to comb through the sections, starting with the ends first. This will minimize breakage which helps retain growth.
6. Protective styling is your friend. Protective styles such as braids, twists, and buns allow ends a break from constant manipulation. The more you manipulate your hair the more damage will occur. Protective styles can be worn for a week or sometimes even a month depending on the style. I normally do buns frequently to keep my ends tucked under. I also try to do plait braids or twists once a month for a full week. These is perfect for little ones also. Not only does it save you time styling hair, but also a headache of taming their hair while getting them to stay still. There are seasons such as winter and summer where protective styles are vital to keep hair safe from drying cold temperatures or scorching UV rays.
7. Deep conditioning every wash with protein treatments up to once a month. Three years ago I noticed my hair felt and looked dry which caused it to shed excessively. I started to incorporate deep conditioning and immediately saw a complete turnaround. Deep conditioning allows heavy conditioners to enter the hair while the cuticle is open when wet and cover with a plastic cap. After a period of 10-20 minutes hair can then be detangled without fuss and rinsed with cool water. Protein also is applied this same way but less frequently. Fortifying hair with a balance of protein and moisture not only retains hair but also promotes growth and manageability. Protein treatments are best used after heat use while deep conditioning can combat daily pollutants, dryness, or just everyday styling.
8. NEVER use products with sulfates, parabens, or silicones. This rule is especially true if you have color-treated hair. Products with these components can dry out, and or dull color-treated hair which will cause damage. They leave hair rough and hard to manage. It is very recommended that you avoid these. I don’t even use them in my children’s hair. There is also research that supports that products containing one or more of these are bad for skin also and can affect conditions such as eczema.
9. Protect your hair at night. I always sleep with my hair protected and so do both my children. I bought my daughter her first bonnet before she was even one and my son slept on satin sheets nightly. It is common for babies to lose hair on the back of their heads after birth mostly due to fragile soft hair being rubbed off while sleeping. Protecting your hair with either a satin bonnet, pillowcase or scarf is both important and necessary whether your hair is natural or chemically treated. It prevents hair from drying out and or being damaged from sheets. So, invest in one option to keep your hair soft, shiny, and protected at night.
10. LOVE YOUR HAIR!!! It’s the hair you were born with so love it with all its flaws and imperfections. Living in a social media age is not easy. We constantly find ourselves comparing our physical appearances with others. I urge you to live in your own truth. Try to achieve the healthiest version of your own hair. I found myself becoming very critical of my own hair when I began transitioning because of this. It is ok to look to others for tips, advice, or style ideas but do not diminish what you currently have. Our hair is beautifully unique so embrace that. I believe as mothers during these age, this a truth we must teach our daughters. Children today are bombarded with visuals of what society considers beautiful. We must set our own standards in our own homes that allow our beautiful babies a feeling of security, and pride in themselves.