It's good to look back and see how our knowledge grows as we learn and grow. This goes for my natural hair journey, as well.
I love a good ‘things I’ve learned’ post. This year (2019) makes 18 years – and during this time in my natural hair journey I’ve learned a TON of things; both about my natural hair and about myself.
Recently, I went through a kind of hiatus, during which I really didn’t want to deal with having “natural hair” – I wanted to explore a new hair identity, I think. I have been known as that “natural hair blogger” for so long, and I wanted to just do whatever I wanted to do with my hair, when I wanted to do it, and not feel obligated to explain myself with each hair change. I bleached my hair and colored it silver-grey; then purple; and then back to black. I chopped it several times, keeping it TWA-short. I put a relaxer in it and learned how to style a pixie cut. I chopped it again and wore wigs for months at a time. I tried a texlaxer. I chopped it again. And then I decided to leave it alone, grow it back out in its natural state, and leave it alone. Like for real this time.
I have no regrets. Besides the constant manipulation of my hair and changing it up so much not even I recognized myself in the mirror every week; I learned so many new techniques and ways to wear my hair. I got it all “out of my system”, and realized that no matter the color, length, or chemical process, I seemed to always go back to natural. I love being natural – being natural is me. And I love my natural hair’s natural texture and color.
I think this is the most important thing I took away from my hair wanderings.
But I also took away more hair-life lessons. So without further commentary, here are seven things I learned about my natural hair.
1. hair texture & curl type is not in the product; it’s in the blood.
We are being misled and every time I watch a natural hair YouTube video or see a natural hair product commercial my eye twitches. Because lies.
Look, I’m not trying to start any trouble – I just want to set the record straight:
T h e r e i s a n o t a p r o d u c t i n t h e W O R L D t h a t w i l l g i v e y o u c u r l s o r c o i l s , c h a n g e y o u r n a t u r a l c u r l p a t t e r n , o r s t r e t c h y o u r n a t u r a l h a i r W I T H O U T C H E M I C A L S .
Now that I have your attention, let me explain:
Your hair type, curl type, hair growth rate, density, thickness, etc. cannot be determined by the products we buy. It doesn’t matter how hard a natural hair company’s marketing department tries to make us believe that their product will elongate our curls, give us our dream the curl pattern, or make our hair thicker – it won’t. Hair products, like makeup, are great at enhancing what we already have, but they can’t give us what we weren’t born with in the first place. Don’t get me wrong – of course there are ways to enhance a style, temporarily stretch our hair styles, and even give our hair the appearance of thickness. However, we cannot alter those things just by purchasing an expensive product or trying a new ‘method’.
Now, all of these things are possible with the use of chemical treatments that can permanently give the results you may be looking for. But if you want your natural hair to shine, you first have to accept and embrace it for what it is as it grows out of your scalp… however coily, curly, or kinky it may be. Just learn to work with it and love it instead of trying to change it.
(sounds like relationship advice, doesn’t it?)
2. protective styles don’t always protect our strands.
I have found that most ‘protective styles’ require a ton of manipulation at the front end, and then more manipulation to take it out at the end. I’ve also noticed that I tend to lose more hair from the combing and brushing during this process, and when all is said and done I didn’t really protect anything.
But that style was cute as hell, right? So it’s totally worth it?
::epic side eye::
Again, don’t misunderstand – it is a great idea to find a style that will keep your ends tucked and your strands moisturized. But really think about the styles you choose and pay attention to how much you have stretch and manipulate your hair in order to ‘protect’ it. Also, how much work is it to take your hair down afterwards? Compare your favorite ‘protective styles’ and look for loss of hair and how much, how your hair feels after the protective style, and whether you really got all the mileage out of that style. Was it worth it? Be honest…
‘So Fern, what style do you use to protect your natural hair?’
Good question! I stick with wash & gos, exclusively. It’s a one-and-done where I condition and detangle and apply my leave in while in the shower, and then apply my gel. Then for about 2 days I don’t touch it, at all, giving it time to dry. And then I band it using a touch of coconut oil and where it slightly stretched for the next 4-5 days. Low maintenance, and protected from myself!
Want to know more? Check out my Wash & Go Routine, coming to a post near you very soon!
3. hair health beats length any day.
Don’t measure your strands, instead take proper measures to make sure your hair is healthy. Proper natural hair care that includes a hair routine, products that work with your hair, regular trims, good styling techniques, and healthy habits will ensure that your hair is healthy, which results in length retention.
4. what goes in must come out.
Just like your skin will often reflect your health, the same goes for your hair. There is no deep conditioner, masque, or reparative treatment that will fix the thing that is already broken. Don’t rely on those things, especially if you aren’t doing what’s necessary to maintain the health of your body and hair. Good things in, good things out – a healthy lifestyle, however that looks for you, will not only benefit your natural hair, but your body and your outlook on life.
5. less is more and methods are distractions.
Too many products, too many steps, too many methods… natural hair care has become an excess of sponsored products and unproven fad methods that result in hours of unnecessary washing, conditioning, styling, and drying time. Believe me, I know; I did it, too. And then I realized I was missing out on life – sitting at home putting elaborate styles in my hair while every one was out and about having fun.
There are times when you want a style that will last a few weeks, so you give up a few hours to put it in. That’s different. But every week taking hours and hours to wash, condition, and style? I can’t.
And who needs an oil on top of a milk on top of a gel on top of a cream on top of a leave in?
Holy buildup, batman!
For the sake of our natural hair, we need to learn to pick a routine and one or two products, and stick with it! I had to come to terms with my ever-changing routine and make the decision to just pick something and stick to it. What a difference it has made in my hair’s health and my free time. Not to mention my wallet!
6. not all self-proclaimed (or community-proclaimed) hair “gurus” know anything about natural hair care.
Stop listening to what everyone else says you should do for your hair and figure out what your natural hair needs for yourself.
Your natural hair journey is yours. No one else’s. So you have to learn and explore those things that are good for your hair. Obviously there are times we all see something on YouTube that we want to try and it works – this is how some of us discover our ‘holy grail’ products and techniques; but trying every lunatic, fad hair method invented for views and likes that pop up every other day is wearing your natural hair out. Not to mention that most really popular YouTubers are being paid to sell you products and methods that they, themselves, don’t even use or do. Your hair doesn’t have time to get used to all these changes.
Here’s what I finally told myself: ‘Girl, calm down, take a breath, and enjoy your journey. Not every product or method is for you, and you are not missing out if you don’t try it all.‘
7. hair is supposed to be fun- it does not define you, although sometimes it is used to describe you... make it count!
Despite it all, natural hair – all hair – should be fun!
If you can’t try new things and allow it to enhance your personality, then what’s the point? Keeping it plaited up and preserved like a museum artifact doesn’t allow it to shine! Or breath. Take care of it, and then have fun with it! Hair should not be boring!