Softly, Softly (to Retain Length)
Here’s a novel idea: Be gentle with your hair!
Our culture does not emphasize gentleness and Lagos does not reward patience. If, however, you don’t make these 2 qualities the cornerstone of your hair care regimen, you will not be happy with your hair.
As children, our hair was pulled every which way into whatever style had been picked for us. Our heads got smacked if we didn’t stay still. As adults, we “ow”, “ye”, wince, and hold on to the roots when our hair is pulled into tight styles. Now we’re natural, but that hair aggression has become a part of us and we still stress our tresses. We still don’t realize that our hair is DELICATE.
I’ll say it again, people: BLACK HAIR IS DELICATE.
Forget the common misconception about natural hair being able to take anything. The more coiled your hair is, the more stress (or potentially weak) points it has, and the more easily it gets tangled. Treat it unkindly and it will break off, leaving you frustrated about your hair “not growing.” In addition to proper conditioning, frequent mositurizing, and protective styling, here are a few tips to aid successful hair care sessions:
- Do make the time: Schedule your hair session for when you can spare a lot of time. Put in a movie (or two, depending on your fullness and length), play some music, or catch up with a friend via video chat. The idea is to get comfortable–you’re going to be there a while.
- Do check your tools: Before you start, check your fingernails, combs, clips, and bobby pins. Make sure they’re all smooth without any rough edges that can hook and break off your strands. Make sure your bobby pins have those rubber cushions on the ends. Throw out anything that’s not smooth and invest in good-quality tools.
- Do detangle slowly: Some detangle before they wash. (I do now, with lots of olive oil.) Others detangle in the shower. Still others detangle after washing while their hair’s still wet. Whichever method you choose, do it gently and slowly. Don’t think, “I can afford to rip out these balls.” Instead, remember what they say about little drops of water. Tip: if you hit a tangle, soak it in oil and try using a safety pin to slowly pry the tangle apart.
- Do plan double time for styling: I used to wear twist-outs all the time, but I’d always tell myself that I only needed 15 minutes to separate the twists and style. Fun times; after about 25 minutes, I’d start rushing and lots more hair would end up on the floor. Always double the amount of time you think it will take, especially if it’s a new style you’re trying or if you’re getting your hair done at the hair salon.
- Do speak up: If you feel more than a slight tug on your hair, STOP YOUR STYLIST! And this doesn’t just apply to your front edges. Tell her or him if you can feel tension on any part of your head. Don’t be afraid to stop them and have someone else do your hair, or simply forego the hairdo. (Remember: plan double time for styling.)
- Don’t do your hair when you’re tired or frustrated: You’ve just come home after a long day at work. You’ve been chasing three kids around the house for the last 2 hours. You’ve just been out partying and you’re a little tipsy. Drop that comb and back away from the tub. Only do your hair when you have more than enough energy to. That said, try to make sure you protect your hair before you pass out after a long day.
- Don’t pull: Whether you’re washing or stretching or styling, do it gently and don’t pull. We’ve all been hardwired to pull, so make a conscious effort not to. Again, don’t let the hairdresser pull your hair! Don’t believe the myth about it loosening up after a few days–it’s loosened up because the hair’s broken off!
- Don’t scrape: When you’re washing, use the balls of your fingers, not your nails, to gently massage your scalp. Viciousness only rips out hair and makes for sore scalps.
- Don’t use too much heat: I don’t use heat at all anymore because it always damaged my hair, but some naturals prefer to. If you use heat, keep it low and don’t hold your blow dryer too close to your hair. Use a protective serum, but don’t apply oil or any butter; oil and butters heats up and can burn your hair.
Bottom line: be gentle. Treat your hair right and she’ll make you happy.