As a natural hair blogger, one of my most frequently asked questions is “What did you do to grow out your hair?” While I offer many tips and tricks for hair growth, much of my success has also been a factor of what I have not done to my hair. The following four hair practices, once eliminated, greatly contributed to the health and length of my hair.
I Don’t Comb My Hair
I rarely put a comb through my hair! And no, that’s not because my hair is locked. I’ve found that my hair breaks most when manipulated with brushes and combs. My strands can’t stand all the raking. My strands naturally grow together in tufts of 6-8 individual hairs, almost like mini locks. I’ve figured that this is probably nature’s way of telling me that my hair need not be combed or heavily detangled.
Rather than comb my hair, I use my fingers for detangling. I’ve found that my fingers are better able to tease out any knots and tangles. First, I section and braid my hair into eight twists. Then, I take each section at a time and gently work my way along the length of my hair, unraveling tangles as I go. As opposed to combs, which tend to have jagged seams, my fingers don’t snag and pull at my strands.
While this process of finger detangling might be more tedious and time-consuming than combing, I’ve found that it has largely contributed to the length and health of my hair.
I Don’t Wear Braids With Heavy Extensions
Braiding is a distinctive aspect of black hair care and rightly so. They are a versatile, affordable, and easily installed. I wore braids for many years as a teenager. In fact, braids were my go-to style and I rocked them in every colour, length, and texture under the sun!
However, as I learned more about hair care from the natural hair community, I realised that one of the factors that had contributed to my damaged hair was serial braiding with extensions. I’d use six to eight packets of braiding extensions and my installations were always very small and tight. It’s no surprise that my edges were patchy and the rest of my hair parched and uneven. Braiding with extensions not only dried out my hair, it also weighed down my poor strands!
The minute I stopped braiding, I saw a vast improvement in the health and length of my hair. My fine, type 4 strands simply could not withstand all the manipulation of the braiding process and they sure were happy when I gave them a break. Wearing my hair in braids without extensions has allowed me to better nurture my strands. I can cleanse and moisturise my hair regularly and monitor the general health of my scalp.
Read more: Ask Dr. Kari: Effective Protective Styling
I Don’t Wash & Go
At my current length – about 18 inches – a wash and go is an absolute no-no! My hair is very curly so it shrinks to about 1/4 of its true length. As if that’s not enough, it doesn’t neatly shrink into a sweet TWA. Somehow my strands manage to tangle as much as they possibly can on their way down towards my scalp. Need I say, detangling thereafter, is a nightmare! A wash & go leaves my hair in a royal mess and I have yet to figure out a way to leave the shower with a dripping afro and not cry later.
Rather, if I must wash my hair and be out the door, I’ll braid it in 4- 6 twists when I’m in the shower. I’ll then let it dry in these twists as I go through my day. Keeping my hair stretched while it dries, greatly prevents matting and knotting. If I’d like to style my hair differently after its dry, all I have to do is gently detangle my sectioned and stretched hair and I’m good to go.
I Don’t Use Direct Heat Regularly
When I was younger I’d look at women with long curly hair and wonder why they didn’t straighten it more often in order to show their full length. However, with time I’ve come to realise that the precise reason why they had long hair in the first place was because they didn’t use much heat! When I applied the same principle to my natural hair care, I found that I retained a lot of length.
When I do use direct heat, I use it sparingly. I make sure to deep condition my hair at least 24-48 hours prior. I also apply a silicone-based heat protectant and use only one pass per section. I only use heat once a year during my natural hair anniversary during where I thoroughly enjoy my true length and take lots of pictures.
During the rest of the year, I nurture my coils and kinks by avoiding heat. Rather than stretch my hair using direct heat, I’ve found some heatless techniques just as gratifying. I might simply stretch my hair using braids and then unravel them for a twist out. I’ve also used the banding method. These simple heatless techniques yield a lot of hang time!
What don’t you do to your hair and why? Leave us a note down below, we’d love to know!