I’m a scientist. With most problems I encounter, I tend to solve them as if they are an experiment. If I know that certain predictions should come to pass and do not, the problem is most likely located within my protocol or process. Fast forward to the moment I realized my hair just wasn’t growing the way it should. I decided to attempt to identify the culprit.
Have you been stuck at the same length for months? Does it seem like it is going to take a decade before you reach your hair length goal? Are you trying to find the miracle product that will solve your problems, but it remains elusive?
I have a suggestion–troubleshoot.
What is a troubleshooter? Answer: an expert in discovering and eliminating the cause of trouble in mechanical equipment, or person who tries to find solutions to problems.
Now you (the reader) or I (the writer) may not be experts in hair, but we can definitely attempt to figure out what is going on with what grows out of our scalps. Therefore, when I was trying to figure out the cause of my poor length retention, I decided to dissect my hair regimen.
#1 Remove heat
This may seem like common sense, but common sense isn’t very common nowadays. High heat has the potential to make your hair brittle or destroy your curl pattern by burning the cuticle. When I transitioned, I continued to flat iron my hair (I mean my wonderful beautician). When I moved away for school, it was difficult to trust someone else with the care of my hair, and I could never get the same results as back home. I tried to recreate it myself (sort of failed). I also realized that some of the new hair products I used might not have been created for direct heat application. For instance, if I’m trying a new leave-in conditioner, that conditioner may not be designed for direct heat from a flat iron. So I may be frying my hair in my effort to straighten it.
Results – Besides limiting a potential contributor to my poor length retention, I was also forced to become more creative when styling my hair. This freed me from my addiction to direct heat. Initially, I gave myself a challenge of going one year heat free, which eventually (and effortlessly) became two. The only time I used heat was for deep conditioning.
#2 Pay attention to the ingredients
Once again you might say, “Duh.” However, for newbies in the natural hair game, you might not know how much you should read the fine print on hair products. With so many hair companies jumping on the natural hair bandwagon, there are a lot of products now that are marketed for “naturals” or “textured” or “curly” hair. In addition, there are people on YouTube and bloggers who make a living out of reviewing hair products for you. It’s easy to be lazy and give in to the advertisement. I know I’m guilty. When I started transitioning, I knew there were people who refused to use certain products if they had certain ingredients in them. But I thought, “Seriously…it doesn’t take all of that.” Well in following my troubleshoot method, the next potential problem I eliminated was products that contained ingredients that were often listed on the “Stay clear” list. This included alcohols, sulfates, glycerin, silicones, and mineral oil. Once I committed to removing these ingredients from my life, I was able to clear out my bathroom of all the product junk I had amassed. For every bottle or jar I kept, ten were given or thrown away.
Results – I was forced to start doing research on why these ingredients were bad for my hair and which ingredients were good. My bank account was much happier, since I wasn’t spending money on everything with the remote promise of making my hair look like my favorite YouTube blogger. After I changed the products I used, my hair seemed to stay moisturized longer.
#3 To comb or not to comb…that is the question
It is the rule of thumb that in order for your hair to be untangled, it must be combed. Right?…WRONG. I strongly believe the way you untangle your hair depends entirely on your curl pattern and hair thickness. Those with loose curls can handle a wide tooth comb easier than those with the tighter curls. If you have thick hair, it’s harder to comb through versus hair that is thinner. What kind of hair do I have? …Tight and kinky-curly coils that are long and thick. For years, I had been combing my hair out using a wide tooth comb. I even bought the expensive seamless combs. I tried every kind of method to make detangling and combing my hair out easier and nothing seemed to work. Each time I would see my whole shower peppered with hair fragments–pieces of hair that broke out in my quest to thoroughly detangle my hair. Even more frustrating was knowing after all the time I spent combing my hair out, when it dried it seemed to tangle again. I thought I was just wasting time.
A friend told me her sister had hair similar to mine and stopped combing her hair. I looked at her like she was crazy! That was like trying to tell me that a tiger makes a perfect housecat. She said she hadn’t combed her hair in two years and it was the longest it had ever been. I asked her why. Her response was, “My sister takes her time to finger detangle and remove hair that’s been shed. If there are fairy knots, sometimes she cuts them off and sometimes she doesn’t. She believes if she has already detangled her hair with her fingers, then the purpose of combing the hair out has already been achieved. Besides, when she’s finger detangling, she comes across knots that she patiently untangles. A comb would just rip through the hair without preference of what is a true tangle.” Although unconventional, the reasoning was sound and the results were promising. I decided to try it myself.
Results – I proceeded to finger detangle my hair for several months and noticed shedding of long strands instead of the usual hair fragments. Later, I discovered my favorite detangling technique to date which you can check out here. After a month, I could see a significant difference in the length of my hair and a decrease in the amount of knots discovered.
It’s been four years since I troubleshot my hair regimen. I’ve gone from being stuck at armpit length to (just recently) reaching my hair goal of mid-back length. If you have been frustrated by your lack of progress, I suggest you dissect what you are doing in your hair regimen step by step. If it doesn’t seem to be working, do not become stubborn and try to force it. Make some changes and move on. In the process, you will learn what works for you. After all, that’s all a part of the journey to becoming a naturalista.