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Natural Hair 101
In order to have a successful natural hair journey, you must first understand exactly what the term natural hair really means.
There are several different definitions of the term, but below I’ve provided the most common definition, and the one that we will talk about most often on the blog:
The term natural hair is defined as relaxer-free hair, which is different from chemical-free hair. Chemicals, on the surface, are often considered dangerous, but this is often times not the case at all. Most chemicals that you encounter on a daily basis are perfectly safe and harmless. For example, water or H2O is a safe chemical.
Black natural hair is sometimes labeled as nappy hair that needs to be corrected by a relaxer. We’ve heard of situations where women have been discriminated against in the workplace due to having natural hairstyles, which are deemed unprofessional by some employers. Others have been denied jobs or promotions because of their natural hair. Natural hair has also caused relationship issues for many couples.
This site is about helping you understand your hair and providing you with information and resources to naturally achieve healthy natural hair. We often interview other naturals on the site because we want to give everyone the opportunity to share their experiences with natural hair. We often learn the most by reading and analyzing other people’s experiences. It’s also encouraging when you see pictures of other women with natural hair and hear them speak positively about their natural hair journey. These stories often serve as proof that your journey can be just as successful if you’re willing to invest the time and energy into learning to care for your hair properly.
The Real Reason You’re Struggling on Your Natural Hair Journey (if applicable)
There are problems with some of the advice that’s typically given out online. Some natural hair advisors or product manufacturers will tell you that you need to find the perfect product or simply master protective styling to have a successful natural hair journey.
If you’ve tried some of these techniques and haven’t found the success that you’re aiming for, you probably know by now that you need more than generic recycled advice.
That’s one of the main reasons that we built Natural Hair Community.
Our hair care method is based on a comprehensive blueprint for building a successful natural hair journey. It’s not designed to only provide short-term results for you, but to also build a robust foundation that will lead to a lifetime of success on your natural hair journey.
The Natural Hair Blueprint will be your guide throughout the course of building a successful natural hair journey. The blueprint is based on everything that Jael and I have learned over the years reading cosmetology books, scientific periodicals, performing general research and by advising naturals around the world and watching their natural hair improve.
The blueprint is divided into three pillars: foundation, products, and styling and maintenance. Each of these pillars work to help you improve your natural hair journey. This blueprint is intended to be balanced, however depending on your strengths – you may need to spend more time on certain areas of the blueprint to see real improvements in your natural hair.
We like to focus on taking action and interaction. Taking action is the best way to receive benefit from this website. We try to thoroughly explain concepts and give you very specific ways to take action.
A key component of the Natural Hair Blueprint is building relationships with people in the community. This website is structured to make sure that you can get plenty of interaction with other community members. We expect that many of your community interactions will become beneficial relationships.
Understanding Your Hair Type
We tend not to focus on hair types in our articles for one very specific reason. Regardless of hair type – there are several common things that are often overlooked that everyone needs to do in order to have healthy natural hair. At times we will write articles for specific types of hair, but keep this simple point in mind – you must drink plenty of water, reduce stress, wear protective styles, limit the amount of heat you put on your hair, wash your hair regularly and more regardless of your hair type. In addition, many people have multiple hair types or categorizations on their head, so we tend to focus on those types of things here instead of your hair type.
Advice That Will Help You Start Your Natural Hair Journey
There is no right or wrong way to go natural; the important element is that you are. If you decide to transition it’s important to know that the line of demarcation is where the natural hair and relaxed hair meet. You’ll definitely notice a difference in the texture of your natural hair and your relaxed hair. Relaxers weaken your hair, leaving it dull and damaged over time.
You’ll learn that your hair will tell you what it needs and it’s critical that you pay attention to what it is telling you. Selecting your initial set of natural hair products is important and many naturals spend quite a bit of time trying new products in an attempt to find the perfect product for their hair. You must get to know your hair to understand which products will work best for you.
My advice to you: Start a natural hair journal and begin documenting everything that you do to your hair.
The Truth about Hair Shedding
Some experts estimate that shedding more than 100 hairs per day is perfectly normal. About 10% of the hairs on your head are in a resting phase (i.e. telogen), and those hairs fall out after about 2 or 3 months. The other 90% (roughly) of your hairs are growing at any given time. Hair growth occurs in cycles consisting of three phases: Anagen (growth phase), Catagen (transitional phase) and Telogen (resting phase). Hair grows at different rates for different people; the average rate is around one-half inch per month. Due to a short active growth phase, some people have difficulty growing their hair beyond a certain length.
My advice to you:Don’t worry too much about your hair shedding unless it seems truly excessive. If your hair shedding does seem excessive, you should start by investigating the following areas: tight hairstyles, diet and nutrition, current medications, stress, illnesses, nervous habits, Alopecia Areata and hormonal changes. Several of these issues may require the professional diagnoses of a medical doctor to determine the root cause of the hair shedding.
Prevent Breakage and Split-ends
Your hair is dead material, which is the reason why you can treat it with strong chemicals, cut it with scissors or apply heat to it without feeling a thing. The only problem with that is – since your hair is not alive, it cannot repair itself. Damage to the hair must be trimmed away or grown out. For example, there is not a permanent cure for split-ends. There are some conditioners that can essentially patch split-ends and make them less visible, but over a period of time those split-ends will reappear. The only way to permanently get rid of your split-ends is to trim them away. You should absolutely never burn away your split-ends.
Hair breakage is the most common cause of hair loss. Tight hairstyles (ex. tight ponytails and braids) can break off the hair and damage the hair follicle. If your hair constantly breaks you will need to identify exactly what’s causing the breakage and eliminate the culprit to prevent further breakage. The most common causes of breakage are heat, harsh chemicals, tight hairstyles and rough treatment.
My advice to you: Hot appliances, like flat irons, curling irons and pressing combs, are popular, but often lead to serious hair damage because their high heats can result in brittle, dry hair that breaks easily – especially when it’s overused. If you decide to use heat, then you should definitely use a heat protectant, but understand that it’s impossible to completely protect the hair from heat damage. If an appliance is hot enough to burn your skin, then there is a legitimate chance that the appliance will damage your hair.
Make sure that your hairstyles aren’t overly tight and stay away from chemical processes that change the structure of your hair and handle your hair with care. Too-frequent manipulation (combing, brushing, tugging, pulling, etc.) can lead to increased breakage.
Health, Nutrition, Hair Vitamins and Supplements
Generally speaking the same nutritious foods that are good for your body promote stronger, healthier hair. If you don’t eat a healthy diet, your hair could suffer.
Your hair doesn’t contain vitamins – it is not a living structure. If you’re eating a balanced, nutritious diet there is very little benefit gained from taking hair vitamins and supplements. If you simply concentrate on eating low-fat proteins, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and whole grains you can help your hair reach its full potential.
If you are NOT eating a balanced, nutritious diet or have a medical condition or imbalance you might need vitamins and supplements to help your hair reach its full potential.
My advice to you: Eat a healthy, well-balanced, diet and save your money on hair vitamins and supplements unless you have a medical condition or imbalance.
There is no evidence that exercise has any direct benefit to the health of your hair.
My advice to you: Exercise regularly because it reduces stress and promotes general health – which indirectly can have substantive impacts on the success of your natural hair.
The most often purchased natural hair product is shampoo. The main problem that I see with shampoos is that there are so many different types; one for every type of hair and/or scalp condition. It’s easy to get confused when choosing a product as simple as shampoo.
My advice to you: Choose products that are designed to be gentle on your hair and are pH-balanced. Most experts will agree that a pH-balanced shampoo is essential to preventing excessive dryness and hair damage during the shampooing process.
How often should you wash your hair?
Each head of hair is different, so there is really no correct answer. However, you can tell when you’re washing your hair too much if it starts to get dull, which means it’s time to scale back on the shampooing. By over-washing your hair, you can wash away your hair’s natural moisture which helps your hair look healthy. If you’re not washing your hair often enough, you can have product build-up which could negatively impact your hair.
My advice to you: When washing use lukewarm water, because hot water can strip the scalp of sebum, which is the protective oil that acts as a natural conditioner and gives your hair its shine. When you create your initial natural hair regimen, begin by washing your hair once per week. Record how your hair responds for a few weeks and make adjusts as necessary.
Conditioners are intended to deposit protein or moisture into the hair strand to restore the hair’s strength, give your hair body and to protect your hair against possible breakage. The effects of conditioners are only temporary. The term conditioner is often used to describe many different things. For example, there are finishing rinses, cream rinses, protein conditioners, hot oil treatments, deep conditioning treatments and leave-in conditioners – and I’ve only named a few.
My advice to you: Start by regularly conditioning your hair after shampooing and having a deep-penetrating conditioner every month. You should document how your hair responds in a hair journal and make adjustments as needed. Also, buying really expensive products isn’t necessary, but you should beware of products that are extremely inexpensive relative to the competition.
Styling Your Hair
Protective styling is critical to the success of your natural hair journey. The lack of using protective styles is often the reason that several women suffer from excessive breakage and fail to grow their hair to their desired length.
A protective hairstyle requires minimal upkeep, gives you the opportunity to moisturize daily, and it keeps the ends of your hair safe and tucked away – protected. You can successfully grow your hair quite long with the appropriate selection of products, proper styling and handling.
My advice to you: Find a few protective styles that you like and frequently incorporate them into your natural hair regimen, so you can protect the ends of your hair. Growing long hair is about mitigating hair breakage to retain the hair that you currently have – and protective styling allows you to accomplish this.
Below are some examples of my favorite protective hairstyles. The list includes Updos, Bantu Knots, Buns and French Rolls.
During your natural hair journey, there are many different things that you might have to correct: dry hair, oily hair and dandruff are just a few.
Generally speaking you should refer to your natural hair journal when you’re experiencing a problem with your hair. It’s the primary guide to correcting your hair problems. You should begin asking yourself questions until you determine the potential root cause of the problem.
For example, have you changed anything about your regimen recently? Are you shampooing more often? What about taking a new medication? Did you recently start a stressful job? When was the last time you applied heat to your hair?
Use a root cause approach to correcting the issues that you identify. This troubleshooting technique is based on the premise that you can solve many problems that you’re having with your hair by addressing (correcting or eliminating) the potential root causes, as opposed to only addressing the symptoms.
For example, dry hair can be caused by external factors like harsh shampoo, chlorine, applying heat to hair, too much sun or wind exposure and hard shower water to name a few. On the other hand, dry hair can also be caused by internal factors such as medications, nutritional deficiency or medical illnesses.
My advice to you: Identify the root cause of your “hair problem” and address the root cause.
And finally, we’re here for you as you progress through your natural hair journey. Feel free to leave a comment or let us know if you have any questions.