Tag Archives: Stretching natural hair

Is your hair preventing you from working out consistently?

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Since the Madam CJ Walker’s straightening tools were invented, working out has conflicted with hair styling and maintenance, for many in the black community. People would straighten their kinks and curls, but any slight moisture on the scalp would cause their precious straight hair to revert back. The time and pain experienced during this process, meant that reverting back so quickly was not an option. Parents would  warn their little girls to look after their hair, to preserve the style for as long as possible. Even playing outside and running around could pose a threat to the hair.  In an 1982 article by Ebony Magazine, reader Pam Proctor recounts the many missed opportunities to swim or participate in sports because her hair would ‘go back’.  Then came the years of relaxers, which, are still going on til this day.  Some subscribed to this notion of ‘sweating out the perm’. This may be why stereotypes have  formed about black women in particular, not participating in swimming.  Not wanting to get their hair or weave wet, has typically been a reason given for avoiding it.  Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but many of these stereotypes started because of hair..

So how have attitudes changed since then? With access to the internet and the growth of the information age, people are becoming more informed about health and fitness. More of us, from all races and backgrounds are learning about prevention rather than cure. People are taking responsibility for their health and know that a lifetime of dependency on prescription drugs and medicines isn’t their only option.  Unfortunately, certain diseases are attributed more towards people of African descent (type 2 diabetes, certain cancers for instance). Most health problems are connected to poor diet and a lack of physical activity, Staying active is a huge step towards taking control of your health and breaking the cycle of disease.

Hair should be the last thing that prevents you from working out. For those who don’t want to be another stereotype or statistic; here are some tips on staying motivated to workout and not allowing your hair to get in the way.

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Plan your hairstyles around your working out, not the other way around

After styling your hair in a fresh twist out or spending an uncomfortable night with your hair in flexi-rods, the last thing you want to do is go to the gym and sweat profusely. A fresh new hairstyle can instantly switch your mind off workout mode. However, you could workout Monday to Friday and do a new style for the weekend. Consider flat ironing your hair as a treat rather than a necessity. Even if you regularly flat-iron, you can still wear curly and wavy styles, don’t be so hung up on achieving that bone straight look all the time.  You could even plan your styles around certain workouts that aren’t as strenuous. If it’s cardio day tomorrow, keep the hair in a bun, but if it’s weights day, your hair should not get too frizzy. If you have a special occasion coming up, you could prep your hair after your workout, and it will be ready for the event the next day.

Find your workout hair style

This depends on how you are styling your hair for the week. A protective style is probably the easiest style to manage when working out. Two strand twists, pinned up or put into a ponytail, work well. I prefer to put my hair in a puff, as it is the most convenient style for me.  If I want to preserve a twist out or curly style, I work out with my hair in a loose pineapple. Go for a style that keeps the ends of your hair away from your neck and off your forehead, so they remain dry. If your ends remain dry, your twist-out will still be somewhat evident, even if the roots become a little damp or frizzy.  I also find wash and gos hold up well when working out. To maintain a wash and go, I put my hair in low pigtails. Then I take them down when I am finished, give the hair a little shake, and I am ready to go.african-american-woman-running-400x295-300x295

Keep your hair up for as long as possible, after a workout

Unless you are taking your hair down to wash, perhaps leave it in a puff or pineapple. This will prevent your ends from becoming frizzy while your scalp dries.  It will also keep the hair taut at the roots so your hair is more stretched when it is taken down.

Avoid working out with your scarf or bonnet on

Sweating helps to regulate your body temperature by removing excess heat. We usually lose a lot of heat from our head. A scarf may cause you to retain more heat during a workout, as the heat is restricted from escaping. It is important that your scalp remains breathable, so the body does not become overheated. This can end up having a negative impact on your workout overall. If you want to keep your hair sleek, spray your hair with a mist of water after your workout, and then put the scarf on to sleek the hair and edges down. After 15 minutes or so, the hair will appear sleeker once the scarf is removed. From my experience wearing a scarf while working out never really prevented my hair from becoming frizzy anyway.

Practice co-washing more frequently

If you are working out during the week you will want to wash your hair more frequently. Many would want to avoid exposing their hair to frequent shampooing because of the drying effect this can have. Frequent co-washing is considered kinder to the hair and even moisturizing. Wash and gos may also work well for this reason. Check out the post: Stretching and styling your hair after washing for convenient styling ideas.


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Focus on the benefits of working out

Frizzy hair is not as serious as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stress or depression. Just a few health issues exercise has been proven to prevent or treat. The hair challenges that exercise may present, are minor in relation to the benefits. Such benefits will not be seen unless you workout consistently and make it a lifestyle rather than just a New Year fad. People who exercise also have a longer life expectancy and generally are better off physically and mentally. Besides, when you take care of your body, your hair and skin will thank you for it!

We have all been guilty of it at some point. How do you manage your hair when working out? Share your tips below.

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Stretching And Styling Your Hair After Washing

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Wash day can be just that, a whole day. However, we shouldn’t have to draw a line through the day just to wash our hair.  I am now able to wash my hair and go out to dinner within the hour. Washing your hair should not have to result in a night in front of the TV, waiting for our hair to dry in twists. Some of us avoid swimming because of the time spent washing and detangling our hair afterwards.  Here are some styles that are appropriate to do after washing. They allow you to wash, style and go. Plus, they have the added bonus of stretching the hair, making it easy to re-style the next day.

 

Roll, tuck and pin

Kimmytube first introduced me to this style. It is simply rolling the hair around the head and pinning. This is a great style for medium length hair, which, may not be long enough to put into a bun. It also helps to stretch the hair, as it is pulled taut to roll and shape. Use hair pins or bobby pins to secure the style.  Cover hair with a satin scarf and leave for five minutes to smooth your edges down.

 

 

Low pigtails/buns

Pigtails are easier than putting the hair into a bun, as you only need to style one half of the head at a time. This works well for thick hair, which, can be difficult to put into a ponytail, especially when wet and shrunken. I don’t worry about doing the perfect part down the middle. I simply use my fingers.  If you want to do a neat part use a rat-tail comb.  All you will need are two snag proof hair bands.

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This style can be modified in three ways:

1. If your hair is short to medium length , you can leave it in pigtails. The front will be pulled taut and be stretched from the roots.

2. If your hair is medium to long, you can put each pigtail into a bun. Twist each one and roll into a bun. Pin to secure or use another hair band to hold the buns in place.

3. You can braid each pigtail, creating two jumbo braids. This will stretch out the hair the most. If you are worried about looking like a school girl, pin both braids up and across from each other, to create a more mature style.  This is demonstrated in the video below.

Check out whoissugar’s after washing styles and, styling ideas for the following day.

 

Top knot

Put the hair in a high ponytail and pin into a bun. The ponytail can be twisted or braided. This will make it easier to shape, and protect the hair as it is manipulated. Or, shape the bun loosely, in whichever way you desire.  Be gentle when styling wet hair, as it is more fragile. This is an easy style to do.  It still looks good even when it is a little messy. So you don’t necessarily have to worry about obtaining the sleek look and smoothing down your edges.

Top Knot

Top Knot

 

A low bun

This is great for medium to long hair and, looks elegant for going out later. To ensure that the hair looks as sleek as possible, use the palm of your hands to smooth your edges. If you use a product for smoothing  add accordingly. I use my homemade flaxseed (linseed) gel to hold my edges down, if necessary. The most important step is covering your head firmly with a satin scarf. Leave it on as you finish getting ready (10 minutes or so).  When you take if off the hair should looker sleeker. You can also use a donut to fill out the bun, which, could also be made using an old sock.

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 Two french braids

Split the hair in two and put each side into a French braid. Again splitting the hair will make it easier to manipulate. Sleek down the edges with some product or water and cover with a satin scarf. The next day the hair should be stretched and wavy. I have worn my hair out in this stretched out style before.

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French Braids

 

A Jumbo Braid

My favorite after washing style is the jumbo braid. Just put your hair into a low ponytail. Divide the ponytail into three and braid down. I find this stretches my hair the most and leaves it wavy when taken down.  This is the quickest and most convenient after washing style to do. Add some flaxseed gel to smooth your edges and use your satin scarf.

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After swimming

If you have gone swimming in a pool that has chlorine, it is best to use a clarifying shampoo (if not that day then later during the week). Immediately follow this with a conditioner to relieve that squeaky clean feeling.  Co-washing is even quicker, as there are fewer steps. Take a medium-sized section of hair, detangle and remove shed hair with the conditioner in.  Add your leave in and/or oil for sealing, to that section of hair. Twist it to prevent it from getting tangled again.   By the end, you should have four to six large twists.  Cover the hair with a t-shirt to remove the excess water.  Then you can style the hair using any of the above methods, if you have somewhere to go afterwards. If your hair needs to be deep conditioned or requires extra care and attention, this can be done at home later.

 

Two important tools

A satin scarf and t-shirt are crucial.  Loosely wrap your head with the t-shirt to remove the excess water. It only has to be on for a few minutes. This will ensure that your hair is not soaking wet when styling, making it easier and safer to manipulate. Do not leave your hair to dry completely before styling.   Use the satin scarf to smooth down your edges. Smooth your edges with the palms of your hand. Place the scarf on firmly and continue to get ready for the day. After about 10 minutes your edges should be a lot smoother and, the style will appear less frizzy overall. The longer you leave the scarf on the better.

Your hair can also look great in twists

Your hair can also look great in twists

 

After washing and styling, your hair will still be a little damp but look presentable.  This will enable you to continue on with your day. Obviously, if you want to do a braid out or twist out, you should put your hair in braids or twists after washing. Some women like to wear their hair in large twists or braids as a style. This is another option. For those who are not a fan of this look, it usually means staying in for the day or covering your hair with a scarf or hat. The above styles allow you to style your hair quickly after washing and, still look presentable.  Then you can do a braid or twist out on stretched hair another day. I no longer dedicate a whole day to washing my hair, unless I want to.

How do you style your hair after washing? Share your ideas below.

 

 

How to stretch your hair without using heat (updated).

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Shrinkage is no fun when hair becomes unmanageable, knotted and prone to breakage. Stretched hair is more pliable and easier to manage, plus, you get to show off more length.  When I first went natural I thought my only option was to blow dry my hair out, after every wash. Too much heat led to dry hair and slight heat damage. There are many methods of stretching the hair without having to rely on heat. Here are some old ideas revisited plus some new ones.

Shrinkage

Shrinkage

Braids and Twists

This is the most common method. Hair is put into medium to large braids or twists to wear in a stretched out style, such as a braid out or twist out.  If this is done after washing, larger twists or braids can be done and kept in overnight; this will be a quick way to stretch the hair for easier styling the next day.  If you do braids or twists on dry hair (other than a light spray of water), this will stretch the hair out even more.

Bandingbands

Purchase a packet of hair bands, preferably the seamless, snag proof ones.  After washing, divide hair into medium-sized sections (usually 8-10).  Then band each section, working from the roots to tips. Each band should be an inch or so apart. Here is a good tutorial on banding.

 I enjoyed this method but it was a little time-consuming. I have only tried it once.  It’s good for achieving a heatless blowout.  I found that it took a while to dry, especially the sections of hair covered by the bands.  Covering your head with a satin scarf will delay the drying further.  Leave your head uncovered and sleep on a  satin pillow case,  or cover your pillow with your satin scarf.

 Buns

After I take my hair down from a bun, it is always stretched out.  My hair is most stretched after being in a low bun.  I put my hair in a low ponytail, then  braid the ponytail and tuck it under into a bun.  This can be tricky with thick hair, so you can do two or three large braids to make it easier.  After taking down the bun and finger combing my hair slightly, my hair looks like a blowout.

You can also put your hair into two low buns after washing, and leave it overnight. This will stretch it out for the next day. Top knots, high buns and doughnut buns also work well for stretching the hair.

 Roller sets

Putting your hair in large rollers and sitting under a hooded dryer  (or air drying), leaves the hair stretched.  It may even look like it has been straightened or at least blown out.  Again, this may be time-consuming, but should leave you with stretched out hair for a week or even longer.

 Roll tuck and pin

A quick and convenient protective style, that can be done after washing.  If done after washing, your hair will be stretched when it is dry.  This can work with shorter hair as well, but it may require the use of more pins.  Invest in some strong hair pins!

Kimmaytube has a great tutorial on this.

 French braids

It is best to do this on damp hair that is more pliable.  If done on dry hair there may be too much manipulation involved, especially if your hair is in a shrunken state.  After taking your hair down from a French braid, it will be wavy and elongated, with a flat twist out appearance. You could do two French braids on either side, one large braid down the middle, or a bohemian braid around your head to frame your face.

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 Heatless blowout

This can be achieved by finger combing your hair or gently using a wide tooth comb, after it has been in an old twist out or braid out. Or after it has been in curlformers, rollers or flexi rods. Before washing your hair you can wear it in as a blown out style without the use of heat.

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My heatless blowout

Stretching out your hair leads to greater manageability and less breakage when styling. The kinkier your hair is, the more you will benefit from wearing stretched out styles. It can also help to reduce single strand knots and  tangling.  How do you stretch out your hair? Share your ideas below.

Caring for 4b Hair

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My top six tips for caring for 4b hair and retaining length.

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1. Moisturize regularly

Afro textured hair has a tendency to be dry.  With all the kinks and curls it is difficult for moisture to penetrate every strand thoroughly. Therefore we constantly have to keep our hair moisturized. Moisturizing in advance is better than waiting for your hair to dry out before adding moisture. This will also minimize the breakage that occurs as a result of dryness.  A moisturizing deep conditioner applied after shampooing will give your hair a well needed moisture boost. How often you do this is up to you.  I try to do mine once a week but if my hair is in a protective style like mini twist I find it easier to do a hot oil treatment instead.

Washing your hair doesn’t just clean it; it adds moisture that you can seal in for days or even the whole week, depending on how well your hair absorbs and retains moisture. After shampooing and conditioning, use a good sealant to lock in the moisture. A natural oil such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or Shea butter will work well for sealing in moisture. Then check your hair during the week to ensure that it isn’t getting dry. A spray bottle with water can be used to top up the moisture of your hair or you can use a leave in conditioner of your choice. Make sure any leave in conditioner you use is water based. Water should be first on the list of ingredients.  Some people prefer to use a leave in conditioner especially if they have their hair in a twist out or braid out style. Spraying your hair with water can cause frizz and not allow your style to last as long. I usually just lightly mist my hair and then rub some oil into my hands and pat my hair lightly.  It depends on what style my hair is in. If your hair is in twists, you can spray or moisturized more easily. You have to do what works best for you. I think the main rule is to take action if you notice that your hair is getting dry, don’t simply ignore it.

Plastic caps are also good for locking in moisture after lightly misting your hair. You could wear one around the house during the day or to bed at night. You will notice that the moisture has remained in your hair overnight and your hair should feel soft and moist in the morning. Cover your head with a silk or satin scarf or use a satin pillow case. Cotton pillow cases absorb moisture and dry your hair out.  Most importantly be aware that moisture comes from within, so don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

 

2. Handle your hair with care

Once your natural hair gets longer you will find that your level of patience must also increase. Afro-textured hair is usually more delicate than Asian or European hair because the strands are finer in diameter, especially around the bends and twists of the strands.  Therefore our hair is more prone to breakage with heavy manipulation and rough handling.  4b hair in particular is tightly coiled and every kink, curl and bend presents a potential breaking point. Growing up, I  always believed I had ‘tough’ hair because my hair has a thick density. However, I know now that my individual strands are quite fine.  According to The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy; medium-sized strands are the same size as a strand of frayed thread. If your strands are thinner than this they are considered to be fine.  If your strands are larger than this, then they are thick.  I must be extra careful when handling my hair. It’s just isn’t wise to do my hair when I’m in a rush because there will be little broken hairs on my shoulders or on the floor! Be careful when styling your hair and use your fingers as much as possible to detangle, before using a wide tooth comb. Hair should also be handled when damp as it is more pliable in this state. Finally split your hair into sections before styling. This makes it less daunting and allows you to concentrate on one section at a time. This will minimize the damage and breakage from styling and manipulating.

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3. Low manipulation and protective styling

Almost every time we style and manipulate our hair there is always the potential for breakage or damage. The aim is to keep this breakage to a minimum. If you have 4b hair, separating your strands through combing, detangling and styling is always risky business. Therefore the less manipulation your hair goes through the less breakage it will experience. Keeping your hair in protective styles or low manipulation styles like buns, twists, braids or updos, will give it days, weeks or months of little to no manipulation. This will give you a break from managing your hair and protect the ends of the hair from damage.  It will also help you to retain length, maintain the volume of your hair and reduce tangles and knots. Be aware that leaving your hair in  a protective style for too long may cause the shed hair to tangle with the existing hair strands and create more knotting. Also, failing to moisturize your hair while in a protective style, can counteract the benefits of that protective style.

 

4. Keep your hair stretched

The first time I tried a wash and go I literally washed my hair, raked some gel through it and went to dinner. My hair was completely shrunken, it looked like a TWA. I was happy to have tried a new style but I suffered the next day. My hair was so tangled I thought I would never get it back to normal. Although I tried to remove the knots and tangles with my fingers as carefully as possible, I couldn’t avoid the breakage and damage that occurred as a result. So I realized the importance of keeping my hair stretched. Other hair types may thrive with wash and goes but it is not always the best choice for us 4b  girls, considering how tightly coiled our hair is in its most shrunken state. Others hair types may not shrink as much and thus avoid the tangles that result the next day.

Hair can be stretched without using heat simply by putting it in large twists, braids, bantu knots or through banding. Twist-outs, braid–outs and roller sets are also great styles that allow your hair to remain stretched throughout the week. When your hair starts to shrink in between washes, it may be time to take action. Spray it lightly with water (or use your leave in conditioner) and put it in some twists or braids before going to bed, to refresh your style. Even when I wear my hair in a puff I like to put the ends in twists at night so that it is stretched out in the morning before styling my hair again. Otherwise I find that the puff gets flatter and smaller throughout the week as my hair gradually shrinks. This creates more knots and tangles and makes detangling more difficult.

I have since found a better technique of doing wash and gos (see below) but the experience taught me a valuable lesson.

Naptural85 Winter Wash and go technique

Maintaining a Wash and Go

Banding technique for stretching natural hair

 

5. Trim when needed

It’s simply a myth that trimming your hair helps it to grow, as hair grows from the roots. However, if your ends are split, they will break off eventually anyway. Therefore it is better to remove them yourself as a preventative measure. If you are looking after your ends by keeping them well moisturized and tucked away through protective styling, you will not have to deal with damaged ends as often.  Therefore you do not have to trim religiously, regardless of whether it is needed or not. This will simply result in you cutting off perfectly healthy ends and reducing your length for no reason. However, when your ends are damaged, trying to hold on to them can cause more harm than good.  This can result in more tangles and knotting and your ends will look see-through and frayed. Hair  in this condition does not look very healthy. So in order to avoid more knotting and tangles, difficulty in styling (as your ends are unlikely to hold well) and breaking hair, trim when needed.

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 6. Limit the use of heat

When I first went natural in my naivety I thought the only way to stretch my hair was to blow dry it. I blow dried it once a week after washing but I wasn’t deep conditioning to prepare it for blow-drying and I certainly wasn’t moisturizing it enough to replace the moisture lost in the process. This affected my length retention and I didn’t achieve the length that I could have. Since refraining from heat, I have retained much more length and noticed the benefits.  Blow drying and flat ironing strips your hair of moisture and there is always the risk of heat damage, which is irreversible.   I’m not against using heat but it should be limited if you have certain goals for growth and length retention. Try not to rely on heat but use it more as a treat or for when you feel like a change.  Learn about the alternative methods of stretching your hair and experiment with them.

 

Feel free to add any more tips for caring for 4b hair and afro-textured hair in general. You may do things differently for your hair. Share below.

Just Juices and Berries

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I am not writing this to bash ‘product junkies’. I  like trying out new things and for some people that could be hair care products. However, I am noticing a lot more emphasis being placed on products, in the natural hair community. On forums, blogs, YouTube and social networking sites, I am seeing different women post questions about what products to use to address certain hair ‘problems’.  For example: what product can I use to stretch out my hair? What product can I use to soften my hair? What product can I use to make my hair grow? I am thinking about going natural, what products should I be using?

I can’t help but believe that we are reverting back to the old mindset, that we simply need a magical product to make our hair perfect! This is opposed to simply learning how to manage our hair properly. Isn’t that how relaxers were presented to the black community, for decades? Relaxers, perms and texturizers were supposed to be magical products that would ‘fix’ our hair and take away all our hair problems.

This quick fix mindset is based on an unwillingness to do research and educate ourselves about our hair. It is quite concerning to see some women obsessing about products before they have even gone natural. This makes going natural a lot harder than it needs to be and I can imagine why some women find the concept quite daunting. When I first went natural I was living in the UK and most of the products mentioned on the internet were only available in the US. So I didn’t have access to a great number of products. To be honest the last thing I was thinking about was products because 99% of products in my local beauty supply contained harmful ingredients. I had learned about them through doing my research. I came to realize that most of the products I used when my hair was relaxed had sulphates, petroleum, silicones, alcohol, harsh perfumes parabens and other chemicals that I couldn’t even pronounce. It’s funny to see that those same black hair companies are now jumping on the natural bandwagon and releasing natural product ranges, to cater to the natural hair community. It’s good to see that they are taking notice and shows that we have a powerful voice.

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However, due to the lack of quality hair care products at the time, I was only concerned about the benefits of natural ingredients. I learned about Shea butter, the benefits of plain water, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and aloe vera juice. This made my life a lot simpler and I wasn’t bombarded with the many products that are on the market today. I was able to focus on learning to manage my hair, and to this day I personally haven’t found a product that holds my twist outs as well as pure Shea butter does.  I haven’t found a product that moisturizes my hair as well as water does and I stretch my hair out by simply braiding or twisting it. A product by itself will not make your hair grow any faster or longer. Protective styling, moisturizing and being gentle with your hair will help you to retain length.

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Of course I enjoy trying out new products from time to time and learning about different products can be part of your natural hair journey. However, when all else fails, I go back to my simple usage of water for moisturizing, oil for sealing in the moisture and my Shea butter for styling.  I’m not against products and I’m happy to see many black owned companies becoming successful. However, there is no product out there that will magically ‘fix’ your hair. You simply need to learn how to manage it properly. Some of us need to learn how to manage our hair with simple ‘juices and berries’ instead of looking for a magical product that simply doesn’t exist. We also need to consider being healthy overall; diet, exercise and water consumption can also affect our hair. Products can only enhance your hair, not make it into something it is not. ALL  hair  textures are beautiful, with or without the use of different products. Keep it simple when going natural and learn the important basics that will benefit you well into the future.

What do you think? Is there an obsession with products? Share your thoughts and ideas below.

I can’t go natural! My hair is too tough (part 2)

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Before concluding that your natural hair is too tough to manage, do some research

When I researched the best way to care for my hair I soon became aware of the mistakes I made and why I had problems managing it. I didn’t even comb my hair correctly.  Not being able to put a fine tooth comb through my hair from root to tip, left me to conclude that there was something wrong with my hair.  I should have been aware that kinky, coily afro textured hair should be combed with a wide tooth comb and combed gently from the ends, working out the knots and gradually moving the up towards the roots.  There are many examples of misconceptions related to detangling, moisturizing and styling natural hair.

If you think your hair is ‘too tough’ to go natural, do your research before concluding this. Here are some important facts about natural hair, if you weren’t aware of these then yes you would find it hard to manage your hair. If you apply these you will find managing your hair easier and become a pro in no time.

  • Water moisturizes the hair not oil (although oil seals in the moisture).  It is your friend not your enemy so don’t avoid it.
  • Hair can be washed while in loose braids or twists. The braided or twisted strands reinforce each other and less shrinkage, knotting and breakage occurs during washing.
  • Many mainstream black hair care products have sulphates, silicones, petroleum and mineral oil. These clog and dry out the hair.
  • Natural hair must be detangled regularly and shed hair should be removed in the process.
  • Finger combing can be just as effective as combing but gentler and less damaging.
  • Never comb your hair when it is dry and tangled. Spray it with water first.
  • Afro textured hair is actually quite delicate and must be handled with care to avoid breakage.
  • Shrinkage is good as it shows that your hair is healthy and reverting back to its natural curl pattern when wet.
  • Natural hair can be stretched without using heat, simply putting your hair in large braids, twists or bantu-knots will stretch it out and make it more manageable for styling.
  • Natural hair is very diverse and has many styling options appropriate for all occasions. Check out the posts: The versatility of natural hair part 1 and 2
  • Rather than tough, natural hair is actually delicate and is prone to breaking off at the ends. Protective styles help to protect your ends and thus retain length.
  • Sleeping on a satin pillowcase or covering your hair with a satin scarf will help to retain moisture while you sleep.
  • Manage your hair in sections (usually 4-6 sections); don’t just plough a comb through your hair as this will lead to breakage. A small section of hair is less daunting than dealing with a full head of hair.

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There is much more information about natural hair relating to products, hair types, styling and even how diet affects the hair.  Do your homework and you will feel more confident about going natural. Everyone’s hair is different and you will have to adapt the information to suit you but that’s what is so wonderful about natural hair. Saying you can’t go natural because your hair is too tough is like a learner driver saying they can’t drive because it is too difficult. Experienced drivers never say driving is too difficult because they know how to handle a car and deal with the roads.  Your hair isn’t too tough; you just haven’t learned how to manage it yet.

What was your main fear about going natural? How have you found the experience so far?

Share your stories below.

How to stretch your hair without using heat

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Same hair stretched out

Fully shrunken hair

Every time I go to the hairdressers to have my hair put in cornrows they whip out the blow dryer and hair straighteners.  They always feel the need to straighten my hair before they can braid it. I certainly didn’t have this problem when my hair was relaxed of course. However with natural hair it seems many hairdressers are clueless and simply seek to put your hair in a state they are more familiar with before they can style it.  It’s only when I learned to braid my own hair that I realised my hair didn’t have to be straightened before I could braid it neatly. It’s funny, when men get their hair cornrowed at the barbers they don’t have to have their hair straightened beforehand and their cornrows turn out perfect!

After washing
So what are the different ways you can stretch your hair out before styling it. I’m not going to lie, when my hair is in a shrunken state it is impossible to deal with. In fact shrinkage was one of the biggest obstacles to deal with when I first went natural.  I wasn’t use to it and couldn’t believe how much my hair shrunk after washing, at least 75% of the overall length. When I was a kid I use to hate washing my hair simply because of the shrinkage and the harsh combing and painful detangling that followed.

So how do I stretch out my hair after washing so that it is easier to style? My hair gradually shrinks during the week if I wear it out, perhaps due to the weather or simply sleeping on it. I often have to stretch it out if I’m between washes.   Well it’s very simple. First of all I find it a lot easier to wash my hair in loose twists or braids (about six big ones). This stops it from shrinking completely in the first place and when I towel dry my hair I never let it get completely dry before styling. Damp hair is much more durable and thus easier to style, this minimises breakage as well.

Braids and other methods
Then, I simply put my hair braids, adding leave in conditioner or oil to lock in the moisture from the water.  If I want to do a braid out that week  I will braid my hair accordingly and undo the braids the next day. If I want to put my hair in cornrows or another style I will do the same but  it will not be necessary to do as many braids. I usually do medium-sized braids.   After braiding my hair and allowing it to dry overnight, it will be stretched out the next day when the braids are taken out. Then it will be a lot easier to either cornrow,  French braid or style however I want.  Styling is a lot easier to do with stretched-out hair.  I have not used a blow dryer or straightening iron for almost a year now. It was simply a personal decision for me, many people are fine with applying heat to their hair but I choose to avoid it as much as possible now.

So just to recap; to stretch out your hair I would recommend washing it in large braids or twists and braiding after washing and leaving them to dry overnight.  Twists will also stretch out your hair and if you ever put your hair in rollers or curl formers, one added benefit is that they stretch out your hair as well. Perhaps after having your hair styled this way, before washing, you could use the opportunity to do a twist or braid out and enjoy the length that will result from your hair being stretched out. Simply finger combing will get rid of the waves or curls and your hair should be near its maximum length! Putting your hair in Bantu knots also help to stretch it out. Have a look at the video below:

So I hope this helps you find an alternative to heat and helps you to deal better with shrinkage. Most importantly remember that shrinkage is a good thing. It shows that your hair is doing what it is supposed to do. Healthy hair will shrink back to its original curl pattern (which is usually tightly coiled for natural textured hair) when wet. It’s all part of the fun. Unfortunately with hair that has been damaged by heat it may not return to its natural curl pattern. Till this day I still have some straight strands in the front of my head which I know is a result of heat damage. So be aware of the risks that come along with using heat. For those that want to be heat free, give it a try!

How do you stretch out your hair without heat? Share in the comments below.