So you have natural hair and you've already done your "big chop" or transitioned. So what's next? You want to start retaining length. Maybe you have gotten your regime all together, you're deep conditioning weekly, watching a thousand Youtube videos on how to grow out your hair and yet, it still doesn't seem to be growing. The problem is not that your hair isn't growing (our hair is always growing), the problem is that you're not retaining the length of the hair that is growing. That means that the hair is breaking at the same rate or faster than it is growing. There are SEVERAL reasons why this can happen but I'm going to give you 5 tips to try and help you avoid getting any further damage and also help you to retain that length.
Number 1. Moisturize and seal. The most seemingly obvious tip ever, I know. But I put that as number one because it is VERY important. You have to learn your hair and be able to conquer the moisture/protein balance of your hair. Everyone's hair has protein in it that helps the bonds in the hair shaft remain strong and in tact. If you don't use any protein treatments ever, your hair can become fragile and break off quickly. One of my favorites to use is https://amzn.to/2p3ngnn. I'll be doing a product review on this soon but it's amazing. I use this when I want to splurge on myself a little. When money is short, I go right in the kitchen and get some mayo, egg, olive or grapeseed oil, and mix them together and then let that sit on my hair as a protein treatment (eggs have protein in them). It's cheap and still helps gives my hair the protein it needs. On the opposite side, moisture helps keep the hair hydrated. If you don't add moisture to your hair, it can become super dry and again, break off easily. I have a bunch of moisturizing products that I love (yes, I'm a product junkie) but I'll do a seperate post on those later. All in all, the point is understanding the moisture/protein balance of your specific head of hair is key to having healthy, hydrated, strong hair.
Number 2. Deep conditioning WITH HEAT. When I first went natural in 2016, I was EXTREMELY afraid of using heat. I spent a lot of my relaxer days using heat. Blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons, hot combs... you get the picture. All of the excessive heat cause me to get heat damage which I finally cut off when I went natural. After my big chop I wanted to stay completely away from heat and all of the natural guru's on Youtube were saying the same thing so I figured that meant I was doing the right thing, right? WRONG. I decided to do a natural hair challenge this year (2019) and spent hours researching things that could make my hair grow faster and actually retain the length. One of the things I came across was deep conditioning with heat. Meaning putting deep conditioner on your hair, putting a plastic bag or cap on top, and then sitting with a heat cap, under a hooded dryer, or a soft bonnet dryer (I use this one https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JQIAUDY/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00JQIAUDY&linkCode=as2&tag=shelikesitnat-20&linkId=4e8a19e9615029d06edf1cf2ec684b9f) for at least an hour. After you're done you rinse it out, moisturize and seal, and style as desired. Once I started doing that, my hair changed for the better and has been getting healthier. Now it retains moisture way longer, I get way less split ends, and it just feels and behaves better. This tip is a MAJOR key and would've been number 1 if it wasn't for the fact that you can deep condition with heat every week but if you don't moisturize and seal afterwards, then it's almost a complete waste.
Number 3. Diet. I just noticed this year how much your diet really does affect your hair growth. I am currently on a weight gain journey (I know some of you are wondering why am I on a weight gain journey and it's because I used to weigh about 30 pounds more than I do now. I got extremely depressed my senior year of high school and lost the weight and have yet to put it all back on, even after having my first kid) and I wanted to find healthy ways to put my weight back on. I started eating high calorie foods with a lot of nutritional value and my hair has benefited greatly from it. I also started implementing vitamins (I found out I was iron deficient) and that has also helped a lot. I also heard exercising goes hand and hand with diet to help out with hair growth but I barely work out so I can't really speak on that part as of now. But what you put in your body can definitely be seen in the state of your hair as well, good or bad.
Number 4. Essential oils. I LOVE essential oils. I use them for so many different things but I never knew that putting the oils in your hair products can be super beneficial. My favorite essential oil I put in products is peppermint oil. It smells delicious and when I put it on my scalp, it gives me that cool, tingly feeling. It is antimicrobial, stimulates the scalp, and promotes hair growth. Another one I use for the same purpose when I run out of peppermint is eucalyptus oil. It also has antimicrobial and anti fungal properties so it keeps the scalp cool and stimulates the hair follicles to promote growth. You can do trial and error to figure out which essential oils you and your hair like the best.
And last but not least , number 5. Protective styles and accessories. When I first went natural all I did was get protective styles. I didn't know how to care for my hair so I put it up and left it alone for 1-2 months at a time. Once it started to grow and retain a little length, I got happy and forgot all about protective styles. I constantly wanted to wear my hair out, without moisturizing and sealing, which led to constant breakage. I couldn't figure out why at the time but now that years have passed, I can see that me not protecting my hair or giving it a break led to so much unnecessary breakage. I realized that having your hair out and not wearing a silk/satin scarf to bed causes breakage. Wearing your hair out constantly without adding any moisture causes breakage. Wearing the same styles in the same positions (high puffs, buns, slicked back looks) causes breakage. Breathing wrong apparently causes breakage lol. But seriously, the little stuff matters.
Welp, we've come to the end of the post and hopefully my 5 tips will be helpful to you. Going natural or being natural is not neccessarily hard, but it is a journey. You have to be patient and really learn and know your hair for it to thrive successfully. There is no "one for all" method when it comes to being natural and retaining length but there are the basics that we can all follow that lay a solid foundation for building a great hair care regime and achieving healthy hair. That's all for today but if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below and I'll talk to you all soon!