Monday, 23 August 2010

Natural Hair Top Tip: Abandon Extensions

Another Monday and another of my natural hair top tips. I know this one is controversial because many of us love our braids with added hair, weaves and wigs. Yes, I really am saying stop using them (eek don't stone me!).

When are extensions ok? 

Let me contradict myself for a moment and say that using extensions as a temporary style to 'save' your hair/mind from damage is perfectly fine. The possible scenarios

1. You are transitioning, one day you become convinced that you have to chop your hair which you do only to panic because you are not comfortable with how you look - slap on that wig, put in some extensions, don't drive yourself crazy over it. Work on the mental transition first before the physical.

2. You have been battling your hair for a few weeks, you are not sure what techniques work for you and the only thing growing is frustration. Sure cover your hair up for a short time (1-2 months)

When do Extensions Become a Problem?

In priniciple extensions are fine if used for a short period of time or for temporary styling. If they become part of a daily routine, they can seriously hinder your progress towards great hair. Why do I say this?

When hair is in extensions, you forget about it. You don't need to worry too much about handling it or keeping its moisture balance...........the key skills necessary for natural hair

If it is your intention at one point to simply wear your own hair and nothing else then the best way to gain experience in this is to actually start doing it. I know that some people will say,

'Oh but I moisturise my hair even when it is under a wig' or 'I still wash and condition my hair in braids'.

My response is that of course you do but you don't have to deal with fuzz or shrinkage or even handling your hair when wet. Get the full natural experience, learn what your hair likes and dislikes....deal with your hair

The Ultimate Benefit of Abandoning Extensions

The top benefit of wearing your natural hair 100% of the time is beyond the physical experience but rather a mental one. You have to love the person in the mirror and you have to see her as beautiful (failure is not an option if you want to be happy with your self image).

It is a life altering experience to know that your beauty does not rely on what others tell you but rather what you see. This has been my experience and I can confidently say that yes I am cute all day, every day :)

51 comments:

  1. Good post. I'm not gonna lie, I've wanted to get extension so growing out my TWA could be easier. But I've decided against it, I'm going to continue working with my hair to find out what works and doesn't even if it's an uphill struggle lol

    ReplyDelete
  2. thanks for this post. i usually put my hair in extensions (braids) when i don't know what to do with it in terms of styling but i'm learning more and more how to style my hair without having to rely extensions or my other preferred, afro puff.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was just having this discussion with my boyfriend. I recently BC'd a month ago, and am rocking my braids with the rational that I want to protect my ends. I also want more length so my shrinkage won’t be so bad. He stated exactly what you state in your article. What's the point of going natural if you keep it in braids all the time, and don’t learn your hair. I knew he was right, and your article just affirms his position. I admit that I’m being lazy, and am not mental ready to wear it out due to shrinkage. We made an agreement that when I take these braids out I have to wear my hair as is. Thank you for such a motivating article.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think like most things, in moderation extensions aren't that bad. I haven't had any since I full transitioned, but kinky twists were my best friend during my transition.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for the comments ladies - Just some more info - I transitioned with extension braids and wore them continuosly for almost 3-4 years. Every time I took out a set, I would try to do my own hair for about a week or two and then give up and put some extensions in.

    I only stopped wearing extensions when my hair grew longer and the process of putting in extensions started taking a long time. It was in that year that I really began to deal with my hair. I suffered a lot because my hair was long and I still did not understand shrinkage. I did all kinds of stupid stuff to my hair and used a whole bunch of products I didn't need (including hair spray.......yeah really lol)

    I always feel that if I had to do anything in my natural journey, I would go back and handle my own hair from the start. Gaining length only to have it break off because you cannot take care of it is very disheartening. Learning to handle my own hair helped me keep the hair on my head.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh my! never thought of it that way, thanks!

      Delete
    2. I've been wearing lace wigs all year because I workout in the mornings and the thought has been that I can't go to work with wet hair. I have shrinkage prone 4c hair so wash & go's are not an option at this point. I'm going to figure this thing out this week because I'm tired of the wigs. I'm wearing my hair out in a high bun today. I'm not going to compromise my workouts. I may need to use the dryer on low setting a bit in the mornings to dry my roots. It would be easier to manage if I would exercise in the evening but I can't because I have a very active 15 year old who needs me to be his taxi. I also feel better when I workout in the morning. Any advice on how to preserve braidouts, or twistouts (products, etc) during a workout would be greatly appreciated.

      Delete
  6. Love this post - esp. when you say you are cute every day...I feel the same way, lol!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post. Extensions for me are usually a problem because people do them so tight (even when I tell them not to) that my growing hair winds up thinning from being pulled so tightly.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks Monique - I totally agree because the pics on your blog reflect it!

    JThomas - Tight extensions are just a complete no no.

    ReplyDelete
  9. WOW, this is big talk but I just might step up to the challenge. The idea of taking any braids I put in DOWN (after the month or whatever) might be the biggest motivating factor.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I definetly learned that my hair did not like being braided. I recently had braids because I am transitioning and didnt know what else to do with my hair so I thought I'd wear braids for a month and 1/2. Well, the drama happened when I took the braids down, washed and conditioned my hair and it DREADED UP like crazy! I still have a few knots in my hair that i was unable to detangle. It was a nightmare, to say the least. I have made the decision to cut the rest of the perm out of my hair and just go natural 100%. Its been 6 months since I've had a perm and I am ready now for the BC. JC, if you know why some hair does this after braids, please let me know. My co-workers daughter had hair past her shoulders and wore braids, took them down and her hair dreaded up into three big dreads and they had to cut it off to the new growth becasue they couldn't detangle it. Do you know why this happens?

    ReplyDelete
  11. This makes sense for new naturals who are still trying to figure things out. But I've been natural for 3+ years now and I can say that I have grasped the general sense of how to care for my hair. So in a couple weeks, I'll be getting a weave to leave in for 2months so I can take a break. But that's just me. I'm not saying that I know EVERYTHING about natural hair; but I know what works for me so I deserve a break!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I was reading this article I was thinking the same as you and considering commenting. Thanks for making this point. I've been natural 15yrs now!

      Delete
  12. Since going natural I have started really putting effort into learning my hair. I had extensions in for like 10 days and I hated it. First of all I only put it in to please my mother and second I wanted to feel my hair! I am considering extension for school because I want something easy BUT I want to put them in myself. That way they're not too tight, I'm learning how ot care for it and I'm not paying anyone lol.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Step right up Camille! You may think it is crazy at first but if you stick with it, you will be happy.

    Sister DeNise yes I have a few ideas why this might have happened
    1. You must detangle your hair after you take the braids out. This is BEFORE you wash the hair because if you choose to detangle after you may have problems. This means section the hair into 8-10 large braids (more depending on your hair length). Then apply conditioner and either finger comb or use a large wide tooth comb on each section. Repeat to all sections then rinse out the conditioner. Shampoo and condition as normal

    2. If you have very curly hair (type 4), you must never pile up the hair when shampooing. This leads to knots.

    3. Never keep braids in for too long. The maximum I would say is about 2 months for small braids (so your 1.5 months seems ok). If braids are large, they should be taken out sooner.

    Anyaposh - I did contradict myself in the article and say that extensions can be fine when used for the right reasons. It is definitely about learning what to do with your hair when it is out.

    Nicki - I used to do my own extensions all the time. It is a challenge worth doing because you will be able to make sure they are not tight at all. I always had braids through school for the same reason. I do think it was easier because I did not have the skills to take care of my natural hair on a daily basis. I think that now that I have had practice, I would not say the same, it is much easier for me not to use extensions. Hope all goes well with your styling!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I personally don't see what's wrong with extensions as long as you embrace your hair as it is. During the summer and spring I like to go without extensions. But during the Fall and Winter I prefer to wear extensions. It saves me time and protects my hair. As for hair dreading from braids, I usually do a hot oil treatment the night before I take out my braids and then I detangle any knots before I shampoo and condition.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I really agree with this! You mentioned this point in your last article (I think) and it has stayed with me. I have worn yarn twists pretty consistently since October 2009. I took them out last weekend and while I have nice growth, I feel cluesless about styling. I have worn a curly afro for the past few days and I am not feeling this look - even though I wore my hair like this (and loved it) last year. I plan on twisting it up when I go to the beach in mid-September, but after that I think I am going to lay off the extensions for a few months. I need to re-introduce myself to my hair because right now I want to cut it super short and get it relaxed! It is time I fully embrace being natural and learn to flaunt the rich texture of my hair!! ~Renee

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ironically I started doing this about 2 months ago. Been natural 4 1/2 years and in the first year *and a half* it was twa city, fierce, I was the ish LOL. Started growing out, confusion and my lack of hair styling skills kicked in I started donning a wig, especially since I started working in a Dr.s office. After nearly 3 years of wigging it I got sick of them and dreading wash day. I would moisturize maybe once a week when pregnant once a month LOL. No lie my hair retained a significant amount of length but once touched brittle, breakage, just wow. I am slowly learning my hair again and I actually detangle now. -_- *shamed face* Its depressing to see new strands go down the drain everyday and see the bottom half of my hair thin. *sigh* I finally whipped something up after months of constant experimenting that will work on my hair for moisturizing because no matter what product I used nothing would keep moisture and help me with softness like shea butter. People would ask how I got my hair long and I have to admit to them, it's an alright length but don't follow my routine i'm still learning and making mistakes. I'm thinking about a mini bc but I think what I have can be salvaged but had I dug up in this sucker and went through the struggles with it from the beginning I wouldn't have to contemplate it. :-(

    ReplyDelete
  17. A few months after a did my first BC in the mid '90s, I put extensions in to "grow" my hair. It was a disaster for me. One of the braids got snatched out after getting stuck in my headboard taking my vulnerable edges with it. My edges eventually recovered and I've never put in extensions since. Earlier this year, I did the BC and my hair is relatively short, but I'm trying to enjoy it at every stage until it gets to where I want it to be.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anon 17:45 - Different strokes for different folks :)

    Renee - You have actually touched on my tip for next week which is another controversial one. It is stop wearing afros as a default hair style......more next week :)

    Jaded - I was the same, got some length and did not know what to do with it after. I ended up getting a lot of breakage but I didn't chop it. I could not go back to extensions so the only way forward was just to see if I could just live with the hair. My initial styling was questionnable but with time I got better and more comfortable with it.

    whatgets - Sounds painful. Braids when done properly should not do this. I definitely agree with you, do enjoy your hair at all stages!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Uh-oh! Don't tell me that about afros! I look forward to reading next week's tip. I hope you include alternate styles (hint, hint ;-). ~Renee

    ReplyDelete
  20. i agree with your post if you are never handling your hair and washing in cornrows/braids, etc. but, if you are moisturizing your hair and washing it o/s of those styles weekly, the only issue would be styling. as someone who is stylistically challenged anyway, watching youtubers and their cute styles, helps a lot with styling tips/ideas.

    i wear wigs. i take my cornrows down weekly and am able to work with my own hair and learn its likes and dislikes.

    i say all of this with the bias that i will be wearing protective styles for the majority of time when i am fully natural (i'm transitioning) anyway so i will not be styling my hair like crazy when i'm natural (beyond the inital period of being newly natural :-) ).

    i'm all about less manipulation.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I have been weaveless for months now and chemical-free for over a decade, but I have AA and the bald spots are not cute. I wear wigs, but I deep-condition and wash my hair pretty frequently and I use natural products. My plan is to wear my hair out 100% natural once the scalp injections are over and my spots have fully grown over. Still, I have this "Hair Lust" whenever I see someone with beautiful, natural hair. It is what I strive to be, but first, I have to get my hair fully restored.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm glad you posted this about weaves & wigs. We as black women can make excuse after excuse, but the bottom line is putting in fake hair is just another excuse for not dealing with your hair. What makes it so bad, is that the media and the majority of the U.S. believes that black women wear fake hair as a given....and it makes me so sad to see this. Yes, I know we have "choices" but weaves are everywhere and enough already.....deal with your hair.

    ReplyDelete
  23. You did not mention anything that was compelling. Like extensions causes a disease (like relaxers does)I'm not convinced that I should stop doing extension 100% of the time. I dealt with my hair for years with no problem.

    I think the thing to understand is that not everyone has the same motivation for wearing extension weaves etc. Not everyone who wears them for the reasons you say (to not to deal with their own hair or not loving their image) though it maybe the case for some. For myself I wore my hair natural in afro puff (which I love), extensions braids (love) and straight (love the least).

    I think we need to stop trying to make all black women do the same thing to their hair, it's just not going to happen and a wasted of time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 100%? Nowhere in her post did she suggest not doing extensions at all.

      Delete
  24. Anon 10th Sept - Your comments (this and the previous one on the rule of 3) intrigue me because they are quite catty and often cite baseless arguments.

    I think it is quite misleading to say relaxers cause disease, they can lead to breakage and hair loss. Extensions actually also can lead to breakage and hair loss plus some people are allergic to them. However this post is not about that.

    I perfectly agree with you that some people wear extensions just for a style change which is perfect for them. This post was intended to address the issue of handling hair and self image.

    I often wonder why is it that if someone really disagrees with the content of a blog, why follow it? I am all for different opinions but when it begins to get catty then it is a real turn off.

    Why do you really read or comment on this blog? What role does your contribution play? Who is going to learn from your comment and what are they going to gain?

    ReplyDelete
  25. I have a question. Why no mention of traction alopecia? I love the comment on self-image because I feel like a lot of people are obsessed with hiding their hair if it is short or doesn't curl enough. I think it's important to embrace what you have because some people won't have curls no matter how much product they use, and they won't have waist length hair, no matter how much they "protect" it, so better to face what you have because that might just be it.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I think that if someone is using extensions properly (i.e not too tight, no glue, avoiding the hairline and taking care of the hair under the extensions) traction alopecia should not be an issue.

    In my view, traction alopecia arises from bad hair care practices. I think that extensions can and should be used correctly. I base this post on this - ie why you should not use extensions (even when installed properly).

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm in between on this issue, I had braids shortly after my BC and my impression of this was that it kept my hair from growing so I took it out only after a week. On the other hand it meant I combed my hair a lot less, hence retaining some growth, my hair is very short and while I want to keep it natural all the time, I also want to do some protective styling for the winter and I was thinking of braiding ever 4-6 weeks. And one of your posts is also against wearing out an afro so I'm a bit stuck for choice. What can I do as an alternative that's not wearing an afro and not using extensions and still promoting growth

    ReplyDelete
  28. I could not agree more with your statement on self image, it has been a process for me and I too now can say, "I am cute, all day every day!"

    ReplyDelete
  29. These are great posts! I wonder though about 2 strand twists and braids (without extensions). Can they cause damage and breakage? These are done on wet hair. Thanks for any thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  30. To each his own. I love my hair which is why I'm wearing a wig this winter to protect it from the elements. My hair is designed to withstand tropical temps not this below zero stuff. I don't see what the difference between wearing a wig and wearing a hat (the only difference is I'm wearing a hat made of synthetic hair). I just make sure my hair is always moisturized and I wear a satin cap vs. a wig cap under the wig and do not even utilize the combs. When I'm warm indoors I don't wear the wig. I actually think it's working well for me personally - My hair stays moisturized, it keeps my hands out of my hair, splits decreased dramatically, hairline is filling in and I'm retaining everything I'm growing. If anything the wig makes me appreciate my natural hair even more - I often can't wait to go home to snatch this thing off so I can play w/ my hair again lol. I even relish wash days b/c it means I get to touch my hair again (I know. I have a problem).

    I can see weave being a potential problem, but my full wig is working for me this winter so I'm sticking with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So with you on this one. I hide my hair till the sun shines. I wear wigs in the interim. I love to wash it and often do so more than once a week. I do, however, plan to wear my hair full time in the winter soon. I'm battling post partum shedding so back to yarn braids and wearing them with ill concealed grace...

      Delete
  31. This is a very nice article. I've stubled onto something refreshing with this blob. I'm a lifetime (practically) natural having transitioned as a young teenager when there was no language around natural hair care much less a community of people sharing tips and tricks. I really enjoy this new movement.

    For me extensions have been a great styling option although I've used them less and leass over time. I do not suffer breakage or damage to my cuticle as long as i observe theses rules: (my hair type i describe as spongy, loves water, light brown, type 3/4 S curls with lots of Z curls)

    1) braid my own extensions
    2) wash weekly or every 2 weeks
    3) never leave my hair extensions longer than 4 weeks.
    5) I do not use any petrolum based products, shampoos, conditioners or hair gels
    6) usually i use all natural shampoos: non SLS, no cones, however but during times when i wear breads i switch to a leave in that contains some silicone and parabeans as my hair prefers it during these 'resting periods'
    7) i clarify with KCC Come Clean after taking out braids
    8) i deep condition with Cholesterol or soy protein before and after wearing extensions
    9) last but not least, i moisturize w. infusion 23 while wearing extensions (another reason to clarify when the braids come out)

    Who knows maybe this routine or a similar one might work for your hair type. :)
    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hmmn, back to this post again.

    I must confess that wearing my hair in braids over the last two months made me forget about it. I had no inspiration to write my blog because my hair was all tied up, I've had my hair out for two days and I've posted twice already.

    I've had braids for the last 7 weeks and left my hair out for only 2-3 in between. The first time I had plenty of breakage which I think was down to chlorine I got in the pool. I tried to shampoo after swimming and second time around it was down to a bare minimum.

    I made a lot off progress, I have about 3.5 inch of growth, the last time i checked I was at 2.5 inch in the same area this was in early October, i only bc'ed in August, I only had enough hair to cover my scalp.

    I still believe my hair grows a lot faster without extensions, but I'm not a hair stylist, I've got zero skills can't cornrow to save my life, not for lack of trying. I'm currently arranging my next braiding appointment, I want to be independent in styling my hair, but I'm still stuck with braiding, what do I do?

    ReplyDelete
  33. Mad about my fro - I would say buy a dollhead and practice on it. Don't practice on yourself, if you are not confident.

    You can be independent eventually but take your time with learning.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Thanks JC,

    Very good idea, I'll practice a bit more. I've made bantu knots on my hair before, but gosh the process was so painful, but I know practice makes perfect, so I'll keep trying.

    Braids or no braids I think for now I'll leave the hair dressing to the pros. I did get twists after all.

    I've searched your blog but I still haven't found any practical tips on what to do instead of wearing an afro or braiding, my two favourite things :-)

    How did you tackle this? please share, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I think I'm on my way Jc. I made 2 strands twists for myself today and I feel well on y way to independence and confidence in styling my own hair.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I love this article, it is the truth!

    ReplyDelete
  37. I agree. I've been natural pretty much my whole life as I never like the whole relaxer business. The whole Press-n-curl thing didn't work for me either. As a result, after college when I decided I want to not be a slave to the $100+ hair style; I had no idea what to do. I'm still learning about how to care for my hair as I never took care of in while in extensions.

    As a result, my hair has pretty much stayed the same length. It grows, breaks off or is cut off due to split ends. I think the longest I've managed to get my hair to is 3-5 inches last summer.

    Then I decided to color it w/o doing a monthly Protein Treatment + a mistaken use of the Tangle Teaser. Now I'm back to hair that's about as long as it was pre-color that's two toned. It's rather amusing.

    I've decided to use crochet style extensions for 4 weeks on & 6-8 weeks off. I like being able to go from long to short. In addition, if I forget to do hot oil treatments each week, they aren't in long enough to dread.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Atthe moment I have my hair canerowed at the back and sides with the front in two stranded twists. At first I used my own hair but the shrinkage was too much so I added extensions. I would like to use my own hair when twisting but until it gets to a length that I'm happy with I'll continue usign extensions.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Hey JC!

    I'm hailing from London, England, and I find your blog inspiring, uplifting, informative, beautiful...just wonderful. I would like to thanks you for the time and effort you have put in to this powerful project and I send love and respect over the ocean!!!
    My hairstory in brief: Never had a perm as a child, tried a leisure curl aged 13, hair fell out, never tried any of that sh*t since, addicted to braided extensions for 10 years, got over that, locked my hair, chopped it off after 7 years, been rocking TWA's cornrows, loose braids, twists, threaded plaits, etc and I love my hair...My online tag is Its A Process. Cause it is.
    Stay Nappy!!

    ReplyDelete
  40. I am so over braid extensions and blowdryers. I leave my hair in twists, moisturize with a mixture of castor oil, giovanni direct leave in, and aloe vera gel. I wash my hair every 7 days with Giovanni products. I also like to do a pre-poo with aubrey organics conditioner. I put my hair under the water whenever my hair feels dry. I stretch my hair using the banding method. These are products I ALWAYS use.
    I am determined to grow my hair beyond 12 inches. I always thought this was the common length for african american women. Actually, I think 10 inches is common for Afro American women.
    I also have back up products that work for my hair type but I only use on occasion like shea butter vanilla mint conditioner, shea moisture coconut and hibiscus smoothie,beautiful curls reviving tonic, and my own mixture of shea/coconut/aloe vera.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Wearing weaves has definetly made me more self conscious about my natural hair. I initially only wore it to be easier for me as far as maintenance but it has taken over... I plan to end the weaves for good soon.

    ReplyDelete
  42. For me, braid extensions have and continue to be helpful as a protective style. I'm in the 'more than 1 yr less than 2 yrs' natural hair phase. I have enough hair on my head that I'm no longer tempted to go back to relaxing (and can pull off some natural styles) but not enough hair to say that I've reached my length goals (SL stretched) and can easily protective style with just MY hair (twists and braids still shrink up too much for me to pull all my hair back or bun).

    So braid extensions help me when I get frustrated with my hair and need a break. I do think that once my own hair gets long enough to braid and pull back w/o extensions, I probably won't use extensions anymore. I think of them as a bridge to where I want to be, not as an endgame styling method.

    ~H

    ReplyDelete
  43. I agree that one should not become *dependent* on extensions, however I grew my natural hair to midback length in three years by using extensions *correctly*, i.e. two months in extensions, two months in natural twists, and generally using the methods advocated by Robyn on growafrohairlong.com. I no longer wear extensions because I'm sick of them.

    On the other hand, my sister has been wearing extensions for over a year without interruption. She takes one set down and puts a new set up immediately. I think that is not only potentially damaging to her hair (esp. her hairline), but it is not helping her evolve from her belief that her hair in its natural state is unmanageable, difficult, and unacceptable. (It is actually quite soft, though dense and highly textured).

    ReplyDelete
  44. Hi JC I'm new to this blog and I've been natural for two years now. I'm considering getting extensions for hair growth. Do you think this is a good idea? I also was wondering why is it that my hair does not stay wavy like i want it to after it's dry? Please reply!!

    ReplyDelete
  45. I do believe that weave in general is binding us as a community. We rock and take care of weave, spending so much money on it and neglect the beautiful tresses on our head. I have done the braiding thing over and over 2 give my hair a "break" when I've gotten frustrated with my hair only to regret putting the braids in. I regret b/c it's covering up my glory and I end up missing my hair & when I wanna itch my scalp, I have roa blockagecuz of the weave . Yeah, I look cute in a different way but I love my hair much more!!! We have to learn our hair & rock it proudly. :) I love this natural hair movement

    ReplyDelete
  46. Now you know I'm a natural hair care specialist, master braider, colorist and future trichologist ph.d and I TOTALLY AGREE with this post. My clients side eye me when I inform them we will not be retouching the extensions and proceed to show them other options. Hair health first!

    -Ms. Amena

    ReplyDelete

I love comments! All comments are moderated so they will only appear on the blog once I approve them.