Thursday, 15 March 2012

Natural Hair Mistakes

This question comes from Mali who wrote to ask, 'I am into my 3rd year of being natural and I feel like I have not fully understood my hair. I keep making mistakes which end up making me cut my progress off. The last one was keeping twists in for too long and they ended up matting my hair in sections. How can I mistake-proof my natural hair?'

A: I do not know if you can really mistake proof your hair. I know that even after understanding my hair (finally after years!!), I still made mistakes. The thing is I knew before I made the mistake that it was a mistake but I did it anyway. My most memorable ones are:

1. Using a blowdryer to dry my hair
- What I know for sure : I know that my hair and heat do not and will never agree.
- What I did regardless of what I knew:  I was in a hurry to dry my hair after a swim session because we were going for a formal dinner afterwards and I did not want wet hair. I chose to use a low heat setting and a heat protectant too. I thought that since I am not straightening my hair, just drying it, it would not lead to the same consequences as when I used heat to straighten it.
 -The consequences: One single low heat blow dry session did lead to super dry ends and serious split ends as it always did. I cut about 4 inches over the course of a year because the ends were very damaged.

2. The tangle teezer aka the shredder

-What I know for sure : My hair is happy with finger combing (and unlike most people is happy with finger combing on dry hair!). My hair and combs/brushes disagree.
 -What I did regardless of what I knew:  I used the evil shredder aka tangle teezer (Oh why?!!) (No offence intended to those who like and use this brush but I hate it with a passion)
 -The consequences: One single combing session and I end up with atleast 8 inches of  mid shaft splits, holes and multiple split ends. I think it will take another year or so to get my hair free of the mess that the tangle teezer created (it has already been a year, and I spent it basically trimming 1 inch off every 2 months to gradually get rid of the worst damage) .

The lesson: Fool me once and it is a mistake, fool me twice and it is my fault
I have learned that mistakes are part of the natural hair journey. They help you learn and gain experience for the future, remember your hair is going to be with you for the rest of your life, cutting off a few months or even a few years progress is certainly good incentive to NEVER repeat that error.

The one positive with my mistakes is that I only make them once. I do not question my own judgement (i.e could I have used a better technique, surely other people heat style, why not me or surely other people comb, why not me). I have learned to accept that my hair will always show me when it is not happy........and the tangle teezer is evil (except on long haired cats).

What are your mistakes or have you managed to be completely mistake free (share your secrets!)


  1. Mistakes I've made and will never do again:

    1) GOING TO A NATURAL HAIR SALON. I know not all salons are the same, but going to one was enough to turn me off from going to any more. The salon just did not know how to handle my super kinky, coarse, super shrunken hair. (My hair was so intimidating to them that they relegated me to the head stylist/owner.) They washed my hair loose (a big no-no) then combed and brushed through it. I could hear my tangled hair breaking off throughout the process. They then trimmed it wet and loose, instead of dry and in twists. When they were done with my hair, the strands were uneven and I had to trim almost 2 inches to even everything out.

    2) OVERWASHING MINI TWISTS. I once wore mini twists for 6 weeks and washed them almost weekly (or maybe every other day). Either way, I washed the twists too much during that time period and ended up with a lot of meshing. Nowadays, I only washed about 1-3x during the wear.

    3) USING THE FLAT IRON TOO FREQUENTLY. Three words: split ends galore.

  2. I have also made the mistake of applying heat to my hair even though I knew that my hair will not tolerate it. After one year of wearing my hair natural, I decided to have it straightened by a professional (I was afraid to do it myself) and it was a disaster. The pro raked through my hair with a brush to blow dry it and then went over it with a flat iron three times and it still wasn't completely straight. I figured he did not know what he was doing so a few months later I went to another pro who has naturally curly hair and has experience with styling it. Well, she did almost the same thing. Afterwards, she informed me that my hair is just resistant to straightening. When I thought about it, it makes sense. When I was using relaxers, I had to use the super, extra strength one to get my hair straight. Anyway, I've had to cut 2 inches off so far and I'm assuming there will be more to cut.

  3. Excellent post. Thank you. So far, I have shifted from using a comb to working only with my fingers, I have never used a tangle teezer, but I might suggest that early in my natural days, I spent too much time trying out different product line. I am now using only one . . . to much improved results.

  4. Great post! Sometimes I see myself making errors that I made as a newbie and I'm like, "Seriously?!" Luckily, though, those errors are fewer and farther between!

  5. A recent mistake I made (yesterday) was using banana in a homemade mask whereas I don't have a mixer to make it liquid so today whhile I was (and still) doing mini twist I have to take away pieces stayed in my hair :s too bad.
    The worst is I know I shouldn't use it untill I get a mixer. I think it's the only mistake I do (once a year shame on me lool).
    Except this I know what works for my hair no heat, no comb few industrial products lot of "homemade" stuff etc...

  6. I got excited when I got some new products and stopped using my beloved olive oil. My hair got really brittle and broke off in places. I still use the new products but put my olive oil back in my reg and no more breakage.

  7. Thank you all for chiming in with your own mistakes and lessons!

  8. Fifteen years ago, I decided to straighten my beautiful hair for my wedding. The result: flattened, broken, burnt-smelling hair and greasy looking pictures. My new husband was dismayed because he couldn't understand why I would wreck my hair like that. Haunts me still to this day and I wish I'd had the confidence to wear my own beautiful kinks and coils for such an important event. I haven't straightened it since.

    1. Aww I did the same for my wedding a few years back and regretted it too. Hubby was more than happy to assist with soaking my hair in water so that it could look normal lol. Now I see styles like those of Regina of coily crowns and I wonder why did I not do one of those! Like you, that was the last flat iron ever.

  9. I also had to straighten my hair, but for by uncles wedding!
    I did it back in kenya and all they used was blow-dryer! It looked like a I had relaxed it but my hair absolutely SMELT!
    Plus I hated the feel of flat hair, it didn't feel right =(

    Another mistake would be when I thought I could get away with frequent wash 'n' gos.... FAIL!!
    When blow-drying my hair for a protective style, I realised that most of the ends were knotted up =(.. I had to have a big trim and since then I have not sported a wash 'n' go!

  10. Mistakes I have made in the recent past:

    1)BLOWDRY IN A SALON AT HIGH HEAT- 8 months ago I was participating in a weddinga and the bride insisted on everyone having straight hair (I was the only natural). I do blowdry if I'm in a hurry, but usually on low heat and I use the "tension" method, the heat is less direct. But the stylist in this salon had a really hot blowdrier! Most stylists do not have a clue that heat can be very damaging. And she wanted to blow dry AND flat-iron.I said no to flat-iron. Some of my ends ended up limp and would not revert. When I washed the hair there was a burnt smell hanging in the air! I am now reluctant to do stuff . I would not normally do to please others. I do wish more women experimented with other styles including braided or twisted styles for weddings.

    TIP: I do the cinnabun style alot and have found that if I blow-dry with the "tension" method, and tie the style down with a scarf, it's alot smoother looking. So instead of going for bone straight if using heat, do something light and in-between, it retains body and bounce and still has some sleekness if you do an updo.

    2) I also just took down Kinky twists last night, they were done with extensions. This minimises the tangling of hair at the ends. But if left it on for long, this set lasted close to 3 months--matting ensues. I'm usually gentle but some hair is inevitably lost:( .The key might be not going over 6 weeks or so I think.

  11. My mistake is being scissor happy while i was transitioning.I once dusted my hair 3x in one month :O and i think it was more than a trim in the end!:(

    I reckon my hair would have being a tiny bit longer if it wasn't for my dusting ways and cutting too much! I know deal with my dry ends by baggying until i see an improvement.I don't wear my hair straight often as i am now natural so perfect ends don't bother me.

  12. 1.) Straightening my hair: Had another drastic cut recently to get rid of damaged ends.
    2.) Colouring my hair on three separate occasions!: It changed my texture each and every time and made my hair more porous than a colander!

  13. That tangleteezer is a beast. I'm suffering from the mid shaft splits, SSKs, multiples split ends and holes in my hair. I feel a little better that I'm not the only one. I will never run a tangleteezer through my hair again. Once I figured out that was the culprit, it went straight in the trash.

  14. I learned a long time ago not to sleep on rough cotton pillowcases. After waking up to broken hairs all over the pillowcase, I got the message.

  15. I haven't been able to bring myself to throw my Tangle Teezer in the trash just yet (it was $10!!) but I probably should since I'm not using it anymore and I wouldn't wish it on my worst fine-haired enemy. Like so many, I was in love with it in the beginning, but it ended up shredding my hair.

    I've only colored my hair once since going natural and it seemed to take forever for it to get back to some semblance of softness. Now that I'm going silver (woo-hoo!) that's the only new coloring I need.

    The first time I tried the baking soda conditioner treatment it took a good six weeks before my hair returned to normal. In terms of pH it took me wayyy over to the alkaline was awful. Now that I'm paying attention to pH I've learned that products in the low-acid range (4-6) work much better for me.

  16. My story will make everyone else feel so much better. I am trying hard not to beat myself up about and stay positive. I added it up and I have been natural for 12 years with very little growth. Mini twists are the devil for me unless I am planning on locking my hair. I also have to do a combination of finger and comb detangling not exclusively one or the other. Another huge mistake was that when I first started I blew my hair every week. It is really important to listen to your hair! I think I am on the right track now.

  17. GEL, GEL, GEL!! And not moisturizing enough. I opted for having my hair looking cute and curly rather than it's optimal state. So it stayed at shoulder length and I had lots of breakage. Also, there weren't many naturals in 2000 who can advise me any different. Twelve years of being natural, I didn't learn the right way until watching a warning about gel video by Chime. Now, I don't mind my edges not being slicked back. My hair is much healthier and growing. I also dyed my hair auburn since shoulder length hair wasn't fun enough for me. That probably added even more dryness. Lesson learned! I henna now to cover my greys, but I'll take dark brown/black over brown any day. Most browns from peroxide color wind up looking brassy and ORANGE--and I"m not aiming for a muppet look. I may try honey to color subtly, but just the front.

  18. SANKOFAAAAAA!!!!! I love your name. Love the movie too!

    Thank you Ms. Hyacinth Hope Hutchingson

  19. you should sleek down your sides with shea butter and aloe vera gel from the leaf .gel is evil!

  20. It's hard to say mistakes, for me, because honestly, the only mistake i can say i made is not being true to me and just enjoying my hair at whatever state it was at, since my journey began not even a year ago.
    now, with that outta the way, there are some things i've done in the past few months that i could definitely have done better. i would add bleaching my hair to that list, but the truth is that i enjoy/ed my hair blonde, though i've realized that i'll probly never go down this bleached road again. i'm enjoying the blonde while it lasts because in a few years, once it's long enough, i'm cutting it once and for all. it gave me overly porous hair and lack of manageability that i've finally gotten under control through sheer patience and perseverance.
    another thing was heat abuse. i enjoyed my hair flat ironed to the extent that i know that once i grow my hair to the lengths i desire i'm gonna go right back to cranking up the heat, but at the same time, in the long run it did produce split ends. but those are manageable and they in and of themselves haven't been a tremendous setback overall. it actaully took 2 years for the damage to catch up with me, where that's concerned.
    next up is brushing my hair. that's a no-no and i know i will not ever try the tangle teezer. all it took was just one look at that thing for me to have sense enough not to try it on my coily mane. but i had to figure out over time that the results that i've gotten successfully with finger combing have erased the need for combing, which i've noticed gives me so much breakage by comparison to finger detangling instead.
    another mistake you could say i've made since being on my quest for long hair (since October 2011) is not being gentle enough with my hair in general. i won't say that manipulation in and of itself is bad for me, but regardless of how much/little i manipulate, if i'm not careful with it, then it will be bad news for my hair and will result in a setback.
    so these are the things i've learned since i've been on my healthy long hair journey!

  21. I am the worst. I went from twist for transitioning to to mating ( i had never had twist before. ) Did the big chop, and cornrows for about a month. I jumped out off cornrows into a texture wave....i stopped that in February, only to have been wearing wigs and weaving since!!! This past Saturday on the first, i cut the remaining textured hair off. Now, i dont know how i feel about how i look


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