By Chrissi J
For women with natural hair, we always ask 101 questions about our hair to figure out when it will grow, to know what products work for other people, to understand how to maintain our strands and more. But in the midst of trying to learn about our heads of hair, we’re making some mistakes that in the end could be damaging and even a waste of time and money. Time to make some changes!
Hair Care Stylist PSA: PLEASE do not scratch your scalp! If you suffer from itchy scalp, first identify your problem. If your scalp is itching, the PH levels of it could be off balance. Pure peppermint oil is a great treatment for that. The causes of itchy scalp vary from lack of moisture on one hand, and over moisturizing on the other, both of which you can change. If you suffer from itchy scalp because of a medical condition, ie. psoriasis or eczema, you should consult your physician immediately.
2. Using Products That Are Too Thick/ Being an Over Moisturizing Product Collector
Using thick products on your scalp can cause build up & fungal dandruff. Thick products can also weigh you hair down and can remain in your hair until…whenever if you’re not thoroughly cleansing your scalp when you wash. Also, being a product collector is not necessary. Find a few products that work well for you and stick with them. I know when it comes to bringing out that curl pattern we can mix and pile on the products to achieve the perfect look, but make sure to avoid the scalp when doing so. Remember… less is more healthy.
3. Edge Tugging: Cotton Wraps/Ponytails
Wearing your hair brushed back into a ponytail constantly is something I would not recommend. It’s stressful on your edges and your hair tie can cause breakage if your ponytail is too tight. Also, wearing your hair tied back with a headband or cotton scarf constantly can cause serious long-term damage to your edges as well. While these styles are cute and fairly simple, hence their appeal, refrain from wearing them all the time to avoid damage.
4. No Shampoo/Co-Washing
Co-Washing, which is using conditioner only in your hair cleansing process, can be great to do while in between shampoos. It eliminates the need to comb your hair so often and leaves your hair soft and amazingly just the right texture. I definitely recommend it. BUT, with time, our hair accumulates dirt from outside and build-up from products. Too much dirt or build-up can lead to an offensive smell, breakage, and/or malassezia (a fungal-type dandruff that develops in the presence of lipids, oils, waxes, etc.).
5. Product Grouping/Hair Typing
You are a special, one of a kind type of person. No one else is made like you, nor are you like anyone else. To think a product will work for you like it does for someone else is silly. A lot of people have several different textures of hair on their head. Find what works for you and stick with it. What works for you may change as the seasons change, and as your hair grows, or even when you cut it. However, this is why it’s important for you to bond with and get to know your hair, or find a regular stylist to work with that can help you understand and get acquainted with it.
6. Using Products with Alcohol
Using products with alcohol will dry your hair out. Period. The other ingredients mixed in will make you think that it’s nice in the moment, but the feeling is only temporary and you will need to continually apply the product to maintain those results. There are plenty of products that do not contain alcohol though, try those!
7. Not Moisturizing the Ends of Hair
I cannot stress this enough. Not moisturizing the ends of your hair is the #1 cause of breakage. Not moisturizing the ends of your hair is the #1 reason why you think your hair isn’t growing. Moisturizing the ends of your hair is just as important as moisturizing your scalp, and for some people, even more important so your hair doesn’t consistently look, feel and be dry. Do this!
8. “Protective Styling”: Wrapped & Weaved edge
Often times I’ve had clients talk to me about the protective styling they do. Be careful about receiving “protective styling” advice from YouTube and other non-professionals (remember how your hair is different and works different from others?). Yes, the cold air of the winter can dry your hair out and require extra moisturizing, but be careful that your protective styles are not causing damage. For example, wrapping your hair up in a scarf everyday can inhibit growth. Your hair is like a plant. It needs air and sunshine to grow. Also, wrapping your hair in cotton scarves can dry your hair out and even tug at your delicate edges, causing thinning and breakage–the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
Speaking of thinning and breaking edges, another “protective style” I’ve often heard about and seen is the idea of keeping your hair braided under a sew-in weave. I do not completely oppose this, but rocking a sew-in becomes unhealthy when you wear it longer than 6-8 weeks. Another MAJOR mistake made with sew-ins is weaving up your edges. Braiding and sewing extensions onto your edges is something very stressing on your edges. It can cause major thinning and breakage to your edges. So I’ll say this: Let your hair breathe! Don’t wrap your hair in cotton and LEAVE OUT YOUR EDGES when weaving your hair!
9. Too much Press & Curl/ Heat
Pressing your hair too often, or applying too much heat can reduce your natural curl pattern and make your hair look a bit stringy in some places. Applying too much heat near the scalp can cause burning and scabbing, and applying heat while wet can cause breakage. I would like to place extra emphasis on the reality that too much heat can and will reduce your natural curl pattern. I’d recommend that you only press your hair for special occasions & not for everyday wear unless having your hair pressed straight is how you choose to wear it constantly.
10. Not Loving your Natural Curls
You are you. Naturally… for a reason. Love it! Embrace it! Quit trying to invent a curl pattern that you don’t have, and work with the one you do. Look in the mirror everyday and learn to love everything about you. Put your hands in your hair, feel it, love it, think of reasons why your look works for you! All in all, be positive, learn to style it yourself sometimes, and learn to love everything about you!
Chrissi J is a hair-care specialist currently based in New York City, specializing in creative natural hairstyling and overall hair care. She is the originator of the Keepin’ It Kinky Campaign. Check out her work and videos at Keepin’ It Kinky and through her YouTube and Facebook page.