The Newbie Natural is a series of posts for anyone who is planning on going natural and would like a step by step guide on how to do so. The first post in this series talked about the three ways to go natural. In that post, I talked about the reasons why someone would choose each route, as well as the pros and cons for each route. So after you’ve made the decision to do the big chop, transition for a while before doing the big chop, or a mini chop while transitioning, the next thing to do is to set some SMART goals for your hair. Please visit this blog post to read about how to set SMART goals for your hair.
Before you can set goals for your hair, you first want to do some research about your hair so that you will know exactly what to aim for and how to measure your progress. To guide you along your research process, I have put together 10 key things you need to know about your natural hair. So instead of aimlessly typing “natural hair” into Google, you can target your search queries to target keywords such as “Black Hair Growth Rate”.
Although there are so many things to know about your hair, these 10 topics will give you a solid understanding on the essentials of Black hair knowledge.
1. Black Hair Science: This means researching basic hair characteristics such as hair growth phases, the anatomy of the scalp and the different chemical bonds which makes up the hair fiber. Trust me, knowing the technicalities of your hair will allow you to sift through false product claims and heavily skewed hair articles, tips and advice online.
2. Your Hair Texture: how your hair feels when you run your hands on it. Is it Coily, Curly or both?
3. Your Hair Type: Find out if your hair is Type 3 or Type 4. African hair texture is complex, so I won’t get into the alphabetical side of hair typing which further differentiates between the numerical hair types. i.e. Type 3a, 3b, 3c, 4a, 4b, 4c. It has been said that Black women have over 60 hair textures, due to the variety of genetic makeup and the fusion of ethnicity amongst people of African descent. Although many people do not subscribe to the hair typing system because they find it too complex to understand, too broad to fit their hair type or too discriminatory, I won’t advice that you follow such crowd. The reason is that knowing your hair type will help you to make key decisions about your hair, particularly when it comes to hair styling and product selection.
4. Your Hair Porosity: Do you have issues with dryness? Does your hair often feel dry, harsh, rough and brittle? If you answer yes to any one of these questions, then it’s likely that you have highly porous hair. Hair which is high in porosity has it’s cuticles opened, instead of being tightly laid down. As a result, moisture goes freely in and out of the hair shaft , making it difficult for the hair to retain moisture. Understanding the porosity of your hair will help you to select the best products which will help to optimize the elasticity, strength and moisture level of your hair.It’s important to note that chemically treated hair such as colored hair and relaxed hair are highly porous, so the only way you can tell the true porosity of your hair would be to examine the untreated hair at the roots.
5. Your Hair Growth rate: The beautiful thing about transitioning is that GROWTH=RETENTION, so you get to keep 100% of the new hair that grows out of your scalp and truly measure your growth rate. You can measure how fast your hair grows by using a ruler or tape measure to track the rate of your hair growth. To get an accurate measure of how much your hair grows on a monthly basis, you want to make sure that you take these measurements every four weeks for about three months, and then take an average of these numbers.
6. Your Hair Density/Volume: You might not be able to tell how much hair you have while transitioning and your relaxed hair might produce a false positive, especially if your relaxed hair is unhealthy to begin with. You can also determine how voluminous your hair is by how long it takes your stylist to style your hair. For example, someone with a low density hair might only have to spend 2 hours to get a particular hairstyle done, while someone with the same hair length but with a higher density might spend 3 hours getting the same hairstyle done.
7. Ingredients Basics: You will need to research the key ingredients which the hair needs to look it’s best, optional ingredients which are nice-to-have, but won’t necessarily break your hair, as well as ingredients that are unhealthy for your hair. Now, the tricky thing with ingredients is that they can react differently on different hair types and hair porosity. The reason a product can work great for someone and not so much for the other even if they’re twins can often be traced to the hair porosity and hair type/texture. It’s up to you to experiment with different hair ingredients to see how your hair reacts to them. Try not to rule out any product at this stage, especially if you’re transitioning and still have some relaxed hair left on your head. The reason is that your hair is still at its infancy stage, so it will be as unpredictable as a baby would.
8. How to Choose Products: Now that you’ve research the key ingredients that your hair needs to survive, the nice-to-have ingredients and the not-so-great ingredients, the next step is to figure out which products to will work great for your hair due to the ingredients in the selected products. So instead of logging on YouTube to read about the latest product reviews, only to end up with a cupboard full of disappointed products; all you need to do is to select your choice of superior products which you know your hair would LOVE. Now, you might not land on the perfect products at the beginning, and you might need to continue experimenting with products when transitioning.
And as mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t throw any product out at this time since your hair might eventually respond well to the same product later on. When it comes to choosing hair products, you want to ensure that you have a *shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, and oils/butters. A styling product such as gel or curly pudding is optional at this point. In terms of tools, I will advise against flat irons and any other heat appliances due to the fragile nature of your hair at this point. To style your hair, you will need detangling combs, a rat-tail comb for parting your hair, and rollers for styling. If you did the big chop, you might only need a detangling comb at this stage, due to the minimalist nature of a TWA. I will also advice against finger detangling, co-washing and any other “additions/subtractions” that is common place in the natural hair community until you have mastered the technicalities of your hair.
9. How to Style Your Hair: What makes natural hair very exciting is the fact that you can style your hair in more than a million ways. A quick search on Instagram or Pinterest using hashtags such as #twa or #transitioning will generate hundreds of styling options for your hair type. Thanks to YouTube, you can teach yourself how to style any hairstyle. All you need is patience, persistence and practice (3Ps of awesomeness) and you’ll be well on your way.
10. How to Build a Regimen: You probably have a book full of tips and research by now, but how do you organised everything into digestible information? How can you use all the information to build an action plan? You’ve probably read hair tips which advised you to moisturize daily, cleanse weekly, deep condition bi-weekly and style weekly. To avoid information overload, you’ll need to develop a plan which fits your hair and lifestyle.