Six years ago, I shaved my head bald and didn’t look back. I rocked that buzz cut until a few months ago when I wanted to mix things up and grow my hair back. I decided to go 100 percent no-heat natural this time rather than the press and curl I’d worn in high school and part of college. Yet after several years without hair, I didn’t quite know how to take care of the new growth. I went back to methods from the '90s that I’d learned from my mother. Luckily, friends helped me quickly realize my main mistakes.
Mother always knows best… but you may have to school her on a few natural hair faux pas.
1. Your mama’s hair grease isn’t always your friend
Remember when super thick hair greases like Dax and Blue Magic were your mother’s go-to product for greasing your scalp? Every time she reached for it, you knew you weren’t going to be able to lean your head up against any surface for several days without leaving a dark, greasy stain behind.
I purchased some hair grease two months ago and soon noticed that none of my other friends and family members used grease anymore. They’d all switched to oils like olive, jojaba, argan and coconut. Unlike those natural oils, many hair greases like the ones I’d bought are made mostly of petroleum, which can suck the natural moisture right out of your hair and scalp. My sister warned me about the grease and I made the switch to natural oils.
2. Hands off mama’s good towels
The normal thing to do after you’ve finished washing your hair is to grab a towel before water and conditioner residue get into your eyes. But the towels in the linen closet are not your best bet. Regular towels are rough on hair and can cause breakage. Microfiber towels are a softer, curly-hair-friendly option. And if you don’t feel like springing the cash for one of those, one of my stylists recommends using a t-shirt as another good alternative. Both options can help retain your natural curls.
3. Lighten up with that comb
If your mother combed through your hair with the same force Her Royal Highness Serena Williams uses to demolish her opponents, then you surely didn't look forward to getting your hair done as a child. It was painful. And to this day, I still do not like detangling my fro.
Imagine my shock (and dumbfounded feeling) when I discovered another way to comb my hair. Why hadn’t anyone ever told me I could detangle the tips first, and then work my way up to the roots? That method saves a lot of pain and minimizes breakage.
4. Cross-examine your shampoo
Have you checked the ingredients on the back of your shampoo lately? You might not recognize all of the ingredients, but sulfate is the one you want to look out for. Sulfate is another chemical that removes your hair’s natural moisture and is found in many popular shampoos. However, several brands like Shea Moisture, Cantu and Trader Joes offer sulfate-free shampoos.
Rather than running out and buying new shampoos, co-washing — or washing only with conditioner — is an alternative option. That way you retain all of the moisturizing effects from the conditioner, minus the sulfate (though you might want to read the ingredients in your conditioner just in case). I have friends who only co-wash their hair, while others switch between co-washing and washing with shampoo. I prefer the latter.
Unlike in the early '90s, when my mom was slapping on the hair grease, we now have better access to the internet. Black girls with natural hair have formed online communities, blogs, YouTube channels and Pinterest boards. We now have better products that cater to our various textures. Some of us are even making our own products from oils and ingredients from our kitchens.
So if you’re still using damaging old-school tricks on your natural hair, it's probably time for an upgrade.