When growing out natural hair, many of us strive to have our healthy curls, coils, and kinks growing at a noticeably encouraging speed. We strive for moisture retention and a healthy scalp as well. I think we can all agree that it is definitely a process. Even with concrete guidelines for your hair type and trusted product recommendations, everyone’s natural hair and natural hair journey can be, and is often, well... different. Growth can sometimes feel stunted due to breakage, dryness, or your hair is legitimately stuck at a particular length for reasons unknown to you. Below are some of the top 5 tips and methods to promote and retain healthy natural hair growth.
1) Please Don’t Touch My Hair. The Thing I Tell Myself Daily
This is rule #1, and for a good reason. I get it. You take that style out that you are trying from youtube. It comes out absolutely perfect, and you want to play in it. Your natural curls are poppin, and your twist out or flexi rod set is giving you EVERYTHING that you want in life, or worst-case scenario…it comes out awful, and now you need to restyle. So you pull the sides up on day 2, you braid the front back on day 3, you pull your hair into the cutest puff on day 4. Them You comb it out day 5 to try and restyle or wash it because of all of the product build-up. Right? WRONG! Very very wrong.
The number one cause of natural hair breakage, fairy knots, split ends, and dryness is constant hair manipulation. This includes playing in your natural hair far too often, pulling it up day to day, straining your edges, and styling manipulation. It is essential to refrain from touching your hair too often. The constant manipulation of your hair prevents growth and can lead to premature breakage. Your hands also carry their own oils and germs throughout the day as you touch your hair, leading to dryness and sometimes scalp conditions. Try low manipulation hairstyles that will reduce your temptation to touch your hair as often. It is key to keep such styles in for at least five to seven days. In between, if you want to pull your hair into a puff or pineapple, then that’s A-ok. Just as long as you are not going full stylist in your head daily. Pick it out, shake it out or manipulate with your fingers in the morning and leave it. Do not touch it, and do not reshape it during the day. The perfect part of having natural hair is that it does not have to look perfect. Bask in that and keep your hands to yourself. Stretch out your wash days if you shampoo/condition once or twice a week. Be sure to use a satin scarf and/or a bonnet. In case those slip off, also use a satin pillowcase.
2) Jewelry and Hang Nail Free Is The Way To Be
I get it! You don’t want to take off your engagement ring when styling your hair. You are in the house, so who cares if your nails are chipping. I’ll tell you who cares…or what rather. YOUR HAIR CARES! These little things play an essential part in our natural hair care routine but can often be the big reason why you are seeing breakage. Ensure that all jewelry is off when washing or styling your hair. This includes necklaces, stud earrings, and rings. Anything that your hair can wrap around, get snagged on, and rip. If you must wear a ring when washing or daily styling, cover your hands with rubber gloves. The same rule applies when doing your natural hair with hangnails and chipped nail polish. Ensure that your hands are groomed, nail polish is fresh, or removed on fingers where it’s chipping. If not, then slip on a rubber glove until the next nail appointment to minimize damage during styling.
3) Say No To Heat
You may see online naturals taking the 6 months no heat challenge or suddenly stating that they went no heat and watched their hair blossom. This is NOT a test. This is the truth, but only if you are ready to hear it. You see your hair blowers and flat irons? Get up, wrap those cords around them and place them on the highest shelf in your home where you will forget about them. Heat is an extreme enemy of natural hair, length retention, and moisture retention. You know those parts of your hair that look insanely straight on wash day in between curls that are popping? That’s heat damage. Excessive amounts of heat will not only cause damage to the hair shaft but will also alter your natural curl pattern and prevent growth via length retention. Those areas will break off sooner or later. In addition to excessive fallout and breakage, heat contributes to brittle, dry, and dull-looking natural hair. The only way to treat heat damage is to cut off all damaged ends causing you to start back at square one. Quite similar to perming. Do not apply direct heat only indirect such as a hooded dryer to dry or deep condition your hair. While using the hooded dryer, try to stay below 55 degrees. This is considered indirect heat. There are a few exceptions: very-low heat with a diffuser on your hair blower to dry the roots of a wash and go or the lowest heat level to stretch your roots. However, try to stay away from heat altogether. Now, this is not saying that a silk press will destroy all of your hard work. A silk press done correctly by a professional who knows how to ensure that your hair will not be heat damaged is A-ok. Many naturals limit this to two or three times a year.
4) To Pre-Poo or Not to Pre-Poo
The answer is always yes! Pre-poo is a process of prepping your hair by saturating it before washing it with an oil such as Olive Oil, Almond Oil, or Grapeseed oil. Looking for a little extra protection before washing? Then you can add a thick substance such as aloe gel to your oil. There are quite a few brands that sell amazing pre-poo’s as well. The process adds extra time to each wash day, and it is worth it. You saturate hair and let it sit for 25-40 minutes, and then begin washing. This process fills open shaft cuticles so that your hair is easier to detangle with added slip during the manipulation of washing, is less likely to break off while manipulating, and creates a protective layer when you shampoo to prevent your shampoo from stripping the moisture from your strands. After pre-pooing, you will see softer, bouncier, shiny, and moisturized curls. Using this method over time will increase your overall hair health and assist in moisture training your hair. The extra 25 minutes is worth it in overall hair health and length retention.
5) Your Hair Is A Picky Eater
The old adage you are what you eat not only applies to your body but also applies to your hair. Your daily/weekly diet can actually encourage or hinder healthy hair growth.
- Did you know that regular alcohol consumption stops/slows hair growth? Alcohol leads to dehydration, raised estrogen levels, and reduced zinc levels in the body, making it difficult for long, healthy hair to grow. The more alcohol you consume, the weaker your strands will become. Remember, we want to retain moisture and a healthy scalp for maximum hair growth.
- Did you know that your sugar intake could be affecting your hair growth? A high sugar intake spikes your blood sugar levels which damages hair follicles and potentially accelerates hair loss. It also causes inflammation of the scalp leading to loss of quality and quantity of hair, and can also contribute to the flare-up of common scalp conditions. Cut the sugar and grow the hair.
- Greens glorious greens and fruit are your hair’s best friend. Incorporating fresh greens, fruits, nuts, proteins, and fatty fish into your diet. It can be hard when you are on the go; if so, try and incorporate them into daily smoothies, not the fatty fish of course! If it is merely impossible to do so, then find a supplement that works for you.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water often – 8 cups or more a day.
I have a saying, My hair feels better when I treat myself like a house plant. This includes constant watering, sun, the right foods & the right environment. Check back soon for part two of healthy hair growth tips for natural hair because there’s a lot more where this hair comes from!