In order to have a successful natural hair journey, you must first understand exactly what the term natural hair really means.
There are several different definitions of the term, but below I’ve provided the most common definition for natural hair, and the one that we will talk about most often on Curl Centric.
“The term natural hair is defined as relaxer-free hair, which is different from chemical-free hair. Chemicals, on the surface, are often considered dangerous, but this is often times not the case at all. Most chemicals that you encounter on a daily basis are perfectly safe and harmless. For example, water or H2O is a safe chemical.”
Getting Started on Your Natural Hair Journey
Black natural hair (i.e., African American natural hair) is sometimes labeled as nappy hair that needs to be corrected by a relaxer. We’ve heard of situations where women have been discriminated against in the workplace due to having natural hairstyles, which are deemed unprofessional by some employers. Others have been denied jobs or promotions because of their natural hair. Natural hair has also caused relationship issues for many couples.
Curl Centric is about helping you understand your natural hair and providing you with information and resources to achieve healthy natural hair. We often interview other naturals on the blog because we want to give everyone the opportunity to share their experiences with natural hair. We often learn the most by reading and analyzing other people’s experiences.
It’s also encouraging when you see pictures of other women with natural hair and hear them speak positively about their natural hair journey. These stories often serve as proof that your journey can be just as successful if you’re willing to invest the time and energy into learning to care for your natural hair properly.
The Real Reason You’re Struggling on Your Natural Hair Journey (if applicable)
There are problems with some of the advice that’s typically given out online. Some natural hair advisors or product manufacturers will tell you that you need to find the perfect products (sometimes called holy grail products) or simply master a specific technique, like protective styling or the baggy method, to have a successful natural hair journey.
If you’ve tried some of these techniques and haven’t found the success that you’re aiming for, you probably know by now that you need more than generic recycled advice. That’s one of the main reasons that we built Curl Centric.
Our hair care method is based on a comprehensive blueprint for building a successful natural hair journey. It’s not designed to only provide short-term results for you, but to also build a robust foundation that will lead to a lifetime of success on your natural hair journey.
Natural Hair Blueprint: Foundation, Products, Styling and Maintenance
The Natural Hair Blueprint will be your guide throughout the course of building a successful natural hair journey. The blueprint is based on everything that we have learned over the years reading cosmetology books, scientific periodicals, performing research and by working with naturals around the world and watching their natural hair improve with our coaching.
The blueprint is divided into three pillars: (1) foundation, (2) products, and (3) styling and maintenance. Each of these pillars work to help you improve your natural hair journey. This blueprint is intended to be balanced, however depending on your strengths – you may need to spend more time on certain areas of the blueprint to see real improvements in your natural hair.
We like to focus on taking action during your natural hair journey. You have to implement the things that we discuss to really see improvements in your hair. Taking action is the best way to receive benefit from Curl Centric. We try to thoroughly explain concepts and give you very specific ways to take action. We also encourage you to leave comments on articles and respond to comments and questions from other naturals.
Understanding Your Hair Type
We tend not to focus on hair types in our articles for one very specific reason. Regardless of hair type – there are several common things that are often overlooked that everyone needs to do in order to have healthy natural hair.
At times we will write articles for specific types of hair, but keep this simple point in mind – you must drink plenty of water, reduce stress, wear protective styles, limit the amount of heat you put on your hair, wash your hair regularly, live a healthy lifestyle and more regardless of your hair type. In addition, many people have multiple hair types or categorizations on their head, so we tend to focus on those aforementioned things around here instead of your hair type.
Advice That Will Help You Start Your Natural Hair Journey
There is no right or wrong way to go natural; the important thing is that you are going natural. If you decide to transition to natural hair it’s important to know that the line of demarcation is where your natural hair and relaxed hair intersect. You’ll definitely notice a difference in the texture of your natural hair and your relaxed hair. Relaxers weaken your hair, leaving it dull and damaged over time. So, the difference should be fairly obvious.
You’ll learn that your hair will tell you what it needs and it’s critical that you pay attention to what it is telling you. Selecting your initial set of natural hair products is important and many naturals spend quite a bit of time trying new products in an attempt to find the perfect products (i.e., holy grail products) for their hair. You must get to know your hair to understand which products will work best for you.
My advice to you: Start a natural hair journal and begin documenting everything that you do to your hair. This will help you understand over a period of time what works and what doesn’t work for your hair. The key is to focus on what works for your hair and start to eliminate the things that don’t work. This process will help you select the right hair products and finalize your natural hair regimen.
The Truth about Hair Shedding
Some experts estimate that shedding more than 100 hairs per day is perfectly normal. About 10% of the hairs on your head are in a resting phase (telogen) and those hairs shed (exogen) after a period if time (generally 2 or 3 months). The other 90% (roughly) of your hairs are growing at any given time.
Hair growth occurs in cycles consisting of four phases: Anagen (growth phase), Catagen (transitional phase), Telogen (resting phase) and Exogen (shedding phase). Hair grows at different rates for different people; the average rate is around one-half inch per month. Due to a short active growth phase, some people have difficulty growing their hair beyond a certain length.
My advice to you: Don’t worry too much about your hair shedding unless it seems truly excessive. If your hair shedding does seem excessive, you should start by investigating the following areas: tight hairstyles, diet and nutrition, current medications, stress, illnesses, nervous habits, alopecia areata and hormonal changes.
It is important to note that women make-up nearly 40% of the individuals in the United States that experience hair loss. We recently wrote an article about the best shampoos for hair loss, however several of these issues may require the professional diagnoses of a medical doctor to determine the root cause of the hair shedding.
Prevent Breakage and Split-ends
Your hair is dead material, which is the reason why you can treat it with strong chemicals, cut it with scissors or apply heat to it without feeling a thing. The only problem with that is – since your hair is not alive, it cannot repair itself.
Damage to the hair must be trimmed away or grown out. For example, there is not a permanent cure for split-ends. There are some conditioners that can essentially patch split-ends and make them less visible, but over a period of time those split-ends will reappear. The only way to permanently get rid of your split-ends is to trim them away. You should absolutely never burn away your split-ends.
Hair breakage is the most common cause of hair loss. Tight hairstyles (ex. tight ponytails and braids) can break off the hair and damage the hair follicle. If your hair constantly breaks you will need to identify exactly what’s causing the breakage and eliminate the culprit to prevent further breakage. The most common causes of breakage are heat, harsh chemicals, tight hairstyles and rough treatment.
My advice to you: Hot appliances, like flat irons, hair dryers, hair steamers, curling irons and pressing combs, are popular, but often lead to serious hair damage because their high temperatures can result in brittle, dry hair that breaks easily – especially when they’re overused. If you decide to use heat, then you should use measures to minimize the likelihood of irreparable heat damage. However, it’s important to understand that it’s impossible to completely protect the hair from heat damage. If an appliance is hot enough to burn your skin, then there is a legitimate chance that the appliance will cause significant damage your hair.
Make sure that your hairstyles aren’t overly tight, stay away from chemical processes that change the structure of your hair, and handle your hair with care. Too-frequent manipulation (combing, brushing, tugging, pulling, etc.) can lead to increased breakage.
Health, Nutrition, Hair Vitamins and Supplements
Generally speaking, the same nutritious foods that are good for your body also promote stronger, healthier hair. If you don’t eat a healthy diet, your hair could suffer.
It’s important to mention that your hair doesn’t contain vitamins – it is not a living structure. If you’re eating a balanced, nutritious diet there is very little benefit gained from taking hair vitamins and supplements.
If you simply concentrate on eating low-fat proteins, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and whole grains you can help your hair reach its full potential without supplements.
The United States Department of Agriculture has established dietary guidelines for Americans (Chapter 1). Although, according to most surveys, the average American isn’t familiar with the guidelines and doesn’t manage their dietary intake accordingly.
For those who aren’t eating a well balanced, nutritious diet, or have a medical condition or imbalance, you might need vitamins and supplements to help your hair reach its full potential. You should consult your doctor to determine if a multivitamin is right for you.
My advice to you: Eat a healthy, well-balanced, nutritious diet and save your money on hair vitamins and supplements unless you have a medical condition or imbalance.
There is no evidence that exercise has any direct benefit on the health of your hair. However, there are many other benefits of exercise including weight control, mitigating health conditions, and boosting your energy among other things.
My advice to you: Exercise regularly because it reduces stress and promotes general health – which indirectly can have substantive impacts on the success of your natural hair. Kira and I are huge fans of the Insanity Workout Program, but it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s an extremely intense, high impact workout program for people that are already in pretty good shape. Many low-to-medium impact programs are effective too. Check out our recommendation below.
It’s designed to help you improve your overall physical activity, which can be done without hours of crunches, cardio, and high-intensity gym workouts.
The most often purchased natural hair product is shampoo. The main problem that I see with shampoos is that there are so many different types, one for every type of hair and/or scalp condition. It’s easy to get confused when choosing a product as simple as shampoo.
My advice to you: Choose products that are designed to be gentle on your hair. Also, many hair care experts recommend a pH-balanced shampoo to prevent excessive dryness and hair damage during the shampooing process.
The Best Natural Hair Shampoos
How often should you wash your hair?
Each head of hair is different, so there is really no correct answer. However, you can tell when you’re washing your hair too much if it starts to get dull, which means it’s time to scale back on the shampooing. By over-washing your hair, you can wash away your hair’s natural moisture which helps your hair look healthy. If you’re not washing your hair often enough, you can have product build-up which could negatively impact your hair.
My advice to you: When washing use lukewarm water, because hot water can strip the scalp of sebum, which is the protective oil that acts as a natural conditioner and gives your hair its shine. When you create your initial natural hair regimen, begin by washing your hair once per week. Record how your hair responds for a few weeks, in your natural hair journal, and make adjustments to your regimen as necessary.
Conditioners are intended to deposit protein or moisture into the hair strand to restore the hair’s strength, give your hair body and to protect your hair against possible breakage. The effects of conditioners are only temporary. The term conditioner is often used to describe many different things. For example, there are finishing rinses, cream rinses, protein conditioners, hot oil treatments, deep conditioning treatments and leave-in conditioners – and I’ve only named a few.
My advice to you: Start by regularly conditioning your hair after shampooing and having a deep-penetrating conditioner every month. You should document how your hair responds in a hair journal and make adjustments as needed. Also, buying really expensive products isn’t necessary, but you should beware of products that are extremely inexpensive relative to the competition.
The Best Natural Hair Conditioners
Hair Styling Tips
Protective styling is critical to the success of your natural hair journey. When we use the term protective styling on the Curl Centric blog, we’re referring to incorporating more “protection” into your overall natural hair regimen. The lack of focusing on protecting the hair is often the reason that several women suffer from excessive breakage and fail to grow their hair to their desired length.
One way to incorporate more protection into your natural hair journey is to utilize protective hairstyles. A protective hairstyle generally requires minimal upkeep, gives you the opportunity to moisturize as needed, and it keeps the ends of your hair safe and tucked away – protected. You can successfully grow your hair quite long with the appropriate selection of products, proper styling techniques, and general handling/maintenance.
My advice to you: Look for ways to incorporate more protection into your natural hair regimen. Be sure that you’re being gentle with your hair at all times. I also recommend finding a few protective hairstyles that you like and frequently incorporate them into your natural hair regimen, so you can protect the ends of your hair. A significant component to growing long hair (or more accurately retaining what you’ve already grown) is mitigating hair breakage to retain the hair that you currently have and protective styling improves your ability to accomplish this goal.
During your natural hair journey, there are many different things that you might have to correct: dry hair, product build-up and dandruff are just a few.
Generally speaking, you should refer to your natural hair journal when you’re experiencing a problem with your hair. It’s the primary guide to correcting your hair problems. You should begin asking yourself questions until you determine the potential root cause of the problem.
For example, have you changed anything about your regimen recently? Are you shampooing more often? What about taking a new medication? Did you recently start a stressful job? When was the last time you applied heat to your hair?
Use a root cause approach to correcting the issues that you identify. This troubleshooting technique is based on the premise that you can solve many problems that you’re having with your hair by addressing (correcting or eliminating) the potential root causes, as opposed to only addressing the symptoms.
For example, dry hair can be caused by external factors like harsh shampoo, chlorine, applying heat to the hair, too much sun or wind exposure and hard shower water to name a few. On the other hand, dry hair can also be caused by internal factors such as medications, nutritional deficiency or medical illnesses.
My advice to you: Identify the root cause of your “hair problem” and address the root cause.
And finally, we’re here for you as you progress through your natural hair journey. Feel free to leave a comment or let us know if you have any questions.
Curl Centric recommends The Science of Black Hair for new naturals who want to quickly understand how to care for their natural hair, how to grow longer hair and how to get started with a healthy product regimen. This book is a well-research, reference guide for ladies serious about hair care. Use this link to learn more about The Science of Black Hair.