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Afope: Practice Makes Perfect! 4 Habits of Naturals with Long & Healthy Hair you might Want to Try

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We’ve all seen those girls with the long natural hair. You know, the ones with the big long fluffy lion’s manes, and you’ve either thought “Wow, if only” or “It must have taken her ages to grow her hair that long” or the infamous “She must have some really good genes“. Now, while genetics do have a part to play in the fundamental characteristics of our hair growth rate, we certainly have the power to control how much of our hair is actually retained. One word ladies – HABITS.

Most (if not all) naturals – myself included – have at one point or the other, bought into this myth that a particular product/range of products could be the solution to our long term hair struggles. Sorry girls, they lied – but hey, that’s consumerism for you. The truth is, no matter how great a product does what it claims to do, what it cannot do is instantly make up for weeks, months or even years of malpractice that resulted in damaged hair. No matter how religiously I apply ‘MagikGro Ointment’ to my scalp, my hair will neither appear any healthier or longer if my ends are breaking off quicker/ being trimmed more often than the hair shooting out of my scalp.

This is the point where I usually remind budding naturalistas that when it comes to growing healthy, long natural hair, the trick has always been and will always be ‘Practices over Products’ i.e. the haircare practices that you do will always be more crucial to hair health/growth than the haircare products that you use.

Here are a few haircare practices that I have noticed healthy long haired natural girls have in common and that have also helped me to retain up to 20 inches of hair in the 3 years that I’ve been natural. Have a look!

1. Protective Styling & Minimal Manipulation
A great way to protect our hair and retain as much length as we can is through  protective styling. These are hairstyles that require very low daily manipulation and involve your ends being tucked away (as they are far older and more jaded than the hair fresh out of our scalp, meaning they need more care and protection from natural daily weathering). These styles range from buns to twists and braids, are usually kept in for a minimum of 3-4 weeks but no longer than 5-6 weeks at a stretch, and worn frequently all year round.

It should also be noted that while synthetic extensions may work well for some, most long haired naturals tend to do without them and prefer to protective style using their hair alone. The reason being that they wish to minimize the potential of creating more knots and causing breakage in the take down process – a risk which is already present but significantly increased when more hair is introduced into the mix – and so it could end up defeating the point of protective styling in the first place.

2. Minimal/Smart Heat Styling
I do not buy into the natural hair taboo that heat styling automatically equates to hair breakage, and my aim here is not to protest against the use of direct heat. I know naturals who heat style frequently with minimal effect on their hair and I know others who are still suffering from heat damage after their first heat styling experience.

The truth is, it all depends on the thickness of your individual hair strands, their ability to withstand constant heat and the use of a good heat protectant. This being said, you will notice that most naturals with healthy long hair tend to stay away from frequent direct heat because no matter how resilient your individual hair strands are, with every time you apply heat you are increasing the risk of permanently altering the natural make up of your hair that kept it so resilient and healthy to begin with. This will in turn affect the hair’s ability to withstand the weight of common daily manipulation – causing the hair to break more easily. Getting into the habit of using heat only when necessary will greatly contribute to long term length retention.

3. Trimming – Only When necessary
Growing up, I remember the dreaded monthly/6-weekly trim at the salon where about (what felt like) 1/3 of my hair would be chopped up by scissor -happy hairdressers in the name of “keeping my hair healthy” or “making my hair grow faster“. But then it dawned on me…If hair grows an average of 1/2 an inch per month, surely it would be sheer madness to trim 1/2 an inch off my ends every month, no?

Yes, split ends cause more knots and breakage but no matter how healthy my ends are from consistent trimming, if they’re being chopped off at the same rate my hair is growing, I would only be circling the same mountain and setting myself up for frustration. This is why I decided to adopt a ‘search and destroy’ or ‘only when necessary’ habit when it comes to trimming to make sure I’m not just blindly trimming to make myself feel better. But bear in mind, this method comes at a price. In order to be able to do without a frequent trim, it means I must take extra care to protect my ends from damage so they do not need to be trimmed – something that I do by using the other methods mentioned in this article.

4. Patience
This is probably the most important of all. Natural hair requires a lot of TLC (Tender, Loving Care) and can only give back to you what you put in. As black hair is extremely fragile, you will need to form a habit of patience when washing, treating, detangling and styling in order to prevent breakage and encourage hair retention. Similarly, you cannot expect to put in one week’s worth of good haircare practices and see one year’s worth of results – like with all things worth waiting for, it will take time, and a whole lot of patience.

Just because you cannot see it straight away, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Focus on keeping those strands protected and that hair healthy, and trust me, the length will creep up on you before you know what’s going on.

So girls, remember that practice makes perfect. Making a habit stick does not happen overnight, it always takes time and dedication, this is why consistency is key. You will have to be disciplined for the first few weeks/months but eventually these practices will become habits and we all know what they say about old habits…they die hard. Like with all other habits, once you get the hang of it, it becomes hard to stop, so why not make your good habits ‘die hard’.

Start today! Every great achievement begins with a decision.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang)

10 Comments

  1. Oba Judith

    September 19, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Trimming is not included

  2. chinco

    September 19, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    I. Want to know if dyeing my hair will affect it. A lot of fora and blogs claim that but I’ve seen a lot of people with coloured natural hair ( probably cus they had the mixed race type hair)…. I want to know if my 4c hair will one day grow long even with my red dyes. Or maybe I should stop dreaming

    • Nyla

      September 19, 2014 at 5:48 pm

      I have type 4 hair 100% naija blood and I’ve colored my hair as well. What I will say is that color can damage your hair. You have be careful about the type of products you’re using for coloring and after for maintenance. Make sure if the hair color you’re using has a lightening agent like bleach or peroxide you deep condition and possibly do a protein treatment on your hair afterwards. If you color your hair you need to baby it because color can cause dryness too

    • hawa

      September 19, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      Hair grows! You don’t.have to be mixed race.to have long hair. It’s just a myth. Care and maintain what is on your head. You will surely see results.

    • jackie onassis

      September 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      you killed me, you killed.. darling sis… I laughed like an hyena.. ahahahaha. You are sooooo funny… sweet sis.. but, some people will never have long hair.. just like height, skin color, eyes, butts.. all like hair is in the genes..

    • jhennique

      September 24, 2014 at 7:48 am

      Jackie, i dare say u are wrong on this one. lets just say some prople have better length retention than others. but everyone can grow long hair to at least bra strap length.

    • jhennique

      September 24, 2014 at 7:46 am

      yes dyeing will affect ur hair. 4c hair is the driest that natural hair comes bcos of its many tight coils. dyeing ur hair will make it drier and make it more prone to breakage. cept you are willing to step up on ur moisturising routine i suggest u stay away from dyes

  3. Vienna Closer

    September 20, 2014 at 3:54 am

    I’m a product junkie so I usually end up mixing and matching products from different lies. I’m yet to come across an entire line of products that I Iove as a whole. Having said that, I love Karen’s Body Beautiful products. The Super Duper is like a multitasker, It good for adding moisture, sealing and providing shine. Its my go to when I want to style my hair quickly and don’t feel like layering on different products.

    curlkitshop.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=159

  4. the mane captain

    September 23, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    What a great article. well written too. 20inches in 3years? you must have a special fast hair growth gene and a great retention. I’d like to add deep conditioning and maintaining moisture.
    coilsandglory.com

  5. jhennique

    September 24, 2014 at 7:58 am

    iv been on my hair journey for a while over a year now. at a point i was frustrated cos i tot my hair wasnt growing. Spending sooo much money on buying good but pricey hair products but i didnt see nada. Then along the line i got to realise that having healthy hair is going to take a wholesome regimen. you cant do one part and leave the other, you just have to have a wholesome solid regimen, from detangling to cleansing, to conditioning to moisturising to treatments, everything! I even realised that not trimming my hair at all was causing more breakage. Low manipulation has also really helped me, finally i see growth and have discovered what my hair likes and what it doesnt. it takes time and patience but hair does grow
    its all about learning about ur hair, what it likes, what it can take…………………..bla bla bla.

    Anyway, I run an affordable natural hair consultation service. feel free to holla if you need any help. …….jhennique(at)yahoo.com

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