Observation on the Natural Hair revolution and re-awakening
14 COMMON MISTAKES TO UNTANGLE THE COILS OF AFRO HAIR BEAUTY
AFRO HAIR IS DIFFERENT BUT NOT INFERIOR
I get contacts everyday by black people who are struggling to grow, maintain, understand and glamorise their natural Afro hair.
These people vary in their needs. I have being counselling, advising, supporting and generally helping these people across the world. What I find is that people may live in different locations in the world but their Afro hair problems are consistently familiar and similar to each other.
Take for instance the enquiry I got from this client.
She has been struggling in silence with a damaged hairline problem for over 10 years as there was nowhere she could seek help. Typically when I get these enquiries I ask for details of the problem including images. The image I received from this particular client was very shocking to say the least. The story was that she had chemically relaxed her hair and had started wearing weaves constantly. Her hairline had completely disappeared due to the combination of relaxer and tension from tight cornrows causing her traction alopecia. This problem has now made her lose her self-esteem and confidence in herself. She now desperately needed help.
The client I worked with yesterday had similar problems. Her chemical damage was so severe she developed in addition to traction alopecia; another hair loss problem – alopecia areata and had now resorted to wearing wigs which was also not helping her situation. Another client had a complete hair loss problem – alopecia totalis where improper chemicals application had completely dissolved all her hair strands leaving her bald. She had gone to the famous Harley Street Clinic for hair loss & replacement treatment and was asked to pay £12,000 for hair replacement. Very expensive strands of hair – wouldn’t you say? Harley Street, London is known for its rich hair replacement clientele – Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant is an example? The cases of hair problems I deal with every day abound and these problems will continue to repeat themselves for as long as there exist ignorance and misunderstanding of Afro hair in our community. From my continuous exposure and experience of working with these clients, I have concluded that the causes of these problems come from one major source – HOW TO UNTANGLE THE COILS OF AFRO HAIR.
My interest in hair has been born out of a passion to see healthy growing glamorous natural hair. My personal experience is that I had my long glowing glossy healthy hair to chemical relaxers and now chosen to grow my hair natural. I have also seen close friends and family members lose hair to chemicals. I do have a personal understanding of the journeys the natural hair presents and have therefore undertaken to help everyone who is experiencing problems with their hair. With this in mind, I don’t only design glamorous natural hair but I help to protect, maintain and encourage my clients to grow their natural hair. Before we look at the problems, mistakes and solutions of Afro hair, let us understand the uniqueness of this hair type.
Characteristics /Understanding of the Natural Afro Hair
Afro hair is different but by no means inferior to other hair types. However, because Afro hair is generally misrepresented, misunderstood and wrapped in mystery clients who wear this hair do not appreciate it. Your natural Afro hair is beautiful, can be managed and should be loved like any other hair type. There is no mistake about Afro hair. It grows from a small pocket on the skin /scalp called follicles like other hair types and its texture is also determined by our genes which we inherited from our parents.
Our first most important duty therefore is to know and understand our natural hair as it grows out of our head.
- Our tightly coiled hair comes from a flat oval shaped follicle which grows this way out of our scalp.
- It is designed with a tight pattern of spirals and coils in shape. These patterns are coily not curly.
- The degree and type of coils varies – slight coils, moderate coils, extremely coily. According to Andre Walker’s hair type analysis (Oprah Winfrey’s celebrity hair stylist), this coils fall into the Type 4 – A,B and C definition of patterns.
- We generally mistake our degree of coils to mean coarse and this mistake is what leads us to use harsh heat and chemicals to solve what we see as a problem.
- In our degree of coils, and like other hair types, we also have fine, medium and coarse texture. It is important that you find out what your true texture is so you can be empowered and be in control to educate others about your hair.
- Afro hair is generally dry because the natural oil which moisturises all strands of hair from the scalp does not travel the strands of Afro hair due to the spiral and tightness of the coils.
- This dryness is what makes the Afro hair brittle and prone to easy breakage. The continuous breakage therefore stops it from retaining length and growing long. Moisture and suppleness is therefore one of the main ingredients lacking in natural Afro hair.
- The spiral tightness of our coils causes it to tangle very easily which also leads to breakage.
- Natural Afro hair is called various names – kinky, coily, nappy, woolly etc.
First thing to do therefore is to accept your hair as it grows from your scalp.
The natural Afro hair is one of those cases where appearance is deceptive. The tightness of our coils makes it look thick, strong, woolly, heavy, full etc which gives an illusion that it can withstand stress but in reality it is extremely fragile due to the spiral gaps and this is what leads to its breakage at the least stretch. This highlighted uniqueness has offered a special requirement of the Afro hair which must be addressed in order to have healthy hair like other hair types. The problem therefore is not our hair but the WAY WE HANDLE OUR HAIR. The solution is therefore to find ways to handle our hair to enhance its beauty without damage or stress.
Our hair requires gentle tender loving care.
Afro coily textured hair types therefore require special care, products and styling needs. We have to be smart and avoid the mainstream glamorous marketing and gimmicks which tend to trick us into buying products and hair styles that claim to work for all hair types.
My conclusion is that since there are no schools teaching about natural Afro hair type which has led to lack of understanding of our hair type, there are series of mistakes that have been practised over the years which has led to and will continue to exist causing our hair type untold damage. As seen in the documentary – “400 years without a comb”, the systematic damage, abuse and hatred of the Afro hair came from years of mental, physical and political stereotyping and conditioning for the black person to learn to reject their own hair. Racial pride and self-esteem were thrown away at this stage in our history and will probably equally take a long time for us to learn to love our hair again.
While we battle with ourselves to love our hair as it grows from our head, these are 14 of the most consistent /recurring common natural hair mistakes that I have noted. To be able to grow, maintain and enjoy our hair type, we need to avoid these mistakes. Free your strands; love your hair.
Mistake No. 1. – Using Chemical Relaxers on Afro Hair
Generally black people think God made a mistake when he created the Afro hair. We think the solution to our spiralled tightly coiled hair is to use chemicals on our hair. The reason we do this is because we think it will help us comb through our hair easily. Our expectations is based on the continuous exposure and visual images of straight hair models we see which has made us have unrealistic demands of our hair. We generally think our hair should comb the same way as these other hair textures. We call this easy and manageable hair. Relaxing our hair is not a solution. It is a temporary solution as the hair that continues to grow out remains tightly coiled Afro hair. This exposes more problems as what the chemicals do is break our hair structure – releases /relaxes the tight bonds in our hair. When this happens, we lose the keratin protein in our hair and our hair loses its elasticity and no longer responds to the basic stress we would normally subject our hair to. Most of us have experienced the effect of these dangerous and harsh chemicals in our hair which also seeps into our body. Relaxers contain(sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide), curly perms (ammonium thioglycolate), Keratin /Brazilian treatment (formaldehyde – a highly toxic carcinogen). You may get the straight hair you desire but these processes do not grow, protect, maintain or give you healthy hair. From the examples above, some people repeat their hair damage process. They damage their hair, they get advice, cut the hair and promise they will stop using chemicals; they grow out long natural hair and then go back to the same process again. My recommendation therefore is understand your natural coily hair and its needs rather than forcing it to change its structure. Work with it; find out how to make it work for you – look for products that work to enhance your hair, seek expert advice and save yourself the stress of quick fix solution that ends up becoming expensive damages, causing you to lose your self-esteem and self-confidence etc. We have written a lot on the effects of chemical relaxers in our hair blog. http://www.worldofbraiding.wordpress.com
Mistake No. 2. – Rough handling and Harsh Hair Habits – forceful combing.
Afro hair may look strong & tough but this is not reality. The first problem you hear the Afro hair client complain about is that their hair is dry, tight and difficult to comb. This is the reason most Mothers continue to damage their children’s hair.
- Use the correct wide tooth comb to comb your hair.
- Never comb dry hair as it tangles and breaks.
- Moisturise the hair before you comb
- Be patient and comb hair from the ends/tips to the roots and slowly too. When you come across tangles, take your time to detangle it.
- Never use the same tools you use on other hair types on your Afro hair.
- Do not force your hair to become straight. This damages your tight coils.
- It will simply fluff, stretch out and bounce back. Remember when we wore Gerry-curls or curly perms – you did not comb your hair straight, you simply guided your curls into place and shape. The same should apply with Afro hair and we should not expect differently. It is called curly /coily hair and not straight hair.
Mistake No. 3 – Wrong Accessories – holding in tight ponytails, tight iron clips, rough hair bands etc are sure ways to break and damage your hair as they clip on the edges and snap the strands of hair. The less manipulation you do with your hair, the less it will break. Learn to treat your hair like a precious delicate material and go easy on the tight rough accessories.
Mistake No. 4. Lack of moisture – Water is a tight coil’s best friend. Our hair is naturally dry and tight. The best way you can show your hair love is to spray water / moisture into your hair daily. Afro hair comes alive when it is wet as moisture releases and relaxes the strands and tangles that happen when it is dry. When our hair is moisturised, it is easy to untangle and section. We need moisture or hydration on our hair just like we also need it in our body. Again stop using the hair examples of other races where they do not need moisture and are constantly blow drying their hair. Afro hair is different. We need moisture. Simply put – Afro hair is the opposite of straight hair. Everything our hair needs is what their hair does not need. While other hairs are weak when wet and strong when dry, our hair is strong when wet and weak when dry. While other hair types wash their hair everyday due to too much grease, we do not wash our hair everyday as we need moisture due to dryness. Stay with the moisture to have strong healthy hair. Remember Jerry curls again. We kept it moist and wet and our hair grew long. Same applies here. Tip is have a spring water in a natural oil mix and put in a spray bottle. Spray this on your hair daily so it is not left dry again. Remember, all your hair products should contain water.
Mistake No. 5. – Not cleaning / shampooing your hair.
Our first set maintenance process is to wash, condition and moisturise. We need to clean our scalp of natural oil build-up, dust and dirt from the atmosphere, sweat from our scalp, product build-up etc. Natural Afro hair clients tend to listen to the old wives’ tales that you should not wash your hair too much as it is difficult to moisturise afterwards. Yes it is naturally dry but with daily moisturisers, we would be fine after a wash. Washing your hair less frequently however, has its consequences as it leads to scalp diseases – dandruff, eczema, fungal infections, lice etc. The dandruff and dirt blocks your pores and hair strands which suffocates them from coming out of the follicles. According to Madam C J Walker (1867 – 1919). “See your scalp as a garden and your hair strands as the plants. If you do not clear the weeds (dandruff and other diseases), they stop your plants from growing.” The same applies to hair follicles as they get suffocated when the scalp is infested and infected with scalp conditions. The only solution is to maintain clean hair habits.
Mistake No. 6 – Using wrong products
I have spoken to clients who say the only product they know is petroleum products. Sometimes I wonder what planet they live in. Products make a big difference to our hair. Product is one of the areas where black hair has been conned and misled over the years. Other races manufactured products which were good for their own hair type and marketed same products to Afro hair clients. Our bathroom and bedroom is ridden with them. This is why the black race is known to spend 6 times more on hair beauty than any other race. The problem is we are gullible and buy based on the beautiful image of a model on a product. This product will not help us in any form and so we get tired and go to buy another. As we carry on, we discover our bathroom is full of products we have no use or value for. Our demand for good hair, vulnerability and insecurity has always been picked up over the years and so the power of marketing comes to play a major part in our pockets. Going forward, read the label and note the ingredients. Afro hair only needs mostly natural products. If you do not understand the name of the ingredient then it is not meant for you. Your hair is part of you and feeds on the things you feed on too. There is a saying “if you cannot put it in your mouth; then do not put it in your hair”. Watch out for the following products:
- Alcohol – it dries out our already dry hair
- Sodium lauryl sulphate – it is simply detergent which is giving us lots of foam and make our hair squeaky clean by also taking away our natural oils.
- Petroleum – clogs our pores and attracts more dust from the atmosphere.
- The tip is look into your kitchen for natural oils.
- When you apply products to your hair, make sure your hair is wet as this is the time it absorbs the products.
- Remember your products should contain less oil and more water in the form of lotions.
Remember our ancestors grew their hair with natural products and so can we. There are lots of natural product companies which have perfected what is good for our hair. Look out for them and use them. Stay away from the fancy names and products that claim to be good for all hair types. They have to be specific for your natural hair type. Clear your bathroom. You do not need the junk in there. They are not good for your hair.
Mistake No. 7. Improper shampoo techniques – Working with Tangles. Detangle your hair before you shampoo it. If your hair is tangled and you start washing, it will get tighter and more difficult to comb. Natural Afro hair requires specific shampoo techniques. Tip is to group the hair into sections, wash them in the sections and follow the natural flow of the strands. Do not roughen the scalp and over manipulate the hair strands. Use the balls of your finger tips and do not dig into your scalp as it affects your follicles. Over manipulation of the strands lead to tangled strands and it leads to breakage. Do not over wash as hair gets too clean and loses natural oils.
Mistake No. 8 – Your hair is your health – Not eating the right foods. Your hair is part of your body. The mistake lots of people make is they think hair grows from outside of the body hence they spend so much money on buying products and hair extensions. They do not remember that hair grows from the cells in our follicles and it is this cells that push up to become the hair we see. Eating the right foods will help your hair to be healthy, strong and grow. Tips are eat less processed foods and stay more with organic, unrefined foods – protein as hair is protein, fruits and vegetable as they contain vitamins and nutrients.
Mistake No. 9 – Ignoring Deep Conditioning
Afro hair needs deep conditioning and hot oil treatment from time to time. These treatments help to restructure, condition, soften and make our hair supple. Use shampoos and conditioners made for dry and sometimes damaged hair as they help to restore moisture in our hair. Use them to keep your hair soft and in good condition.
Mistake No.10 – Use of wrong styling Hot Tools –
Afro hair does not need heat to look beautiful. We have coily hair. Hot tools give straight strands and this again is from us imitating other hair types. Why do we need to straighten coily hair? Stay away from blow dryers, straighteners, curling tongs, hot stove etc. They apply too much heat on our hair and with continous use, our naturally dry hair gets drier and damaged leading to breakage.
Mistake No. 11 – Not Trimming our hair. Hair grows and gets damaged with continuous exposure to the weather – known as weathering. This leads to dry tips which is caused by exposure of the cuticles to tearing causing the cortex to be exposed. This exposure of the cortex is what is known as split ends. If the cuticle has torn and exposed the cortex, this has to be trimmed off otherwise the tear travels down the strand of hair causing more damage and breakage to our hair. All hair goes through this process and Afro hair should not ignore this. Tip is to trim your hair at least once in 3 months. Be your own best judge. Watch and see how thin the hair gets and then trim off the dry scraggy part.
Mistake No.12 – Wrong hair Styling methods – Wrong hair styles is one of the worst mistakes natural hair make. I have seen clients manipulate their hair with wrong hair styles which prove to be their biggest problems. Tightly holding the hair edges in cornrows, plaits and weaves leads to hair damage. This gets worse when clients had previously applied relaxers in their hair and then go on to wear braids, Ghana cornrows and weaves. These styles cause so much damage when the hair is left with untrained stylist who do not understand our hair strands and its fragility. Tip, is always work with trained stylist who understand the best hairstyles for your hair and want to encourage your hair’s growth. Also insist that your hairline is not held too tightly when wearing braids, weaves and extensions. Other protective hairstyles you can wear without damage include – two strand twist, bantu knots, natural braids, cornrows, flat twist, cornrow twist, coils, locs, afro puff.
Mistake No.13. Not protecting your natural hair. Once you have achieve good length in your hair, you may want to wear it loose to show off to your friends. Unfortunately, the Afro hair is not the best friend of too much wind especially during winter when there is no humidity in the atmosphere. For you to retain your length, you need to protect your hair especially the ends – where you notice dryness quicker because it rubs against your clothes, pillows etc. Keep them out of site and they will retain moisture better. At night you also need to wear satin scarf, satin bonnet, or pillow case in order to retain the moisture in your hair.
Mistake No.14 – Wrong hair extensions.I am a big fan of hair extensions. I believe if you wear natural Afro hair, you
may not have the instant length to manipulate into different styles overnight. It takes patience and time to achieve length. This is where the hair extensions come to help us. I call it “fake it till you have it”. Not everyone will have long natural hair. There are many factors to consider – genes, age, stress in our society, expensive healthy foods, ill health, medication etc. In the meantime, why look miserable, lack confidence and self believe if there is an option for you. I get enquiries from people who work is professional offices wanting to fit in and not feel out of place because they are trying to grow back their natural hair which is taking time to settle down and give them the look they want. My solution is wearing glamorous healthy hair extensions. But remember, a good hair extensions must sit on a healthy base of natural hair. Do not use extensions to hide your hair damage. They also help to protect our natural hair when done with a competent well trained specialist like we do at World of Braiding & Extensions.
Our rule however, is that you wear only the best quality hair extensions. Get a detailed consultation that explains the best hairstyles for you and offers you not only glamour but healthy natural growing hair at the same time. We call it grow healthy natural hair glamour. We help you achieve glamour with natural healthy hair. Tip is do not leave your braids for more than 3 months with occasional touch up of 4 – 6 weeks and weave extensions for more than 6 weeks with regular shampoo and maintenance. When hair extensions last longer than these periods, it starts to loc up, break and cause damage. Stay away from tight hairstyles that are painful and cause you hairline damage.
Here’s to happy hair days.
If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article, book your free consultation today as we are available to answer your questions. Joy will directly consult with you. Our consultation is about Education, Information and Understanding. It is very important you understand your natural hair and all the options open for you to work with. We make recommendations and suggestions on what is realistic, works for you and in your best interest.
ABOUT JOY PHIDO
Joy Phido (SRH)
Natural Hair & Extensions Specialist, Consultant, Designer, Educator
Entrepreneur, Speaker, Business Coach/ Adviser, Mentor, Author
BSc Hons – Business Management, NVQ Level 3 Hairdressing,
City & Guilds Level 3 – Teaching, ILEX Level 2 – Legal Secretary
Diploma – Hair Weaving, Certificates in Natural Hair & Extensions,
Before going into hair business, Joy has had years of various career experiences with varied organizations including Corporate Nigeria, Lagos city banking career, to Corporate England, London city telecomms career. Joy’s mission is to design, grow and glamorise natural hair as well as help ordinary women gain financial freedom with employment or set up micro businesses.
Joy is available to speak at your next event. Please call to book.
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