To know me is to know my love for all things hair related. As a self-appointed “guru” with a “major” in natural hair; I pride myself in knowing the ins and outs of hair growth. So imagine my dismay when I, Candace Lelo, encountered a setback. We all have setbacks in life, but I had been so careful. So determined to escape the pitfalls that lead to hair damage. I thought I was in the clear. I thought wrong.
One fine Thursday afternoon, sitting in my stylist’s chair, we noticed my ends were bad. Granted, I had my kinky multi textured hair out the past 8 months, but I still took great care of it. A wash every week, followed by deep conditioning under a steamer, natural products only, and no direct heat or dyes. So, I found myself asking, what gives?
After discussing the products I was using, she asked if I used tea tree oil. That’s when I had an a-ha moment. My staple shampoo, which I’d been using for two years, was a tea tree based shampoo. I also used tea tree oil in many of my self-made deep conditioning mixes. My stylist informed me that overuse of tea tree might be the culprit. She stated tea tree has great properties but can be very drying. With that information in hand and additional research I decided to turn my setback into a setup by updating my hair regimen.
Step 1: Choose a moisturizing sulfate free shampoo.
When I started my regimen a few years ago I did research that told me to stay away from sulfates. According to naturallycurly.com: Many traditional shampoos contain sulfates (which are a classification of foaming agents also known as surfactants). Curl experts say these harsh detergents steal the moisture that your tresses so desperately need.
In my case, I was using a sulfate free shampoo, but it wasn’t moisturizing enough. It may have been because it did not have any cationics it. According to curlynikki.com a cationic is a conditioning ingredient that helps smooth your hair makes it easier to comb and increases the effect of your conditioner.
Here are some examples of some of the cationics that should be present in your shampoo:
- Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium
- Polyquaternium -7
- Polyquaternium -10
Step Two- Finger Detangle
Once I switched my shampoo, I looked for other areas of improvement. With 4C Hair, I happen to have the most fragile hair type. This means gentle handling is a must. Saturating my hair with a leave in conditioner prior to detangling makes the process easier. However, I had used a wide tooth comb or a Denman brush for the longest. After further evaluation, I decided it would be more beneficial to finger comb. On ‘washday’, I detangled using the finger comb method. It forced me to be patient with the detangling process. With a comb or Denman brush, I found myself just raking through my hair which is counterproductive to gentle handling. That being said comb/brush use has been greatly minimized.
Step Three- Shower Wash Hair
The next thing I decided to do was discontinue washing my hair in the sink. Although, time wise, this is a more convenient, I know that washing hair upside down can also cause friction. When hair is washed in this manner, you’re not smoothing your hair downward (the way hair naturally grows). You’re doing the opposite. When I did my wash this past weekend I washed my hair in the shower, gently in a downward motion. The decrease in frizz and the increase in the ease of detangling were ten-fold.
Step Four- Protective Style
I’ve decided to go back to protective styling. A protective style consists of having your ends, the most fragile part of your hair, tucked away. It can be done using braids or weaves, but it can also be done using just your natural hair. From October of 2013 to September of 2014, I had my hair in protective styles. I mainly utilized crochet braids. I would get crochet braids for 2 to 3 months and take it down for 2 to 3 weeks and repeat. Crochet braids involve braiding your natural hair in cornrows and interlocking or looping braiding hair throughout the cornrows. It is a very natural look and it allows me to avoid manipulating my hair on a daily basis. Although I loved having my hair out, the elements (weather, wind, humidity) and the constant braiding/re-twisting of my fragile hair was having a negative effect on my length retention. I’ve discovered protective styling is best to counteract over manipulation of my hair.
So there you have it. I came across a setback and devised a plan for a comeback. Setbacks, whether with hair or life in general, are unavoidable. Don’t look at them as a bad thing. They are just a learning opportunity. Evaluate room for improvement, make changes and continue to stay positive on your journey.
Have you ever experienced setbacks in your hair goals? What are some obstacles that you’ve had to deal with and what did you do to overcome them?