Navigating the Natural Hair Highway

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imageTips & Tricks Number Eleven

So, you’ve recently discovered the online natural hair community: blogs, websites, YouTube channels, Fotki albums, Tumblr … the list seems to go on and on. And, while you are ecstatic that there is soooo much information out there about which you never knew, you are overwhelmed that there is soooo much information out there about which you never knew. Welcome to the club ;)!

Seriously though, I was thinking about the advice I would give someone who is new to this world and trying to navigate through it all. It’s not like anyone gives you a roadmap and it can be very easy to find yourself spending endless hours online, aimlessly wading through the information and trying every product and technique under the sun. Ultimately, if the time and energy spent is fruitless, it can be extremely discouraging and frustrating. So, I thought that it might be helpful to put together some tips about navigating through all of the information online in the hopes that it’ll make the experience a little easier, more efficient and rewarding for someone.

  • MASTER THE LINGO: OMgosh, I remember my first day on CurlyNikki and seeing all the pre-poos, EVOOs, VCOs, SSKs, HEHHs, CGs and thinking, “What the heck are these people talking about?!?!” LOL!! So, find a site that includes a Dictionary, Terms, Abbreviations and/or Lexicon page and bookmark it until you are familiar with all of the natural hair shorthand. It’ll make reading posts and watching videos a lot easier if you are speaking the same language!
  • LEARN THE BASICS OF HAIR COMPOSITION: Arm yourself with a basic understanding of hair structure (i.e. medulla, cortex and cuticle), the function of each component and the hair life cycle. It’ll give you a head start in regard to reading articles that reference the science behind how products and techniques work. Here are a couple of resources: Follice.com, NaturallyCurly.com and Kimmaytube: The Structure of Hair – Part I.
  • UNDERSTAND THE BASICS OF POROSITY & pH: This is kind of part and parcel with the above. However, I wanted to highlight these two areas as they will be important to understanding your own hair and how certain products and techniques work and how they may affect your hair. Here is another Kimmaytube video, which does a really good job of explaining these areas: The Structure of Hair – Part II.
  • ANALYZE YOUR OWN HAIR: You will read and hear these two statements over and over again, “What works for one head of hair may not work for another” and “Every head of hair is unique.” It is really important to learn and understand the hair growing out of your own head. Is it overly-porous, under? Is it fine, thick, dense, thin? Is it tightly curly or barely wavy? I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that only certain products and/or techniques work for certain hair types and I think that we all can learn from each other’s successes and failures. However, I do believe that one must know one’s own hair in order to make the best choices for it and somewhat predict how something might work.
  • UNDERSTAND THE KEY COMPONENTS OF A HAIR REGIMEN (i.e. Detangling, Cleansing, Conditioning [Protein vs. Moisturizing], Moisturizing/Sealing, Protecting): This is extremely helpful in regard to identifying what you are already doing and where you may be able to incorporate, eliminate and/or modify practices, techniques and/or products to maximize healthy hair growth and length retention. Books are also a great resource to build and supplement your knowledge. Some that you’ll find referenced most often in the online natural hair community are Chicoro’s Grow It!, Lorraine Massey’s Curly Girth Method and Teri LaFlesh’s Curly Like Me.
  • RESEARCH & CORROBORATE: No one is going to hand you all of the answers on a silver platter. I often see questions posted on “hair boards” and the information the person is seeking is readily available all over the site where they are asking the question, they just need to take the time to look for it. Research can take a little work, but I am a firm believer in “checking my facts” and not relying on any one person to answer all of my questions. And, I still get it wrong sometimes. The key is to understand that “facts” are not static, they are just the “facts” for that point in time. Information and research is always ongoing and what we know as a “truth” today, may evolve and be refined to a different truth tomorrow. However, that being said, if I read something on one site, I tend to “Google” it and see if I can validate it via other current and reputable sources.
  • DEFINE YOUR FOCUS AND NARROW THE PLAYING FIELD: First, figure out what you are online seeking. Are you just looking for new styles, maybe it’s product reviews that strike your fancy or perhaps you need a little of everything? I would suggest initially sticking with a few (one to five) very organized and reputable sites as your main sources of information. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t check out other sites, blogs and/or YouTube channels. However, trying to read 50 different sites on a daily basis or bouncing all over the place in no organized fashion can quickly lead to sensory overload and make it difficult to sort through all of the information. Test how deep the water is first, then jump in when you know that you can swim. I would definitely recommendย CurlyNikki.com, BlackGirlLongHair.com and Kimmaytube on YouTube as places to begin your research.
  • ACCEPT THAT THERE IS NO MAGIC PILL: Ultimately, no one thing will solve all of your hair challenges and change your “hair life” overnight. Though one thing may make a significant difference, there are a variety of internal and external factors that impact your hair. Also, absent chemicals and/or faux hair, no product or technique is going to give you hair that is fundamentally different from what you have genetically (e.g. my fine, medium density, 3abc strands are not going to suddenly become the coily, thick, dense strands of Mwedzi, no matter how much henna I use ;)). I point this out to say, it’s fine to have hair crushes and lust after hair that is very different from our own (I know that I do!!). However, it’s important to be realistic in our aspirations and expectations. (And personally, I have no compunctions about getting that head of hair that I lust after, if only for a little while, with a wig, weave, or extensions. I finally got Mwedzi-lush twists with some Nafy Afro Puffy Twists hair. But, you know, that’s up to you.)

Yeah … I know, it’s a lot! LOL! But, there’s a LOT of information out there. So, here’s hoping that this “roadmap” ultimately makes someone’s journey a little easier and slightly less overwhelming!

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What suggestions or words of advice would you add to the list?

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