Tuesday, 17 September 2013

How to Figure Out What Works For Your Hair and What Doesn't

Have you ever had the best defined twist-out, the softest fro, the smoothest Bantu-knot out, a frizz-free style that lasted all day, but had no idea what you did to achieve it?? I HAVE! 

Earlier this year, I bought Shea Moisture Curling Soufflé while in the throws of product junkiesm. I was also on my curl quest at the time so I proceeded to slather it on and rake, shingle or pray. Can't remember which. I think I had also just started L.O.C-ing so I probably had a ton of other stuff on there too. Anyway, I twisted my hair into Bantu knots and left them to dry overnight.

Wishful thinking. Not only did my hair not dry overnight, it didn't dry at all for almost two days. *cringe*. That, my friends, is what having heavy hands plus poor understanding of products does. When it did finally dry, although I couldn't find a curl if my life depended on it, I had the softest hair I had ever had. I mean ever. Ever ever. Fantastic yes? No. Because I'd used so much stuff on my hair I had no idea what product/combination of products/technique had done it. I tried the soufflĂ© again numerous other times but it never worked for me again. 

So how do you figure out what really works for you?
  • Firstly, simplify. It's perfectly normal in the early excitement of your hair journey to rush out and buy a million products and try them all out. At one go. But once you get past this stage, apply just a few basic items on clean, damp hair and note how each one feels going on and how your hair feels when it dries. Clean hair is important because build-up can skew your results. So, for example, you could start simply by applying some diluted conditioner then one oil or butter over to seal. If you have already been using the conditioner to co-wash, then you should have a pretty good idea how your hair responds to it. You can then swap up the butter/oil every wash day until you find one you like. Once you do, you experiment further with other products, like adding a styler over or adding an oil to your conditioner. 

  • Make notes. This is one of the best tips I have been given as a natural. It seems anal but if you change up your basic items often, it is difficult to remember what you used that day you got the banging twist-out three months ago. 

  • Read labels. If your hair doesn't like something, chances are it won't like products containing that ingredient. My hair doesn't like Shea butter, so in general, products derived from Shea don't do anything for me. However, this is not a hard and fast rule; a combination of products sometimes overrides how your hair responds. Eg Shea Moisture's curl and style milk has shea but it also contains both coconut oil and silk protein, both of which my hair likes. 

  • Get samples! Sample sizes are hard to come by so join a Facebook group, attend natural meet ups or organize product swaps with your friends and other naturals. By doing this, I have been able to sample a number of products before buying or exchange products that did not work for me with products I've always wanted to try. 

  • If something doesn't work the first time, don't bin it immediately. Try it out with a combination of products or pimp it out with oils or conditioner. It may just need a little nudge. If it still doesn't work, don't force it. Just because someone who looks like they have your hair type swears by it, doesn't mean you should.

  • Our hair can change how it responds depending on length, humidity, water hardness, health and myriad other things we may have no control over. If your tried and tested product suddenly stops working, try to figure out what in your routine may have changed. If nothing has, maybe it's time to try something new. You can always come back to it later.

  • And finally, know your hair. For me this took a long time because I was used to making my hair do what I wanted it to, rather than doing what my hair wanted me to. I am still learning, but I am getting better at understanding what works for it and what doesn't. Trust your instincts. 

Do you have other tips for helping figure out what works and what doesn't?

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