There is no right or wrong way to go natural. There are many tips ticks and guides out there that teach you about various methods and treatments that nourish and strengthen your hair but the reality is there is a lot of trial and error before you find what works for you. There is no set template or blueprint but there are some things you need to consider that will hopefully make choosing products and methods a little easier for you.
Determine your hair type
There is some controversy around hair type, which one is the best/worst? (hint: trick question because they are all amazing) However, knowing your hair type can really help you understand how to care for your hair and which products work best for you and why. For instance, women with type 4a/b/c hair, like me, find very little, if any, success using gel to define our curls. Type 4’s can use gel but it’s just better suited for slicking down edges and stray curls than for definition. In contrast, women with 3a/b/c hair have great success with using gel. Their natural curl definition is enhanced and held in place. Some women with type 3 hair don’t even need to use gel because their curl pattern tends to be naturally well defined.
Know your porosity
Porosity is your hairs ability to absorb and retain moisture. For most, porosity is genetic but it can also be affected by heat treatments and chemical processing. Knowing your porosity can help you chose the right products to keep your hair well moisture, protecting your hair from breakage. Low porosity hair is protein sensitive and requires moisturizers rich in emollients like shea butter, jojoba and coconut oil. Medium porosity hair requires an occasional deep conditioner containing protein, and high porosity hair can lose moisture easily so it’s important to use leave in conditions, moisturizers sealers and heavy butters.
Shrinkage is almost inevitable, especially for naturals with more tightly coiled hair. There are some ways to stretch your short hair to maintain some of your length when styling. Bantu knots are great way to curl and stretch your hair at the same time. They achieve the same effect as banding and can also double as a style if you are in the mood or in a rush.
LOC, LOB methods
The LOC (leave in, oil, cream) method is the layering of products in a specific order to maximize moisture retention. The layer of moisture from the leave in is sealed in with two sealants, oil and a cream, to keep the water from the moisturizer from evaporating, which would otherwise leave you hair dry. Choose the products that work best for you, just make sure your leave in contains water and that the two sealants aren’t too heavy for your hair. If you find yourself needing a little more protection you can substitute the cream for a heavy butter.
Shedding is a natural part of everyday life. The normal amount of shedding is specific to the person. If your hair is thicker or longer your 10- 15% of normal shedding is going to look like a lot compared to someone with shorter or thinner hair. Also if the volume of shedding is relatively the same on wash days then there is nothing to worry about. However, if you notice any significant increase in shedding with no external changes to your hair then you need to check with your routine. You might need to back off the regular protein treatments or maybe up the amount of moisture you add to your hair.
Protective styling is a great way to give your hair a break from constant manipulation from styling. It protects your ends, the oldest and most fragile part of your hair, and is great for growing out your hair. Some great styles are box braids, Senegalese twists, twist outs, braids outs and any other creative style you can come up with that tucks away your ends. Don’t forget to moisturize your hair on a regular basis so it doesn’t get dry. But remember, protective styling can have it drawbacks if you leave in the styles for too long, no more than 1- 2 months max. Your hair needs to breathe!