Single Strand Knots: Should you worry? Plus how to prevent them!

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 1.06.52 PMOne day in my biology class, I decided to look at my hair under a microscope (when I was probably supposed to be looking at the amyloplast of a potato… or the chloroplast in Elodea lol). I looked at the root of my hair, the split ends… and then a single strand knot. And what I found was that my hair was literally was in a knot; a hair that had wrapped around itself like a headphone cord after it’s been in your pocket for two seconds!

Single strand knots are not the result of damage… they are a fact of life for tightly curly hair. It is literally just a tight knot that forms in the hair. However, single strand knots can be a problem. When it comes to the detangling process, hairs can get caught onto single strand knots which can cause the hair to snag creating more tangles. These knots can also be rough to the touch. How do you get rid of them? Simply by cutting them off… there is really no other way. And try to not pull them off as this can actually lead to damage and rough ends.

So now, how to prevent these pesky little knots? Here are my FOUR tips on how to prevent single strand knots!

  1. Protect Styles:

When your hair is neat and tucked away, your hair doesn’t even have a chance to tangle up. Imagine the difference in knots if you threw your headphones into your purse versus neatly wrapping them around a heaphone cord organizer (yes, these actually exist and sound like the best invention ever)! You would expect to have a lot more knots in the cord that was just thrown into your purse. If you have your hair neatly tucked away (e.g. in a braid, bun, or twist), the strand does not have a chance to wrap around itself and to create a knot.

  1. Keep your hair moisturized!

Dry hair=frizzy hair. As much as we all love big and crazy hair, this craziness can lead to crazy amounts of single strand knots. When your hair is moisturized, sections of your hair clump together to create a unit of curls. When our hair is dried out, the hair strands become antisocial and separate from the unit of curls to stand alone… our curly hair is such the independent diva! (Look at your moisturized curls versus your frizzy curls… your frizzy curls are usually separated into single strands that create a poof ball effect). When your single strands are alone (dry and frizzy), they have more of a chance of wrapping around themselves than moisturized and clumped together curls.

 

  1. Replace your Wash and Go’s for Braid-Outs or Twist-Outs

This may be more of an issue for people with longer hair that shrinks a lot…pretty much my hair. When I do braid-outs or twist-outs, my hair has dried into an organized clump that has set into the shape of the twists or the braids. When I do Wash & Go’s, my hair dries into whatever shape and sets however it wants. My Wash & Go’s lead to much less defined hair and my strands (from different sections) usually dry in an unorganized way (my strands cross over and become wayyy too social with other clumps of hair that they aren’t supposed to specialize with). This can make the detangling process HELL!! And when I try to detangle, that strand is now more likely to wrap around itself because my hair has dried in a tangled and unorganized way. As much as I love the appearance of my wash and go’s, it makes it a lot less easier to manage and leads to a lot more single strand knots.

  1. Playing in your hair

Hello my name is Jewellianna and I am addicted to playing in my hair. If you have hand-in-the-hair-disease please confess so that I don’t feel alone. Lol This is probably one of the BIGGEST causes of my single strand knots. I play in my hair constantly; pulling strands of hair apart from its neat unit of curls can lead to the hair wrapping around itself. Hair that is wrapped around itself has only one fate–to form a single strand knot. After I am done, I am left with at least 10 additional single strand knots of hair…. Pull. Your. Hand. Away. From. The. Strand!

Don’t stress over single strand knots if you have them; they truly come with the territory of having wild, curly hair. If you notice that you have a ton of single strand knots or that they are just becoming annoying, it may be time to change your hair routine and incorporate some of these tips.

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Part 3: 5 Do’s for Long, Healthy Hair

So you have avoided all things that damage the hair mentioned in Part 2: 5 Things to Avoid for Long, Healthy Hair. You’ve stayed away from heat, chemicals, playing in your hair, product buildup, and you’re extremely gentle when detangling your hair. However, you still face hair problems; your hair is frizzy, dry, crunchy, flat, or all of the above. Or maybe you’re just not achieving the your hair goals or just want to know how you can step up your hair care routine. Today I will discuss 5 things that you can do to your hair routine to get closer towards long and healthy hair.

  1. Use Moisturizing  Products

When you’ve avoided everything mentioned in Part 2 and still face hair problems, the next thing to look at is the products that you are using! The most perfect head of curly hair (if there is such a thing), will even look lackluster if crappy products are applied to it. Us curly girls have hair that tends to be on the drier side, and unlike people with straighter or wavier hair who do not need to be as selective with products, we need to be careful in choosing products for our dryness-prone hair. I’ve bought products that left my hair feeling dry, sticky, flat, and frizzy. I’ve also bought products that left my hair feeling moisturized, shining, and super defined. Believe me, with the right products, your hair can transform. Check out my article Product Recommendations fro Curly Girls to see which products I love and recommend!

  1. Cleanse the length of your hair if you use silicones, butters, or oils on your hair

So in Part 2, we discussed how product buildup can prevent your hair from being moisturized. Butters and oils, when applied to dry hair, just sit on top of the hair and do not offer moisturizing benefits because they do not contain water. Silicones are another substance in MOST conditioning product, usually unless noted otherwise, that lead to product buildup. Silicones can be great in a hair care routine because they add slip (yaye for detangling) and add softness to the hair.

However, these products can feel great initially but after continued use, they can coat the hair and prevent the hair from absorbing water. This leads to chronically dehydrated hair that looks soft, due to artificial chemicals and the artificial shine from oils and butters. Click Here to see a list of  water-soluble (silicones that can dissolve in water) and water- insoluble (silicones that must be washed off with shampoo).

I could go on and on about silicones and product buildup, and I think that I’ll write a separate article about it. For now, just know that you must cleanse the length of your hair to remove oils, butters, and silicones whenever you wash your hair (unless you wash your hair everyday, then you can just stick to “removing” twice a week and cowashing the other 5 days). Cowashing can be very beneficial to the hair. But unless you completely avoid products with oils, butters, and silicones, you must remove these heavy products from the length of your hair when you wash your hair. (The two exception to using oils or butters is right after washing when they can seal the water into the hair. The second exception is using coconut oil as a prepoo because the proteins are able to absorb into the hair. All thought the coconut oil doesn’t offer moisture (water) to the hair, it does provide benefits to the hair by adding protein. Besides these two situations, oils just sit on top of the hair and add shine or softness to the hair). Keep an eye out for my article on how I remove product buildup from my hair.

  1. Wash/ Cowash to suite your hair’s needs

During a period of my natural hair journey, it was normal for me to go two weeks between washes. While I was in college, I went one month without washing my hair, and I did not wear protective styling (covers eyes in shame). Not only did this create MASSIVE amounts of tangles (it was taking me 4 hours to detangle), it left my hair dry and brittle. Going too long in between washes can lead to dehydrated hair, and dehydrated hair is hair that is prone to breakage. Ideally, my hair does best when I wash it every other day or twice a week. Unfortunately, it takes very long for my hair to dry so I settle for washing my hair twice a week. I recommend to wash hair at least once every week; you can go every two weeks if you consistently wear your hair in protective styling but I think that once a week is best; just try out different frequencies. I used to wash my hair only once a week because someone else recommended that routine, but now I realize that my hair thrives on being washed twice a week. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your routine; a change may be the very thing that your hair needs.

  1. Wear protective styling—but do not keep them in for too long

Protective styling is truly a beautiful thing when it comes to growing long hair. Buns, braids, twists, ponytails, weaves (that do not need a leave out that requires straighteneing), and wigs keeps your hair from getting tangles and single strand knots, thus, reducing the risk of breakage from the detangling process. My hair thrives when I wear it in buns or braids, and keep it away and protected. However, “protective styling” can also be damaging to the hair when used improperly. I will discuss different styles that are not protecting your hair, but often thought of as protective styling:

  • Wearing wigs, weaves, braids, and twists for long periods of time-

These styles can give us a break from dealing with our hair while offering our hair protection. However, when they are left in for too long ( for months on end) and when the hair underneath is neglected, these styles can be damaging. Hair needs moisture and our scalp needs to be kept clean. If our hair does not receive water, it becomes dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. If our scalp is not clean, our hair follicle becomes clogged, preventing growth. Make sure that you aren’t leaving your styles in for months at a time and neglecting your hair underneath

  • Flat ironing your hair during the winter-

I often hear people say that they want to give their hair a break, let their hair rest from being curly, or take a break from washes. This is not protective styling; it is jus styling. Flat ironing or Dominican blows out are damaging and are counterproductive to protecting your hair to achieve growth.

  • Wearing tight braids, buns, weaves, wigs or twists-

All thought these styles can be extremely beneficial to hair growth, if installed in too tight, it can actually lead to hair loss. “Traction alopecia is a form of alopecia, or gradual hair loss, caused primarily by pulling force being applied to the hair. This commonly results from the sufferer frequently wearing their hair in a particularly tight ponytail, pigtails, or braids.” This can happen on any part of our hair, but is most likely to occur at the fragile and fine edges of the hair, resulting is patches of hair loss in our temple and crown area.

  1. Trim your hair

When our hair leaves the scalp, it is no longer living; it is dead. This means that hair CANNOT repair itself and any damage is permanent. There are products that artificially “heal” the hair by fillings holes in the cuticle, but this is only temporary. Hair that has been damaged, whether it be from heat, chemicals, or even unavoidable wear and tear, needs to be cut off. Split ends can travel up the hair shaft. Damaged cuticles can snag onto other hairs and create tangles. Hair that is damaged needs to be cut if you want healthy and thriving hair. Deciding when to trim your hair is based off of your hair’s needs.

  • If your hair has significant visible damage and breakage that you are trying to get rid of, you may need to cut it as frequently as it is growing (if hair grows the average of 6 inches per year or 0.5 inches per month, you can trim 1 inch every two months. At the end of the year, your hair will be the same length, however, you will have cut off 6 inches of damage.
  • If you use chemicals and heat, without visible damage then your hair may need to be cut less often (a very small trim every 3-4 months) to prevent split ends from traveling up the hair shaft. **I trim my own hair every 4 months even though I don’t have visible damage. This is to get rid of and prevent split ends.**
  • If your hair is relatively healthy, has no visible damage or straight pieces, and has few split ends, you could get away with trimming your hair once or twice a year. However, if you do notice an increase in split ends, your ends feel rough to the touch, or you notice that your hair is getting tangled more easily, you may want to increase it to every 4 months.

I hope you all found this article helpful! Please keep checking back for new articles and YouTube uploads!

Product Recommendations for Curly Girls

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Product Recommendations:

People often ask me for product recommendations. These products mentioned in this post are usually the first products that come to mind! We learned in the article (which will be up tomorrow)that the right products transform you hair–in both a good and bad way.  I hope that you guys enjoy these products just as much as I do! (Also, when I give product recommendations or hair advice, people often ask me if it will work for their “hair type” or texture. Unfortunately, I am only one person and cannot try out products on every head of hair. Just try things out and see what works for you. However, these products should work on ALL curls). The conditioners that I recommend (besides the curl enhancing smoothie which I only use on top of my regular conditioner and NOT as a detangler) areto be used both to detangle and to be left in the hair. I don’t recommend leave-in conditioners because they are often the same as conditioners just in a smaller and more expensive bottle. Also, all of these products, besides the coconut oil and Alaffia Shampoo, can be found in most grocery stores!

 

  • Aussie Moist conditioner (contains silicones)-

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My all time favorite product is Aussie Moist conditioner; this conditioner has been a staple throughout my entire hair journey! I’ve gotten so many people hooked on this product and it is truly a savior for ‘transitioners’, newly naturals, and long term naturals. This conditioner is:

  • very thick
  • has loads of slip
  • leaves my hair feeling super soft
  • low priced
  • and smells HEAVENLY

This product works for all types of curls.  [Aussie Moist contains Bis-Aminopropyl Dimethicone which is a silicone that does not dissolve in water. However,  ““it is not supposed to accumulate on top of itself” (click for source). However, I’ve found that this product does indeed buildup on my hair and needs to be clarified from my hair].

  • Herbal Essence’s Hello Hydration –

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Hello Hydration is comparable to Aussie Moist, all though I prefer Aussie Moist because it smells better  (even though this still smells AMAZING). I also think that this is a little less moisturizing than Aussie Moist, but don’t get me wrong, this product is still super moisturizing and leaves my hair feeling soft. [Hello Hydration contains “Aminopropyl Dimethicone” which is a silicone that is difficult to wash out and may lead to product buildup overtime. Clarifying the hair is recommended when using this product.]

  • Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie (Silicone-Free)-IMG_5197

This product is amazing! It smells like vanilla cupcakes to me and it is super moisturizing. It is perfect for those curly girls with thick hair that could use a little help in the moisture department. However, this product is pretty thick, so I wouldn’t recommend it those curly girls who have fine hair that is prone to being flat and weighed down. And all though this product is silicone-free, it does contain butters and oils that need to be removed from the hair to prevent product buildup.

  • Shea Moisture’s Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner-IMG_5196

This product  is great for those who want to avoid silicones and parabens but also want moisturized curls. This product does not have much slip, because it is silicone free. I wouldn’t recommend it if your hair gets extremely tangled or if you go a week or more between washes. However, it does a sufficient job at being a detangling conditioner when I apply a generous amounts and keep my hair drenched with water. Like the Curl Enhancing Smoothie, this product needs to be clarified from the hair due to the butters and oils in it.

  • EcoStyler gel (any kind)

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This gel is GREAT for defining curls, taming those edges, and for guaranteeing sleek  and frizz-free styles. However, I find that this product leaves my hair feeling dry. Most of the time, I prefer only to use EcoStyler on my edges because I don’t like how it makes my hair feel dry.

  • Alaffia’s Authentic African Black Soap

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When it comes to shampoos. I really don’t have much loyalty. I’ve probably used 15 different shampoos while being natural and have bought maybe one of them a second time. I saw this soap while I was at MOM’s. All though it isn’t technically a shampoo (it is multipurpose and can be used as a body wash and as a shampoo), it works well enough and doesn’t leave my hair feeling super dry like most shampoos. I can’t put this product on my “TOP FAVORITES” list yet because I’ve only been using it for a few months, but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is searching for a natural and healthy shampoo/ body wash.

 

  • Coconut Oil

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I rarely use oil and butters on my hair; mostly just on my body and for cooking.  When I first went natural,coconut oil was a staple in my hair care routine. Now, I just feel that it gets all over the place and makes everything greasy. If you are washing your hair enough and using great and moisturizing products, then oil shouldn’t be necessary in your hair routine, but you can always use it. If I do use coconut oil every so often on my ends (like once every month/ every other month), I’ll use this coconut oil that I found on Amazon.com.

Part 2: 5 Things to Avoid for Long, Healthy Hair- My tips for getting long, healthy hair faster!

In Part One, we discussed the myth of saying “My Hair Isn’t Growing” and the different phases of hair growth (click to read). We also discussed how our hair is never is a phase or state, where the entire head of hair is not growing. So now that we know that your hair actually IS growing, we can address some of the causes for a lack of length retention. When my hair was dry, thin, brittle, and stuck at bra-strap length, there were a few unknowingly damaging hair habits that I engaged in.

My severely damaged hair (and awful outfit/makeup)  vs. my healthy hair

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It wasn’t until I stopped doing these things to my hair by adopting healthy hair practices and by nurturing and respecting my hair, that my hair became long, thick, healthy, and thriving.

 

Here is a list of my 5 Don’t (or things to avoid) if you want long, healthy, and thriving hair

 1. Don’t Use Direct Heat

-Heat IS the enemy for long, HEALTHY, and THRIVING hair. I’ve had plenty of people tell me that heat is NOT a problem when used “correctly” and they have warned me against advising people to not use heat (sometimes they defend the flat iron so hard from my insults, you’d think it wasn’t inanimate and could get it’s feelings hurt). But let me ask this, what is the healthy way to apply hundreds of degrees to a fragile fiber and then expect it to thrive and be it’s healthiest and longest? For example, you can’t put greasy, chemical laden foods (even if they are of the “healthiest” of the greasy, chemical laden foods) into your body and expect to be your HEALTHIEST. Yes, you may seem healthy for a period of time, however, you may never know how healthy you COULD be, look, or feel if you replaced those unhealthy foods with real, whole foods. And on top of it, all of these poor dietary habits could seem to have no effects during the present time but are likely to lead to dis-ease and severe problems down the line. The same is with your hair; you may be able to achieve “seemingly” healthy hair, however, you will never know how healthy your hair COULD be and look or how long it COULD potentially grow if you continue to use heat. This could leave you thinking that your hair is only able to grow to waist length when if you eliminated heat, your hair could grow to tailbone length ( or even knee length) and be even more lustrous and fuller than you’ve ever imagined! As I’ve said in Part 1, the main problem that people have isn’t with hair GROWTH, but it is with length RETENTION. Heat is the number 1 MOST AVOIDABLE and silent killer of long hair, and there is no “safe way” to apply it, only better ways. Even though your hair may currently seem “healthy”, the cumulative affects of heat could lead to unavoidable damage, breakage, brittleness, and thinning down the line that WILL prevent length retention. The sad thing is, a person who flat irons may never know of these affects because what does she have to compare it to? She can’t compare it to her long, juicy, knee length curls because she will never achieve them due to flat ironing. If achieving the longest, and HEALTHIEST hair is your goal, then engaging in unhealthy hair practices is not only counterproductive to achieving that goal, but it is extremely harmful. And also, just as some people can eat greasy foods everyday and not get disease, it doesn’t mean that it can work for everyone. Just because person A doesn’t see any visible (hundreds of degrees of heat is still damaging at the micro level) doesn’t mean that the same will be for person b. Some people have hair that is more prone (or less prone) to heat damage and their hair can get damaged from the very first time of flat ironing it. However, I’ve personally never seen someone with naturally curly hair use heat and have healthy, long, THRIVING, WELL DEFINED, unmodified curls (meaning it may be long, but long doesn’t always mean healthy). If you want more information on the science behind the harmful effects of heat, please watch the following video where I discuss the damaging affects of heat and how it is detrimental to hair growth (click to watch). If you are truly committed to growing long, naturally, curly hair, then eliminating heat should be the FIRST step.

2. Don’t Use Relaxers, Bleach, Or Other Harsh Chemicals

-These processes damage the structure of the hair, making it more vulnerable to damage. Anything has the possibility of damaging your hair, including the washing process, the detangling process, playing in your hair, and simple everyday manipulations of your hair. However, when hair is strong, healthy, and not damaged, it has a defense system that is able to defend itself from these potentially damaging processes. Just think of your immune system. Everyday, we encounter pathogens, viruses, and bacteria that have the ability to be harmful. When our immune system is strong, we suffer no ill effects and our immune system is able to fight these things. However, when our immune system is compromised, a usually “harmless” virus, pathogen, or bacteria can be EXTREMELY harmful and detrimental to us because our defense system has been compromised and is not able to put up as hard of a fight as it was during previous exposures. The same is with our hair. The cuticle (the outermost layer of the hair shaft) is our protection (comparable to the immune system for our body). When the cuticle is healthy, it is able to protect our hair and the inner layers (the medulla and cortex) from everyday manipulation . However, when the cuticle (our “immune system”) has been compromise and destroyed (through relaxers, bleach, and heat), our hair is left defenseless. Now, with our cortex and medulla exposed, the everyday manipulations that were previously harmless, such as combing, washing, playing in your hair, or just putting your hair in a bun or ponytail, can lead to breakage. This is why we sometimes see short bits of hair on our bathroom counter or on our shirts even though we barely manipulated our hair. This is also why combining heat AND chemicals is the worst combination for your hair because now, you’re introducing an EXTREMELY damaging process (heat) to your already compromised, defenseless hair (chemically processed hair with a compromised cuticle). You can watch my YouTube video here where I talk about my experiences with coloring my hair and color damage.

3. Don’t Rush Through The Detangling Process

This is one of the FASTEST ways to create damage and breakage. Even though it may have been months or over a year since you used heat or chemicals on your hair, the affects that these processes have made are irreversible. You cannot reverse damage that has been done  to your hair (because once hair leaves the scalp, it is no longer living and does not have the ability to repair itself like your skin and other organs). You will have to wait until the hair is 100% grown out to see your true and authentic, undamaged, and completely healthy hair texture. This is not to say that your hair while growing out cannot be healthy or thriving; it is just not its 100% authentic and optimal healthiness.  If you have waited this time period, or if you’ve never used heat or chemicals, and you still still aren’t able to retain length, the next thing to check is how you are detangling your hair. If you can’t already tell, I love analogies. However, I’m going to actually try to explain this without them for once. Haha! So let’s say that we actually grow our hair to it’s healthiest, longest length possible. It’s finally full and thick and to your tailbone. One particular day, our hair is extremely knotty and we are in a rush to meet up with friends to go to the movies (oh no, this might be heading into analogy territory). After we get out of the shower we see that we have 20 minutes to detangle our hair…which usually takes around 1 hour to detangle. Instead of taking our time, gently separating the tangles, and starting from the very bottom of our hair, we rip through our curls and it takes only 20 minutes. While this may not cause any noticeable affects after one time, if we repeatedly detangle our hair this way, we literally rip off all of the growth that we have had… and hair retention no longer exists. Many people rush the detangling process and don’t spend enough time gently and patiently ridding their hair of tangles.  Make sure that when you detangle your hair, that you are going at the speed at which your hair needs/ wants to be detangled… not at the speed you want it to go. Detangle your hair only when you have enough time to do it, and when you have the patience to do it, starting from the ends and slowly working towards roots. If you don’t have as much time to detangle your hair as you’d like, protective styling should be incorporated to protect your hair from getting tangles in the first place.

 4. Don’t Let Your Hair Get Brittle, Dry, Or Go Too Long Between Washes

Water is the only thing that moisturizes your hair. Anything else either contains water as the first ingredient or helps to lock the water into your hair. Conditioners usually contain water as the first ingredient (with additional ingredients that allow for slip, retention of water, fragrances, and humectants that attract water to the hair, etc). Oils and butters are used to add shine and/ or seal the water into the hair that is ALREADY THERE. Applying oils and butters on third (fourth or more) day hair is not moisturizing because oils and butters do not contain water to moisturize your hair . On wash day, when you have placed oils, conditioners, and butters on your hair, these products coat the hair and make it to be harder for water out (which is good for a moisturizer) and for water to get in. (Unfortunately, if your hair has been damaged from over using chemicals and heat, then your cuticle’s layer has been permanently destroyed and there will be holes and opening in the hair. Due to the fact that the cuticles are now no longer flat and closed, the simple act of washing your hair can be damaging because your hair will absorb too much moisture. However, the hair also cannot hold onto moisture, due to the cuticle layer being opened, which allows water (or moisture) to escape. Now the hair is left feeling dry and frizzy no matter how “good” your products are.)That is why refreshing your hair or a nightly routine of oiling your hair for “moisture” is ineffective at moisturizing your hair. This process is ineffective for two reasons: 1. because usually the same chemicals that keep water in your hair, are just effective at keeping water out. Therefore, water isn’t able to get in and moisture your hair because it is coated. And also 2. because oils and butters do not moisturize the hair, they only keep moisture in. That is why it is important to WASH and remove product buildup up regularly from your hair and not just your scalp with a gentle shampoo or other buildup remover (my next article will give shampoo recommendations and recipes on ways to remove product buildup). Water is not able to enter your hair if it is built up with products, thick oils, butters and creams. Getting rid of the build up allows water to enter your hair and the products to do their best at keeping the water, or moisture, in. I find that my hair is OPTIMAL when I wash my hair (and the length of my hair) every 3 days, but I usually do it once a week because sometimes a sister ain’t “got time for that”. My hair was the worst when I would go every 2-3 weeks. My hair would be/ look dry and brittle by the time that I washed it. Don’t do what I did; if your hair already feels dry or brittle, it’s way past the point of needing to be washed. And don’t be fooled by hair that feels soft. A lot of products contain chemicals that can make your hair artificially feel and look soft, even though it is severely dehydrated and thirsty on the inside.

5.  Don’t Play In Your Hair

I may be one of the few people who has this problem, but I doubt this since I spy my sister and mother doing this same damaging habit as well… playing in the hair. I have inch chunk of hair on my right side that is about 5 inches long because I am right handed and I play in it so much… It doesn’t grow past that point because it’s constantly breaking off. Even though playing in your hair can be harmless, repeatedly doing it, to the point where it is a habit, can be damaging. After a bout of playing in my hair, I usually see shorts bits of hairs (not with a white bulb at the end) that have been broken off, laying on the table or on my shirt. Also, playing in the hair create single-strand knots, or fairy knots, that are not only annoying but can also cause tangles. Unfortunately, it has become such a habit that I don’t realize that I’m doing it. If you catch yourself playing in your hair, try to just stop. If your not able to stop and you catch yourself playing in your hair while you’re bored, put your hair up and away from the graspe of your hands. Luckily I mostly wear my hair back at work so this habit has been cut a lot!

Summary

I know that this has been a lot of information, so I’m going to summarize everything up into one section. I believe that when trying to get long hair, what you don’t do to your hair, is just as important, and maybe even more important, than what you are doing to your hair. Getting rid of heat is my number one recommendation for getting long and healthy curls. One will never know how long and healthy her hair can look if she keeps applying hundreds of degrees of heat to it. Applying chemicals to our hair damages the cuticle layer, which is our hair’s defense mechanism. Once our hair’s defense mechanism has been damaged, our hair is more prone to being damaged by seemingly harmless things such as washing and combing. Also, heat and chemicals cause damage to the cuticles by creating holes in the cuticle and by making the cuticle layers stand up instead of laying flat as they are supposed to. This creates a head of hair that even the most perfect and moisturizing product, couldn’t moisturize, due to water escaping from the open cuticle.

Also, if you’ve stayed away from heat and chemicals, and length retention is still a problem, know that rushing through the detangling process literally rips all of your growth off and can be instantly as harmful as any flat iron or chemical when it comes to length retention. Next, make sure that you are removing the product buildup from your hair before apply conditioners, butters, and oil. If you apply these things to dry hair that is coated with products that prevent water from entering, then you are not effectively moisturizing your hair. Also, know that oils and butters do not contain water so they will never moisturize your hair; they just keep water in (therefore, they should only be applied to hair during the first 24 hours of washing). Finally, don’t play in your hair because it can cause breakage and single-strand knots.

Hopefully this article brought insight to any problems that you may have with length retention. I know that it can be hard to pinpoint the problems that we are having with our hair, but when we are aware of what’s damaging our hair, these become unavoidable , preventable and we can see a change in our hair towards healthy, long, and thriving hair. If your hair has been damaged due to these 5 things, the best thing to do is wait for your hair to grow out… there unfortunately isn’t a magic potion to revive your hair, which is why preventing the damage in the first place is so important. The plus side is that hair is constantly growing. We won’t be plagued by the damage that we did to our hair, for the rest of our lives. As  as soon as today, you have the ability to make changes to your hair routine that can lead to super long and healthy curls.

Come back tomorrow for the final post of this series: “Part 3: Developing a Great Hair Routine, Product Recommendations, Tips/ Supplements”

Part 1: “Help! My hair isn’t growing”—My tips for getting long, healthy hair faster!

“Why Isn’t My Hair Growing”?

This article is 1 of 3 articles that will address hair growth and how you can grow long, healthy hair. Everyday, I get comments and messages with the same question: “Why isn’t my hair growing”? When they ask, they usually also describe how they experience hair dryness, breakage, lack of curl definition, and/or thinness along with their lack of hair growth. Before going natural and learning how to properly take care of my hair, I dealt with these same exact hair problems. My hair was chronically plagued with split ends, it never grew past bra-strap length, and my curls were never able to reach their full potential of bounciness, length, curl definition, and health.

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Look at how thin my hair was!
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Super dry and unhealthy
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My hair was flat and crunchy (this was the day of my last relaxer!)
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Zero curl definition
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My hair had so many split ends

I completely empathize with the struggles that they face. I used to struggle with hair that was really unhealthy and I just assumed that there was nothing that I could do about it. It wasn’t until I cut off my relaxed hair, stopped damaging my hair with chemicals and hundreds of degrees of direct heat, and delved into researching how to take care of my hair, that was I able to achieve healthy, hip length curls.

My Hair Now: Big, Healthy, Thriving, And Reaches my Bum (which I NEVER thought was possible of my hair)! 

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My straightened hair looks a lot longer than my curly hair because my curls shrink so much. Shrinkage = healthy curls!

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In order for us to understand why our hair isn’t “growing”, we first have to discuss HOW exactly hair grows on our head. Understanding how hair grows will help us to understand not only the growth process, but will also help us to understand the error in saying “My hair isn’t growing”. I will focus on the 3 main phases of growth: the Anagen phase (or growing phase), the Catagen phase (or transition/ involution phase), and the Telogen phase (or resting phase).

The 3 Phases of Hair Growth:

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  • During the Anagen phase, our hair is growing. This phase typically “lasts two to seven years and determines the length of our hair” and is the only phase out of these 3 in which our hair is actually growing. This is why some people are able to grow their hair much longer than others (for example, A woman who grew 8 FEET of hair!) because their hair stays in the growth phase longer, thus allowing longer hair. (85% of hair is in this growth phase at any given time)
  • The Catagen phase occurs at the end of the anagen phase. This phase is the ending of the growing phase and lasts 2 weeks. During this phase, the hair is no longer able to grow because the hair follicle shrinks in size and the hair papilla (the base of the hair follicle) is detached and cut off from the blood supply (this blood supply is the food that allows hair to grow).  (1% of ALL hair on the body is in this phase at any given time).
  • During the Telogen phase, which lasts around one to four months, our hair is shed from our head (50 to 100 hairs a day), and this shed hair contains a white bulb attached to the end of it. Hair that is in the  Telogen phase is removed from the scalp and shed through combing or other manual manipulation. This is the hair that we loose when we wash our hair in the shower or comb our hair–not to be confused with broken hair that is shorter and does not contain a white bulb at one end. (14% of hair is in this phase at any given time).

 

Your Hair IS Growing

Now that we have discussed the phases of hair growth, you can see why it is incorrect to say that your hair isn’t growing. Your hair is always growing; the majority (85%) of your hair is in a state of growth (AKA in the anagen phase).  99.999% of the time when people tell me that their isn’t growing, they are not referring to their hair being in the catagen or telogen phase, the phase where hair ACTUALLY isn’t growing (which is only 15% of the hair); they are referring to the majority or all of their hair seeming to not to grow.

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As we learned above, our hair is never in a state where the entire head of hair is not in a state of growth. “Each hair follicle is independent and goes through the growth cycle at different times, otherwise all your hair would fall out at once.” Even the 15% of hair that is not growing due to it being in the catagen or telogen phase is not noticeable.

Hair grows an average of ½ an inch a month or 6 inches in a year (Note: this is an average. Some people have hair that grows at a much faster rate and some people have hair that grows at a much slower rate). This rate of growth, combined with the length of the anagen phase (growing phase) determines your terminal length or the longest length that your hair is able to grow.

If My Hair Is Growing, Then Why Isn’t It “Growing“?

So this leads us to ask… if 85% of our hair is in the growth phase and our hair grows on an average of 6 inches a year, then WHY isn’t my hair growing? The problem that we are actually dealing with is a lack of hair RETINTION. Your hair IS actually growing. However, your hair is not keeping the growth that it has made because it is breaking off.  This means that if your hair has stayed the same length for the past year or few years, and you haven’t drastically cut it (6 inches or more), then your hair is breaking off at a rate of around 6 inches per year.  If your hair appears to be shorter at the end of the year, then your hair is actually breaking off FASTER than it is growing and is breaking off more than 6 inches per year. Unless you have a severe nutritional deficiency, are under EXTREME amounts of stress, or are taking a medication or a treatment that is known to cause hair loss, your problem can be fixed with a healthy hair regime and by avoiding things that will damage the hair. In my next post, I will help you to discover the root cause that is leading to your lack of growth. Together, we will find the solution to get you long and strong hair!

Click here for Part Two: 5 Things to Avoid for Long, Healthy Hair- My tips for getting long, healthy hair faster!