The internet is a beautiful monster. We have instant access to a wealth of knowledge, information, people and resources. Getting the word out about anything is only a few clicks away.
But there is a dark side.
There are no fact-check filters to dictate what is regarded as true or ill-informed. I'm sure we've all used google to seek answers to some of our natural hair questions. Results from various blogs all over would pop up and what do we do? Take take that advice as gospel and run with it until we realize the advice was off-base, ill-thought out, or just plain bad.
If you're anything like me, realizing how ridiculous you were for not knowing better garners a good chuckle or two. Don't take offense if you used to believe any of these things were true. I've done some crazy and outright ridiculous things to my hair (like dump oat flour in it) based on Google search results.
Get ready to laugh, because without further delay, I present to you some of the worst advice and myths circulating the web (some of which I feel victim to early in my transition):
1. Never trim your ends.
Have you been seeing the hashtag #teamnoscissors everywhere? I have. Just to be clear, these ladies aren't hiding the shears for months at a time, they're doing away with them permanently. As in never trimming their ends. The ends of your hair are the most damaged and weathered due to age, mechanical stress, and how little sebum they receive from your scalp. Old ends split, cuticles crack and lift, or outright break - leaving you with jagged, uneven, rough-feeling, and thinning ends that cause detangling nightmares. While there are no set guidelines for when to trim, the idea is that at some point you have to rid yourself of those ends. It can be every 3 months, or even once a year. But it has to happen some time.
2. Dirty hair grows faster.
I don't know where this tidbit of "advice" originated, but it's well past time to lay it to rest. There is absolutely nothing about leaving your hair full of dirt, sweat, buildup and oils that accelerates growth. I believe this misinformation may be confused with the results of length retention while protectively styling. Less frequent washing means less frequent manipulation, which leads to less opportunities for breakage, tangles and damage. We all know the benefits of protective styling several times over - but absolutely none of those benefits stem from not washing your hair. In fact, not washing your hair regularly may cause more problems than it solves.
3. Your hair can be "heat trained".
The notion of heat training comes up every so often in the natural hair community. Heat training is often articulated as regularly applying direct heat (i.e. flat ironing) to hair and over time the frequent application of heat affords the hair the ability to be straightened and sleek with ease and minimal reversion. Now here's where things get fun: heat "trained" hair often mimics the behavior of relaxed hair. It does not revert to its natural state and is either bone straight when wet, or has a limp/loosened curl. Relaxers chemically alter the protein bonds in the hair, re-arranging them into a straight shape. Repeated high heat use from a flat iron does the same thing - with the added feat of irreversibly melting the proteins in the hair. Hair altered in this manner is damaged - there is no other way around it. Heat trained hair is damaged hair. Even if it's not splitting, breaking or thinning, it is damaged. Doesn't curl or kink back up like the rest of your hair? Damaged. Sorry ladies, this one may be a tough pill to swallow - but take it from someone who transitioned for 21 months from severe heat damage.
4. Trimming your ends will make your hair grow faster.
On the opposite end of the #teamnoscissors spectrum is the #teamscissorseveryotherday. I'm kidding, I made that hashtag up. But there are is a circle (albeit small) of ladies who believe regular trims accelerate your hair growth. Let's put this one to bed right now: the scissors in and of themselves will not make your hair grow any faster. Regularly trimming your ends and ridding yourself of damaged, splitting and breaking ends doesboost your ability to retain length - provided that you take care of your hair and ends post trim. Since the ends will no longer be there to split up the shaft, thin, or break, you will be able to retain more length - giving the illusion that your hair is growing faster. Plus, evenly trimmed ends just look healthier.
5. Your hair will become immune to products if you use them for too long.
Your hair is not a living, breathing organism. Aside from the bulb at the root, it engages in no biochemical activity. Your visible hair that you wash, deep condition, style, and share on Instagram (maybe that's just me) is actually no more than a collection of dead cells and keratin. In spite of the fact that some days it appears to be to the contrary, our hair does not literally possess a mind of its own (some of you may beg to differ...lol). Therefore, it stands to reason that our hair cannot grow immune to to a particular product, or set of products. If it seems like your hair product has randomly "stopped working", more than likely something else is at hand. Maybe the manufacturer switched the formulation and didn't tell anyone (or maybe they did and you ignored it). Or, you began using the product differently, or as a part of another product combination and the new combination doesn't mesh. A more likely possibility is that your hair is suffering from a cumulative buildup effect from your products, and needs to be clarified/cleansed. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the love for the product that we neglect other areas of our regimen.
For example, I have an on again, off again affair withAussie Moist Conditioner. I love it for about a month and a half, then hate it. The moment I start hating it, I realize that it has been over a month since I've used shampoo and my hair probably needs a deep cleaning to get the gunk up so I can start fresh. Which takes me to my next point...
6. Never use shampoo.
Back in ye olden days of the online natural hair community, shampoo was to be avoided. Practically any shampoo you could get your hands on was laden with sulfates that stripped the hair, rendering it dry, crispy, fuzzy, and prone to breakage. In 2014, we can seriously say that the tide has turned in terms of shampoo. There are TONS of sulfate-free shampoos and shampoo bars that can be utilized to gently and thoroughly used to cleanse the hair. Beyond that, hair can benefit tremendously from a thorough shampooing every so often to rid the hair and scalp of product and oil buildup. Besides, did you know that shampoo makes your conditioner work better?
7. You can use products to create texture or "get your curl back".
One of the most common questions I get when I share photo grids of my transition is, "I did xyz to my hair and now my curl is gone. What can I do to get it back?"
My answer, although articulated more gently and thoroughly always starts with "nothing." I don't care who told you, but there is absolutely nothing you can do to get your texture back after it has been heat damaged. Particularly if you've been damaging it at high temperatures, on a regular basis, for long periods of time. No product, deep treatment, rinse, or reconstructor is going to bring your hair back. The only thing you can do is start anew, adopt healthy hair practices, forgo the heat and remain patient while new hair grows. Now, if you made a one-time mistake and want to deep condition, rehydrate, reconstruct and send your hair into bounce-back ICU, be my guest. In some rare cases, it *may* work. However, if you've been flat ironing your hair like crazy for the past 5 months and decided you want your curl back, you're likely out of luck. My apologies if this seems rude or harsh, but this is something that I see plenty of folks dance around and recommend products for. As much as I love being a product junkie, I cannot in good conscience recommend products/treatments to undo heat damaged hair - because there are none. #teamhonestlyspeaking
8. You have to follow xyz method to the letter or else it won't work.
Whatever method, whatever routine or regimen, whatever philosophy - none of it is set in stone. More often than not, bloggers and vloggers (myself included) are simply sharing what has even effective for them personally. None of it is to be taken as gospel. Every head of hair is different. Some of us have more time to tend to our hair than others. We all have different product budgets and preferences. Taking all of that into consideration, why would you follow so and so's method to the letter without a second thought? There's more than one way to deep condition, trim and do a roller set. Make this natural hair journey work for you!
9. Baking soda relaxes the hair.
This myth stems from the notion that because relaxers have a high pH (10) and baking soda has a high pH (8-9), they will serve the same function. Well, if that were the case, relaxer sales would have plummeted further than they already have! From a scientific perspective (nod and high-five to Jc of The Natural Haven) hair exposed to alkaline products (like baking soda and shampoo bars) does exhibit some changes (cuticle lifting). This change is corrected unaided within 45 minutes to 3 hours, but can also be rectified with a rinse out or deep conditioner. Even with the cuticles lifting, the hair will not be relaxed or loosened.
10. Black hair doesn't grow.
The next time someone tells you that Black hair doesn't grow or can't grow past a certain length, kindly direct them to www.gemshairtalks.com