10 Natural Hair Struggles And How To Get Through Them

a naturalista with natural hair
PHOTO: @FREDDIEHARREL

Did you go into this year telling yourself (and your friends and your man) that you were going to ditch the white crack known (in this case) as hair relaxers so that you could let your natural hair grow, show and flow?

If so, we salute you. No diss to the sistahs who want chemically-straightened hair, but there’s something that is so empowering about a woman who doesn’t mind strutting what Mother Nature gave her.

That doesn’t mean that you’re not in for a real awakening throughout your hair growth journey. Once you get past having a TWA—a Teeny Weeny Afro—trying to get some length on your natural locks can be…whew! Something else.

To help you out, we’ve provided a mini natural hair manual of things that all naturalistas experience at one point or another while they’re trying to let their soul glow (if you know what we mean), along with some tips on how to make everything bearable. Even manageable. 

1 / 10

Shrinkage

You can hop on YouTube right now and see a TON of naturalistas whose hair looks like it’s bob-length until they pull on it. Then a lot of them have hair that reaches their bra strap! 

Because a lot of natural women have super curly coils, shrinkage can make them feel like their hair isn’t growing. As long as you’re living, your hair is growing, though.

If you want your hair to reflect that fact more, try the banding method, blow dry your roots on low heat or put your hair up in a pineapple at night. All of these will loosen up your curl pattern so that your hair has more length and volume.

2 / 10

Breakage

If it seems like your hair is always “stuck” at one length, that’s a sign that you have some breakage going on and usually, that’s tied to your hair not getting enough moisture. 

There are a few ways to combat this. You can keep a small spray bottle around you that contains distilled water, vegetable glycerin (it’s a natural humectant) and a couple of drops of patchouli oil in it (it serves as an antiseptic, astringent, and fungicide) to spray your hair throughout the day. You can (and should) also deep condition your hair after every shampoo. 

Speaking of shampoo, make sure you go with the kind that is sulfate-free. All of the others are pretty drying. And that leads to breakage.

3 / 10

Bald Spots

You know what’s the worst? Finding a hairstyle that you like so much that you wear it that way all of the time, only to discover a couple of months later than you have a thinning or bald spot. 

The moral of the story here is to switch up your look every couple of weeks. Otherwise, a ponytail that’s in the same spot or a turban that puts pressure in the same place will start to wear your hair out. 

If you do have a bald spot, get some peppermint oil and mix it with some olive or grapeseed (to dilute it a bit). The tingling sensation of the peppermint will increase your blood circulation and start to heal your follicles.

4 / 10

Hair Retention Issues

Not taking care of the oldest part of your hair (your ends). Not taking liquid biotin (liquid vitamins hit your system faster). Not clarifying your hair with Apple Cider Vinegar (to remove product build-up). Keeping your hands in your hair all of the time (that can weaken your strands). Not sealing your ends with Jamaican Black Castor Oil (that protects them). Not drinking enough water (so that you can moisturize yourself from the inside out). These are just some of the things that prevent us from retaining natural hair length. 

Never think that your hair isn’t growing just because it’s not as long as you want it to be. Some of that has to do with DNA. The rest has to do with making sure that you’re not handling it in such a way that it breaks at the ends (or in the middle) as fast as it grows from the roots.

5 / 10

Figuring Out Your Hair Type

Not all natural hair is the same. Not by a long shot. In order to give your own natural hair the best type of care possible (so that you can end up with the most impressive results), you need to know 1) what your hair type is and 2) what kind of porosity level it has. This video will explain.

6 / 10

Going To Bed Looking Crazy

Women with bald heads (by choice) or TWAs (Teeny Weeny Afros) have it made on the going to bed tip. All they have to do is go to sleep, wake up and go! So long as they keep their barber appointment, they stay looking on point. 

The rest of us? Going to bed can equate looking a hot mess, but it’s worth it. Tying your hair up with a satin scarf or putting on a satin bonnet significantly decreases friction which reduces breakage. 

If you hate the thought of wrapping your hair up, another alternative is to invest in a couple of satin pillowcases. But if you sleep wildly, honestly, that’s not going to do much good.

7 / 10

Becoming A Product Addict

As far as natural hair products are concerned, the good news is that there are FINALLY plenty to choose from. The bad news is if you’re not careful, you’ll have a bathroom (and kitchen) cabinet FULL of products without seeing any real results from any of them. Why? Because you didn’t give any of them enough time to work their magic. 

Your best bet is to do some online research on products that other naturalistas who have your same hair type (or hair porosity) use, test a few out for at least a month and see which ones work for you. 

Once you find a formula, keep that routine for at least six to nine months. You know what they say: If it ain’t broke…you know the rest.

8 / 10

Potential Trim Drama (Try Dusting)

Whether you’re natural or not, almost every Black woman can relate to going to a salon to get their hair TRIMMED, only to have to stylist CUT it several inches. 

We can’t figure out if the ones who do this don’t know what “trim” means or if they are haters of hair length on the sly. 

Either way, one way you can avoid being (another) victim of this is by dusting your ends yourself. The video will break down what that process consists of.

9 / 10

To Comb/Brush Or Not To Comb/Brush

Some naturalistas think that combing or brushing natural hair is a cardinal sin; that you should use your fingers to detangle and nothing else. We’re not so sure because while using your fingers can help to keep your hair from being overmanipulated, it doesn’t always keep the fairy knots away. 

Our vote is to buy a wide-tooth comb and a Denman brush. Only use these when your hair is wet/damp and don’t feel the need to use them daily. Just on wash day and when you’re trying to create a new style.

10 / 10

Impatience

Probably the biggest obstacle for women who are trying to grow their natural hair is learning how to be patient. At most, in general, hair grows no more than a half-inch per month. This equals out to 6” a year. 

No matter what products you try or how many scalp massages (which are also really good for you) that you do, there are some things that only time can do. 

Good things come to those who wait, and truer words have never been spoken when it comes to achieving long natural girl length. Hang in there.

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SHELLIE RENEé

Just a woman who digs all things relationships. HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS, that is. I've been writing (professionally) for close to 20 years, including having two books published. I'm also a marriage life coach and doula. Sometimes I speak to large audiences or do radio interviews, but usually I'm sitting in my favorite chair, surfin' the 'net and penning stuff that I wish I had read in my early 20s.

Listen, I don't have all the answers, not by a LOOOOONG shot. But whatever I can do to spare folks any heartbreak, bitterness or straight-up drama, I'll devote some keystrokes to doing. 

That's it...in a nutshell. For the most part. Kinda. ;)

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