With all the misinformation out there about afro hair being naturally dry and frizzy (shoutout to Ouidad), it's easy to start thinking there's something wrong with kinky/coily hair -- even when it's perfectly healthy. This misinformation can prompt us naturals to buy products that aren't suited for our hair. Even companies that cater to afro-textured hair get it wrong sometimes so it's important to be diligent when shopping for your hair, otherwise you might become what I call a hair hypochondriac.
- Hair Hypochondriac - n. a person who believes everything is wrong with their hair. Hair hypochondriacs are often over-exposed to marketing messages that suggest their hair is too frizzy, dry, or thin, for instance. To combat these perceived issues, hair hypochondriacs tend to buy hair products they don't actually need.
As naturals, we're always being told how fragile and brittle our hair is. "Breakage" has become this big bad B word that has sent us running to stores in frantic search of products that will protect us from the horrors of thinning edges, single-strand knots, and split ends. We're bombarded with advertising that suggests our hair could be thicker, longer, shinier, and most fallaciously of all, straighter. The funny thing is even if you have superbly healthy hair, you've probably felt compelled by these claims too. I for one can admit to second-guessing the health of my edges whenever I see certain advertisements. (Are these normal baby hairs, or am I balding...?!) Obviously, this doubt inspires me to purchase some cream or gel that promises to restore my edges to their former glory. It's not until I've tested the product and had zero results that I realize I had been paying more attention to the advertising than to my own hair! I'd fallen victim to clever marketing that made me believe my hair might be damaged (is my hair dull, or is it just bad lighting in here?) and I lost sight of what my hair truly needed. I'm a much savvier shopper now that I have a few tricks to avoid becoming a hair hypochondriac.
UNDERSTAND YOUR HAIR. On your next wash day, pay close attention to the state of your natural hair. How would you describe it objectively? Think in terms of how coarse, long, coily, hydrated, tangled, thick, or soft it is. You can actually feel damage with your fingers, too. Rather than gliding easily down the shaft, your fingers may get caught on bumps, or the ends could feel prickly. If your strands don't feel right to the touch, your hair is literally telling you it wants to be healthier.
BUILD YOUR OWN REGIMEN. Sorry to be blunt, but just because one technique worked for your best friend or your favourite YouTuber doesn't mean it'll work for you. Focus on exactly what is going on with your hair and find the tools/products that are dedicated to addressing your needs. In addition, play around with how you apply the product. If your new leave-in is causing a lot of product build-up on your scalp, for example, see what happens when you only apply it to your ends. Or if you're trying to fight dryness, try a monthly hot oil treatment before you condition your hair. In the event that fails, experiment with deep conditioning every two weeks or adding an essential oil to the conditioner instead. Don't be scared to get creative!
BE PATIENT. It will probably take a few weeks, or even a couple of months, before you really see any changes so remember to be patient. The learning curve is especially steep at the beginning when you're still trying to comprehend the unique personality of your wonderful afro. It might seem overwhelming at times, but don't get discouraged; experimentation is a necessary part of the journey towards mastering your hair.
KNOW WHEN TO QUIT. That being said if six months have already passed and your hair hasn't noticed your efforts, then there's no harm in making slight alterations to your regimen -- or overhauling it completely. Not all ingredients agree with all hair types. It's important to keep track of the ingredients that make your hair flourish. When you're conscious of which ones to avoid, you can narrow down your product search and start getting the results you want.
- DON'T BUY INTO THE HYPE. Companies have to sell products, and they can only do so by creating a perceived need. When used successfully, marketing can sometimes make you feel like you need to buy something when you don't. Be cognizant of that while shopping and you'll save yourself a bunch of time and money.
I hope you find these tips helpful and remember them next time you're shopping for hair products. Unless you're a huge fan of the flat iron and you dye your hair a new colour every two days, chances are your hair is doing just fine! Be sure to listen to what itwants and forget all the corporate noise telling you otherwise.
Have you suffered from hair hypochondria? Share your experience in a comment below!