Wash & Sets & Setbacks: How I Grew My Natural Hair Long & Healthy Again
How I retained length and grew my hair healthy after damage and a big chop
Natural hair is a lot of work. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. My hair is particularly sensitive and needy. If I neglect it for more than a week, my hair starts to get an attitude. If I neglect it for longer than that, my hair is basically making me sleep on the couch.
My hair has sometimes been a reflection of my emotional state. When I first went natural, I was meticulous and took care of it frequently. I did all my deep conditions and detangled carefully. However, from 2016 - 2017, my hair was on the struggle bus. It started with me falling into depression and not even realizing. I was struggling to function and my hair was as tangled as my life. I think I wore it in the same bun for a month and cried trying to detangle it. Eventually I did, but the effort it took in my current emotional state basically guaranteed that I wasn't going to do it again. It was too long, too thick, too damaged and I was just trying to get out of bed each day. I'm shocked I didn't just shave it all off.
When I finally had enough of looking raggedy, I found my way to the hair dresser. Week after week she would get on my case about maintaining it in between visits but I just didn't have it in me. Before long, we were cutting off nearly 4-6 inches because my hair was so damaged. I balled. But it was my fault.
Finally, I started getting it together in 2017. I began by doing weekly deep conditions. I deep conditioned for 15 minutes in the shower with my Hydrate conditioner. In the past, I would wash my hair every other week, which made my hair harder to detangle, which in turn made wash day longer, and then made me want to skip wash day. Committing to weekly washes plus detangling and weekly deep conditioning made sure I retained moisture consistently. I then focused on my technique. Sometimes when we detangle we can get impatient and rip or cut knots we can't be bothered with. I began to treat my knots gently and would untangle each strand one by one from knots. Finally, I started taking my time when combing through. I had a bad habit from way back of being rough with the comb when sections were tough to get through. Funnily, I learned that more force made it harder to comb through knotted sections whereas going slow and being gentle reduced the number of passes with the comb.
Before long, I noticed my hair was growing like crazy and I wasn't noticing the split ends I usually get every 3 months. I visited the salon 8 months after my last trim and I was shocked that she only needed to cut off about an inch. Despite the fact natural hair is very high maintenance, I somehow managed to take care of it with minimal damage. I was so excited, as if my dentist noticed I'd been flossing!
I'm proud of myself for finally figuring out my regimen and then sticking with it. I didn't need to make my hair my whole life to do so either and consistency played a bigger role than the number of steps or kinds of products in my regimen. I look forward to keeping the growth going and maybe getting down to waist length next year. Maybe!