Understanding Natural Hair Terms

Understanding Natural Hair Terms

Our hair has been labeled as difficult and confusing for generations. The amount of misinformation surrounding our beautiful curls is disheartening. Much like in other cultures, hair knowledge is passed down from generation to generation. Black hair has a disadvantage when it comes to that knowledge because many of our hair traditions were fostered with the few resources we had. Black hair has been treated as an entirely different entity than other hair types. It didn’t receive the same research, care, and attention that it deserved. There was no emphasis on understanding natural hair.

This led the community to figure out how to manage their hair with the resources they had, leading us to follow hair care advice that was often based on beliefs, not science. The hair industry, now that it sees a market, has profited from Black consumers’ hair insecurities and their desire to enjoy the hair they’re born with. Hair influencers are also involved in this practice. Though some may be doing it n good faith, they spread misinformation about our hair and use terms incorrectly. Those terms permeate throughout our community and cause even MORE confusion. We’ve decided to take a few terms we often hear in the natural hair community and help you gain an understanding.

Wash-n-Go (AKA Hydrate-and-Define)

Raise your hand if you have felt personally victimized by a failed wash-n-go. The reason why many people with tight curls are left disappointed and confused after their wash-n-go turns out poorly is that there’s a key step that is missing. The videos and step-by-step instructions that hair influencers don’t mention setting the hair. They encourage their viewers to let their hair air dry because heat is natural hair’s enemy.

But using a blow dryer is key. Heat sets the product that you used to define your beautiful curls. The real steps of a wash-n-go are: wash, set, and go. You can use a hooded or handheld dryer with a diffuser attachment to set your hair. We recommend using a hard hooded dryer. This type of dryer will evenly set your hair at a faster rate than a handheld dryer. After using the hooded dryer, you can use a handheld dryer (no diffuser attachment needed) to quickly dry any roots that are still damp.

You don’t need to be concerned about heat damage if you’re using an indirect heat source. Hooded dryers and handheld dryers with a diffuser attachment are both considered indirect heat, therefore are not innately harmful. If you continue to use a dryer after your hair is dry, it will suck the moisture from your hair. This can leave your hair prone to dryness.

Heat damage is more of a concern when you use a thermal stretching tool like a flat iron.

Leave-in Conditioner

Leave-in conditioner is a popular product within the natural hair community. While it can be a great addition to your regimen, it’s important that you use it correctly. The main misconception is that this product is a conditioner that you don’t have to rinse out, thus hydrating your hair further. The truth is water is the only thing that will hydrate hair. Conditioner seals the water within the strands of your hair.

Leave-in conditioner is an entirely different product. It isn’t meant to lock in water. Instead, it’s a styling product without hold. It can be used before gel when styling a wash-n-go. This softens the gel’s hold. However, the use of leave-in conditioner isn’t required if you’re using a high-quality gel. Higher-quality products will have a leave-in conditioner included in the formula. We cannot stress enough that you should not use leave-in conditioner instead of conditioner. It will not benefit your hair in the same way. Your hair will become dehydrated shortly after it’s cleansed. Chronically dry hair can cause damage and poor style results.

Hair Detox

Here at Brown Skin Women, hair detox does not mean a one-time ACV treatment or the use of a special shampoo. The process of using a specific product to remove build-up from the hair is called clarifying. We recommend using clarifying shampoos every few months if you moderately use botanical and high-quality products. If you’re heavy-handed or don’t use plant-based products, you may need to clarify your hair more often. The type of water found in your house can also dictate when you should use a clarifying shampoo.

Detoxing the hair is an entirely different process. Many of us have been taught that raw oils, heavy butters, and hair lotions are the only way to maintain our hair. Our hair and scalp become dependent on these products. The hair strands are coated in layers of product from years of use—even after someone does a clarifying treatment—that prevent the hair from absorbing water. This leaves the hair feeling dry or stringy.

Not happy with the state of their hair, people will add more products that caused the issue in the first place.

The Clean and Simple regimen recommends avoiding the use of the products mentioned above. Many of our Curlfriends notice that for the first few weeks, their hair feels dry or that it doesn’t retain water well. This is the hair detox phase. The hair is adjusting to life without oils and butters. Cleansing the hair and scalp weekly will slowly remove the products that are preventing your hair from becoming fully hydrated. After a few weeks, the hair will be able to readily absorb water during the cleansing process. Many of our Curlfriends struggle with hair detox because it goes against everything they’ve been taught.

Those who stick to the regimen do begin to see the benefits, even if their hair is still detoxing. Curl definition, improving hydration levels, and an easier cleansing process are all signs of a successful detox!

Hair Type

The infamous hair type chart has stressed many of us out. This chart has so many naturals confused that we wrote a dedicated blog to it. Naturals will use this hair chart to choose their products and hair regimen. Most of us have different types of curls throughout our heads which can make it nearly impossible to confidently know our hair type. This chart creates more confusion than helpful insight into understanding natural hair.

In reality, the appearance of your curls doesn’t dictate what their needs are. If you want to really get to know your hair, you should consider these factors: density, porosity, and surface texture. These terms are more helpful in understanding natural hair. They discuss the characteristics of your hair, and how it grows and behaves outside of how loose or tight a curl may be.

Learn and Debunk More Terms With Us!

Brown Skin Women recently created a living dictionary of natural hair terms for our online Curlfamily community. We started by asking them for terms they often hear from hair influencers and other naturals. What’s mentioned above are just a few terms we’re breaking down for our family. Our goal is to increase the accessibility of practical natural hair care. That includes understanding natural hair terms.

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