Reader Mail: A Bit of Help Please...



I hope you don't mind me messaging you. Just a bit of help please. I decided to transition from relaxed to natural hair in August 2014 but I don't think I was fully natural until 2015 April-ish. In retrospect, I should have just done the big chop. Anyhow, I'm having a nightmare of a time. I feel like my hair is not growing. Or not as quick as some people say. When I stretch it against a ruler it reads 5" long. Thats not long right? I don't put any heat on it, don't comb it as much - thank God I got the tangling thing figured out. 

I don't know if it's the products I'm using, but it's not growing I don't think. My hair is not thick, which i guess doesn't help, and the shrinkage is very real.

Could you help please? Every time I read blogs the regime is so intense and daunting for us beginners. I'm from the south of the African continent so I find our hair is drier than you guys up north :)

I just need a simple guide otherwise I'm considering just shaving it off and calling it a day.

Currently, I have it in braids most of the time. The breakage is minimal because it doesn't tangle. I pre-poo with coconut oil overnight, the next morning i cleanse/ co-wash with clay, then once a month I'll use henna. Then a deep conditioner and sit with a plastic cap for 6 hours (I don't have a steamer/drier) I should get one really. And then oil with olive oil, and a whipped cream of shear butter + coconut oil and olive oil. Then do 2 strand twists and air dry.

Any pointers would be much appreciated,


Dear K,

Before I went natural, I spent months researching how to *insert something* natural hair. I combed through blog posts, I studied videos, I asked people I knew, I asked strangers too. I just wanted to be prepared. I needed to be ready. Everyone had plenty of answers, but not the answers I needed. I wanted to know how my hair would look, and how my hair would feel, and what I would need to do for my hair to be the best it could be.

No one could tell me how curly my hair would be, or how long it would take to dry after I washed it, or which conditioner and leave in conditioner was going to be the best. It was really annoying. All the women on YouTube had big curly hair. The shiny, curly, bouncy, mixed race natural hair. I knew my hair wasn't going to look like theirs, but I wasn't sure what it would look like. My relaxed hair was silky and pretty easy to manage on the whole. It was long, and shiny, and I often got asked if I was mixed-race too.  Did this mean my hair might be curly, bouncy YouTube hair? How would I cope if it wasn't!? How long would it take for it to grow down to my waist? If I deep conditioned it every day would it make it go any faster? Which products could I mixed together to get the best results???

I remember writing to a popular blogger at the time. My questions and my concerns weren't so different to yours: Please can you tell me what products to use, and give me a really easy routine to look after my hair. Her reply really annoyed me. She didn't give me any product recommendations, and she didn't really give me a clear hair care regimen to follow either. It wasn't until maybe a year later, when I found myself in the same position she'd been in, answering questions about which conditioner was the best to use, and how long someone should sit under a hooded dryer to deep condition the hair, that I realised that she wasn't trying to be unhelpful. It's not that she didn't want to tell me what to do, it's that she couldn't.

So when I realised that no one was going to give me all the answers, I started looking for them myself. My starting point was a simple question: What am I trying to get out of this? What results am I looking to achieve? Yes, I wanted long hair, but more importantly, I wanted healthy hair. So then the question became how do I get healthy hair? I looked for answers in my routine. Was it working? Was it sustainable? Was I happy? I don't know if you've ever watched any of my videos on the channel, but if you have, you'll notice that I spent the first year or so just buying products. I'd watch a video or read a review and I'd go out and buy the product. I became a bit of a product junkie. Most of them weren't working. By working, what I mean is that they weren't helping me achieve what I'd set out to do in the first place which was, to have healthy hair. In my overzealousness I had mistaken healthy hair for YouTube hair and the two aren't always the same thing.

I wasn't defining healthy hair by how good my hair looked and felt to me, I was defining healthy by how other people's' hair looked. I was disappointed with the results I got with most of the products I spent all my money on. Some of them were too greasy, or they didn't provide enough moisture, or they made my hair frizzy, or they didn't define my curls... the list goes on and on. I kept buying them and trying them thinking that each time I did, the results would be different and most of the time they weren't.  I also spent a lot of time comparing my progress to those on YouTube.  I found myself discouraged and irritated when I realised that my hair had not grown 10 inches, was not waist-length, was not YouTube hair.

I love my hair now. I like it more because I spend less time on it. Healthy hair to me, is part of a broader healthy lifestyle. Fine, it's not YouTube hair, and that's ok. Both are ok. I took a step back, and decided to go for ease, because I had tried complicated routines I saw online, I was doing exactly what they were doing but I wasn't I seeing the results. I thought some of the routines I saw and read about in blog posts were a bit excessive, but that's what they were doing and that's what they said I should do, so that's what I did, and it even if I wasn't getting the results straight away, eventually I would. I had to!

That's not how it works, K.

At the moment, from what you've told me, I think maybe you're doing too much. your whole life shouldn't be about your hair. Why are you spending all this time on it, doing the same thing, if you're not getting the results you want?

Here is my simple guide:

  1. If it feels excessive it probably is.
  2. If it's not working stop doing it.
  3.  If you can't afford it, or it's not convenient don't buy it (the applies to products, accessories and hair styling equipment such as dryers).
  4.  Oil is not a moisturiser - it is a sealant, so use it sparingly.

Checklist of everything you need:

  1. Shampoo/Cleanser you like (cleans hair without drying it out)
  2. Conditioner you like (moisturises, softens, smells nice)
  3. Deep conditioner you like (moisturises, softens, smells nice)
  4. Leave in conditioner you like (moisturises, softens, smells nice)
  5. Water (moisturises)

Additional notes:

  1. 5 inches is a lot of growth.
  2. Deep conditioning is a 15-20 minute job. Put a cap on your head and sit outside if it's hot. Or wrap a warm towel around your head, or stand in the shower with the hot water running, or under a lamp.
  3. I use a little whipped shea butter, mainly on my ends when the weather is extra cold/dry.
  4. Henna might not be helping
  5. Don't give up yet!

My skin is dry and oily. My nose is always shiny, and the skin around my mouth peels sometimes. I use one of those oily combination skin moisturisers on my face, and for the most part it does the trick. Sometimes I have to do a couple of extra things: exfoliate when I remember, for example. Most of the time I don't do very much. Plenty of people do much more than this when they're looking after their skin. They take a lot of time, they invest a lot of money into getting the best products they can find, they develop a daytime and nighttime routine; masks, baths, creams, scrubs, drops, lotions; the lot. They do it and they stick to it and enjoy the results. I tried going down that route, and it was a complete disaster. I reacted to most of the products I bought. My skin was red and blotchy, started to peel, stung, and all I ended up with was a horrible rash.

I don't do any of that stuff now, and my skin is just fine.

Maybe your hair is like my skin.

Stay healthy, stay happy, stay blessed