Newbie Natural Hair Guide: Complete Action Plan for Transitioners

definition of natural hair

Natural hair:  Hair whose texture has not be altered by chemical relaxers or straighteners.

The decision to go natural or rather transition back to natural (since we were born with a certain hair type that we are now choosing to embrace) isn’t one to take lightly.

When you’re used to caring for your hair a particular way and then decide to care for it in a completely different way, that requires thought and planning.

This Natural Hair Care Guide was created for those deciding to transition to natural hair and new naturalistas looking for black hair care information.

You may read some of what you have read from other sources but you will definitely read some things you’ve never read before and certainly from a different perspective. Keep reading.

Dealing with Your Mindset

mindset toward natural hair

Maybe you’ve heard people say things like “natural hair isn’t for me” or “natural hair is nappy hair.” Often times, those choosing to go natural or deciding to embrace their natural hair as it grows out of their head, receive resistance – resistance from family members and friends. Sometimes, there’s even resistance from co-workers and total strangers.

Now, let’s get rid of the monkey in the room. Just because one person’s curls are more defined or “relaxed” than another’s doesn’t make it better.

When you decide to embrace your natural hair, you have to start with the mindset that says “I am enough.” What God created is good. It may be different than what you see on the heads of other people who allow their hair to remain in its natural state but it is certainly no less than.

Do not give up on your natural hair. It may not be who you are but it’s a part of you. You wouldn’t cut off your legs if they didn’t look as sexy as you wanted them to, would you? Of course not. You’d do what is necessary to figure out how to get your legs in the condition you want them to be in.

The same goes for your natural hair. Start your journey back to natural by learning what you need to learn about your hair. Once you discover what products and techniques work best for you, nobody can tell you what’s good and what’s not good.

It’s time to defeat the mindset that looser more defined curls are better. It’s just not true. Plus, those types of curls come with their own set of problems. Which brings me to the next point.



Potential Natural Hair Problems

problems with natural hair

Shortly after starting your natural hair “journey,” there are problems that can arise. They aren’t problems that are beyond overcoming but they are problems that need overcoming when faced. And, yes most definitely every person with natural hair will encounter at least one (if not all) of these natural hair problems):

Single Strand Knots

single strand knot

Single strand knots are one of the biggest natural hair problems you can face. That’s because with all the twists and turns a single strand of hair is composed of, all that coiling is bound to cause neighboring hairs to wrap around each other. It’s a completely natural occurence although it is a bit of a nuissance.

Sometimes only one hair is affected by the knotting and other times, the knotting involves a number of hairs due to split ends. Single strand knots are called that because it’s typically one hair that has a knot on it. That knot is however highly susceptible to wrapping around other hairs, causing them to knot up as well. Hence, you need to tackle knots which can occur anywhere along the hair shaft.

Actions to Overcome:  1) Keep hair moisturized; 2) Oil hair with a lightweight oil to keep strands moving freely; 3) Wear hair in protective styles like buns more often than wearing it out.  4) Keep hair stretched. There’s a number of ways to stretch your natural hair: Tension blow drying with warm, not hot air, Banding your hair in a ponytail or ponytails, African Threading, Doing Roller Sets. 5) Getting regular trims (as needed) to keep your ends neat and reduce the number of single strand knots formed. These actions help more with preventing knots. When single strand knots become unruly, if you can’t safely remove the knot with your fingers without causing breakage, trim the knot out of the affected hair(s). This is known as the Search and Destroy Method.

protein moisture balance

Protein Overload

This occurs when your hair falls out of balance with moisture. Hair will feel brittle and prone to breakage due to a lack of elasticity caused by over use of protein treatment products.

Actions to Overcome: Get moisture into your hair in 3 ways: 1) Deep condition your hair with a moisturizing deep conditioner that does not contain protein. 2) Use a moisturizing leave in conditioner without protein 3) Add moisture to your hair daily until your hair’s elasticity is improved. Basically, avoid hair products containing proteins in them for a while. Here are some common proteins found in hair care products (Note: you’ll often see the words “Hydrolyzed” in front of some of these proteins)

  • Amino acids
  • Cassein
  • Collagen
  • Keratin
  • Oat flour
  • Rice protein
  • Silk protein
  • Soy protein
  • Wheat protein

Moisture Overload

Similar to protein overload, hair is out of balance. Only, this time your hair has too much moisture and not enough protein. Hair is prone to feeling mushy, gummy and appears very limp. It overstretches before breaking. This occurs when the hair is exposed to too much moisture – moisturizing when it’s not needed, co-washing with conditioner all of the time, doing treatments that are all moisture (ex: the Baggy method which is applying a conditioner to your hair and then covering it with a baggie and allowing it to sit from hours to over night; Greenhouse effect which is applying a natural oil through the hair and then covering it with a plastic cap/scarf and sleeping with it over night) and no protein.

Action to Overcome: Moisture overload is usually easier to fix than protein overload. Do a protein treatment and apply a heat source such as a heating cap over hair that’s been covered with a plastic cap. The heat allows for the hair shaft to swell open, allowing the protein to bond to the hair. You may need to follow with another light protein treatment in a few weeks before your hair is rebalanced.

Excess Shedding

shed hair

Shedding hair is completely normal. The average head of hair can shed up to 50 hairs per day. Some shed a little more and some a little less. It’s when the amount of hair coming out begins to increase that there’s cause for concern. Shedding is not the same thing as breakage as breakage can occur anywhere along the hair shaft while shedding comes directly from the root. You’ll see a small bulb at the tip of the hair. That’s how you know it’s a shed hair.

Action to Overcome: To overcome excessive shedding 1) try a tea rinse made with black or green tea; 2) Use products specifically designed to address excess shedding (ex: OGX Anti-Hair Fallous Niacin 3 and Caffeine Shampoo and Conditioner); 3) Take supplements containing silica and MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane); 4) Massage scalp multiple times per week with a mixture of coconut/jojoboa/grapeseed oil + rosemary essential oil 4) Apply a treatment of olive oil, rosemary essential oil & lavender essential oil 5) See a dermatologist specializing in hair loss.

Extreme Breakage or Split Ends

split ends chart

The ends of your hair can split as they become old and weathered. You increase your risk of split ends by using chemicals and hair tools like brushes, combes and heat appliances. There are a number of types of split ends as referenced in the chart above.

Actions to Overcome: The only way to get rid of a split end is to cut the hair. Yes, there are products that can help to temporarily mend a split end but that’s just it.  It’s temporary.  Just like with trimming single strand knots, you can opt to “Search and Destroy,” trimming out individual splits. This can cause unever hair over time but isn’t much of an issue if you wear your hair in a naturally curly state and get regular trims to keep your ends neat. Split ends can also be lessened by doing oil rinses on wash day. Keeping the hair moisturized prevents it from drying to the point that a split will occur.

Dull hair

bentonite clay wash

Often brought on by product buildup, hair can begin to look very dull and not hold styles well.

Actions to Overcome: 1) Clarify your hair with a clarifying shampoo or mud wash (a mixture of Bentonite, Kaolin and Rhassoul clays will attack the build up but you can opt to use 1, 2 or all 3 clays); 2) Complete your final wash with an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse.

Itchy Scalp

Itchiness in the scalp can be caused by dryness, dandruff (not the same as dryness), excess oil, dirt & sweat, reaction to certain products, infection or other means. There are many causes for itchy scalp but fortunately there’s just as many remedies with some of them being all natural.

Actions to Overcome: 1) Wash scalp with a shampoo containing tea tree oil; 2) Add tea tree essential oil to your shampoo or deep conditioner; 3) See a dermatologist to diagnose and eliminate conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, eczema and fungi; 4) Try a shampoo containing zinc pyrithione which is an anti-fungal ingredient

STEP BY STEP Action Plan – Transition to Natural Hair

action plan for transitioning to natural hair

The order in which you decide to follow the steps below is entirely up to you but it’s highly recommended that you follow them in order.

1- Get a consultation from an established natural hair stylist. This step may be the most important as any natural hair specialist worth his or her weight will be able to tell you your hairs porosity and curl type, thereby giving you recommendations specific for your hair.

2- Get a professional cut or trim & shaping of your hair.  That could mean doing a big chop to eliminate all processed hair, in which case you will no longer be transitioning, but fully natural. Many ladies opt to do this so they won’t have to deal with the two textures of hair while transitioning.  If you decide to forego the big chop, keeping the newly grown natural hair blended with the chemically processed hair will be a challenge but necessary to avoid breakage. Roller sets, blow outs and braid outs are great styles for transitioning to natural hair. Just be careful not to use heat (for styling) more than a couple of times per month (preferably not at all). Hair is much more fragile when you’re transitioning. While continuing the journey to natural, get regular trims to slowly cut out the chemically processed hair.

3- Subscribe to 2 or 3 established Natural Hair Care blogs that provide regular information for your hair type. The key is to drown out all the other natural hair noise and focus on just the information you need. It’s good practice to learn from your peers. It’s not likely to have a professional do your hair for you daily unless you got it like that. If that’s the case you can stop reading here. Or maybe not. There may come a time when you will want to take responsibility for your own hair care. Subscribe here to fine natural hair and faith if fine or thinning hair is what you’re working with.

4 Black hair care blogs (other than this one) to consider

There are definitely more popular blogs around (and you’re welcomed to Search for them online – they are easy to find) but these are being shared because of how targeted they are with their content. Basically, all they talk about is Natural Hair and rarely veer off on other topics.

4- Clear away all the hair products you have been using before you went natural. It’s not likely that these products will perform the same or as effectively in your natural hair. It’s time to develop your product arsenal based on your hair’s needs today. You will need at least two or three cleansers, deep conditioners, treatments (ex: protein or elasticity treatments), stylers, oils, moisturizers, and leave in conditioners.

If you want to try your hand at Herbal hair care or you’re simple not content with using all of the store bought products filled with toxic chemicals, you will need to research what herbal powders will work best for your hair. Some of the widely used herbal and natural powders used are:

natural herbs

Henna: Powder is created from a small flowering shrub used to dye the skin and hair naturally. It helps to mend the hair cuticle by filling gaps along the hair shaft

Cassia Obovata: Termed neutral henna, cassia isn’t really henna at all. It has similar strengthening properties but without depositing color to the hair. Cassia also makes hair glossy

Shikakai: Strengthens the roots of the hair and helps to promote hair growth

Bhringraj: Stimulates hair growth

Rose: Stimulates the scalp leading to hair growth; also adds shine and volume to the hair

Hibiscus: Rejuvenates the hair to make it shiny and silky while also preventing premature greying

Amla: Known as Indian Gooseberry, Amla darkens hair, stimulates hair growth and adds shine and luster

Brahmi: Strengthens hair follicles to prevent hair loss

Fenugreek: Stimulates hair growth (also called Methi)

Green tea: Aids in the prevention of dry scalp, cuts down on the production of DHT which causes hair fall and boosts hair growth

Bentonite clay: Made from volcanic ash, this clay helps to cleanse the hair and scalp of product build up and impurties

Rhassoul clay: Also known as ghassoul clay, this clay helps to remove toxins and product build up from the hair while also improving the hair’s elasticity by imparting softeness and moisture

This may seem like a lot but these herbal powders can be combined to create powerfully strengthening and moisturizing treatments for the hair. You can also achieve dual care for your hair with some of these powders. For example, Shikaki is an age old powder used to cleanse the hair while imparting lots of moisture to it. This ancient powder was used solely to cleanse the hair back when shampoo didn’t even exist.

* See Recommended Natural Hair Resources & Suggested DIY hair tools below

5- Start A Hair Journal. A hair journal helps you keep track of the products and techniques you try. You will be able to look back and eliminate what’s not working. A fancy journal isn’t required. You can use a simple notebook but if you like fancy (with lots of bells and whistles) and think it will keep you focused and committed, check this one out: Kinky Coily Natural Hair Journal.

6-Prepare seasonal hair care plans. As you begin to discover the techniques and products that work well with your hair, you’ll figure out that the products that once had your hair thriving in the summer don’t do so well when the temperatures drop. Therefore, you’ll need a plans for the seasons. Keeping your natural hair journal will help you develop it.

6- Focus on doing just one thing when you begin feeling overwhelmed. With all the natural hair noise around, it can get a bit confusing and inundating. Focus on just one aspect of your hair care and figure out how to perfect it as far as your hair goes. This will cut down the overwhelm and can help with hair growth.

7- Style your hair in ways that keep manipulation to a minimum. It may be enjoyable to watch tons of YouTube videos on natural hair styling but it will do your hair more harm than good trying to recreate all of the styles you come of across if your hair isn’t the same length or curl type as the person’s video you are watching. Even if it is, limit trying new hair styles to every once in a while. If you find three or four hairstyles your hair looks best in and don’t cause too much stress on your strands, there’s nothing wrong with making these staple hairstyles.

Other Factors to Consider

Regardless of how you choose to go about your black hair care, there are other factors to consider. Nutrition, supplemention, intake of water and exercise all affect your hair’s ability to grow in strong and healthy. These are principles you should be following for the health of your body but are also excellent hair growth tips.

Nutrition

For a healthy head of hair (natual or otherwise), consuming natural foods is the best way to go. It’s God’s way but mankind has decided what they can make for food consumption is just as good if not better. That is a lie straight from creator of all lies. Most other nations know it but the United States is more interested in making money by way of creating genetically modifed foods (GMOs).  These foods were created in a lab somewhere so they can withstand exposure to chemical pesticides.

Your body was not made to process junk. Lots of food suppliers are trying to mask that fact. Your best bet is to eat as close to natural as possible. USDA Certified organic foods (ex: eggs, nuts, beans, spinach, carrots, broccoli and wild salmon) are all great for healthy hair. If you eat processed food, look for the non-GMO project verified label on the packaging. The quality of your nutritional intake for your hair health is just as important as what you put on your hair/scalp from the outside.

Supplementation

While we should get our vitamins and minerals for a healthy body (including your hair) from food, most people do not get sufficient intake.  That’s partly due to our diets (especially the Standard American Diet – no wonder the acronym is “SAD”) and partly due to the quality of food available. Supplementing your nutrition with vitamins and minerals can help fill in the gaps. Look for supplements containing these non-GMO ingredients: fish oil (rich in omega-3), Zinc, vitamin B-complex, vitamin C, Iron, and vitamin D. Dr Axe explains the benefits of these supplements here.

Water Intake

There’s some dispute over how much water one should drink. Some sources say you should drink at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces of free water daily. Others say you can get some of your water intake from fruits and vegetables. Yet, some other say about 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.

The American Museum of Natural History reports that the human body is approximately 60 percent water by weight and that a typical woman needs about 2.7 liters (0.7 U.S. gallons) of water per day. Since your hair grows from within, staying hydrated is important.

With such a large portion of our bodies being made up of water, it stands to reason that one should drink at least 1/2 the body’s weight in ounces of water daily.

Exercise

Everyone should partake in some form of exercise on a regular basis but aerobic exercises that raise your heart rate are good for your cardiovascular system and stimulates hair growth. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days per week. This is sufficient for stimulating hair growth as well. Blood flow is stimulated in the scalp when you exercise and while there’s isn’t much scientific evidence for hair growth, all of that extra stimulation can help to awaken sleeping hair follicles.

Recommended Resources for Herbal Hair Treatments

Mountain Rose Herbs: Purveyor of sustainable organic ingredients including: herbs, spices, blends, essential oils, DIY recipes, containers for your DIY products and much more.

Henna for Hair: the most comprehensive site on the subject of henna including a link to their sister site, Mehandi.com. Mehandi supplies a number of items for herbal hair care including henna, indigo, cassia, and zizyphus.

Bulk Apothecary: Supplier of natural and organic essential oils, raw ingredients, vitamins, fragrances and bases for creating all sorts of personal care products.

Essential Tools and Accessories for your NATURAL hair

You’ll find most of these hair tools and accessories at the Fine Natural Hair and Faith Amazon Shop

for Deep Conditioning

– Q-Redew: a quick and convennient andheld hair steamer – www.qredew.com

– Huetiful: a salon quality hair steam with facial steamer attachment – www.behuetiful.com

comparison of hair steamers

– Hot Head Deep Conditioning Cap – microwaveable and reversible conditioning cap made with renewable flaxseeds – www.thermalhaircare.com/hot-head

– ConAir Pro Styler (dome shaped) or Soft Bonnett Hair Dryer

for Grooming

– Tangle Teezer

– Denman brush

– Felicia Leatherwood Brush

A word of caution on detangling brushes: Any type of brush has the the ability to cause hair breakage. Fingers are your most gentle hair tools so start with them before using a detangling brush (or comb).

– a Seamless Comb (plastic or wooden)


– Mane Choice Hair Shears – “Surgical Precision – PRO Cut & Split-End Eliminator”

mane choice hair shears

for Styling

– PuffCuff Hair Clamps

– Snappee Hair Ties

– Satin hair scrunchies (available at your local beauty supply store)

– Satin scarves (also available at your local beauty supply store)

– Goody Ouchless Flex Barrettes (very hard to find but the image will take you to where to purchase on Amazon)


– Goody Ouchless Hair pins

– Spiral hair ties – These are plastic and remind you of a telephone cord but they do not tangle in the hair!

for DIY hair projects

– Food processor

– Dark amber bottles and jars

– Plastic spatulas

– Measuring cups & spoons

– Cheese cloths

Visit Fine Natural Hair and Faith’s Amazon Shop for additional product recommendations

Don’t give up on your natural hair. Some call it a journey and maybe you feel that way too if you’ve never really cared for your hair in its natural state. I pray this guide will help you in your transition to natural hair while cutting down much of the trial and error I experienced when first going natural many years ago.