a beginner’s natural hair guide
The decision to go natural isn’t one to take lightly. We were born with a certain hair type that we are now choosing to embrace.
To start, when you’re used to caring for your hair a particular way, thought and planning are required to change.
Purpose of this Beginner’s Natural Hair Guide
This Beginner’s Natural Hair Guide was created with two people in mind:
- those transitioning to natural hair
- new naturalistas looking for black hair care information
The goal of this beginner’s natural hair guide is to empower you. Above all, it’s to help you and YOUR hair thrive and heal.
You may read some of what you’ve seen from other sources. On the other hand, you will read some things you’ve never read before.
Certainly, they will be from a different perspective. So, keep reading.
Dealing with Your Mindset
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 embrace their natural hair as it grows out of their head, receive resistance – resistance from family members and friends. Further, there’s resistance from co-workers and total strangers.
Different, Not Better
Now, let’s get rid of the monkey in the room.
Firstly, just because one person’s curls are more defined or “relaxed” than another’s doesn’t mean it’s better.
Secondly, when you decide to embrace your natural hair, you have to start with your mindset. Most importantly, you have to train it to say “I am enough.” What God created is good.
Also, it may be different than what you see on the heads of others with natural hair. Nevertheless, it’s certainly not less than.
Thirdly, don’t give up on your natural hair. It may not define you but it’s a part of you. Conversely, you wouldn’t cut off your legs if they didn’t look as sexy as you wanted them to, would you?
Of course, you wouldn’t. You’d do what’s necessary to get your legs in the condition you want them to be in.
The same goes for your natural hair. Once discovering what products and techniques work best, nobody can tell you what’s good and what’s not.
It’s time to defeat the mindset that looser more defined curls are better. Plus, those types of curls come with their own set of problems. Which brings me to the next point.
Potential Natural Hair Problems
Shortly after starting your natural hair “journey,” there are problems that can arise.
Yet, they aren’t problems that are beyond overcoming. Most definitely, every person with natural hair will encounter at least one of these natural hair problems.
Single Strand Knots
No beginner’s natural hair guide would be complete without discussing single strand knots.
They are one of the biggest natural hair problems you can face. The twists and turns in a single strand of hair causes neighboring hairs to wrap around each other. It’s a completely natural occurrence although, it’s a bit of a nuisance.
Sometimes only one hair is affected by the knotting. At other times, 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. However, that knot is highly susceptible to wrapping around other hairs. This causes 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 often
- Tension blow drying with warm, not hot air
- Banding your hair in a ponytail(s)
- African Threading
- Roller Sets
5) Getting regular trims (as needed) to keep your ends neat and reduce the number of single strand knots.
These actions help with preventing knots. When single strand knots become unruly, if you can’t safely unknot it, trim it out.
6) Try the Search and Destroy Method. This helps you to focus on just the affected hair(s).
This occurs when your hair falls out of balance with moisture. Consequently, hair will feel brittle and prone to breakage. There’s a lock of elasticity caused by over use of protein.
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) Then, use a moisturizing leave in conditioner without protein
3) Add moisture to your hair daily until its elasticity is improved. Basically, avoid hair products containing proteins in them for a while.
Below are common proteins found in hair care products.
Note: you’ll often see the words “Hydrolyzed” in front of some of these proteins:
- Amino acids
- Oat flour
- Rice protein
- Silk protein
- Soy protein
- Wheat protein
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. Thus, it overstretches before breaking.
Moisture overload occurs when the hair is exposed to too much moisture. This happens when moisturizing is done but not necessary; co-washing with conditioner all of the time, doing treatments that are all moisture and no protein:
- the Baggy method – applying a conditioner to your hair; then, cover it with a baggie and allow it to sit from hours to over night
- the Greenhouse effect – applying a natural oil through the hair; then, cover with a plastic cap/scarf and sleeping with it
Action to Overcome: Moisture overload is usually easier to fix than protein overload.
Do a protein treatment, applying a heat source. For example, use 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 shaft.
Then, you may need to follow with another light protein treatment in a few weeks before your hair is rebalanced.
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. When the amount of shed hair increases is when there’s cause for concern.
Shedding is not the same thing as breakage. 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.
Actions to Overcome:
1) Try a tea rinse made with black or green tea
2) Use products specifically designed to address 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
5) Apply a treatment of olive oil, rosemary essential oil & lavender essential oil
6) See a dermatologist specializing in hair loss
Extreme Breakage or Split Ends
The ends of your hair can split as they become old and weathered. Also, you increase your risk of split ends by using chemicals and hair tools like brushes, combs 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.” This can cause uneven hair over time. However, it’s not much of an issue if you wear your hair in its naturally curly state most of the time. Alternatively, you can opt to keep your ends neat with regular trims.
Split ends can also, be lessened by doing oil rinses on wash day. Keeping your hair moisturized prevents it from drying out to the point that a split will occur.
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 will remove build up. For instance, you can create a clay wash with Bentonite, Kaolin or Rhassoul clays. Also, you can opt to use 1, 2 or all 3 clays.
2) Then, complete your final wash with an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse.
Itchiness in the scalp can be caused by many things:
- dandruff (not the same as dryness)
- excess oil production
- dirt & sweat
- allergic reaction
There are many causes for itchy scalp. Fortunately, there’s just as many remedies. Some of them are 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 treat conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, eczema and fungi
4) Try an anti-fungal shampoo containing zinc pyrithione
Beginner’s natural hair guide – STEP BY STEP Action Plan to Transition to Natural Hair
The order in which you decide to follow the steps below is entirely up to you. Nevertheless, it’s highly recommended you follow the steps in the beginner’s natural hair guide as laid out.
1- Get a consultation from an established natural hair stylist. This may be the most important step. Any natural hair specialist worth his or her weight will be able to tell you your hair’s porosity and curl type.
They can even offer product recommendations.
2- Get a professional trim or shaping of your hair. That could mean doing a big chop to eliminate all processed hair. In this case, you’ll no longer be transitioning. In other words, you’d be fully natural.
Many ladies opt to big chop instead of transitioning so they won’t have to deal with two textures of hair.
If you decide to forego the big chop, you’ll be up for a challenge. You’ll need to keep new growth blended with the chemically processed hair so, it doesn’t break.
For example: roller sets, blow outs and braid outs are great styles for transitioning to natural hair.
Be careful to avoid heat styling. Hair is much more fragile when transitioning.
Also, get regular trims to slowly cut out chemically processed hair.
3- Subscribe to 2 or 3 established Natural Hair blogs that provide 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.
While this beginner’s natural hair guide is quite thorough, it’s good practice to learn from your peers.
Subscribe to this Youtube channel of fine or thinning hair is what you’re working with.
4 Black hair blogs (other than this one) to consider
There are definitely more popular blogs around. You’re welcomed to search for them – they are easy to find. However, these four are targeted 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 these products will perform the same or as effective in your natural hair. It’s time to build a product arsenal based on your hair’s needs today.
In short, you’ll need at least two:
- deep conditioners
- treatments (ex: protein or elasticity treatments)
- leave in conditioners
Beginner’s natural hair guide: Herbal Hair Care
If you’re discontent with store bought products, try your hand at Herbal hair care. Moreover, it’s a great way to avoid chemicals and toxins. This section of this beginner’s natural hair guide can assist.
You will need to research what herbal powders will work best for your hair. However, below is a list of widely used herbs to get you started:
– Henna: Created from a small flowering shrub; can be used to dye skin and hair naturally. It also 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. Similarly, it strengthens and makes hair shiny but without depositing color to the hair.
– Shikakai: Strengthens the roots of the hair and helps to promote growth
– Bhringraj: Stimulates hair growth
– Rose: Stimulates the scalp leading to hair growth; also adds shine and volume
– 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
– Brahmi: Strengthens hair follicles to prevent hair loss
– Fenugreek: Stimulates hair growth (also called Methi)
– Green tea: Aids in prevention of dry scalp; cuts down on production of DHT, which causes hair fall
– Bentonite clay: Made from volcanic ash, this clay helps to cleanse hair/scalp of product build up and impurities
– Rhassoul/Ghassoul clay: helps remove toxins and product build up from the hair while improving elasticity; imparts softness and moisture
Does this seem like a lot? Maybe but these herbal powders can be combined to create powerfully strengthening and moisturizing treatments.
Also, you can 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 herb was used solely to cleanse the hair before shampoo existed.
* See Recommended Beginner’s Guide to Natural Hair Resources &
Suggested DIY hair tools below
5- Start A Hair Journal. A journal helps you keep track of the products and techniques you try. You’ll be able to look back and eliminate what’s not working. You can also use a simple notebook. Above all, be consistent.
If you like a fancy journal, thinking it will keep you focused and committed, check this one out: Kinky Coily Natural Hair Journal.
6-Prepare seasonal hair care plans. As you discover the techniques and products that work well with your hair, you’ll figure out may also change with the seasons.
Be prepared to make changes. Keeping a natural hair journal will help with that.
6- Focus on doing just one thing. With all the natural hair noise around, it can get a bit confusing and inundating.
Focus on one aspect of your hair care. Then, figure out how to perfect it. This will cut down on overwhelm.
7- Minimize manipulation from hair styling. 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 the styles you see. Especially, if your hair isn’t the same length or curl type as the person’s video you’re watching. Even if it is, limit trying new hair styles to every once in a while.
If you find a few hairstyles that make your hair look good, make them staple hairstyles. Above all, make sure they don’t cause too much stress on your strands.
Other Factors to Consider
Regardless of how you choose to go about your hair care, there are other factors to consider. Nutrition, supplementation, intake of water and exercise all affect your hair’s health. These are principles you should be following for the health of your body but are also excellent for hair health.
For a healthy head of hair (natural or otherwise), consuming natural foods is the best way to go. Avoid genetically modified foods. It’s not God’s best and it’s not good for you.
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.
Above all, the quality of nutritional intake for hair health is just as important as what you put on your hair/scalp from the outside.
In this paragraph, we will discuss the need for supplementation.
We should get our vitamins and minerals for healthy hair (and body) from food. However, most people don’t get sufficient intake.
That’s partly due to our diets – especially the Standard American Diet. No wonder the acronym is “SAD.” Likewise, it’s due to the quality of food available.
Supplementing with vitamins and minerals can help fill in nutritional gaps. Therefore, look for supplements containing 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 supplements here.
There’s some dispute over how much water one should drink. Some say you can get some of your water intake from fruits and vegetables. However, most sources say you should drink at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces of free water daily.
The American Museum of Natural History reports that the human body is approximately 60 percent water by weight.
Your hair grows from within. Therefore, staying hydrated is important.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days per week. This is also sufficient for stimulating hair growth. Exercise increases blood flow to the scalp.
Recommended Resources for Herbal Hair Treatments
– Mountain Rose Herbs: Purveyor of containers for DIY projects; sustainable organic ingredients including: herbs, spices, blends, essential oils, DIY recipes
– 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 convenient hand held hair steamer – www.qredew.com
– Huetiful: a salon quality hair steam with facial steamer attachment – www.behuetiful.com
– 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 Bonnet Hair Dryer
– Tangle Teezer
– Denman brush
– Felicia Leatherwood Detangling Brush
A word of caution on detangling brushes: Any type of brush can cause hair breakage. Therefore, fingers are your most gentle hair tools. So, start with your digits.
– a Seamless Comb (plastic or wooden)
– PuffCuff Hair Clamps
– Goody Ouchless Flex Barrettes (hard to find but like the other images, will take you to where to purchase on Amazon)
for DIY hair projects
– Food processor
– Dark amber bottles/jars
– Plastic spatulas
– Measuring cups & spoons
– Cheese cloths
In conclusion, I pray this beginner’s natural hair guide will help you transition to natural hair.
Consequently, it’s to help you cut down much of the trial and error I experienced returning to natural many years ago.