Why low manipulation beats moisture hands down every time.
You’ve tweaked your regimen to within an inch of it’s life. You moisturize daily without fail and sleep with a satin bonnet* on top of a silk pillowcase (can’t be too careful!). You avoid heat like the plagaue and yet 6 months go by and you have nothing to show for it. Your hair looks about the same length maybe gained a quarter of an inch? Before you scream to the heavens, cue dramatic music, ‘WHYYYYYY?”, its time to look at how you prioritize your regimen.
We all know ‘black hair is dry which is why it breaks easily’ right? True but it’s more accurate to say that ‘black hair is dry which is why it breaks easily when manipulated!’ You could have the highest moisture content in your strands of all other woman in your state but if you are manipulating your hair excessively, then you’ve got a breakage problem. A good regimen is one that strives to reduce manipulation rather than just to increase moisture.
I’ve mentioned in a previous article about keeping things simple in your regimen, I gave an example of a lady who was hardly retaining length even though her regimen made sure she was getting a great moisture protein balance. She was however doing mini twists every few months, braids or twist outs where she would redo them 1-2 times in the week and numerous other hairstyles. She had the deadly ‘hands-in-your-hair syndrome’.
Whether you are natural or relaxed we all suffer a bit from the aforementioned syndrome, it’s universal and probably understandable if you have just discovered how freeing and satisfying a self-made hair regimen can be. The dark side of that is excess manipulation. I see this so often: After a wash and deep condition, you flat iron* or roller-set your hair straight. You then use a comb and a brush to wrap it up for the night and comb it down the next morning. You moisturize then repeat the process daily for the rest of the week.
Sounds ok in principle right? How many times do I hear from women who claim that they don’t even get that much breakage but somehow their hair isn’t growing. Well I dare you to stand over a sink while you do your daily grooming. Go on really, I dare you!
1. Continue with your current regimen but every time you have your hands in your hair to comb, brush, moisturize, roller-set, whatever, just stand over the sink so that you can catch and see what lands there.
2. Now count the number of hairs that have broken off. No point in lying to yourself, this is between you and the sink. Maybe there’s 5 broken and a couple of shed hairs. No big deal right?
3. Ignore the shed hairs but multiply the broken ones by how often you comb/brush or just plain old manipulate your hair every week, maybe 3 times a day 6 days a week. Possibly a few extra broken pieces on wash and styling day?
4. Stop asking yourself why your attempts at length retention are failing. You are looking at the problem, those numerous broken pieces of hair decorating the white ceramic!
Moisture helps in increasing hair’s elasticity so that if we do manipulate, it’s less likely to break but moisture is only a small cog in a very large wheel that will determine how long your hair will eventually become. Does that mean that you are sentenced to a life of buns, weaves, braids or dreadlocks? Nope. A simple change in your styling is all you need.
Pick styles that don’t require a comb to keep looking good day after day. A good flexi rod*, curlformers or roller set should only require ‘pineappleing’ your hair at night and finger fluffing in the morning to style. Same goes for a braid or twist out. To maintain straight hair, a loose ponytail at the base of your neck covered with a satin bonnet* is all you need. If you tie the ponytail loose enough, the band won’t even leave a dent! Again finger style only in the morning.
Many of us can identify with having such weak hair that we imagine that a strong gust of wind is enough to cause breakage! I love a good analogy so here’s one for you: You see an frail old man trying to cross the street carrying his shopping bag. Do you hand him 4 more shopping bags and tell him to sprint 100 meters? Not unless you are evil cartoon baddie!
Why give you hair a handicap by adding daily manipulation into the mix? If your hair is weak and breaking in spite of protein treatments and moisture deep conditioning* sessions then your hair is that frail old man and you need to help it along by drastically reducing manipulation.
To prove my point, the picture above is of my husband. Although his hair is cut into the typical male fade now, this picture was taken years ago when I convinced him to grow his hair for a year. Here his his hair is texturized (he couldn’t deal with the detangling involved with natural hair). He has never deep conditioned it, ever.
He used to wash it weekly with a generic shampoo and conditioner and always forgot to moisturize. Yet because his hair was always in cornrow braids or tucked under a hat, he managed to match each of my own length milestones since we began our hair journeys within months of each other. He is much taller than I am so although his hair doesn’t fall as low down his back as mine does, however he had the same length in inches that I had! Take from that what you will.