Today out of desperation I went to North York to a store that specializes in handling natural hair - Honeyfig.The post I wrote a few days ago was an indication to me that I am upset with what I view as half-assed progress, and I want to see better results for the practices I have converted to.
My hair is important to me, it's part of my identity and my history. I'm aiming to reach the stage of my hair journey where I know what products work with my hair, and where I don't feel the need to watch YouTube and keep purchasing books to truly know what I'm doing. Ultimately, I'll know that I've reached a new level of comfort when I don't have any desire to wear extensions (for beauty and professional purposes).
Going to Honeyfig reinforced a lot of the information that I learned from YouTube natural hair gurus, and books that I purchased to educate myself. Encouragingly enough, I've been doing several things right such as wearing protective styles to protect my ends (ie. twists all the time), avoid heat (ie. flat ironing, blow-drying), etc. The missing ingredients in my routine seemed to be using a leave-in-conditioner everyday, and using a more effective deep conditioner and sealent.
My hair is in great condition! It's actually about 13cm long (see exact measurements below). That's about 3.25cm of growth and retention each year (although I did several trims, and I truly and seriously started educating myself more 1 year ago)
Left side: front - 14cm; middle - 14.5cm; back - 12cm
Middle: front - 13cm; middle - 13.5cm; back - 13.5cm
Right side: front -12.5cm; middle -13.8cm; back - 13cm
But there were some things I wouldn't have known unless I met with Michelle today. I learned 3 main things:
1. Apparently, my hair doesn't respond well to coconut oil! Coconut oil is efficient at penetrating the hair shaft to deliver oils to the cortex of the hair, but my hair wasn't responding well to it because it was acting more like a protein than a sealant. I made a coconut oil/shea butter mix months ago that I'd use as a sealant everyday, yet my hair always felt rough when it dried. However, my hair responded very well to the shea butter alone - it softened my hair and the curls relaxed into springy coils, as opposed to dry, hard, uptight curls when forced to combat the coconut oil.
2. Leave-in-conditioners are crucial for moisturizing the hair, in addition to water. I had gotten confused because I would use water as the main moisturizing agent, then use the coconut oil/shea butter mixture to seal in the water. I chose to skip the leave-in-conditioners because at the beauty supply stores nearby, the majority of the ingredients in their products were just fillers which would do more damage than good to hair. I didn't realize how crucial the leave-in-conditioner was; my hair has NEVER felt this soft for the 4 years that I have been natural! This could also be due in conjuction with #3...
3. The texture of my hair is 4b/4c, meaning that it is as tightly coiled (kinky) as hair can get, so it's more difficult for the scalp to distribute its oil to my hair. This leads to intensely dry hair, which is most prone to breakage. For this reason, I invested in a hair steamer in December (an ebay knock-off of the huetiful hair steamer - I can't afford to spend $25 for international shipping!). The steamer is used for deep conditioning treatments where I coat my hair in a mixture of intensely moisturizing ingredients, and sit under the steamer for 20 minutes while the heat opens up my hair follicles beneath my scalp, so they can receive and be stimulated by the ingredients. The mixture also moisturizes the hair strands as well.
My issue was that although I was doing deep conditioning treatments prior (by using a plastic cap and warm towel to generate heat), the ingredients weren't the best. I was using mayonnaise, which was very protein based. I also learned today that I have fine hair, meaning that heavy ingredients, and too much protein, can also lead to breakage. But once again, the reason I chose to not buy store brand deep conditioners was because the main ingredients were useless. They were gunk that would not be absorbed by my hair!
So, today I also purchased a deep conditioner, and when I was finished my routine, I closed the hair shaft by rinsing with cold water (something I overlooked before because I thought it wouldn't make such a big deal). My hair has NEVER felt this soft, I finally feel that I am beginning to understand what my hair needs, and how it's supposed to feel. As the year progresses, I'm very excited to see if the rate of growth and length retained amounts to higher than in previous years....do the right things, learn from your mistakes and be patient and faithful!