*This article was originally published on August 18, 2011. It was re-posted as part of our ‘Best of 2011’ Series

One of the most challenging aspects of switching to natural hair is getting to know it. To know how it communicates that it’s happy or sad with how you’re treating it. Here are six key indicators of hair health that naturals unknowingly ignore or misinterpret.

Dry Hair

It’s easy to know when hair is BONE dry and on the brink of snapping… but trouble starts way before that. Stretching hair too far can dry it out, so can sleeping with it uncovered and neglecting to moisturize protective styles. This dryness can lead to the gradual breakage. Make sure that your hair always feels supple with a bit of spring when you pull at the strand. And always seal in water-based products with a butter or oil.

Tangled Hair

It doesn’t have to look like a bird’s nest for your hair to be tangled. As twist outs and braid outs soak up humidity, they shrink and the strands become gnarled. Just be aware of this, and pay attention to whether breakage ensues when you re-style your hair. Stretched styles are a great way to combat tangling.

Thrashed Ends

The ends are the most vulnerable part of the hair, and boy do they take a beating. From combing and brushing — even twisting — ends suffer a lot of mechanical damage. A tell tale sign of thrashed ends are twists or braids that are difficult to seal. If you can’t twist your hair all the way down to the end of the shaft because the ends are too rough and uneven, then you might be due for a trim.

Growth

You might be surprised at this one… but many naturals are simply unaware when their hair grows. Women who struggle to retain length often blame lack of progress on slow growth, when the culprit is actually breakage. To get an idea of how quickly your hair grows, try dyeing a few strands in the front, middle and back with henna. Monitor them every month to see how far down the henna goes. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how much growth you have on a weekly basis.

Chronic Breakage

If it’s been a few years and your hair hasn’t budged, don’t be so quick to blame it on genetics or slow growth… you might be dealing with chronic breakage. YouTube guru KimmayTube has a famous video showing how her hair stayed the same length during her first 10 years of being natural. Protective styling isn’t necessary for everybody, but if your hair is fine and fragile, it might be the best way to guard against breakage.

Mechanical Damage

Blame it on years of our mothers, aunties and hairdressers yanking combs through our hair, but many of us don’t have a proper gauge of what is gentle and what is not. You should never be so rough with your hair that your edges are depleted, your comb is full of hair or your head hurts. Incorporate finger styling and smoothing into your regimen and pay attention to how much broken hair you end up with after a styling session. If it’s too much, then be even easier with your handling.

What vital signs would you add? Which would you take away? And does this list help you re-evaluate your own regimen?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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42 Comments on "6 Vital Signs That Naturals Often Ignore"

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Thanh Shramek

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Isolina

Those are such great signs! I hate trimming my ends because I want to keep my length. I use Nutress Hair products, especially their protein pack, to make sure that I keep my hair as healthy as possible. Since using the products, I’ve seen that I am definitely cutting back on my trim frequency.

Lucas

Aw, this was a really good post. Taking a few meuitns and actual effort to make a really good article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and don’t seem to get nearly anything done.

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I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

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We do have split ends too, you know!

Kinky Curly Marie

Of course, …it’s hair. Lol!

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raq

To see if and how much my hair is growning, i cut a big piece of my hair in the middle. I cut off and left just 1 ince of hair. Now afther 8 months my hair has grown 7 inch!!! I’m so glad to see these results

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hyspin
Actually tried the Growth sectiom tip, and had my boyfriend measure it so that I couldn’t not be bias. Well it is official my rate of growth is around 0.25 (possibly upto 0.375) inches per month (30 days). So I am unfortunately at the slower rate of growth. And after going to a hair dresser specializing in curly, coily, kinky hair, I am a fine hair texture (funny, I thought I was medium). He mentioned to me that my hair was easy to detangle, so the my hair care practices have paid off health wise, length nada. I went for… Read more »
chaotic bliss

is it immature/ off topic to say that i would go to Teon’s website just to see if there are more photos like the one he posted?
Perhaps it is…

Zoey

Love these posts!! Keep ’em coming

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VEE from France

I read this and it scares me so much!!!
All i have for myself when it comes to beauty is my long (but very damaged that i am about to big chop) hair!!!
But it’s great to have all of you making these mistakes giving advices that i am learning from LOL 😉

Teon

Blessings,

My name is Teon

I happen to be a Black Man with Long Hair. My natural journey began 14 years ago. I noticed the majority of websites and advertisements are geared toward females. I just launched a website and blog called: http://www.secrets4naturalhair.com My goal is to enlighten encourage, and advise every gender and ethniciy of the beauty of being natural…I really like your posts. They are very informative and entertaining.
I am a diligent student of life..so any encouragement or advice would be beyond appreciated.

Thank You
[imgcomment image[/img]

Deborah

Not to be nitpicky or anything, but why all the click-throughs now? Is there a print version for these that just lists them all on one page or is it an advertising thing?

JT

I second this…I see this a lot on Bossip’s site, and its just a frustrating format..perhaps if it can be avoided, that would be great..

DeeDee

2nd it. Also I knew this info from reading hair sites and books like Chicoro/black hair science. there are maybe too many of these list posts which can appear quite bland when posted in quick succession.

Moni

Another complaint about the click-throughs! I love this site, but hate click-throughs so much that I’ll probably eventually stop reading those posts. I pretty much don’t read websites that only have click-throughs (e.g. Madame Noire).

hehe

I think the reason is due to wanting to increase the number of clicks the website gets. I think it will increase the number of interested advertisers thus increasing revenue. But I could be wrong.

Nathalie

Exactly what I thought. I really dislike the click-throughs!

Naseema

I detest the click through format! I usually read the first page then move on to Curlynikki.com LOL Its just too cumbersome to have to wait for pages to reload multiple times just to get through one article!

Cathey

Thanks so much fr the information!

Alicia
*QUESTION* I trimmed my hair a few days ago, I took off about an 1.5 inches all over and I thought all was well. I used my tangled teezer to detangle and prepare my hair for a curlformer set. When I took the curlformers out and straightened my hair my ends were dry and ragged but not split, weak, or broken. In fact they were healthy and full but they just appeared and felt really bad. Should I trim some more? *note* the ends of my hair were like this before I introduced the tangle teezer into my regimen and… Read more »
Ladybug

My ends do this too, and I don’t manipulate my hair that much. It may have something to do with your texture? My strands are very thin and prone to tangling and single strand knots. Try sealing them with a bit of oil every other night or so. I like to use castor oil, but I’m very careful to use a light hand. I can’t stand oily hair :[.

Alicia

my texture is thick coarse 4b with an almost even mix of 4a, about 60/40. I usually wear my hair in a puff or a low bun and I sleep with a satin cap. My hair stays in one of the aforementioned styles until it’s time for another wash and condition. HTH.

Es

Maybe it’s a pH/cuticle issue? Kimmaytube explains the rough, bushy ends issue in her pH video series. Her leave-in recipe may help.

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JJ

Such a great reminder. I have struggled with dryness, chronic breakage and mechanical damage. I am hoping protective styling, daily moisturising and less brush/comb encounters and gentleness will help.

GhanaBelle

I agree on the breakage. I’ve been natural since 07 and although I have a lot of hair, I feel like I should have more. But I’m almost positive that there’s some breakage to blame, because last year I pressed it regularly for 4 months. Never again!

Kaybeautyful

I too have been natural since 07 and also have a lot of hair. By now I feel I should have much more too. I really don’t know what to blame.

Yirssi

This post was great. A lot of really good information.

Emme

I am a pretty proactive person so I prefer prevention than cure. Thanks for giving me more stuff to worry about 😀

JT

I would add thinning of one’s edges.
…mainly because I am a victim of this!
I (still) pull my hair back too often..whether it be styling a twistout with limited time or pulling back my hair so my wash and go doesn’t look crazy…I pull my hair back too often and too tightly, so I’ve noticed thinning at the edges.
Its something I have to correct soon! And a habit that I wouldn’t have started had I known the effects!

Neesha_Cherie

+1!!

Especially at “pulling back my hair so my wash and go doesn’t look crazy…” I thought it was only me!!

TheRetroNatural

I was guilty of this too..brushing too much near the temple area..or even if I wasn’t brushing that much, this area is sensitive, I’m being better with them now though 🙂

Dominique-Alexis

I think this is my favorite post this month 🙂

–Natural-hair-care-info.com

natural dancer

Mine too….I love it!

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