5 Simple Tweaks that Lead to Stronger, Longer Hair

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By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom

I have often been asked for one tip or trick that has been beneficial but I am never able to narrow it down to just one. I actually do not know any natural who has benefited from just one tweak to their routine. Here are five tweaks which helped me along, there is a sixth one which I took out from this list as I have emphasized quite a lot already – washing hair in braids.

1. Detangle BEFORE washing

The worst mistake many people make especially after long term protective styling, is not detangling hair before washing. This simple step is really good at eliminating tangles that will get exacerbated with hair shrinkage during the wash. Do not think that you can later detangle with conditioner and this will be easier because it almost always never is. It will generally be less hassle to undo large tangles and meshing prior to getting hair soaking wet.  I do accept that detangling is not always possible though e.g.  if you are washing twists or braids that you have no intention of undoing. The benefits of detangling before washing include less tangling, less breakage and more retention.

2. The simplest pre-shampoo step

I have seen some really complicated hair routines on natural hair forums and blogs.  This often leads people to dismiss things that are seen as extra work such as a pre-poo. However, this is the simplest pre-poo step ever! Apply some oil to your hair the night before your wash……that is it! You can choose a penetrating oil like coconut oil for greatest effect but  any natural oil in general is fine (silicone and mineral oils are the least useful for this purpose). This simple step will help protect the moisture levels in your hair and guard against breakage.  The effect of this step is usually immediately noticeable.

3. Dry your hair BEFORE you apply conditioner

It is common to shampoo and rinse hair then gently squeeze out the water before applying conditioner. My advice is to take the time to actually dry your hair (using an old t-shirt or microfiber towel if you are in the know!) before you apply the conditioner. If you apply conditioner and it immediately starts dripping, it is the case that your hair is too wet and it is possible that your hair conditioner is diluted slightly by this step. To get the most from your conditioner, aim to have damp hair which is not dripping at all simply by soaking up the excess water with a towel. This simple step leads to greater softness, better moisture and strength for your hair.

4. Finger comb

I have seen people say that finger combing does not work for them but this is just not true. Regardless of your hair texture, finger combing should be the first thing you do when detangling.  Simply running your fingers through your hair gives you an initial idea of how tangled it is and where the tangles are. This is a step that no-one should miss out on. Adopting a pure finger detangling routine where no combs or brushes are used is really useful especially if your hair breaks easily when handled. The exclusive finger combing routine is not for the faint of heart as it takes time and skill to master. I  do think that combs and brushes are most useful for those whose hair can clump/form spiral ringlets as the tools aid in the clumping but even for this hair, a first finger combing step will help to find tangles and reduce breakage.

5. Go heat free

Simply put, heat degrades protein which means heat degrades hair. The less heat you use, the stronger your hair will be and therefore the easier it will be to retain the older hair. Adopting a no-heat regimen also translates to fewer split ends and less breakage. If your hair is the type that requires a lot of babying to progress, try using no heat for 6 months and see what difference that makes. Heatless stretching methods such as braiding/unbraiding,  bantu knots/knot outs, banding, African threading and curlformers can help if you want to reduce shrinkage and tangling.

Ladies, what tweaks have helped you retain length? And have any of the ones listed above worked for you?

The Natural Haven

The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!


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72 thoughts on “5 Simple Tweaks that Lead to Stronger, Longer Hair

  1. I stopped blow drying my hair when I realised I wasnt retaining length and I watched a finger detangling video on this website. Its now three months later, I did my first blow dry two days ago and my hair has grown an inch from no blowdry and no combs!!! (jumps up and down excitedly) its approaching bra length.

  2. ugh! The finger combing is the hardest to do especially when your hair is so thick! I have almost no time to sit a finger comb so I detangle with a wide tooth comb. Though it works for me because I don’t really do much with my hair but wash and wrap it and go because I am just too busy but I wouldn’t recommend that for everyone.

  3. I definitely detangle before washing now! Yes, it helps. Shower detangling worked best when I had a twa. I used to think the weight of the shower stream could help push shed hair free, but that only helps remove a small %age of the total shed hairs. I still pass the comb through once or twice when my rinse out conditioner is in my hair though.

    Coconut oil pre-shampooing has saved my hair. Yes-o! Even if I am DCing before washing, coconut oil goes on FIRST!

    With my low porosity hair, I *have* to do this. However, it does seem to give me frizzy hair for some reason. *shrugs*

    Finger detangle, them comb to finish up. I also sometimes use a comb to distribute conditioner and to do a final ‘smoothening’ before putting in twists (twists I wear out I mean, not twists I dry in).

    No heat is easy.

    And for bonus JC points (lol!) I wash my hair in large, loose-rooted twists/braids/sections.

  4. I don’t detangle before washing but I could give it a go. As most of the time washing my hair is a spur of the moment decision I don’t prepoo but I could try it if I know I am going to wash my hair the next day. I rarely use coconut oil as my hair doesn’t like it, great for cooking though.
    My hair is usually damp when I apply the KLIC so I think I have that one covered and I usually do finger detangle then use a very wide tooth comb at the very end as I love how it feels on my scalp. I did once use my wide tooth comb to detangle my hair and gave myself a hair cut, not happy about that.
    I’ve being heat free for years.
    I like JC’s advice and will try giving it a go, detangle before washing is the hardest advice but yeah, I’ll try it and see how it goes.

  5. I go for ease on my weekly wash days:
    1. Detangle with water, braid and apply conditioner for co-wash
    2. Sit under steamer
    3. Rinse and final rinse with cold apple cider vinegar mix.
    4. Finger detangle and apply kimitube formula leave-in, style
    This has given me awesome results. People need to find what works for them and not be in bondage to perform all the steps they hear others doing.

  6. I definitely finger comb and it works because I don’t have to use any combs, I usually finger comb after I have a shampoo. I stay away from heat, can’t remember the last time I used heat.The conditioner after hair is damp is something I can do because I don’t like my hair too wet. To get started on finger combing you can start with you comb then go through the hair again with your fingers, and you get all the tangles out.

  7. I always pre-poo with Nutress Hair instant conditioner. its the best thing I’ve found. Sometimes I skip the shampoo ;)

  8. Sorry I’m obviously new to this lol!
    Wait she you detangle before washing you do it while your hair is damp right? Isn’t bad to detangle when your hair is dry?

  9. I always prepoo. I guess now I realize I am doing two prepoos. I wash every week and sleep with the oil in my hair. Then in the morning I prepare a mud (amla, neen, fenugreek and/or tulsi). What I don’t do is finger detangle. I will try my best to do this. My tendonitis really seems to act up on wash days so I detangle with a wide tooth comb which is faster for me. It works. I do dry my hair with a tshirt(love it)before adding my conditioner. Transitioning I have a lot of relaxed ends and they take forever to dry but once I read about the tshirt it was a life saver. They draw out that moisture really quick. I do stay away from heat. I have not had heat in my hair in over 10 months now.

  10. LOL, I don’t do any of these things. I detangle my hair in the shower using She Moisture conditioner and a wide tooth comb or denman brush (or something similar), without bothering to pre-poo.
    Once it’s detangled and I’m out of the shower, I put Kinky Curly Knot Today (which I dilute- 4 parts water to 1 part KCKT) and EVOO in my hair while it is pretty much sopping wet.
    And I then proceed to tension blow dry my hair (albeit on warm and on low) so that I have what is essentially a stretched wash-n-go.

    And I’ve seen a HUGE improvement to the health of my hair (i.e. strength, length retention, vitality, etc.) since beginning this regiment,

    • as opposed to my previous one, which included no heat, finger detangling out of the shower.

      Which I suppose means that hair is an immensely varied thing with pretty much no absolutes.

      Peace Ya’ll,

    • How long is your hair and what did you do because I find it hard not to use heat also what is pre-poo and I really want to grow my hair down to my waist (it’s at my shoulders and layered at the moment) what can I do to get there apart from not using heat.

  11. I haven’t used heat on my hair for about a year now, and the difference shows! As my hair gets longer, it’s more difficult to keep the ends moist, but now I know to dry my hair BEFORE applying leave-in conditioner. I can’t leave it up to my cornrows to protect my ends anymore because of the length, so this little trick should be a huge help! Thanks!!

  12. Thanks for these great tips! I stopped using heat over a year ago and it has made an amazing difference in my hair’s strength. I used to have a terrible problem with breakage, but not anymore thanks to my new heat-free routine and attention to moisture!

  13. I’ve been flat ironing my hair for about 4 or 5 years now, and I didn’t use protection for a long time because I didn’t know better. Now, when my hair is not flat ironed, it’s short, frizzy, half straight/curly, and anything else you can imagine tha’s bad. But I really need to flat iron my hair, because there’s nothing I can do with it when it’s Not flat ironed. And I would get a weave, but since i’m half white, and have paler skin, it’d look weird on me, plus everyone already knows my type hair at schoool, and they’d wonder why I (with pale skin) have a weave. What should I do?

  14. Can you get long healthy hair by moisturizing your hair but still using some heat? (Blow-drying every once a week or two and straightening mabye twice a year) thanks x

  15. Maybe this has to do w/ hair type because I cannot detangle my hair unless its sopping wet and slathered in conditioner. When its like this I detangle my hair in less than 20 min. To do it otherwise it would take over and hour and the breakage would be tremendous. I try finger combing every time I do my hair its a no go, nothing works like a whole bunch of conditioner w/ water and wide toothed comb coupled with some patience and gentility.

  16. I have been growing my hair out for two years now after the big chop. I have gradually transitioned from wearing small breads as my hairstyle to large braids that I take down everyday if I want to wear my hair out. I used to use wide tooth combs at the beginning of my hair journey but I now only finger detangle. I find this to be the safest method to use. And of course I can’t say enough about conditioner & water & oil applied daily to hair. Deep condition with mayonnaise if you feel like you need a very simple routine. :)

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