Top 5 Mistakes Transitioners and New Naturals Make

Article also featured on Black Girl with Long Hair!

Thanks to the huge impact of social media, many transitioners and naturals are now on information overload - getting tips about regimens, products, practices, tools, styling, and more. Sites like Facebook and Instagram are a huge asset to the natural hair community, and have connected us across cities, states, countries, and seas. While I am ever grateful for the wealth of information that is only a few keystrokes away, I also understand that information overload does exist. As does misinformation. Without further delay, here are the top 5 mistakes transitioners and new naturals make, largely due to misinformation and information overload:

#5: Trying to Follow Someone Else's Regimen
I get it, I understand. There are some bloggers out there who have been doin' the darn thing in terms of caring for their hair, and it shows. Some of the most common questions I'm asked (and other bloggers too, I'm sure) revolve around my regimen - how often I do this or that, what way do I detangle, wash, how often do I moisturize, etc. While I am more than happy to share that I wash my hair at least twice a week, detangle with my fingers and Q-Redew and deep condition weekly, that does not mean my methods will work for you. Or anyone else's for that matter. As much as we are a community, some things are truly individual. Every time I try to go a full 7 days without washing my hair, it is a disaster. For someone else, washing hair that frequently would be catastrophic. I say all this to say, regimens are incredibly individual. Sure, your favorite natural's regimen works for her hair, but to blindly treat it as the standard without taking your hair's own needs into account may do you more harm than good in the long run.

#4: Confusing Shedding and Breakage
This one happens a lot on two extremes. On one side, you have the transitioner or new natural that sees the gobs of hair coming out during detangling and says, "that's just shed hair". On othe other side, you have one with those same gobs of hair, rocking back and forth and sobbing that all of her hair is breaking/falling out. There are some key differences between shedding and breakage, and this  BGLH article covers is quite well. In the process of handling your hair, whether it be detangling, styling, cleansing, etc., don't just assume it is one or the other. Our hair is not "absolute" in the sense that only one thing is happening. Take the time to check. I'm not saying that you have to examine every single solitary hair that comes out of your head when you detangle or cleanse, but do make a habit of being aware. Every time I detangle my hair, I do a quick glance over the hair I just untangled in each section before tossing it. It only takes a few seconds to look it over and make sure what I'm doing still works for my hair, and isn't causing any excess damage. Every few weeks or so, I go a little more in-depth and examine a number of hairs to see what's breakage and what's shed hair. If everything seems legit, I keep doing what I'm doing. If I notice too much breakage, I make adjustments accordingly. You don't have to stick to my schedule, but at least make it a point to be aware and differentiate between the two!

#3: Buying Super-Expensive Products//Not Understanding Ingredients
Initially when I planned out this article, these were two separate points. But the more I thought about it, the more they fell in the same vein. Often times, new naturals and transitioners will spend TONS of money on products designed to do this and that, without taking the time to look at the ingredient list. While the selection of what product to use is very individual, there are some hard and fast rules I live by. The first rule is I always, always, ALWAYS read the ingredient list. Top to bottom, recognizable ingredients, and incomprehensible ones. But mainly, I'm looking to make sure my ingredient no-no's are not on the list. Then, I look at the top 5-6 ingredients (after water, where applicable) to get a feel for what the product is truly made of. Then, I look at the price. Do the ingredients justify the price point? Why or why not? Can a product with a similar (or identical) top ingredient list be purchased for a fraction of the cost? Some naturalistas may even encourage you to ponder if you could make the product yourself. The bottom line here is, if you're interested in not breaking the bank to transition or have healthy natural hair, do your homework first. I personally could not fathom spending $40 on a tiny jar of miracle hair serum "full" of exotic oils, when in truth it is a bunch of silicone and a few drops of said oils. For the perfect example of what I'm talking about, click here.

#2: Protective Styling Overload/Obsession
Whether you're looking to transition successfully or you've recently chopped and aren't feeling 100% fab about your short do', protective styling will more likely than not be shoved down your throat. Protective styling will make your hair grow longer, by helping you retain length. Protective styling will help prevent breakage. Protective styling will help you burst through length plateaus. Protective styling will increase your credit score. I'm kidding about the last one, but protective styling is regarded in the natural hair community as something that you almost have to do, as if it is some sort of rite of passage. Don't get me wrong, protective styling does help with length retention among other things. But as a beginning transitioner, I loathed it. I was used to having my hair out, down, swinging, and flowing in the breeze. You mean to tell me I've got to rock a bun (my forehead is way too big for that), or some pre-pubescent chunky twists? While my attitude toward protective styling has since changed, I often see transitioners and new naturals falling into the same trap of succumbing to the pressure to protectively style for months and months at a time. Much like #5 on this list, it is up to you. Define protective styling for yourself - how frequently you want to do it, how often, and what styles.

#1 Not Seeking Medical Help for Major Issues
I saved this one for #1 because it is pretty much the most important one. The natural hair community embraces the DIY/all-natural experience to the fullest. We google, read, and seek out natural ingredients and alternatives to meet our hair's needs. When we run into issues like breakage, bald spots, excessive shedding and hair fall, we embrace all sorts of treatments from essential oils and scalp massages, to onion juice and Monistat. The truth is, sometimes these issues are signs, symptoms, and visual manifestations of a larger problem. While your run of the mill breakage may be fixed by moisturizing properly, and delicately caring for hair, sometimes extreme breakage is a sign of a larger issue that is triggering your hair to break. Same thing with other symptoms. I'm not advocating that new naturals and transitioners become hypochondriacs and see a medical professional at the first sign of a snapped strand, but I do believe some things require more than a do-it-yourself fix. In the long run, your health is worth more than a $10 bottle of essential oil.

What are some other common mistakes transitioners and new naturals make?