It's kinda crazy what inspired me to pitch and then pen this article. I was watching Usher's visual for "Bad Habits" while trying to figure out why a particular small area of my hair was thinner than it needed to be. I came to the conclusion that it was because I was manipulating it too much by always taking that particular cornrow down and braiding it up again. And that got me to thinking about so many of the bad natural hair habits that a lot of us have; ones that prevent us from getting the long-term hair results that we want.
If you're sick of your own tresses not flourishing as much as you would like, take a moment to see if any of these habits are ones that you definitely need to break.
1. Keeping Your Protective Style in Longer Than You Should
I don't know one naturalista who hasn't heard that one of the best ways to achieve length retention is by putting their hair up in a protective style. As I said a second ago, my hair is currently in cornrows (a personal favorite style of choice). I dig them because, not only do they keep me from having my hands in my tresses all of the time, but protective styles are also a great way to protect my ends as well (damaged ends are the main reason why most of us don't get the inches that we want). Still, too much of a good thing can easily work against you.
In this case, if you've got your hair in some braids or twists (via your natural hair), they really need to remain in there for no longer than a couple of weeks. Braids and twists with extensions, you're pushing it if you keep them in for longer than two months. The reason why is because your hair and scalp need to be thoroughly washed and to take a break from the stress that protective styles can cause if you've got them in for too long. One day, I'm gonna share how protective styles can actually be the reason why your hair isn't growing. For now, though, just don't keep them in for a billion years. It's the kind of bad habit that doesn't get discussed, nearly enough.
2. Using Too Many Damn Products in Your Hair
The beauty industry is a billion-dollar one and we as Black women play a HUGE role in why that is the case. That said, I know there are tons of products out here that make all sorts of promises. But you've gotta remember that companies are looking to make revenue. This means that if they've gotta lie to you and say they have a serum that will fix your split ends (nothing fixes split ends; you have to trim them), that is exactly what they will do.
Anyway, while I'm all about finding products that work best for your hair if you use a lot of them at the same time or you keep switching up, all that's gonna do is either weigh your hair down and clog up your hair follicles (not good) or end up damaging your hair because not all products are created equal and your hair shouldn't be treated as some guinea pig or science project. It typically takes about two months to figure out if something is really your jam on the product testing tip. Try a couple of things out at a time and stick to what works for you, even if it's only a few products. Less is more is always best when it comes to hair care.
3. Not Knowing Your Hair Type and Texture
Let me tell it, I think women struggle with knowing what their hair type is about as much as they struggle with figuring out their correct bra size. When it comes to hair type, the numbers run from 1-4. 1 is straight. 2 is wavy. 3 is curly and 4 is coily. Then there are letters that go with each number, ranging from A-C. A is fine. B is medium. C is coarse. As far as your "numbers" go, YouTubers like Angela C. Styles, IAMTRAEH, and LavishlyBritt all have videos that break hair types down pretty well. As far as your hair's texture, a cool figuring-it-out hack is to take a piece of thread and lay it on a flat surface. Then place a strand of your own hair beside it. If your hair appears thinner than the thread, your hair is fine. If it's the same size, your hair is medium. If it's bigger, it's coarser.
Having this information is essential because it can help you to better understand how to properly care for your hair, what products work best, and ultimately how to keep it thriving. For some tips on all of these things, go to YouTube and put your hair type and texture, along with "natural hair" in the search field and you will see literal days' worth of videos pop up so that you can get to know your hair, even better.
4. Using the “Wrong” Styling Tools for Your Natural Hair
A lot of stylists will tell you that using your hands to detangle and style your hair as much as possible is oftentimes a good look because you can be gentler with your locks than you can with styling tools. But when it comes to the things that you absolutely do need, make sure you've got—a wide-tooth comb; some plastic hair clips (the metal ones tend to snag and tear); a Denman brush; a hair steamer (to lock in moisture); a microfiber towel (it's easier on your hair during wash days) and a blow dryer for your hair type (Red by Kiss Blow Dryer gets a lot of praise if you're a 4-type).
While this is a basic list, the main thing to keep in mind is a lot of metal, a ton of heat or anything that will cause your hair to snag and tear are absolutely no-nos. You really don't need a ton of styling tools; just things that will make getting the results that you want as easy as possible without creating any drama in the process on those pretty tresses of yours.
5. Mishandling Wet Hair During Wash Days
Your hair is definitely the most fragile when it's wet. That's why it's best to detangle your tresses with your fingers as much as possible, to deep condition after shampooing so that your hair is more manageable, and to apply a product that has some "slip" to it when you're using a detangling comb or you're doing something like braiding or twisting your hair for a braid out or twist out. Otherwise, you could end up ripping some of your hair out or weakening the cuticles during the styling process. As far as slip goes, if you'd like a little help figuring out which product would work best, Naturally Curly gave some slip awards to a few. You can check them out here.
6. Trimming Your Hair More than Dusting
One of the reasons why I stopped going to see a professional stylist was because far too many of them don't seem to know the difference between dusting and trimming. Hmph. I've always wondered if a lot of stylists have a secret vendetta against their clients gaining inches because I don't always need a bob— thank you, very much. Whew. Plus, as I've learned more about what does and doesn't work for my hair, I've become a big fan of dusting. Dusting is about getting rid of the raggedy or split ends that you may have without getting rid of 2-4 inches of hair in the process.
If you're nervous about attempting this, the main thing to keep in mind is you need a pair of sharp shears and a good amount of patience. Click here, here and here to watch some videos on how to dust.
Oh, and for any stylists that may have side-eyed me for what I said, I know there are some great ones out there and that some folks wouldn't be able to walk outta the house without one. At the same time, I believe a good one also isn't scissor happy. I'm thinking that we all can agree on that.
7. Having a Complex Relationship with Heat
Contrary to popular belief, I personally don't think that heat is the enemy; I think using heat the wrong way is, though. Back when I got on board with the whole "heat is the devil" movement, I actually experienced a lot more breakage than I do now that I blow my hair out every wash day and then leave it in a protective style (other than the weekends) until the next wash day. I believe it's because this method stretches out my hair so that there is less tangling and it also helps me to nurture my ends easier.
Anyway, that's not to say that huge mistakes aren't oftentimes made in this lane, mostly because people use the wrong kind of heating tools, apply them when they're too hot and/or use them too often. If you're in search of a good blow dryer for your natural hair, Byrdie recently published an article that features 12 (click here). After getting one, always make sure that your blow dryer is on low-to-medium heat and that you ONLY use it once your hair is about 60 percent dry on its own (the drier it is, the less you will be able to singe it). And try not to apply heat more than 2-5 times a month. More than that can definitely damage your hair and even alter your natural curl pattern.
8. Being High-Maintenance with Your Edges
Lawd, the internet. I'm pretty sure some of y'all saw the post of the young lady who mistook Gorilla Snot (which is already quite a beast when it comes to laying hair down) for Gorilla Glue. Well, at the time that I'm writing this, her hair literally hasn't moved in a month. Like…at all which resulted in her going to the ER (check her take on it here and a radio interview with her here). When I watched the video, the first thing that came to my mind is how obsessed a lot of us are with keeping our edges as laid as possible.
Listen, there's no time to get into how I believe that European culture has played a certain role in us having a preoccupation with baby hairs as grown women (goodness). For now, I'll just say that probably the most fragile parts of your hair are your edges and nape. So, constantly weakening your edges' hair follicles by always brushing them down, drying that part of your hair out with gels, and always applying pressure with braids, lace fronts and wigs are all surefire ways for your edges to either thin out or bald altogether.
If you must gel those babies down, make sure to use a non-alcohol gel (Allure published a feature on some of the best edge controls around; check it out here) and definitely give that area a break a few days a week. Sleek edges are cool, but you know what's even better? Having edges, period.
9. Jacking Up Your Wash ‘N Go
When it comes to low-manipulation hairstyles, wash 'n gos always top the list because you don't have to do a lot of styling and touching of your tresses in order to end up with a really cute look. That doesn't mean that too much of a good thing can't go awry though. The wrong products, tugging too much on your hair while it's wet and not knowing how to cultivate a bedtime routine that will result in you messing with your hair as little as possible the following morning all have to be factored in to make this a good idea for your natural hair texture.
If you want to make sure that this heat-free look goes off without a hitch—wash your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo; deep condition your locks; rinse your hair in cool water (it will keep your cuticles smooth); apply a curl cream (if you've got tighter coils) or add a carrier oil as a base to it (if you've got a looser curl texture) to set your curls, and keep your hands COMPLETELY out of your hair until your tresses dry (otherwise, you could end up with a significant amount of frizz). Wrap your hair up with a silk scarf or satin bonnet at night and refresh in the morning with a light leave-in conditioner. And try and let your wash 'n go be for about a week. Remember, low manipulation is always the key to stronger hair. You can get some other wash 'n go hacks by checking out this video, this video, this video, this video and this video.
10. Being Too Reliant on Your Wigs
Wigs can be dope; especially the kind that exists these days because I promise you that some, I can't even tell that they are wigs at all (like this line right here). Not only can wigs help you to avoid over-manipulating your hair, but they can also protect your tresses from outer elements, encourage your styling creativity without a lot of drama, and save you a ton of time when it comes to your morning routine.
Just remember that a wig is not your natural hair (no matter how much it may look or feel like it). If you've got a human hair well-secured, it can last for up to six weeks (if you take care of your natural hair that's underneath); just don't go beyond that. As far as sleeping in wigs, it really is best to remove them. If you opt not to, don't go more than a few days without doing so. Your hair and scalp need to breathe. Your edges need a bit of a break from the stress and tension of the wig too.
11. Not Taking a Multivitamin
There is plenty of data that says most of us don't get nearly enough nutrients from food alone. This is where multivitamins come in. They are a great way to supplement what you may be lacking which can result in everything from a strengthened immune system and healthier heart to more energy and beautiful hair, skin and nails. There are loads of vitamins on the market, so it's kind of hard to recommend a specific brand. You might want to look for one that specifically says "for hair, skin and nails" on it. Whatever you do, just make sure there are vitamins A, B12, C and E, iron, biotin and zinc in the product that you decide to go with. One that contains collagen is definitely a bonus. Oh, and if you opt for a liquid form, not only does it hit your system faster, it tends to be more potent too.
12. Stressing Out
If there is one thing that I have learned to become more and more intentional about, it's not letting any person, place, thing or idea stress me out. It's just not worth it. PERIOD. This includes when it comes to protecting my hair. Did you know that constant stress can throw off your cortisol levels and literally push your hair into a resting phase that can hinder it from growing? No joke. So, if you've got some job or man who is driving you up the wall and you're noticing some shedding or even thinning as far as your hair is concerned, don't tell yourself that it's all in your head. There is a very real chance that you are going bald due to anxiety. Release what's got you in that state. Your hair will thank you for it.
BONUS: STOP COMPARING
Iyanla Vanzant once said, "Comparing yourself to others is an act of violence against your authentic self." Out of all of the mistakes that we could possibly make when it comes to our hair, I promise you that the biggest one is comparing your tresses to someone else's. When God made you, he took out just as much time as he did on his other daughters. Don't insult him by acting like you somehow got a shorter end of the deal because, I can say from very personal experience, that once you get a real understanding of how your own hair works, you'll come to adore its individuality. You really will.
You'll wake up knowing that your hair is a gift, that there isn't one thing wrong with it, and that you are truly blessed. That your Creator made not one mistake. Amen? Amen.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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7 Sex-Related Problems That Ruin Sex (And Possibly Your Relationship)
Not too long ago, while in an interview, someone asked me to define one of the main purposes of sex in a long-term relationship: “Probably the most intimate form of communication that we have is sex because it’s an act that connects one’s physical, mental and emotional state to another human being simultaneously — and communication doesn’t get much more profound than that.”
That’s part of the reason why the term “casual sex” irks me to the billionth degree (check out “We Should Really Rethink The Term 'Casual Sex'”); it’s because, even if you think that sex with someone is next-to-nothing, there is so much going on within you (oxytocin highs, if you’re unprotected, fluid bonding, chemical reactions in your brain, etc.) that doesn’t know if someone is “the one” (in your mind) or not. So, in many ways, it acts like they are (check out this YouTube video from a Catholic woman who studies some unexpected ways that sex affects us physically here; sex goes deep, y’all!).
Yeah, sex is so much more than a notion, and that’s why I’m a firm believer that it is such a barometer for long-term relationships overall — because, as I’ve shared before, I once read that, “Good sex in a relationship is 10 percent of the relationship while bad sex in a relationship is 90 percent of the relationship because sex tends to set the tone for what’s happening in the rest of the house.”
And that’s why I think that there are certain sex-related issues that can not only damage your sex life with your partner but could also end up ruining your relationship if you’re not careful (very careful). Let’s get into seven of them now.
1. Being Unaware of Your “Body Clock”Giphy
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who’ve come to me in some serious trouble, in part due to their flailing (or partly nonexistent) sex life. When I ask them if they went to premarital counseling (if you’re engaged, please do; you have a 33 percent greater chance of avoiding divorce when counseling transpires), many say “no” and the ones who say “yes” usually say that it was no more than 3-5 sessions and the topic of sex barely came up (le sigh). Meanwhile, with my premarital meetings, I try and stick with intimacy for three months if I can because there is a lot to unpack, from what you learned as a child, to your first time (or if you are a virgin), to your needs and fantasies, to how you see it from a spiritual perspective — like I said, there is a lot to unpack there.
Take the mere practicality of sex, for example — and more specifically, your body clock. Do you prefer to have sex at night or in the daytime? A lot of couples struggle with intimacy because one prefers the former while the other likes the latter. Do you keep track of when you’re ovulating? It’s pure science why you are probably hornier during that time of the month (because your body is signaling that it’s time to conceive) vs. the fact that you might not be the most interested in sex when you’re PMS’ing. Are you premenopausal? Hormones shift a lot during that time, and here’s the thing — while menopause only lasts a year, the premenopausal stage (which typically starts between 45-55) can last between 7-14 years. Even paying attention to when you have more energy (some do in the day…morning sex, anyone? While others do early in the evening) can play a role.
So yeah, getting to know your body clock (and discussing your partner’s clock with them) can play a role in how much — or how little — sex you have…and that can add life or drain it from the relationship overall.
2. Comparing Your Present with Your PastGiphy
There is a wife of almost 20 years I know who, when I asked her if she thought that her husband was good in bed, she paused for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said, “I was a virgin when I got married, so I have nothing to compare him to. I mean, he’s good to me.” On the flip side, there’s a now divorced couple who I also know (who almost made it to 20 years) who had multiple partners before each other while also having a deep interest in porn who once said to me, “Sometimes, there’s as much as 15 people in our bed because of all of the people from our past and the porn that we’ve seen that’s running through our heads.” Yeah, y’all can act like body counts don’t matter, but there is so much evidence out here that says otherwise — that couple just gave one that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should.
You know, one of my favorite throwback shows is King of Queens (Kevin James, Leah Remini). A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun where Doug and Carrie were talking about the images that come up in their minds, sometimes during sex. Neither was too happy about it, and I can totally see why. I mean, if sex was just about “getting off” (and it’s not), then whatever. However, AGAIN, it’s also about connecting with your partner on a mental and emotional level, and that’s hard to do if you’re there with them in the body while you’re fantasizing about a celebrity, a porn actor (porn is usually acting, don’t let it fool you) or an ex (check out “You Love Him. You Prefer Sex With Your Ex. What Should You Do?”).
And what if that is what’s going on? I once spoke with a sex therapist about this very thing. What she said is people should be less concerned about celebs (if it’s on occasion) and more concerned about that ex because rarely is sex with an ex…just about the sex.
And that’s why this point made the list. If you’re physically with your partner and mentally or emotionally with your ex at the same time, please don’t ignore that. There are definitely some unresolved issues there that you need to work through, whether it’s with a therapist, counselor, or coach, a trusted friend (who won’t add fuel to the literal fire), or even with your ex — although you might want to run that by your partner first because…I’m pretty sure you’d want him to do that with/for you. RIGHT?
3. Not Being Clear About Your Sexual NeedsGiphy
Question — if someone were to walk up to you right now and ask you what your top seven sexual needs are, along with what your top five sexual dealbreakers are, would you be able to answer? It really is kind of wild how many people get upset with their partner for not being able to sexually satisfy them when even they can’t articulate what they need/require in order for that to happen. Yeah, it’s another article for another time about how many people UNREALISTICALLY (and yes, I am yelling it) think that someone loving them well means that they should be able to read their mind. Nope.
It truly can’t be said enough that sex — especially good sex — is about communication. Hmph. It makes me think about a clip that I saw from Tonight’s Conversation podcast (can’t find it at the moment; sorry) where a woman asked how she should tell her partner that he hasn’t been pleasing her, I believe she said for years. My first thought was if he doesn’t know that, she must be faking orgasms (more on that in a bit) which is not only lying — well, it is —, but it’s also pretty counterproductive because while he thinks that he’s “getting the job done,” she’s not fulfilled and resentment is setting in.
Please don’t let rom-coms (fiction) and social media (which is oftentimes fictitious) have you out here thinking that a good lover is someone you automatically gel with who knows exactly what to do; sometimes that is the case, and oftentimes it isn’t.
So, if the sex-related issue that you’re having in your relationship is that your sexual needs aren’t being met, first do you (and your partner) a favor by doing some sex journaling (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”) so that you can tangibly see what those needs are and then plan time within the next week or so to pour a couple of glasses of wine, put on some 90s R&B and discuss with your partner what you need. Because actually, what a good lover is, is someone who listens and retains. This brings me to the next point.
4. Minimizing Your Partner’s Sexual NeedsGiphy
A husband once told that when he and his wife were in premarital counseling, something that he mentioned was a bona fide need was fellatio. According to him, his wife told both him and their counselor that she loved giving head. Fast forward to eight years of being in their union, and guess how many times that act went down? A measly four. FOUR TIMES (check out “Sooo...What If You HATE Oral?”).
It’s another message for another time, the amount of people who will “false advertise” during the dating stage in order to get to their goal of marriage. It’s also another message for another time how much that is a form of manipulation that tends to backfire in ways that the manipulator is oftentimes not prepared for.
For now, what I will say, is never think that just because something may not be a need for you that it isn’t a legitimate one for someone else. I mean, how would you feel if that’s how someone treated you? Yeah…exactly.
Yet that is just what happens in a lot of relationships, including when it comes to their bedroom. They will think that their needs should be met, hands down, yet when their partner comes with what’s important to them, all of a sudden, there is dismissiveness, nonchalance, and/or excuses — and how could that not rear its ugly head on so many levels?
Your partner’s sexual needs are essential, even if they are not your own. Never assume that you automatically know everything about them. Also, never assume that what worked two years ago is what will “scratch the itch” now. Hmph. Come to think of it, while you’re sipping on that wine and clearly articulating to him what turns you on, use that as an opportunity to ask him to return the favor. Listen with humility, receptiveness, and intent — the best kind of relationships process their partner’s needs with this kind of vibe…across the board.
5. Taking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” ApproachGiphy
Lazy lovers. When you hear that phrase, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If it’s someone who is just lying there during sex, that would certainly qualify; however, I’m actually speaking of a different kind of laziness here. Believe it or not, some synonyms for lazy include words like apathetic, inattentive, tired, passive (cough, cough), procrastinating, neglectful, and slacking. So yeah, if you and/or your partner can use any of these words to define what sex is consistently like between the two of you — red flag, red flag…RED FREAKIN’ FLAG.
Speaking of being passive, another potentially serious sex-related problem is taking on the attitude that if something ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. What I mean by that is, just because you know that getting on top and riding for exactly six-and-a-half minutes is what will get your partner off, that doesn’t mean that it should be your automatic go-to all of the damn time.
Why? Because. While a part of the fun of having sex is “reaching the peak,” another component that should never be underestimated is discovering new territory: trying new positions, creating a sex bucket list, taking (more) sexcations, playing sex-themed board games (put that phrase in Amazon or on Etsy’s site and go ham!)…you know, doing what will inspire creativity and deter either of you from becoming bored.
That said, a husband of 17 years once told me, “A man can be satisfied with the same woman. We just don’t want the same kind of sex with her.” Words to live by. Yes, indeed.
6. Using Sex as a Deflection or Coping MechanismGiphy
A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Make-Up Sex Might Be Doing Your Relationship More Harm Than Good” — and with good cause. Words cannot express how many divorced (or soon-to-be divorced) women have told me that a part of what kept them in their marriage, for as long as they stayed in it, was the fact that the sex with their husband was beyond amazing…even though so much other stuff completely and totally sucked. Hey, good sex isn’t a bad thing (c’mon now); however, if it’s the only real thing that’s keeping you with someone, it can turn out to be a toxic deflector.
The reason why I say that is the purpose of sex isn’t to make love; it’s to celebrate it. And if all you’re doing with your partner is f — king and fighting or avoiding issues by stripping down or thinking that sex will “make it all better,” all the while not really knowing what the problem/issue is or what needs to be done to get down to the root of it, that is using sex as a pacifier and again, that’s not what sex is designed to be. Sex doesn’t deserve the pressure of being the end-all to “fixing” ish.
So, if what’s transpiring in your relationship lately is very little talking and a whole lot of sexing, and then once the sex is over, something still feels “off,” that’s a good indication that you’re misusing sex on some level. Get out of the bed, put on a robe, and do some talking (preferably in a room other than the bedroom; leave that space for sex and sleep only as much as possible). Because remember — as much as the wives that I mentioned said that their husbands once had them climbing the walls, those men are still ex-husbands now. Bottom line, sex is good, yet when it comes to keeping a relationship together, it will never be enough. Again, it was never designed to be.
7. Faking ItGiphy
I will never be a fan of faking orgasms. Maybe it’s because I’m a Gemini (we may be a lot of things, but “fake” isn’t really our style). Maybe it’s because I’m a very word-literal individual, and I know that fake means things like “prepare or make (something specious, deceptive, or fraudulent)” and “to conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.” Or perhaps it’s because I don’t get how acting like you’re sexually fulfilled when you actually aren’t is doing anyone any good. Whatever it is, whenever a client (or someone in general because men fakealmost as much as women do) tells me that it’s something they do, I immediately find myself on a mission to shut that mess down (check out “Why You Should Stop Faking Orgasms ASAP”). ALL THE WAY DOWN.
The main reason is that, regardless of if the motive is to hurry things along, not hurt your partner’s feelings, or it’s something more cryptic than that (cough, cough, some form of manipulation tactic), there’s no way around the fact that fakeness is tied to deception and deception is a word that should never be connected to a healthy sexual dynamic.
Besides, one could argue that faking is a form of deflection as well because…wouldn’t it be better to just get it all out in the open WHY you are doing it than to keep pretending when life is too short and great sex is too good to not get the absolute most out of it, as much as possible?
Besides, again, chances are that if you’re faking that you’re sexually pleased, you’re probably faking something else in your relationship (or situation), and how could that possibly be good, right, or beneficial?
Yeah, when it comes to being satisfied across the board, please don’t fake it. State your case in the way that you’d like to hear something said to you, and let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve got a good man, he’s gonna — no pun — rise to the occasion. If his ego can’t handle it, well…that’s something that you should find out sooner than later — when it comes to the bedroom and outside of it? Right? #shoyouright
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