Whew, y'all. In this never-ending quest to gain some inches on this natural-haired head of mine, something that I've learned the hard way is that, while every part of our strands are important, you aren't going to get the results that you want if you're not giving the roots and the ends of your hair all of the TLC that it needs. And that is what we're going to tackle today. In order to have long and healthy hair (like YouTubers such as TheDaletiá, Janet Davies, Timaloveslemons, Maryam Hampton, All Things GhoCee and a host of others), you've got to nurture your hair follicles and preserve your ends. Here are 10 tips (five for your follicles and five for your ends) that will help to get you there.
1. Hair Follicles: Watch the Heat
Heat is an interesting topic when it comes to maintaining the health of your hair. I say that because, I'm actually someone who does a blowout every wash day and, ever since I've added that to my hair maintenance routine, I've seen more progress. For me, the key is to deep condition, apply thermal heat protectant, let my hair dry on its own about fifty percent or so and then use a dryer on a cooler setting. Doing this keeps my hair stretched (so that it's manageable with less fairy knots and tangles) which is a good thing.
Actually, what a lot of people don't realize is heat on your hair can actually benefit your hair follicles because it helps to encourage blood flow to the scalp. What you have to be careful of, though, is not applying heat that is too hot (like putting your blow dryer on high) or using heat too often. If you do, that can actually result in permanent damage to your hair follicles (which can ultimately result in hair loss). Even if you are able to dodge that consequence, a lot of heat will almost definitely result in you having dry and brittle hair (which oftentimes leads to breakage).
2. Hair Follicles: Massage Your Scalp with a Peppermint and Thyme Essential Oil Blend
Applying some peppermint essential oil to your scalp and hair is one of the best things that you could do. It's the kind of oil that contains antimicrobial, insecticidal, pesticidal, anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Because of this, peppermint oil is able to clarify your scalp, soothe it if it's itchy and stimulate hair growth. That's because the menthol that's in peppermint oil serves as a vasodilator; that's basically a fancy way of saying that it increases blood flow to your scalp and hair follicles so that your hair can get the nutrients that it needs. As far as thyme oil goes, not only is it another oil that stimulates your hair follicles, there are studies to support that when it's combined with an oil like peppermint, lavender or rosemary, it can even treat hair loss issues like alopecia areata.
I recommend combining two tablespoons of Jamaican black castor oil or olive oil, along with five drops of peppermint oil and three drops of thyme oil. Heat the mixture up in the microwave for 30 seconds. Apply it to freshly washed hair, massage it into our scalp, let the mixture sit there for 15 minutes, then rinse with cool water. Do this once a month for optimal results.
3. Hair Follicles: Apply an Aloe Vera Mask
Aloe vera is great for your hair, for a few different reasons. For one thing, if you constantly struggle with having a dry scalp, the antipruritic properties that it contains can help to soothe your scalp and keep it well-moisturized. It's analgesic anti-inflammatory enzyme known as bradykinase, along with salicylic acid, work together to reduce any inflammation that your scalp or hair follicles may be experiencing (this includes if you're someone who happens to get scalp acne). Something else that's cool about Aloe vera is it helps to balance out the pH of your scalp (more on that in a little bit). And yet, one more reason why you should add it to your hair care regimen is Aloe vera is a wonderful treatment for your hair follicles. Because the make-up of Aloe vera is very similar to keratin, when you apply it to your scalp, it has the ability to naturally strengthen your hair follicles. Not only that but the 20 different amino acids that Aloe vera contains will help to condition and strengthen your hair so that the roots of your tresses are healthy from the very moment they grow out of your scalp. That's why it's a good idea to apply an Aloe vera mask to your scalp, at least once a month. For tips on how to make your own, click here and/or here.
4. Hair Follicles: Detox Your Scalp
Sometimes, we forget that our scalp has pores, just like the rest of our body does. And, because a lot of us use hair products (not to mention the fact that we sweat and our scalp sheds dead skin cells), those pores can become clogged which can also lead to a slower rate of hair growth. A surefire way to keep your scalp healthy and thriving is to detox it. If you'd like more info on how to do that properly, no problem. You can check out an article that I already wrote on it. It's entitled "Treat Your Scalp To A Little Bit Of Detoxing This Weekend".
5. Hair Follicles: Eat More Protein
Have you ever wondered if you actually need more protein in your system than you're currently getting? Some signs that you could indeed be protein-deficient is you constantly feel weak or tired, you're always hungry (no matter how much you consume), you're always getting sick, your moods are all over the place and/or your skin, nails and hair don't seem as healthy as they usually do. Speaking of hair, yours is made up of mostly protein (keratin), so you definitely need to "feed your follicles" with foods that are loaded with it. Some of those include red meat and poultry. But if you happen to be vegetarian or vegan, some non-meat alternatives include lentils, pumpkin seeds, oats, almonds, quinoa, spinach and spirulina.
1. Your Ends: Balance Your Hair’s pH Balance
When it comes to what pH balance actually is, it's kind of a long story. The short of it is, it's the measure of how acidic and/or base something else. When something has a pH balance of 7, it's considered acidic. When something has a pH balance of 4, it's considered base. When it comes to our hair, its average is somewhere around 5. Something that can throw our normal pH balance off is shampoo, conditioner and other hair products. The problem with that is an "off balance" can lead to rough hair cuticles and, eventually, hair damage.
Something you can do to keep your hair's pH balance right where it needs to be is to clarify your hair with an apple cider rinse. Not only will it bring the balance back to where it should be, but apple cider vinegar also contains anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can treat dandruff and other scalp irritants. Plus, it is able to make your hair softer and easier to manage. Just add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water and pour it over your hair after shampooing in order to get the best results.
2. Your Ends: Seal ‘Em
Sealing ends is something that a lot of naturalistas know about. It's a process that helps your hair to maintain the moisture that is already in it, after you wash and condition your tresses. Because your ends are the oldest part of your hair, that makes them the most vulnerable. It also means they need moisture the most. That's why it's important to seal your ends in two ways. One, you should do the final rinse of your hair with cool water. The reason why is because a colder temperature can actually help to flatten and seal your hair's cuticles. Next, you should apply some sort of hair butter (like shea butter) or oil (like Jamaican black castor oil) to your hair while it is damp. By the way, a "sealant" that a lot of people rave about is good old-fashioned hair grease. If that sounds bananas to you, check out "Looking For Hair Growth? It Might Be Time To Bring 'Blue Magic' Back". The lead picture alone, just might make a believer outta you.
3. Your Ends: Use a Leave-In Conditioner
I'm one of those women who, no matter how much I deep condition my locks, my hair is gonna feel dry as the Sahara two days later, and dry tresses will definitely lead to breakage over time. What changed the game for me was putting a leave-in conditioner on my hair. There are a few benefits that come from doing this. It deeply moisturizes your hair. It helps to keep your cuticles nice and smooth. It can provide an extra layer of protection from heat styling tools as well as outdoor elements. And, my personal favorite, it can help to condition your hair for days on end. Hair that contains moisture is hair that is able to remain strong with a good amount of elasticity to it. So, definitely make it a point and practice to use a leave-in on a regular basis. What I use is Aunt Jackie's Quench – Moisture Intensive Leave-In Conditioner (I haven't encountered a better leave-in yet!). But there are plenty of others on the market. Or, you can make your own (check out some recipes here, here, here, here and here).
4. Your Ends: Dry Your Ends the Right Way
If you're someone who, after washing and conditioning your hair, you towel dry, maybe blow dry, and then simply go on about your business without giving any of that much thought, this could be why your ends are not as healthy as they should be. For starters, our hair is strong-yet-fragile (especially when it's wet), so it's best to use an old T-shirt to dry it rather than a towel. Otherwise, you could cause already opened cuticles to crack and your hair to become frizzy. Also, as much as possible, try and move your T-shirt in a downward motion on your hair so that the tee moves in the direction that your cuticles should be going (which is also downward). Same goes for blow-drying your hair. By pointing your dryer's nozzle (or using the comb attachment) in a downward position, that will help to flatten your hair's cuticles, making them less susceptible to damage until your next wash day.
Your Ends: Dust, Don’t Pull, Your Ends
In the quest for length retention, I get it if one of the last things you want to do is put a pair of shears to your hair. But if you don't trim your ends on a consistent basis, it can lead to tangles, split ends, a lack of shape or volume and, your hair actually not growing as fast as it could—or should. It's not because trimming your hair helps your hair to grow faster; it's that, by making sure that your ends aren't raggedy, that can prevent breakage. After all, if your hair is growing at the roots, but is constantly breaking at the ends, you're not gonna get the inches that you're looking for.
No one said that you had to get a professional trim, every 4-6 weeks. Matter of fact, stylists who aren't haters (you know what I mean, the ones who actually support you growing out your hair instead of always taking five inches off each visit) will tell you that every 4-6 weeks may not even be necessary. So long as your hair doesn't show any of the signs that I've just mentioned, you can probably go much longer without needing a trim appointment. Just make sure that you do consider dusting your ends from time to time. That's like doing a micro-trim where you use your own pair of shears to get rid of any split or damaged ends that you might see. If you do happen to notice some, always cut, don't pull. Pulling the ends of your hair, even if they are fairy knots, is a sure way to harm your hair's cuticles and create split ends in the process. If you'd like a few tips on how to properly dust your ends, click here.
Hopefully, this has given you a little more insight into how to reach your own hair goals. Just remember that, as long as your hair is actually growing, you can obtain length. It's all about taking the best of care of your hair—top and bottom. From the roots down to the very ends.
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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 (email@example.com) 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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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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