Monday 23 May 2011

How to Experiment - The Basics

When I first started dealing with my hair, I was lost. Asking desperately for advise on different forums, I was told the same thing:

'Everybody is different. You have to experiment to find what works for you'

Which is all very well and good - but I didn't know how to experiment. It was kind of like trying to make a spaghetti bolognese that I liked with a vague idea of the ingredients but no standard recipe to work off and modify to my taste. Is there such thing as too much tomato purée?!

So I thought a little guide of how to experiment with different products would be kind of helpful. Some of it is based on my experiences, and the rest on methods I've observed.
Therefore it's incredibly subjective. You have been warned! If you have any other advice, please leave them in the comments - sharing is caring! :)

1. Get to know your hair and scalp.

When people talking talk about 'getting to know your hair', they make it sound either like a spiritual journey, or an extremely awkward set of compulsory forced dates. Totally doesn't need to be like that.
Ironically, at the same time, there is supposedly to be certain features unique to textured hair - that's it's coarse, thick and dry.
Yeah, whatever.
Here's a brief check list to help you and the stuff on your hair learn to bond:

  • How much does your hair ordinarily shed in a week?
    A lot of people keep their weekly shed hair in little bag so they can keep an eye on it and come up with an average of how much hair they usually lose. This means you can eventually work out if you've lost too much hair from a particularly rough de-tangling session or potentially more internal issues.
  • What does your hair feel like when it's moisturised?
    And this is very different to how it looks/feels when it's wet and/or oily. If you're transitioning from heat or relaxers, it may take you a while to nurse your hair up to this point. Damaged hair needs a lot of nursing. I can't tell you what it feels like when your hair is moisturised I'm afraid - it's different for everyone.
    I'm guessing not like crisps (chips). But if you know when your hair is moisturised, it can help when trying to untangle that massive knot known as the Protein/Moisture balance.
  • The different needs of the different areas:
    It's almost an accepted fact that people have different patches of hair on their. This doesn't necessarily apply only to hair texture and shape - it can also be to do with properties. For example, the areas that knot a lot easier, or don't respond as well to wheat protein, or turns into mush at the first sign of too much moisture, or never ever feels moisturised. Working out the different needs means banishing that horrid phrase known as 'the problem area'.

2. Do your research.

Did you just groan?
I know, I know, it's boring, but I did say the basics - so that means swotting up on what you think your hair is going to need. Not only on ingredients and techniques, but reviews of products you're considering buying - what have other people said? Is there a similar vein concerning it's faults or good parts? How did they use it, wet or dry? Was there side effects after a certain amount of time?
If that de-tangling method hasn't worked too well for you, what other methods are there? Can you combine different elements of each to make your own? What does slip feel like? [From what I can tell, it's not necessarily a slippy, slimy feeling as I first expected].
If you want to know something and a blog looks fairly knowledgeable, don't be afraid to use the search bar wherever it is. Educate yourselves the best you can.

Do be careful of urban legends that have come to be believed as gospel: E.g "If you cut your hair, it will help it grow!"


3. Write your own  rule book 

Just because someone says 'you're not supposed to' doesn't mean you have to listen to them. Have they been on twenty five failed co-wash dates with your hair? No? Okay.
Everybody expects different things from their hair, and may require different products to achieve.
For some, fluffy hair is where it's it, while others don't mind a bit of crunch if it looks the way they want it to.
You can't experiment freely if you've constricted yourself to a certain list of rules before you've even began.
If sulfate-free isn't working for you, then try sulphates.
If you've bought every single natural product under the sun and it's not working for you, then have a whirl with 'the dark side' of silicones and mineral oil and vice versa.
If you can't afford the mega expensive products, then have a whirl with the cheap ones.
Find what works for you. No such thing as a hair sin!

4. Have a set limit

When using a product, it's natural to expect big things from the product immediately.
Doesn't mean it's realistic.
Whatever you're using may need a couple more goes before it starts to show its true colours, which is useful to know before you start singing its praises or cursing its creator. So if you give yourself a limit, such as one month, 3 months, or 10 uses (depending on the frequency that you plan to use it) that gives you more opportunity to eliminate flukes and see what conditions it works best in or if it even works at all!
Try trial/travel sizes - it gives you a natural limit (to when it finishes) and helps you save money in case you absolutely abhor the product! There usually tend to be a lot of trial sizes of commercial products in Boots and Superdrug, and online suppliers usually have them as well. If not, you can always try and get a swap or, if you're feeling really cheeky, a freebie off kindly people on forums. Sometimes someone's bought a product and hated it so much, they're desperate to give it away.

5. Compare and take it slow.

Start off with what you think are the very basics of a hair regime. For example, a shampoo. See how that makes your hair/scalp feel. And after you've finished using that, and you want to try something else, do it and then compare them. How does this product make your hair feel? Cleaner? Drier? Whether it works better or worse depends on what you're looking for.
Using this method, you can slowly widen your arsenal after you've found the foundation products that work for you.

6. Accept the mistakes (and maybe keep a record of them)

Because that's how we learn!
Have you used too much pomade and now look like you took the term 'buttered up' too literally?
Yeah, you probably won't be doing that again any time soon.
Writing things down, even short notes, on what you used and how you used it can really help you in the future.  Sometimes, you forget that thing you did with your fingers that was amazing, but flicking back and looking through can remind you of it and how great it was! Plus, you can keep a tab on what products you used and hated or disliked, so if they're ever discontinued, you can find a similar product without too much hassle and money wasted.

I hope this helps a little!

1 comment:

  1. This is a GREAT list. You make a good point about the "just experiment" advice.

    My 2 cents:

    I'd also say start with a list of what you feel "optimal hair" entails. This does NOT mean "I want big curls" or "good hair" (side eye). I mean like "I want clean, moisturized hair that detangles with little breakage and grows at a healthy pace". At that point, look for steps that fulfill these goals, such as a good cleanser, detangling condish, leave-in, and detangling method. Once these are achieved, finding good styling techniques that do not cause breakage becomes easier b/c the hair is in a healthier state.


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