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Trimming natural hair

Sometimes the thought of trimming natural hair brings hives to those trying to grow out their hair. Naturals equate trimming to short hair and not often enough to healthy hair. Trimming can keep knots and split ends at bay, as well keep ends even and keep a nice shape to natural hair. Although frequent trimming is not always necessary, there are times when it must be done. The frequency and amount of hair trimmed depends on the needs of the hair, any damage that may exist, and how much importance you put on length. Here is some information on the why's and how's of trimming natural hair.

Trimming is a good way to maintain the health of your natural hair.
Photo taken by Fern Illidge.

Trimming natural hair

The rumor mill

Ah, those rumors... or as they are sometimes called: 'Old Wives Tales'. Those statements about health, hair, and life that seem to come from old knowledge so we all take them as words of wisdom without even checking them out. Yes, there are a few for trimming natural hair, as well:

Old wives trim tale #1: "trimming makes your hair grow faster!"

No. No, no, no. Trimming is not some magical remedy for short hair. Trimming the ends of your natural hair will not make the roots all of a sudden pop into hyper-drive and spit out inches of hair. Maybe the concept behind this statement is that when you leave the ends of damaged hair hanging on for dear life to grab onto that extra inch or so of length, you are really damaging the entire strand. Why? Because damage begats damage... births damage... causes damage. So if your ends are split, even just a little, not clipping the damages parts off means that it will keep splitting, ultimately breaking off the hair. Breakage stunts growth. When you trim your natural hair, either regularly or at the sight of damage, you are ensuring that any growth that does occur will not be lost to splits and tears. Then you're actually able to see growth, which is why some women think trimming natural hair makes it grow.

Old wives trim tale #2: "you should trim your hair every month."

Why? One of the great things about being natural is that you are no longer (hopefully) putting things onto your hair that will relax and weaken the structure of the strands [at least not regularly]. This means that there is no need to trim when you relax to rid the hair of the weaker parts. Hair naturally begins to split every three months; therefore schedule your trim about that time or when you notice frayed and fragile ends. Hair grows about 1/4 to 1/2 inch a month, so if you are trimming natural hair regularly, you should only remove about 1/4 of an inch, maybe even less. This means you will notice growth and length retention - and even more so if you are moisturizing, sealing with oil, and avoiding excessive use of heat. Just don't go around saying that it's because you trimmed your hair! lol

Old wives trim Tale #3: "you have to trim your hair wet."

All this natural can do when she hears this statement is shake her head in frustration. Do. Not. Cut. Your. Hair. While. Wet. Period. Not only does this NOT makes sense, you have no way of determining how much you really need to cut when your hair is not in its natural and dry state. When your natural hair dries it shrinks up, and those with naturally curly hair may experience even more shrinkage. When trimming natural hair - curly hair - you should cut at a certain point in the curl, which, when wet, is not accurately portrayed. And then you may cut too much or not according to your hair's natural shape, which you cannot determine when you're hair is wet. You can't see where the curl or kink falls naturally when it's wet.

Lorraine Massey explains this in her book "The Curly Girl Handbook."

It's not a good idea, just don't do it.

Old wives trim tale #4: "you have to straighten your hair in order to get an accurate trim."

This is probably one of the most dangerous tales told, especially by stylists. Now, whether you choose to straighten your hair for a trim is totally up to you and if it's your preferred method and it works for your hair, then to each her own. How-ev-er... you do not HAVE to straighten your hair in order to get a trim. This natural does not. Just picture this: if your ends are already damaged and frayed, then you use the heat of a blow dryer and/or flat iron to straighten it, the friction and heat is causing more damage to the ends before you can cut them off. So this means that you are more likely having to clip off more than necessary because you caused more damage to occur while preparing your hair for trimming. Remember damage begats damage; and the best way to get rid of damage is not to cause more. You wouldn't get rid of a headache by banging your head against a wall, would you? Then why would you inflict damage before cutting off damage?

Of course, if you are trimming regularly and not when you notice damage, this wouldn't necessarily apply because the regularity by which you trim means your ends are maintaining health. But now it's the entire strand you're worried about, and altering the curl pattern. Which is a whole 'nother post!

The point is, straightening is not a prerequisite to trimming natural hair. No matter what your stylist tells you!

Old wives trim tale #5: "you must go to a stylist to trim your hair."

And speaking of stylist... this is not necessarily false, but it isn't necessarily true, either. It is a bit like the heat lie - it isn't recommended, but if you go then that's great.

This tale can be combined with another - "Don't go to a stylist to trim your natural hair because they will (1) straighten it to trim it, and (2) cut your hair too short." The latter has been this natural's experience. It's almost like some stylists get really excited when you sit in their chair and ask for a trim and they hear 'haircut' when all you want is a slight dusting of your ends. Some of you may have found your guardian-angel-stylist who not only knows what it means to trim, but knows how to maintain healthy natural hair, as well; and that includes the healthy way to straighten natural hair. So this tale is only true if that is your experience; and only false if you don't have a natural stylist in your area.

It is a good rule of thumb that, as a natural, you should learn the basics of natural hair care. And that includes trimming natural hair if and when you ever need to do so between salon visits. This leads to the age-old question:

How do I trim my own natural hair? Stay tuned for the answer in the next post.

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