Lessons from a (Reformed) Product Junkie

You don't need all this.

I have a confession to make:  I am a reformed product junkie.  When I started my first set of locs over 7 years ago, I, like many others new to locs and natural hair, was very excited and joined several online message boards about locs.  If someone suggested it, I wanted to try it, despite the warnings by my loctician that all I needed to twist my locs were water, oil, and maybe a little diluted setting lotion.  I also believed that if a product worked well, even MORE of a product would work better.

Um, not so much.... and here's what happened:

I'd had my locs for about 4 months.  They were starting to bud nicely, which is the beginning stages of loc formation so they were a bit uneven and slightly lumpy, which is normal.  I was using Organic Root Stimulator Lock 'n Twist Gel mixed with aloe vera gel (to "dilute" it) and was using LOTS of it, coating almost the entire loc with gel when retwisting, trying to smooth them out.  I was also using Dr. Bronners Peppermint Castile Soap, which is great as a soap but not so effective as a shampoo. My locs started to feel gooey, and I was reading on the message boards horror stories about "product buildup" and lint and the need to clarify.  I remember one woman blogging about going to the hardware store and getting some heavy duty orange degreaser (the kind my dad keeps in the garage to clean oil off his hands when he works on the car) and squeezing tons of goo out of her locs.  I was horrified.  I didn't want this to be me.

So, being the research queen I am, I looked up and put together a surefire clarifying treatment that would get all this built up gel out of my hair.  I read that lemon juice was good for breaking down greasy buildup, and that apple cider vinegar rinses were good for clarifying, so I put the two together.  I put this lemon/ACV rinse on my locs and let it sit for probably an hour.  Then I used Organic Root Stimulator Uplifting Shampoo because it said it was good for clarifying (and probably at the suggestion of a loc listserv member).

It was a complete and utter DISASTER.

What I neglected to take mental note of was the fact that the shampoo was also good for "manageability", i.e. it is a detangler. The result was a dry, clumpy mess, as I'd stripped not only the product out of my hair, but ALL the moisture. And the shampoo "managed" to make my newly forming buds loosen and begin to slide down the locs. As if this wasn't bad enough, I believe I then tried to use some conditioning product to add moisture back into the lumpy straw that was now my locs, thus making my loc buds unravel and slip even more.

I freaked out, then tried to stay calm, then panicked and called my loctician and made an appointment. I sat in his chair and just said "Please fix it." In hindsight I'm glad that he positions his chair away from the mirror so I couldn't see the expression on his face, but I could tell by the tone of his and his assistant's voice that I'd effed up royally, and had I seen his actual expression I probably would have cut them off right then and there. But he worked with them the best he could, gave me a free cornrow style so I couldn't see the damage, and sent me on my way.  At first I was pleased, thinking that he had indeed worked some sort of loctician magic, but when I unbraided it, the locs were still clumpy.  The only thing that could fix this mess was time and patience as I waited for my locs to fully mature.

For months after that I would try and twist my locs to smooth out the lumps, but they never fully went away. Over the years my hair grew and I got trims and eventually the lumpy locs became less and less noticeable as new hair grew and locked. But I still regretted that mishap every time I saw someone with a perfectly cylindrical set of locs, and though nobody else could tell the difference (or were just being nice), I knew I'd screwed my locs up.  I have a new set of locs now and have vowed NEVER to repeat those mistakes again.

The moral of this story: Less is more when it comes to products and locs. The more products you put on your locs, the more you have to worry about trying to get out later. Also, if you are unsure of what to do when you have a loc problem, don't be afraid to ask a licensed professional stylist who specializes in locs (i.e. a loctician). Other people with locs are great resources for ideas, but everyone is different. When you have problems it's good to have a professional on deck to tell you what is best to do for your hair texture and your stage of locking.  I visit my loctician maybe 2-3 times per year (I don't do my own cuts or color), but he's there when I need him.

So lay off the products, loved ones! Time & patience cultivate locs, not products.


Petula said...

Oh my goodness, what a horror! I'm glad you finally got it all situated. I had locs for 11 years then cut half off and my oldest daughter picked them out for me. I haven't really liked my hair since then, but I'm dealing with it. I think my problem is I don't use enough product because I'm always concerned about it running out and the cost of replacing it.

I used to wear twists, now I mainly wear a puff. I would prefer to get braids again, but - you know - the dough.

Enjoyed reading your post... and sorry to read about your loctician and friend.

Natural Afrodisiac said...

Petula: One of the many reasons I went back to locs for the second time was the cost of products! I was going thru products like crazy with my loose natural. But now I've had the same bottle of Carol's Daughter Lisa's Hair Elixr for 6 months, that I use just about every day, and it's only 2/3 gone! A tub of ORS Lock and Twist Gel last me almost a year. I'm definitely a loc girl.

iRockLocs said...

I know I have the tendancies of a product junkie. Posts like this encourage me to just find what works and stick to it. And it doesn't have to be expensive to be the exact product needed for your hair.