Aug 14, 2013

Discussion: Product Instructions Are For Beginners

Yes. The title of this week's natural hair discussion is self explanatory. I know most of us have done it. You buy a bottle of Get It Together, Girl conditioner and you glance at the instructions. After shampooing thoroughly, leave a dime sized amount Get It Together, Girl conditioner in for 8.34 minutes. Rinse out thoroughly. And then what do you do? You co-wash instead of shampoo. You take a grapefruit-sized amount of conditioner and slather it on your hair. 8 hours later, you rinse out 85% of the conditioner and proceed to style your hair. Sound familiar?

I'm beginning to wonder, why do companies even put instructions on products marketed to curly naturals? I've rarely seen or read of naturals actually using the products as recommended. I can't even remember the last time I have followed the directions on a product (that I wasn't specifically reviewing for the website). When I used a store-bought hair dye, I made sure to follow those directions. Never vary from major chemical processing instructions. Lengthening the processing time on relaxers, texturizers, colors, and even protein treatments can come with major consequences.

But for less damaging products like conditioners, why put instructions when hair is so different? The obvious reason for all of the variations in usage is that there is such a large variety of hair characteristics that determine how well and why a product works for your hair. Thickness, porosity, density, curl type... these can all vary. The product instructions, however, do not account for these variations. I've begun to think that it would perhaps be more beneficial to include what NOT to do with the product instead.

Imagine if a product had a label that read: Use Get It Together, Girl conditioner on clean, wet hair. Apply and leave on until hair feels moisturized. Do not exceed 4 hours before rinsing as over-conditioning may weaken hair. That would be great, right?! It basically eliminates the learning curve for those of us with hair that does not like to play by the rules. 15 minutes is not long enough for my hair. 90% of leave-in conditioners fail. But any good conditoner can be a leave-in if you just.... leave it in. It took me almost a year to realize that most of the time, instructions do not apply to me. I kept wondering why no product EVER worked.
A depiction of what I looked like during my learning curve.

This brings us back to the original point. Why are products misinforming us on how to use their products? Putting too much information just confuses the customer. In the age of YouTube information and an increasing number of naturals to ask for advice, it's probably okay to let us figure it out. If the product is not meant to chemically alter the hair, what's the worst that could happen? "Oh my hair is just SO AMAZING!" as opposed to "I followed the instructions to the letter and my hair hasn't improved!" I'll take the former. If you are new to the natural hair care routine, you can skip the learning curve. Instructions are for beginners. It's okay to alter those instructions to make your hair better.

Do you even read the instructions on your favorite products? Do the instructions ever work for you as written? Have you ever had any consequences?  Join our discussion in the comments section  below.
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