How Do You Know When You Need A Trim?

A light press this past February reveals scraggly ends

Final cut took off about four inches. But it appears even more needs to come off.

Three months ago, I bit the bullet, straightened my hair to see just how bad my ends were. Prior to entering NP’s box braid challenge in November, I’d had a sneaky suspicion that they were pretty bad because the ends of my twists just felt thin and anorexic. Dispite the evidence, I was hoping the challenge and lack of manipulation for a long period of time would be just what the doctor ordered. But as I braided it up and later when I retouched my braids on different occasions, I could tell I had several inches of thin, damaged hair.

It was very clear they needed to come off. So in late February, I pressed my hair and to my horror my ends just looked incredibly chewed up. Heart sick, I decided to go ahead and get a precision cut to get rid of my scraggly ends and also to eleminate my remaining layers.

While I thought the cut went well, I was always concerned with whether or not all the damaged ends had come off. My beautician originally wanted to cut off more, but I suspect she didn’t just so she could salvage some length and make me feel better.

But as I look at the pic of that final cut, the ends still appear to be see-through and very thin to me. And based on what I saw in the picture, I’ve also felt that I’d have to do another substantial cut fairly soon.

Today, the remaining thin, wispy ends can no longer be ignored. Today, I’ve pretty much come to terms with that reality. As I touched up my hair in the style I’m currently wearing, I can tell that more hair needs to come off. Most likely the one-and-a-half inches that I’ve managed to retain since the last cut. And here’s the proof right here.

At the moment, I’m not in any particular hurry because my ends have been pretty well protected all these months, first in another set of box braids and now in a bun fashioned from flat twists. I’m hoping and praying my ends don’t get worse until I can get around to getting another hair cut.

Determining When You Need a Trim or a Cut
So how can you tell when YOU need a cut or at least a good trim? See the list below:

1) See through wispy ends

2) Ends tangle and knot easily

3) An over abundance of split ends

4) Twists or braids feel thinner and less substantial as you get to the ends

5) Single-strand knots are in abundance making your ends feel like fine-grade sand paper

From the comb down is what she cut off.

Now, if you can check off any or all of these items in the above list, then you seriously need to consider a trim or even a really good cut. However, if you’re like most naturals, you’re likely not fond of going to salons. If that’s the case and you don’t need a precision cut, then get a good pair of shears, twist your hair up and snip off those ends. Don’t worry about a little uneveness because with shrinkage, you’re not likely to notice. Fortunately, nappy hair is very forgiving in that regard.

Self Trim/Cut vs the Salon
But if you’re requiring a precision cut, then you’re going to have to find a good beautician. Most that I’ve encountered cannot cut highly textured hair in its natural state or even when it’s been stretched in braids. I’ve tried it both ways and have had some horrible hair cuts. That’s also why I opted to press my hair before going to the beautician this last time. As you can see it turned out fine. However, I will caution you about using heat because it can be damaging if you don’t know what you’re doing. Make sure you use a heat protectorant and the minimal heat possible.

If you decide to go to a salon, go in for a consultation prior to allowing a beautician near your hair with a flat iron or pressing comb because even a professional can make a mistake. Not only will the beautican have an opportunity to assess your hair, this is also your time to ask questions and learn what you need to know with regard to their thoughts and techniques about handling natural hair. Also take the time to check out the salon and how they treat their patrons. If they’re not talking to suit you, or something doesn’t sit right with you, do not return. If everything seems right, then schedule and appointment. But in the end, it’s your decision so make sure you’ve done your home work and choose a beautician wisely if you decide to go this route.

9 Responses to “How Do You Know When You Need A Trim?”
  1. Stacey says:

    I’ve been a lurker on your blog for some time now and I’ve noticed that you are the ULTIMATE protective styler but you continue to have issues with length retention.

    Hi Stacey,
    You’re right I am the ultimate protective styler. I started my loose haired journey, meaning out of microbraids, in early 2006. At that time, I had probably about 7-8 inches of hair natural hair having worn those braids since 2002. About the same time I found, learned how to style my hair and began incorporating a lot of the tried and true practices that lead to length retention.
    Once I mastered protective styling, getting to 14-15 inch mark was easy. On me that’s about hair that when stretched, reach my arm pits. It retaining healthy length beyond this mark that has been rather elusive.

    Do you think there’s something you’re doing wrong?

    Hmmm you say you’ve been lurking for some time? Then you’ve somehow missed all the things that I’ve been through which has contributed to my length set backs including a couple of butchered hair cuts, heat damage and most recently color damage that has managed to destroy my ends. I’ve mentioned the color damage quite often in my recent posts and have even talked about it in this one.

    After all of these setbacks do you think this natural journey has been worth it?

    I didn’t stop perming because I wanted mega long hair. In fact my quest for really long hair didn’t even begin until I joined Nappturality in 2006. I stopped putting chemicals in my hair to stop the cycle of down-to-the-scalp breakage that I’d experience time and time again over a twenty year period of wearing relaxed hair. But I had no intentions of wearing my hair in its natural state either. My plan was to go back to a press n curl. I never had damage to my hair when I was simply pressing it. But let’s be clear, going back to a relaxer was simply never an option to me, and it has never ever crossed my mind to do so. I didn’t start wearing relaxed hair until I was 23. I wore afros in the 70s. I wasn’t afraid of my nappy hair, and I knew what I was getting into.

    So the set backs I’ve had wearing natural hair could never compare to what I experienced wearing relaxer. These days a set back only means that I end up with 14 healthy inches because I had to cut off three that were damaged.
    I’ll take that any day over the alternative of a ratty looking relaxer any day.

    I’m currently transitioning and I’ve been battling fairy knots for months now. When my hair was fully relaxed I NEVER had fairy knots. Now I’m worried that when I’m done transitioning and have a head full of natural hair the fairy knots will be uncontrollable and cause numerous setbacks. I’m worried that after all this transitioning I’ll end up preferring my hair pressed just so it wont tangle on itself.

    But enough about me, I know that you’ve come to terms with having to get rid of unhealthy ends. I also cut off scraggly ends without giving a second thought to losing the length. But after all this protective styling I guess I want to know how you feel about having to do it and if the setbacks affect the way you view your journey or how you continue to approach it?

    Well let’s be clear, I don’t wear protective styles because I have to. I wear them because I really like them AND they’re incredibly convenient. I love being able to get up and go in the morning without having to factor doing my hair into my get ready time.
    The fact that protective styles help promote length retention is a bonus.

  2. ms-gg says:

    just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your blog nappyme! 🙂

    • nappyme says:

      You’ve been one of my biggest supporters for a really long time and I just want to say that means a lot to me. Thank you sooooooo much!

  3. mophead says:

    Hi, I really enjoy your blog. I need to ask a question and I have asked this question before w/o an response so I thought that I would ask here. This question is not in direct reponse to this topic. I want to know what my hair type is? I do not know how to determine this. Do you figure this out before product is applied, while its wet, or when hair is completely dry? I am 1 year natural and I am having trouble figuring out what my hair likes. I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

    • nappyme says:

      Hi Mophead,
      Been meaning to get around to answering your question.

      If you understand the differences between hair types then you shouldn’t have a problem identifying yours under the right circumstances.

      To do that, you need to get naked. Ok…not you…just your hair. Simply wash and let your hair air dry unmanipulated and product free. Then the proof of what you’ve got on your head will readily show itself.

      Here’s a picture of mine in that state:

      My clean, product free hair clearly reveals a 4B texture
      My freshly washed product-free hair clearly reveals my 4b texture

      From there, it just a matter of matching what you got to the known hair types. But also know most 4A and 4B types all have some variation and you’ll also find that even on one head, you can have multiple textures. So don’t be surprised if you still have a bit of a time identifying your hair type. Practically no one has hair that fits neatly into the hair typing box.

      But don’t dispare. Most folks just go by what they have most of. As far as what your hair likes try a product for awhile before giving up on it. Also work with your hair’s capabilities. If you don’t have a natural coil/curl pattern, (like me) no product in the world is going to make it behave like it does.

      You also have to consider that all nappy hair likes moisture so when choosing your products go for moisture first and oils second. And don’t mistake moisture for oil. Water moisturizes. Oils lubricate, seal and can act as an emolient to soften up your strands.

      So keep all of this in mind as you continue to look for products that work for you.

      Hope this help and good luck!

  4. Happy Bunny says:

    Ugh…I am TERRIFIED of heat, I really DO NOT like wearing my hair straight, and I can’t stand the, “Oh your hair looks so gorgeous LIKE THAT” comments. But I fried my hair with dye, and I’m going to have to chop off the dyed ends. Like you, I think it’s better to have the hair straightened to get a good precision cut, and really see what’s going on with your hair. 😦 I am going to let a professional straighten–but NOT the chick who did it last time. She wouldn’t listen to me about using as LITTLE heat as possible, and she combed through my dry nappies with a FINE TOOTH COMB! And laughed at me because I’m tenderheaded.

  5. nettyboop says:

    I am curious and I’m in search of some truth. I’ve seen some natural women have a wet roller set to their natural hair. However, these women all have some type of wave or curl definition in their hair. I wanna know, can a true cnapp, achieve the same look from a wet set? If it is possible, please direct me to pics, or individuals that have done it so I can see what I did wrong.

    • nappyme says:

      Hi Netty,
      Kim's flexie rod strawset
      My friend Kim’s dryer strawset done on Flexie rods

      First let me lol. Only because you’re so adamant about “finding out the truth” about cNappy hair. Can we indeed do roller sets. My answer is yes, but sis it takes some skill and some patience to do it right. Obviously our texture poses some big challenges and to achieving a beautiful roller set. And then, you have to have mad skills and a lot of patience. Not too long ago, someone posted the same question on NP and here are some of the tips from that thread:

      From Nappyme:
      You have to use the right sized rods, the right product AND wrap the hair around the rod so that the hair is taut, lays flat and has just the right tension. Also, the hair has to be totally dry when you take them off the rods. You might try sitting under a dryer till your hair is mostly dry and then let it air dry the rest of the way.

      If you don’t have all of these factors right, you’ll end up with a head full of nappy curls. I think that’s something that’s pretty hard to do yourself. If you know someone well, you might let a beautician do it for you. I know I wouldn’t have the patience to attempt this myself.

      From LBellatrix:
      I haven’t done this in a long while but a lot of the advice is sound. The only things I would add/emphasize are:

      1. Make sure each section of your hair is WET and thoroughly detangled before you roll it on the roller. It will take longer to dry, particularly if you’re using a slick or creamy product, but that’s okay.

      2. For smoother curls, use big rollers and SMALL sections…smaller than you would use if your hair were relaxed. When I did rollersets, I would use the largest roller I could find that allowed my hair to wrap completely around it at least once but not twice.

      3. Make sure the ends lay as flat as possible on the roller. This can be hard with 4b hair but again, if it’s wet and coated with the right product, it can be done. The right comb can help as well (but be careful).

      4. Do not remove the rollers until the hair is COMPLETELY DRY.

      From Chachadiva:
      Next time, try rolling in a spiral motion. You’ll get spirals and ringlets. Rolling under sometimes doesn’t always work with thick hair.

      Here are some folks that have perfected their technique to achieve some beautiful styles:
      Mwedzi (YouTube video/tutorial)

      Nappturality member, screen name Whitley Gilbert, has had major success with roller sets. I wouldn’t classify her exactly as a 4b but she is a very nappy headed 4A. Her roller sets are absolutely gorgeous.
      Here are some helpful links:

      Well this should get you started. If you have any questions, folks on and Mwedzi I’m sure will happy to provide you with answers. Good luck on your next attempt. Let me know how it turns out.

      Take care,

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