There’s a general misconception that black women’s natural hair is tacky, overly hard, dirty and hard to maintain. I recently cut my hair and have since then been on a natural hair journey. Honestly I now love the texture of my hair in a way I never have, it feels so soft and rich to the hand. I’ve also had to learn some of the basics of hair-care. Just like skincare, hair-care is not a one size fits all. For many people maintaining their hair is a form of self-care.
The first step in maintaining your natural hair is knowing your hair type, that way you know how to care for your hair, what products to use and what not to. Your hair type is based on your curl pattern. According to Andre Walker, celebrity hair stylist, there are 4 primary curl patterns and hair types: Straight – type 1, wavy – type 2, curly – type 3 and coily – type 4. These hair types are further divided into subcategories. The subcategories (a-c) depends on the tightness or looseness of the waves, curls and coils. Subcategory type A’s have a looser pattern type, type B’s have a medium pattern type, and type C’s are the tightest of the three.
My focus is on black women’s hair (obviously), so I’ll be focusing on type 3 (curly) and type 4 (coily) hair types. Type 4 hair is the hair type that most black women have.
Water is essential in maintaining natural hair. Natural hair is usually inherently dry and water is the quickest way to add moisture to your hair. It is important that your hair is moisturized before detangling or even adding products in it. Attempting to comb your hair while dry and hard will be frustrating and might lead to breakage especially at the roots. A wide tooth comb and spray bottle are the best tools for detangling. Watering your hair also softens it and this enable products to properly seep into it.
Pre-shampoo your hair. Shampoos are great for getting rid of dirt but unfortunately they can also strip your hair of its natural and essential oils. Adding oils like coconut oil and olive oil before shampooing would help prepare and protect your hair from drying up.
Shampoo is a hair care product used for cleaning and washing hair. Before applying shampoo, make sure to pre-shampoo your hair or at least moisturize it with water, this will allow better and effective application. Sweat, dead skin cells, hair creams, excess oils, and dust often leave residue and dirt in hair and this is the most important reason for shampooing. After pre-shampooing or water application, add 2 – 3 handfuls of shampoo to your hair and massage into your scalp for a good wash.
Deep conditioning should be done after hair must have been shampooed. It is basically overlaying your hair in healthy and nourishing products. The process of deep conditioning is retaining moisture and products to your hair. After application, cover with a shower cap for a period of 20 – 30 minutes and then wash off with cold water. Your hair will thank you. Deep conditioners can be easily DIY-ed using basic kitchen ingredients. Mixing one banana, 3 tablespoons of yoghurt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and honey would quickly give you a concoction to condition your hair with.
Leave-in conditioners are one of the best things to hit the hair market. Unlike regular conditioner, and like the name implies, you are not supposed to rinse it out but to let it soak your strands in nutrients. My favorite thing about leave-in conditioners is how soft, popping and defined they make my curls. So lush! For a better result, use a wide-tooth comb to gently brush through and even out application. It can also be used to soften, detangle and style your hair.
Trimming is a hair maintaining activity that we don’t talk nearly enough about. Split ends are those thin or frayed parts at the end of our hair. To prevent split ends from damaging the entire tip of your hair, it’s advisable to trim them off. It’s not supposed to be a big chop, just the thin and damaged ends. Trimming promotes healthy hair growth and makes it easier to style.
At night, protect hair using satin bonnets and pillowcases. As opposed to cotton, satin helps to retain hair moisture and prevent friction. This leaves the hair smooth and soft. It’s going to be heartbreaking if after spending time and care on your hair, the whole moisture gets drained into your scarf or cotton pillowcase, taking you back to square one with dry and frizzy hair!
What we put into our body is also as important as what we put on it, eating healthy is as important as deep conditioning. Eggs are one of the most nutritional foods for healthy hair, as they contain protein and vitamins. Other food types that enhance healthy hair include peanuts, spinach, guava, sardines, avocado, sweet potato, unsweetened Greek yoghurt and water. Drinking at least 2 liters of water daily will keep your natural hair strong and healthy.
It is not enough that you know and do these things, the most important ‘tip’ is consistency. To get desired results, pick a routine and stick with it. Don’t overly stress about the length of your hair, the most important thing is how healthy it is. Lastly, don’t forget to moisturize and protect your beautiful natural hair, queen!