More & more, women of color are embracing their crowning glory. Its an amazing thing, seeing all this large-and-in-charge, curly, kinky, natural hair. I just love it! However many women complain that they don’t know what to do with their natural or how to care for it. This is often times is a deterrent for women who may be interested in going natural and this issue sometimes sends naturals running back to the “creamy-crack” (as its been coined).
I’ve been fully natural a little under 2 years now (growing it out for close to 3) and in that time I’ve learned a couple tricks to the trade.
- Never detangle dry. Natural hair can tangle beyond belief, simply because the curls grow and curl around each other. This is a natural occurrence and while it doesn’t need to be tackled every day, it is something that will need to be tackled. Break your hair down into sections and use some sort of moisturizer or conditioner to soften your hair before you go at it. Then use a wide tooth comb and go to work. (Only pull out the rattail for small knots, otherwise you’ll be ripping out hair unnecessarily.
- Keep your hair moisturized. It takes a longer time for natural scalp oils to reach the tips of curly hair, simply because of our wave pattern. You have to compensate for that by keeping moisture in your hair. Pay attention to ingredients as this is very important to keeping moistue in your hair. Watch out for ingredients that strip hair such as sulfate (which is found in many shampoos) as well as ingredients like mineral oil and petrolatum which only give the appearance of moisture but actually just coat and suffocate your hair while leaving it dry and brittle. The best moisturizers are ones that have water as their first ingredient. Also, if you can’t find sulfate-free shampoo, try co-washing (washing with only conditioner). It does wonders for my hair, I actually rarely even use shampoo anymore. Leave-in is cardinal as well. Apply after washing and seal lightly with the oil of your choice. (coconut oil & olive oil can be found at your local grocer and are great for sealing and/or scalp oiling). Also sleeping with a satin cap or satin pillowcase is cardinal to keeping the moisture in your hair and off the pillow.
- Low Manipulation Styles & Protective Styles are your best friend. First let me state the difference between low-mani styles and protective styles. Low-mani styles are styles that do not require a lot of manipulation for upkeep. You don’t have to comb through this type of style every day and it is usually low stress on the hair. These types of styles include, but are not limited to, twist-outs, braid-outs, bantu knot-outs, etc. Protective styles protect the hair. They usually involve your hair being hidden from the elements in some way, whether it is just the ends of your hair, or your whole head. Buns can be seen as protective styles because your hair is tucked under and the ends do not have the opportunity to be exposed to the elements (and henceforth, more opportunities for breakage). Hair extensions, marley twists, bohemian braids, etc., can also be used as protective styles. Both of these methods of styling are cardinal for the natural who desires healthy hair. Our hair is just not made to be combed and raked through all the time. Sometimes it good to just leave it alone for a while. Continue to care for it an nourish it, but do not feel like you have to comb it every single day. Embrace your nappy! I usually do a braid-out or twist out and leave it that way for a week. I cover it with a satin bonnet at night and just fluff and go in the morning. If my hair gets too shrunken throughout the week I may revert to a puff or some other bi-product style, but I do not recomb and rake through it every day for a new style. I also throw in a long term protective style every now and then (My last one was bohemian braids). Giving your hair a rest keeps it from breaking and over-shedding, while helping it stay strong.
- Be careful with heat. I’m not going to say you can’t use heat. I mean, what’s natural hair if not versatile. But I will say go easy on the heat. You shouldn’t be blow drying and flat ironing every week. This kind of constant direct heat can pop your hair, make it dry broken & brittle, and even potentially change your curl pattern. Look up heat damage on YouTube and you will see dozens of horror stories about people who flat-ironed their hair too much and literally lost their curl pattern. It just kept getting looser and looser until it got straight…and in some cases it only took one time to cause those sort of damaging effects. With those kind of risks, excessive heat use is just not worth it, if you ask me. If and when you do choose to use heat, use a good heat protectant on your hair. Grapeseed oil is a great natural heat protectant.
- Remember, your hair is not the next girl’s hair. Does your hair need more protein or moisture? Do twist-outs work best for you or are puffs more your style? Get to know your hair. Pay attention to what it needs. If it is too limp, it may need protein. If it is too dry it may need moisture. If your hair tangles too much when left in a puff, opt for another style. Your hair will tell you what it needs, if you would just be willing to listen.
Before you give up on your natural hair, give it the best chance for survival! Try these couple of tips and I’m sure that you will see a dramatic turnaround in the manageability and health of your natural hair.
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♥ XOXO A.T. ♥