Lately i’ve been talking with my friends and found out that there is still lots of confusion as to what is considered good hair care for our (natural, afro) hair. So i thought i’d outline the basics of a good hair care regime which you can then adjust to your own personal needs. Every hair care regime will and should include the following: washing, conditioning, moisturising/sealing. That is it stripped down to the bare minimum.
- Shampoo – there are moisturising and clarifying. Moisturising shampoos are more gentle and less stripping, whereas Clarifying shampoos are designed to really strip the hair of all product build up. ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) and baking soda are also used to clarify the hair and scalp of build-up.
- Co-wash – conditioner washing is a way of washing your hair without stripping it of it’s oils. Depending on what conditioner you use will determine how often you will need to clarify your hair.
- Natural clays/powders – Includes bentonite clay, rhassoul clay and other herbs such as the ayurvedic or indian herbs and are used as alternatives to shampoo to ‘cleanse’ and condition the hair and scalp.
Notes: The question you have to ask and answer for yourself is how often you will wash your hair. The misconception that washing too frequently is damaging for our hair is wrong. Water is excellent for our hair and we should use it to our advantage. It is true, however, that shampooing too often can be drying so it is recommended to limit shampooing to once a week or so depending on the products you use on a daily basis. If you need to wash more frequently then this i would recommend that you consider co-washing. Some women co-wash several times within the week and shampoo once a week, clarifying once a month. Some women co-wash once a week and shampoo once a month only to clarify their hair. But washing hair often, in whatever capacity you choose, is an excellent habit to get into. A clean hair and scalp will thrive considering all other parts of the regime are complementary.
*Wash your hair in sections and braid or twist each section to avoid shrinkage and/or tangling. Since i started doing this, washing my hair is much less of a hassle.
*Pre-poo (pre shampoo) treatments are excellent for coating your hair and counteracting the drying effects of shampooing. Use oils and or conditioner of choice apply it to your hair liberally and put on a shower cap. Cover with a headscarf or wrap of choice and leave overnight. Wash hair the following day. If you forget to pre-poo overnight then a couple of hours before washing is still really good.
- Rinse out – a lot of conditioners are designed to be left in only for a few minutes and then rinsed out. These conditioners are good for co-washing and for everyday conditioning.
- Deep (moisture) conditioning – Designed to draw moisture deep into the hair shaft. Some conditioner’s are specifically designed for this purpose and require no add-ins, but a lot of women use a rinse-out conditioner with add-ins such as honey and oils to enhance the conditioning properties and utilise heat to encourage deep penetration.
- Protein Conditioning – High protein conditioners are designed to add protein back into the hair shaft, thus strengthening the hair. Hair is mostly made of protein and requires a good balance of moisture and protein in order to stay healthy. Chemically treated hair whether it be relaxed, texturised or dyed needs more protein than natural hair as the chemicals break down the protein structure of the hair and leave the strands weak, so it’s important to get a good amount of protein to re-strengthen the shaft. As for natural hair it still needs protein but far less than chemically altered hair. You can buy ready made protein treatments or you can make your own. If making your own, then coconut milk is good for adding protein as is egg. Mix your desired protein into a conditioner with some oils. Leave in for about 15 – 30 minutes depending on how badly your hair needs protein and rinse. Protein treatments should ALWAYS be followed by a deep moisturising conditioner to rebalance the hair and to avoid breakage.
Notes: Finding the balance between moisture and protein is a personal issue but generally the signs are as follows, if your hair is brittle and snaps easily it’s a sign that it needs moisture so deep condition more, whereas if your hair feels mushy and has little elasticity it is a sign that your hair needs protein. Most naturals do a protein treatment once a month, more if their hair is dyed.
MOISTURE EQUALS WATER
- Ready-made – Look for products that contain water (aqua) as the first ingredient as water is the only true moisturiser.
- Home-made – There are several ways to incorporate more moisture into your hair. Spritzing is an easy way to do this. Whether it be made up of only water or whether it includes oils, humectants such as glycerine and floral waters such as rose-water, it’s a great way to add moisture. Just add the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake and spritz. Simple.
Sealing the hair is to ‘seal’ in the moisture that you have put into it from the previous step. It traps the water and nutrients on the hair shaft, slowing down the evaporation of the water based moisturizer. It keeps the moisture on the hair shaft longer.
- Ready-made – Look for moisturisers that are oil based. That have oil as the main ingredient and does not contain water.
- Oils – thicker oils such as castor oil are good for this. Jojoba oil does not penetrate the hair shaft making it a good sealer. Coconut oil can also be used as it partially penetrates. Olive oil and avocado oil penetrate all the way into the hair shaft and are best used in conjunction with other oils to ensure good sealing.
- Butters – Such as Shea butter can be used with excellent results. Good for those with thick or very dry hair (such as mine). Choose a good butter that is rich in nutrients and imparts softness to the hair.
Other factors you may want to consider are how, when and what you use to comb/brush your hair. Keep combing to a minimum as much as possible and if it’s completely necessary add moisture to your hair to make it flexible. Most naturals only comb/brush to detangle their hair when it is saturated with conditioner during washing and at all other times ‘finger’ comb using their fingers only. Don’t over comb as this can cause unnecessary breakage and split ends.
Depending on your own ethics, you will decide which products to use and whether it’s a concern of yours to stay away from certain chemicals.
I will refer you to the following post on Black Hair Planet to give you further help on building a good hair care routine.
Regime building template –