Afro-textured hair, ethnic, nappy, kinky… the list is endless. While many don’t even know how to approach naming our lush “African hair”, taming it and flaunting it can be just as challenging. Whether you rock a fro, relax your hair, wear a weave or you’re on your natural hair journey, the main objective is to love your hair, be confident and ensure that it’s healthy. Here’s what you need to know and do to get your hair feeling (and looking) great in its natural state.
Traction Alopecia is the unfortunate and gradual loss of hair, especially along your hairline, as a result of styling and pulling your hair too tight. In severe cases, it can cause balding and permanent hair loss around the hairline. Ask your hairstylist not to pull your hair too tightly when plaiting it, and always give your hair a break in between changing hairstyles. Hair implants are alternative treatments for severe cases of alopecia.
Base your scalp when you relax your hair. Apply a nourishing cream like good old Vaseline. Petroleum jelly will protect your scalp from the harmful chemicals found in the relaxer. Apply on your scalp, ears and hairline. Gently massage it to stimulate blood flow and increase moisture from root to tip.
Condition and deep condition your hair to prevent breakage. Conditioning strengthens your strand and moisturises to give your hair the treatment it deserves. Leave-in conditioner is also great to help lock-in moisture between washes. Opt for one packed with ingredients like protein, amino acids, collagen, keratin, oat flour, and panthenol to encourage growth and restore your hair. Be sure to use good quality products to avoid unnecessary product build-up or weighing down your hair.
Damage control! Ditch any product or styling method that causes damage. You may not notice any major changes immediately, but if your hair breaks off excessively or there’s notable discomfort, discontinue use. What works for one person, may not work for another. Even your elastic band could also be damaging your hair, causing friction, breakage, and stress.
Co-washing is a good way to retain some moisture (or use products containing shea butter to seal in that luxurious moisture). A co-wash is beneficial to help manage very dry hair. The ideal treatment cycle is one week shampoo, one-week co-wash. ORS recommends you mix your conditioner with lukewarm water to create a co-wash solution. For an added cleansing effect you can mix 1/3 of your shampoo with 2/3 of your conditioner to create a co-wash solution.
Eat clean to nourish your locks. A healthy diet will do wonders for your hair – and the rest of your body too. Noted. Nourish your hair from the inside and add lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet. Stick with the superfoods and incorporate lots of vitamins, protein and calcium. Water is also very good for your hair and bodily function, so keep drinking those eight glasses a day.
Hair food is just that. Food for your hair! Besides eating clean, using an actual hair food goes above just washing and conditioning. A good product will provide your locks with much-deserved TLC and get straight to the root of your healthy hair needs. Look for one containing ingredients that will soothe your scalp, get rid of dreaded dandruff, encourage growth and overall help you get that healthy hair glow.
Growth, glorious growth. Once you embrace your natural hair, the relationship with your hair intensifies and even a few centimetres could be enough for a celebratory dance in front of the mirror. While cutting your ends may seem contradictory, a good trim every eight weeks will make your hair look healthier and also help healthy growth to continue. This helps get rid of split ends that will continue to split all the way up to your hair shaft and cause damage and breakage. It’s often hard to keep tabs on the growth of curly hair because when your hair is wet it could have a shrinkage of up to 80% of its actual length compared to when it’s gently stretched or dried. Hair grows approximately 2 ½ cm a month, even though you may not notice the growth, so don’t give up!
Heat at own risk. Heat is damaging to all hair types. Curly hair is especially sensitive, so you should heat-style with caution. Heat can dry out your hair, cause breakage and split ends. We all love a good blow-out now and then, so if you do, use with care. A heat protectant will give you sleek locks without the damage. Using a lower heat setting is also a good option. It could take longer, but it’ll be less harsh. Piping hot water is also damaging, so ensure water is lukewarm when you wash your hair.
Invest in good quality products. Your hair is your pride and joy so embrace it for all its crazy beauty and nourish it. Spending that little extra could make a major difference. Note that just because a product is expensive, doesn’t mean it’ll work.
Journey on! Deciding to love your hair is a journey on it’s own. It takes patience and confidence – and a lot of trial and error, but embrace it. It’s your hair, you might as well make the best of it and rock that fro with confidence – or whatever style you choose. People with straighter locks pay big money to try to get ‘natural’ looking curls, so embrace your luscious and sometimes temperamental locks.
Kitchen-aid. Maintaining your natural hair can get expensive, so raid your kitchen cupboards for great homemade treatments that’ll do wonders for your hair. Apple cider vinegar is great for treating dandruff, itchy scalps and removes product build-up. You could also whip up a nourishing egg mask to strengthen your tresses and give a quick protein boost. Avocado, mayonnaise, honey and coconut milk are great pantry ingredients for rich homemade conditioners.
Limit the use of glued-in extensions, dying your hair often, harsh chemicals, excessively tight braids, and hard gel hairstyles. A receding hairline, bald spots and a flakey scalp will set you back considerably on your journey to healthy hair. If you love experimenting with colour, use treatments and products that will protect your hair after you dye it.
Moisturise your hair before washing or styling. Rub on restorative products to retain moisture before you wash your hair and before you create your desired style. Your hair withstands the elements every day and loses a lot of moisture. Wrap your hair in a silk scarf or sleep on a silk pillowcase to retain moisture. Use rich products to keep your locks hydrated, but ensure that you don’t use too much product and create a build-up.
Natural hair for the win. Going natural may take a lot of work, but it’s far better to restore and protect your hair than to continue using products and treatments that often do more harm than good. If your hair is naturally curly, don’t fight the frizz. Play around with different looks and styles and try to opt for one that leaves the least damage.
Oils are a great way to ensure your hair is always moisturised and looking healthy. Jojoba oil, amla oil, essential oils, and of course coconut oil should be added to your healthy hair routine. Argan oil is ‘liquid gold’, derived from argan trees, and rich in fatty acids and vitamin E. It acts as a natural sunscreen for hair and protects it from damage. Hair is left silkier and shiny, while your scalp is nourished and split ends are treated. It also encourages hair growth and helps tame frizz. Coconut Oil is another great oil and does everything from helping your hair grow lush and long, to preventing breakage. Coconut oil is rich in vitamin E, K and iron, and moisturises your hair, while also protecting against dandruff thanks to its antibacterial properties.
Protective styling: Opt for styles that limit the damage, especially in winter months. Cornrows, buns, twists, and braids are a great way to protect your roots and tips to limit breakage – even if you just do them at night to protect your hair while you sleep. Be sure to minimise tension on your hair, no matter what style you choose.
Quick fixes! Let’s face it, bad hair days happens to the best of us and even though you love your mane, some days you just can’t deal with it. A simple plait is a great way to tame your hair and always looks chic. Turbans work well too and when all fails, hat it!
Relax, don’t do it. We grew up relaxing our hair and the truth is, it often does more long-term harm than good. A relaxer can strip the hair’s natural oils, leaving it dry and brittle. If you prefer sleeker locks, opt for a good quality product to ensure you don’t completely strip your hair of its natural moisture. Always do moisture treatments at least once every two weeks, and only use relaxer if your hair is not dry or damaged.
Sulphate-free shampoo is the future. Sulphates help to remove excess bacteria and dirt, but cause damage to your hair. Sulphate-free shampoos have become the latest craze in ethnic hair care and treatments.
Transitioning is the ultimate test. It’s slightly challenging but rewarding. This refers to the process of changing from one hair type to another. It often involves a big chop and helps you start afresh when going natural from relaxed hair. If it seems way too daunting, the process could be done gradually to ease you into it. Try to steer away from using chemicals and opt for natural butter and keratin-rich products. You can also curl your hair during this time, using straw or rod rollers, or some product to give your hair an added boost while moving away from relaxers.
Unmanageable! We’ve heard it all before. Some hairdressers even refuse to work with ‘ethnic hair’ because the truth is, it’s not easy to deal with. Ethnic hair cannot be treated the same way as straighter strands, but if given the proper care, it certainly can be manageable. Miss us with that.
Virgin hair… this is natural hair that has not been chemically-treated by perming, dying, bleaching or a using a relaxer. If you’ve managed to get this far without it, keep on trucking. If you’re keen to get your hair sleek, make sure you follow the correct precautions. Ask your hairdresser for tips on before and after care.
Wig it! Wearing a wig is back with a bang and limits the damage to your hairline and hair. Many celebs like Nicki Minaj and DJ Zinhle love changing up their looks and donning a new wig to match their ensemble and occasion. Base your scalp and have some fun. Weaves will probably always retain their popularity so whatever style floats your boat is the best option for you.
XYZ on the low. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but that glass of wine with dinner and shots over the weekend could be hindering your #hairgoals. Alcohol dehydrates the body and does the same to your hair. Excessive use could lead to a zinc deficiency which could even lead to hair loss. Keep trucking on your journey to healthy hair.
Products to try:
Dark and Lovely Au Naturale Knot Out Conditioner, R34,95.
Dark and Lovely AMLA Legend Oil of 7 Wonders, R54,95.
Revlon ColorSilk Shampoo, R65,99.
Dark and Lovely, Au Naturale Plaiting Pudding Cream, R69,95.
Natural World Argan Oil of Morocco Moisture Rich Conditioner, R79,95.
Pure Royal Jamaican Castor Oil, R99.95.
Pure Royal Olive Oil Hair Mayonnaise, R52.95.
My Natural Hair Moisturising Butter, R99,95.
Aunt Jackie’s Flaxseed Half & Half Hydrating Silkening Hair Milk, R121,95.
Cantu Grow Strengthening Treatment and Daily Moisturiser, R129,95.
ORS Olive Oil Built-in Protection No-lye Relaxer, R99,95.
Dove Advance Series Pure Dry Oil Conditioner, R79.99.
Share your favourite products and tips for luscious locks in the comments section below.