Oftentimes in the media and real life Black women are forced to pick sides as it relates to our hair. We must chose to be identified as natural or relaxed. After getting my first chemical treatment to my tresses at 3 years old, I maintained relaxed hair until I was 23. For the past 1 ½ years I’ve been “natural.” Through it all, I’ve struggled, and at times failed, to maintain healthy hair. Recently however, I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the “natural versus relaxed hair” mentality because not all relaxed hair is damaged and not all natural hair is healthy! Below, I’ve compiled a list of ten tips that natural and relaxed women alike can utilize to help their hair achieve its optimum health.
Water is the best, most pure, moisturizer
Water is an amazing hydrator that begins the moisturizing process as it relates to our bodies, skin and hair. As a result, it is VERY important to make sure we are drinking enough water on a daily basis to hydrate our bodies so that it is able to produce healthy hair at the roots.
Dirty hair is NOT okay
By the time I reached high school, I had developed the mentality that the dirtier my hair was, the faster it would grow. As a result, I got to a point when I was washing my hair about once a month. That is not okay. No growing thing is able to thrive amongst dirt and filth, hair included. Our scalps need to be properly cleansed/rinsed of dead skin cells, dirt, dust and our hair needs to be rid of product buildup. Healthy hair should be washed every 1-2 weeks, depending on the amount of general daily activity and product buildup you put yours through.
Sidenote: Actual shampoo doesn’t always have to be used. Many times, if you don’t use a lot of hair product (sprays, oils, style enhancers, etc), simply “washing” your hair with a conditioner will suffice. Actual shampoo should be used when you really need to cleanse your hair of intense product buildup and dirt.
Rinse in Cold Water
When washing your hair, the colder the water the better. Colder water helps seal your hair cuticle which ultimately means your hair will reflect more light and maintain more shine. In addition, the cold water will better be able to penetrate your tresses and hydrate the cortex, the innermost layer of your hair strands. And remember, contrary to popular belief (relaxed sistas), water can be one of your hair’s best friends.
Deep Conditioning is worthwhile
When I was younger I would skip deep conditioning because I didn’t feel like spending hours under the dryer. That was ultimately detrimental. Applying a deep conditioner to your strands and sitting under a hair dryer for a mere 15 minutes, or putting on a plastic cap and covering it with a heavy towel for an hour or more can work wonders for your hair, ultimately making it dramatically softer and stronger .
Oil Your Scalp! #NoGrease
The scalp’s health is essential for growing healthy hair. Unfortunately too often Black women use thick, heavy hair grease (Blue Magjc, Lanolin, etc.) to moisturize their scalps. Ultimately this is more damaging than effective because the petroleum and mineral oil that hair grease contains winds up blocking your scalp’s pores. As a result sweat and skin cells are trapped. This can hinder hair growth and also further agitate issues such as dandruff and psoriasis. When oiling your scalp, reach for basic, simple oils to get the job done. My personal favorite to use is 100% Jojoba oil because it closely resembles sebum, the oil our bodies already naturally create.
Sidenote: I’ve been getting in the habit of pouring a little oil in the center of my scalp, then rotating my head around my neck to distribute the oil all over my scalp. Next I do a scalp massage for a few minutes. In addition to oiling my scalp, this simple scalp massage helps stimulate hair growth.
Protective hair styles ARE your friend
Once your hair reaches shoulder length, it oftentimes will rub against the rough materials of your shirts and coats. These cotton and poly-blend materials have the unfriendly habit of snagging the ends of hair and ripping them off. This is detrimental when attempting to retain length, which is why so often many Black women are unable to maintain hair length beyond shoulder-length. Try getting in the habit of wearing loose chignons and other updo’s that will protect the ends of your hair and get your hair off of the trouble zones that exist around your shoulders and neck.
Satin scarves save
Despite protecting delicate hairstyles when sleeping, satin and silk scarves and pillowcases work wonders on protecting your hair from the rough surfaces of cotton pillowcases, sheets and comforters. Like mentioned above in protective hairstyles, these rough surfaces will snag and pull on your ends and ultimately break your hair off. Satin and silk are two of the safest materials to wrap your hair in to protect it.
Applying heat more often than once a week is very harmful. Some are able to do it, but so many others fail miserably at it and are left with dry, shriveled up strands with no life. It’s important to use a heat protectant spray before applying heat, then use the lowest heat setting possible to straighten/curl/style your tresses. I used to try to touch my hair up several times a week but realized it was killing my hair. I had to find alternatives to my staple styles. For example, if you like wearing a curly style, instead of using a curling iron every day I would recommend setting your hair in pin curls the night before or doing a roller set on your hair that will last for a week.
This rule is so simple yet it is rarely followed. On the back of all products we use, there are directions on how to use the product yet we rarely read them and actually follow them. How often does a deep conditioner packet instruct us to “apply to wet hair, leave on for 15 minutes under a hooded dryer, then rinse?” All the time. And how often do we do just that? Never. We will sit under the dryer for 30 minutes to an hour, assuming that those extra minutes will make the conditioner more effective. This is false. The manufacturers of that product spent countless hours in labs and running tests to discover the optimum recipe and time to make the product work. They instructed 15 minutes instead of one hour for a reason.
The Best Things For Your Hair Can Be Found In The Kitchen
I’m sure you’ve heard of the benefits of honey, mayonnaise, eggs, olive oil, beer et al for our hair. Is it a coincidence that they can all be found in our kitchens? No, not at all. Ultimately, the simpler our routines become for our hair, the better. I encourage you to head over to Google and look up the benefits of the kitchen ingredients I just listed, as well as do some additional research on your own. You will be shocked that the recipe to fix whatever is ailing your hair right now may be no more than a few feet away from you.