Forget everything you think you know about hair care. When it comes to returning to your natural hair it’s pretty much a whole new ball game.
You need to retrain yourself and know that you can’t treat your now curly, coily or kinky hair as if it were still relaxed. If you’ve been natural for a while, but feel like you’ve come to a plateau in your natural hair journey, then revisiting these natural hair care tips can be the jump start you need.
Here is everything you need to jump start your natural hair journey.
Shampooing removes dirt and product buildup but it also removes at least some of the natural oils that the scalp produces for the keeping hair lubricated and nourished.
Shampooing less means keeping hair supple and moisturized for longer periods. Shampooing less will be particularly beneficial to you if you notice that your hair usually takes a few days to feel moisturized again after your full wash day routine.
Use sulfate free shampoos
Whenever you do shampoo, use sulfate-free formulations that are gentler on the hair. If your hair has been color treated, then using sulfate free shampoos will also help to preserve your hair color so that it stays vibrant, for longer periods of time.
Shampoos that contain sulfates are particularly drying for naturally curly, kinky or coily hair types and can lead to breakage, tangles and split ends.
Sulfate shampoos can also cause the scalp to become dry, itchy and irritated. Sulfate free shampoos will not remove silicones, mineral oil or petrolatum, so you should avoid using products that contain these ingredients when on a sulfate free cleansing regimen.
Better yet, use no shampoo methods for cleansing the hair
No poo or no shampoo cleansing methods keep hair moisturized thereby reducing the risk of split ends and breakage. No poo cleansing methods also promote shine so hair looks better.
Overall hair health is improved and your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals is reduced. No poo methods of cleansing the hair include using co-washes, cleansing conditioners, shampoo bars and or mud/clay washes.
For the most part, these methods will not produce the lather that sulfate shampoos provide. If you desire lather you can try a cleanser such as Dr. Bronner’s castile soap. If castile soap is used, be sure to follow up with an apple cider vinegar rinse to restore the hair’s pH.
Deep condition often
Deep condition every time you cleanse your hair. This will help hair maintain a healthy moisture balance and better equip it to deal with environmental stresses such as dry air or air conditioning or the heat from spending lots of time in the sun.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
Moisture comes from water and nowhere else. There is no oil that will moisturize your hair, though oils can help hair retain moisture and in some cases (castor oil) attract moisture i.e. water to the hair.
Your moisturizer’s first ingredient must be water or it's not truly a moisturizer. Develop a moisturizing regimen that addresses the particular needs of your hair. Listen to your hair.
If it feels dry at the end of the day, moisturize it, paying particular attention to the ends of the hair. The ends of the hair are the oldest parts and require extra TLC.
Keeping the ends of your hair healthy is a critical part of maintaining hair growth. If your ends aren’t healthy then they’ll continually break off making it impossible for you to notice the new growth happening at your scalp.
If your hair breaks off at a rate that is greater than the rate at which it grows then you will actually lose length over time. Damage never stays confined to the ends, splits will travel up the hair shaft and weaken more of the hair. Regular trims help to get rid of splits and make sure they don’t spread.
Protect your ends
Protecting your ends ensures that they stay moisturized and aren’t exposed to conditions that dry them out or cause them to break off because of friction. If ends are protected, then trimming becomes less necessary and length retention is easier.
Sleep on satin
A satin sleep cap, scarf or satin pillowcases are essential if you want to keep your hair healthy. Satin minimizes friction and won’t pull moisture from your strands. are essential if you want to keep your hair healthy. Satin minimizes friction and won’t pull moisture from your strands. Your styles will stay fresher for longer periods and frizz, dryness and breakage will be distant worries.
Know the ingredients you need to avoid
If a product contains mineral oil or petrolatum (petroleum jelly) it’s probably best to avoid it. These products sit on top of the hair and prevent the hair from being re-moisturized.
Let’s say you washed and deep conditioned your hair and then applied a moisturizer containing mineral oil or petrolatum. In a day or two, your hair may start feeling dry and require additional moisture.
Any product you place on your hair to re-moisturised it would be prevented from getting into the hair by the mineral oil/petrolatum because these products sit on top of the hair, creating a barrier that is impenetrable. Additionally, petrolatum and mineral oil can only be removed by sulfate shampoos which makes their use twice as problematic.
Similarly, silicones, though great for minimizes frizz and boosting shine, sit on top of the hair and prevent moisture from entering the strands. Silicones can also lead to product buildup since products afterward just sit on top of the hair instead of penetrating.
Silicones, also need sulfates to remove them unless they are water soluble. Regardless of their solubility, silicones will lead to dryness in the same way that mineral oil and petrolatum do.
Avoid dry heat
Dry heat refers to heat from heat styling tools such as curling irons, blow dryers, and flat irons. This type of heat removes water molecules from deep within the hair strand, leaving the hair severely dry.
Heat styling, blowing drying or flat ironing suck moisture from deep within the strands of the hair and can result in breakage, split ends, and perpetual dryness.
The heat can also alter the bonds between the molecules of the hair strand, resulting in permanent alteration of the hair’s natural curl pattern. Heat damage is irreversible and the hair usually has to be trimmed or the dryness and split ends will only progress and become worse.
For this reason, it is better to air dry the hair or use the cool setting on your hair dryer. It is also much better for your hair if heatless methods of curling the hair are used.
Moist heat on the other hand, such as the heat from steamers is very good for the hair and can help moisture and beneficial ingredients penetrate the hair.
Never detangle dry hair
When it comes to getting rid of knots and tangles, it is best to ensure hair is lubricated. Detangle hair when it is saturated with conditioner, using a wide tooth comb or detangling brush.
Finger detangling is also a great way to minimize damage, but this can be a time-consuming process and not everyone has the patience for it.
If hair is dry, consider adding oils to reduce the friction between the strands and facilitate the strands sliding past each other when undoing tangles.
One size does not fit all
One of the most important things to remember when going through a natural hair journey is that what works for someone else might not necessarily work for you.
Additionally, something may work for weeks, months or years and then stop working. As time passes, as the seasons change and as your hair grows, you’ll need to adjust the products and or practices you use.
Listen to your hair. It will tell you what it likes and you will see the results. There is nothing like the satisfaction of seeing something you care for thrive and your hair will thrive in time. Be patient, gentle and attentive.