We all want long healthy hair, right? Well, before you consider length and reaching your goal of shoulder length, bra strap length or even waist length hair (yes…there are girls who’ve grown their hair down to their waists), you should first focus on the overall health of your hair. My personal thoughts – it doesn’t matter how long your hair is; if it’s dry, brittle, thin and damaged it’s not healthy and it’s not cute! (Just sayin’!!) If you first focus on the health of your hair, the length and growth will come. Here are several vital hair care tips that I learned and use faithfully to maintain my healthy hair. I am not a licensed hair expert whatsoever; however, I am an expert at maintaining the health of and styling MY HAIR. What has worked, and is currently working for me may not necessarily work for you. I encourage all ladies and (and fellas…can’t forget about you :-)) to learn what works for your hair.
A healthy and clean scalp sets the foundation for healthy hair and growth. All hair (relaxed and natural) should be cleansed at least once a month, once every 2-3 weeks or once a week (whatever works best for you) to rid the hair and scalp of dirt and prevent product build-up. I cleanse my hair once every two weeks and sometimes once a week since I use a good amount of oils, butters, etc.. When cleansing my hair, I focus on my scalp by massaging the shampoo onto my scalp. I then smooth the shampoo through my hair strands to ensure that my strands are clean as well. There are several different ways to cleanse your hair – shampoo, clays, black soap, castile soap, etc. If you’re using a shampoo, I recommend a sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfate-free shampoos tend to not strip the hair of its natural oils and do not leave your hair extremely dry with that squeaky clean feeling. This results in more manageable, soft hair after shampooing.
My kinky, afro-textured hair is naturally dry and prone to breakage. Deep conditioning the hair does an excellent job of combating the dryness as well as the occurrence of breakage and damage. I cannot stress the importance of deep conditioning your hair enough! Incorporating a deep conditioner into your hair care regimen repairs and prevents damage. The nutrients and moisturizing ingredients in good quality deep conditioners not only repair damage caused by chemicals, heat, etc., it also leaves your hair shiny, soft, bouncy and gives your hair “Life”. Deep conditioners should be left in the hair for 15-30 minutes so that they can penetrate the hair shaft. Covering the hair with a plastic cap and applying indirect heat (e.g. sitting under a hooded dryer) also helps the conditioner to penetrate the hair shaft. I deep condition my hair faithfully every week regardless of if I cleanse or not. It has worked wonders on the overall health of my hair. Deep, deep, deep condition Ladies! Your hair will love you for it!
Moisturize & Seal
Moisturizing and sealing (M&Sing) my hair is one of the most important hair care tips I’ve learned. Afro-textured hair is naturally dry. Maintaining its moisture level and softness can be tough, but properly moisturizing and sealing the hair combats the dryness. Sounds kind of weird? Let me break it down for ya… After cleansing and deep conditioning your hair, it is vital to lock in all of that goodness and moisture by applying an oil or butter. The oil or butter acts as a barrier and traps in the moisture to prevent it from leaving the hair. So, ultimately, you are moisturizing the hair to prevent dryness and sealing the hair to maintain the moisture. After washing and deep conditioning, my hair is damp and moisturized. I lock in the moisture by applying a light coating of oil and a light coating of my whipped shea butter (Details coming soon on this awesome stuff!). I then proceed to add whatever I plan to use to style my hair. I NEVER skip the moisturizing and sealing step. NEVER! My hair maintains its moisture and softness for about 2-3 days and there is no need to apply anything to my hair. After day three my hair may feel a little dry so I moisturize and seal again. When moisturizing and sealing on dry hair, I normally mist my hair with a little water or apply a little of my Shea Moisture leave-in conditioner and follow-up with a light coating of oil. My hair is good to go for the next couple of days and I do not have to worry about dry, brittle hair. A moisturizer can be pure water (the best moisturizer), a leave-in conditioner, or a hair moisturizer, such as ORS Moisturizing Hair Lotion. As long as the product is water based (the first ingredient is water) it can be used as a moisturizer. This moisturizing and sealing method should be done on natural and relaxed hair. It allows the hair to maintain its softness and manageability, while preventing dryness that leads to damage and breakage. There are tons of info out there about moisturizing and sealing hair. It is such a vital piece of the healthy hair puzzle. I definitely encourage you to do a little research on this method. It could possibly be the one thing your hair needs in order to achieve and maintain its health.
A lot of us ladies avoid trimming our hair to retain length. Trimming your hair is extremely important when it comes to achieving and maintaining healthy hair, whether it is relaxed or natural. The ends of your hair are the oldest, which means they have the tendency to “look” old and begin to thin and split. If you have split, thin, damaged ends, don’t waste your time and money on products that claim to mend split ends and repair thin damaged ends. Trim those damaged ends off!! There is no such product that can repair damaged, split ends; the only solution is to trim the dead, damaged ends off. If you don’t trim, your split ends can and will travel up the hair strand and result in major breakage. Do yourself a favor and just trim those damaged ends off! How often should you trim your hair? That is totally up to you. I took the advice of my prior beautician and trimmed my hair once every 8 weeks. I realized that I was trimming way too often. My end looked absolutely fine – no splitting, thinning, etc.; but I faithfully trimmed every 8 weeks because I thought it was the “right thing to do”. I began to realize why I didn’t see any changes in the length of my hair…I was trimming my hair way too often when it didn’t need it, and I was trimming away my growth. I stopped trimming my hair every 8 weeks and began inspecting my ends every once in a while to check for damage or split ends. This resulted in me trimming my hair every 3-6 months instead of every 8 weeks! Trimming your hair when necessary results in little to no split ends, thicker ends and over healthy looking hair. I suggest that you inspect your ends to assess the amount of damage or split ends before you get a trim, rather than sticking to a specific time period. You may be trimming away healthy hair when it isn’t necessary.
Minimize Direct Heat
Most of us know that the use of excessive heat on the hair can cause damage, breakage and dryness. If you use excessive amounts of heat on your hair, you may want to cut back a little. It’s not realistic for some ladies to completely cut heat out of the hair equation, but you may want to decrease the amount of times you flat-iron or curl your hair. If you flat-iron or curl your hair daily or multiple times a day, you may want to try flat ironing or curling once every couple of days. The less you apply heat to your hair the healthier it will become. When I cut back on the relaxers I also cut back on the use of heat. I stopped curling my hair and would roller-set my hair and sit under a hooded dryer once a week. My hair thickened up considerably. I also didn’t see tons of little pieces of hair in the sink and on the floor like I did when I curled my hair regularly. The use of minimal heat reduced breakage and dryness, which resulted in thicker, shinier hair.
I dreaded detangling my hair. Seriously, I use to outright HATE IT. The main reason I hated it was because I lost so much hair while detangling. I was not up on my “Hair Game” and did not know the difference between shed hair, breakage or how to properly detangling. Our head naturally sheds between 50-100 hairs a day; this is normal. Don’t freak out when you see a few strands of hair in your sink or in your hand after combing or manipulating your hair. If the strand of hair has a little white bulb on one end, it is shed hair and it is totally normal. If you are combing and manipulating your hair and you see lots of short pieces of hair everywhere, this is breakage – this is not normal. I would normally detangle my hair on wash day after shampooing, conditioning and rinsing. I’d just pick up any comb and begin combing my hair from root to tip, sometimes forcing the comb thru my hair and literally ripping out my hair! I’d end up with a huge ball of hair…some shed hair, but mostly breakage from improperly detangling. You can properly detangle your hair by first using a wide tooth comb – try to avoid using rat-tail combs, etc. They tend to cause breakage when detangling because of the small teeth in the comb. Secondly, you should begin combing your hair from the ends and work your way up to the roots. This will make your detangling process a lot easier and you can avoid the tugging and pulling that you encounter when combing your hair from the root to the tip (This saved my life and saved me lots of hair!). Be sure to take your time while detangling and comb very gently from the ends and work your way up. Lastly, you should detangle your hair when it is soaking wet and saturated with some type of conditioner. The conditioner softens the hair and melts the tangles and knots away, making it a lot easier to detangle. Or you can detangle your hair in the shower under steaming water (this works very well for me too). A lot of naturals finger detangle their hair. I personally think you loose the least amount of hair when finger detangling. However, it is VERY time consuming, which is why I don’t do it as often as I should. After properly detangling my hair, I noticed that I lost a lot less hair and majority of that hair was shed hair. Less breakage = more hair on your head!
Again, I encourage you to do your own research to determine what may work for your hair. I hope these tips are helpful and beneficial in your quest for healthy hair!