Unlike a chance encounter with your crush at Starbucks, natural and healthy hair requires some planning - it doesn't just miraculously happen. If you're just trying to live your best natural and healthy hair life, then you're going to need to ditch the dryness and develop a personalized hair care regimen.
In addition to building a routine that works for your specific natural hair needs, I'll be also sharing the low-down on all sorts of common healthy hair questions, such as ideal morning hair routines, hair shedding, split ends, and, of course, what you shouldn't do if you want to keep your natural hair looking healthy.
Tips For Starting Your Natural Hair Journey
Believe it or not, caring for and embracing your afro-texture doesn't have to be a massive pain in the you-know-what. From the products you use all the way down to your attitude towards your tresses, it all matters when it comes to caring for your curls. It's absolutely absurd that something as beautiful as natural hair has led to tension and discrimination in the workplace for women. There have even been reports of relationship issues stemming back to the texture and style of natural hair.
Don't we have bigger fish to fry in this world?
Contrary to some opinions, natural hair doesn't need to be corrected by a relaxer to fit into societal norms. If that's the look you're going for, you do you, but don't feel pressured to fit in by hiding your curly mane.
It's so inspiring to see women who have dedicated their time to understand and properly care for their natural hair regardless of what society has to say about it. As more and more women begin to speak positively about their experiences, it becomes easier for others to follow suit.
Their stories serve as proof that starting a natural hair journey can be victorious if you're willing to devote the time and energy. Don't be discouraged if you don't see results overnight - great things take a little time and a lot of TLC.
Your healthy hair journey will undoubtedly come with some trial and error, and that's totally okay. Mistakes will be made, styles won't work out how you imagined, you might overdo it with a few products, and some damage might be done. Don't worry! No one ever said that getting the natural hair of your dreams would be without a few bumps in the road.
That being said, the juice is well worth the squeeze, and you'll be happy you did it in the long run.
Know Your Natural Hair Type
Knowing your hair type can be useful when searching for the right products and styling techniques or when trying to describe the texture of your hair, plus it brings a little peace of mind and helps you to embrace the nature of your locks. Celebrity stylist Andre Walker's definitions of the various natural types have become a well-known standard for classifying curly hair.
Although we don't conform to any one hair typing system, the method created by Andre Walker is well-known and better understood over others. In his book, he emphasizes that all hair is good hair, no matter what curl pattern you're working with, and that's something we can definitely get behind.
His system focuses on types 2-4 which represent waves, curls, and coils with subcategories A-C based on the diameter of your ringlets. You may not fit into one category, and that's completely normal. Sometimes hair has a beautiful blend of multiple types, and to that we say - the more, the merrier!
Despite your specific hair type, many rules of hair care apply to everyone equally, so don't worry about getting too technical in your approach. The hair typing guide is simply intended to give you some insight into what products and techniques will work best for you.
The Importance of a Healthy Hair Care Routine
Once you figure out your natural hair type, establishing a solid routine is a very good way to take care of your hair and keep it looking fresh all the time. Yes, that means no more bad hair days!
With the abundance of hair-related information flooding the internet, it's no wonder so many women get overwhelmed. It sometimes seems like the number of tools, techniques, products, and opinions are endless when it comes to anything linked to hair.
Starting with a simple, flexible approach is the best way to ensure success and keep you from going insane over all the different choices. Most of our hair is extremely sensitive to changes in temperature, humidity, water, and products, so you should be ready to adapt to whatever curve balls your hair throws at you on the daily.
That means if your hair's feeling happy and hydrated this week, chances are it might feel like a stack of hay the next. It's called balance, duh.
The ideal hair care routine addresses two main concerns: adequate moisture and wealth of proteins. At least if you've got those bases covered, then you're doing something right!
Think of it as a meal plan for your hair - it needs to be planned, repeated, and consistent in order to work. If you follow through with it, the result will be great hair, so what're you waiting for?!
Morning Hair Routine
For healthy hair to flourish, your scalp needs some breathing room, and your hair needs to be clean. Find a sulfate-free shampoo to wash your hair that works with your hair's natural oils. How often you wash varies person to person, but your hair will send you clues if it's getting washed too much or not enough.
An easy way to tell if there's an imbalance is if your hair feels frizzy and dry, you're likely overwashing. Alternately, if your hair appears greasy and lifeless, you could probably benefit from changing up your shampoo game.
When it comes to conditioner, there are three main categories you should be aware of: rinse-out (or daily), leave-in, and deep.
Leave-in conditioners are ideal for when your hair needs the extra special something after a wash. Use it on damp hair every once in a while to revitalize your strands and lock in moisture.
If you need something a little more heavy-duty, a deep conditioner is your best bet. They provide intense treatment and nutrients to help revive damaged hair while still pulling out all the stops that a rinse-out conditioner does (i.e. defrizzing, detangling, and all that good stuff). Use a deep conditioner every two weeks and see what it does to quench your parched mane.
Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way when it comes to conditioning your hair, and unfortunately, it's not quite as simple as "lather, rinse, repeat." Leaving the rinse-out conditioner in for too long will weigh your hair down and possibly make it oily, while not leaving it in for long enough is pointless. It's a delicate balance.
After doing some research, I realized I'd been doing it all wrong my whole life. The key is to apply it in long strokes, draining some of the water out as you go. This way, your hair can gulp up as much of the goodness as possible without excess water there to counteract the effects.
It takes rinse-out conditioner roughly two minutes to adhere to natural hair, so while your strands are coated, you can shave your legs (okay, one leg), wash your face, or sing about half of "My Heart Will Go On." Your choice.
Moisturizing is super important because dryness is the root of most hair care woes. Maintain moisture in your hair, and behold as your frizz, breakage, split ends, and matting fade away.
Depending on your hair, you may need to moisturize every day to keep your locks hydrated. Make sure to get all areas of your hair, but really hone in on your ends - that's where things tend to get the most dehydrated.
There are several methods for moisturizing, but the most popular include the LOC method (liquid, oil, cream), steaming in the shower, refresher spray, and leave-in conditioners.
- Seal It In
Moisturizing is pretty much pointless if you don't lock that ish in! After every moisturizing technique, apply a sealer or anti-humectant to keep your hair hydrated and radiant all day.
It might take a few tries to find the right sealer for you, but you'll know when you land on one your hair loves. Shea butter is an excellent choice for my friends with thicker hair strands, while olive oil is best suited for those with fine, delicate hair strands.
Although detangling usually isn't anyone's favorite part of their hair care routine, it'll keep your strands attached to your head longer, so needless to say, it's worth the trouble. Plus, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Find yourself a trusty wide-tooth comb, start at the ends of damp hair, and work your way up. If your hair is acting like a headphone cord that went through the tumble cycle, try throwing in some conditioner to make your efforts a little less futile.
Last but obviously not least, the pièce de résistance is styling! In your pursuit of the perfect hairdo, don't forget to practice safe styling. Low manipulation styles, like twists and buns, are perfect on the days where you just aren't feeling it.
When you're feeling a more styled look, use low levels of heat. That means having your hair dryer set to cool and low speed! Yes, it will take longer, but your hair will thank you for it.
Before bed, do a little protective styling by throwing a bonnet on or using silk pillowcases. You can also use hats and scarves to protect your 'do from extreme weather. Taking this extra step will save you some repair time later, trust me.
The Shedding is Real
Even with a healthy hair routine, you might be noticing some hair shedding. Allow me to shed some light on the reality of daily hair loss - it happens, it's normal, and it's usually nothing to worry about.
Hair experts agree that losing 100 or more hairs each day is still considered entirely healthy. You see, about 10% of your strands are in a resting phase, pretty much preparing for departure. The other 90% are continuing to grow and thrive, so it's all good.
This growth phenomenon occurs in four stages: Anagen, Catagen, Telogen, and Exogen. In plain terms, it goes from growing, to transitional, to resting, and, finally, to shedding.
Although the average growth rate lies around one-half inch per month, not everyone falls in this range. Depending on the length of your growth phase, your hair can grow faster or slower than usual. If the growth phase is super short, you might find it challenging to grow your hair past a certain length. This lapse can lead to an insane amount of frustration if all you want is long hair.
There are some things you can do to encourage a boost in your hair’s growth phase, but we'll get to that later. For now, if your shedding isn't truly excessive, you're probably in good shape. If it seems like your hair is falling out at an alarming rate, there are a few possible culprits to consider.
Among the leading causes of hair loss are stress, illness, hormonal changes, poor diet, tight hairstyles, certain medications, and nervous habits.
If none of these apply and your strands are still jumping ship like crazy, try consulting with a specialist or changing your products to those designed for treating hair loss.
Breakup With Split Ends
You’ll also inevitably come across split ends. I hate to break it to you, but technically speaking, your hair is already dead, and the fact is that it can't repair itself. If it could, getting that super edgy haircut wouldn't be so risky after all.
But, that's not the case. So you better be damn sure you've got the bone structure to pull off that fringe beforehand because once it's cut, you're stuck with it until it grows back.
The same goes for split ends - there's no permanent cure-all for those annoying eyesores. Some conditioners can essentially patch them together, but they always break apart again eventually. The only way to say sayonara forever to these nuisances is to cut them off.
Similarly, hair breakage is irreparable damage that's only truly fixed once the hair grows back or is cut off at the source. Your best bet is to determine what's causing your breakage (my money's on either an excessively tight top knot or too much heat) and knock it off.
If you're really anxious about the wellbeing of your hair, stay away from harsh chemicals, tight hairstyles, overbrushing, and hot things for a while.
What You Shouldn’t Do
Here are a few golden rules to stand by so you don't get stuck spinning your tires in your pursuit for healthy natural hair:
- Don't feel like you're obligated to stick with a routine that's just not working out for you. I'm not saying you should quit after a week if you don't see results, but if a few months pass and you're still unhappy, it might be time to switch it up. There's nothing wrong with a little experimentation in the name of beauty.
- I know it's always tempting to give your tresses a good scrub-down, but you should absolutely avoid overwashing your hair at all costs. In general, natural hair requires less washing as it can quickly dry out.
- Just because a routine works for your best friend (or anyone for that matter) doesn't mean it's going to do the same trick for you. The needs of your hair are unique and should be treated as such. Even if your hair looks just like someone else's does, you still might require a totally different routine! As the old saying goes, don't let your ice cream melt while you’re busy counting somebody else's sprinkles.
- I'm not sure who ever said that applying petroleum or other synthetic oils to your scalp was a good idea... Sure, there are some benefits to putting certain oils on your head and hair, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to oil. Greasing the scalp with heavy petroleum-based products flattens the hair, leads to a buildup of oils, and ultimately causes scalp irritation.
- Please, for the love of all things sleek and shiny, don't spend all your time trying to find the “perfect” products. Nobody's trying to deny that there are a lot of products on the market with sketchy ingredients, but finding the right kinds of products is more important than adhering to a particular product or brand. Also, before you go switching up your products, first try changing the order in which you use them or the timing to see if that makes a difference in the results.
- Arguably the most important rule of them all: be consistent! Your routine won't work unless you demonstrate some level of accountability and faithfulness to it. Do whatever you need to make it work and stick with it, such as setting a reminder on your phone or finding a buddy to join in!