African-American hair: Tips for everyday care
Unique in appearance and structure, African-American hair is especially fragile and prone to injury and damage. More than half of African-American women will cite thinning hair or hair loss as their top hair concern. Fortunately, there is a lot African-Americans can do to help minimize damage and keep their hair beautiful.
- To help African-Americans keep their hair healthy, dermatologists recommend the following tips:
- Wash hair once a week or every other week: This will help prevent build-up of hair care products, which can be drying to the hair.
- Use conditioner: Use conditioner every time you wash your hair. Be sure to coat the ends of the hair with conditioner, as the ends are the oldest and most fragile part of your hair.
- Use a hot oil treatment twice a month: This adds additional moisture and elasticity to your hair.
- Use a heat protecting product before styling: Adding this to wet hair before styling will help minimize heat damage.
- Use caution with relaxers: To minimize hair damage, always go to a professional hair stylist to ensure that the relaxer is applied safely. Touch-ups should only be done every two to three months and only to newly grown hair. Never apply relaxer to hair that has already been relaxed.
- Use ceramic combs or irons to press hair: If you would like to press or thermally straighten your hair, use a ceramic comb or iron and only do so once a week. Use a straightening device with a dial to ensure the device is not too hot. Use the lowest possible temperature setting that gives you the style you want. A higher temperature may be necessary for thicker, coarser hair.
- Make sure braids, cornrows or weaves are not too tight: If it hurts while your hair is being styled, ask the stylist to stop and redo it. Pain equals damage.
How to Take Care of Black Girls’ Hair
Black hair is beautiful, whether it is natural, relaxed, or braided. The key to healthy, beautiful hair is moisture and gentle treatment. Without these, black hair can become dry and brittle. Caring for black hair takes a little bit of extra effort, but the soft, silky, and healthy results are worth it.
Washing Black Hair
Wash your hair once every 1 to 2 weeks. The more often you wash your hair, the more you strip it of its moisture. This results in dry, brittle hair. You should wash your hair every 7 to 10 days, but you can get away with washing it once every 14 days. This will help prevent dryness and product buildup.
- If you can’t find a shampoo and conditioner meant for ethnic hair, try to use a moisturizing shampoo meant for dry hair. Follow up with a moisturizing conditioner.
- If you must wash your hair more often, dilute your shampoo with 50% water and 50% shampoo.
Consider washing your hair with just conditioner every 3 to 5 days. This is also known as “co-washing.” It will help moisturize your hair, and keep it manageable. You can help further seal the moisture in with a natural oil of your choosing.
- Step things up a bit by using a deep conditioning mask once a week to twice a month.
- Focus the conditioner on the ends of your hair; avoid applying it to your scalp. Applying conditioner to your scalp will cause your hair to appear greasy.
Use a moisturizing conditioner with lightweight, essential oils. Oils like grape seed oil, are more easily absorbed by hair than products like lanolin, which will only clog and weigh hair down. Lightweight oils will moisturize your hair and make it shiny, but they won’t weight it down.
Don’t use products that contain silicones and sulfates. Silicones are great for making hair nice and smooth, but they can only be removed with sulfates, a harsh cleaning agent that leads to dry hair. If you don’t remove the silicones from your hair properly, your hair will get too much build-up, and end up looking dull, greasy, and lanky.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to make your hair nice and silky without using silicones, including nourishing masks and coconut oil. These products are easily washed out of your hair, without any dryness or brittleness.
Consider using products with “organic” ingredients over products with “natural” ingredients. Organic products are strictly regulated from farming to harvesting. This means that ingredients such as avocado, coconut, and shea were grown without the use of toxic chemicals, antibiotics, and pesticides that are harmful to humans and animals. These toxic chemicals can potentially harm your hair.
The term “natural” is used very loosely by corporations. An orange soda can be natural because it has an orange flavoring that once shared a compound of a fruit. High fructose corn syrup is considered “natural” just like “petrolatum.”
Styling Black Hair
Comb carefully using a wide tooth comb. Always start from the ends of your hair first; never comb straight down from the roots. Avoid using brushes, as they will only make your hair frizzy. Lastly, avoid combing your hair everyday; detangle it when necessary with your fingers. Excessive combing will break your hair off.
- Make sure your hair is slightly damp before you detangle. Hair is very vulnerable when wet, so if you just washed it, let it dry a little first.
Consider using a comb attachment when blow-drying your hair. Let your hair air-dry a little first, when gently blow dry your hair using a comb attachment. With will reduce the amount of pulling and tugging, which can lead to breakage.
- Instead of air drying, you can also sit under a dryer.
Avoid heat styling when possible, and use a lower temperature and a heat protectant spray when you do. Add the spray to your hair while it is still wet; this will help make it more effective. When styling your hair, hold the curling iron or flat iron slightly open while passing it over your hair. This way, you will avoid tugging and pulling your hair, which can lead to breakage Try to limit heat styling to two times a month maximum.
- Try to use the lowest temperature possible, and avoid going too hot. Heat protectant sprays can only do so much.
- Opt for ceramic flat irons over metal ones. They will be gentler on your hair.
- Heat protectants come in many forms, other than sprays, including: shampoo, conditioners, creams, and serums.
Avoid using high-stress hairstyles for long periods of time. Tight ponytails and tight braids can look chic, but they also put a lot of stress on your hair and scalp. Overtime, they can create crimps and breakage in hair. They can also stress the hair follicles, and cause thinning along the hairline.
- Braids, cornrows, and weaves should not hurt. If they start to hurt, they are too tight, and are damaging your hair.
- Avoid using rubber bands when styling your hair, as they can cause tears and breakage. Instead, use a ponytail holder without a metal clip.
Choose sewn-in weaves over glued-in weaves. They are much better at protecting your natural hair against heat styling and outdoor elements. Glued-in weaves can rip out your natural hair upon removal, thus damaging it.
- If you are using a weave, visit your stylist every 2 to 3 weeks to ensure that it stays tight. A loose weave can tug on your hair and damage it.
- Change your weave every 1½ and 3 months.
- Let your hair rest for a few weeks after two consecutive weaves.
Use caution when relaxing your hair, and only do it once every 2 to 3 months. Try to get your hair relaxed professionally. If you do it at home, read the instructions carefully to prevent any damage. You should only apply relaxer to new growth, and never to hair that has already been relaxed. If you apply relaxer to previously relaxed hair, you will over-process it and damage it. Also, never leave the relaxer on the hair too long; this will cause serious damage and possible hair loss.
When relaxing your hair, some natural oil, like olive oil, to previously relaxed hair. This way, you won’t accidentally over-process it.
Let your hair go natural every once in a while for a few weeks. This is especially important if you are using high-stress hairstyles, such as weaves, cornrows, and braids. While fashionable, these styles put a lot of strain on your hair. Let your hair go natural for a week or two in between styles so that it can relax. If you must do something with your hair, consider wrapping a scarf or headband around it, or adding in a cute hair clip.
Keeping Black Hair Healthy
Sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase to prevent frizz, breakage, and dryness. This way, your hair can stay healthy and won’t break or tear. Cotton pillowcases tend to snag hair and create tiny rips and tears. They also tend to suck the moisture out of your hair, which can make it even more frizzy and brittle.
- Satin or silk pillowcases are also great for skin, as they don’t draw out moisture the way cotton pillowcases do.
- If you can’t get a satin or silk pillowcase, consider tying your hair up at night with a satin or silk scarf instead.
Moisturize the ends of your hair. You can use a moisturizing serum, or you can use a natural oil, such as coconut oil, castor oil, or olive oil. This will help prevent your hair from getting dry, snagging on things, and breaking. It will also help prevent split or damaged ends.
Apply some oil to natural hair every day and straightened/relaxed hair twice a week. Look for products that contain natural oils, such as almond, Argan, coconut, and jojoba. You can also just use natural oils straight from the bottle instead. Skip products with petrolatum, lanolin, and mineral oils. They will only dry your hair out and stop moisture from penetrating the shaft.
- A little bit of oil goes a long way. Start with a small amount, and add more as necessary.
- After washing your hair, apply a moisturizing leave-in conditioner, then add the oil of your choice. This seal in moisture and ensure that your hair stays healthy.
Try a protein treatment. Protein will make your hair less prone to breakage and over-moisturizing. Your hair will be a lot shinier too. Be careful not to overuse protein in your hair otherwise it will start to snap off. You can use a store-bought treatment or try your hand at making a DIY hair mask at home.
Use a hot oil treatment twice a month to add moisture and elasticity to your hair. Heat ½ to 1 cup (120 to 240 milliliters) of oil in a double-boiler or a jar in a pot of hot water. Part your hair into several sections, then use an applicator bottle to apply the oil. Massage the oil into your hair and scalp, then cover your hair with a shower cap for 30 minutes. Once the time is up, wash your hair as usual with shampoo.
- Don’t use a microwave to heat the oil, or it will lose its nutrients.
- If you don’t have a shower cap, you can wrap a damp, warm towel around your hair instead.
- You can use any of the following oils: Argan, avocado, castor, coconut, jojoba, olive, sesame, and sweet almond.
Trim your split ends as soon as possible. Even healthy hair is prone to getting split ends, so be sure to check your hair for them regularly. The longer you leave them unchecked, the further the damage will creep up the hair shaft. Don’t reply on “split end mending” serums, at they are only temporary fixes; they are not permanent and will not mend your split ends.