Before you continue reading take a peek at part 1: Getting Started if you haven’t already seen it.
So you now that have some sort of routine in place it’s time to develop a few habits that will help you manage your hair from day to day.
Do wear a satin or silk scarf/bonnet when sleeping
Aside from keep your pillow grease free, satin/silk scarves protect your hair from roughly rubbing against the pillow while you sleep which can cause breakage. However this is a habit I think most black girls do this anyway because the same principle applies for relaxed hair. The reason a cotton head scarf is not recommended is because cotton absorbs moisture from your hair (think of how greasy your pillow gets when you lay your head on it without a scarf). All that hard work you put in moisturizing will go to waste if you neglect to cover your hair. I have however been guilty of forgetting to do so on nights when I get home really late or for days when I’m ridiculously exhausted so don’t feel bad if you skip a night or two 🙂
Do only comb/detangle your hair when it is drenched with conditioner or when it has moisturizer and oil in it
Combing when your hair is dry cause more breakage. Your hair will rip and end up in your comb and cause you pain while it’s at it. Unnecessary pain. A comb goes through straight hair very easily because its teeth are straight. Since kinky hair has very small tiny curls a comb will not go through it as easily. That is why we cannot comb it everyday (unless it’s very short). Naturals refer to combing as detangling. This is because we do it with the aim of just making sure the hair is not tangled and we don’t do it as often as combing. For example, I detangle once or twice a week depending on how I style it over the course of the week. If the hair is not regularly detangled the tiny curls wrap around themselves and cause knots. This natural tangling and knotting is what makes it possible for us to have dreadlocks. In fact if you stopped combing your hair completely it would form locs. Now because of the friction the kink provides it’s easier to detangle your hair with some form of lubricant in it. Some use conditioner, others use moisturizer/leave in conditioner and oil.Experiment and see which works better for you.
To detangle you gradually comb your hair starting from the tips/ends, working your way down to the root. This also has to be done in small sections and most importantly with a wide tooth comb. Below is the one I currently use. The teeth of afro combs are now too close together for me.
If your hair is short and a comb goes through it easily, you wont have to do it in sections or from end to root because there is a shorter distance for the comb to travel though. After detangling it, you can either style it (assuming it’s not damp) or put it in a state that allows it to keep from tangling again. I favour twists and let my hair dry like that, this is why I am often in twist outs. I also do twists over night sometimes to prevent tangling because my hair tangles less when it has defined curls.
Watch this video if you need to see how detangling is done. You will find that as long as you wear a silk scarf at night, the most you need in the morning is your fingers and a little moisturizer to get your hair into place. Most people think hair that is not combed daily will look a mess, but that is not the case. It is possible to look presentable without combing every morning. And just an interesting side note, there are curly Caucasian hair types that also use the detangling method, it’s not just us! 🙂
Don’t excessively use heat for styling
Over use of heat (curling irons, flat irons etc) can damage all types of hair. Kinky hair reacts very badly to heat over use since it is the weakest of all hair types. If you do use heat once in a while, make sure to make a heat protectant a regular product on your shopping list. If possible though, try and avoid it. Apart from breakage, thinning and weakening of the hair strand, your hair can also get heat damage which eliminates your natural curl completely. Employ stretching methods instead to get your hair as straight as possible. Stretching methods include twists, 3 strand braids, cornrows and banding. Air dry as often as possible. However if you must use heat, use a low setting and if using a blow dryer, buy a diffuser attachment that spreads the heat so that you’re not directing the heat directly on to the hair strand.
Do deep condition regularly
Deep conditioning is basically leaving conditioner on for 30 minutes or more. This helps get moisture into your hair which in turn makes it soft. I do this once a week because my hair needs it. If I leave conditioner on for less than half an hour, it won’t really affect my hair. It’s now habit for me, I usually do it on sunday nights when I know I’ll be in doors all day so I can walk around with a shower cap. However if I need to go out, I simply hide my shower cap with a scarf of some sort.
Don’t use a brush on your hair
Brushes cannot help you anymore. Wide tooth combs are all you are allowed to have. I haven’t used my brush in 2 years and should probably give it away. Because they have so many bristles close together, they will rip and break your hair. However for my edges i use a toothbrush and that works very well for me.
Do try and use natural or high quality products
Natural hair (and all hair in general really) responds better to natural products that don’t have chemicals that may irritate your scalp or dry out your hair. They do a better job of getting moisture to your hair strands and therefore keeping it soft. A lot of products marketed to black hair are not necessarily good for your hair, so step out of your comfort zone and try products marketed for Caucasians too. After all, products can’t detect race, they either work or don’t. I have had a lot of success with shampoos and conditioners like Pantene, Tresemme, V05 and Schwarzkopf. At the end of the day, garbage in=garbage out. If you use cheap badly formulated products, it will show in the health of your hair.
Do get it dyed professionally
Dyes have peroxide in them that penetrates your hair strand and strips it of its natural color which then allows the dye color to replace it. If it’s not done professionally you risk breaking and damaging your hair. This goes for all hair types too. I have had friends with relaxed hair that have suffered from bad color damage from coloring their hair. Do your research, buy a good quality dye and get it done by a good hair dresser.
Do get used to protective styling
Protective styling is any hair style that keeps your ends tucked away. This is obviously easier for longer hair than short hair. Protective styles include cornrows, twists, braids, pinned up updos, wrapping with a head scarf, wearing hats, weaves etc. This does the double duty of preventing tangling (especially styles like braids, cornrows and twists) and helping to protect your ends from damage. But of course when doing plaited styles, do watch the hair line! And give your hair a break in between long term protective styles like weaves and braids. Make sure to not neglect your hair when it is tucked away, continue to condition, moisturize as per your routine.
And that’s all for now. In the next part I will go into detail about choosing and buying products.