How do you keep you afro so soft?
This is easily the number one question I get from new naturals or people who’ve had natural hair for ages but never wear it out. I must admit, keeping the nap manageable is a tricky feat at first but once it becomes second nature you won’t think twice.
Here are five main things I do to maintain softness and manageability:
1. Keep your hair moisturized!!!
This is by far the most important! Dryness=hard wiry hair. What should you moisturize with? I usually purchase two types, a creamy one and a liquid spray. I favor the water based ones though oil based ones are also good. I use the creamy one after shampooing and conditioning while I use the spray daily. Making sure your hair holds the moisture in requires sealing with a butter or oil. Butters include shea butter, mango butter, avocado butter etc. Oils include coconut oil, jojoba oil, castor oil etc.
Apply the creamy moisturizer to damp hair then follow with a butter or oil. Blow dry your hair on a cool setting if you’re heading somewhere or leave it in twists to air dry. When styling the following day I spray my hair first with a moisturizing spray. In very dry weather I spray twice a day. Do not slack on the spraying even when you have a protective style on e.g braids or weaves.
Try and avoid hair products with mineral oil, petrolatum and petroleum or at least ensure that those ingredients are not one of the first 5 in the product’s ingredient list. These ingredients prevent moisture from penetrating your hair.
2. Shampoo regularly
This is especially important for those who use a lot of styling products on their hair (gels and such). Build up of product can cause the hair to feel weighed down and hard. So get those strands washed regularly to keep the hair light and clean. Be wary of your shampoo choices too, try and go for gentle sulfate free moisturizing shampoos. A clarifying shampoo, if it can be found, is ideal for removing product build up. It can be used once in a while, not every time you wash as it may be too harsh for your hair. A good natural clarifying product that I use regularly is apple cider vinegar. Read this article on how it can be used.
3. Always condition after shampooing!!!
Refer to my article about conditioners, masques and treatments. I use a deep conditioner/masque at least twice a month and a regular conditioner the rest of the time (I wash my hair 4 times a month). Deep conditioners work on the internal structure of your hair, provide nourishment and enhance moisture. The packaging will usually tell you if it is a deep conditioner or regular conditioner. Some will even indicate whether they are protein conditioners or moisture boosting conditioners. It is advisable to use both regularly depending on your hair type (weak hair needs more protein, hard brittle hair needs more moisture).
You should apply the conditioner more thoroughly to your hair to fully benefit from it’s properties, I chose to apply mine in sections which I then twist. Leave on for 30 minutes to an hour then rinse with cool water.
4. Keep your hair stretched.
Not only is stretched hair better for manageability, it improves the feel of the hair. When hair is shrunken it doesn’t feel very soft does it? Get into the habit of stretching it with a cool blow dry or twists or 3 strand plaits after your wash, condition, moisturize and seal routine.
For me this is the most important step in my hair management (aside from moisturizing) because non stretched hair with my texture (4c) is a nightmare. It won’t budge, refuses to be styled and the only thing that revives it is another wash. I never ever let it air dry without twisting it. For shorter hair of course this is impossible but once you get past the 4/5 inch mark, stretching is a must. Once I let down the twists to style my hair, I don’t retwist until my hair begins shrinking again which it will do because I spray it daily.
5. Wear a stain or silk scarf to bed.
Satin or silk does not absorb moisture from the hair, unlike cotton. A cotton night cap will suck all the moisture you worked so hard to put into your hair out. Covering your hair also ensures that you can toss and turn as much as you like and your hair won’t be damaged.
In Gaborone, satin caps are available at Clicks Airport Junction and Rail Park Mall.