Ten Steps to Healthy Hair
#1- It Takes A Village!!!
Enlist the help of your hair stylist, a hair wellness coach, and a close friend to help you to achieve your hair goals and to hold you accountable. You will need a hair stylist to perform much needed services like trimming your ends, touching up chemical treatments, as applicable, and installing protective styles. Both the Hair Stylist or the Hair Wellness Coach can recommend treatments and help you analyze your choices when decisions regarding your hair need to be made. Support from a close friend is critical when you need reassurance or direct feedback to help you stay on track.
#2- Hands Off!!!
Avoid handling your hair. Select styles that last at least 3-4 days with little daily maintenance. Pulling tangled sections of hair apart, combing and styling your hair, especially when it is dry, can lead to breakage and excessive frizz. If you are unable to resist manipulating your hair make sure you mist with water or a water- based product first. This step will soften the hair and increase its elasticity.
#3- “Part” Ways with Your Comb and Brush!!!
Avoid combing and brushing your hair whenever possible. Combs and brushes cause friction and damage the cuticle resulting in breakage and split ends. Finger detangling is a gentle and effective way to remove tangles and loose hair without the damage. When using our fingers to detangle we are less likely to unknowingly apply excessive force to our hair. For those who do not want to “part” with their comb and brush, it is best to use them sparingly and to finger detangle first.
#4- Maintain A Heat Free Zone!!!
Put all heated styling tools away and out of sight. This will help you to avoid using any heated styling tool including the blow dryer, hot curler, or flat iron. Heat will only damage your hair and reduce its length in the long run. Establish a plan for bad hair days. We are most at risk for using heated styling tools when we lack the time to safely style our hair. Whenever possible, allow your hair to air dry and use loose bantu knots or bobby pins (pin curling) to create curls. Twist - outs and braid- outs can be also used to add waves and stretch your hair in preparation for more elaborate styles.
#5- Water Your Hair!!!!
Dry hair is the number one complaint of people with curly hair. Hair that is chronically dry eventually becomes brittle and damaged and rarely reaches its full potential. To achieve and maintain maximum moisture, you must determine the needs of your hair then adjust your hairstyle, products, and techniques to meet those needs. First you must confirm the length of time your hair maintains moisture when wearing your regular style. Hair that feels parched around day 5 should be moisturized on day 4 or every 4 days, at a minimum. Next, you should determine when you can commit to wearing a style that is not sensitive to water. If you can wear the style for at least one week per month or 2 days per week then you will be able to effectively moisturize your hair at least 25% of the time. This may not seem like much, but it is a great start to having moisturized, healthy hair. You will also need to determine when and how you plan to introduce moisture into your hair. Saturate your hair with water or water -based products on those days when your hairstyle is not sensitive to water. When wearing styles that are water sensitive spray product into your hands before applying it or adjust the distance between the applicator and your hair to help control the amount of water applied. Apply hair lotions in moderation. They have the lowest risk of reverting your hair, but they may contain other ingredients that can lead to product build up. Remember to apply a sealing oil to the hair if the product used does not already contain one. Although many have increased the moisture in their hair by implementing these recommendations you will need to determine what works best for you.
#6- Take a Shampoo Break!!!
Most traditional shampoos contain harsh chemicals that strip the hair and leave it dry and brittle. When using traditional shampoos apply product to the scalp with massaging and limit contact with your ends, since they will be cleaned as the product is rinsed out. Under no circumstances should your hair be squeaky clean. Squeaky clean hair has been stripped of its natural oils and can easily tangle and mat. Detangling shampoos and sulphate- free versions are gentler, but it is still a good idea to give your hair an occasional break.
Two great alternatives to traditional shampoos are herbal cleansing infusions and co-washes. Plants like abunu, soapwort, shikakai, and chiswita contain saponins, which are natural cleansing agents. They are remarkably effective when infused in water and massaged into the scalp or rinsed through the hair. Co-washing is also an effective alternative to traditional shampoos. It allows one to clean the hair without striping away the natural oils. Simply massage the co-wash or any creamy conditioner into your scalp then rinse and repeat, as necessary. Co- wash your hair at least once per month to start. It may take a few times for you to get comfortable with this cleansing method, but it is worth it. When co-washes are used the hair detangles more easily, retains moisture and is less damaged. It is important to note that co-washes can lead to build up over time so you may want to alternate between traditional shampooing and co-washing.
#7- Deep Dive with Your Conditioner!!!
Deep conditioning is key to healthy hair. Every time you cleanse your hair you should follow with a deep conditioning treatment. You will need a moisturizing conditioner, plastic- wrap or cap, and a heat source. First apply the conditioner, then add a moisturizing oil like olive, avocado, coconut or babassu. Twist and secure the hair in sections then spray with a water- based leave in conditioner, like Benu Thirst Quencher, and immediately cover with plastic wrap. Sit under a heat cap or a bonnet hair dryer for 30 minutes to 1 hour. An alternative is to wrap your hair in a damp towel that has been microwaved for approximately 2 minutes then cover with a plastic cap. You will need to heat the towel a few of times so take the necessary precautions to prevent any burns. After your treatment rinse with lukewarm water and your hair should be super soft and moisturized. If your hair does not respond positively to the treatment you will need a consultation to determine the best way to open your cuticle. Steam treatments may be an option.
#8 Treat Your Hair Like a Fine Sweater!!!
Many years ago, a wise woman told me that your hair is like a fine sweater. These words stuck with me because I had always taken my hair for granted. Immediately my mind shifted to how carefully I handled my favorite sweater. I would never toss it into a washing machine with a regular detergent or dry it in a clothes dryer. I always hand washed it with a product made especially for fine garments and air dried it on a flat surface. I wanted to make sure it would last for a long time. When you handle your hair give it this same consideration. No one else in the world has hair exactly like yours and it is beautiful in all its forms. Invest in haircare products that contain natural ingredients and always groom your hair with a light touch. Protect your ends, as they are the most fragile and weak. Keep them tucked under when possible and always wear a silk scarf or a stain bonnet when sleeping. It is also important to wear styles free of tension so that you can avoid premature hair loss.
#9- Apply Heat for Special Occasions Only!!!
Most people have designated certain clothes and shoes for working, exercising, shopping, and of course, special occasions. Unfortunately, we do not think the same way when it comes to our hair. Some of us apply heat and spend countless hours each day manipulating our hair to make sure it is camera ready for work or to go to the store. If we selected our hairstyles based upon our planned activities, we could save our hair from a lot of unnecessary abuse. When you are not planning to attend a special event, this is the best time to wear a heat -free protective style and give your hair a rest from heated styling tools. As I have previously mentioned, any style that allows you to avoid daily combing, brushing, and use of heated styling tools is protective including braids, twists, ponytails, and buns. My “go to” protective style is a heat -free ponytail. I used a heat -free ponytail to gain several inches of healthy hair over the last year. To jump start your journey to healthy hair identify a few heat- free protective styles you can wear to work and try them on your off days. After you perfect the technique then commit to wearing heat- free protective styles at least 50% of the time. If you would like to increase the length of your hair, consider wearing heat- free protective styles 75% of the time. If you follow these guidelines when you do apply heat to your hair for that special occasion your hair will be long, healthy, and bouncy.
#10 Stick to the Plan!!!
It is not uncommon for people on the path to healthy hair to become impatient and undergo an extreme haircut or an unnecessary chemical treatment. Just as the desired result is about to manifest one can get discouraged and give up. To stay on track, establish a plan based upon your long - term goals and identify daily actions. Resist the temptation to check progress too early. Simply focus on completing the actions each day and check your progress monthly. Once you start to see results sticking to the plan becomes easy. If you start to feel discouraged or believe a drastic change is needed wait at least 2 weeks to decide. Do the research, talk to your stylist, and discuss your thoughts with a friend. The key to your success is to start your healthy hair journey and stick to the plan.