When looking for information and advice on how to care for natural hair, there's an overwhelming amount of contradicting information regarding what ingredients, products, and methods one should use. I'm here to tell you that it's 100% okay to break the rules, you don’t have to do everything the next person is doing. I’ve been natural for 2 years and at this point I’m convinced that I’ve been doing all the wrong things for my hair, only because a stranger said so.
Literally everyone's hair is different, so it wouldn't make sense for you to follow someone's hair regimen and advice exactly. But if you're confused and exhausted like I was when I first went natural and you don't care about “rules”, here's some guidelines you can follow to simplify your way to healthier hair.
1. Sulfates - It's important to incorporate a shampoo into your routine that has sulfates, as it will tie in with the next step. A lot of natural hair bloggers and such will dispel sulfates as the devil because they can be drying (though not all are) but you kind of need them, it's the only kind of shampoo that will clarify your hair and get it squeaky clean. You can't grow long and healthy hair if your scalp and hair strands are covered in product buildup, you have to keep your hair clean. Co-washing will help with moisture but not necessarily with cleaning, so if you don't like using sulfates it's best that you use specific conditioners and other products that only contain water-soluble silicones that don't remain in the hair even after rinsing.
2. Silicones - I feel like this is a controversial ingredient that isn't given a fair chance. Silicones are great for providing slip, moisturizing the hair, and creating a protective barrier but they may also have the ability to dry out the hair and create buildup because of that barrier. And to be fair, product buildup and dryness will happen eventually even without silicones too so keep that in mind if you’re still wary on silicones because of buildup. When using silicones in your routine you can’t go too long without shampooing your hair, so clarifying your hair and using sulfates on a regular basis is important. I personally like to shampoo my hair every other week or every two weeks anyway so I never have to worry about excessive buildup. Each time I wash my hair I deep condition with the Silicon Mix for 30 minutes to an hour, which is some of the good stuff they use in Dominican hair salons to give you that slip when they condition and detangle. It leaves my hair feeling so soft and easier to comb. Crece Pelo is a good one too. You may experience buildup with silicones or you may not. The point here is to at least try it out because it may be the one ingredient you've been missing out on that your hair needs desperately! Here’s a breakdown of the different types of silicones to suit your hair’s needs.
3. Heat - This is a big one. I use heat each time I wash my hair with a blow dryer and paddle brush in order to stretch my hair using the tension method. I found that styling with twists and braids on wet/damp hair has never given me the soft, moisturized, and stretched hair that I needed. I only achieved that once I started using heat on my hair regularly, and no I don’t have heat damage either. I can see why many natural haired women are afraid of heat though, since most people make you believe you'll get heat damage if you use it even just once, but that's what the silicones are for. You can use a heat protectant or you can just rely on the silicone from your conditioner (as long as it’s not a water-soluble silicone). Again, it all depends on your hair. You can also experiment with different heat settings and blow drying methods like using a round brush, cool setting, warm heat/high setting, tension method, etc. to see what works best for your hair. If heat really does scare you, you can also blow dry on the cool setting though it may take longer. Blow drying on a bi-weekly basis, if done right, shouldn't give you heat damage. In my personal opinion I think this is also a great option for type 4 women like myself who deal with excessive amounts of shrinkage which leads to knotting and tangling. Blow drying your hair on wash day will completely rid you of that burden, I swear you'll be glad you decided to incorporate heat into your regimen. You'll probably even want to send me a fruit basket.
My haircare routine is so simple now that each night all I do is detangle, moisturize with mango butter (a plus for being black-owned!), and do large bantu knots to keep my hair stretched. It literally takes less than 10 minutes. So don't let anyone scare you into avoiding something that your hair might need. I broke the rules and I couldn't be happier with how my hair turned out. It's the softest it's ever been, it stays moisturized, and the amount of breakage and tangling I experience has decreased significantly. Don't be afraid to experiment!
“Erin Dyana is a freelance writer with a focus on pop culture, criticisms, and beauty. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Urban Social TV, Wear Your Voice Magazine, Clementine Zine, and Philadelphia Print Zine. In her free time she likes to create art, watch films, read books, and eat everything in sight."