Back to your roots

Curly, kinky, coily… Hair in its natural state is claiming its rightful place.

24 May 2018
By Zipho Ntloko

Do you remember Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary Good Hair? It explores the complicated perceptions women of colour have about what they think “good hair” should be. In the process, it unveils the numerous social stigmas that continue to influence the complex relationships young girls develop with their hair.

The documentary not only played a pivotal role in hair education, but it had a pretty significant impact on many women’s hair journeys. There’s at least one story or account in the film we can all identify with – whether it’s the depiction of a young girl’s fixation with straight hair and relaxers, or the newfound love and appreciation we discover as adults for our hair’s versatility.

More recently, with the impact of social media, we’ve seen a huge natural hair movement emerge globally – one that’s allowed us to reclaim our follicles and their worth.

The natural hair revolution is changing the way women wear and care for their hair. We chat to the experts about how to get the best out of yours.
 
“Is there a golden rule to treating Afro hair? Whether it’s  thick, wavy, curly or kinky in its natural state…”
One would assume there’s a complicated method or technique behind restoring life to your strands but that’s not the case.

All your hair really needs and craves is moisture, particularly in winter. “In cold weather, the air is dry and your strands are left even drier with the use of heat-styling tools. This is why it’s so important to change up your hair regimen to ensure more moisture is infused and sealed into your hair,” says Ntombenhle Khathwane, the brain behind AfroBotanics.

What changes should I make to my winter routine to improve my hair’s moisture?

  1. Use a hair oil, which works well as a quick fix for thirsty, lacklustre 
and frizzy coils.
  2. Treat your hair to a mask at least once a week – consider this a pick-me-up for hair in need of a little vibrancy and hydration.
  3. Switch your shampoo. Ever heard of sulfates? They’re a form of detergent found in pretty much all cleansing products, from face washes to bar soaps and shampoos. Sulfates aren’t all that bad, but if dryness is a recurring issue for you, try and avoid this ingredient as it can strip moisture out of your hair. Tip: Use a co-wash that replenishes moisture while gently removing dirt.
  4. Lastly, pay close attention to your ends. Khathwane says that “our ends are more susceptible to dryness than the rest of our hair, so protect them by applying an oil or natural butter after moisturising”. Avoid silicones as these tend to seal the hair and prevent moisture from penetrating. In the long run, this will dry your strands out.

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Which natural ingredients work best?

“Try different carrier oils like olive, coconut and almond to see which your hair prefers, as oils are essential for type 3 and type 4 textures (see box What’s your hair type?),” says Amanda Cooke, writer and natural hair influencer. Aloe (the holy grail of skin- and haircare) is also great to use, as Cooke reveals it doubles as “a natural conditioner, making it perfect for your final rinse”. Avoid products containing sulfates, parabens, mineral oils and certain silicones as they can dry out hair. Check product labels for dimethicone, methicone and variations of these ingredients as these are good types of silicones for natural hair.

Is it bad to use heat on my natural hair?

Not necessarily, as long as heat is used in moderation. Khathwane explains that “there are safer ways to straighten and curl natural hair – even the most kinky hair can be straightened using bantu knot-outs, braid-outs or twist-outs. If you have to use heat-styling tools, ensure they’re set on low heat and apply a good heat protectant, as once hair is damaged it cannot be reversed.”

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I’m considering transitioning to natural hair but my lengths are wrecked from careless styling habits. What should be my next approach?

We hate to break it to you, but it might be time for you to make the “big chop”. For those who are a little anxious at the thought of this, Khathwane says it simply entails “cutting all your relaxed hair so you start afresh with a natural crop. Others prefer to have the natural hair at a certain length before removing the relaxed, and that’s fine too.”

To avoid snipping away large amounts of hair in the future, she advises:

“Keep your two different hair types healthy. The more fragile and complicated part of transitioning hair is the line of distinction where the relaxed hair ends and the natural hair begins. The difference in textures often leads to tangling, so keep your natural hair well-conditioned and moisturised.” Cooke also reminds us that patience is key: “It can be very frustrating working with two different hair types while you transition. Research different hairstyles (such as bantu knots) to make it easier.”


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Is it OK to wear my natural hair in protective styles?

Yes, protective styles are intended to shield your hair from environmental elements such as heat or cold weather as well as tension from daily tugging and brushing. However, if you decide to keep your braids, twists or cornrows in for longer than recommended, that’s when hair health issues arise. Khathwane insists that “protective styles are only meant for giving hair a break from daily manipulation. Aim to keep them for two to four weeks and opt for medium or box-sized braids rather than the thinner options”. Make sure never to style your hair too tightly as this will damage your roots, which may lead to hair loss.

Image Credit: Getty Images