Tips to keep your natural hair healthy and growing
As we make the transition from winter to spring, we should pay particular attention to our hair. Black Health Matters spoke to Kari Williams, trichologist and founder of Mahogany Hair Revolution Salon & Trichology Clinic in Beverly Hills, California, about the best ways to keep natural hair healthy as the seasons change. She gave us a sneak peek into the tips she’ll provide at the Kinky Hair Unlocked event in Atlanta on Friday, April 24.
Black Health Matters: What should we know about the transition from winter to spring?
Kari Williams: In the winter, you’re likely going to be using more oil-based products because it’s colder and you’re in a lot of rooms with drying heat. You want to make sure you’re using a lot ofmoisturizing products and sealing that moisture in with oil. We’re also wearing a lot of scarves, which can lead to breakage. So you’ll see a lot of protective styles. But in the spring, that’s when you really want to step up your deep conditioning game. You may have had braids or maybe even a weave all winter. Prep your hair for summer so you have a good foundation before you go swimming.
What spring style tips do you recommend?
You can really play around with different styles. For instance, women who may not wear protective styles or extensions, they might add some hair. For women who always wear extensions, do the opposite. Try different looks. With spring being a transitional period, it’s not too hot or too cold, you can play around with different styles and techniques to see what you like. Explore the versatility of your hair. Play around with color. Get your hair regimen solid.
What tips do you have for women who are transitioning from relaxed hair to a natural style?
Hot oil treatments are great; they add extra lubricants to the hair and add moisture. During the transition phase, you want to deep condition your hair. Adding extra protein reinforces strength of the hair, especially at the line of demarcation between natural hair and processed hair.
Deep conditioners have a lot of moisturizers that keep hair nice and soft and add flexibility to hair. Because deep conditioning is a process, a lot of people skip it or they use leave-in conditioners. Those are great in a pinch, but deep conditioners coat your hair. You want to coat the hair and sit under a hooded dryer—if you have one, great—or wrap your hair in plastic and let the natural heat help work the conditioner in.
You want to manipulate your hair as little as possible during the transitioning phase. You don’t have to go into a protective style. Even if you were to do something like a wet set or a twist-out or braid-out, that gives hair a break so you’re reducing the incidence of breakage.
Have a stylist you trust trim your hair every six to eight weeks to trim away the processed hair so you’re left with nothing but your beautiful natural hair.
Earlier you mentioned coloring our hair. What should women wearing their hair natural know about color?
There’s no difference between natural or processed hair when it comes to color. Color is still a chemical. And if you do color incorrectly, it can be very drying on your hair. Even vegetable dyes are still chemical. Some veggie dyes are just as drying as ammonia-based colors. The only natural color is henna, and with that, you won’t get some of the colors you want to achieve. For instance, if your natural color is a brown or black, and you want red, you’ll need to use a lift.
Color lifts up the cuticle. It has to, to change the color of your hair, to penetrate the cortex. That’s another reason why color-treated hair can be very dry if you’re not consistent with keeping it conditioned.
The key? It comes back to deep conditioning and using products formulated for color. You’ll need to use products formulated for color-treated hair, especially if you want to maintain the vibrancy of your hair color. Don’t run away from products formulated for color-treated hair just because they don’t have a shea butter in the ingredients.
What are most of us doing wrong when it comes to keeping our hair healthy?
Most women are misusing their products. You can’t think that you know more than the chemist who formulated the products. A lot of women leave the conditioner on too long. For some reason we believe if we leave it on longer than the recommended time, we’re going to get more benefits. You can do more damage to your hair and scalp if you leave the product on too long. It can cause mild dermatitis. You can over condition your hair. We want our hair to feel soft. When it comes to curlier, more tightly patterned hair, it’s really dry. So even though the conditioner says to leave on 15 minutes, we think, ‘I’m going to leave it in overnight to make my hair really soft.’
But hair is dead tissue made up of mostly protein. When hair is too soft, it causes it to stretch. You have impacted the structure of the hair. The weight of water will cause it to snap and break. Or hair can be too hard and feel dry. You’ll see breakage when this happens.
What should we look for when choosing a product?
There are so many brands on the market, it can be overwhelming. And every brand works differently. They work differently on different hair types. Look for particular ingredients. If you have an allergy, make sure product doesn’t have that ingredient. Also look for ingredients that keep your hair in the best condition possible. Silicone, especially if you have color-treated hair or damaged hair, can work wonders. Become familiar with the ingredients. You want to know the basics and have a general idea of what they do. There will also be some brand loyalty based on your experience with the product.
What else should we keep in mind as the weather gets warmer?
Women should continue to love on their hair and explore the versatility of it. The blessing is there are so many new images of women wearing their natural hair. The reality is all of our hair is so versatile and so different. We really have to get to know our hair. Women should become acquainted with their natural texture, their curl pattern. Discover what it can do. Celebrate the uniqueness of that. You can still celebrate other [natural] women and admire them, but really be proud of your natural hair.
And do all of that exploration in spring!