Looking after natural hair can feel a little overwhelming from time to time, simply because our hair goes through so much. From daily styling to sun exposure and the occasional use of heating tools, it’s no wonder that many naturals find solace in their wash day routines. Wash days teach us all how to give our hair the care it deserves. How To Condition Natural Hair.
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One important element of caring for natural hair that should never be overlooked is conditioning. Conditioners help prevent damage from heat and styling tools and replace moisture and proteins in the hair shaft. When hair is conditioned, its strength, shine, and overall health are restored, which is why no haircare routine is complete without a good conditioner.
So we asked hairstylist Charlotte Mensah, trichologist Kari Williams, Ph.D., and Jeanette Nkwate of the natural hair care brand Afrocenchix to help us break down everything there is to know about conditioning natural hair, including the different types of conditioners to choose from and how to pick a conditioner based on the factors that impact natural hair on a daily basis.
MEET THE EXPERT
Charlotte Mensah is an award-winning hairstylist and author and the founder of the Manketti Oil hair care range.
Kari Williams, Ph.D., is a trichologist and hairstylist. Her clients include Halle Berry, Chloe Bailey, and Ava DuVernay.
Jeanette Nkwate is a content, community, and communications manager for the award-winning hair brand Afrocenchix.
Why Conditioner Is Crucial
For naturals who either don’t use a conditioner as part of their hair care routine or aren’t sure which conditioner is right for them, it can be beneficial to know why natural hair needs to be conditioned on a regular basis. “Afro-textured hair absorbs liquid and moisture like a sponge, however, it can struggle to retain that moisture,” Mensah says. “Finding a good conditioner that contains ingredients like oils is a must, as they can form a protective layer on the hair and support the detangling process.”
Additionally, the natural twists and bends in the hair shaft can create cracks in the cuticle which makes natural hair drier and more fragile than other hair types. “In order to keep hair healthy and prevent damage, the regular infusion of moisture and protein into the strands is important,” Williams explains.
How To Condition Natural Hair For Your Healthiest Strands Ever
Deemed to be more suitable for type 3 hair, instant conditioners provide a variety of benefits such as reducing dryness and aiding in detangling. “Instant conditioners tend to be applied shortly after shampooing for a little time before rinsing out,” Mensah says. There are some instant conditioners that don’t need to be rinsed out, which is why they can be confused with leave-in conditioners.
To avoid product build-up, Williams recommends using instant conditioners only occasionally, as using this type of conditioner “will not keep hair in its optimum condition,” she says.
Deep conditioning has become an essential part of most naturals’ hair care routines, but all hair types can benefit from using a good deep conditioner on a regular basis. “A deep conditioner is a hair mask or intense hair treatment formulated with key conditioning agents like emollients, humectants, and fatty alcohols—they restore the hair’s moisture levels as well as reduce breakage and improve elasticity,” Mensah says.
“Deep conditioners should be left on the hair for a minimum of 10 minutes,” Williams says. “I recommend deep conditioning every time you shampoo.” In order for hair to be deep conditioned, the product needs to penetrate deeper within the hair shaft. The process must be activated by heat in order to give hair the TLC it needs.
Leave-in conditioners add more moisture to the hair and shield it from harm, making them particularly beneficial for curls and coils with tighter curl patterns. These could also make the detangling procedure easier. All hair types can benefit from using leave-in conditioners, but those with dry, damaged, or frizzy hair in particular, according to Mensah. Your strands may benefit from utilizing a leave-in if you frequently style your hair with heat-generating appliances like curling or straightening irons.
Something to note about leave-in conditioners is that they were formulated to be used after hair is washed and before it is styled, so they do not need to be rinsed out. As such, naturals who apply leave-in conditioner regularly should be mindful of scalp build-up. “You should aim to wash your hair every seven to 10 days using a mild, sulfate-free shampoo,” Nkwate says. “This will remove any buildup, sebum, dirt, and dust.”
“Protein conditioners rebuild the damage that has occurred to the hair follicle. They can also help in decreasing hair shedding,” Mensah says. As well as repairing hair damage, protein conditioners strengthen hair with the help of ingredients like hydrolysed protein and ceramides.
Before using a protein conditioner, be sure to determine whether your hair actually needs protein. If you are unsure, book a consultation with a stylist. “Hair that is fragile, breaking excessively, limp or lacking elasticity needs a protein conditioner,” Williams says. “However, this type of conditioner should not be used often because excessive use can cause the hair to become dry and brittle.”
Moisturizing conditioners add moisture to the hair which softens and nourishes it, making it easier to manipulate. “They are infused with extra conditioning agents such as oils, butters, humectants, and other moisturizing ingredients that are beneficial for limp and lifeless hair,” Mensah says. In addition to rejuvenating hair, moisturizing conditioners provide hydration, improve elasticity, and add shine.
“Any hair type that has been exposed to excess heat, pollution, or damaging treatments like coloring could benefit from a repairing conditioner,” Mensah says. Repairing conditioners strengthen and hydrate injured strands to restore sheen and stop further hair damage. When using a repairing conditioner, remember that results are key. Although it takes time to reverse hair damage, don’t be afraid to switch to a different conditioner if it hasn’t produced the results you desire.
Type 4 hair comprises densely packed coils, so it can be beneficial to know what type of conditioners can help maintain moisture and avoid those dreaded tangles. “Hair density is the number of individual strands per square inch on your scalp. For dense hair, I would recommend using conditioners with heavier hold, so anything that comes in a cream or butter form as this helps hold strands together and minimize puffiness,” Mensah says. Williams recommends volumizing conditioners for curly hair types as they plump strands and create a fuller look for hair.
Contrary to popular belief, both hot and cold conditions can have an effect on your hair’s general health. Mensah maintains that naturals’ hair should always be carefree in the summer. Employ hydrating shampoos and conditioners to prevent dehydration brought on by the heat, she advises. “To protect your hair from the sun, use a helmet or scarf and look for products with UV filters, vitamins, and antioxidants.” In chilly climates, natural hair is vulnerable to damage; Mensah advises putting moisture first to maintain hair health.
Hair strands that appear neither straight nor wavy are said to have frizz. It gives hair an unnatural texture that causes it to deviate from the rest of the hair’s normal pattern. According to Mensah, hair that is curly or afro-textured is more prone to frizz than hair that is straight. This is due to the fact that curly hair is more porous and lacks lubrication and sebum distribution along the length. To reduce frizz, she advises using leave-in and moisture-rich conditioners. She also suggests avoiding the use of hot tools as much as possible and air drying hair as frequently as you can.
It’s simple to ignore our natural hair when wearing a protective style (like braids or a weave). The application of too many products at once can cause build-up, even though hairdressers do advise applying product to your hair while it is being styled. Mensah suggests using her upcoming Manketti Oil Exfoliating Scrub: “It does a fantastic job of eliminating buildup. It maintains the scalp’s cleanliness, encourages development, and increases the scalp’s blood and oxygen flow “she claims.
If you are concerned about product build-up, you might want to consider shampooing your hair to be on the safe side. Nkwate recommends then rubbing your scalp with a scalp oil. “This will compensate for the sebum lost while shampooing,” she says.
If desired, heating tools can assist naturals in achieving a straighter look. You’re less likely to cause hair damage, though, if you utilize instruments that are gentle on your strands. “Using heat does not guarantee that your hair is already harmed or will soon be. You should be alright as long as you use the proper tools and get regular trims “Mensah declares. She suggests using her Manketti Oil Conditioner ($31), which prevents breakage from root to tip while producing silky and soft results. Williams advises individuals looking to heal any heat-related damage to utilize DevaCurl’s Recoiling Therapy Mask ($36).
Williams advises using a deep or hydrating conditioner to prevent dryness. Protecting hair should be a key priority, she advises, as dryness makes hair strands more brittle and prone to breaking. Mensah advises treating the symptoms of dry hair holistically. She advises, “Feed your hair from the inside.” “The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and flaxseed oil are quite beneficial. Also, consume fresh fruit, and wash your hair with a shampoo designed with dry hair in mind.”
Damage and dryness frequently coexist. It’s essential to identify the cause in order to treat and minimize both. Damage is typically caused by overusing styling products, chemicals (colors and straighteners), or particular haircuts, according to Williams. A suitable conditioner can be selected once the extent of the damage has been established. Mensah advises routine cuts and deep conditioning treatments. “Split ends aren’t the only sign of hair damage; excessive shedding, peeling, or breakage are other red flags. Avoid using heat on damaged hair at all costs “she claims.
Loss of Elasticity
It’s possible that your hair has lost its elasticity if it can’t grow back to its original length without breaking. “Dryness is the cause of the loss of elasticity,” Williams claims. If too many softeners have been used on the hair, a protein conditioner should be used instead of a moisturizing conditioner, she advises. Mensah advises utilizing moisturizing products in addition to making sure your hair has a balance of protein and moisture. She claims that they “may help strengthen and enhance the suppleness of your hair.”
For chemically treated hair, Williams advises deep conditioning treatments with hydrating conditioners. To keep the vitality of color-treated hair as long as possible, she advises using conditioners. Also, she advises including reconstructive or protein treatments into the conditioning routine to maintain the strength of chemically treated hair: “This will maintain the hair’s strength and guard against harm.”
According to Mensah, those with relaxed hair should always maintain high standards of care. “Use a mask regularly to boost your strands with moisture and shine and use a silk scarf or pillowcase at night to provide your hair with extra protection,” she says.
The Final Takeaway
Natural hair is highly adaptable, and we all take delight in occasionally experimenting with new looks. Yet, without the proper maintenance or strategy, our hair can become weak and prone to breakage. Consider your hair’s unique needs before making an investment in a high-quality conditioner. If you are unsure, always visit a hairdresser.
There you have it, How To Condition Natural Hair For Your Healthiest Strands Ever
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