To Bee Honest…
So, you’ve read my hair sermon, if you haven’t here it is. Now to write what some friends had actually requested, my routine.
My hair is an individual, very particular about how it wants to be handled and what it likes and doesn’t like. I reckon all hair is similar in this respect and we simply have to figure out the best approach. However, some two plus years (almost 3) ago I decided to cut off all but half an inch of hair. I had been natural for a while but I just wasn’t happy with my hair. I had been very experimental with it, colouring, straightening frequently and in general treating it like an afterthought. So I decided to grow my hair again and be intentional in its care. As I alluded to in the earlier post my hair is currently not extraordinary hair by comparison, but it’s the healthiest my hair has been. Here’s what I’ve done:
This is big on all the natural hair blogs, the need for protective styles. It’s important to note that there are protective styles and low manipulation hair styles. Protective styling generally involves the ends of your hair, weakest part of black hair, staying tucked away for extended (anything from a week to months) periods of time. Low manipulation styles simply imply that you reduce how much you touch and style your hair. So a wash-and-go, depending on your hair type, can be a low manipulation style but it’s not technically a protective style. Whereas braids are both protective and low manipulation. It’s important to understand what your hair craves. My hair does not enjoy any one treatment for a long time, so any styling continued for prolonged periods leads to protest. It does well when I switch things up with some frequency.
Do not forget about your hair/scalp in the protective style. Depending on the style your scalp may be all that’s available to you, keep it moisturised. Wash your hair, do not leave it unwashed for weeks on end. It sounds basic but many people forget.
The Take Down
This is the oft forgotten twin to the section about protective styling. How you actually take down your braids, weaves, is crucial for length retention. I have enjoyed faux locs and rarely lost significant amounts hair when taking them out after 3 months. My secret? Saturating each loc, of my own hair, with conditioner and leaving it overnight, the next morning I have hair that is easy to unlock. To not lose the growth you have accumulated it’s extremely important to be patient when loosening the style.
Now, the success of your protective style is dependent on the state of the hair underneath. So the rest of this post is related to that.
This was a step I NEVER paid attention to. I just assumed that all the blogs and conversations around it were hype. However, it is not, it really does work. The simplest explanation of pre-poo is – a treatment applied to your hair before shampooing. What your pre-poo comprises of is totally up to you. Mine starts with pure shea butter, sourced from Nigeria, and then I add other things to it as needed or available. Originally my only extra was coconut oil, then eventually I started added amla oil. Now I have found that adding conditioner to my pre-poo is amazing for slippage in detangling. Especially if I have worn my hair in a wash and go, or another style that has led to tangles and single knots. Generally I leave this concoction on for at least a couple of hours, most times for almost half a day. I’ve even slept with it on, especially after wearing a protective style for a long time. Ideally if you are going to pre-poo you want it to stay on for at least 45 minutes.
By the time I am ready to wash, the pre-poo has worked is magic and I begin the finger detangling. This process takes a lot more time as your hair grows. When I had only a couple of inches I was done in about 5 minutes. Now if my hair is really tangled, and I do have the type of hair that’s prone to tangles, I can easily find myself detangling for more than 30 minutes. I also used to wash by just getting into the shower and scrubbing the whole head of hair. However, in the last year I have found that this method leaves me with more tangles, so I have begun to wash my hair in sections, generally 4 sections. I twist them with the pre-poo on, and untwist one at a time, wash and re-twist.
Deep conditioning and Protein Treatments
Like I have already alluded to my hair is not the strongest fellow on the block. I would love to posses the “tough, can withstand anything, including washing with carbolic acid and it’ll do great hair”, but I don’t. Deep conditioning is magical for my hair, especially before a long-term protective style like braids and after I take one down. My deep-conditioning can involve a protein treatment or not. I always use heat by means of a hooded hair dryer. There are many affordable hoods, than can be used in combination with a hand-held hair dryer, I got mine off amazon for about €20. Depending on the product I am using I follow the instructions and sit under the dryer,normally for about 30 minutes and then rinse it off. If I am only doing a protein treatment I generally do not apply heat, unless the instructions specify otherwise..
After Washing Treatment
Hair is squeaky clean so what’s next. My formula is similar to many bloggers: a water based product + an oil like coconut, shea butter + a heavy oil like castor oil. Then whatever style I have in mind, it may involve an extra product like gel or a curling custard but otherwise I am done!
This routine probably sounds like a lot of work, and it definitely takes some time and adjustment. Honestly, I did not start all this overnight, it has continually evolved. This process as I describe it has been my routine maybe for the last 8 or so months. It’s not motivated by a desire to achieve Instagram worthy hair but to learn how to care for my own hair. As a black women we have lost an understanding of what our hair needs and what it doesn’t. We dismiss our hair as difficult or impossible. I go through this wahala (stress) because the end result is extremely manageable, healthy and shiny hair that makes me happy and proud to rock my own tresses.
I can imagine that maybe in another year or two I might find myself changing my process and that’s perfectly okay. It’s normal to play with your own hair and try out different methods. The key is to understand your own hair, what healthy looks like on it and keep that balance. I haven’t shared any products in this post because it’s long enough as is, if you would like such details or have any questions, leave a comment and I will be happy to write another blog about that.