10 Practical Tips for Healthy Natural Hair

Natural hair offers the great benefits of versatility, low costs (unless you are a “product junkie”), and facilitation of a physically active lifestyle.  Yet in our childhood, few of us learned how to best care for our natural hair. In order for your hairstyles to look fly, your hair care regimen has to be on point. I have learned so much from my natural hair care journey from going through many expensive products, big chops, medium chops, heat damage, bad hair days–you name it.  Here are ten essential tips that I have found to keep my hair thick and healthy.

Limit heat.  

Too much heat can damage your natural curl pattern. I choose to only straighten my hair a few times a year to limit heat, but also because I like to wear my hair curly. Regardless of how often you like to use heat, work with your stylist or yourself to find the minimal amount of heat needed to straighten your hair.

Detangle carefully.

I rarely use combs or brushes except when I am styling my hair into the “high bun.”  I always finger-detangle a bit before washing my hair and then during the wash using the running water. No detangling occurs after my hair wash. Someone once said that your fingers work through the tangles, while combs just rake through them.

Wash hair in twists or sections.

Curly hair can be quite fragile in its wet state. Limiting the manipulation of your hair while it’s wet can help save your strands from unnecessary breakage, and save you from spending hours detangling your hair after a wash.

Throw out your shampoo.

Some regular shampoos, even when sulfate-free, can remove the natural oils from your hair. To prevent your hair from feeling “stripped” at the end of a wash, use other products such as apple cider vinegar, conditioners like Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Conditioner, or a shampoo made specifically for curls.

 Condition, condition, condition.

All day. Every day. Not really, every day, but make sure to condition for 30-45 minutes each time you wash your hair.  To get even better results, use a hair steamer or a heat bonnet to help the conditioner penetrate your strands more effectively.

 Protect your edges.

Limit the frequency of wearing your hair pulled back tightly. Instead, wrap a scarf firmly around your head while you are getting ready in the morning. The scarf will help give you the “smooth” look without the added traction to your edges.

 Moisturize when necessary.

Pay attention to your moisture needs on a regular basis.  It is not necessary to moisturize your hair every day if your hair does not require it or if your hairstyle prevents it. In the case of styles where adding moisture may make your hair frizzy, instead use a little oil such as coconut or olive oil to lightly coat your tresses.

 Trim as needed.

When you wear your hair natural and keep it healthy, you will have less split ends. If you wear your hair curly more often than straight then you may require less trimming. Focus on trimming when you see split ends which might be a few months for some or twice a year for others depending on your hair.

Take care of your body.

Your hair health can reflect your inner physical health, so stay hydrated throughout the day. Exercise at least three times a week. Eat a variety of fresh healthy foods that naturally provide the variety of vitamins that your hair and body needs.

Learn your hair.

Your hair texture is unique to you.  All textures are beautiful and can be healthy.  Take time to learn what techniques and styles work especially for you. These tips that I have shared are a starting point for the natural hair care regimen that you will find works best for you.

What are other techniques that have worked for you?  Please share below.

Shakira Sanchez-Collins is a resident physician, urban health and wellness expert and ordained minister. Her work focuses on helping urban communities live healthy and well physically, mentally and spiritually. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @DrShakira

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