Now that we’ve gotten the list of basic tools needed for natural hair (hands/wide-tooth comb/water/moisturizer) the next step is to develop a hair regimen – a daily, weekly, monthly routine to maintain healthy natural hair. For example, on certain days of the week you may do scalp massages and/or spritz your hair with an e/o water mixture, and seal your ends with moisturizer. Once or twice during the week you may condition-wash or rinse; and on the weekend you may wash, condition and re-style your hair.
Your monthly routine may include hot-oil treatments, deep conditioning and trimming your ends. Some no poo/low pooers even wash their hair with ‘traditional’ shampoo monthly. The creator of one of my favorite natural hair blogs, Fleurzty, actually has a blueprint of a daily/weekly/monthly hair routine chart on her site Texture Playground. Now your routine may switch up during the seasons, like in the winter you may not spritz before going outside, or in the summer you may have to wash more often, but having a routine is a great way to maintain healthy hair.
Just as important as having a hair care routine is the way in which you handle your hair. You can actually damage your hair in the process of washing and drying it, hence another good reason to actually have a scheduled routine so you will not have to rush through the process. When washing your hair always use the balls of your fingertips, not your nails, and massage gently starting from your scalp. It is so tempting to dig in and scratch your scalp with your nails, but as you get into a habit of using the balls of your fingertips, you will find this quite effective.
Ideally, it is best to wash your hair in the shower, but if that is not possible make sure that you wash in one direction to avoid matting or tangling and gently smooth your hair in the direction of the water flow as you rinse. For longer and/or thicker hair it’s also helpful to put your hair in sections with no-snag bands or large clips and wash and rinse each section separately. Do a final rinse with cool water to close the cuticles, which will seal in moisture and make your hair less porous.
When drying your hair always use a clean towel and pat dry. Do not rub your hair vigorously. You should also stay away from high-heat temperatures and let your hair air dry, if this is not possible use a bonnet type dryer at a very low setting. When applying conditioners make sure you concentrate on your ends. Also remember to move from the ends upward with a wide tooth comb when you detangle.
The ends of your hair are very important. Dry, split ends cause breakage while moisturized ends are more pliable and retain length. Some people shy away from trimming their ends because they do not want to lose length. But keep in mind that split ends cause the hair to split all the way up to the scalp, which will result in you having to get a major cut. Split ends should be cut at least one inch above the split.
Another good way to prevent split ends, along with moisturizing, is adding “dusting” of your ends to your hair routine. I would describe dusting as cutting less than an inch of your ends. When my ends start to feel crunchy, or I hear popping when I detangle, or start to see tiny hairs in the sink that are not old shed hairs (with white bulbs at the tips) I dust my ends. I usually do this about once every two to three months.
The easiest way for me to trim/dust my ends is when my hair is in box braids or twists. I simply cut a little (about a half inch or less) off the ends of each twist or braid. Some people follow lunar cycles when it comes to trimming/cutting their hair. They cut on certain days of the week to lengthen, strengthen, thicken etc. hair. I can not testify to it’s results, but it is a good way to keep a hair trimming routine. Check out Morrocco Method International’s downloadable lunar haircutting chart.
For those with longer hair, in colder seasons protect your ends by wearing silk or satin scarves around your shoulders to keep your ends from rubbing against wool coats and cotton sweaters, or wear ‘protective’ styles like updos or buns. Make sure that the hats you wear have a silk or satin lining or wear a silk/satin scarf underneath. Cotton absorbs moisture and also snags your hair, therefore at night use a silk/satin scarf, bonnet or pillow case.
For more detail on hair care routines check out www.pg.com pages 122-126.