We would all like to have that long luscious hair from the shampoo commercials. However, for some of us, that’s far from reality. The hard work and effort that goes into growing and achieving that hair is conveniently hidden by the blinding shine of the photoshopped hair on these commercials.
Growing thick healthy hair is notoriously difficult but for African-American hair, specifically tightly coiled and coarse hair types, hair growth is more difficult and complex.
Afro-textured hair tends to produce a significant amount of protective oils called sebum and that’s great since we need these oils to nourish our hair. However the dilemma is that since the hair has tight curls, the sebum does not spread evenly throughout the hair and because of the lack of nourishment and lubrication, the hair strand becomes weak and more prone to breakage. So basically all types of hair is continuously growing at more or less the same rate, it’s just that, for this specific type of hair it is harder to retain the growth, due to dry and weak hair strands.
So now, that we have a better idea of what we are dealing with, it brings us to the more difficult part which is putting effort into taking care of our hair and relentlessly trying our best to see those extra inches. Here are some tips and trips to help you through your journey to having long, thick hair:
First Tip: Let water in!
First and foremost, if dryness is the problem then moisture has got to be the answer. The first step to moisturizing your hair is to use water. Just standing in the shower does not ensure that water is reaching the depths of our hair to every strand. In the shower, we need to divide up the hair into sections and make sure every section is wet and detangled thoroughly. This will allow the protective oils to spread throughout the hair
Extra tip: Add a scalp massage as well before washing to stimulate the production of oils or sebum.
Second tip: Deep Condition!
Let that conditioner go deep enough to see Adele rolling. Deep conditioning does not only provide the maximum amount of moisture but also promotes shine and elasticity which means the hair will have less breakage. This step is a must if we want to get healthy, thicker hair that can retain hair growth. It is Ideal to use a deep conditioner at least every two weeks and we will need to keep the conditioner in the hair for at least 45 minutes. Again we need to work in sections for application and work our way up from the tips to our roots. Then rinse with cold water to seal in the moisture. This method also helps to treat damaged hair and try using a protein-based conditioner for extra hair strength.
Extra tip: To customize your conditioner to your need add in essential and natural oils:
- Castor oil: for Thickness
- Argan oil: For shine and frizz
- Peppermint oil: hair growth and itchy scalp.
Third Tip: Seal in the moisture with a leave-in conditioner
A leave-in conditioner will ensure that the moisture in our hair is sealed in and it does not become dry and brittle till the next wash. The important thing is to use a water based leave in conditioner because it will not weigh the hair down and penetrate the hair better to moisturize thoroughly. These usually contain ‘humectants’ which retains and pulls in water into our hair and provides lasting moisture. This way we make sure that there is enough moisture present in our hair that allows the naturally produced hair sebum to reach throughout all hair strands thus allowing us to reduce breakage and retain the hair growth.
Extra tip: Put leave in conditioner to damp hair only.
Fourth tip: Be careful when drying hair and choose the right hair dryer
It is always best to air dry afro hair since dryness is its absolute nemesis. Most of the time though, we do not have the time to let our hair air dry and because of this, it is totally normal to opt for a hairdryer. That is why when using a hair dryer we need to be careful to not undo all the work put into the hair during the wash. These following tips when using a hair dryer is an absolute necessity:
- Heat Protector: Instead of the chemical products, you can always use coconut or grapeseed oil that has a high smoking point and Shea butter can also act as a strong barrier from heat.
- Choose a dryer that lets you adjust temperature: Always use a medium to low heat setting.
- Section hair: This is to minimize tangles and reducing breakage.
- Choose a dryer that comes with a cold air option: finish off using a cold blast to minimize frizz.
Extra tip: Use a hooded hair dryer for afro hair and attach a diffuser to your hair dryer to define curls.
Fifth tip: Pamper your hair with oil
Scalp massages with the right kind of oil can do wonders, it is not only relaxing but it stimulates the natural oils in our scalp that nourishes the hair and also stimulates blood circulation that stimulates hair growth.
The best moisturizing oils are
- Avocado oil: avocado oil helps with blood flow to our hair follicles that are essential for hair growth. Furthermore, it contains vitamin E, antioxidants, and biotin that strengthens the hair and promotes healthy growth.
- Castor oil: This contains vitamin E, minerals and also protein that strengthens the hair and fights hair loss.
- Coconut oil: This contains fatty acids that allow it to penetrate the hair very effectively and repair damage. It also reduces breakage and hair loss.
Application: Apply once a week. Massage it into the scalp then leave it in for about 30 minutes. Lastly, rinse with cold water.
The best oil for sealing in moisture
- Jojoba oil: The chemical structure of this oil is very similar to the natural oil our scalp produces and so it’s extremely suitable and provides the required nourishment and moisture, our hair needs.
- Argan oil or Moroccan oil: It has antioxidants, vitamin E, fatty acids that help fight dry, brittle hair. It even acts as a sunscreen for hair.
Application: since these oils are much lighter, we can use it after a wash and leave in hair for sealing in extra moisture. Add a few drops to your palm and apply it from the root to tips.
Sixth tip: Be gentle with your hair at every step
For brittle hair that is prone to breakage, we have to be careful to be gentle with our hair at every step.
- After showering: its best to not dry with a towel and dryer instead wrap up your hair with a t-shirt and let it air dry.
- When refreshing the hair: Don’t tug and pull on dry hair, this can cause breakage and damage. Instead spray water to open up your hair shaft and then go onto applying moisturizers like a leave-in conditioner, essential oil or hair butter.
- When going to bed: Don’t let your hair brush up against the pillow all night, this promotes frizz and causes split ends. Instead, use a satin pillowcase or a satin/silk head wrap.
Now at the end of this blog, I realize I didn’t tell you all to avoid heat styling or coloring and other damaging styling methods because let’s face it, variety is the spice of life and we should be able to have with our look. However, through all of it, we must remember to take the necessary steps to avoid damage and maintain hair health.
The journey to thick, long hair is a not a short one or an easy one. We must have patience and not expect to see the results overnight. It only takes a bit of work and a lot of care and love. So don’t give up on your hair goals.
- Hlonipha Mokoena, The truth about black hair, September 1, 2016
- FUE Hair Transplant Clinics, what makes afro hair grow faster
- Stylist, All About Afro: uncovering the natural hair movement
- wikiHow, How to Grow Long Hair if You Are a Black Woman
- Lucy Abbersteen, How to make your hair grow faster in 9 easy steps, January 25, 2018