I can say that one thing my adoptive parents got right from day 1, was learning how to take care of black hair. My mother is already a very creative woman, so learning how to braid and such wasn't too hard for her. Still to this day, she does my hair better than most black hair dressers. However, that is not to say we didn't learn the hard way on many things. I id the relaxers, I had my scalp burned, I chopped it off, I had dead ends, I have the braids, extensions weaves, all of it. However, the average adoptee doesn't have this experience. Many white parents don't understand (or care) that black hair is extremely different and requires unique maintenance. So, parents go get their kids hair relaxed, ruin it and now the child is never given the chance to learn about or love their natural hair and usually have to do a big chop to fix all the damages caused by pure neglect.
Well I'm here to tell you, that we will no longer be doing that. I am going to layout the basic of black hair care for you. this is by no means, everything you need to know, but it should be enough to get you started on proper hair care and point you in the direction of resources.
Types of Hair
So before doing anything, you need to figure out what "type" of hair your child has. Everyone has a different hair type you probably know them more commonly as "straight, curly and wavy". However, when it comes to black hair, we have to be more specific. Most black hair ranges from what we call 3a-4c. al hair types ranges from 1-4, 1 being straight and 4 being the most curly pattern.
The type of curl pattern will drastically determine the care required. This will also help you focus on what kind of research to do later.
Some of the key differences between black and white hair has to do with our genetics and the curl patterns. Our hair is far more fragile and requires continuous nutrients and supervision. So this is why we have to use natural hair products. Products that are made to help our specific types of hair and gives us the nutrients we don't get otherwise. Now what exact products to get, I can't tell you that. I varies greatly by the person but that is why you are going to do research on your specific hair type and figure it out. You want to avoid products that use silicones and sulfates. These strip the moisture and nutrients from our hair.
Key things to know about washing and condition. shampoo is for the scalp, conditioner is for your hair. Basically shampoo strips everything out of your hair, conditioner puts all the nutrients back in and is what is essentially feeding your hair. So when you washing hair all the time, you loose all those nutrients, hence unhealthy hair. You only want to wash your hair once a week and we will get into hair routines in a minute.
Okay, so this is one of the aspects of black hair that seems to just blow white folks minds and I don't know why. So you know when you have curls, and you get them wet they shrink? Yeah, that's a thing that happens. So this happens to black people too, just on a far more dramatic scale because our curls are very tight. So when our hair is wet, and for those of us with type 4 hair, if we don't activity stretch it out, it will shrink. Our shrinkage will make you think our hair is 2 inches long when in fact it's 6-8 inches.
Stretching comes into play, when you want to take hair out of it's "shrinked" state. The are many many different ways to do this, the most common being relaxers and flat irons. However, my next point is going to be about avoiding heat.
Heat is one of the worst things you can do on natural hair. It is very hard on our hair, it burns and damages hair beyond repair. Yes, there are people who can do it fine and those who prefer it. Cool, whatever. But there's really no reason to use it. I haven't used heat my hair over a few years now, and since then I have seen my hair flourish better than ever. So in regards to the stretching, there are ways to do it with low to no heat. The best way to do it if you have to use heat, is a blow out. However, you can do twist outs, braid outs, I personally use what is called "African Threading Method" which simply involves wrapping yarn around sections of hair to stretch it out. Which results in this:
Protective styles are just styles that helps protect hair while it is growing. Many black kids (and adults) believe black hair cannot be long but that is simply not true. Due to lack of natural hair education in the past, relaxers, and other factors we are losing more hair than we are retaining so we think it's not growing but it is, we just have to retain that growth. That is where protective styles come in. Anything that keep your hair out of the way and basically forces you to leave it alone or require low maintenance. These are some examples of protective styles.
Keeping hair moisturized so it doesn't break is something that applies to everyone, race aside. Water is what moisturized hair, but water alone isn't enough. This is why we in the natural hair community have developed what we call the LOC method. Leave in- Oil - Cream. Your leave in is your moisturizer, water or a water based product. Oil helps lock in the water so it doesn't just evaporate in a couple hours. Lastly the cream, help seal whatever the oil didn't as well as add additional nutrients. Now what exact product you use, again will depend on what your hair likes. There are endless different variations. I will share what I use when my hair is out.
L-water+Aloe Vera juice mixture,
O-Grapeseed/Avacado oil mixture
C-Shea Butter or a leave in conditioner
Setting a routine is key. Again, this will vary per person depending on your needs but I have a basic template to follow and you can plug in the products that work for you.
- Moisturize w/ aloe vera + water
- Seal w/ coconut oil
- Add condition (detangling optional) with favorite conditioner
- Add Cleanse & Deep Treatment/Repair
- Use shampoo
- Strengthen your hair with a henna treatment followed by a moisture mask of your choosing
Fortunately for you, in 2017 we have the internet, blogs and youtube which mean an endless supply of resources for natural hair. We all had to start at ground zero you will have to as well. But because I am a nice person, I will give you some resources to get you started and ones that I used to learn myself. Please sit down and study natural hair and how to care for it. We need our hair cared for and not neglected.
- @heyfranhe (YT Channel)
- Curls Understood
- 4C Hair Chick (YT Channel)
- Black Girl Long Hair
- Nappily Nigerian Girl
- Natrually Me 4C (YT Channel)
- My Natural Hair Tips tag (NHT) Similar to the above, but with links, posts, blogs, videos, etc that I find on here or other realms of the internet I find to be educational or just helpful.
- Jessica Pettway
- Nappy Fu
- chescalocs (Side blog of @chescaleig)
- My natural hair playlist - This is a ongoing playlist of any YouTube educational/tutorial videos that I found extremely helpful in my journey. It’s a good starting point you can explore from there and I add to it just about every week.