|A child with traction alopecia|
I've seen girls with actual bald spots, patches of hair so dry and brittle that running a comb through it means it's not there any more. It's not just teens with their whacky fashions or older women going through 'The Change'. It's epidemic. Children have these problems. It shouldn't this common. I find it disturbing when people MARVEL at the fact that I have hair passed my shoulder blades and it doesn't look like broom straw.
I tried to get to the ah... root of the problem. A large part of it seems to be a combination of ignorance, laziness, and the kind of miserly behavior that often leads to people with a fancy looking object that will not last long. African American women and girls don't seem to have access to the basic fundamentals necessary to properly clean, condition, and care for their hair. I'm not saying that folks should abandon their beauty routines, but they need to make some changes.
As a child, my mother ALWAYS stressed the importance of conditioning and properly washing your hair. As a result, I've developed a set of rules that work for ME. As we all know, sometimes long, thick hair is a blessing of nature and there's nothing you can do to make your genetics change overnight. But here are some basic rules that you should follow to help ensure you have the healthiest hair you can have.
1. Your hair is alive. Pay attention to its needs to keep it healthy.
People sort of forget this. Just because you want to get a relaxer this week, doesn't mean your hair feels the same way. Touch your hair, if it feels crunchy or brittle, it's dry and needs extra moisture. If it's limp and shiny, it needs less moisture. If you have a lot of split ends, you need to trim it before they creep all the way up to your scalp and damage the hair permanently. You need to make sure your beauty routine is built with your hair in mind. If you deny it what it needs, like a good significant other, it will leave you.
2. Spend Some Money on Good Products.
Not all hair care products are created equal. Chances are if you're only paying $5 for your shampoo and conditioner, they're filled with harsh alcohols, drying agents and sulfates. African American hair can't really afford to lose moisture to poor hair care products. Try a sulfate free shampoo (It's going to cost you) that includes natural plant extracts to cleanse and nourish your hair. The same goes for conditioners. Often times the one that makes your hair smell like berries and sunshine doesn't nourish it the best. I've found that the best conditioners include natural oils. The only problem with using these products is you'll have to wash your hair more often. Natural oils have the tendency to go rancid. You don't want to stink.
3. Be Gentle to Your Hair.
Chemical treatments, coloring, heat-styling, blow drying, teasing and hair spray all take their toll on hair. But the way you handle it when you wash, comb and sleep on it also play a part. My mom always tells me to comb my hair out before I wash it, to be careful not to tangle it when I wash it and to be extra careful and patient when combing it out before wet styling. Wash your hair like you wash your panty hose or how you lather up a sponge. Squeeze and release it while it's full of soap so you don't tangle it. Wash your scalp too. Massage it gently to help break up dandruff and clogged pores so new hair can grow in full and healthy. Do not yank your hair. Always comb starting from the tips and work your way up to the roots. Remove harsh tangles with your fingers to avoid ripping out your hair.
4. Deep Condition and Air Dry as Much as Possible.
Deep Conditioning is when you let your hair soak in the conditioner for more than 2 hours. It's a pain to sit around with a wet head, wrapped up in saran wrap, but trust me, it works wonders on your follicles. You'll notice an immediate change, even if you use a cheapo conditioner. Air drying also helps your hair to regain some of its natural vigor. With blow drying, the oils and moisturizers from your good conditioner get blasted right off it, leaving it dryer and more naked. For the sake of expedience, sometimes you have to blow dry your hair, but when you can, give your hair a break. Spend a day inside and catch up on chores instead of getting ready to do a ton of running.
And that's it, pretty much. Check out my next post for my personal deep conditioning routine.