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How to Grow Your Natural Hair

by Lara Adekola / Friday, 18 January 2019

There’s nothing more beautiful than a crown of healthy, natural hair. So if you’ve ever had a case of bad breakage, then you know it can be a total bummer. Brittle, damaged hair gets in the way of length retention, weakens strands, and limits your style versatility. Definitely not a good look. Luckily, breakage isn’t the end of the world. If you find yourself in a tangled mess, these tips will help get your kinks and curls back on track.

First things first: It’s important to identify the culprit of your hair woes. Breakage can be caused by a number of things, including lack of moisture, overprocessing from chemicals, heat damage, and overall poor hair-care practices. According to New York City–based celebrity hairstylist and Hair Rules salon owner Anthony Dickey, textures that happen to be naturally drier, like kinky, curly, or coarse straight textures, are easily prone to breakage and therefore require some extra TLC. “Split ends, single strand knots, and tangles are all red flags that your hair is insanely dry or that your hair-care regimen is off,” he says. If you’ve noticed that you’re losing hair at an alarming rate, you see excess shedding on clothes, or your scalp is hella dry, you might want to reevaluate your hair-care routine.

Wearing tight hairstyles and a lack of preparation when styling can also cause damage. So, that Ariana Grande ponytail you love rocking all the time? You may want to be careful. Celebrity hairstylist Vernon François explains, “With natural hair, I often notice most breakage when it’s tied up in a topknot. This causes unnecessary tension on the hairline. It can often snap from the centre of the crown, as this area is often neglected during the prepping stages — for example not combining hair thoroughly before putting it into your desired style.”

All right, by now you’ve probably figured out what’s causing your breakage, so how do you bring it back to life? Read on for tips on what to do (and what not to do) to stop breakage.

Co-Wash Daily

Washing with conditioner, also known as “co-washing,” is a way to mildly cleanse hair and replenish dry strands at the same time. Co-washing keeps hair soft and hydrated, especially during the colder months. “If your hair is very fragile, particularly for type 4 kinky hair, co-washing can be done very frequently and even up to twice a day for intense hydration and conditioning,” François shares.

To be clear, co-washing doesn’t mean you should skip shampoo altogether. “When looking for a shampoo, the objective is to keep your hair away from ones that lather, as these chemicals can strip hair of its moisture. Use sulfate-free and nonsudsy cream shampoos like Hair Rules Cleansing Cream Shampoo to keep hair lubricated through wash-and-gos,” suggests Dickey.

Deep Condition Weekly

Get ready to make deep conditioners your new BFF. No, seriously. Use a deep conditioner weekly with a plastic cap in the shower, under a dryer, or even overnight to activate the heat. To make your deep conditioner go the extra mile, celebrity hairstylist Felicia Leatherwood, who has blessed the strands of Issa Rae and Skai Jackson, suggests steam treatments. “I like to do steam treatments with my clients. Those are beneficial because they open up the cuticle of the hair and deposit hydration. One of my favorite conditioners to use during a steam treatment is the Tgin Honey Miracle Hair Mask.”

If your hair is still feeling drier than the desert, you can add a hot oil treatment to your deep conditioner. “Apply the hot oil at the scalp and when you go to rinse off the conditioner, you rinse through the scalp. It helps the oil seal in the conditioner over the hair strand, because oil is a sealant,” she continues. When all else fails, Leatherwood recommends using an ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment, which repairs breakage on sight, or a rice water rinse, to stop shedding and smooth out your cuticles.

Detangle With Care

Detangling on dry hair is a major no-no. Leatherwood advises, “It’s easier to detangle your hair in the shower, when your hair is full of conditioner and wet. Section the hair off into two parts, then split that that into four. You have to take your time — be gentle and detangle from the bottom to the root.” Making sure you have the right detangling tools is an absolute must. Felicia recommends her Detangler Brush, which catches fairy knots and smoothes hair at the same time. After detangling, put your hair into double-strand twists and rinse out the conditioner with the twists still in. “You’ll have a little bit of conditioner, but dry it with your T-shirt and your hair will feel like butter.”

Ditch Your Cotton Towel

A traditional cotton bath towel can pull and stretch the hair, stripping out moisture, which is not good at all. “A much better option is to carefully squeeze and pat your hair dry with an old cotton T-shirt or, ideally, a microfiber towel. It’s far more caring for your hair and really helps to reduce breakage,” François shares.

Avoid Heat

Try to avoid heat drying and styling if you can until your hair is in better shape. If you are going to apply heat, use a heat protectant, keep temperatures low, and use a blow dryer with a comb attachment to prevent further damage.

Protect Your Edges

ICYMI, damage usually happens at the hairline regardless of texture, and that’s why it’s called “baby hair.” It’s the finest, softest hair, but you can avoid breakage by keeping your baby hair soft and moisturized.

Get Regular Trims

Don’t be afraid to get haircuts, my friends. Tangles, single-strand knots, and split ends are characteristics of needing a trim and ends that are begging to be set free. Getting a trim every three and a half to four months will keep your kinks and curls popping and looking their best.

L.O.C. It Up

Adopt a routine of using leave in conditioners, oils, and creams to keep your hair hydrated and protected at all costs. Leatherwood likes using the Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave-In Conditioner for all hair textures and Obia Curl-Enhancing Custard for kinkier hair.

A big thing to remember is that healthy hair begins with a healthy scalp; think of it like your skin — you never want it to get dry. “At the salon we use a scalp treatment that blends grape seed, sweet basil, tea tree, sage, and peppermint oils. All are good for deep cleaning and anti-fungal. If the scent is overpowering, you can cover with sweet orange oil,” Dickey shares. Hair oils like jojoba, castor, avocado, and lanolin oil are all great for sealing and moisturizing since they don’t sit on top of the hair.

Be Mindful of Protective Styles

Raise your hand if you live for a protective style? Me too. Protective styles are great because they give your hair a break from constant manipulation, offer style versatility, and literally protect your ends during colder months. The key to wearing braids, twists, weaves, and wigs is to not wear them for too long or forget to take care of your actual hair underneath. “Three to four weeks is as long as you can wear a hairstyle before your scalp gets funky and you have too much stress on strands. Remember a protective style is meant to protect your hair,” says Dickey.

If your hair is shedding and breaking after a style, then it wasn’t protective after all. To treat the hair underneath your protective style, we like François’s SCALP NOURISH~MENT Braids and Locs Spray, which is packed with hydrating and nourishing oils that soothe the scalp and promote hair growth.

Not to be forgotten, your take-down method is as important as your style preparation. “It’s more about being preventative than what you do after. So, when you do the prep work with the moisturizers and oils, your hair is super lubricated before take-down, and then the process isn’t as damaging. Your hair won’t be matted and dried out,” Dickey adds.

When taking out braids and weaves, sometimes hair can collect balls of debris (yup, pretty gross); for this, Leatherwood recommends using a softening product like Hawaiian Silky Miracle Worker 14 in 1. “I would spray a little bit of that and dilute it with water. Once you break it out, use the detangler brush and it will loosen it up.”

Sleep With a Satin Scarf or Pillowcase.

If you’re sleeping with a cotton pillowcase, toss it right now. The fibers rubbing against your already-stressed strands cause friction and even more breakage. Swap it for a silk- or satin-lined scarf and pillowcase to protect your hair while you catch some zzz’s.