I've avoided riding a bike for transportation for at least a decade. At first it was because riding a bike in NYC seemed incredibly dangerous, but as bike culture soared and bike lanes became plentiful a new fear emerged: the fear of ruining my hair. Since I knew I'd have to concede to riding a bike at some point, I had to start finding some tips for wearing a helmet with afro-textured hair before I jumped on the saddle. Helmet hair is a thing, regardless of hair type, but these fragile curls need a little extra loving under a bike helmet.
I'm from a state that doesn't have a seatbelt or helmet regulations for adults, but the lawless quirks of New Hampshire are no place for the mean streets of a major city where most driving an automobile can't even be bothered to use a directional (seriously, they put it by the steering wheel for a reason — use it!). As much as I love my hair, I'm not about to lose my life over it. If that means wearing a helmet, so be it. Once I started playing around with protective styles that I can easily take out for those occasions that I'm eager to wear my hair out, I was ready to show off my riding skills and my hair. Check out these tips for wearing a helmet with afro-textured hair and remember: Safety doesn't have to come at the cost of good hair.
1. Use Protection With Your Protection
True story: I don't even wear a soft beanie without sewing in a satin bonnet to protect my hair from snags. So, obviously my first solution to helmet-hair and breakage was tying a cute scarf around my hair. This is super easy to do when your hair is already in a protective style or if you have short curls by simply wrapping the scarf around your hair.
2. Protect The Crown
Protecting your head is the main reason we're wearing helmets in the first place, but the crown of your hair needs protection from that protection. You should have a little bit of space between yourself and the helmet for ultimate safety, but those foam inserts that come in most helmets can get in the way and snag precious fragile curls. Tying a scarf around the ears and letting their hair hang freely is cute, but seems counter-productive for afro-textured hair. Instead, wrap the entire scarf or bonnet around the crown of your head for maximum curl protection if you're hair is out.
3. Beat Sweaty Scalp Syndrome
On an especially hot day, it might feel unbearable to add an extra layer of scarf protection. While afro-textured hair is known to love heat, we all know that any moisture (be it from sweat or humidity) can tangle those curls up if they're loose. My solution to this age-old problem? Carrying a little spritz bottle to cool you off. I tend to go with an ounce spray bottle filled with fresh rose water and then added six drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Eucalyptus is cooling and I love the fact that it has cleansing properties to help ward off any free radicals in my 'do. The rose water will hydrate and cut the sharpness of the eucalyptus oil, making it less drying on your scalp. I like to spritz this on before I put my helmet on. Important note: Give your scalp time to breath before you put your helmet on so the eucalyptus can evaporate. Putting the helmet on too soon can result in an itchy scalp.
4. Wear Your Hair Out
For my longer-haired beauties out there, I assure you there is a way you can successfully get to your destination without looking like you've been recently electrocuted. For this, I like to part my hair into two sections. Smooth the top of one section and loosely twist the at the nape of the next and hold the ends with a large bobby pin. Repeat on the next section. Since my hair gets very poofy, this actually calms down my fro' in a way that, I must say, is very sexy. Since I've smoothed the top of my hair, I'm able to create a space between myself and the foam of my helmet, but depending on your head and helmet, you may still want to wear a very loosely tied scarf around the crown of your head.
5. Try A Simple Crown Braid
If you are just not about that scarf life and have no trouble with snagging, a simple crown braid can solve all your helmet hair problems. Providing your helmet is appropriately sized, you can ditch the scarf for the this great protective style while lengthening your curls and creating a beautiful texture should you choose to take it out. This tip is great for protecting your hair and you can take it out when you get where you're going and still have amaze hair. It's quick and easy!
6. Know What You Need Before You Get Under A Helmet
Yes, I know carrying around a bunch of tools and products is no one's idea of a good time, but you know that having healthy afro-textured hair can sometime mean putting in a little more effort. Typically, I carry nothing, but a little black ouchless hair tie on my wrist, but when I'm under a helmet? It's a whole thing. Fortunately, you don't have to have a caboodle of things with you: if you're planning on bringing your hair out at your destination, just make sure to pack a hair sealant to smooth the ends and fluff your hair. Think about your needs and what you can carry and helmet hair won't get the best of you.
7. Don't Let Your Tresses Flow Freely
Chances are, as shown above, wearing your hair out underneath your helmet isn't even an option for big curls. Even with a scarf around my crown, I had a hard time fastening my helmet. For an ideal protection and curl protection, keep those thick curls tucked into your helmet. If your hair is long enough to braid, tuck it underneath your helmet to avoid drying out the hair from wind. Pigtails underneath a helmet looks incredibly cute, but some curl textures just aren't about that life. If you have coarser, fragile coils, resist the urge and tuck them underneath your helmet. Trust me: Your strands will thank you.
Image: Kristin Collins Jackson (8)