Whether you're a rookie on team naturalista or you've been rocking a chemical-free fro for years, there's no shame in not having all of the answers when it comes to natural hair care. To ensure your mane always wins, following the right natural hair do's and don'ts is the only way to keep your coils up to par.
A healthy hair journey surely comes with a ton of trial and error. Mistakes are going to be made, every style isn't going to work out, and there may be some damage done along the way. But that's okay! No one ever said growing and maintaining natural hair was a walk in the park. That said, embracing your Afro-texture doesn't have to be a pain in the ass either. From the products in your daily routine, all the way down to your attitude towards your curls, there are plenty of things to keep in mind when caring for your tresses.
The washing process, styling regimen, and everything in between comes with a critical list of do's and don'ts. Straight from a curl expert's mouth, these are the 13 natural hair guidelines you need to follow to live happily ever after with your coils.
1. Don't Wash Your Hair Too Much
As tempting as it may be to slather your strands in shampoo every time you shower, it's important not to wash your hair too frequently. Several factors may determine how often you should cleanse your mane, including your overall hair health, hair type, and the time of year.
"Shampooing black hair frequently can be drying to both the strands and scalp," celebrity hair stylist, author, and Shea Moisture Beauty Ambassador Diane C. Bailey tells Bustle. "In general, tight coily-kinky hair requires less shampooing. In the summer, you may want to shampoo once per week, while in the winter co-wash or a single shampoo may be done weekly."
2. Do Use Ingredients That Nourish & Stimulate Hair
Paying attention to product labels and the ingredients you use on your hair will do a world of good. A blend of the right oils and extracts can make for super treatments that nourish the scalp, encourage hair growth, and keep your tresses strong.
"The ancient Egyptians used a blend of Castor Oil and Moringa Oil to create scalp unguents," explains Felis Butler, Qhemet Biologics Owner and CEO. "These oils were prized for their ability to thicken and hydrate hair and encourage growth. In parts of India, Amla and Brahmi extracts were used to nourish the scalp and prevent premature graying. In the Mediterranean, Olive Oil and Grapeseed Oil were common in hair dressings used to condition, soften and strengthen the hair."
3. Don't Oil/Grease Your Scalp
While there are benefits to using certain oils on your natural tresses, the practice of oiling your scalp with petroleum and mineral based sealants is a huge no-no.
"Heavy petroleum and synthetic oils should be avoided, as they don’t nourish or feed the hair and scalp," Bailey says. “Greasing the scalp with petroleum keeps hair lacquered and flat, but also may coat strands, and cause buildup and scalp irritation." Instead, look to light moisturizers like natural coconut, olive, and avocado oils and shea butters to give your strands hydration.
4. Do Get Regular Trims
Be sure to never sacrifice your hair health just to keep your length. At the end of the day, your hair looks much healthier after a trim, which should be done regularly every three months. If you avoid this crucial step of hair maintenance, the consequences could be dire for a naturalista hoping to reach her maximum length.
"Skipping regular trims can causes split ends to split up the shaft, which will ultimately require that you trim off more hair," Bailey cautions.
5. Do Avoid High Tension Hairstyles
As much as we love our box braids, Senegalese twists, and faux locs, they don't always keep black hair as protected as we think. "Braided and twisted styles that are taut and tight can put too much strain on the hair and follicles and lead to shedding and traction alopecia," Butler says.
You don't have to avoid these styles completely, but keep in mind that gentle braiding and loose twists are the way to go.
6. Do Hydrate Your Hair While Wearing Protective Styles
Protective styles are a great way to avoid some of the stress and strain on your hair that comes with daily grooming. But it's how how you continue taking care of the mane covered by braids and twists that determines whether a style will be majorly damaging.
"Minimal shampooing is suggested, but hair and scalp maintenance is required in order to keep the hair hydrated and refreshed," Bailey asserts. She recommends applying 3-4 drops of a natural oil to braided styles that are too tight around the hairline and 10-12 drops throughout the head twice a week to hydrate the scalp.
7. Don't Over Moisturize Your Hair
Kinky-coily hair is among the driest hair types, but you don't want to go moisturizer crazy. Some formulas with extremely oily bases can actually weigh the hair down.
"Hair is basically porous and will absorb what it needs. If the conditioner it too heavy, it will just lay on top without absorption," Bailey clarifies. To determine what works best for your texture, you'll need to pay attention to the way your hair responds to the moisturizers and oils you put on it.
8. Do Create A DIY Detangler
If you're having a hard time finding a detangler that actually does your strands some good, it's probably because you need a mix of ingredients to get the job done.
"The best styling tool is DIY detangler in a spray bottle and a large tooth tail comb," Bailey says. "You can create a cocktail with your favorite detangler or leave-in conditioner, purified water, and a few drops of natural oil mixed in a spray bottle." It may take a little experimentation to determine what helps separate your strands with minimal breakage, but playing mixologists may turn up the concoction that meets the needs of your unique texture.
9. Do Keep Your Regimen Simple
You may want to incorporate a dozen cleansers, moisturizers, and stylers into your routine because they all promise the best outcome for your curl pattern. It's just as easy to get caught up with using every product natural hair influencers test and rave about in tutorials. But there is a such thing as using too many products in your hair care routine.
The biggest 'do' is to remember less is best," Bailey expresses. "Keep your regimen simple. Find the products that really address your needs and use them regularly."
10. Don't Be Quick To Dismiss Products As Ineffective
It may take some time for your hair to respond to the products you introduce to it. Trying something once and not getting the results you desire doesn't properly attest to the effectiveness of a product.
"Create a hair care regimen and stick to it for an entire month to best determine which products work best for your hair," Bailey recommends. "Give the products a chance to work, and don’t abandon them if you don’t see immediate results."
11. Do Be Gentle With Your Mane
This may sound like an obvious "do", but the common misconception that natural black hair is stronger than other hair types continues to prevail. "People tend to think that the tighter the curl pattern, the tougher or coarser the hair which is not true," Butler confirms. "Tightly coiled hair is fragile and easily damaged."
Keeping your hair moisturized, using wide tooth combs to properly detangle it, and adopting sulfate-free cleansers in your regimen are a must.
12. Don't Get Caught Up In The Natural Hair Chart
Using the natural hair chart to determine your texture type can be helpful, but it's important to understand this classification system is misleading. Varying degrees of density, porosity, how your hair feels to the touch, and curl pattern are all contributing factors.
"There are many more hair types, textures and combinations of type and textures that can’t be captured in a grouping of types," Bailey asserts. "Often people have multiples of textures on their head. It’s vital to know how many textures you may have in order to address the different needs of each hair type, and how to effectively care for and style your hair."
The natural hair chart can be a great starting point, but just know that it's only the beginning.
13. Don't Compare Your Hair To Others
It's too easy to pit your mane against hair you see in tutorials, on blogs, and floating around social media. Your hair may not perform like someone else's, but that doesn't make it any less special. In fact, it's that very uniqueness that makes your hair stunning.
"A simple 'don’t' is to stop judging your hair because it doesn’t look like someone else’s on YouTube. Your hair has its own unique beauty. Learn how to love and celebrate it," Bailey encourages.
The underlying message of the many natural hair care rules is be patient, thoroughly read product ingredients, and have fun experimenting. More than anything, your hair journey is supposed to be exciting and enjoyable.