10 Steps to Growing African American Hair
Although there are an innumerable amount of African American women with long, luscious, healthy hair, there is a persistent belief that women or men of African descent cannot grow hair past the nape of their neck.
There is also a belief that chemically processed hair—hair that is relaxed or textlaxed—cannot grow to be long and healthy.
If you are educated about the science of African American hair, you would know that those allegations and assumptions are indeed false.
Regardless of one’s hair type, we are all capable of growing long and healthy hair.
You just need a little patience and a good hair regimen in order for African American hair to grow.
Step 1: Trim or Dust the Ends of Your Hair
Dusting the ends of your hair is a phrase that gurus on YouTube say when they refer to trimming.
You should dust your ends at least every six months to a year, but you can do it as often as needed. However, if you trim your hair very frequently, you will have a difficult time to seeing growth.
The purpose of a trim is to rid yourself of split ends, which can put a strain on the health and growth of your hair. Cutting off the problematic areas will allow your hair to grow without any interruptions.
Keeping the split ends, as some people do because they are afraid of cutting their hair, will only lead to breakage.
When you have a split end, it will eventually snap off, taking a few strands along the way.
Split ends can also be the cause of thin hair. So, take a pair of scissors and chop it off. Don’t be afraid to cut it. It will grow back, I promise.
Step 2: Wash and Condition Your Hair
This may be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people do not wash their hair, especially in the African American community.
Many people believe the myth that African Americans should not wash their hair very often because it is more prone to breakage.
Although it is true that African American hair breaks more easily, it doesn’t mean that the hair should not be washed. Everything needs to be cleaned, right?
Besides, with all the build-up from the daily moisturizing and sealing, it is imperative that the hair gets a good cleansing afterwards to continue a normal growth rate and prevent breakage.
How Often Should You Your Hair?
Every day? Once a week? The answer is simple: it’s solely up to you and your hair.
If you have naturally oily hair, you are going to want to wash it once a week. If you have dry hair, then you can wash it as often as needed or every two weeks. But no matter what, you should not wash your hair every day because it will strip the hair of its natural oils.
Then, you would really experience breakage and you don’t want that—the point is to grow, not endure setbacks every week.
Types of Shampoo
You should always carry two types of shampoos:
- A moisturizing shampoo
- A clarifying shampoo
The moisturizing shampoo is the one that you will use once a week or every two weeks—completely up to you.
Since the shampoo contains a few ingredients that will strip the hair of its natural oils, such as alcohol and sulfate, you want to make sure that the shampoo of your choice incorporates a moisturizer.
Now, the clarifying shampoo is only for use once every month. Clarifying shampoos contains harsh ingredients.
You need to use it in order to strip the hair of all of the products that are applied to it that can cause dirt and build up, leading to breakage. Since it is powerful, you should use it in moderation.
Step 3: Protect Your Hair at Night
Some faces may cringe while reading this, but did you know that there is a huge, massive possibility that you can damage your hair while you are sleeping? It’s true!
The ends of your hair can get caught on your pillowcase or any piece of fabric and rip off, leaving you with shorter and shorter hair each time you wake up. This is why it is important to care for your hair before bed.
Using a silk bonnet or scarf will take care of this problem. Some people may want to use a bandana or cottony fabric while they are sleeping, but that can cause breakage or damage too.
So, satin is the way to go to maintain the health of your hair.
Optional: A Glance at Wrapping Hair at Night
Step 4: Moisturize and Seal Hair
Since African American hair is known for being dry, which causes breakage, it is important to moisturize the hair on a daily basis with a moisturizing lotion.
This is to uphold the strength of the hair and prevent it from breaking off from the weather, clothing, and styling.
After moisturizing your hair with your choice of lotion, you need to seal in that moisture with an oil product.
Some people feel as though moisturizing and sealing the hair is time consuming. Therefore, they opt to purchase an oil moisturizer to complete this step.
You can do this too. There are various products on the market that contains both moisturizer and oil in the product, saving you time and and money.
How to Moisturize and Seal African American Hair
- Part your hair in four, six, or eight sections – depending on the thickness of your hair. You can use bobby pins or hair ties to keep each section separated.
- Untie a section of your hair and thoroughly apply a moisturizer. Afterwards, take a hair oil product and apply it on top of the moisturizer. Make sure the amount for both the moisturizer and oil is less than dime size—a little goes a long way.
- If your hair is wet in appearance, that is an indication that you have applied too much moisturizer and oil or both. Applying too much can cause weighed down hair and who wants dead and lifeless hair? Surely not you, right? Applying the right amount will help your hair keep its volume and bounce.
- You are all done! You can now style your hair or prep it for bed.
A Look at How to Moisturize and Seal Hair
Step 5: Deep Condition Hair Periodically
Deep conditioning the hair should be executed once per week or as often as needed. Its objective is to maintain the health of your hair and keep it strong.
After the first month of deep conditioning your hair religiously, you will notice a change. Your hair will be a lot healthier, thicker, and fuller.
How to Apply a Deep Conditioner
If you are familiar with applying a relaxer, you will execute it the same way. If you are not familiar with how to apply a relaxer, then read further as I provide you with instructions on how to apply a deep conditioner.
- Part your hair in four, six, or eight sections—solely up you—to prepare it for the application.
- Untie a section of your hair and apply the deep conditioner treatment on your hair from root to tip. Do this to each section of your hair.
- Once you have distributed the deep conditioning cream, let it sit in your hair for at least thirty minutes. The longer you leave the deep conditioning cream in your hair, the better the results will be. You can also sit under a dryer for better results, but this is not recommended due to the usage of heat. As you read further, you will have a better understanding of the dangers of using heat while on a healthy hair care journey.
- After leaving the conditioner in your hair, rinse it out and apply a leave-in conditioner.
Step 6: Wear Protective Hairstyles
It is important that you choose hairstyles that will protect the ends of your hair. Since it is the oldest part of our hair, you need to take extra precaution to ensure that it doesn’t rip off.
Some hair styles can be damaging because it exposes your hair to weather, clothing, and other things that can cause damage.
Top Five Protective Hairstyles
- Box Braids
- Sew-In Weave
- Phony Pony
- Up-do Hairstyles
The reason why the hairstyles mentioned above are considered protective is because it protects your hair from all the things that can cause damage.
On another note, let’s not use this as an excuse to never wear your real hair. Some women claim they never expose their real hair because they don’t want to damage it.
Kind of absurd, isn’t it? I mean, what good does it do to care for your hair if you are not going to show it off? Wearing protective hairstyles doesn’t mean you have to do it for an eternity.
Just take six weeks out of the year to give your hair a break. Also, “protective hairstyle” does not mean you have to wear a weave—it’s optional.
In fact, there are millions of women of African descent that don’t even wear weaves at all and their hair is mid-back length or waist length, and healthy too.
Step 7: Co-Wash
Although you are adding moisture to your hair on a daily basis or as often as needed, your hair can still become dry throughout the week.
Hence, it is vital to co-wash your hair to ensure that moisture is locked in.
What Is Co-Washing?
Co-washing is simply using a conditioner to wash your hair. Now that African American hair care has become more prominent, there is an array of co-washing products to purchase at your local beauty supply store.
Before, you would have had to purchase a conditioner in order to execute this step.
As a heads up, most of the co-washing products will say they're for natural hair, but you can still use it on chemically processed hair—it works wonders.
Step 8: Relax or Texturize Less Often
If you are not a part of the natural hair community, then you should be mindful of how often you relax your hair.
Some women relax or texturize their hair every four to six weeks and quite frankly, that’s a bit much.
You should apply a relaxer or texturizer no more than every three months. The longer you wait, the better it will be for your hair. Applying chemicals to your hair too often can cause breakage and/or hair thinning.
If your hair is unmanageable after two months, there is a solution. You can purchase the Dark and Lovely Six-Week Anti-Reversion Serum. It is designed to preserve your straight hair, allowing you to go without a relaxer or texturizer for a longer period of time.
Also, if you can find someone to apply your relaxers or texturizer, allow them to do it. It is almost impossible to apply a relaxer or texturizer yourself without putting it on hair that is already processed.
This can cause your hair to become over-processed, which can lead to breakage and permanent damage. A hair stylist or a personal friend would be ideal in this case.
Step 9: Use Less Heat
Applying heat is a popular method for achieving a straight look. Although it may look marvelous, you are doing nothing but damaging your hair. Heat causes damage, and once your hair has heat damage, it cannot be reversed.
The only thing left is to cut it off, causing a setback in your healthy haircare journey. Now if you have no choice but to use heat, it is suggested that you use a heat protectant spray to avoid any damages. But using no heat at all would be ideal.
This is how you can go about executing a no-heat lifestyle:
- Let your hair air dry after washing
- Wrap hair before bed for a straight look
- Use roller sets, bantu knots, and a pin curl technique to achieve a curly look
Step 10: Use a Leave-In Conditioner
Earlier in this article, we mentioned how the ingredients in shampoos can strip the hair of its natural oils. What we didn’t discuss is what to do after shampooing the hair.
Of course, you have a conditioner to restore the moisture into your hair, but what is done after you apply your conditioner? You rinse it out.
A leave-in conditioner will stay in your hair, keeping the moisture locked in. It also helps with softness of the hair, split ends, protein, repairs damage, and makes hair manageable.
So, after utilizing your regular shampoo, be sure to add your leave-in conditioner.
More: 10 Tips to Grow Out Long Healthy Hair
EXTRA: Use a Wide Tooth Comb
Combing or brushing the hair isn’t that great for the hair, but we have to groom ourselves, right? So, if and when you do, be sure to use a wide tooth comb.
This will help keep more strands of hair on your head and prevent split ends. If you purchase a comb that isn’t wide tooth, it can rip your hair out and in some cases, it can cause split ends.