We’re all in search of the perfect shampoo and we often need to try a variety to find the one most suited. Wash hair regularly at least once a week. Do remember the main purpose of any shampoo is to cleanse the hair and scalp and with this in mind, it is wise to choose a mild shampoo that won’t strip the hair. If in doubt, seek professional advice.
Protein shampoos are designed to strengthen the hair. They contain amino acids but they can also cause a build up on the hair, so you’ll need to use a cleansing shampoo in between. Moisturising shampoos are designed to keep the hair at its natural PH level (5.0) and retain moisture. Follow with a good conditioner to avoid hair looking dull and brittle, but also to detangle and add body. There are many available and, like shampoos, these must be varied to find the one most suitable.
Many women and men with Afro hair tend to include hair oils or creams in our regime to keep the hair moist, but avoid heavy oils that clog the hair. Very often the hair is coated in oil but the hair itself remains dry as the oils sits on the outer shaft. Experiment and see what suits your hair type. Don’t assume that coarse hair requires a heavier oil, it has more to with porosity (ability to hold water) healthy hair retains moisture and washing regularly, contrary to popular belief, will keep the hair more manageable.
Hydration is the key to good hair and skin. The main advantage our American cousins have is the humidity. Here the climate is very drying, especially in an inner city environment with it’s associated pollutants and this has an adverse reaction on our skin. Hair generally grows quicker in spring and slower in the winter. Make sure you’re drinking enough water. Many problems of the hair and scalp including pityraisis simplex ‘dandruff’ can be a symptom of some form of metabolic variation. Stress, poor diet, or even an allergy to certain foods can be responsible for the build up of dead , normally shed skin.
What should I do?
- Should I section my hair before washing?
Sectioning is a helpful method especially if you have very long curly/and or thick hair although this may not be necessary for other hair types, such as those with short hair.
The benefits of sectioning the hair is that it makes it manageable and reduces the risk of tearing and splitting, especially if you’re wearing braids. Always comb from the ends (tips) of the hair and work upwards.
- How soon after shampooing should I apply a conditioner?
The conditioner should be applied immediately after shampooing if you’re using an after-shampoo conditioner but remember to squeeze excess water out of your hair, then apply. This type of conditioner covers and smooths down the outer cuticle of the hair making it more manageable to comb. For deeper conditioning, then squeeze and blot excess water so that the conditioner can penetrate the hair shaft (cuticle). Deep conditioners work by penetrating the deeper layers of the hair shaft and act as a filler to damaged hair.
- Is it better to detangle hair when its wet or dry?
Detangling your hair before washing is essential to prevent tangles and breakage. Afro hair is more fragile when wet so I would advocate detangling when dry. If you’re using a deep conditioner then comb from the tips to the roots and select a wide spaced toothed comb for detangling the hair, go for saw-cut combs made of hard material such as bone and ivory but if you’re on a budget go for vulcanised rubber combs.
- If I’m using a deep conditioner – when and how often should this be applied (e.g. on dry hair before you shampoo, after a shampoo, on top of a rinse out conditioner?
Deep conditioners aren’t meant for regular use. Depending on how often you wash your hair, use an everyday conditioner after shampooing on wet hair. Keep the deep conditioner to once every 2 – 4 weeks if you wash your hair once a week. I’d recommend applying to dry hair if your steaming, using heat and/ or covering with a plastic cap. This is my preferred method at the Hair and Scalp clinic when steaming. Protein conditioners are suited to chemically treated hair and moisturising conditioners if you use excessive heat.
- Is it necessary to oil your scalp after washing?
This is a common question and the short answer is no. Oiling the scalp is a tradition for many women with Afro hair and is done essentially to combat a dry scalp. The scalp is an extension of our skin, and secretes sebum that lubricates the hair as it travels down the hair shaft preventing dryness and breakage. When we apply oils this can lead to irritation, prevent the scalp from breathing and clog the sebaceous glands. That said, there are specific oil treatments that are formulated for moisturising the hair and scalp and for which some people find beneficial as an occasional treatment.
- Always wash hair regularly – once per week.
- Choose a shampoo for your hair type, ask your hairdresser to advise you if you aren’t sure of your hair type.
- A trichologist can help with specific scalp problems and make up the appropriate shampoo for your scalp and hair type if you are experiencing issues with your hair and scalp.
- Use the same brand of hair products throughout to compliment their use.
- Don’t stick to one brand, as continuous use will reduce the benefit of the shampoo over time.
- It’s also advisable to have an in-between shampoo to cleanse hair thoroughly from all the other products.
- Only massage shampoo if the scalp is healthy. Massaging stimulates the shedding of scales as with dandruff and can lead to inflammation if the scalp is tender or sore.
- Detangle hair with wide tooth comb
- Wet hair thoroughly with warm water, hot water has a drying effect on the hair.
- Apply small quantities of shampoo to the hair. Work each application into a lather until the entire head is lathered.
- Do not massage the scalp too vigorously as this can cause friction on the hair, instead manipulate the scalp using the cushions of your fingertips.
- Rinse thoroughly, paying attention to the nape and sides.
- Repeat the process.
- Squeeze excess water from hair or blot with a towel and apply conditioner.
- Rinse conditioner and style.
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About Shirley McDonald MIT – Consultant Trichologist
Since qualifying in 1991, Consultant Trichologist Shirley McDonald has studied advanced nutrition for practitioners with the Institute of Nutrition I.O.N and Natural Nutrition with the College of Natural Nutrition. Shirley has been a freelance writer for BH Magazine (Black Hair). Her features include braiding, chemical applications and dry scalp conditions. She also lectured at various hair events, including Alopecia UK 2015 . She has also been interviewed extensively both in print and broadcast media, appearing on show like Radio 4’s Celebration of Women programme and featured in Pride magazine.