…by Susan Walker of Earthtones Naturals
I have a confession to make…I have hand in hair syndrome I absolutely LOVE to touch my hair and play with it. I love to feel the texture of it, to pull on it and have it spring back into place. But most of all, I love to feel the softness and moisture in my hair. This is why I absolutely detest the feeling of dry hair. You know what I’m referring to: the coarse, rough feeling hair with that characteristic “crunch” sound when you touch it. I understand that a lot of this may be inherent in the characteristics of textured hair. But it’s my opinion that if your hair FEELS dry, it likely is and this can be exacerbated in the winter time. As a result, modifications to your hair care regimen are necessary in order to ensure your hair is adequately moisturized. After experimenting with my hair care regimen I’ve finally found what works for me to minimize dryness and retain moisture, at least until my next wash day and have created some tips that can help your hair look and feel its best throughout this particular season.
Deep conditioners are your best friend
If you haven’t been deep conditioning your hair then I highly recommend that you start. A GOOD, well-formulated deep conditioner (and I emphasize GOOD) will soften the hair and add elasticity to it. It will contain oils and ingredients that not only coat the hair but can actually penetrate into it. After your hair is deep conditioned it should feel soft and moisturized. Detailed information on how to properly deep condition natural hair can be found here and here. If possible, deep condition every time you cleanse your hair whether you choose to use shampoo or co-wash. This is a first step to maintaining the moisture level in your hair. You can add heat by using a heating cap or steam condition your hair for additional penetration of the ingredients into your hair.
Add an effective moisturizer
A good moisturizer will hydrate and nourish the hair deeply within the hair shaft. Water-based products are necessary. Anything without water such as a 100% oil-based product will not be an effective moisturizer but will act as a sealant. Oils replace lost lipids from the hair, nourish it and can create a barrier to seal in moisture but they do not moisturize. What exactly is an effective moisturizer? It’s one that will contain water, humectants, emollients and occlusive ingredients. For my hair texture and density it’s a moisturizer that is a thicker consistency and contains a high amount of oils and butters, as well as conditioning ingredients to soften my hair. Lighter moisturizers are not ideal for my hair because my hair stands are thick and I have A LOT of hair. Information on how to find a great moisturizer can be found here and here. Once you’ve deep conditioned and moisturized your hair, styling is the final step.
Choose your styler wisely
Why is this so important? I’m speaking from experience and experimentation here. My signature hairstyle is a twist-out. I opt for the ultra-defined twist-outs and this final result dictates the styling product I choose. If you’re not interested in a lot of definition and like a bigger, fuller look to your style then your styling product and moisturizer can be the same product. However if you’re looking for definition then a product with hold is necessary. This product will likely be a gel or cream-gel, both of which will likley contain polymers like xanthan gum, dehydroxanthan gum, hydroxyethylcellulose, PVP/VA copolymer, etc. I’ve experimented with a few different products with various ingredients to achieve this style and evaluated the products based on the twist definition as well as how my hair felt. Crunchy hair that felt dry was a fail; hair that was soft to the touch, had good sheen, yet still had a firm hold to maintain my twist-out style for days was a pass. I achieved the latter results by doing the following:
- I applied a thick water-based moisturizer throughout my hair after rinsing the deep conditioner from my hair. This moisturizer contains butters, oils, emollients and a conditioning emulsifier which serves to soften the hair.
- To twist my hair I used an oil-free gel. This product is high in humectants and contains film-forming polymers that help to retain curl and add hold to the hair without the “crunch”. Of importance is that this gel was applied OVER the moisturizer. You can also use a cream-gel that contains oils and butters along with the humectants. This product should still be applied over the moisturizer.
- Once the hair dried the result was a soft, moisturized twist-out with a lot of staying power.
This product combination works well for me. I don’t have a problem using products high in humectants and glycerin in the winter time because they are used OVER a moisturizer and really help in softening my hair. However you may have a different experience. If you’re wondering about the use of glycerin in the winter time then check out this article.
Put the moisture back into the air
If you’re really concerned with dryness and want to ensure your hair is well hydrated you can purchase a humidifier. This relatively inexpensive appliance increases moisture in a room or your entire house and can be used daily to improve the moisture in your hair.
Keep it covered!
It’s not only important to keep your hair protected at night when you sleep, but when going outside and your hair is exposed to the cold air. Wearing a hat or hood is, in my opinion, necessary to protecting your hair from the harsh weather. You can purchase satin-lined hats from HatSome (www.hatsome.com) or line your favourite hat yourself with some satin material. The key is to minimize your hair’s exposure to the cold, dry air when you’re outside.
These tips are what work for me to ensure my hair is moisturized throughout the colder months, and they have definitely made a huge difference in the way my hair feels and look.
What has worked for you to combat hair dryness in the winter?
***photo courtesy Pursuit of Nappiness