This is Texture Talk, a weekly column that deep dives into the dynamic world of curly hair, from crowns of curls that are free flowing to strands that are tucked away in a protective style.
Whether you’ve used quarantine as an opportunity to dive head-first into self-care, or you’ve struggled to maintain a routines through the anxieties and uncertainties of this “unprecedented time,” one of the routines we all may have lost sight of this past year is natural haircare and maintenance. Without regular access to a salon, maintaining your curls and keeping your hair healthy can be stressful, to say the least. “The whole rhythm and routine was lost for so many people,” says Abisara Machold, a curly hair specialist who owns InHAIRitance Curl Spa in Montreal. While some of her clients have learned a lot about caring for their hair at home, others felt overwhelmed by the idea, she says, which can lead to neglect. Aisha Loobie, who owns Crown N’ Glory, a natural hair salon in Toronto, received an influx of messages from clients with questions about at-home haircare. “They’re experiencing a lot of shedding and breakage and they don’t know what to do,” says Loobie.
No matter what state your hair is in, it’s important to be kind to yourself and remember that with the right treatments, you can absolutely get your hair back to a healthy place. “It’s been a rough time, and we really need to have compassion and that love for ourselves, instead of beating ourselves up for it,” says Machold.
With that in mind, here are our experts’ tips on how to get your natural hair back in tip-top shape after any quarantine DIY hair mishaps this past year.
The number one question Loobie’s received during quarantine has been about DIY trims and cuts. Trimming your hair every three to four months is a vital part of textured haircare, to get rid of dead ends and encourage length retention. But doing it at home can be tricky. “A lot of people trimmed too much [off their hair] or it came out not very even,” says Machold. To avoid these mistakes, start with dry hair divided into small sections, and cut curl by curl. Cut no more than half-an-inch to an inch, feeling the hair as you go along. “You will actually feel where your hair needs a trim because it has little knots and the ends are rougher,” says Machold. “Slow and steady is key.” This process should take you at least an hour. If you have a tighter curl pattern, sectioning off your dry hair into small twists before trimming is the way to go, says Loobie. Lastly, make sure to use sharp shears meant for hair (no, the ones in your kitchen won’t do — the wrong scissors will cause your ends to split).
Protective styles left in for too long
Many people with natural hair turned to protective styles with added extensions during quarantine, but beware of leaving them in for too long. This is an all too common mistake, according to Machold and Loobie. Leaving these styles in for longer than the recommended six to eight weeks will leave your hair dehydrated, and your scalp prone to dandruff and itching. If you’re already at that point don’t fret — there are things you can do to reverse the damage. First, start by washing with a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo. If your scalp is particularly clogged, try an apple cider vinegar rinse by combining water and apple cider vinegar at a 1:1 ratio and applying it to your scalp. Make sure to follow the rinse with a hydrating shampoo and a deep conditioner. Then, to seal in scalp hydration, use your favourite natural oil or serum. Wash your hair every ten days to keep your scalp free of build-up and follow up with a moisturizing leave-in conditioner.
Whether you’re covering greys or experimenting with at-home bleaching kits, DIY colour can have devastating effects on curls. Loobie says naturals often see a drastic difference in their hair texture because overdone colour breaks down the elasticity inside the hair, which loosens your curl pattern and leaves your hair brittle. Machold and Loobie both advise against trying colour at home, but if the damage is already done, protein-rich treatments and masks are key to bringing life back to your curls, because they can help rebuild the bonds broken by hair dye chemicals like peroxide. With that being said, it’s important to proceed with caution. Too much protein can cause breakage, too, so incorporate these treatments into your routine no more than twice a month, a few times a year. When you’re not using them, turn to hydrating masks once a month. Carefully and thoroughly applying these treatments to your curls, strand by strand, makes all the difference, says Machold, so take your time. Stick to a hydrating shampoo in your colour repair routine and use a leave-in conditioner to lock in moisture after your treatments. Styles like two-strand twists are great for fragile colour-treated hair, helping to retain moisture and prevent further breakage.
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