Before the adoption of western culture by our ancestors, rituals would involve several processes, regulations, practices, etc. Specific events would require donning particular regalia, or drawing distinct intricate tribal patterns on the body, and much more.
Natural hair washing routine personally feels like it. Having to set aside a whole day just to tend to your hair. Using different concoctions on your hair, one after the other. Religiously following a wash day calendar for co-washing or a whole hair washing routine.
Not to forget, there are days when you want to try out the ACV rinse, detox with clay, or herbal treatment. Ooh! The list of possible options is endless.
Hair Journey Before seeing The Light
For a long time, my typical hair-care routine involved rocking weaves, braiding hair, and often straightening with heat. Weaving is low-maintenance and became somewhat a staple when I needed a break from blow-drying. All you need is a good hairspray and a Den-man brush, and you are set for the day.
As for braiding, up to date, I dread spending long hours in the salon. One’s experience depends on the hairdresser on each encounter. If you move to a new location, finding an ideal hairdresser; becomes a trial and error venture.
Some would convince you of their prowess only for the result not to match the hype. Since the service wasn’t free, it’s a little heartbreaking to take down the style. You may brave it for at least a week, just to get your money’s worth.
A full blow dry session was my go-to styling option if I wasn’t in the mood for the latest local gossip. Also, I would opt for it if I gained a few more inches in length.
Other times I would contemplate chemically processing my hair. Well, the silky smooth finish from straightening would last a week maximum and required special care on the mane.
The constant and excessive use of heat led to thinning, weakening, and breaking of hair. As a result, I would have length but a very unhealthy crown.
Finally embracing The Process
The natural hair world is both illuminating and confusing. From learning the different curl patterns, finding the ideal products, to understanding the various porosity levels. There exist so many different opinions and advice on the best natural hair practices and products.
Then came the natural hair washing routine, which can be a daunting task. Before, wash day was merely shampooing then conditioning hair. You didn’t have to use numerous products, and it would take approximately 15 to 20 minutes, maximum, to have clean hair.
Nowadays, washing the hair takes several hours and has so many stages that I, at times, skip.
It is the initial stage in a natural hair wash day process. It merely means, before shampoo. Here’s where you apply a light oil to your hair. It helps with detangling and also keeps the shampoo from stripping your hair.
You can do it overnight, or a few minutes before shampooing. Any oil will do. I’ve used black castor oil with heat because it is a heavy oil (pretty much like a hot oil treatment). My hair was smooth to touch, before and after shampooing.
Depending on your hair density, you may need to section your hair. Wet it, shampoo and massage your scalp. For the scalp massage, you can use a shampoo massage brush or tip of the fingers.
I tried an tested both ways, and the use of fingers is less strenuous to me. Black natural hair gurus advocate the use of sulfate-free shampoo, as the best natural hair shampoo. Regular shampoo used to work fine, back then, though.
You’ll also need a clarifying shampoo if you have low porosity hair or need to get rid of buildup.
Protein helps to strengthen and grow one’s hair. Pay attention to your hair and do protein treatments when necessary, especially if you notice more than the usual shedding of the hair.
For low porosity hair, due to closed cuticles on your strands. It’s essential to have proper moisture and protein balance. Too much protein is damaging for your hair.
Personally, the ApHogee Keratin 2 minute reconstructor is too strong for my hair. It left my strands brittle and with little elasticity, even after deep conditioning. Maybe it’s because I used it with heat, but I’m not ready to risk it again.
A more affordable Miadi protein treatment; however, left my hair soft and smooth. And, yes, there was less shedding. You can also try using DIY mixtures.
Rinse off the shampoo/ protein treatment, and apply a dime-sized amount of conditioner on each section. You can now finger-detangle the knots in the hair or use a wide-tooth comb to spread out the conditioner to each strand. Conditioning makes it easy to detangle your hair.
Some naturalistas use a conditioner before shampooing, to untangle any knots in their hair.
5. Deep Condition
A regular conditioner works by adding instant moisture to your strands. However, you need to deep condition for long term moisture. It can be done on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
Use it with heat. If you have a steamer, dryer, or heating cap, then, around 30 minutes will do. However, for one who isn’t able to get their hands on one, a plastic cap can serve you. Use it with a warm towel, wrapped -for heat- around it and wait a while. I let it sit for at least an hour before rinsing.
Fun fact: did you know you can turn your regular conditioner into a deep conditioner?
Typically, I spend at least half a day tending to my hair. After rinsing with warm water, though others propagate for cold water: it’s more moisturizing, styling, and waiting for it to dry.
Use an old t-shirt to wipe any excessive water. Find the best anti-frizz products for natural hair for styling and rock your desired style, once it dries. You can air-dry your hair or, for instant effect, use a dryer or diffuser.
Well, they say, beauty is pain. For one to have a healthy mane and rock your tight coils, you probably just have to go through this process. But, is it wrong to wonder why our practices in the old days produced the same results without all this hustle? Do we blame it on the relaxer or the current beauty standards?
PS: I skip the conditioning stage after shampooing because deep conditioning is a similar but much effective alternative.