It is a truth universally acknowledged that when three or more black women are engaged in conversation for more than fifteen minutes, they will start to exchange hair-care tips.
Honestly, it’s uncanny. And in the spirit of that, here’s some of my ABW tips for Going into Battle with Your Natural Hair. (For the record: I love my hair, I do. But I admit that dealing with it can feel a tad antagonistic).
Nothing against texturizers, relaxers, hot combs and all other manner of hair-taming devices, but I ditched those years ago after I got sick and tired of watching my hair break off. If you do use a texturizer, may I suggest the Creme of Nature mild relaxer. Do it very carefully, as it’s a lye-based relaxer and will burn your scalp, but it’s actually paradoxically much easier on your hair than a no-lye relaxer. Don’t leave it in too long, seriously! But I used it for years and it was the only thing that worked on my shorter hair.
First, a description of my hair-type, to clarify whether or not any of this will be useful to you. My hair is long– about touching the end of my tail bone if I stretch it out. It used to be nappier when it was shorter and I was younger. For the last several years it’s been significantly easier to get through– I suspect that’s because once it got past a certain length, it started to grow differently. Still, it can get pretty nappy.
So, going into battle.
My chosen arena: The shower. I put in gobs of conditioner, wait a bit, and then comb it out with the conditioner still in, under running water.
My weapon of choice: A fro-pick, of course. And, equally important, a heavy boar-bristle brush, like this one.
My armor of choice: A good, heavy, moisturizing conditioner, like Herbal Essences. Shampoo only in small amounts about once a week.
The terms of surrender (uh, sorry, this metaphor is getting a little belabored): At the moment, I’m using great globs of beeswax, purchased from my local black hair care emporium. I have previously employed Mane ‘n Tail Leave-In Conditioner, which doesn’t work too well as an in-shower conditioner, but is a great, heavy moisturizer that prevents untamed fly-away afro-puffs and those giant knots you cry over in the shower.
Frequency of battle: About every other day, though sometimes I’ll use a do-rag/put my hair in a bun for a third day if I don’t want to deal with it.
Other tactical considerations: I use big hair clips to keep my hair up after I wash, comb and moisturize it. I have discovered that the longer I let my hair take to dry, the more manageable it stays. Sometimes I want the giant afro look, and then I’ll let it dry right out of the shower. But otherwise, I let it dry over the course of a day. That night, I put it in two braids, where it dries completely. And then the next day I have hair that looks nice, isn’t too tangled, and doesn’t break when I comb it in the shower the next morning.
Other products I have tried:
Frizz-ease– Didn’t work at all. Leaves my hair way too stiff and brittle. I want to prevent the ends from splitting, people!
Deva Curl “No-poo” cleanser– Expensive, but this is great! I couldn’t believe how easily I got the pick through my hair after using this stuff. Wow!
Deva Curl “Set Up and Above”– Not so great. I need waay more moisturizer in my hair creams. Left my hair feeling brittle and sticky. See: Frizz-ease.
Hair mayonnaise– Gross. I know some people swear by this stuff, but it smells funny and doesn’t actually seem to weigh my hair down enough.
Other products I want to try:
Good luck! And if you have any tips for me, I want to hear ‘em.