Caring for African Hair
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If you live in a cold climate, you will not want to let the hair air dry.
You may blow dry the hair with a blow dryer that has a comb attachment.
This will loosen the curls though. Also be careful as even though
it is strong, African hair can burn just like anyone else's. Additionally,
you can braid the hair while it is still damp and use a hood dryer.
||Welcome to Caring for African Hair!
This is the regular HTML version of the online course. If you
think you will need more help than this, or would like a certificate, feel
free to enroll in African Braiding for Beginners at the
1: Caring for African Hair Overview
Lesson 2: Beading
Lesson 3: The
Art of Parting
Lesson 4: Sane
I know that some of you out there have already had the experience of doing
African hair. If you're here, then it means this experience might
have been difficult. Because of the curliness, many people view it
as hard or tough, but in actuality, type 3c to 4b hair is quite fragile.
African Hair Textures
||Springy, spiral curls of about 9 to 12
||Very tight zig-zag waves with peaks from
5 to 7 mm apart.
||Very tight spiral curls of a diameter
of 7mm or less.
|4a/4b Relaxed or "Kinky Straight"
||Straight to mildly wavy, but with damaged
cuticle, so it usually appears more fluffy than type 1 (bone straight)
Hair follicles for curly hair are different than those of straight hair.
They shape the hair from the root so that it will grow in a wavy or spiralled
direction. So even if the cuticle (outer layer) of a very curly hair
is very healthy, it is very thin, to allow the hair to curl without being
too brittle, while allowing it to break off easily after it reaches a certain
So, before we begin, it is important that you acquire the proper tools.
You can find most of these at your local beauty supply, or the Cornrows.co.uk
basic supplies you need to care for natural African hair are:
A large toothed comb. Not the regular sort, but the kind that is
usually half comb and half handle called an Afro Comb.
A rat-tailed comb. This is a comb that will have somewhat closely
spaced teeth at one end, and a long narrow rod or rounded pointy handle
at the other.
A strong bristled brush.
A silk scarf or "do-rag".
Moisturizing shampoo. This can be a brand made specifically for African
hair, or a mainstream brand that has a moisturizing shampoo that is labeled
for damaged, permed or color treated hair.
Detangling conditioner. Most conditioners are detangling, but a few
are not. Deep conditioners are usually not. White Rain, Suave,
and Swiss Formula (my favorite), and almost every one labeled for African
Hair wax/hair food/hair grease/hair oil or clear leave-in conditioner.
What they are called varies. For pen-springy (4b) hair, you will
use a more solid hair oil. For looser curls (3c) you will use a liquid
oil or a clear leave-in conditioner.
African textured hair comes in quite a few textures, from curls about as
thick around as one's pinky finger, to as tight as the spring in a retractable
pen. The key thing to remember if you are starting out is to be patient.
Done carefully, African hair is extremely easy to care for.
The basic steps are:
The steps may vary depending on the situation, but the hair should be washed
once a week.
Condition with a detangling conditioner.
Apply hair oil to the shaft.
Comb through it while it is still damp.
Apply the hair oil.
Braid into large braids (about 6 to 10 for the whole head).
If you absolutely do not want to use heat on the hair, then you can
wrap it with a good towel and let it air dry in a warm room. Let
the towel soak up most of the excess moisture, and then take it off after
about a half hour, but stay in the warm place until the hair is totally
If you will be cornrowing it, while it is damp is the time to do it.
Keep a spritzer of leave in conditioner, detangler, or water mixed with
the detangler nearby to remoisten the hair as you work.
Boys generally wear their hair short, so it's not that much trouble.
What little hair they do have, though, should be clean and conditioned.
Just be careful not to overdo it with oils.
Dealing with Knots
Sometimes kids want to be independent and they don't always take care to
comb thoroughly like they should. Then their hair will get matted
and knots in places. When this happens, take the section of hair,
spray it with the detangler, and holding it in your hand with the thumb
and forefinger securing it, gently brush until the knots loosen.
It will take a little time, but it'll happen.
Wearing the hair loose in a sort of a cloud is called an Afro. To
care for an Afro, you will need a special comb called a "pick". They
have a handle at one end, and long teeth that are a bit spaced apart at
the other. Don't use the metal ones on children.
The hair needs to be braided every night without exception. It
is best to also wear a scarf or do-rag over the braids every night.
A hat or "koufia" should be worn whenever there may be exposure to sand,
or other dirt.
Styles for Kids
As said before, boys usually wear their hair short. Usually this
is a very short cut of graduating thickness called a "fade". Some
boys prefer to wear cornrows.
Girls generally wear pigtails or cornrows until they hit puberty.
Cornrows are worn even after, but the ornamentation changes. Before
puberty, cute beads and barrettes and twisters with cartoon characters
and animals are worn. After, the girl you're caring for will likely
only want pony beads if any.
It is inadvisable to use a chemical relaxer on a child's hair before
the age of 10. They're not a good thing even up to age 14, but it
at least won't be a total disaster that could leave the child balding before
they're even 16.
Relaxing is a term used for chemically straightening the hair. It
is very hard on the hair, so a special regime is needed to care for it.
One must be extremely gentle with it. It must still be washed
weekly, but a leave in conditioner should be use on the scalp and shaft,
and oil should be used on the ends before heat drying or styling.
It should be combed and brushed gently, and blow dried or roller set using
a setting lotion. The relaxer also has to be redone every two months
in order to keep the relaxed hair from falling off at the end where the
new growth of natural hair has grown in.
When exposed to moisture or humidity, relaxed hair will frizz or sometimes
"revert" to being curly again.
Relaxed hair should be deep conditioned once a month, but for regular
use, normal conditioners should be used exactly as instructed in hot climates.
If they are used longer than directed, the sun plus the residue from the
conditioners will split the hair badly.
A note on safety...Henna should never be used on relaxed hair, and hair
that has been treated with henna should not be relaxed.
Texturizing is a term used for partially loosening the curl. It is
much less harsh than complete relaxing, but will still break down the hair
somewhat. A product called "curl activator" which is also called
"oil gel" should be used on texturized hair right after washing, to keep
it moist and bouncy. In cold weather this can be problematic, so
one may opt for just a leave in conditioner and hair oil. The latter
option is also less messy.
A curl perm or Jheri curl or "leisure curl" will have its own set of recommended
products including conditioners and activators, and will be labeled as
such on the packages. I would advise against mainstream substitutions
and stick with Black hair care products for these. There are a few
sites that have them online or your beautician will have supplies, if you
are currently outside of the the Americas or Europe.
...and that about covers the basics of Black hair care. The rest
one will have to learn through experience and experimentation.
If you have benefitted artistically or financially from this site or
in our group, please click
here for ways you can support this site for free. Or take
our online course and both contribute to the cause and learn even more
about natural hairstyling.
You are at http://cornrows.co.uk
© 2006 Nicole Singleton
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This page is about:
How to care for Black hair.
How to take care of Black people's hair.
Taking care of African hair.
Basic styling of African hair.
Natural African hair care.