Hair Care by Hair Type: Working with What You’ve Got to Make it Healthier
So last week we talked about different hair types, and how to find your natural hair type, whether super-straight, curly, or kinky. But now that you know what kind of hair you have, how do you do take care of it? What kinds of products, hair styles, and treatments do you use for your unique locks?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer; every head of hair is different. Time, experimentation, and taking notice of what works and doesn’t work for your hair are the only guaranteed methods for getting your strands in tip-top shape. But here are a few basic hair care guidelines to get you started!
On the Straight and Narrow: Type 1 and 2 Hair Care
In general, shampoos, conditioners, and styling products formulated for “normal” hair will work best on your locks. These hair care products are lightweight enough to keep from dragging out all your body and waves, but also astringent enough to keep any oil problems at bay. Daily washes will keep your hair clean and shiny, and you should have no problems styling with a fine- to narrow-toothed comb and a few holding products. For extra volume in the crown area, consider using alligator clips or large rollers to wet set your hair, with a little bit of non-alcohol spritz or hairspray at the roots to “freeze” them in place with a little boost.
Of course, if you have wavier, Type 2 hair you can play up your natural ripples by applying lightweight, curl-enhancing mousses or gels, then blow-drying hair with a diffuser. Once your tousled look is dry, avoid over-brushing and combing, which can lead to frizz; try finger-combing with a light pomade instead. For a straight style, opt to blow-dry on low or cool when your hair is mostly dry; this reduces frizz and saves on the amount of direct heat you have to place on your hair. Additionally, the cool setting helps seal the hair cuticle and “lock” the hairstyle in place (a good idea for all hair types). To keep tangles away, sleep on a satin pillowcase or use a satin scarf or cap at night—again, a good tip for all the different hair types.
Curly Girls: Hair Care Tips for Type 3 and Type 4 Hair
If you really want to rock your natural curls, start by trying the opposite of just about everything you’d do for straighter hair. Throw out the “normal” formulas of hair care products, as these are usually formulated to strip excess oils—you actually need more and more of them! Instead, go for heavier, “hydrating” or “moisturizing” shampoos, conditioners, and styling products, and avoid those high in alcohol and other drying ingredients (see “5 Hair Care Product Ingredients to Avoid”, coming soon). The curlier your hair is, the heavier the products you’ll want to use, to keep those coils in line.
Detangle hair thoroughly and carefully with a leave-in conditioner and wide-toothed comb while EXTREMELY wet, and let your ringlets air dry. Once they’re completely dry, leave them alone! Excessive combing, brushing, and handling of dry Type 3 and 4 hair yanks out all the curls, can lead to breakage, and usually leaves hair a frizzy mess. Instead, when your curls start to look tired and in need of refreshment, wash and condition them. This may seem counter-intuitive, as washing more often—up to 3 times a week, even for type 4b hair—may seem drying. But curlier and kinkier hair desperately needs more moisture and hydration. And what’s better at hydration than water? (Not Gatorade. ) Also, if you make sure to condition well every time, your hair can end up in better shape than with weekly washing.
For Type 3, or curlier, hair, try using hair serums and a diffuser to enhance your natural ringlets. Or, if you want to go straight and sleek, blow dry sections of moist, detangled hair (don’t let it dry too much) on medium heat, finishing off each section with a cool shot to seal the deal. For perfect ponytails, use a natural-bristle or vent brush, along with an alcohol-free pomade or gel, to slick wet hair into the style.
On the other hand, natural Type 4 hair care is all about TLC. Since Type 4 hair has the fewest cuticle layers of all the different hair types, you need to make sure to drench it in moisture and handle it carefully. In addition to moisturizing or hydrating shampoos and conditioners, try double- or even triple-conditioning hair once a month or so; after shampooing, apply protein conditioners for extra strength, and cholesterol or other deep conditioners for extra moisture. (Note: Always make sure to follow up protein conditioners with moisturizing ones, as protein treatments alone can leave hair brittle and fragile.) After washing out these hair care products, apply a leave-in conditioner and detangle as usual.
Some other hair care tips for Type 4 hair include:
- getting regular trims. This is important for all hair types, but especially for Type 4 hair, as its general dryness makes it easy for split ends to split all the way up the hair shaft—resulting, basically, in “split hair” that is frizzy and unmanageable almost from the root. So either get wet trims, while twisting the hair, or dry trims to your straightened locks or Afro (try the barber shop! Many barbers still do Fro trims).
- avoid heat as much as possible. Depending on your location, hair thickness, etc., the press-and-curl method may just not be for you. Try wets sets like twists or braids instead of using curling irons. If you want to straighten your hair temporarily, it may be best to opt for a straight weave or wig (see Best Extensions for Your Hair Type). If you must straighten it–for example, to get it braided–use heat-protectant products and a blow-dryer with a comb attachment. Straighten sopping-wet hair in very small sections, using the “High” setting to flash-dry tresses, and finish with cool air to hold out frizz-causing moisture.
- use natural oils, and styling products that contain them, while hair is WET, especially for type 4b hair. Carrot and coconut oils seep into hair without making it greasy, and shea butter can provide great hold, sheen, and moisture. However, beware of hair care products that are too greasy or waxy, especially scalp oils that can clog pores and stop hair growth in its tracks (see “Myths Busted: Top 5 Black Hair Care Myths Exposed”, coming soon).
Of course, all the hair care tips above are about working with your own natural hair texture. But everyone likes to switch things up every now and then, especially with their hair. So maybe you have straight hair and want to rock some luscious curls. Maybe you want to your wavy or curly hair to billow in the breeze. Either way, you have two options: chemically alter it, or fake it for a little while. Perfect Locks has plenty of human hair extensions for you to choose from, if you decide to weave or wig your new look, and lots of tips for making a flawless transition. And if you decide to go for a chemical relaxer, permanent wave treatment, or texturizer application, you can still pamper your locks by choosing the lowest-strength formula available for you. Those with extremely straight or curly hair will probably need “Super” or “Extra Strength” relaxers or permanents to straighten get results, while those with looser curls can usually get away with milder ones, but extra conditioning, regular trims, and all the hair-care tips above should still keep your hair—no matter how it grows out of your head or ends up being styled—in the best shape of your life.
Hmmm…now how to style it?