Afro hair care: Your ultimate guide to natural hair

Steven | 30 April 2018

Afro hair care explained.

When it comes to hair type, none need quite so much care and attention as natural afro hair. With many different curl types figure out and natural hair myths to bust (not to mention, which products are best suited to your mane), refining your own afro hair care regimen is a constant and evolving task.

Now if you’re after routine refresh, but don’t know where to start, consider yourself covered. With the Elena Diaz, ATH Global Hairstylist, on hand to provide you with some expert tips, we’re breaking things down, so you can get the fabulous curls of your dreams.



A complete guide to afro hair care



 

infographic listing the different types of curly hair
Which natural hair type do you have?

Consider your hair type

Now, before we get down to the basics of caring for your precious natural strands, it’s important to figure out which curl pattern you have.

Ranging from slight waves to super kinky locks, the spectrum of natural afro hair is vast. But you can take a look at the above chart to determine which curl type you have.

Curl type key points:

Type 2 hair

  • Type 2A is the least curly. It’s quite fine with light, S-shaped waves that don’t have a lot of definition.
  • Type 2B has a more prominent S-shape than type 2A and has a tendency to be slightly frizzy.
  • Type 2C is the thickest of all the type 2 hair types. It’s coarse with a pronounced S-shape and can be susceptible to frizz – usually requiring more styling products than the others.

Type 3 hair

  • Type 3A has a clear S-shape with a bit more spring to it. It is also prone to frizz and loss of definition.
  • Type 3B is slightly smaller and more spiralled. It can also lack a bit of shine because the tighter curl pattern (which can affect the distribution of natural oils along the hair shaft).
  • Type 3C is the coarsest of all the type 3s and has a lot of volume. You can easily identify it by its corkscrew curls, which are about the width of a pencil.

Type 4 hair

  • Type 4A hair should resemble tight coils that still have an S-shape to them and has a somewhat visible curl pattern.
  • Type 4B has a less noticeable curl pattern. The strands have more of a Z-shape and can shrink substantially.
  • Type 4C is very similar to 4B, but the strands have much tighter kinks with a less visible curl pattern. Because of the very dense Z-shape, its biggest problem is retaining moisture. So handle and treat it with extra TLC.
How to do box braids tutorial girl with box braids smiling
Know how to wash hair the right way. Credit: Verity Jane Smith

Washing afro hair

Now, considering which hair type you have and your current hair needs, your wash and care routine will change. Natural hair types tend to be more prone to becoming dry, so washing with a moisture rich shampoo and conditioner is a must.

You can section hair into manageable sections and then wash these sections separately. This helps to ensure that you eliminate product build-up more effectively and should also help with the detangling process. – Elena Diaz, ATH Global Hairstylist.

 

If you wash your hair but still find that it doesn’t fully cleanse, you may need to change the way you lather. Elena suggests dividing your hair into manageable sections and washing these individually, so you can remove any product build-up. This could also help you with the detangling process, but more on that later…

TRESemmé Botanique Nourish & Replenish Shampoo

We’re huge fans of the TRESemmé Botanique Nourish & Replenish Shampoo and Conditioner. Infused with coconut oil and aloe vera, the formula simultaneously cleanses and quenches hair, helping to nourish and moisturise your strands.

Another way to you can get your mane feeling soft and supple is to use the co-washing method. This is popular with curly-haired ladies the world over and basically means washing your hair only with conditioner (hence, the name).

However, while this may make your strands feel smoother, it can leave your hair looking heavy, so while it is a good method to use one will still need to periodically wash their hair with a cleansing shampoo, depending on your hair type, product choices and lifestyle, explains Elena.

woman with natural curly hair spraying her hair with a primer
Always protect your strands! Credit: Verity Jane Smith

Pre-styling protection

As with any hair, when it comes to using heat for drying or styling your strands, you need to be using a heat protectant. This will help safeguard your tresses from becoming dry and damaged – so it’s a must-do step for any naturalista!

Now, there is no ‘best way’ to dry hair as it really depends on your hair texture and amount of damage your hair has. However, Elena suggests using a smoothing serum or leave-in conditioner prior to using a diffuser, explaining that “similar application of products can be used with air drying but drying with a diffuser is likely to leave less frizz and disturb the curl pattern less”.

TRESemmé Biotin + Repair 7 Primer Spray

Someone who uses a lot of heat may want to give it a bit of a rest, but of course, this isn’t away possible when creating your desired style. So if you’re all about using heated styling tools, ensure you prep your mane with a good heat protectant.

Try the TRESemmé Biotin+ Repair 7 Primer Protection Spray, which helps to safeguard your hair from 7 different types of styling damage, including protecting it up to 230⁰c.

Detangling and brushing

You probably don’t need us to tell you that natural hair is prone to breakage. And there is no other time when this is more likely to happen than when you’re brushing and detangling your strands.

So, if you’re sick and tired dealing with this, put down that ordinary brush and switch it out for a natural bristle brush or a wide-tooth comb. Why, you ask? Because using natural bristle brushes, like a boar bristle brush – and the same for wide-tooth combs – cause less friction, which can then help undo stubborn knots and limit the small everyday damages usually caused by brushing.

“Be gentle and patient with detangling,” cautions Elena, “start off by finger detangling section by section, working your way up from the ends to the roots.” She then suggests following up and repeating the process with a wide-toothed comb, as well as utilising conditioners and/ or moisturisers with lots of slip to help the process.

Read more on natural bristle brushes, here!

Treatments

Natural afro hair often needs a little extra TCL, being prone to dryness and breakage. You can wash, condition, prep and carefully brush all day, but sometimes there just seems to be something missing…

In these times, you could benefit from an extra helping hand – and by this, we mean a deep conditioning treatment. These come packed full of moisturising and nourishing benefits that deliver you that boost where it’s needed most.

TONI&GUY Damage Repair Mask

When your mane is feeling dry and less than silky, allow yourself some alone time with the TONI&GUY Damage Repair Mask. Providing advanced repair and replenishment for distressed hair, the formula works to soften hair for touchably soft, healthier-looking hair that shines from root to tip.

low manipulation hairstyles: close up shot of women with bantu knot hairstyle posing
Beautiful and budge-proof bantu knots! Credit: Verity Jane Smith

Protective/low manipulation hairstyles

With the constant changes in climate (thank you, British weather), you may feel that your natural stands could do with a break. In these times, turn to protective hairstyles to offer some much-needed respite.

Our fave protective styles to try:

  1. Box braids
  2. Cornrows
  3. Rocking a headscarf
  4. Fabulous crochet braids
  5. Bantu knots

Low manipulation styles such as twists/braid outs, buns, pompadours not only look great but they also offer some level of protection, says Elena.

Another way to help tame hair that is tangle and frizz-prone is to wrap your hair in a silk scarf, bonnet, or sleep on a pillowcase made from silk or satin. These are less absorbent than cotton and won’t sap moisture from your strands. Which we know, it’s the stuff of nightmares!

Regular haircuts

While many of us like to grow out our hair to great lengths, regular trims are still necessary to get rid of any split ends and damaged bit of hair. It may be a little timing consuming (not to mention pricey), but it is an important step when it comes to looking after your mane.

Really trying to grow out your hair but still want to ensure your strands are in good shape? Then try the dusting technique, which works by your hairstylist trimming just the very ends of the hair, meaning you won’t have to sacrifice on length!

 

And there you go, everyone, you’re full guide to looking after afro hair. Remember, not all curly hair types are the same and your individual needs will constantly change, so adapt and never get caught with a bad hair day again!