Trying to keep on top of any kind of normal beauty routine right now is more or less impossible. Nail bars have shut shop, who knows when spa breaks will be a feasible weekend option again, and hair salons far and wide are still, sadly, very much closed. And as more and more people seek ways to care for (and dare I say it, even cut) their hair at home, we’re of the belief that there’s no reason any of us should come out of this social-distancing period with our hair looking any worse than it did when we entered it. You’ve just got to have the knowledge.
Multi-award-winning Afro hairstylist, Charlotte Mensah says, “Looking after your hair during quarantine is part of the building blocks of your psychological well-being. It’s a good time to embrace your hair and find out what makes it happy.” So without regular salon trips, how do you go about looking after your natural hair at home? Mensah advises giving it a bit of a break. “It’s time to focus on hair health by changing your hair and scalp routine. Since you’re staying at home, there’s more time now than ever to deeply condition the hair.” Keen to know Mensah’s top tips? Keep scrolling.
The key to looking after Afro hair, advises Mensah, is to always think about moisture. “During this time, use moisturising conditioner and masks to strengthen the hair shaft and lock in moisture regularly. You can also use oils, creams and butters, as most Afro hair soaks up moisture like a sponge,” she says.
It’s worth reaching for such things post-wash. “Use deep conditioners followed by oils on wet (but towel-dried) hair, focusing on the mid-lengths and ends, which tend to get drier than the rest of the hair,” says Mensah.
The biggest hair mistake people make when caring for their natural hair at home according to Mensah? Overwashing. “Washing the hair too often and with piping hot water will dry out the hair and strip it of essential moisture,” she says. Instead, she advises washing your hair once a week with warm water to seal the cuticle layers.
The way in which you wash your hair makes a difference too. “Make sure you shampoo with a moisturising product that has extra emollient. Also, regular conditioning treatments help to maintain the lustre and moisture of both the hair shaft and scalp,” she recommends.
Another top tip from Mensah is to utilise the evenings as much as possible. “Conditioning hair overnight can treat many hair issues. It can moisturise dry strands, add a glossy shine and help repair and protect from damage,” she says.
For the ultimate conditioning treatment, Mensah recommends applying nourishing oils the night before you shampoo. “Leaving it in overnight maximises the penetration of moisture, allowing the hair to retain elasticity and strength. Apply to either wet or dry hair. Once the oil is distributed throughout the hair, wrap it in a silk scarf.”
And on that note, you should be utilising silk wherever possible. “Sleeping on cotton pillowcases draws all the moisture out of the hair and causes breakage. Instead, wrap the hair in a silk scarf or sleep on a silk pillowcase to promote healthier hair,” she says.
Without regular salon trips, now could be the time to let your natural hair grow. If this is something you like the sound of, Mensah advises looking beyond just your haircare routine. “Hair growth is greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. In order to assure good quality blood to the hair, you must supply your body with the proper nutrients, so a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables is a must, as is hydration.”
And although healthy hair growth starts with your lifestyle, there are some other measures that can be taken to ensure optimal growth. “Hair should be air-dried or blow-dried with a diffuser to maintain its most natural state. Avoid heat styling completely. To lock in moisture, keep the hair in loose braids or twist and wrap it in a silk scarf,” says Mensah.