African American Healthy Hair Care: The Basics
Hair is big business, particularly in the African American community, where hair types and styles are so versatile: Short, long, curly, wavy, kinky, straight, natural, braided, twisted, locked, color treated, texturized, and relaxed.
Regardless of one’s hair type or preferred style; including weaves and extensions, proper basic care is essential for healthy African American hair:
- Strong hair that does not easily break.
- Hair that grows–Hair growth and hair length are not necessarily synonymous. Everyone’s hair has different growth cycles. The life span of some individuals’ hair is approximately one year, before new hair pushes out the existing. This results in around six inches of length. Other individuals’ hair has the life span of several years, resulting in length well over two feet!
- Hair that has sheen.
- A healthy, clean scalp.
To obtain a healthy head of African American hair, as described above, basic care is necessary, and includes:
1. Proper diet and exercise.
2. Thorough shampooing and conditioning.
3. Efficient moisturizing.
Proper Diet and Exercise
As cliched as it sounds, proper diet and exercise are the gateway for many desirable traits, such as proportioned weight, high energy level, nice skin, etc. Proper nutrition and exercise are often over looked when it comes to care of the tresses because so many cosmetic and chemical options are available to obtain a certain look.
Exercise stimulates the entire body, including the hair follicles, and aids in healthy hair growth. The proper amount of exercise releases healthy hormones and endorphins which relieve hair care products stress, fight fatigue, and as a result, help promote healthy tresses. Brisk walking, light jogging, moderate bicycling, and other cardiovascular exercises, 3-5 times a week, for 30 minutes to an hour, provide the proper amount of exercise for most healthy adults. However, one should always consult with a physician before implementing any new exercise regiments.
A diet with sufficient amounts of omega nutrients greatly contributes to healthy African American tresses. Foods rich with these nutrients include: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, cauliflower, spinach, alfalfa sprouts, romaine lettuce, cabbage, brussel sprouts, avocados, strawberries, cantaloupe, blackberries, pinto beans, kidney beans, tuna, white fish, blue fish, Pollock, and mackerel. Keep in mind, having excessive amounts of omega nutrients can have an adverse affect. One should also consult with a physician to get an idea of the right amount of omega nutrients to include in one’s diet.
Thorough Shampooing and Conditioning
While most African Americans do not require as frequent shampooing as other groups, not shampooing enough results in clogged hair follicles. A build up of dirt and grime contributes to breakage and diminished growth.
The frequency of shampooing depends on several factors, including: The amount of hair one has; the amount of products, such as moisturizers, oils, gels, and other styling agents, that are applied to the tresses; one’s life style, including the frequency and intensity of exercise, and the amount of oil one’s hair naturally produces. A good quality shampoo is to be used to help promote healthy hair. Shampoos, used in professional beauty salons, are particularly fortified with vitamins and moisturizers that help keep the tresses strong, yet pliable. Every shampooing should be followed with a quality conditioning treatment, which also helps the hair stay strong, yet flexible. There are several types of conditioning treatments, including: Moisturizing, strengthening, and stimulating. Depending on one’s hair type or style, several conditioning treatments may be necessary at one time. A licensed stylist is the best source for determining which type of conditioner(s) is necessary for individuals. A professional can also determine the best application process for producing the best results.
Most African American hair types do not produce the amount of natural moisturizer found in other hair types. Therefore, it is necessary for many African Americans to regularly moisturize their tresses. Like with shampooing and conditioning, the amount of moisturizer depends on several factors, including hair type and style. Additionally, the type of moisturizer plays a big role in contributing to healthy African American hair. Some African American hair styles and types thrive when an oil moisturizer is used. Other African American styles and types respond better with cream moisturizers. Still, others do better with lotions or pomades. Again, a licensed professional is the best source for recommending a moisturizer for one’s particular type and style.