Prior to 2018, the year I went natural, I straightened my 4A textured hair four to six times a week in an effort to fit in as one of the only women of color in my environment. After more than a decade of relaxers, keratin treatments, and blowouts, my hair was in bad shape. I had severe heat damage, multiple textures and lengths, split ends, and moisture-depleted strands.
When I sat down to get the big chop in 2018, I wanted to turn my dry natural hair into hydrated, smooth curls. What I didn’t know is that the transition would be just that, a transition. As talented as my hair stylist was, it would take a dedicated routine—or a consistent set of healthy practices and rules—and regular moisturizing products to transform my curly hair from dry to moisturized.
In fact, it took me a little over a year to figure out what moisture-retaining products worked best for my hair. Read on to learn all about my hydrating hair journey.
How I Learned To Take Care Of My Dry Natural Hair
Unfortunately, my experience and journey with curly hair is not unique. For the uninitiated, textured hair tends to be more on the dry side because of the tight curl patterns. These coils hinder natural oils from making their way down the hair shaft. In other words, it’s hard for natural sebum to get through the curves and grooves of each strand, which can leave your hair dry, weak, and dull.
After doing the big chop, I noticed that my hair would appear and feel more hydrated for two days before going back to its default stage—dry. Those first two days, post-wash day, were amazing—my curls were shiny, bouncy, and happy. At the time, I was using a sulfate-free shampoo, deep conditioner, and a generic curl cream to achieve results. I wasn’t aware that I needed to refresh my curls in between wash days, so by day three, my curls were flat and moody. On day four, my curl pattern turned into frizz and my well-shaped hairstyle became a ‘fro.
I hated how dry my hair looked and felt, and because I was concerned about people passing judgement, I became desperate for a solution. Out of frustration, and a lack of desire to wash and restyle my hair more than once a week, I started researching how to hydrate natural hair. Here’s what I learned.
My Hydrating Natural Hair Routine
After subscribing to a couple of natural hair YouTube vloggers’ channels and testing multiple products, I began updating my natural hair habits. After a lot of trial and error, I discovered the following, which has become my regular routine.
The night before I wash my hair, I sleep with a nourishing hair mask in. Because my hair is so curly, it is hard for oils and products to enter the hair shaft—by keeping a hair mask on for eight to 10 hours, it allows the product an adequate amount of time to penetrate my roots and produce maximum benefits. The following morning, I’ll run a detangling brush through my hair, section it into four parts, and hop in the shower.
Next, while my hair is still sectioned, I shampoo and condition with products that have nourishing mixes meant to soften and hydrate dry curly hair. I do this because it’s easier to manage and assures me the product is getting all over my hair. I then rinse my hair out with cold water. I learned that warm water opens up the cuticle, allowing moisture to seep out, whereas cold water closes the cuticle and traps all the moisture and nourishment in my hair.
Detangling is up next. Experience has taught me to do this in the shower, since I need more water than product when I detangle. To do this, I switch between my detangling brush and my fingers, which have a more gentle touch on tougher areas.
Post-shower, I’ll apply a leave-in conditioner followed by my hydrating styling products and style as desired. My nighttime routine consists of a silk bonnet to trap in all the oils and natural hair hydration for the night. It also protects my hair from snagging on bedding and keeps my style intact.
In between wash days, I’ll refresh my curls with a lighter product or leave-in conditioner to revive the products that are already in my hair and to help my curl definition last. To do so, I use a spray bottle and spritz my hair with my choice of product right before bed and right when I wake up.
Even with my routine, occasionally my hair is still dry. Unfortunately, that is just the nature of textured hair. To combat this default state, in addition to a weekly moisturizing mask, I do a day of deep conditioning. In the past six months, my hair has really taken to rice water. I apply the rice water in the morning, leave it on for three hours, and then apply a deep-conditioning treatment for an additional hour. These extra steps help restore moisture and improve my hair's elasticity.
What I’ve Learned During My Hydrating Hair Journey
The biggest lesson I’ve learned on my journey from dry to moisturized hair is that defining the perfect natural hair routine is an on-going practice. Some naturals, like myself, have multiple textures, so we need formulas that add moisture and help with definition. It’s also important to know that there is no one-size-fits all routine. It’s about learning what works for you and being consistent. Not only is my hair softer, but now that my strands are more hydrated, I have less breakage, longer length, and easier manageability.
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