OK, I don't know about y'all, but as someone who personally likes to rock an Afro, more than just a lil' bit, I've had a hard time finding articles that are specifically dedicated to styling that powerful natural hairstyle. It's like there are plenty of pieces of how to handle Afro-textured hair yet not ones on how to just let your Afro glow in all of its Blackness and glory.
A wise person once said that if you don't see a solution to a problem, maybe you should be the one to create it. Indeed. INDEED. That's what I'm about to be on today. For the record, in order for your hair to qualify as a bona fide Afro, you need a good 3-5 inches of natural hair on your head to start (shorter than that is a TWA which stands for a "Teeny Weeny Afro"). But if you've got that and you're ready to wear your hair out more often than you currently do, I've got some tips on how to care for and style your Afro, so that you will be the focal point of everyone you come into contact with (because we all know that Afros tend to have that effect on folks!).
1. Definitely Do Some Pre-Pooing
There are a few reasons why I'm such a fan of the pre-pooing process. For one thing, it helps to bring some additional moisture to my hair so that the shampooing process doesn't result in my tresses becoming drier than I want/need them to be. Another thing I like about pre-pooing is it helps to add some "slip" to my locks so that there's less detangling that I need to do, both before and after washing and conditioning my hair. One more thing that's cool about pre-pooing is it can actually make my conditioner even more effective which is really important since I want my hair to be as shiny, soft and manageable as possible.
If you've never pre-pooed before, all you're basically doing is applying an oil, butter or both to your hair before you actually wash it. Simply separate your hair into 4-8 sections (depending on how long and thick your hair is). Then apply a generous amount of an oil like olive oil (which is loaded with antioxidants), jojoba (it deeply moisturizes and soothes dandruff) or sweet almond oil (it helps to seal your hair's cuticles) or a butter like shea butter (it contains vitamins A and E) or mango butter (it helps to reduce breakage) and allow it to sit on your hair for 30-45 minutes. Then shampoo and condition your hair as usual, making sure to thoroughly rinse your hair with lukewarm water before beginning the shampooing process. I can assure you that you'll notice a difference if you do this.
2. Shampoo Your Hair with Some Black Soap
An Afro just ain't right if it's not super soft. That's why it's so important to avoid using any shampoos that have sulfates in them. The reason why is because sulfates have a tendency to really dry your hair out. So, unless you're looking to remove a lot of "gunk" from your hair, steer clear of that kind of shampoo and go with something that is sulfate-free. As far as brands go, one that I've recently come to like is a Black-owned hair and skin care brand called Alaffia. They've got an all-in-one African black soap line that's pretty dope. One, because you can use it all over your hair and body. Two, because it comes with different additions to it like tea tree and mint, honey and lavender (to start).
Anyway, black soap is great for your hair because it's high in vitamins A and E, antioxidants, potassium and magnesium. As a result, it's the kind of soap that is able to feed your hair's follicles, help to define your hair's natural curl pattern, soften your hair and also deeply cleanse your scalp without drying your hair out in the process.
A lot of us are always looking for some high-end shampoo brand to treat our hair when something as simple as black soap can be all that our hair really and truly needs.
3. Deep Condition It
Back when I was only semi-serious about growing my hair out, I would slap some conditioner on my hair, let it sit for five minutes tops, rinse it out and go on about my styling way. Yeah, that was definitely working against me because, since most of us have a much tighter curl pattern than women of other ethnicities, it's difficult for the natural sebum from our scalp to get all the way down our hair shaft. Deep conditioning helps to compensate for this fact. Not only that but it helps to restore our hair's natural pH balance, can make our hair way more manageable, it strengthens our hair and it makes our hair more elastic too (which makes it so much easier to style).
As far as the deep conditioning process goes, it's a good idea to apply the product of your choice to your hair right after shampooing it. Make sure to leave it on for no less than 30 minutes (honestly, a couple of hours is pretty ideal). Then rinse with cool water to seal your cuticles back. And what deep conditioners should you use? I personally go with about any brand and then add some Chebe powder to it (you can read more about what makes Chebe so awesome by checking out "Uncommon (But Totally Natural) Things That Are Great For Hair Growth"). Sometimes I leave the conditioner on for two hours; sometimes I wrap my hair up and leave it on overnight. As far as specific conditioners that can do wonders for your locks, our site has the articles "8 Hair Masks & Deep Conditioners That Revitalize Dry, Damaged Hair" and "5 Deep Conditioners Your Curls Deserve" that can help to point you into the right direction.
4. Also, Use a Leave-in Conditioner
It might seem a little redundant to follow-up deep conditioning with a recommendation to also apply a leave-in conditioner but chile, ever since I've added this extra step, my hair has not been the same—in the best way possible! Because moisture is something that our hair can always benefit from, a leave-in conditioner can help to give your hair that extra bit of "umph" that it needs to avoid becoming dry and brittle in between wash days. Something else that I really like about it is, it makes styling my hair so much easier to do, plus it reduces frizz and also helps to define my natural curls.
Although there are plenty of leave-in brands on the market, my personal go-to leave in is Aunt Jackie's Quench – Moisture Intensive Leave-In Conditioner because the slip is amazing and the moisture lasts for literally days on end. When it comes to leave-ins, another route that you can take is making your own. It's really not as hard as you might think. If you'd like to give it a shot, Kinky Curly Yaki has an article that features 14 DIY recipes. You can check it out here.
5. Try to Not Permanently Dye Your Hair
As someone who used to permanently dye my hair, almost about as often as I changed my clothes, I get how much fun it can be to switch up your hair color on a dime. You can still do that—just opt for going with a semi-permanent dye, some hair color wax or a natural hair highlight option (like a coffee rinse or cranberry juice rinse). The reason why permanent dye is bad for your hair is 1) it contains ammonia that definitely dries your hair out and 2) stripping the melanin from your hair and then adding the ammonia to it causes your hair cuticles to swell which can damage your hair over time.
The woman who currently holds the title in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the largest Afro is a woman by the name of Aevin Dugas. Her hair currently sits at a whopping 9.45 inches tall, 9.84 inches wide and 5.15 feet in circumference. I'm pretty sure she would cosign that color is cool—permanent dye is absolutely not.
I'm very much aware of the fact that some of us get frustrated with our lack of length retention and immediately chalk it up to our hair isn't growing. Listen, as long as you're alive (and you don't have some sort of hair condition like alopecia), your hair is always growing. Problem is, you might not be seeing inches because the damage is happening at the same rate as the growth, though. Color can be a culprit when it comes to that. That's why you should chill out from using it.
6. Braid Up and Air Dry
When it comes to this particular tip, I'll just put it right on out there and say that I am definitely a fan of blowing my hair dry on my wash days. Although a lot of people in the natural hair community say that heat is an absolute no-no, I personally don't agree. Stretching my hair out this way has actually helped me to gain more inches because there is less pulling, tugging and fairy knots. Now what I will say is, based on what your hair type is, sometimes blow drying can make your hair look straighter than you would like for it to be when you want to wear an Afro. This could be a good reason to leave your blow dryer alone.
If you want your Afro to have some of the texture and bounce that typically comes with having one, it's actually best to dry your hair with a T-shirt (to safely sop up excess moisture), coat your hair with a butter like shea butter (you might want to seal your ends too with the help of some Jamaican Black castor oil) and then section it all out and braid it. You can cornrow it or braid your hair down into plaits. Let it completely hair dry (this can take a day or two depending on length and volume) and then take your braids out and use your fingers or an Afro pick to style your locks (more on that in a sec). Doing it this way can help your hair to have "spring" to it which is ideal when wearing an Afro.
7. Follow the Right Afro Pick Rules
When it comes to actually styling your Afro, something that isn't brought up nearly enough is you can wear it picked out so that it's stretched and tall in all of its natural glory or you can use your fingers to give it more of a texturized look.
The benefits of the latter option is you significantly lower the risk of damaging your hair because so long as you move slowly and gently—and you add a bit of oil on your fingers to give your hair some slip—you don't have to worry about the pulling and snagging that styling tools can sometimes do. As far as Afro picks go, they're pretty awesome when it comes to making your Afro as big as possible, so long as you use them correctly.And just what does that mean? Definitely use picks on dry hair (if you need help to manage through your hair when it's wet or damp, go with a very wide-toothed comb). While holding your hair, in sections I might add, start from the ends and work your way up to the roots if you want maximum volume. If you'd prefer to keep your textured look but you still want some height, use your comb to gently lift the roots of your hair up only. For some additional tips on how to pick your Afro correctly, I really dug a how-to video by a woman by the name of Alexus Crown (who has a really dope Afro in it!). You can check it out here.
8. Trim Semi-Regularly
By far, one of my all-time favorite Afros is featured in a story that I did last year that I had no idea so many of y'all would be interested in. Any of you remember "Looking For Hair Growth? It Might Be Time To Bring 'Blue Magic' Back"? Whew-whee! Anyway, when you take a look at EfikZara's hair, you kind of get the impression that she's not following the standard "trim every 4-6 weeks" rule. Honestly, when you're trying to grow out an Afro, it's not really a necessary thing to do. So long as you follow all of the other tips mentioned in this piece, you should be able to go every 8-12 weeks; especially if you're gonna rock a textured 'fro, more times than not. The main thing you need to aim for is an Afro that isn't top-heavy, is pretty symmetrical and isn't frizz city (which can be a sign of split ends or excessive damage) all over your head.
As far as the trimming process goes, some folks prefer to plait their hair and dust their ends while others prefer to pick their Afro all the way out and run some clippers over the ends of it. By the way, you can also always go to a professional stylist too. Bottom line, there's no need to go scissor happy; especially if you wanna see real progress. Just make sure that your Afro looks tight 'n right.
9. Use Satin or Silk Hair Ties Only
If you're going to wear your hair in a protective style during the week and your Afro on the weekends, this point doesn't really apply all that much. But if you're someone who wants to wear your natural tresses out most of the time, in order to protect your hair from the weather, invest in some satin or silk hair ties. They are perfect for pulling your hair into a big 'ole Afro puff or even just keeping in your purse if you want to pull your hair back off of your face, every once in a while. The reason why the ties need to be made out of satin or silk material is because they are less prone to creating friction on your tresses or drying your hair out.
10. Braid It Up at Night
In order for your soul to glow in all of its glory, it's important that your hair remains as stretched as possible. That said, you don't want to rely on applying heat on the daily because that could lead to breakage. You also shouldn't just tie it up at night because your body temperature tends to shift as you sleep and the sweating could lead to shrinkage. The solution? Braid your hair into plaits (or cornrows if it's still kind of short) before turning in. It will keep your tresses stretched, protect your ends and give your hair a little more texture if the finger-styling route is how you prefer to go.
11. Oil the Parted Spaces Before Tying It All Up
Your hair grows from the roots. At the same time, if you want to maintain length, you've got to focus on your ends. While braiding your hair up at night can help to protect your ends from the friction that comes with tossing and turning all night long, oiling your scalp can help to feed your hair follicles. When it comes to the kind of essential oils that can increase blood circulation and stimulate your hair follicles, some of those include cedarwood, clary sage and peppermint. My two cents would be to mix these up with a carrier oil of some type.
Tropic Isle Living features oils that I like because the bottle has a nozzle that makes the oil easy to apply. You can choose from all kinds including black seed, sweet almond, sunflower, olive, argan, Cerasee and black walnut. If you heat up the oil for a couple of seconds in your microwave beforehand, it can be a super soothing and relaxing treat for your scalp.
12. Make Your Own Bonnet
Here's a true confession. I don't always like to tie my hair up at night. I just don't. What has convinced me to do it more often is that fact that just braiding my hair alone doesn't necessarily or automatically protect it from breakage because moving around at night can still cause friction, dryness and breakage to any of the strands that come loose. So yeah, while a satin pillowcase is cool, if you know that you're someone whose head isn't going to stay on it all night long, you really do need a satin scarf or bonnet to keep your tresses protected. There are dozens of bonnets on the market. Or, if you want, you can always make yourself one. I checked out some pretty easy DIY YouTube videos. Take a stab at it by going here, here, here, here or here.
Welp. There you have it. A few things that can help you to put forth your very best Afro. If you've got one, please don't hesitate to show off in the comments. There is nothing like a Black woman in all of her crowning glory. For me, an Afro hairstyle tops the list.
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