The natural hair community has exploded in South Africa. Stores like Clicks now host not only entire sections dedicated to coarse and curly hair but also the Clicks Curls event, a gathering of brands, haircare experts and naturalistas. We went to the event in Cape Town and spoke to the experts about what they wish women knew about caring for their hair. Local hair entrepreneur Ntombenhle Khathwane, founder of Afrobotanics, weighed in, along with international experts, like Contina Hopson, pro stylist for Aunt Jackie’s, and Diane Bailey, stylist and representative of SheaMoisture. Here’s what they want you to know.
You Have To Relook Your Relationship With Hair
Going natural means having to overhaul what you thought hair is meant to look, feel and move. “The biggest challenge women of colour have is that we’ve been spoilt by relaxers and perms thinking that it’s all quick and go,” says Ntombenhle Khathwane, founder of Afrobotanics. “I think the biggest thing to learn is how to reorientate ourselves and to learn to know the feel of our hair.” For starters, hair can be soft: but relaxing your hair won’t achieve this in a healthy way. Swap the relaxers for moisturising ingredients. “The dryer, the coarser, the curlier the hair, the more you have to layer the product if you want to keep your hair soft for the whole day or the next two days,” says Khathwane.
Check out this advice from the experts:
Your Hair Can Be Healthy
“One of the main misconceptions is that curly hair or kinky hair or coily hair cannot grow long and cannot be healthy,” says SheaMoisture’s Diane Bailey. “So they decide not to trim it; they decide ‘I’m never going to trim it my hair because if I do, my hair won’t grow’. It’s just the opposite. Just like filing your nails when they get chipped, you’re going to ‘file’ your hair when it gets chipped. You’ll know your hair is chipped when, as you comb your hair, it gets gnarly, rough and you won’t be able to comb it as smoothly as the rest. So you want to remove those chipped ends, hydrate them, moisturize them and then keep them in a protective style.”
Protective Styling Is Important
Protective styling isn’t defined as ‘braids’ or ‘weaves’. Rather, it’s a technical term used to describe the way in which the hair follicles react when they’re bound. “Protective styling doesn’t mean you have to wear extensions, it just means you’re now using cornrows, a flat twist or braid or bun to protect the ends from getting dry and frayed,” says Bailey. Conversely, ‘opening’ your hair means wearing it with the ends untucked: in an afro, or just rocking your curls freely. Best practice is to generally keep your ends protected two to three times a week to enhance hair growth.
You Need To Figure Out What Your Hair Needs
The foundation of haircare is feeding it what makes it grow. At a basic level, water hydrates, while oils moisturise. “Your hair needs water and oil,” says hair blogger Amanda Cooke. “Because that oil needs to be locked into your hair, I’d use a cream to keep it in because our hair needs moistures.” The tighter your hair curl pattern is, the dryer your hair tends to be and needs more moisture, explains Contina Hopson, pro stylist for Aunt Jackie’s. You also have to figure out how porous your hair is: that’s how much moisture your hair absorbs and holds. According to Khathwane, things like petroleum jelly are too thick to penetrate thirsty strands, whereas oils from avocado and coconut absorb better. But everyone’s porosity is different, so experiment. Here’s a nifty test to figure it out.