Curly girls everywhere understand any natural hair journey is reliant upon finding the right hair care routine. Properly moisturizing kinky and curly hair will make wash day a breeze, while forgetting to apply leave-in conditioner leave you feeling like you're detangling dreads with a toothpick. Full transparency: I’ll admit I’ve been in both scenarios. And while the latter has given me Michelle Obama-worthy biceps, the former option is a lot better for my sanity.
Natural hair is all about putting in the effort and seeing direct results. Finding a routine that works for your hair has everything to do with incorporating moisture, smart styling, and regular trims. But what happens when your fool-proof hair routine (that took over a year and countless products to perfect) begins to fail? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me when the COVID-19 pandemic began in early March, leaving me at home around the clock.
What I initially thought would be a time for my hair to flourish, turned into a hot, tangled mess. The balance I worked so hard to find in my natural hair routine seemed to be slipping from my fingers as I had more fairy-knots than ever before, began losing more hair while detangling, and my once-moisturized hair felt dry to the touch—even if I had applied products a few hours prior. These were all huge warning signs that something needed to change if I wanted to maintain my growth from the past few years.
The pandemic helped me realize that just as our hair routine differs with changing seasons, it should also be updated for a major change in lifestyle. Luckily, a few simple tweaks to my hair routine helped me get back on track for my waist-length journey.
Perfect the Wash
The greatest benefit of staying home is the luxury of time. Those working remotely are able to save time commuting each day and spend it on activities usually left by the wayside. Personally, I could never find enough time to complete a wash day that took more than three hours. But lately I’ve stopped rushing through each step and taken more care detangling, applying product in smaller sections, and deep conditioning under a hooded dryer.
The extra time was also the perfect opportunity to try something new. While dramatic haircuts and bright hair dye are reserved for the daring, anyone can revive their wash day. Try new DIY hair treatments with ingredients you have lying around (like olive oil, mayonnaise, honey, and more). Have fun and try something new with your hair, and you just may stumble upon your new holy grail wash day routine.
Stretch it Out
Styling stretched hair, as opposed to working on the natural curl pattern, will prevent excessive tangles and pesky single-strand knots. Working with stretched hair can also improve length and moisture retention by preventing your hair’s delicate ends from shrinking up and drying out quickly, meaning fewer split ends in the long-run.
While this isn’t a necessary step for many naturals under normal circumstances, quarantine left me with less motivation to style my hair daily when I knew very few people, if any, would see it. Exclusively styling my hair in a stretched state has helped cut down hair styling and drying times considerably, and even extended the longevity of my styles—all in a healthy, low maintenance way.
The fastest way to stretch your hair is to use medium heat to set your hair in place. While some women prefer to use a round brush and perform a complete blow-dry, the tension method of holding a section of hair taught while drying is just as effective. When avoiding heat styling during hot, summer months, I prefer to simply put my hair in two large twists leading to bantu knots at the nape of my neck. This allows me to air-dry my twists throughout the day and style on damp, stretched hair later on.
Wrap it Up
When washing and styling is complete, many naturals opt for a bonnet or silk pillowcase to preserve their hair overnight. During quarantine, I took this a step further, as I incorporated hair coverage into my daytime hair routine as well. Working from home left me in my bed and on the couch more than ever. I found my hair becoming brittle and dry from so much friction against pillows, blankets and, hoodies.
To preserve my hair’s moisture through the week, I used satin scarves in my daily hairstyles. By wrapping my hair in a colorful scarf during the day, I was able to transition from my office to my living room without skipping a beat. Head wraps and scarves are also perfect to disguise deep-conditioning treatments during Zoom meetings (and they create a cute look with minimal effort). This is one small change that makes a world of difference, and I definitely plan to continue incorporating scarves into my hair routine long after quarantine ends.
Leave it Alone
This last tip may seem a little counter-productive at first, but trust me when I say more isn’t always better. If you’ve properly moisturized and styled, it may be time to give your hair a rest. And depending on your hair type, that could mean waiting a week or two before restyling. Over-manipulating your hair can be just as harmful as not caring for it at all.
In the past, I styled my hair with the intention of making it look nice. But now that I’m home most days and rarely see others face-to-face, I have shifted to styling my hair with its health as the main priority. This means I’m happy to push back washing my hair for an additional few days if it still feels hydrated and isn’t beginning to tangle. I wash, trim, and manipulate my hair only when it needs TLC, and I spend the rest of my time simply letting it grow and flourish.