Most Saturdays of my childhood were spent wandering the never-ending aisles of black hair shops with my mum. I was constantly searching for the next wonder product that would give me the "good hair" I saw on relaxer boxes. The store shelves were packed with grease (a type of dense, heavy product with the consistency of a waxier, fragranced Vaseline), and I found within these pots the "good hair" I'd been dreaming of. I'd sit on the floor between my mum's legs as she parted my hair and massaged the grease onto my scalp.
When the internet arrived, it brought an abundance of knowledge and access to expert information on afro hair. This period of re-education shed many of the myths regarding how to best treat black hair—arming me with advice from trichologists and other black women across the world. And that's where it began: the long process of finding the best afro hair products out there.
Even though I usually wear a 26-inch wig, it's still so important for me to protect the hair that lies beneath it. I recently cut my shoulder-length, relaxed hair to a mini 'fro (aka "the big chop" in natural hair circles), and even though it was a lot of hair to cut off, the dead, chemically processed strands were holding me back from living my best life. On my natural hair journey, I've swapped out scalp-suffocating products and started to use lighter moisturisers and oils.
I also realised that I didn't need to restrict myself to only using products with "for afro hair" on the label. Instead, I look out for key ingredients and claims. The seven steps ahead (taken from my personal hair routine) prove that caring for afro hair doesn't have to be complex or require a ton of products. Ready to get started?
If you bottled the feeling of rubbing a cashmere blanket against your skin, you'd get this shampoo. There's a reason the word "soft" is in the product name, as the shampoo cleanses hair without stripping it while keeping the strands smooth until the next wash. I focus on massaging this into the scalp only so the natural oils remain further down the hair shaft. After shampooing, I condition with Redken All Soft Mega Conditioner (£14).
Step 2: Deep Condition
If I'm leaving anything on my hair for 30 minutes, it needs to be worth the commitment. If I could, I'd marry this masque. Conditioning is key for afro hair, and this treatment (made with stimulating peppermint and protein powerhouse keratin) gives my hair the strength it needs after years of chemical damage. Sometimes I boost the treatment by adding some gentle heat with an air-dryer hood attachment.
Aloe? Check. Shea butter? Check. Marula oil? Check. When the ingredient list includes the words "moisturising" and "nourishing," you know it's going to be a much-needed treat for your hair. Once I've towel-dried my hair with the microfibre Only Curls Hair Towel (£15), which gives my curls a frizz-free head start, I use this lightweight cream to reset my kinky curl pattern.
The first time I used this spray, I couldn't stop touching my hair. It's incredible that something so light and easy to use could produce such great results. (But that's probably because I've used heavy grease all my life.) I've made my way through a fair share of moisturisers, but this is the only damage-preventing product I can spritz in daily without feeling it in my hair.
I lock in moisture by sealing my hair with this joy of an oil. It's a perfect match for dehydrated hair and might as well be a hair perfume too, thanks to its sweet smell. The rich oil from the manketti nuts is full of nutrients and vitamin E, which not only feeds hair but also leaves it with a healthy, weightless shine. The best part? I only need to use a few drops of it.
Castor oil is praised for its hair-growing superpowers. Black castor oil is processed by roasting and grinding the seeds before boiling to extract the strengthening oil. I usually boost this by adding a few drops of rosemary and cedarwood essential oils to stimulate circulation in the scalp. Castor oil tends to be quite heavy, so to avoid weighing the hair down, I sometimes thin it out with argan oil and use it every few days.
After I've completed my hair routine, I can't afford to let my hard work go to waste by disrupting my cuticles on cotton pillowcases. Enter the damage and friction-avoiding Silke London hair wrap. This luxurious wrap is made of 100% silk and is chic enough to wear outside when I can't be bothered to brush my hair. Most importantly, it maintains my hair overnight and gives it the solid foundation it needs.