When we envision summer, we think rich and bronzed skin, healthy and radiant complexions, bouncy and healthy hair. Yet, the reality can be the complete opposite—and for natural hair especially, it can mean dry, frizzy and lackluster locks. If you are trying to avoid the latter, then these six expert-approved tips will help keep your natural hair healthy and hydrated as we embrace summer.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Unlike most fair and straight hairstyles, natural 3a to 4c hair benefits from a wealth of moisture and hydration. This type of hair flourishes when the more natural humectants are added to help the hair look and feel healthy and nourished. Before even getting into a routine, it is vitally important that you are obtaining a healthy diet and adequate water intake. “The best way to keep hair hydrated is with water, drinking it regularly throughout the day, applied to the hair on its own, or as one of the main ingredients in the products you’re using," says celebrity hairstylist and educator, Vernon François. "Application is key and light non-aerosol spray formulas help to ensure an even distribution."
It's important to keep your hair moisturized and to invest in some intensely moisturizing products that will all culminate in keeping the hair healthy. At this stage adopting the LOC method (Liquid, Oil, and Cream) into your hair care routine will help to seal in the moisture. Applying a cream and oil product will also close the hair cuticle, as well as prevent moisture loss while your hair faces the rising temps. I personally find Afrocenchix’s Smooth Natural Moisturising Cream to be a great pick for hydrating dry and frizzy hair. Made with Shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil, lemon essential oils, orange essential oils, and lemon grass to name a few, the cream provides the perfect environment for hair growth while simultaneously nourishing, softening and hydrating the hair. To complete the full experience, I like to follow this up with the Seal-Moisture Locking Hair Oil to lock in the moisture.
For the days when baring all is too much to handle, placing your hair in protective styles such as braids, twists, cornrows or faux locs will help to keep the hair healthy while protecting it from damage. Ensure you regularly mist your hair with a braid sheen spray to keep it hydrated and looking polished. Francois, who works with clients such as Lupita Nyong’o and Serena Williams, recommends his namesake line's Scalp Nourishment Braids and Locs Spray ($18). "It’s a beautiful blend of moisturizing natural oils in a very light dry-finish spray to moisturize and protect the hair and scalp," he says. Another option to consider is Luxju’s Nourishing Hair Mist ($30), which is lightweight enough to not weigh down the hair, but will leave the hair feeling soft, healthy, and conditioned. All-natural, paraben-free, and containing zero mineral oils, the Nourishing Hair Mist will hydrate and add a sheen while you're wearing your hair in a protective style. To combat frizz due to humidity, sleeping on a silk pillowcase, or wrapping the hair in a silk scarf as much as possible will smooth your cuticle.
Embrace The Sweat
As we sweat more in the summer, this can build up on our scalps and lead to issues down the line if not treated correctly. Implement a sulfate-free shampoo to help cleanse the scalp without stripping the hair of its much-needed natural oils (which, in turn, lead to overproduction of oil). Complement this with your moisturizing routine and keep the hair and scalp healthy, while your strands can be left feeling light and fresh.
Protect Your Hair While Outdoors
Who doesn’t remember a time when their parents prohibited them from swimming or being in water generally without wearing a swimming cap? While they aren’t the chicest of products, they do protect the hair from the dryness and damage that comes with being in contact with chlorine. If you have any water-based activities in the future, coat your hair in a protective layer of thick conditioner or coconut oil to prevent the chlorine from entering the hair shaft and damaging the strength of the hair. Afterwards, ensure you wash your hair as soon as possible before applying a moisturizing and conditioning oil for hydration and repair.
Similarly, if you are spending more time outdoors, supplementing an SPF into your hair care routine will help prevent the hair from becoming damaged from UV exposure. Consider Aveda’s Sun Care Protective Hair Veil, which is a lightweight UV & water-resistant defense mist that will form an invisible veil around your hair to protect it from sun and UV damage, as well as eliminating dullness and dryness. Derived from wintergreen and cinnamon bark oils, the UVA/UVB filters help to shield, while the sunflower seed oil and vitamin E helps to protect against free radicals.
And if all else fails, consider a hat. “Avoid exposing unprotected hair to direct sunlight for a prolonged time, especially if you have dry or damaged hair in the first place," says Vernon. "Extreme dryness can lead to hair becoming brittle, which may lead to breakage. Before stepping out, think about protecting your strands with a product that has sun protection properties, or something as simple as a hat, cap, or headscarf, ideally silk or silk lined to keep moisture within the strands." Finally, there is nothing natural hairstyles shy away from more than applied heat. Avoid using any hot tools and either air or towel dry before finishing off with your creams and oils to supplement the moisture and hydration back into the hair.
Curly and dryer hair types can benefit from co-washing. Conditioner-only washing (coined co-washing for short) means that by eliminating shampoo and traditional methods of cleansing, the hair can feel clean whilst still obtaining the natural oils it needs to stay hydrated, smooth and silky.
Start by saturating the hair with water, loosening the build-up and debris; this will make it easier to rinse out. Follow this with a healthy amount of conditioner that will be enough to coat the strands from root to tip and massage this into the scalp ensuring you cover the ends. Now as a mask, leave the conditioner on the hair for 5 to 10 minutes, until fully absorbed and then rinse and style as preferred. We recommend Shea Moisture’s Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Conditioner ($12), which infuses the hair with nourishing agents that will moisturize the hair from root to tip, from Shea butter to manuka honey and baobab and coconut oils. The results? Softer, richer, shine-enhanced, and moisture-enriched hair.
If you're suffering from build-up, applying a clarifying shampoo in between washes to help to target and sweep away the excess debris. Mixed Chick’s Clarifying Shampoo ($10) removes build-up effectively without stripping the natural oils from the hair. Made with borage seeds and avocado oil, the combination infuses healing as well as clarification.