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An Afro Natural Hair Care Guide for Beginners

How to care for afro hair differs greatly from caring for relaxed hair or hair that’s otherwise straight. It’s a totally different journey, one that helps you love and understand your natural locks.

To help you take the first steps, we discuss how to style the different growth phases, talk about what wash day looks like, and answer frequently asked questions. We’re here for you! Ready?

How To Care for Afro Hair at The Beginning

Allowing your hair to grow by cutting off your relaxer first might be the best way to start. Why? Transitioning can break off your lengths because you have two textures of hair. You’ll have a lot of difficulties detangling the afro hair underneath the perm, and breakage will take place.

We also recommend the big chop over protective styling because your new locks need air to thrive. So if you’re ready, and we think you are, let’s gather what we need to get started.

Time to Cut

Beginners Guide to Care for Afro Hair - Haircutting

Use new sharp hair shears. You want the cut to go smoothly without creating split ends. You could also go to a natural hair salon to get a taper. Don’t forget to bring pictures of the shape you’d like, if so.

The Teeny-Weeny Afro

A teeny-weeny afro is the easiest style to keep moisturized. You can wet it in the shower, apply oil or hairdressing, and you’re done. At the TWA phase, you’ll spend more time on your makeup than on your hair.

Ready For a Curl Sponge

Beginners Guide to Care for Afro Hair - use curl sponge

As your hair gets long enough to play with, it’s time to style it. You only need a few inches and a curl sponge to get a lovely curl definition. But there are a few things to know:

  • Your hair should be damp when you start. Dry hair with a sponge is a recipe for breakage.
  • Apply your hold product before you start. You don’t want to ruin your style by applying a product to it afterwards.
  • To keep your curls tight all over, use gentle, circular motions in one direction.

The in-Betweenie

In the in-betweenie, your hair is five to six inches long. You might not know what to do with it at this length. Many people get impatient and grab a pair of shears to big chop all over again. Here’s how to get through this difficult phase:

  • Headbands: Headbands are great for in-between lengths. They are stylish and allow you to pull your hair back from your face. Try an InvisiBobble headband to keep your hair in place all day.
  • PuffCuffs: If you can’t wait to get your hair into a ponytail again, try a Puff Cuff. A large one allows you to make a high puff. You can have two large puffs on the sides with two smaller ones. You can try similar styles with Kitsch coils
  • Twistouts: These are great for when you want to give your edges a break from pulling them into a headband or Puff Cuff. When twisting, anchor the pieces closest to your forehead with clips in order to create a bang. 

Growing Some Length

Beginners Guide to Care for Afro Hair - growing length

It doesn’t take too much effort to moisturize and detangle in the in-betweenie phase. If you want to see some length, however, you’ll have to get more of a system so that your hair doesn’t break off as it’s growing.

  • Deep condition: Because of the curl pattern of afro hair, it breaks easily. It forms S’s, then doubles back on itself in a C shape, only to form more S’s in the opposite direction! When these shapes are pulled (i.e., combed or brushed), they snap. Deep conditioning is one way to build more strength within the hair strand to avoid constant breakage.
  • Apple cider vinegar rinse: Shampoos are alkaline, which creates a lot of friction in between strands. This leads to more breakage when you’re trying to detangle after washing.
    Try an acidic apple cider vinegar rinse after shampooing. Mix a solution of one part vinegar to seven parts water. Pour it through your hair, leave it in for a few minutes and rinse well. Friction and most tangles will disappear. Your hair cuticles will also close, helping your hair to retain moisture. 
  • The right products: There are so many curl products for black hair that choosing one can be confusing. To separate the good products from the throwaways, look for nut butter, seed oils, and aloe vera gel within the first five ingredients. This way, you know the product has a decent amount of what it takes to work on kinky hair.
  • Sleeping: If you don’t enjoy going to sleep in a silk scarf or satin bonnet, try to use a pillowcase made of one of these materials.
  • Styling: Spritz your hair with water daily and reform it into a style. Use low manipulation, saving your styling routine for once a week after washing. 

You’ll see more healthy hair growth with this routine. 

Tips to Make Coarse Hair Softer

What Is ‘Wash Day’, and How Should I Wash My Hair?

how to wash afro hair

Many naturals refer to the day they wash their hair as ‘wash day’ because it can take a while when done correctly. The point behind the rituals is to moisturize and cleanse the hair while providing nutrients and preventing breakage:

  1. Pre-poo: This is like hot oil treatment. It strengthens the hair before shampooing to minimize its drying effects. Choose an oil that seeps into the hair shaft like coconut oil and leave in on for a half-hour.
  2. Shampoo: Try to find a sulfate-free, moisturizing shampoo, like those from Shea Moisture.
  3. Vinegar rinse: This is to aid in detangling and make the hair more acidic on the pH scale after washing.
  4. Deep conditioning: After your hair and scalp are clean, use a deep conditioner to pack in the nutrients.
  5. Regular conditioner: If you don’t deep condition, at least use a hair conditioner made for textured hair.
  6. Leave-in conditioner: This is a necessary step to seal in moisture.
  7. Curl cream or heavy butter: You can use one of these to add hold to your hairstyle by braiding or twisting while wet and releasing when dry.

Frequently Asked Questions About Black Hair

We’ve put together some answers to questions that are asked by naturals who are just starting out:

Why is my hair hard and coarse?

Curly hair is often thought of as being coarser than straight hair. But in reality, curly hair is finer in diameter than straight hair.

So while your hair may lack moisture and feel hard, it isn’t coarse at all, as the strands are not thick. Use a thick cream to moisturize your hair on wash days, and spritz daily with water to soften your hair.

How can I get shiny hair?

Natural hair will not shine like straight hair as it doesn’t have the same structure. It reflects light when hair is flat, but kinky hair twists and turns.

The best way to get shine is to use hair products that sit on the hair. For example, a silicone product like Frizz Ease will help increase shine but needs a sulfate shampoo to remove it completely.

These are the basics of how to care for afro hair. It seems like a lot, but it becomes simpler once you establish a routine. Enjoy your hair!