Despite the demand in recent years for a greater range of products that cater for and enhance afro hair’s natural texture, the reality still leaves a lot to be desired.
According to reigning British Hairdressing Awards Afro Hairdresser of the Year Charlotte Mensah, “Even though there are a number of online shops dedicated to offering a range of exclusive black hair, beauty and skincare products, there is certainly a lack of mainstream TV advertising in the UK.”
“In certain areas there might only be one shop selling black hair products and they are totally reliant on word of mouth. Some of these shop owners don't have enough product knowledge to advise on which products are right for you. In most cases, they will tell you that something is a bestseller regardless of whether it is the best product for your hair type.”
It seems pretty imbalanced that such a large proportion of the population should have to seek out specialist stores (in only a handful of places) to satisfy their haircare needs, with only a limited number of information sources at their disposal compared to what’s available for other hair types.
To help take the guesswork out of what products and tools you should be using, I asked Charlotte for her top 10 rules for caring for and styling afro, mixed-race and curly hair types. So don’t worry if winter’s left your ‘fro feeling dry, brittle and a little weather-worn, because with these pro tips at hand it’ll be back to its best in no time.
Charlotte's top 10 tips for afro hair
1. Wash your hair weekly with a moisturising shampoo that has extra emollients, for example MIZANI Moisturfusion Milkbath , £10.25. Those formulated for dry and damaged hair are the most nourishing.
2. After your weekly shampoo, take a few extra minutes to condition and deep treat your hair, especially during the winter months. Hot oil is ideal for stationary styles like braids and twists. A rich creamy hair mask like MIZANI True Textures Curl Replenish Intense Moisturizing Mask , £10.25 is perfect for loose natural hair. Make sure you wrap your strands in a plastic cap and let the conditioner sink in for 20 minutes before rinsing.
3. There is a special way to handle Afro hair during the combing out process. Whether your hair is wet or dry, first work in a moisturising cream such as MIZANI Moisturfusion Silk Cream Conditioner , £13.85 or Philip Kingsley Elasticizer , £28 to soften your tresses, then, using a wide-tooth comb, detangle the hair from the ends working up towards the roots.
4. Always treat hair with a lightweight barrier or a heat-activated serum before blow-drying to protect against heat and help smooth the cuticle, which will boost shine. Try MIZANI Thermasmooth Smooth Guard Serum , £17.25.
5. Most natural Afro hair soaks up moisture like a sponge so moisturise, moisturise, moisturise with natural oils like MIZANI Supreme Oil , £19.25 or Moroccanoil Treatment , £31.85.
6. Trim every four to six weeks to maintain and keep ends healthy.
7. Invest in good tools. A wide-tooth comb is essential for parting, combing and detangling hair. Paddle brushes are great for blow-drying, wrapping the hair and massaging the scalp; Kent Brushes are perfect for taming unruly, nightmare hair, £9.25. You’ll also need a styling comb for lifting, separating, styling, defining and sculpting.
8. Stay away from rubber bands; use elastic cloth bands or scrunchies instead as they are less likely to cause breakage.
9. For the smoothest hairline, use a firm toothbrush. Small bristles are perfect for handling flyaway strands.
10. Take five minutes to pamper your hair before bedtime, which means moisturizing if necessary, securing the ends and covering at night.
Charlotte Mensah is the owner of Hair Lounge, London and Afro Hairdresser of the Year 2013. To book in for an appointment with her, call 020 8969 944 or email email@example.com