One thing that I come across on a regular basis, that is overlooked by many people, is how to correctly take care of African American or Black hair. Hair is simply hair, right? This is not necessarily true. There are many different variations of texture, color and moisture level among human beings' hair. The idea that all hair is created equal is completely crazy and should not be entertained.
The first thing that needs to be accepted is the idea that African American hair is different than other types of hair. That may seem obvious, but many people still seem to think that practices and products for Caucasian hair is the best idea for ethnic black hair. Styling the hair the same will not make the hair the same. It only causes problems.
The next basic concept is that not all African American hair is the same. People nowadays are a mixture of many different cultures and phenotypes. It is rare when any two people of African descent have the exact same type of hair. Therefore when caring for black hair, use the tips as a guideline, but realize variations do occur.
A practice in African American hair care that differs from other people is how often the hair is washed. In general, Black hair (and other curly hair types) has less moisture than straight hair. Washing the hair removes oils and dirt. If your hair is already drier than average, you run the risk of over drying it by washing it too often. Because of this, there is a habit in African American culture of washing black hair not as often as in other cultures.
As Blacks assimilated into mainstream society, and began to raise families with other cultures, this practice was questioned. Fortunately, the hair care industry responded by making shampoos that were less drying or contained moisturizers to replace the oils that were removed during the washing process. Deep conditioners also became a popular way of repairing the damage done to over washed, dried out hair.
So how often should you be washing black hair? Well, it really depends on a few things.
1. How dry is the hair? If you are able to break a strand in half with one finger you probably could use a break on the shampoo. If the hair is pretty strong and has good sheen to it, daily washing is okay if you use a moisturizing shampoo.
2. Is the hair dirty? No matter how dry the hair is, it should be washed if it is dirty. Dirty hair can be from actual dirt, too much product, sweat, or just the environment.
3. What products are you using? If your hair feels hard or crisp after washing, your shampoo is probably too harsh and should not be used daily unless you are applying a strong conditioner. If your hair feels soft and/or has a nice sheen to it after washing, it is probably safe to use daily.
If you are unable to find a shampoo that does not strip the hair of all of its necessary oils, one trick is to wash the hair with conditioner and skip the shampoo altogether. This allows daily cleansing while not drying the hair so much. If using a conditioner wash, monitor the hair to make sure that it is not getting too heavy, because over conditioning is just as bad as under conditioning.
Washing Black hair requires a little bit of effort and attention to what works for your personal situation. If the time is taken to find the best shampoo and washing ritual, you will be rewarded with healthy beautiful locks!