Let's face it, healthy hair is something we all want, am I right? You might feel that truly healthy hair feels unattainable or that it involves doing too much, am I right again?
I get questions like these a lot:
What is a haircare routine?
How do I take care of my natural hair?
How can I take care of my hair daily?
What products are best for a healthy hair routine?
What's the best hair care routine for hair growth?
And the list goes on and on. So I'm here to help you create a healthy hair care routine for your natural hair.
But first, I'm going to let you in a little secret.......Typically the issues that you're most likely having aren't happening because of the products that you are using but the methods that you are using to take care of your hair.
You might be wondering, what is a healthy hair care routine? Let me break it down for you. A healthy hair care routine is like a basic set of principles that you use to take care of your hair consistently each day and/or night, and what's great about a routine is that it's yours, and that means it should be customized for you, for your hair type and for your goals.
Check-in: Here are some key questions to ask yourself about your current routine:
It is more than possible to have a simplistic but effective hair care rituals that fits into your life and your schedule, but I challenge you to look at taking care of your hair as a luxury, a time to decompress, a time to focus on you and not as a chore or something that you just rush through.
So let's get into these stylist approved tips, because we all want our hair-care rituals to help our hair live its very best life!
When creating your hair care rituals, you'll need to factor in hair type (porosity, thickness, density), scalp health, lifestyle and other factors that might impact the needs of your hair on any given day, such as the temperature outside, humidity, hard water, chemical processes, the hair products, even stress and hormones! It's important to adapt your routine to your hairs needs as you see fit.
There are a few main components of everyones hair care rituals, and the amount of steps you'll take and the techniques that you use will vary depending on your hair and what it needs. Whether this is your first time creating hair care rituals or you're trying to create them again, you will need to adjust and experiment to find something that works for your hair and that's okay. Listening to your hair should always come first.
Elements of a Healthy Hair Routine
- Pre-poo Ritual
- Cleansing/Shampooing Ritual
- Detox/Clarifying Rituals
- Conditioning Ritual
- Treatment Rituals
- Styling & Maintenance
- Trims & Professional Visits
Pre-poos are a great way to sneak in some additional loving and nutrition for your hair strands. You can implement pre-poos into your regimen weekly, biweekly, or monthly as they help prep your hair for shampoo, give weak tired strands an extra boost of conditioning, or you can use pre-pooing as a step for starting to detangle your hair. There is always a risk of breakage when manipulating your hair so the coating of the pre-poo helps to give your strands some extra protection. A pre-poo can be done using an Oil only mixture but you don't need to slather your hair with a heavy oil, a lightweight, penetrating oil is perfect option because even too much oil can be a bad thing. When I prepoo I opt for a conditioner based type prepoo so that I'm getting the benefits of oils, extracts, and conditioning agents without worrying about oil build-up.
This is your shampooing ritual for your scalp and the length of your hair. Typically shampoos are formulated for your scalp and scalp issues, you want to focus your shampoo here and then gently shampoo the length of your hair. There are so many natural hair products, and over time you may see build up in your hair and also on your scalp. Your hair is a plant and your scalp is the fertile ground that your hair is growing from, which means that a healthy scalp is the birthplace of healthy hair. So not only do you need to take care of your as it grows you also need to take care of where it’s growing from, this starts with the right cleanser to ensure that your scalp is a happy scalp; which means free from product build, sebum, sweat, and dirt. To maintain healthy hair, your scalp needs to breathe, you’ll want to cleanse your hair with a gentle shampoo somewhere between once a week and once a month depending on your hair. It's also great practice to massage your scalp at this step too to encourage blood flow.
If you wear weaves, braids, or wigs, you still need to cleanse your scalp remove build-up, dirt, and dander. A liquid dry shampoo is perfect for maintaining the health of your scalp without having to walk around with a heavy head from shampooing box braids.
Pro Tip: It's important to make sure you are thoroughly cleansing your hair and scalp. If you have thicker, longer hair, working in sections while you shampoo can help you avoid unnecessary breakage and make sure your scalp and head are cleansed properly.
Think of detoxing and clarifying as a deep cleanser for your hair. I like to call it a hair reset. If you notice you hair might be more drier than usual, limper than usual, and your scalp has a little more build-up than it normally does, it could be time for a clarifying or detox session. There are two different types of detoxes; a scalp detox and an all over detox with either clays or clarifying shampoos.
Scalp detoxes are typically scrubs to manually or chemically (like some toners or scrubs you might use on your skin) exfoliate your scalp. Similar to skin exfoliation, a scalp detox involves applying cleansing ingredients — like pore-clearing charcoal, apple cider vinegar, bentonite clay, antibacterial oils or salt and sugar scrubs — to draw out impurities while restoring shine bounce, and vibrancy to hair.
This detoxing purification ritual should be performed pretty much year-round(at least 1-3 times a year), but it’s especially important during the warmer months when sebum production increases and your scalp can often be coated in residue from sunscreen, salt water, chlorine, styling products and conditioners.
A clarifying shampoo will strip your hair of the product build-up and after clarifying, your hair should and will feel squeaky clean. The amount of times you'll need to clarify will depend on your product type and how often you're using them. Lighter product use will not need a clarifying shampoo as often as heavier product use. (think heavy butters, cremes, gels, pomades).
A chelating shampoo is for those with hard water and mineral deposits on their hair. These work on a deeper level remove any stubborn mineral deposits on the hair and would need to be used on a more regular basis if you live in an area with hard water.
Every head of hair is unique. Based on your lifestyle, you might need more than one shampoo in your routine or you might just need a simple moisturizing or gentle shampoo.
There are 4 different main types of conditioners, Rinse-off or Daily conditioner, Co-wash conditioner, Leave-in Conditioners and Deep Conditioners.
- Rinse-off or Daily conditioner - use weekly or bi-weekly on your hair when you’re in the shower and your hair is wet.
- Co-wash conditioner - Used weekly or as needed to refresh hair. This should not be a replacement for shampoo.
- Leave-in Conditioners-apply after your hair is washed. This will help replenish the moisture and assist you with styling. These leave-in conditioners can be in liquid form or cream based.
- Deep Conditioners - A treatment weekly, biweekly or monthly. It’s an intensely nourishing treatment that you leave on your hair for a certain amount of time and then rinse out that will help you detangle, soften, and revitalize your hair.
You should always condition your hair after you shampoo your hair. Conditioners help replenish your strands, add shine, reduce tangles and help dry/damaged hair. Like I mentioned above shampoos are formulated for the scalp whereas conditioners are formulated for your actual hair strands. This is why you want to focus your conditioner away from your scalp, with heavier focus on your ends since they are the oldest parts of your hair.
Deep conditioning is particularly important to counteract environmental factors, chemical treatments, physical manipulation and heat styling. Deep conditioning will help treat this damage and restore manageability to your hair.
Pro Tip: Having a proper moisture/protein balance is a key part of healthy hair routines. Too much moisture can cause hygral fatigue( this is extreme cases) and too much protein can cause a protein overload( again, extreme cases).
When creating a healthy hair routine, it’s all about balance. The healthiest head of hair is balanced between protein and moisture/hydration. If your hair feels gummy or overly stretchy after using a moisturizing conditioner after a few conditioning sessions, be sure to add a protein based conditioner to your next hair care session.
On the opposite end, if your hair feels extremely hardened or brittle, switch to a moisturizing or hydrating conditioner at your next session.
There are various types of treatments available for your hair, ranging from herbal like tea rinses, ultra hydrating for extremely dry/brittle, reconstructive like cholesterol, or protein based treatments.
These types of treatments you'll want to do on an as needed basis when you feel you hair is lacking. If you're receiving chemical treatments then you might find that your hair needs a protein treatment more often than a normal hair type. Treatments like rinses can be done as regularly as you see fit. For example during my postpartum, I used tea rinses to reduce to amount of shedding and to help with my hair regrowth.
Pro Tip: Some protein treatments are super specific and you should be very careful when using them so you don't cause any damage to your hair. When in doubt, just check-in with a professional during a salon visit!
Detangling is crucial part in a healthy hair routine because it will help prevent hair loss, matting, dryness, split ends, fairy knots, and breakage. To effectively detangle your hair, it's best to finger detangle first to make sure you won't be ripping through any knots or tangles. After you've done that then you can use a detangling brush or comb to finish detangling. You always want to start at the ends of your hair and work your way to the root. Do this in sections for best results and to prevent breakage. You should be detangling your hair damp while pre-pooing, conditioning or with a detangling product prior to styling your hair.
Your lifestyle should be how you create your haircare routine, this will help you to find styles and a maintenance routine that fits into your daily/weekly/monthly routines. One key component of a maintenance routine is moisture and hydration. You didn't just do all of that cleansing, conditioning and treating for nothing. Having a top tier moisture or rehydrating spray should be in every routine.
Protective styles help you maintain moisture and protect from damage but if you aren't properly taking care of your hair while it's protected then you are just causing more damage. The great thing about protective styling is that it can be as simple or as intricate as you like. Protective styling can be anything from two-strand twists, buns or braids during the day to covering your hair with a bonnet at night. If you’ve never been someone who uses protective styling or thought that protective styling meant only using weave or extra hair, this could be a real game-changer for your hair and for your hair maintenance.
Heat styling and air drying are two perfectly good ways to complete your cleansing and conditioning rituals. There's no need to never use heat as long as you follow the proper steps, which are using thermal protection, using the lowest heat setting that you can, whether using handheld blowdryers, hooded dryers or diffusers.
Pro Tip: Before you start a new routine, clean out that shelf or cabinet, keep what your hair loves and toss what it doesn't. Besides that makes room for some new product! Now you'll be able to know exactly what you need for your new routine, what you want to purchase more of and what you don't like.
Trims & Professional Visits
Trims, this word alone puts fear into some naturals all over! But it shouldn't, especially done by a professional who you have communicated with and who understands your hair needs and your hair goals. Your ends are just as important as your scalp is! Remember your hair is a plant, And just like plants need some pruning to stay healthy so does your hair. Consistent scheduled professional trims will help to keep tangles, single strand knots and splitting ends and unnecessary breakage to a minimum.
So now you have all the elements of a healthy hair routine, but how do you put it all together?
It can be hard to stick to your routine – especially when it’s new. However, your healthy hair care rituals won’t give you the results you are looking for if you aren’t consistent, plus your hair will need time to adjust to this new routine. You should give your hair a month or two to see how it does with the new products and routine and then check back in because it's important to know when to stop and re-assess your methods.
Here's an example Healthy Hair routine:
If something isn’t working for you, your hair will tell you either by breaking, feeling dry, or not growing new length over time. If you feel like your hair hasn't made any progress, then that's when it's a good time to consider making a few changes. Here are some tips that can help you stick to your routine.
- Create a routine with a weekly or biweekly structure to help you keep track of it
- Keep it as simple as you can so it doesn’t get confusing
- Make a note of the products you started with, just in case you finish a product and forget what you used because you threw it away.
What are bad habits for your hair?
The texture of your hair should dictate your hair routine more than anything else. But there are still some habits that everyone, regardless of their hair texture, should really try to avoid.
Avoiding getting regular trims Trimming your hair contributes to your overall hair health. Avoiding trims is only helping you to NOT reach your hair goals.
- Not having some sort of night routine: Your night routine can be simple. Rehydrate with a leave-in conditioner spray if necessary, add a little oil to your ends if they are dry. Take that ponytail down, plait or twist your hair in chunky sized twists, toss your hair up in a pineapple with a large silk/satin scrunchie, throw on a bonnet or a scarf.
- Heat Styling the wrong way: always use a heat protectant. Period.
- Detangling the wrong way: Detangling should always start with your hands and then move on to tools. Detangle from ends to roots.
- Applying product incorrectly: Follow your product instructions. It will help, I promise. If a product needs to be applied to soaking wet hair, apply that produc to soaking wet hair. Also applying your product in stages like skincare can help with pilling when products are combined and don’t mix. Give products time to soak into your strands before moving on.
- Applying too much product: Flaking is a key complain with certain styling products, but once your hair has absorbed all the product it can, and has dried, what other choice does the remaining product have but to flake off? That’s why it important to not overapply your products thinking that more is better.
- Being rough with wet hair: Don’t you love your hair? Well, you should act like it. Wet hair is fragile and easy to snap off and break.
- Over-manipulating your hair: Just like your body needs a break from exercising, so does your hair. If you feel like you’re over manipulating your hair, give it a break with a protective style.
- Trying to force your hair to fit an unrealistic image: Curly hair isn’t the standard, it’s just one of the many types of textured hair that is beautiful. Love the hair you have, embrace the hair you have. It’s beautiful and you can be or become your own hair goals.
Taking care of your hair doesn’t have to be long or drawn out. Just purposeful. Be mindful and intentional in your hair care. Be aware of what you use and why you’re using it, that makes this journey a lot more fun! True knowledge of your natural hair comes with time, patience and experimenting. It can be tempting to copy someone’s routine but know that what works for them may not work for you! Just like you body can change so can your hair and it’s needs. That’s why its important to first have some sort of plan of action/routine and it make sure that it still is fitting the needs of your hair as time goes on.
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This was an amazing and insightful article!