FAQs: How do I “soften” my hair?

Welcome to my Kitchen again, lovelies.

As some of you may know, I admin a couple of groups on Facebook educating on the science of black hair and caring for it. Sometimes interesting or odd questions come up, but mostly, I get the same questions over and over again from different people (mostly new members who haven’t searched the group and read previous posts. Yes, I am throwing shade 😝).

One of my most commonly asked questions is

“How do I soften my hair”

My answer to this is quite simple.

If your hair is hard- it’s not because you have a “tough hair texture” although that might lend some additional resistance to the feel of your hair.

Your hair is “hard” because it is DRY. It’s desperate for moisture, but that doesn’t mean you need to pour a bucket of water over your head three times a day. 😂

To effectively moisturise your hair from the inside out you need to start from wash day:

1. Cleanse all product buildup from your hair using a clarifying shampoo. Clean hair has slightly more open cuticles that will allow in water. Hair covered in buildup won’t allow water in. Simple as that.

2. DEEP CONDITIONING with an appropriate deep conditioner. (If you’re pressed for time, use an ordinary conditioner, but don’t bother leaving it on for more than 20 minutes- leaving it on for longer doesn’t “condition the hair more”, but more on this later).

Your hair must be DAMP, but NOT waterlogged for conditioner application, so keep a towel handy during wash day (too much water on the hair blocks the action of the conditioning agents in the Deep Conditioner it’s something to do with concentrations, but I won’t get too deep into the chemistry on here, despite my natural inclinations 🧪👩🏾‍🔬 ).

NOTE: different “hair types” require different deep conditioning methods- slightly more porous hair doesn’t need heat to help the conditioner to penetrate the hair strand, but less porous hair will need to be steamed to help the conditioning molecules to bind to the hair.

I’ve written a short article about hair porosity here.

3. After your hair is about 80-90% dry, you may put on an appropriate LEAVE IN CONDITIONER. If you have found the right one for you, you know how “magical” its effects can be on your hair strands.

Apply your leave-in and allow it to partially dry before adding a sealing oil (if you use those) and styling.

If you have a daily leave in product, whenever your hair needs topping up on moisture during the week, you can use it again- especially if you don’t have time for a mid-week co-wash. Generally I wouldn’t advise using any product (especially if it contains silicones) every day, as I find that, depending on the weather and season, generally hair may only need a couple of top-ups within the week, if protectively-styled and cared for properly at night. Daily use of a silicone-containing product will inevitably lead to build up.

NOTE: There are many different types of leave in conditioner. Different hair types work well with different deep conditioners. The “magic” (Science) behind this is pH and what specific ingredients are in the formula. Mostly, however, you’ll find that lighter (more liquid) formulas work better for less porous hair and heavier (thicker/greasier) formulas work better for more porous hair.

I’ll talk more about ingredients in a different post, and trust me, what we’re going to learn about them will BLOW YOUR MIND.

Until then, take care, lovelies. 💕

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