Dry, crunchy, crispy hair isn't cute.
No one in the history of hair has gone on record raving about having luxurious, parched curls. I'm not talking about gel casts from styling products that you can easily scrunch out with a dab of oil or serum--but inherently dry, dehydrated, borderline tumbleweed hair. Summer heat is notorious for parching our curls, here's how to keep them soft all season.
1. Drink water
If you have chronically dry hair, your products may not be to blame. Do you drink enough water? One of the keys to healthy, soft and strong hair is keep it hydrated. That starts from the inside out. If you have dry hair, ask yourself how much water do I consume daily? The hair shaft is comprised of about 25% water, so drink up. Your hair, skin, and insides will thank you.
When curly girls start cutting regimen corners, one of the first things to go is the pre-poo. A good pre-poo is essential to soft hair. They are meant to prime the hair for cleansing by softening, strengthening, and easing the detangling process. They also prevent cleansing products from robbing the hair of critical moisture.
3. Shampoo (instead of co-wash)
You may be active or outside in the heat more during the summer, and cleansing becomes even more important for a clean hair and scalp. While co-washing is a great alternative to always using shampoo, it doesn't quite remove all the buildup and eventually, your hair will not respond the same way to the co-wash (due to buildup).
Additionally, shampooing makes your conditioner work more effectively. Generally, hair carries a slight negative charge that is enhanced by use of a shampoo with a negative charge. Conditioner has a positive charge, and we all know that opposites attract. The ingredients in regular and deep conditioners are designed to stick to the hair, smoothing the cuticle, and filling in the chipped areas. This functionality and improved softness is enhanced with the use of shampoo.
4. Deeply treat with steam
Steaming the hair gently lifts the cuticle and allows the warm water to penetrate the hair, hydrating it thoroughly. Hydrated hair is soft hair, and soft hair maintains a proper moisture balance provides optimal elasticity. Steam treatments can be done on wash days, mid-week to refresh curls, or while deep conditioning.
Here's a hack for steaming hair for free (if you don't have a handheld one): let your hair hang loose during your next shower. You may also spritz it with hot water and covering with a plastic cap and sitting under a dryer for indirect heat to enhance your deep conditioner properties.
5. Deep condition more frequently
Do you deep condition every time you wash your hair? If you don't, you should try it. It's the single piece of advice that unites all naturals, regardless of regimen and hair type. Deep conditioning does a curly mane good, in terms of softness and moisture. Depending on your hair type and regimen, you may not need to deep condition every time, but do consider increasing the frequency if your hair starts to feel parched or brittle.
6. Layer with a leave-inWhether you are using a daily conditioner or a product formulated specifically as a leave-in, having a product that is a water-based mixture of fatty alcohols, emollients, and humectants is the first line of defense in maintaining soft hair. Use a moisturizer to lock in the hydration from your leave-in and prime your hair for styling. If your hair responds well to pure oils and butter, seal your curls with an oil.
This article was originally published in June 2014.