by Mahisha Dellinger

Caring for your angel’s tresses can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Armed with the proper education, the right technique, and, most importantly, the right products – you can master the art of caring for ethnic hair.

Over the years I’ve read, seen, and experienced unbelievable acts of ignorance regarding ethnic hair care. It is my attempt to provide a few basic tips and tricks so you will avoid common pitfalls

A Few Things You Should Know…

  • Black hair is extremely fragile. A gentle touch is required to avoid unnecessary breakage and hair loss. Therefore, always use a wide tooth comb or pick when combing the hair. Avoid fine tooth combs as they snag and pull out curly/kinky hair. Invest in a quality brush; natural boar brushes are the best.
  • Curly/kinky hair needs moisture, moisture and more moisture! Consider this when purchasing hair care products. Avoid drying products such as hair spray, mousse, holding gels, etc. Opt for moisturizers, leave-in conditioners and styling lotions.
  • All products are not created equal. Just because a product claims to be created for “curly hair” doesn’t guarantee that it will be suitable for ethnic curly hair. Products created for Nicole Kidman’s curly hair may not work for Angela Bassett’s. Caucasian hair tends to produce more sebum (oily secretion created by the sebaceous gland) than black, textured hair; therefore, black hair requires more oil. Read — no — scrutinize the ingredient list. Look for natural oils and quality ingredients. Remember, the ingredients are listed in order of volume.

Common Mistakes Made When Caring for Ethnic Hair

Error #1 - Over shampooing – Black hair should not be shampooed every day, or every other day for that matter. Instead, shampoo your child’s hair every 7 days, max! We recommend shampooing 2x a month. I know this may confuse those who shampoo daily; however, you must remember that black hair needs oil, and because it distributes less sebum, frequent shampooing can dry out the hair and scalp. Try our Curly Q’s Hydrating shampoo. It gently cleanses the hair without stripping away essential oils and nutrients.

Tip for getting through 'shampoo-less' days: Rinse hair with warm water, apply Quenched conditioner, and rinse well. This will give you a clean start and provide added conditioning and moisture without stripping away protective oils.

Error #2: Under-conditioning – Proper conditioning is one of the most important steps for healthy hair. Unfortunately, most do not take the time to adequately do so. I recommend giving your daughter a deep conditioning (with heat) once a month, especially during the winter season. Our Quenched conditioner works great…with or without heat.

Error #3: Using the wrong products – We’ve discussed the need for natural oils for black hair. However, you must know that not all oil is good oil.One misconception that plagues African Americans concerning hair care is the use of grease. Grease (thick pomade-like product that usually contains mineral oil and/or petrolatum) is commonly used to moisturize dry hair and scalp. Do not use products that contain mineral oil or petrolatum. Both of these cheap oils clog pores, rob the hair’s moisture and can retard hair growth. Natural oils are the best bet. Jojoba and coconut oil are great conditioning oils. Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer. Avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, D, and E; potassium, and scalp soothing sulfur. Curls and Curly Q’s products contain all of these!

Error #4: Combing, detangling, and styling faux pas — To avoid pain, tears, and massive hair loss when combing out kinky hair, part the hair into four sections. Get a tight grip on the hair (not to hurt your child) and start combing at the bottom and work your way up to the top, section by section. If her hair is extremely thick and coarse, secure the combed out section with a pony tail holder to avoid further tangling. You should always use a moisturizer when combing her out hair, doing so will help to soften the hair and ease comb-ability. NEVER USE WATER TO “WET” THE HAIR! Our Moist Curls moisturizer is a great choice!

Girls and ponytails seem to go hand-in-hand. Here are a few tips to avoid pig-tail disaster. Do not use rubber bands to secure her ponytails, instead use elastics and covered bands. Rubber bands can cause undue breakage and damage. Remember to ALWAYS remove the pony tail holders before bed time. Make sure you braid (or twist) the hair completely…all the way to the ends. Exposing the ends to environmental elements will guarantee split ends. I recommend adding a coat of leave in conditioner to the ends before braiding for extra protection. Remember, the ends are the oldest and most fragile part of the hair. They require extra attention.

What you need

  • Wide-toothed comb or pick…the wider the better (Goody has a variety of combs available at most grocery stores)
  • Natural bristle brush (The Body Shop has a nice selection of brushes)
  • Hydrating shampoo (try Curly Q Hydrating Shampoo)
  • Moisturizing Conditioner (try Curly Qs Quenched Conditioner)
  • A daily moisturizer – this will add needed moisture, and ease comb-ability (Moist Curls is a great daily moisturizer)
  • Natural oils to apply to the hair (I recommend Pure avocado oil also available on our website)
  • Cream hair dressing for light control of frizzes (Curly Q Styling lotion is a great choice)
  • Elastics for securing ponytails