Pictured: Mango butter by Whole Elise
Recently, I was having a discussion with someone about how important it is to follow instructions. I mean, just think about how much time (and frustration) could be saved if more of us took out, just a few moments, to make sure that we were doing things as they were intended to be done. Sealing is no exception.
I’m pretty sure you’ve got at least a vague idea of what sealing your hair is all about. Long story short, it’s the extra couple of steps that we all need to take, after conditioning/moisturizing our hair, in order to make sure that the moisture stays locked in for more than just a few hours or a couple of days.
I’m a huge fan of sealing. Thing is, though, when I speak of the train wreck that (potentially) comes from overlooking directions, I am coming from very up close and personal experience. No doubt, there have been times when I’ve just pulled out some shea butter, plopped it onto my head and then got mad when my ends still felt dry.
Sometimes, we go through things in order to spare others the drama. That said, if you want to get into the habit of sealing your tresses more often yet you want to avoid doing it “wrong”, here are some steps that can help to make everything turn out, just as you want it to.
1. Wash with Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Remember, the entire purpose of sealing your hair is to lock-in the moisture that you just put into it. This means that you’ve got to make sure that your hair is well-conditioned ahead of time and one thing that isn’t going to make that happen is a shampoo that contains sulfates. While on one hand, they are good to use from time to time in order to deep clean your hair and get rid of build-up, when you’re looking for a shampoo to add to your consistent hair routine, it’s best to go with a sulfate-free brand. Those are the kinds that are great at keeping natural oils in your hair, locking moisture in, strengthening damaged tresses and even keeping your hair color from fading faster. Personally, I am a fan of all-natural shampoo bars; however, with whatever you decide to go with, just make sure that it says sulfate-free on the packaging. It’s definitely the first step that you should take on the days when you want to go all out when it comes to sealing your hair.
2. Deep Condition for at Least an Hour
It’s gonna be rare that you see an article with my byline on it where I don’t sing the praises of deep conditioning. A big part of the reason is because I used to be someone who also plopped some conditioner on my hair, let it sit for 90 seconds and rinsed it off. Boy, can I tell a real difference, now that I let conditioner sit on my hair for no less than an hour (I try and go 3-4, if I can). Deep conditioning is a proactive way to prevent split ends (which comes as the result of dry and brittle hair), boost hair elasticity, nourish and strengthen your tresses and maintain the pH balance (which should be between 4.5-5.5) of your hair too. While a lot of people think that sealing is solely about applying an oil or butter to the hair, you’re not really thoroughly doing the job, if you’re not deep conditioning your hair first. Always remember that.
3. Use a Thick Oil and Butter Blend on Your Ends
OK, once your hair is well-moisturized from washing and deep conditioning, it’s then time to start the official sealing process. When it comes to this part, a hack to keep in mind is oils are oftentimes great to use during the warmer months while butters are awesome when it’s cold outside (or you happen to have really thick hair). As far as great hair oils, non-GMO soybean oil helps to prevent split ends; grapeseed oil can penetrate your tresses to keep them soft and shiny; avocado oil is loaded with nutrients; apricot oil helps to prevent hair fall, and Jamaican black castor oil is a rich oil that can provide long-lasting sealing protection. Butters? One of my all-time, from head-to-toe favorite oils is shea butter; it's got properties to protect your hair from UV damage and heat damage while also moisturizing your tresses. Mango butter is filled with vitamins A and E so that your hair is well-conditioned. Muru Muru butter is a lighter butter that helps to increase hair elasticity. Cupuacu butter is one that locks the moisture that is already in your hair extremely well. Tacuma butter works brilliantly if you happen to have high-porosity hair.
4. Customize Your Sealant, Though
With all of what I just said, please make sure that you customize your oils and butters to suit your personal hair needs. What I mean by that is, one of the main ways that a lot of people totally mess up the sealing process is they watch a YouTube video on hair sealing and then automatically put on their hair whatever the host of the channel put on theirs. That can be super counterproductive because your hair could be finer or thicker or it might not respond as well to the oils that they choose (for instance, my hair can’t stand coconut or argan oil; it tends to irritate my scalp and dry my hair out — go figure). So, while it might require a little bit of trial and error, play around with oils and butters (or perhaps using even a little bit of both) until you figure out what truly works best for you. It took me about three wash days to come up with my own failsafe combo (shea butter and an herb-infused oil blend).
5. Allow Your Ends to Dry Completely Before Touching Them
Your hair is actually way more fragile when it’s wet than when it’s dry. That’s why, once you’ve applied the oil or butter to your hair (make sure to use about twice as much to your ends as you do to the rest of your hair because your ends are the oldest part of your hair), gently twisted them and applied a bit more oil or butter for extra coverage, leave your hair TOTALLY alone until it dries. Not only will this help to prevent breakage but you also stand a far greater chance of locking even more moisture in if you’re not manipulating your hair while it’s still wet or damp.
Tuck Your Ends As Much As Possible
Another mistake that a lot of people make while sealing their hair is forgetting to tuck their ends away. What I mean by that is, even if your ends have all of the moisture in the world in them, once your hair is dry, if you choose to constantly wear your hair out, it runs the risk of snagging on your clothes, drying out from the environment or experiencing a ton of wear and tear due to constant styling manipulation. So, since sealing is ultimately about protecting your ends more than anything else — a protective style is wise. Or at least make sure to put your hair in a bun and/or tie it up with a silk or satin scarf or bonnet at night. If you do, you’ll be able to retain length because your ends will be less damaged.
Do It on a Weekly Basis
And just how often should you be sealing your hair? I know some people who make it a part of their end-of-the-week ritual which is cool. I personally do it on wash days which is every other week. As far as this goes, my bottom line would be not to go any longer than bi-weekly. What I will say, though, is if in between wash days, your ends feel dry or they are frizzing up, that’s a clear sign that you need to seal them again. Trust me, once you get used to doing it — and you do it while treating yourself to watching a movie, binge-watching a show or listening to a podcast — it’ll become one of your absolute favorite things to do; especially once you start to see the results. And I am certainly a living testament of that!
Shellie R. Warren/2021