I recently did the big chop and would like to grow a healthy Afro. What products should I use and how do I make my hair presentable without straightening it?
Congratulations on your Big Chop! It’s a huge first step on a long journey with many ups and downs but eventually, with the right amount of information and support you can have healthy hair that looks gorgeous.
The first and most important thing for you at this stage is that you keep it simple. Short hair gives you freedom; embrace this as you try to figure out what works best for you.
As most people do, you want to know which products to use, but really what you should be asking is, ‘What kind of regimen do I need to take care of my hair effectively?’; knowing this will enable you to pick products that will work well for you and your lifestyle. A regimen is a routine for washing, conditioning and moisturising your hair. You will need to find products for each of these stages.
Remember the first rule? Keep it simple. Most shampoos have sulphates that dry out the hair and give it that squeaky clean feeling. When your hair gets longer and you start to use more products you may need to use shampoo to clarify it, in the mean time, I would suggest you stick to washing your hair with a good silicone free conditioner instead. When I big chopped I found it useful to be able to wash my hair many times a week and the only way this is possible is with conditioner. Washing with conditioner allows you to retain that much needed moisture. There are some silicone free conditioners available in Zambia but the most easily accessible is Tresemme Naturals which is found in all the major supermarkets. If you do decide to shampoo your hair, try to find a shampoo with either low or no sulphates, if neither of these options is available look for shampoo meant for colour treated hair as it tends to be less drying. You will also need to apply coconut oil to the hair before washing in order to alleviate the drying effect of shampoo.
There are three types of conditioners that you will come across; a conditioner such as Tresemme Naturals which is usually kept in the hair for a few minutes after shampooing, a deep conditioner usually referred to in Zambia as a ‘steaming’ session and a leave-in conditioner. Conditioners help the hair to absorb and retain moisture which is necessary for it to thrive. As your hair increases in length the ends become older and will require deep conditioning. If, as I have suggested, you are regularly washing your hair with conditioner it will be enough, at this stage, to keep the conditioner on your hair for about 5 minutes before rinsing it out as an alternative to deep conditioning. Leave in conditioners, as the name suggests, are applied after washing the hair and are not rinsed out. The best leave-in conditioners tend to have water as the first ingredient and should also include a humectant such as honey, aloe vera or glycerine as well as natural oils. Humectants are substances that draw moisture into the hair. Kera Care Hair Milk is an example of a good, silicone free leave-in conditioner, which is available in Zambia. It is important that you try to find a silicone free conditioner as silicone coat the hair and may lead to product build up.
In truth if you have followed the preceding steps then you will already have moisturised your hair and this step is really about sealing in that moisture. Oils and butters are applied on damp hair to coat it and make sure that the moisture absorbed by the hair during washing and conditioning is not lost to the atmosphere. There are many natural oils that you can use such as olive, avocado, grape seed and coconut which are all widely available. Shea butter is also particularly popular in the natural hair community. It is important to keep the hair moisturised in between washes and for this you will need a spritz bottle. This is a bottle with a trigger for spritzing water. It tends to be stocked in the gardening section of the supermarket. You can fill your bottle with water and glycerin, aloe vera or honey and spray the hair until damp before sealing with your choice of oil or butter.
That’s the technical bit over, now you can start to have fun with your hair! Styling short hair is really all about accessories, think headbands, scarves, bows and flowers if you want to look girly and earrings for that extra edge. A lot of ladies also find a vibrant eye shadow or lipstick enhances their features and gives them that much needed confidence. Your product list will increase with time as you start to incorporate styling into your regimen but for now start with one product for each step in your regimen and only buy more after careful consideration. This is the best time to learn about your hair as its not very time consuming to maintain, so do your research, listen to you hair and enjoy it!
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