Calling all naturalistas! Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by emailing them to BeautyEditors@essence.com.
READER QUESTION: What can I do to make my hair fuller, healthier and longer?
Big hair definitely rocks — but thanks to genetics, we can’t all have it. We can, however, achieve our own very best hair by employing consistent, healthy hair practices. In addition to a healthy, balanced diet and drinking half your weight in ounces of water each day, you should add the following to your regimen. These additions to your routine will help you retain the length and volume you've grown thus far.
Sealing is locking moisture in the hair, specifically the ends. To do so, apply a leave-in conditioner with water as its first ingredient (try Qhemet Cocoa Tree Detangling Ghee), and then seal with shea butter or oil. The molecules in most butters/oils are too large to pass into the hair, so they stick to the outside of the shaft, trapping in the moisturizer!
When sealing after your regular washing routine, apply your conditioner to damp hair in a downward motion (to smooth the cuticle). Then apply your butter or oil, concentrating on your ends, and style as usual.
A “protective” style is one in which your hair isn’t loose. Whether your hair is twisted, braided, bunned or cornrowed beneath a weave, your strands are woven together and more resistant to breakage – plus, they hold on to moisture very well. Protective styling keeps your ends (the oldest part of your hair and thus prone to breakage) in tact and on your head!
As with everything, less is more! So make sure your protective style of choice isn’t stressing your edges, and that you don’t leave it in too long, and that you continue to moisturize your hair even while it’s protected.
Finally, always protect your hair at night with a satin cap. Over time, sleeping with your hair out will result in loss of moisture. It’s not the sexiest look, but the payoff is worth it!
If you really want to see some length retention, engage in a hardcore deep-conditioning routine. My personal favorites right now are Curl Junkie Rehab, Jessicurl Weekly Deep Treatment, Aubrey's GPB and Honey Suckle Rose. They’re all incredibly moisturizing and extra slippery!
In the meantime, there are things you can do to achieve the illusion of fuller, longer hair-
To make my fine, shrink-prone hair appear huge, I style my hair when it’s damp or dry to minimize shrinkage. I prefer twists over braids for the resulting pattern, but my techniques are applicable to braid-outs as well. For damp sets, I allow my hair to dry for fifteen to twenty minutes until it’s about 75% dry. Then I apply a leave-in conditioner and create 8-10 twists. Fewer twists result in a chunky, voluminous twist-out. Also, using minimal product (and light hold creams versus strong hold gels) yields the ‘controlled frizz’ effect. A damp set gives you definition and a bit more hang time than a wet set would. When I style my dry, previously stretched hair, I apply a teeny bit of leave-in conditioner, pomade, or hair butter in sections and twist… usually 8-10. This process yields big hair every time, especially on day two! You’ll notice less definition and even more length than you would with a damp set.
Finally, twist/braid-outs on blown-out or roller set hair yields the biggest, fluffiest results, but they also don’t last long.
I hope this helps!
Nikki Walton, founder of CurlyNikki.com, is a successful psychotherapist and creator of the most credible online source about natural hair care, maintenance and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. She's the author of the book Better Than Good Hair.