One of our family friends, Mike, has always had long, healthy hair for as long as I can remember. We grew up in the same neighborhood and he preferred to keep long hair as opposed to my brothers who made regular visits to the barber. I’d always wanted to ask him the secret on how to take care of black male hair.
I finally did ask him, when I was transitioning from relaxed to natural hair a couple of years ago.
Most of the things that he shared are similar to what ladies with natural hair do to keep their hair healthy.
However, I don’t think I’ve seen men doing some of the things that Mike talked about – like wearing satin bonnets at night.
How to take care of black male hair
Mike swears that by adhering to the seven tips discussed below, he has been able to maintain healthy hair for years.
I follow almost all the tips (except avoiding heat) and I have to concur with Mike that these simple tips will see you achieve your length-chasing goals faster, and help you to maintain healthy hair.
Your hair, in most cases, does not come into mind when you are thinking about purchasing pillowcases.
You are now probably wondering how pillowcases are connected to your quest of achieving long, healthy hair.
Well, satin pillowcases are what you should be looking for if you care about your hair.
This must be shocking news for you if you love cotton pillowcases.
As a black person, you know that your hair can easily get tangled, and dealing with it afterward is often a hustle you probably don’t want to deal with, especially in the morning.
Cotton pillowcases may be comfortable, but they are rough on the hair, and this eventually causes friction between your hair and the cotton surface.
Your hair is more susceptible to being entangled, and this may eventually lead to hair breakage.
Satin pillowcases are soft; this means that your hair will not get tangled during your sleep as it slides smoothly on the pad.
Satin pillowcases are also good for your hair because they do not suck up your hair’s natural moisture as you sleep.
Cotton pillowcases, on the other hand, are notorious for sucking up your hair’s natural oils and moisture.
This dries out your hair and leaves it brittle and easily susceptible to breakage.
Satin bonnets are also helpful for your hair because they keep it healthy and protected.
Now, before you think that this is something that only women use, please remember that there is any difference between a black man’s natural hair and a black woman’s natural hair.
Their hair is affected the same way if they fail to observe the best hair practices.
Satin bonnets help reduce the rate of hair breakage as you sleep as they are smooth; hence there is less friction.
Since satin bonnets prevent friction the hair doesn’t experience static charges; therefore, you are less likely to experience hair breakage.
These bonnets also don’t suck up your hair’s natural moisture as you sleep.
Avoid the use of chemicals
Are you a fun of relaxers, bleach, and dyes?
Well, the bad news is that these chemicals can ruin your hair structure almost permanently without you even knowing it.
Applying relaxers, bleach, and color almost inevitably makes your hair porous. I’ve previously written on how to fix high porosity hair.
In the worst-case scenario, if you or the hairstylist doesn’t go about these chemical processes the right way, it can eventually lead to scalp irritation, stunted hair growth or hair breakage.
Relaxers and perms
Relaxers alter your hair’s PH balance, and this, in return, can lead to hair breakage if you don’t take care of it properly.
It is inevitable for you to have thinning hair with constant use of relaxers in your hair.
Believe it or not, relaxers and chemicals can also cause scalp infections. No one wants that for their hair.
Perms and relaxers may leave bald patches on your hair.
Chemicals, especially relaxers, give a burning effect on your hair; hence they can permanently damage parts of your scalp, leaving you with bald patches.
Dyeing your hair helps you get a vast range of colors to choose from.
As much as this may be exciting, coloring is not suitable for your hair, especially when you want to maintain healthy hair in the long term.
Dyeing strips the moisture out of your natural hair as it makes the hair strands more porous, making the hair dry and brittle.
Coloring or bleaching your hair can cause something known as “chemical cut,” which is hair breakage.
Bleaching breaks down your hair’s disulfide bonds.
This makes the hair brittle and easily susceptible to breakage.
It is also possible for your scalp to experience burning from the numerous chemicals you expose to it.
Hair chemicals generally alter the natural hair structure of naturally curly hair.
If you still want to use some chemicals on your hair, please consider using Olaplex treatments that are designed to prevent hair breakage during coloring or bleaching sessions.
Avoid using heat on your hair
Frequent use of heat styling appliances can be detrimental to your hair’s health.
I wrote about how I suffered from heat damage after regularly blow drying my hair without taking any precaution.
The frequent use of these hot tools can make your hair brittle.
This is because too much heat weakens the hair structure, making it brittle and easy to break.
Regular heat can also end up causing split ends, which eventually damages your hair.
Too much heat alters with the elasticity of the hair.
Naturally, when you pull kinky hair, it is likely to stretch for a while without breaking, and in most cases, the hair strand does not break off easily.
Heat damaged hair, however, loses its elasticity hence tends to break off easily.
Using hot tools also leads to the reduction of your hair’s natural moisture.
They basically “dehydrate” your hair.
When you are using these heat styling appliances on your hair, you probably notice the vapor-like smoke coming from your hair.
This is the moisture present in your hair evaporating.
The moisture content in your hair therefore reduces.
As a result, your hair now becomes drier, and this is likely to damage it.
The lipid structure of your hair is also considerably damaged by hot tools.
The hair cuticles become rougher because of the cracks, fissures, and micropores created by the high temperature from these appliances.
It’d be advisable to look in other ways of stretching your hair if you can’t stand constant hair shrinkage, especially after every hair washing session.
You may want to look into methods such as banding, braiding, twisting, bunning or African threading.
Although I still use heat two or three times a year, I’ve now incorporated the use of heat protectants which create a barrier between my hair and the heat styling appliance.
Use the right combs
Using the right combs and brushes is very important when trying to maintain healthy hair.
Behind every impeccable afro hairstyle, there is a trusted comb behind it.
Besides styling your hair, combs also help to remove the leftover residue from hair products you use.
Although I discourage people from detangling natural hair using afro picks or brushes, I think using a wide-tooth comb to detangle hair which has conditioner in it is a safe move.
A lot of people assume that combs and brushes serve the same purpose.
The difference is that combing your hair helps you remove tangles and knots present in your hair.
This makes it easy for you to brush afterward.
Brushing, on the other hand, is meant to remove flakes, dirt, and product build-up.
Have you ever wondered whether the type of comb you use is suitable for your hair?
Well, the answer is that certain types of combs have different effects on your hair.
Metal combs are ranked among the best types of combs because they are durable and great at preventing friction from building up in the hair.
They also keep your hair from snagging.
Wooden combs, on the other hand, are excellent for soothing and massaging your hair.
Wooden combs help release the natural oils present in your hair just like brushes do.
This way, your hair is kept shiny and healthy.
Carbon combs are designed to withstand heat when styling your hair using heat styling appliances tools.
A carbon comb does not bend and is actually quite durable.
It’s also static-free, meaning that it does not build a static charge as you comb your hair.
Carbon combs are also lightweight hence making them suitable for you in case you travel a lot.
Plastic combs have the worst reputation.
They break often and are not the best material for your hair.
Most of the plastic combs are built in such a way that they can easily snag and damage your hair.
However, the higher-end type of plastic combs – such as the ones made from cellulose acetate – are often hand-cut and polished.
They are comfortable to use and are kind on your hair.
They are also quite durable.
Which is the best?
When combing your hair, use wide-tooth combs to detangle wet or damp hair.
It’s also advisable to use a wide-tooth comb really thick, coarse and curly hair.
Medium-tooth combs are ideal for styling and shaping hair.
They are also suitable for detangling hair or when you are preparing for a haircut.
Fine-tooth combs, on the other hand, are suitable for parting your hair or keeping your hair neatly in place after styling.
Regular combing of your hair can also boost hair growth and reduce hair breakage.
Cut down on the cleansing sessions
As much as you probably like cleansing your hair, doing it too frequently is not really advisable.
Most shampoos in the market contain a hazardous chemical known as Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is the cleaning agent.
SLS strips your natural hair of its natural oils, leaving it dry and very brittle.
This puts your hair at the risk of breakage because it’s been stripped of moisture.
Shampooing less frequently, about once or twice a week, is more advisable.
I wrote a piece about how often black men should wash their hair. It depends on several factors.
Cutting down on the number of times you cleanse your hair will help it retain the natural oils your scalp produces.
This will keep your hair moisturized and less susceptible to breakage.
Black men’s hair (and black women’s hair too) tends to naturally dry out faster compared to other hair types.
Therefore, we should try to avoid exposing it too much to things that will make the situation worse.
Since our kinky hair is naturally curly, the natural oils present in the hair cannot lubricate the hair strand’s full length.
Hence, frequent washing makes the hair strands to dry out quickly, become brittle, and in the worst-case scenario, end up breaking.
In the case where your hair is naturally oily, you might need to clean it more often – probably three times a week.
Condition your hair more
Conditioning your hair is essential.
Incorporating deep conditioning is very vital for improving the health of your hair. Deep conditioning provides a preventive measure for your hair hence lessening the threat of damaging your hair while styling, washing, and manipulating your hair. Conditioning your hair also helps prevent hair damage.
Conditioning your hair helps in reducing hair breakage and reduces split ends. In the case where you think that your hair does not require deep conditioning, it is essential to note that conditioning your hair and incorporating it to your regimen regularly helps you keep track and maintain your healthy hair.
Hearing the term hair breakage is a stressing ordeal. As a black man, you are familiar with that. Well, deep conditioning your hair will help in preventing hair breakage as it improves on the hair’s elasticity, hence, preventing damage. Deep conditioning also penetrates the hair shafts, thus restoring its natural shine and smoothing the hair shaft.
Deep conditioning also helps in moisturizing your hair and scalp. If you struggle with dry scalp and consistent dandruff, you know how annoying this is. Deep conditioning will help with this type of case, especially conditioners with natural oils such as Bagasse oil or Argan oil. When deep conditioning, it is crucial that you do so with hot to warm water to ensure that the conditioner penetrates your hair quickly. You can then rinse your hair with cold water to make sure that your hair gets to retain its natural oils keeping your hair healthy and moisturized.
Use products without harsh ingredients
When shopping for your hair products, you must check the ingredients present in the product you want to buy. Product with parabens and sulfates are not suitable for your hair. Prolonged use of products with parabens and sulfates causes scalp irritation, dry hair, and general hair loss. Replacing products with parabens and sulfates may not be as hard as you may think. Replacing these products with more natural solutions is the best and ideal way to go, especially if you value healthy hair.
It is also crucial that you avoid products with alcohol as these products tend to dry your hair, and no one likes dry hair. Products with alcohol can also cause frizzy hair and damage your hair cuticles. Products with mineral oils such as petroleum are occlusive agents, which means that they do not allow circulation of air and moisture in your hair, and you already know by now lack of moisture is not beneficial to your hair.
Products with silicones are also not suitable for your hair s they weigh down your hair, and lockout moisture from your hair.as tempting as these products may seem since they provide shine and slip they are not a right choice .when shopping for hair care products select those which natural oils such as avocado oil, coconut oil which is suitable for moisture maintenance or even honey. Organic hair products maintain healthy and robust hair since they do not cause any harmful side effects.