6 Steps to Rehabilitate Your Hair

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by Nicole Harmon of HairLiberty.org

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on products or keep your strands hidden in protective styles to achieve healthy hair. Follow these tips to rehabilitate your natural coils.

Step 1: Shampoo your hair at least once a week

The average person’s hair grows between ¼ and ½ inch a month. Washing your hair more often can help you achieve the maximum amount. Your scalp is just like your face. You can’t maintain a healthy growing environment without cleansing away the sebum (natural skin oil) in and around your hair follicles. Opt for a sulfate-free moisturizing shampoo that can gently cleanse and condition your hair at the same time.  You can still co-wash, but don’t forgo a weekly shampoo unless your co-wash product says it’s meant to clean the scalp.  If you’re nervous about shampooing your hair, start with a pre-shampoo oil treatment.

Step 2: Use a pH balanced shampoo

The pH of human hair is between 4.5 and 6.5.  African American hair, especially Type 4, has naturally raised cuticles which make it more sensitive to pH than other hair types. A shampoo that is pH balanced will prevent excessive cuticle swelling when you wash your hair.  That means your coils will be easier to smooth and seal when you’re ready to style. If your shampoo doesn’t mention pH balance on the label, look for citric acid in the ingredients list.

Step 3: Make sure detangling is a breeze

The most important job of a conditioner is to make your hair easy to detangle. If you’re not using chemicals or heat on your hair and you’re still not seeing longer length, you may be losing precious strands in the shower.  If you’re using the right shampoo and conditioner for your hair, when you work from end to root, you should only have 2 or 3 areas where the comb gets snarled.  Choose a rinse-out conditioner that contains 2 or more of the following ingredients in the top 5:

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride
Cetearyl Alcohol
Cetyl Esters
Dimethicone
Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride
Shea Oil
Stearamidopropyl Dimethlyamine

Step 4: Use a deep treatment at least once a month

Look at a strand of your hair.  90% of what you’re looking at is keratin protein.  Your body uses the protein you eat to create keratin protein for your hair and skin.   You really are feeding your hair and skin whenever you eat eggs, meat, and certain vegetables.  Adding more protein to your diet can strengthen the hair that’s currently being “built”. Once a hair emerges from its follicle, your health and what you eat doesn’t affect its appearance anymore.   Your hair is at your mercy and daily combing and styling chip away tiny pieces of keratin from each strand.  It’s up to you to replace those lost pieces with protein from hair products; otherwise your hair will break just as fast as it grows.   To begin rehabilitating your hair ASAP, add a deep treatment that contains hydrolyzed protein to your regimen.  Try Aphogee Two Step Protein Treatment, Joico K-Pak Deep Penetrating Reconstructor, or Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Hair Mask.

Step 5: Get a haircut if you’re experiencing moderate to severe breakage

If you’re experiencing significant breakage, it’s likely that the cuticle layer has been worn away at your ends. That happens during chemical treatments, but also from basic combing and brushing. Even the best products can’t revive severely damaged hair, so you’ll need to at least get a trim in order to see a real transformation. Choose a trusted stylist to take off ½ to 1 inch. After that, follow the rest of this regimen so you can give your hair time to grow a few inches before it needs to be trimmed again.

Step 6: Find 2 easy styles for your current length

The most difficult part about growing your hair out is the awkward length phases you’ll have to go through. If you have a good cut, your hair should be relatively easy to work with. Keep your ends in the best condition possible by alternating between 2 low-manipulation hairstyles. For example, many women have shorter hair in the front than the back. Give the front some time to catch up by bobby pinning it out of the way instead of trying to make it blend with the rest of your hair. If you follow the other rehab steps, you will have new style options in 2-3 months as your hair grows longer. Check out the Hair Liberty DIY section to learn easy styles for any length using bobby pins, hair accessories and/or braids.

You can incorporate one rehab step at a time, but you’ll see the most drastic improvements when you follow all six of these steps. Once you have a steady routine, don’t change what you’re doing.  When you feel like trying something new, experiment with different styles and styling products.  The way your hair looks is the result of your product choices and styling techniques.  If you want to see a big improvement, it’s time to make some big changes!

Ladies have you tried any of these steps? How do you rehabilitate your hair?

Nicole Harmon is a Cosmetic Chemist and the Founder of HairLiberty.org.  She has received rave reviews for her seminars on ethnic hair education and science. She’s on a mission to help the Product Junkies of the world save MONEY, sort through marketing HYPE and buy SMARTER!

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Black Girl With Long Hair

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founding editor of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008), social media and black beauty enthusiast. When I'm not here, I'm moderating a Facebook group for black mothers called Black Moms Connect.

 

42 thoughts on “6 Steps to Rehabilitate Your Hair

  1. I do all the steps except for #5. I’ve been doing so good with taking such good care with my hair that I haven’t been needing a trim/cut (knocking on wood).
    One step that also definitely helps is keeping my hair MOISTURIZED!

      • I was just wondering is there a special regimen for relaxed hair? especially in the stretching stage. Because it seems like these steps apply majorly to natural hair. I’ve been able to stretch my hair for almost six months now, I just took out the braids I had on, and I can see the natural hair growing out, do you have any suggestions on how best to care for it pending when I decide to relax it? Thanks

    • I understand that you do not think you need a haircut…however, even the best maintained hair needs the ends to be clipped at mimimum at least every 8 weeks. If it is in awesome condition, then those ends will only need a dusting of clipping but if they have split up the hair shaft at all, there may be more that needs to come off. I am generally known for having pretty healthy hair and thats in part due to my regular trims. I got it dusted on Thursday and when I went to work friday everyone was complimenting me and saying my hair looked so LONG. Thats what a good hair trim schedule can do!

      • This is not true.Trimming your hair does NOT make it grow. Alexandra, if your ends are just fine and you are still seeing growth, no you do not need a trim. I really only trim as needed or once every 6 months or so. Your hair will tell you what it needs if you pay attention to it and if youare happy with it, then don’t get a trim.

        • I agree. I did a semi bc of 4 inches back in early April. I haven’t applied any heat since March. My ends looked & felt really good for a long time. I just trimmed 1/4 inch last week before putting my hair in two strand twists. The one thing I learned about my hair is that it doesn’t like heat. I believe between washing with a sulfate free shampoo, deep conditioning, moisturizing daily & cutting out the heat really maintained my ends. AND I saw amazing growth! If anyone is interested in seeing my growth check it out at http://www.sistahcurljourney.blogspot.com.

      • i don’t agree with this at all. i’ve seen MANY women go for months to years without needing their ends to be trimmed to know that this advice is only true if you are taking the worst possible care of your hair, in general. if i trimmed my hair that often i probably would never see any appreciable growth. or it would take like a decade to. flawed advice, for real.

  2. Step one seems to make sense but also seems a little against the grain too. Because saying once a week is your minimum works all fair and good for hair that not curly that doesn’t suffer breakage at every manipulation also constant manipulation when wet would cause more breakage. I think it sounds logical but also doesn’t work with the anatomy of curly hair. Comparing it to the face doesn’t work as straight forward first of all your face your not trying to make your hair on your face any longer, so constantly washing it is more focus on skin health not hair health.

    Maybe the advice should state wash your scalp at least once a week to clear the follicles, assuming your using a moisturizer and/or sealant on your scalp daily like you would your face, or your doing something like exercise or swimming daily, then more often.

    • Oh and i have done all steps at one point but notice that when I wash my hair more I manipulate my hair more and have to detangle just as often and end up with just as much breakage as weeks work of detangling as doing weeks apart. So I went back to my weekly level, I have gone of every two weeks if the style has lasted that long and my hair still looks as shiny as day one, but that is also because I am not heavy handed with product or placing product on my scalp.
      Still waiting on seeing if the trims make a difference but it been a year now and I think it okay to say not really.

      But one advice I think has been invaluable that have learned from is not detangling when I am stressed (emotionally or on time) I am starting getting better at coming up with styles that don’t require much if any detangling, but also don’t increase tangles either, that is definitely my new euryeka moment this year for my hair care. Trims, nope; full head finger detangling, still shy of; shampooing more often, not going do that unless it is in braids, weekly moisture deep conditioner, nonestly didn’t notice much of difference, Protein Deep conditioning, definitely saw something but not certain what; Henna, never again; Coconut oil, noting good, castor oil for moisture at winter was a revisit and confirmation.

  3. Cetearyl Alcohol unlink other alcohols behaves like a emollient rather than drawing moisture out.
    I am sure someone else could explain this better.

  4. in the past year i’ve had to rehabilitate my hair as a result of the ‘monkey see monkey do’ mentality i developed as a result of watching yt videos, and even reading blogs. lol.

    my hair hair become incredibly dry and brittle and there was breakage.

    i have to say, it has taken me about 10 months to get my hair back. one of the main ways was NOT DOING SUGGESTION NUMBER 1.

    i have stopped using shampoo on my hair and only put it on my scalp. i realized that i experienced hair fall/shedding and breakage as a result of using shampoo.

    the regimen i developed is particular to me:

    1x/week, i mix spirulina, bentonite, water and vadik’s herbs brahmi oil together and apply to my hair. i let it sit and dry a bit then i rinse. it acts as a dc and cleanser.

    i shampoo my scalp with little shampoo. sometimes i’ll do an acv rinse.

    follow with giovanni leave-in. add qhemet’s amla cream. comb. twist and put away.

    i keep a water bottle with a bit of aloe vera juice and acv in it and spritz from time to time.

    my hair looks great now. sooo happy.

    • I’m glad you’ve found a routine that works for you, merry! Hyspin brought up some of the same concerns you did. Please read my reply above if you have time, but the key part is “Cleaning your scalp is the main reason to shampoo once a week, but you don’t have to worry about exposing your hair to shampoo if you’re using the right product.” This video is also really helpful: http://youtu.be/CGKB9Fz9jzc Congrats on the great looking hair! I know that’s all anyone wants :)

    • I only shampoo my scalp as well. I do this once every week (every 5-7 days) with diluted sulfate-free shampoo applied via an applicator bottle. This method leads to a clean scalp and non-stripped strands. In my mind, shampoo is for the scalp and conditioner is for the hair.

  5. I wash my hair every day because I workout daily. Is there something gentle anyone can recommend that I can wash my hair with daily?

    • i workout about four days a week, sometimes more.

      imo, i only rinse my hair with water while in twists and maybe add an acv rinse. i use my fingers to massage my scalp.

      then add my product.

      i’m not swimming in chlorine so i don’t see a reason to throw shampoo in it because i did a 30 min. weightlifting session or ran four miles or whatever.

      if you have to use something, may just co-wash – conditioner wash.

    • The best thing you can try to do is co-wash (wash with conditioner) instead of using shampoo. It’s more genteler, cleanses your scalp and it will help you maintain that moisture that your hair needs.
      I hope this helps

  6. Actually, I use a the aztec clay to wash my hair and to keep it from being too dry. I found that ALL shampoos dry my hair out so I opted for the clay. Iv also been using this awesome intense moisturizer for natural hair… u can put it on your skin too. It’s called The Gud Stuff… Gud Name lol! If any of you try it out let me know what you think…http://bit.ly/get-The-GUD-Stuff

  7. I wish that this was written last year, lol! I pretty much did everything on the list, with the exception of an intense protein treatment. I had used Giovanni’s Reconstructor and Aveda’s Intensive Restructuring Treatments, but felt that my hair needed something heavier. So in February of this year I tried Aphogee, after realizing that as long as I was gentle with my hair as it dried it wouldn’t break off. I recently did another treatment, (trying to space them 10 – 12 weeks apart), and what a difference regarding the shedding and excess breakage that I used to encounter. My hair is retaining length like weeds and is the longest that it’s been natural, which is shoulder length.

  8. Can you recommend some conditioners to use? Also has any tried leaving in conditioner that you are suppose to rinse out? I’ve been reading mixed reviews and just want to hear people’s opinion.

  9. I don’t use protein treatments on my hair, but I apply henna monthly.
    Is that good enough?
    How about applying eggs on the hair? will it penetrate?
    Thanks.

    • Eggs are protein and are just as good a protein treatment when added to your favorite conditioner as any. If you are concerned about have pieces of egg-whites (cooked egg) in your hair and you want to still use household items, try mayo. I henna my hair in leui of protein treatments, because although it does not contain protein, it is a strengthening treatment that works in much the same way as a protein conditioner.

  10. I spent years(im 10yrs natural) washing my hair weekly and while it was lo0se and suffered stunted hair gr0wth(stuck at CBL)… It took me following advice fr0m Cipriana of UrbanBushBabes.com 2finally get my hair 2grow beyond cbl. And she 0nly washes her WL hair 0nce a m0nth while in lo0se braids/twist.. Us naturals with Fine hair strand hav2 be EXTREMELY careful with 0ur delicate strands unlike the medium and thick/wiry stranded naturals. Long story short everything does w0rk 4everybody. I stop 0ver manipulating my hair and Im not a couple inches away from BSL :-)

  11. Hello, My hair is relaxed and I get a touch up every 3 months or more. My hair grows pretty fast because after a month and half or so I get new growth! The problem is that my hair comes out in long strands and it’s visibly thinner! Not sure what to do. I started using more oil and I do a weekly oil treatment with several oils combine. Not sure if I should stop the relaxer or if I should do something else. I would appreciate the advice ladies!

    • It’s prob the relaxer, unfortunately. I’ve never had a relaxer so I can’t really give much advice on this besides stop relaxing lol sorry. But if I did have a relaxer, I prob wouldn’t straighten my hair so much. I feel that the point of a relaxer is to relax, and then that’s it! why go the extra length just to get it straighter? Maybe figure out some styles that take advantage of the relaxed texture, rather than further drying the hair with heat to get it straighter. Water saves hair every time, believe it don’t be scared of it. Really! This is the main problem of Black women’s hair, natural and relaxed, we don’t wet it enough and believe that oils, leave-ins, and treatments will be enough. Most likely your problem is moister (as in water, not oil!) and a cleanliness (because you are reluctant to wet your hair because its straight and will revert). I started doing wash and gos, and I am and honest to got 4-type-range natural. My curls literally are 1/4 in diameter or smaller. But I somehow miraculously figured out a wash n go, despite the popular natural-girl opinion not to with my hair type. I wet my hair every day, to fluff it out from sleeping on it with cold water. My hair, and scalp has NEVER felt better. I can see my growth and its only been 3 months with this regimen. So I’m sold on a daily watering. Its helped me, maybe it will help you too.

  12. All I know is my shower has lil hairs all over it when I conditioner comb. I dont comb my hair through out the week . And I get lil to no shedding maybe one hair every other day . So is it shed hair that is coming out?

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