As addressed in previous issues, detangling and cleansing the hair are major parts of the hair care process and so is conditioning. Today we will be looking at the importance of conditioning and smoothing the hair, how to condition it and also what conditioners do to help preserve the hair shaft. When cleansing your hair, the outer cuticle layers of your hair strands are lifted. In this state, your hair is more vulnerable to breakage as the outer cuticles which act as protective layers of the hair strands are not lying flat against the shaft. While these layers are lifted, it also makes it easier for the hairs to latch on to surrounding hairs and become tangled. This is especially so with afro-textured hair. Moisture is also lost from the hair during this cleansing process, and moisture is very important in the preservation of the hair shaft. This is where conditioning comes in. Conditioning helps to smooth the cuticles of the hair shaft in one direction. It also adds some moisture back to the hair allowing it to better withstand warm climates which dry out the hair. Proper moisturising with essential oils also help to a greater extent in the protection of the hair from the UV rays of the sun. This will be discussed next week. There are two main reasons why smoothing the hair in the same direction is important. The first reason has to do with conditioning. In Chicoro’s book ‘Grow it!’ she says, “You condition your hair to help smooth the cuticles, with the result that the hair feels smoother and softer to the touch after the conditioning treatment.” Secondly, smoothing the hair downward from roots to ends also allows you to familiarise yourself with your hair. For example, if you are using one conditioner for a while that makes your hair feel soft and smooth, then when you switch conditioners, you will be able to recognise if there was a difference in the way your hair feels because you’ve become accustomed to it.
So, how do I condition my hair?
After cleansing your hair, it is important that you put some moisture back into it by using a conditioner. From my experience, deep conditioners work much better in getting moisture back into the hair which was lost during the cleansing stage. Before conditioning, section your hair and begin by applying a generous amount to each section. Smooth the hair from roots to ends. After doing this, take a wide toothed comb and pass it through the section, beginning about two inches from the ends and combing downwards. Place the comb about two inches higher each time and continue to comb downward until you have combed through the hair from roots to ends. This detangling method helps to distribute the conditioner throughout the hair. It is also best to detangle the hair thoroughly at this stage as it has less chances of breaking as it is neither entirely wet nor dry. The conditioner allows the comb to slip through the hair instead of scraping through it when it is dry or sliding through it when it is wet and the outer cuticle layer is lifted. Continue this method of detangling with the comb until all the hair has conditioner. Depending on the conditioner you’re using, you may have to place a plastic cap over your hair in order to get the true effect of the conditioner. Therefore, I suggest that you read the instructions carefully before you start to use (or even buy) a product. Blindly following advertisements for products can lead you to buy things that are not necessarily good for your hair. So how does this method of conditioning help to preserve the structure of the hair shaft? It helps by smoothing the cuticles of the hair shaft in one direction and also gets you in the habit of regularly examining your hair, so that you can anticipate its needs before you start to see damage. Be certain to read all instructions before using a product, as this can affect your benefits from it.
Next week: Moisturising Part 1