African-American hair is difficult to keep healthy. Like people of all colors, African-Americans must pay careful attention to their hair care regimen to grow hair at its best. Typically, African-American hair is coarse and thick, and often tightly curled in "naps." This unusual texture causes many African-Americans to resort to using harsh heat styling or chemical relaxers to tame their hair. Using these styling aids can leave hair dry, damaged and weak, requiring extra-special care to bring hair back to life.
Trim your hair regularly to remove dry, damaged ends. Avoid leaving dead ends on the hair, as these can split further up the hair shaft and cause additional damage. Schedule trims once every six to 12 weeks for best results.
Take care when brushing or combing to avoid further damage to your hair. Use boar's hair brushes and wide-toothed wooden combs for gentler styling. Brush hair often to redistribute natural oils throughout the hair. Avoid combing or brushing through hair while it's wet, as this can cause further damage and breakage.
Reduce how often you wash your hair; too-frequent washing leads to further dryness and breakage. Wash hair as infrequently as biweekly if possible; use dry shampoos to freshen the hair and tamp down oil between washings. Use strengthening shampoos designed for dry or damaged hair. Massage the scalp while washing to improve circulation, as this can aid hair growth.
Condition hair diligently. Use conditioner after each washing, as well as between washes. Pay special attention to the ends of the hair during conditioning; this hair is the oldest, and is typically the most damaged. Use conditioners formulated for dry or damaged hair; these formulas are generally thicker and richer than other conditioning products. Use nourishing leave-in conditioners between showers and while styling for extra relief.
Opt for more natural hairstyles while you're trying to repair your hair. Braid, twist or set your hair for style that doesn't require heat or chemical treatments. Take care not to braid or pull hair too tightly; this can cause hair loss in the areas that are pulled too tightly, known as traction alopecia. Avoid dyes, relaxers and perms. Use heat-protectant spray before drying in the event heat styling is unavoidable, and use heat sparingly.
Pamper your hair with special treatments. Use hot oil treatments or hair masks in addition to your ramped-up conditioning regimen. Try vitamin E, protein or cholesterol treatments formulated for dry and damaged hair. Find treatments at any drugstore, beauty supply or salon. Choose a product with nourishing ingredients, such as jojoba or coconut oil.
Healthy hair also relies on your diet and lifestyle. Stress and insufficient rest can have negative effects on hair's health, as can poor lifestyle habits such as smoking. Adopt a healthier diet, and take a multivitamin with iron and vitamin B-12 to boost hair growth and repair.
Severely damaged hair may require a short haircut to eliminate all the dead and split ends. This is often the simplest, fastest way to get your hair back to a healthy state. Ask your stylist to help you find a flattering style cut above where the damage begins.