I was eating breakfast with my three daughters at a donut shop on a Sunday morning not too long ago, and a lovely lady at the next table struck up a conversation that began with the ultimate compliment.
“What beautiful hair your children have,” she said, sweetly. She then told me that she had a multi-racial granddaughter and was completely befuddled about how to care for her hair challenges.
I know my own mother had been in the same position when I was a little girl, and wasn’t certain where to turn. So it got me thinking about other similar conversations and questions I’ve been asked over the years about hair care, from other moms and grandmas.
Some have come from moms and grandmas who have found themselves in the wonderful – but often frustrating – world of caring for the unique hair challenges of their loved ones. Some questions are from my friends, who have hair like mine, who have become thoroughly convinced that their hair issues never will be resolved.
Over the past few days, I have tried to recall the five most commonly asked questions about shampooing and conditioning multi-ethnic hair.
Deep breath, people. We can handle this!
So here are the Top 5 hair questions I’m most often asked, and my personal and professional opinions on each:
- What products do you use?
- Think first about the kinds of products you are using, rather than the brands. Ask yourself this: What is in the bottle, and what is it supposed to do? OK, done reading the fine print? Let’s move on. Here is what I tell everyone who has hair like my daughters’ or mine: Condition, condition, and condition!
- In past updates, I’ve detailed my story about the hunt for decent products that actually work, and why that fruitless search led to me developing my own line of solutions.
- I use our Many Ethnicities shampoo (for cleaning) and rinse-out conditioner (for initial conditioning). The patented blend of sulfate-free surfactants is blended with an ingredient most commonly used in food called Acyl Lactylates. Together, they provide a unique clean, touch and manageability.
- How much shampoo and conditioner should I use?
- You do not need to use a lot of shampoo. Use an amount that suits the amount of hair you have. Remember, you always can add more if you don’t feel as if you have proper coverage. You can’t add less, if you have turned your shower into a bubble factory.
- Ultimately, you want to get the shampoo into your hair, and then rinsed off completely. Residual shampoo on the scalp is no good.
- Use a liberal amount of conditioner, and leave it on for several minutes. Yes, be patient. I know, we’re all in a hurry. But allow the conditioning ingredients do their job.
- I have never used a “dime” or “quarter-sized” amount of anything! Don’t be afraid of the conditioner; it is safe and key to good detangling and our most valued ally in the battle against frizz. But I have seen some of the online folks who want to put 100 pumps of conditioner in their hair. There’s a limit to everything, and unless you are trying to set a Guinness Book of World Records mark, use your better judgment.
- To finish I use a liberal amount of in Many Ethnicities leave-in conditioner while my hair is still wet. That gives me a little more, yes, moisture. And moisture is good.
- How often should I wash my hair?
- First of all, there is no hard and fast rule about this. It truly depends on your hair type, and the amount of oil your hair naturally retains.
- Daily washes are not always necessary, because they can dry out your hair and lead to damage and breakage.
- Once or twice a week is a general rule of thumb if your hair is on the thicker range of the spectrum. There are factors in play, including the time of the year.
- Nobody knows your hair better than you, and if it doesn’t respond to multiple washings a week, back off a bit and see how it responds.
- Here is how I look at it, both for myself and for our girls:
- We tend to shampoo our hair less in the winter, or when we are in drier, desert climates where the air has less relative humidity.
- There are a ton of mass-market products out there, including co-washes and cleansing conditioners (2-in-1s). But I have never found that these do much for my hair or my daughters. A lot of them are sulfated, which strip away the dirt but also the natural properties of your hair. So less is more, if you are using a lower-cost, mass-market brand. Again, read the label! Know what’s in your bottle!
- I am a bigger advocate of simply cleaning the hair with a gentle, effective shampoo and then conditioning it with a solution that has more natural ingredients in it. Again, our frustration in finding the right formulation in existing brands was what prompted our work with world-class chemists to create the Many Ethnicities line.
- Use a proper shampoo, with moisturizers and some conditioning of its own. There is no issue with shampooing your hair when your hair tells you that it needs cleaning. But always use a conditioning agent in your process.
- When finished in the shower, blot your hair dry with a towel. Don’t rub it and don’t rush (and that’s advice from someone who is always on the go!). Save some time to properly dry your hair, or you will be inadvertently creating frizz and tangling. Let the air be your friend here, too.
- For swimmers or athletes, you can wet your hair in the locker room and then use a rinse-out conditioner between washings. Again, my advice is to not wash multi-ethnic hair more than a couple of times a week.
- And did I mention conditioner? Conditioner is key!
- Can I brush it? Can I brush it or comb it when it’s wet? Dry? Help!
- Brush or comb? The big question, my friends! My answer is that it depends on the thickness of your hair, and the job you are trying to accomplish. Think about the purpose that each is designed to accomplish. For multi-ethnic people, combs are best used when hair is wet. Brushes are more appropriate when you are trying to style your hair after it has been combed through and the tangles and knots removed.
- Combs are great for moving leave-in conditioner through your hair, to tease the hair, and to remove tangles or knots. But always be gentle with combs, because pulling out the hair is the equivalent of plucking a flower.
- How do you know which comb is right for you? If you are pulling out hair while combing, move to a wider-toothed comb.
- Be conscious of the space between teeth on a comb. Wider is better for adult hair. Children and those who have finer hair probably will find that a finer-tooth comb works better for them.
- Having a few combs in your arsenal is a good idea. Start with a wider-toothed comb, and then work your way down to a finer-toothed comb.
- Comb through gently, without pulling out the hair.
- Lastly, as a tip for styling, use a well-made, wide-toothed comb.
- If your hair is still tangled, try a bit more leave-in.
- Brushes are supposed to smooth hair. That’s why their bristles are typically a little shorter, and there is that pad beneath the paddle.
- Brushes also do a pretty good job of distributing your natural oils, and helping to apply your leave-in conditioner more evenly.
- OK, I am also often asked about de-tanglers. Buyer beware! Most are almost all water with some harsher chemicals added in for slip. You probably don’t need this product. Water is typically all you’ll need in combination with a high-quality leave-in.
- Why is multi-ethnic hair more challenging to manage?
- Because it’s beautiful, and beautiful things require additional care! That’s my favorite answer to that question. Think about how intricate your hair is, and the curls, kinks and textures. They are gorgeous, like a work of art.
- Our hair tends to be drier, as you well know.
- Moisturizing is important. We simply don’t have as much natural oil in our hair Remember, curly biracial hair requires moisturizing, as most of us do not have as much natural oil as our straight-haired friends and relatives. That’s just one of our wonderful differences, and the primary uniqueness of our challenge. No big deal.
- We can make it work with a little practice and the right solutions!
That’s all for now! Let me know what hair-related questions are driving you up the wall, and I’ll take them on in a future post.