SURVIVING NATURAL HAIR DURING COVID-19

Super curly natural hair with a section that's being stretched out with a hand

COVID-19 has thrown a mighty curve ball when it comes to personal upkeep. Whether that means maintaining acrylic nails, hair color, or even natural hair styling, there’s a lot to learn for folks who haven’t had to do this work themselves.

I can’t speak to nails or coloring roots, but I can speak to natural hair based on my own experience.

Please note that what I have to say about natural hair care is extremely niche. There are some things that can be broadcast to the general readership, but I want you to know that, for the most part, I’m speaking to a very specific group of people: people for whom mainstream hair products don’t provide the moisture you need, people for whom heavy butters and products just weigh your hair down, people who have issues with products flaking on their hair rather than moisturizing it. There’s a lot that I can’t go into in one post. But I hope to provide a general gist of what to expect if you’re new to natural hair care.

So to start, here are a couple of things you’ll need to do/keep in mind as you maintain your hair yourself.

  • Create a routine if you haven’t already.
  • This is the best time to practice your braiding/twisting skills, and your styling skills because no one will see you.
  • You still need to trim regularly. Make sure you have a pair of sharp scissors on hand.
  • Protective style as much as possible because again, no one will see you. Or you can invest in satin-lined hats and headwraps to protect your hair and still look stylish.

The goal is to protect your hair and keep it healthy until you can get back to your stylist.

So, here are a few tips that I hope can help you manage a natural hair care routine in the age of COVID-19.

Standing woman of color combing her hair

If you haven’t already, you need to create an at-home routine for your hair care.

For me, that means setting aside a day and time that’s dedicated to just doing my hair. If you haven’t tried to maintain your own natural hair, trust me. Depending on your hair and what you’re trying to accomplish, the amount of time you need to allocate to care for your hair every week will vary, but be prepared to set aside at least one entire day per week. For example, if I’m doing my regular wash routine and plan to wear my hair out, I’d allocate about 4 hours. If I’m planning to braid my hair, I’d allocate about 6 hours. I know it sounds like a lot, but the curlier your hair is, the more time you’ll need to be gentle with it and prevent breakage.

On that day, you’re going to shampoo, condition, detangle, and style your hair. 

It’s a lot. That’s why you need a day.

The quality of your products is key. This post doesn’t go into which products are right for you because that’s a very individual decision, and what’s right for one person won’t be right for someone else.

But in general, you’ll need a cleanser, a conditioner, maybe a protein treatment depending on your hair type, some scissors, a tool for detangling, some practice, and some patience…a lot of patience to go with all the practicing you’ll be doing. Test out products, testing styling tools and methods, and a host of other skills. Take advantage of the stay-at-home orders to practice, to test, and see what works for you.

Your routine is going to vary based on your hair type and lifestyle. But a general rule of thumb is to set aside one day each week for your hair care routine. That means weekly washing, conditioning, and styling. If you find that your lifestyle or hair type doesn’t abide 1x per week, then alter the timing to fit your needs. Do 2x a week, or 2x a month depending on what your hair tells you to do. But keeping to a routine is going to be key to maintaining healthy natural hair while we’re all stuck at home.

different hair care products, bottles, containers, combs, brushes, and a towel

The one bright spot about COVID-19 where natural hair care is concerned is that it’s the perfect time to practice, whether that be trying out new products, styling, or protecting your hair with hats and head wraps. 

No one that’s not your family is going to see you if you mess up your style or your plaits. And if you have to be in public for any reason, you can always wrap up your hair or wear a hat. Dress codes have flown out the window. So, if you’ve never styled your own hair before, now is the perfect time to experiment. Check out Youtube and Pinterest for styling ideas. But remember…have patience if your style doesn’t turn out exactly like in the video or picture. All of this is going to take time to get right. So, be kind to yourself and laugh off any imperfections and try again the next week. You’ll get better : )

You still need to trim. 

Decide what your trim schedule is. For people looking to maintain their current length, trimming every 6-8 weeks is optimal. For those looking to grow out their hair, you should trim about 4 times a year (or once every 3 months). Again, this timeline varies by hair type and lifestyle. Some folks’ hair grows faster than others, so you can adjust this schedule according to your hair goals. But make sure you have a SHARP pair of scissors when you decide to trim. Dull scissors cause more harm than you think and leave you with more split ends than you started with. Also, when cutting, aim to cut about ¼  to ½ and inch. Cutting that amount will allow you to get rid of some split ends and fairy knots (you know, those tiny knots that form at the ends of your hair if you regularly wear your hair out and natural).

woman trimming the ends of her hair with scissors

You’ll also need to decide how you want to trim your hair. 

In all honesty, straightening your hair before trimming (if your hair is curly) it is the easiest and most effective option because you’ll be able to easily see how much you’re cutting and where you need to cut. I recommend using a blow dryer with a comb attachment (for super curly hair), and blow drying your hair straight. Not perfectly straight, because you want to avoid heat training your hair to be straight. But just straight enough so that you can trim it with relative ease. Seeing where to trim is going to be easier the longer your hair is. For super short dos, I recommend using a mirror so that you don’t cut off more than you intend to. Once it’s all said and done, I recommend using a protein or henna treatment on your next wash day to help preserve your curls if you’re not into heat trained hair.

Again, nothing mentioned here is meant to be a one-size-fits-all kind of post on natural hair care. It’s just meant to be a general guide for folks that have never had to care for their own natural hair and don’t know where to start. You start by taking it easy on yourself and practicing patience. The products you may need might be late getting to you, or your style might not turn out just the way you want. Give yourself some grace. It’ll get better with time, patience, and practice. It always gets better. 

Black woman wearing bright read and orange scarf over her hair

Protect. Protect. Protect. 

Protecting your hair is going to mean something different for every hair type. In general, it typically means braided styles and satin lined wraps to protect hair while doing chores and sleeping. Satin reduces the friction on your hair and therefore reduces breakage while sleeping and doing any other activity that involves a fabric rubbing against your hair. So make sure you have a satin-lined option to protect your hair no matter what you’re doing. If scarves or head wraps are your thing to help protective style, you won’t won’t need to worry so much about a satin lining because the fabric of headwraps doesn’t move, so there’s not really much friction that can cause damage to your hair. But again, here’s your chance to practice protective styling your hair that you might not have had the courage to do in the past. For example, my go-to protective style is two-strand twists. Considering my hair isn’t naturally dense, two-strand twists by themselves aren’t the most attractive protective style. All the same though, I’ve found them to be the most effective at maintaining the health of my hair and minimizing manipulation of my very fine coils.

 

So those are my tips. But I just want to reiterate that I’m not a professional stylist. But I wanted to give newbies a general idea of what to expect when taking care of their natural hair themselves for the first time. It’s not an easy endeavor because there’s still a lot of trial and error involved. But it can be done with a little bit of patience and acceptance.