5 Essential Natural Hair Care Tips from Philly Salon Owners

Keep your hair looking naturally beautiful.

Natural Hair

Celebrate your natural mane. | iStock.

It’s no secret that women of color across the globe have been jumping on the #TeamNatural train and embracing their beautiful, all-natural curls and textures. But sometimes it can be a struggle deciding what treatments and styles are right for your hair (not to mention the eternal fight against dehydration, shedding and shrinkage). Two of Philly’s best natural hair salon owners tell us the best natural hair care tips they’ve learned over the years. Read on to find the essential products, treatments, and maintenance practices to keep your God-given curls in top shape. Take notes, ladies.

Psst: If you’re thinking about transitioning from relaxed to natural hair, this post is for you!

#1. Good hair care begins with your diet.
As the old adage goes, you are what you eat. Syreeta Scott, owner of Duafe Hollistic Hair Care, explains, “Factors such as dehydration, vitamin deficiencies and unhealthy diets can result in dry, brittle hair. Beta-carotene is essential for hair growth and can be found in vegetables such as yams, winter squash, turnip greens, carrots, kale and spinach. Vitamins B3 and E promote scalp blood circulation. Vitamin B5 prevents graying, and Vitamin B6 and B12 prevent hair loss.” (Syreeta has been a salon owner for over 15 years, managing the manes of local celebs like Jill Scott and The Roots’ ?uestlove.)

Kim Rollins of East Passyunk’s Oxsun Natural Hair Spa echoes this advice: “Getting a 15-minute steaming treatment and five-minute scalp massage increases blood flow and stimulates hair follicles to produce more healthy sebum.”

#2. Say no to chemical processes and heat-based styles.
Duafe offers free consultations and a wide range of services, but one thing they don’t do is perms. “If your hair goal is to stay true to your natural curl pattern, avoid excessive blow-drying and press-and-curl styles,” says Syreeta. Let your hair air-dry or use the t-shirt drying method, and soon you’ll be rocking a beautiful head of moveable coils and two-strand twists.

#3. For loc styles, stick to products that are lightweight, clear, and rinse clean.
With so many myths about the best styling products to maintain locs, Syreeta wants to set the record straight: “Shea butters, cremes, and brown gel should not be used to tighten your locs. Products like those can create a build-up of residue which stunts hair growth.” Instead, go for styling products based in aloe vera and grape seed oil, as well as ones containing antiseptics like tea tree and rosemary oils to fend off bacteria. Locs are like sponges — would you put honey on a sponge? We didn’t think so.

#4. The secret to long-lasting braid styles is careful maintenance.
The standard longevity of individual braids is around two to three months, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them in the meantime. “Five to six weeks after the initial appointment, have your stylist re-do the four rows of the perimeter and six rows of your crown,” says Syreeta. This ensures that the weight of the braided hair does not damage your new growth. Just be sure to wear these styles in moderation: Too-tight braids, extensions and weaves can cause sudden hair loss.

To keep hair looking fresh, Kim says, “Make sure to wrap your hair in a silk scarf before you go to sleep to keep your ends looking good and lock in moisture that can easily be lost on the pillow.” Wrapping and staying hydrated are crucial for rocking high-volume styles like elegant faux-hawk up-dos, topknots and French-braided buns.

#5. Make sure you aren’t washing your hair too much.
It’s a simple philosophy: Natural hair requires more natural oils to thrive. Shampoo (especially one with sulfates) acts as a detergent, stripping the hair of moisture and leaving your natural curls and kinks brittle. So just how often you should wash your hair? It really depends on your lifestyle, product usage, even the climate, but try not to go longer than two weeks without a wash. “A healthy hair habit is to dilute your shampoo with water before applying to your hair,” says Syreeta. That way, it won’t completely rid your scalp of those natural oils. At home, you can treat yourself to a monthly hot-oil treatment before you shampoo to replenish those healthy oils—it takes all of 20 minutes and a shower cap.

The Details: Duafe Hollistic Hair Care, 3129 North 22nd Street, Allegheny West, 267-297-7636. Oxsun Natural Hair Spa, 1010 East Passyunk Avenue, Bella Vista, 215-893-9133.