Chemical relaxer kits, Brazilian blowouts, and flat-irons are treasured tools in an era in which stick-straight hair has become synonymous with “good” hair. The catch-22: these styling staples are pretty destructive. That’s why more and more women are embracing their natural texture. Toddre Monier, a staff member here at Thrive HQ, is no exception. Her hair motto? “Healthy hair is good hair.”
Toddre is all about encouraging those with curly or kinky hair to just go with it. “Your curls are your curls,” she says. “Regardless of the texture or length, embrace them and love them.” An increasing number of women share her sentiment. Between 2006 and 2011, sales of hair-straightening relaxer kits dropped 17 percent; and in a 2014 survey published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 40 percent of 200 African American women reported wearing their hair in its natural curly state.
Truth is, more and more people share a growing consciousness about caring for their tresses with chemical-free, organic, and cruelty-free ingredients. For the best and healthiest ways to nourish African American hair specifically, we tapped the knowledge of four Thrive Market staffers with the fiercest curls we’ve ever seen, each with varying hair types and textures. Here they share the inside scoop on how they care for their natural locks and share their styling secrets.
Tiny Corkscrew Curls
With tighter curls, Jasmine alternates between a wet-and-go style that’s defined, shiny, and bouncy, and a more voluminous style she calls a “foxy fro.”
Wet-and-go how-to: Jasmine coats her ends with sunflower or jojoba oil to protect them, and then completely soaks hair in warm water. She then shampoos with a shea butter and coconut body wash—gamechanger!—and rinses with lukewarm water (she finds hot water too drying). She follows that by generously coating the strands with a coconut oil–based conditioner, gently squeezing out the excess without rinsing. The finishing touch is a detangler made of sea kelp, argan oil, and shea butter—gently combed through with the fingers.
Foxy fro how-to: Jasmine does the same as above, but skips the detangler, and instead ties hair into a high ponytail and allows it to dry overnight. In the morning she warms a quarter-sized dollop of raw shea butter between the palms and rakes it through her locks with her fingers to loosen the curls and smooth the edges.
Tiffany’s kinky-curly locks vary in texture. “With so many textures, twist-outs create a more unified look for my strands,” she says, “and the style helps keep moisture in and minimize breakage.”
Care routine: Tiffany deep conditions once a week for 30 minutes to an hour using a mask infused with sea kelp, argan oil, and shea butter. To cleanse afterwards, she uses Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Invigorating Shampoo.
Twist-out how-to: To get her go-to style, Tiffany split hairs into sections using her fingers, and applies a blend of coconut, castor, avocado, jojoba, and argan oils (in a pinch, argan oil alone does the trick). She then twists two sections of hair around each other to seal in moisture, and allows it all to air-dry overnight. In the morning, she unravels the twists, separates hair into sections, fluffs, and styles it to finish the look. To maintain it, she’ll spritz hair with water and re-twist at night, and it usually lasts for a couple of days.
Fine, Loose Curls
With soft and fine loose curls, Curtrice has to be conservative with product to avoid her hair looking limp and oily.
Care routine: Curtrice’s version of a wet-and-go style involves co-washing (washing with conditioner only) with Giovanni 50:50 Balanced Hydrating-Calming Conditioner once a week, and shampooing bi-weekly with Giovanni 50:50 Balanced Hydrating-Clarifying Shampoo (followed up with the conditioner). After washing, she applies coconut oil to fight frizz and a leave-in conditioner blend of aloe vera and lemongrass oil. For deep conditioning, she uses an avocado-coconut oil hair mask.
Top natural-hair tip: Curtrice braids her locks in three large braids overnight to elongate the strands, then unravels them in the morning to reveal her hair’s signature light, carefree look.
"Let [curls] do their thing. The sooner you can accept that they have a mind of their own, the happier you'll be." –Toddre
“Handle your curls with love,” says Toddre. “If you’re constantly pulling and tugging your hair into submission while cursing the curls you were born with, [they] will continue to be just that … a curse.”
Care routine: Toddre mixes up a spritzer of alkaline water, lavender oil, and vegetable glycerine to refresh curls in the morning and throughout the day. Biweekly, she co-washes with a coconut oil–based conditioner and deep conditions with pure, organic coconut oil overnight.
Top natural-hair tip: Toddre says one of the keys to natural hair care is knowing its porosity. Low-porosity hair doesn’t need as much product—too much can weigh it down. It does, however, require extra moisture. High-porosity hair, on the other hand, absorbs product very well, so it loves to soak it up. To figure out your hair’s porosity, drop a strand into a glass of water—if it floats, it has a low porosity, and if it sinks, it has a high porosity.
Wise words of advice: “Allow your curls to go in the direction they choose. The beauty of curls is that you can't predict what they’ll do from day to day or month to month. Let them do their thing. The sooner you can accept that they have a mind of their own, the happier you’ll be.”
Photo credit: Alicia Cho