Let’s face it — hair can often be a part of our personal and cultural identity. The number of hair styles, processes, and hair care treatments are as varied as we are as a people.
Additionally, we must constantly keep in mind factors like weather, travel, and athletic activities that can affect our chosen style. Whether your style is natural, braided, processed, locked, twisted or supplemented, there are key factors that can be employed to make your hair look its healthiest and look its very best.
African American hair is especially fragile and can be easily damaged. I and other dermatologists, in conjunction with the American Academy of Dermatology, offer these tips to keep African American hair healthy and beautiful.
- Wash hair once a week or every other week. This will help prevent the build-up of hair care products, as the residue can be drying to the hair. Washing hair weekly also removes scale and flakes that are often confused with dry scalp. Keeping the scalp clean will improve the overall health of hair.
- Use conditioner every time you wash your hair. Be sure to coat the ends of the hair with conditioner, as the ends are the oldest and most fragile part of your hair. I am not a big fan of dandruff shampoos. Dandruff is a problem with the skin, not the hair, and needs a skin treatment. For your hair, use the best shampoo and conditioner available to treat your hair the best. Your stylist can give you great recommendations for premium shampoos and conditioners.
- Use a hot oil treatment twice a month to add additional moisture and elasticity to your hair. For additional suppleness and conditioning, apply a pea-sized amount of light oil like Moroccan oil (argan oil) to the palms of your hands and run them through your hair
- Before styling with heat, apply a heat-protecting product to wet hair to help reduce and minimize heat damage.
- If you would like to relax your hair, see a professional hair-care stylist to ensure that the relaxer is applied safely. Touch-ups should only be done every two to three months and only to new hair that has grown in. Never apply relaxer to hair that has already been relaxed.
- If you would like to press or thermally straighten your hair, use a ceramic comb or iron and only do so once a week. A straightening device with a dial can ensure the device is not too hot. Use the lowest possible temperature setting that gives you the style you want, keeping in mind that a higher temperature may be necessary for thicker, coarser hair.
- When getting braids, cornrows, extensions or weaves make sure they are not too tight. If it hurts when your hair is being styled, ask the stylist to stop and redo it. Pain equals damage.
- A trick used by some dermatologists is to recommend prenatal vitamins. The combination of minerals and vitamins in prenatal vitamins will make hair grow faster, longer and thicker.
Using these tips, one should have happier and healthier hair. If you are experiencing hair problems that don’t improve or resolve with these recommendations, including any noticeable thinning or changes in the appearance or texture of your hair, be sure to see a board-certified dermatologist for help.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He received his M.D. and Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology and Genomics from the Mayo Clinic. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine. Dr. Crutchfield was recognized by Minnesota Medicine as one of the 100 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in Minnesota. He is the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Lynx. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of both the American and National Medical Associations.