Hi Jen, this might be you’re most asked question but I’m just starting out in my hair journey and I have no clue where to start. Can you tell me what you think a good “starter regimen” is? I also relax my hair every 6 weeks and straighten it every weekend *shame face*
Hi Mina, building a regimen that works best for your hair is the trickiest part of a hair journey. For newbies just starting out, I always like to suggest they focus on moisture (rather than protein) for two reasons. First, prior to starting a hair journey it’s unlikely our hair received the necessary levels of moisture it needs to thrive. Second, it’s much easier to correct moisture overload (when hair receives too much moisture and as a result feels very mushy by doing a protein treatment. Protein overload takes longer to correct and requires focusing on moisture for a few washes (sometimes weeks).
Alright-y, with that being said, here’s my take on a basic moisture-centered regimen:
- Shampoo once a week with a moisturizing shampoo.
- Shampoo with a clarifying or chelating shampoo once a month.
- Deep condition with moisturizing deep conditioner after shampooing.
- Apply leave-in conditioner or moisturizer, followed by serum or light oil to seal in the leave-in or moisturizer.
- Roller set or air dry. When you air drying, you can choose to do dry in braids or twists for a braid out or twist out.
- During the week: moisturize and seal.
• Moisturizing shampoo. A good moisturizing shampoo is one that cleanses while softening and detangling your hair. When purchasing a shampoo that claims to be “moisturizing,” scan the ingredients. If you spot multiple sulfates (e.g. ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate), the shampoo is geared towards removing product buildup and oils from the hair rather than providing moisture. If you want to avoid sulfates all together, that’s certainly possible. There are many sulfate-free moisturizing shampoos on the market that clean the hair while moisturizing. My reviews of a few moisturizing shampoos can be found here.
• Clarifying & Chelating shampoo. A good clarifying shampoo will deep clean to remove product build up and oils without stripping the hair. A chelating shampoo deep cleans as well but hair but also removes minerals that have attached to the hair from hard water and even no-lye relaxers. When minerals and products build up on the hair they prevent conditioners and moisturizers from penetrating into the hair.
• Moisturizing deep conditioner. When looking for a moisturizing deep conditioner, scan the ingredients for a few things. Look for fatty alcohols like cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol. Fatty alcohols are emollients, moisturize and condition our hair, and provide slip. Also look for humectants like glycerin, aloe vera, and honey. Humectants draw moisture into the air but be careful. If your hair is very porous your hair will drink up moisture easily. Too much moisture will lead to moisture overload.
• Protein conditioner. Protein conditioners come in various strengths (e.g. a hard protein treatment like ApHogee Two Step Protein Treatment, a milder protein treatment like Silk Dreams Hair Care Mocha Silk Infusion). The strength you use depends on how sensitive your hair is to protein. For some (like me) milder protein treatments get the job done without risking protein overload, for others using a hard protein treatment is just what the hair doctor ordered.
• Moisturizing leave-in / Moisturizer. Many moisturizers can be used as leave-in conditioners. Water-based moisturizers help restore moisture to your hair in between deep conditioning sessions. My reviews of moisturizers can be found here.
• A light oil to seal in the moisturizer, like coconut or grapeseed oil. Using an oil to seal in your moisturizer traps moisture into your hair. For more on the benefits of sealing, check out this post.
Reduce Direct Heat
Overusing heat styling tools like blow dryers, curling irons, and flat irons dries out the hair and opens the door for breakage (and setbacks!). When first starting out on your healthy hair journey, it’s a wise decision to reduce your use of direct heat and focus on improve its health. Roller sets are a great way to straighten hair without using direct heat. When using direct heat don’t forget to use a heat protectant!
In my opinion, it’s in your best interest to stretch your relaxers. Look at it this way: the last thing you want to do when relaxing your hair is apply relaxer directly to the hair that has already been relaxed. This will lead to overprocessed, weakened hair that is susceptible to breakage. If your hair grows the average of half an inch a month, by stretching your relaxers to at least 8 weeks, in two months time you’ll have at least an inch of new growth. By extending the number of weeks between touch ups, the more new growth you have = the more area of have to work with, making it easier to avoid applying relaxer to your previously relaxed hair. For more on stretching your relaxer, check out this post and this post.
I hope this helps point you in the right direction Mina! If you have any tips to add for Mina, please share them in the comments!