While everyone’s hair is slightly different, there are hair care tips unique to the care of African-Caribbean hair that are important to maintain healthy locks. African-Caribbean hair has a unique structure and thinner cuticle layer that is prone to breakage and damage and differs from other hair types in many key ways. As a result, a unique hair care regimen is needed.

Understanding Ethnic Hair Types

The overall hair density for people of African descent is lesser than that of other descents, making those with ethnic hair more susceptible to hair disorders and dryness and compromising regeneration efforts. Protective measures among the black community include popular protective styles in the form of braids and twisting. Oftentimes, these hairstyles require additional maintenance and may require even more care than natural hair, especially when it pertains to scalp health. While these measures are fashionable and perfect for styling, especially in the summer, they can lead to further damage through a condition known as traction alopecia, a hair loss condition characterized by repeatedly pulling on hair. Traction alopecia occurs with tight hairstyles, including tight ponytails, buns, braids, and repeated chemical treatments and over-heating.  On an Instagram post on July 7, 2022, world renowned hair restoration specialist, Dr. Christian Bisanga, of Bisanga Hair Restoration (BHR) Clinic, shared with followers that “Hair loss in the African-Caribbean community is a widespread concern for both men and women. Along with male pattern baldness, traction alopecia is a common issue for females due to tight braiding and extensions among other factors. Afro hair presents unique challenges and therefore requires specific expertise.” Being diagnosed with Traction Alopecia can cause alarm to those struggling with hair loss and poor scalp health conditions. The good news is that it can prevented or reversed with proper braid and lock tension and regular breaks in between styles, allowing the hair and follicles to regain strength.  

Washing Recommendations

Dermatologists recommend washing hair once a week to prevent product build up, which can dry hair and cause damage. Because natural scalp oils have a harder time traveling along curly or coiled hair, African-Caribbean hair is more prone to experiencing dryness. Clarifying shampoos and deep conditioning treatments are recommended to help protect the hair from buildup and damage. Additionally, scalp massage helps to promote blood flow and healthy hair growth. After showering or rinsing hair, dry the braids/twists properly by squeezing the water out, but making sure not to pull and create tension. After your hair is dry, you can moisturize it with an oil by massaging the scalp and hair. Some of the best oils to use are jasmine, peppermint, or tea tree, to name a few. Using a hot oil treatment twice a month also promotes hydration and elasticity. A moisturizing spray with aloe, jojoba, or vitamin E lightly spritzed on the scalp can also help protect the scalp from drying out.

Protecting Your Crown

Your hairstyle also plays an important role in determining scalp health, and tight hairstyles are often to blame for hair loss concerns. While maintaining the same hairstyle for an extended period of time is definitely easier, it may contribute toward unsightly hair loss. On average, one braid sheds between 50 and 100 strands per day, forming knots that cause hair breakage and cause a strain on the scalp. Generally speaking, protective hairstyles, such as braids, weaves, and wigs can be worn for 4-6 weeks to avoid breakage or damage to the hair. Hair and Beauty Educator, Latiqua Williams, shares that each individual must have a firm understanding of the hair’s porosity prior to getting any protective styles. She shares her top six tips she personally follows to keep her hair healthy:

1. Deep condition your hair before getting your hair braided. Biotin Shampoo and condition is a great option.

2. Don’t trim your ends, you should try to apply a leave in conditioner on the ends to seal them. If you have any frizzy hair, apply a setting foam to seal the ends.

3. Make sure your stylists knows how to properly care for your scalp. Your braids do not need to be tight, as this will cause traction alopecia.

4. Pamper your scalp with fresh aloe spray, applying aloe directly to the scalp after taking out your protective style.

5. Don’t let your braids wear out their welcome. If you notice you scalp itching, and you start scratching with a comb or patting your hair, then your braids have worn out their welcome.

6. Wear a satin hair wrap and drink plenty of water!

Take a Breather

When taking breaks in between new braided and twisted styles, try to stay away from heat. Applying too much heat isn’t good for any type of hair, but it may be especially worse for African-Caribbean hair. Textured hair has a structure unlike other hair types. Because the cuticles remain more open than others, high and medium heat during a break can severely damage hair and curl patterns. If heat is required, using a diffuser attachment to help to protect the scalp may keep hair from over drying. Ultimately, keeping the hair in its natural state in between braided styles is the way to go if you want to avoid damage and dryness. In addition to providing hair proper time to rest, hair vitamin supplements found in the LOCKrx Hair Support Collection help to balance stress hormones and are packed with healthy hair vitamins, like Vitamin A, C, D, biotin, spirulina and Ashwagandha. When taken regularly as part of a healthy hair habit routine, visible results can be seen in 4-6 months. Dr. Michael Carter, a functional medicine physician, recommends the comprehensive LOCKrx product line, including supplements, to his patients. He notes, "The LOCKrx supplements are key to improving your overall health and hair issues. In addition, in-depth testing of your sex hormones, thyroid, and adrenal gland functions as well as tests to see if you have any food sensitivities, biotoxins, or nutrient deficiencies can be helpful in identifying root causes of hair loss. The goal is to be at optimal health so that your hair will be healthy, too."

All in all, braids and twists are a wonderful way to protect your hair and keep styling maintenance at a low, but if you want to keep your hair healthy, make sure to give your locks room to breathe as well. Good health habits begin in childhood and continue through adulthood. If you have young children, help them to create healthy habits from an early age and teach them the benefits of giving their hair a break from tight hair styles and a chance to breathe!