When the lights went out in Houston during Winter Storm Uri, the last thing on my mind was how I was going to wash my hair. It didn’t matter that it had already been over 2 weeks since my last wash day because we went through an intense move with an active toddler and were still digging through boxes to find basic necessities.
No. What went through my head was how am I going to keep my toddler warm through all of this this?
But I’m not gonna lie. By the end of a week after no power and no water, my hair was as dry as a rice cake and in need of some serious TLC. If you suffer from excessively dry natural hair, I’ve got you covered. In this post, I outline my 5-step process for taking my hair from dry and dull to soft and supple.
The temperature was already 14 degrees Fahrenheit with a “Feels Like” 1 degree. Now, if you’re from Texas, you know these are not temperatures we’re used to.
When we lost power at 5:15 am, the temperature inside the house was 73 degrees. By 6:30 am, it had dropped to 65 degrees, and by 2 pm, it was 55 degrees. It was then we got the news that CenterPoint–Houston’s gas and power supplier–wasn’t expecting the power to return for at least 48 hours. With no fireplace or source for generating heat, and with temperatures predicted to fall even lower than they were that morning (we had now entered the warmest point of the day), we knew we needed to find somewhere else to stay.
At the time, we didn’t know that “48 hours” would turn into a week-long of absolute pandemonium that I described in this video. With no power, and water in short supply, we were barely taking “showers” (skills from living in a third world country really kicked in on this one) and my hair was a non-thought.
Luckily, I had one spray bottle with me that was filled with water before this winter storm-aggedon went down and my only maintenance was a few quick spritz around my crown to “smooth” my edges (aka sort of look presentable each time we went out to hunt for supplies) and re-tie my hair into a high puff. I mean, THANK GOD natural hair is supposed to be a bit wild and frizzy (I may have taken it to the extreme), because I would’ve looked crazy otherwise.
But by the end of the week, I’m not gonna lie, I was DYING to wash my hair. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t mind procrastinating on wash day–it tends to be a long day and the way my toddler is set up, she doesn’t know how to wait for mommy to be done with her hair. But it had been three weeks by this point since my tresses touched water that flowed freely from a showerhead. Or a faucet. Any faucet.
My hair was dry, it was crunchy, and it was starting to look like Don King was my muse. So if you’re like me, and it’s been a while since you’ve given your hair the respect it deserves or, you know, are recovering from any of the winter storms (I mean, pick one, global warming was not playing with us in 2021!) then you’re probably wondering where to start with restoring moisture to back to your hair.
Below are the 5 steps I take to infuse my hair with moisture and restore it back to life:
- Pre-Poo with the Right Oils
I can’t tell you how often people look at me like I have horns growing out of the side of my head whenever I tell them I pre-poo. That’s also probably because I work with a lot of women just starting out on their natural hair journey and they’ve never heard that word before. I get it. It’s a weird word, and the natural hair community loves to come up with all forms of interesting phrases to label the different processes of wash day.
First things first. I wrote all about what a pre-poo is and its benefits in this post, but the short version is it’s what to do with your hair before you shampoo. To get the details about why you might want to try this, click here.
What’s really important, however, is the combination of ingredients you use to pre-poo. Admittedly, I don’t pre-poo every wash day, but when I do, it’s usually just to inject a bit more moisture into my strands, not a super intensive repair session. On those run-of-the-mill wash days, I typically will pre-poo with one oil and maybe one conditioner. But when life gets in the way and I’ve gone a minute without washing or properly caring for my hair, my focus is on getting as many nutrients back into my hair shaft as possible, which requires a mix of several oils.
Some of my favorite oils include:
- Almond oil
- Safflower oil
- Castor oil
- Wheat germ oil
- Vitamins E, A & D (okay, these are technically three separate oils, but you get the picture)
You can get these individually, DIY a mix or buy a product containing all of the above ingredients.
- Wash and condition with moisture-infusing products from the same line
I’m not the kind of natural who will tell you to “water wash” your hair or to wash your hair with conditioner. Not even when your hair is as dry as the sand in the Sahara. Why? If you’ve gone a while without washing your hair, yes, your hair is dry because it hasn’t come into contact with water. But your hair is probably also dirty. Conditioner is not a cleansing agent and water by itself isn’t enough to cleanse your hair from all the impurities it soaked up from the surrounding environment or to remove any products you used since your last wash day. Clean hair is the bedrock of healthy hair. And this is a hill I will die on, y’all.
What you want to use is a non-stripping, moisturizing shampoo and conditioner from the same line in the same brand. Why do I recommend that they be from the same line? Because products from the same line are specifically formulated to work together.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you may know that I started my natural hair journey by transitioning for two years. Back then, you could definitely label me a product junkie. I went through so much product and spent more money than I care to admit, only to be disappointed by the products I used. A typical Target run might look like this: I’d get a shampoo from SheaMoisture (whatever was on the shelf in the “Afro Hair” corner–you know the one), a conditioner from As I Am, and a deep conditioner from Cantu. All the products might claim to have hydrating, detangling properties, but what I was left with was a tangled mess of hair and a whole lot of frustration.
It wasn’t until I sat myself down and started researching how products worked together that I understood why I wasn’t seeing results. Because while each of these products did in fact have moisturizing or detangling ingredients, when you put them together, some of the ingredients in the different products cancelled each other out. So unless you want to diligently go through the entire ingredient list on all of the products you’re using for a particular process in your wash day, it’s just easier to find a combo, particularly for the washing and conditioning portion of the process, that are from the same line.
- Deep Condition
But wait a second, if I washed and conditioned my hair already, do I really need to deep condition? The answer is a hearty YES! Deep conditioning is like … doing the dishes. No one really wants to do it, but without clean dishes, it’s awfully hard to sit down and enjoy a good meal.
Look, I get it. Unless you’re going into the salon or are lucky enough to have someone coming to you, many of us wash our hair while we’re taking a shower. And it’s a pain in the butt to disrupt your process, step OUT of the shower, towel off so that you can deep condition properly for a specific amount of time, step BACK into the shower only to get wet again and rinse the conditioner out.
But here’s the deal. The deep condition sets the foundation for your hair to behave while you are styling and to retain moisture for the rest of the week. It also plays a vital role in moisture-training your hair. Which is what you need when you are trying to restore moisture to your hair after a long period of neglect. So yes, deep condition.
- Use an Ultra-Conditioning Leave-In
Now I’m not talking about a lightweight leave-in spray. That’s not gonna cut it this time. If you’ve gone a long time without doing anything to your hair, it’s imperative that you’re infusing moisture at each step of your wash day. So for this kind of restorative process, you’re going to need a leave-in with a fair amount of humectants. A humectant is simply a substance used to keep things moist for a longer period of time by drawing moisture of the air–I’m talking about honey, aloe vera, molasses, natural butters, certain pomades, heck, even glycerin (if that’s your thing).
Don’t get this process confused with something you should do every day or even wash day–depending on the humectants you use, you could end up drying your hair out if you don’t know what you are doing or suffer from hygral fatigue or over conditioning. This particular method is only for the times you need to restore your hair to a healthier state due to what I’m going to call cuticle dehydration–the moisture depleted state of the hair after long periods of neglect.
- Oil Your scalp and Your Tresses
The last step in the process is to oil your scalp and tresses. You probably haven’t heard a lot of people tell you to actually oil your scalp. But think of it this way, your hair and scalp are skin. If you stepped out of the shower and didn’t lotion your skin, it would be incredibly dry in a matter of minutes. As the day goes on, your skin will begin to feel tight and possibly even itchy. But, if you put on lotion (particularly a good one), your skin is likely to stay hydrated for the rest of the day and possibly until you head back into the shower the next day.
Here’s the deal. You need to maintain a healthy scalp for hair growth and to prevent hair loss. So, the same principle applies to your scalp and hair. Once you’re through with the process of washing your hair, you need to trap all the moisture in the hair shaft. This is often referred to as “sealing in” the moisture and you’ve probably been told to do this with an oil or a butter if you follow the LOC or LCO method.
But, like the skin and lotion example, your scalp also needs to lock in moisture or it will get dry and itchy. I wouldn’t use a heavy oil on your scalp (even if your hair might need it) because you don’t want to clog your pores. Vitamin E in oil form works really well for this step and will leave your scalp feeling moisturized without being greasy.
That’s it. From here, you can style as normal–although, I would not recommend a wash and go right after a dry spell (if that’s your normal go-to style—it’s mine). Natural hair needs to be moisture-trained because it adjusts to the level of moisture it receives. If you’ve gone a long time without washing your hair, it will take on more or its characteristics of being dry versus moisturized for one or two more wash days. So, in my opinion, a low maintenance, semi-protective style is the way to go after that first wash day after a dry spell. That being said, go ahead do you. But don’t say I didn’t warn ya.
If you would like to see the exact list of products I used to revitalize my natural hair from start to finish, click the button below to get my FREE Natural Hair Moisture Restoration Guide .