Every natural is sure to experience the anxiety of trying to pick from the countless amount of products in store and online. What product is best for my hair type? What even is my hair type? What even is a hair type? Every question about your hair and its needs seems to lead to another one. Whether it has to do with researching your hair’s needs or finding the right product combo, your natural journey is and will be a test of patience, if anything.
Unless you’re applying chemicals that physically change your hair’s texture or curl pattern, damaging your hair overnight is nearly impossible. Naturally, this makes repairing your hair overnight – as appealing as it sounds – just as unlikely. But, don’t worry your curly little heads! Even though a head of luscious curls and springy coils can’t be grown overnight, taking the steps provided later will jumpstart the process. To understand why repairing hair takes time, and sometimes more time than it does to damage your hair, let’s look at what happens when your hair is in a damaged, unhealthy state.
Let’s start off with the difference between damaged and unhealthy hair. Damaged hair is automatically unhealthy; it is prone to breakage and split ends that is normally caused by some kind of chemical and or heat damage. This chemical or heat damage can be from things like relaxers, flat irons, or even a blow dryer. On the flip side, unhealthy hair, or hair in an unhealthy state, is not automatically damaged, but should be caught and treated ASAP, as it soon will lead to damage. When hair is unhealthy, it could simply be that it is dry or needs a trim at the ends. Or maybe you’ve tried a new product that leaves your hair stringy and brittle from a protein overload. With a good deep conditioner (for moisture, not strength) and your normal moisturizing routine, your hair is likely to bounce back with no problem. These are all instances where your hair is not healthy, but not damaged – as the health can be restored with the right action. So when thinking of damage, think of it as something that starts off as failed product experiments or a few days skipping your moisturizing routine, but ultimately progresses into something not irreversible, but not an instant fix either. Hair, after all, is already dead. Once you mess with it’s chemistry, break down the strands pattern(s), and weaken its roots, it can be pretty unforgiving afterwards.
So, realistically, damage is about consistent, unhealthy practices to your hair. Conversely, repairing the hair is about consistent, healthy practices that 1) prevent any further damage to the hair and 2) work to repair any damage done to the hair that is reversible. It is important to note that not all damage to the hair is reversible; in fact, very few types of damage are. And this makes sense if we think back to what damage is: something caused by consistently unhealthy hair care.
When we say reversible, we mean bringing the hair back to its natural (healthy) state without cutting off the damaged hair. So split ends, for example, are not reversible; the hair follicle cannot heal itself and come together after it’s been split apart. Depending on how far up the split is, the ends of your hair all the way to the root are up for the chop. The same goes for breakage – if your hair breaks off (whether it produces a split end or not), that strand is prone to more breakage as the point of breakage now is the ends of your hair, leaving a space further up the strand to soon become the new point of breakage. This means the strand as a whole is weakened and would benefit from being cut as short as possible, allowing for new growth and minimal chances of more breakage.
On the other hand, let’s take something like fairy knots; these can simply be cut off. Since they are caused by friction (aka dry hair), simply making sure your strands are properly lubricated with your hair's favorite moisturizer, butters, or oils will prevent the strands from rubbing against themselves and others around, which ultimately loop the hair into a knot. Even though “dry” is more of a state of your hair rather than a type of damage or state of its health, if we were to look at it as a type of damage, it could be reversed by consistently and properly hydrated and moisturized. Let’s keep in mind that even though there is no need to cut off all of your hair if it suffers from dryness, consistent or untreated dryness leads to breakage and split ends, which are irreversible damages.
Before we get into the methods on how to get your hair healthier overnight, let’s look at the “what not to do” list, as these things are normally the first options impatient naturals run to.
- Leave in deep conditioners overnight: deep conditioners aren’t made to be left in past the time instructed, let alone as long as overnight. Even if your hair is dry to the bone, there is still such a thing as too much moisture. Leaving deep conditioners in past their allotted times can lead to more damage that can be harder to remedy, depending on how thin and sensitive your hair is. Any moisture and nutrients absorbed by your hair in, lets say, an 8 hour period would have been absorbed in the first 30-45 minutes, on average.
- Experiment with products between wash days: testing products to see which works best for you is no issue; experimenting is good! The issue comes in when you 1) wash your hair more frequently just to apply new and different products or 2) put different products you’re trying on top of a product that failed to impress. The first scenario is an issue because you may be washing your hair more often than it’d like you to. When it comes to hydrating your hair and helping it retain moisture better, frequent washes (once a week) can be extremely effective and beneficial. However, increasing your wash frequency just to try new products can lead to extreme breakage (due to high manipulation while washing and applying your product). The second scenario is harmful, too, because of the high amounts of manipulation you’d be doing to your hair. It also is harmful to layer products on top of each other without cleansing your hair between tries because this can lead to your strands being weighed down, which then lead to breakage. Along with this, layering products will either (depending on your hair type and porosity) leave your hair extremely dry or extremely oily; both will lead to damage in the form of breakage or hygral fatigue. Both scenarios will leave your hair confused and in shock with all the washing and styling and product layering. Find a wash frequency that benefits your hair and then plan what product you’d like to test, how you want to use it, and what other products you’d like to pair with it. Treat wash days as a set up for an experiment (trying different products), not as a reset to a failed product. However, if you do wash your hair and apply a combination of products that leave your hair extremely dry or extremely weighed down, don’t be afraid to rewet it (if it’s too dry) or rewash it (if it’s too oily – we recommend first trying just rinsing with water first to avoid stripping the hair). Restarting the wash on the day of is fine if you know your hair will suffer for the rest of the week (or however long until your next wash day) if not treated immediately. If it’s 3-4 days in and you’re not liking your products, just plain water and a low manipulation style is your best friend.
Now for the do’s:
- Create a routine and stick to it: we’re sure you’re tired of hearing it, but consistency truly is key when it comes to improving health of any kind. You have to be patient and trust in the regime you’ve built. Your routine should include days you wash your hair, how you wash your hair, what you use after a wash, and what you’ll do between washes to maintain moisture and prevent your hair from becoming more damaged. When you have your plan, it’s important to stick to it, but you also should leave room to modify it if you need. For example, if, at first, your routine is to wash your hair every two weeks. After a few weeks of sticking to this routine, you find that you can’t seem to retain moisture, don’t hesitate to change your wash frequency to once a week. Keep in mind that it’s not always the products you’re using, but other factors (like wash frequency, how you layer products, etc.)
- Deep condition: most Naturals normally deep condition as a part of their wash day routine. Make this a part of your regimen to see how your hair reacts. If you find your hair is dry between washes (and you’ve ruled out the possibility of it being due to your products), try deep conditioning more frequently. This would be different than you increasing your wash frequency, as when you go to deep condition, you won’t apply any cleanser; so you’ll basically have a “wash day” with no wash. You should apply your other moisturizers or stylers in as normal. Keep in mind increasing your deep conditioning frequency is mostly beneficial to those who wash on a more infrequent basis. In example, if you’re someone who washes every two weeks, alternating between wash days and deep conditioning days every week will most likely not overwork your hair. However, if you’re someone who washes every week, going in to deep condition and restyle the hair again may be too much for the strands in terms of product and manipulation. If you find yourself being a once-a-week-washer with dry hair, take a look at your products (especially your shampoo!)
- Protect your hair overnight: whether you tussle around in your sleep or not, not properly protecting your hair in the night will most definitely lead to breakage and dryness. Wear a silk or satin bonnet or use a pillowcase of the same material. If you prefer scarves, you can even use that as a pillow topper if you find bonnets/scarves slipping off of you during sleeping.
- Retwist or tie your hair: even if you’re wearing a bonnet or using a satin pillowcase, having your hair loose in a fro or down in general will still cause friction, which will then lead to breakage. Loosely twisting your hair (no need to do an elaborated, parted twist out every night) in a few sections will help to reduce tangling. Having your hair twisted, braided, or even in a pineapple will also help to keep your hair moisturized throughout the night.
- Protect your hair during the day: not only does this look like making sure your hair is properly moisturized for and protected from the weather outside, it also includes you making sure your hair is flourishing while you’re inside as well. Avoid rubbing your hair against surfaces (like if you were to lean back on the headrest in your car or lay back on your bed while relaxing. Cover your hair, with a bonnet or scarf, whenever you can; this will help retain moisture and make it so you don’t have to worry about rubbing your head against anything, since it’ll be protected by the soft material of your covering.
- Refresh your hair throughout the day: if you’re lounging around the house and feel your hair needs to be refreshed, go ahead and spritz some water on it (making sure to lock that hydration in after with your choice of butter or oil). Try to make this spritz as low manipulation as possible, as you don’t want to pull and tug on your hair more than necessary.
- Oil your scalp before bed: nourishing your scalp is the key to fostering healthy growth; it makes it so your scalp is suited to grow new hair. After putting your twists or pineapple in, apply oil to your scalp as you see fit. Take a little time to massage it in, making sure it gets to as many follicles as possible, allowing your scalp to soak up all the rich nutrients of the oil. And if your hair prefers, you can replace an oil with a butter; do whatever your hair wants!
To sum these up, create a routine, experiment with different products and styles, see what makes your hair flourish. In this process, make sure you’re adequately nourishing your scalp and keeping your hair moisturized; just because you don’t have a set routine down yet doesn’t mean you can’t maintain your hair!
We hope by now you have at least one thing engraved in your mind: consistency, consistency, consistency! The key to healthy hair overnight is practicing healthy hair care every night.