London-based hair and beauty journalist Sue Omar is hell-bent on celebrating the black woman’s crowning glory: her hair. Here, the author of Stylist’s exclusive All About Afro series talks us through the ultimate Afro hair kit, from moisturising masks to sulphate-free shampoos.
Over the years, I’ve discovered the secret to healthy Afro hair is all in the way you treat your tresses. Unfortunately, like many black women, I had to learn this lesson the hard way - and I quickly realised that unless I wanted to go completely bald, I had to step up my haircare routine.
Afro hair, whether it’s worn out and natural or in braids and weaves, needs to be cleansed, hydrated and nourished on a regular basis for it to grow healthy and retain length. If the right products and tools are used, damaged curls can bounce back to life, stronger than ever. And finding a reputable afro hair salon that will nurture hair is equally as important.
But shopping for Afro hair products in the UK hasn’t always been easy. For decades, basic Afro hair products such as shampoo, conditioners and styling serums could only be found in specialist shops or dodgy grey market high street beauty shops, while hero Afro haircare brands such as ORS and KeraCare were nowhere to be found on the mainstream market.
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These days, we’re finally starting to see more diversity on the beauty shelves, with Afro haircare products available in major online retailers and shops, while iconic brands such as Aveda now offer ranges formulated specifically for textured hair and curly girls everywhere. Black women are starting their own high quality hair ranges for textured hair, and online retailers like Antidote Street, Janet’s List, and Naturalistic Products provide valuable expertise on the brands they sell, which means you can support businesses that are owned by black women and created for black women.
Now that we’re spoilt for choice in the product department, we literally have no excuse for skipping ‘wash-day’, a phrase used to describe the day dedicated to Afro hair cleansing rituals.
Joico Curl Perfected Correcting Milk
If your natural curls have been comprised by heat or chemical processing, fear not – Joico’s curl correcting milk is your style saviour. The revolutionary product is made with a cutting-edge thermal protector that uses flexible resins and deep-sea minerals to enhance curl memory and control frizz. Simply spritz on from the roots upwards, using a clawing motion to mould curls into your desired shape.
ORS Olive Oil Smooth & Easy Edges Hair Gel
When it comes to laying edges and slicking down baby hairs, nothing does the job better than this hair gel from ORS. For a super neat hairline, use a pea-sized amount of this Afro hair hero to smooth down kinks, curls and waves.
Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancing Spray
For a holding spray that will keep your curls intact for longer, Aveda’s Curl Enhancing Spray works like an absolute charm. Infused with refreshing citrus aromas that leave your locks smelling super sweet, this flexible holding spray is made with wheat protein and an organic aloe blend that expands when hair is damp and retracts when dry to enhance curly-kinks or waves. Plus, the results are to die for!
Mixed Chicks Deep Conditioner
Detangling Afro hair can be quite a task: enter the Mixed Chicks Deep Conditioner. This multipurpose product can be used as a 30 minute treatment mask to moisturise and unravel tangled hair knots, or as a leave-in styling conditioner to add shine and define curls.
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Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil
Brought to you by award-winning Afro hairdresser, Charlotte Mensah, this Manketti oil is the star buy from the stylist’s debut haircare collection. Suitable for all hair textures and conditions, the luxurious oil combines Manketti nut and Ximenia to sooth damaged strands and breathe new life into thirsty tresses. A little goes a long way with this wonder oil, so use sparingly.
Design Essentials Coconut Milk Nourishing Shampoo
When it comes to choosing a shampoo for your Afro hair, it’s important to pick a sulphate-free product that cleans the scalp without stripping away its natural oils. Cue Design Essentials’ coconut milk nourishing shampoo, a deeply moisturising cleanser that gently polishes away unwanted residue and dirt while maintaining a natural-looking, radiant shine.
Philip Kingsley Elasticizer
If you’re looking for a pre-shampoo conditioning treatment that will deeply nourish your Afro hair from root to tip, be prepared to hit the jackpot with the award-winning Elasticizer from Philip Kingsley. A true miracle worker, this moisture-rich formula repairs dry and damaged hair cuticles by strengthening its elasticity strand by strand. For best results, massage the Elasticizer into the mid-lengths and ends using your fingertips and leave overnight.
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Luxju Nourishing Frizz Control Oil
This non-greasy formula - made up of growth-promoting castor oil, sesame, and camellia oils - penetrates into the hair shaft to enhance its elasticity and prevent breakage. Suitable for natural and chemically-processed Afro hair, this lightweight oil eliminates frizz, continuously conditions and will leave your locks feeling super silky with endless shine.
ORS Monoi Oil Rejuvenating Spray
Inspired by the long and luscious locks of Polynesian women, this spray is enriched with fragrant Tahitian coconut oil, antioxidants and omegas. Spritz onto wet or dry hair for an instant boost of hydration, visible shine and anti-breakage protection.
As I Am Long and Luxe Scalp Serum
Scalp care might not be the first thing that springs to mind when performing your daily hair rituals, but it’s an essential step – especially if your hair is chemically treated. This scalp elixir is an amazing overnight treatment that purifies and energises your scalp while you snooze. Packed with hair-strengthening vitamins such as biotin and proteins, it instantly adds volume to thinning tresses and protects against hair loss.
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Alikay Naturals Avocado Cream Moisture Repairing Mask
Let’s face it, there aren’t many things avocado isn’t good for. Packed with vitamins and healthy fats from the beloved superfood, this hard-working hair mask prevents hair loss and nourishes Afro hair from top to bottom.
Aveda Invati Exfoliating Shampoo
If you’ve had your hair in a weave or braids for over a month and your scalp is in need of a good scrubbin’, you might want to add Aveda’s invati exfoliating shampoo to your shopping list. Gentle yet super effective, this hardworking shampoo is clinically proven to remove build-up of sebum from the scalp and exfoliate away product residue that can clog pores and cause long term damage to hair follicles.
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Cantu Grow Strong Strengthening Treatment
Made with pure shea butter, Cantu’s strengthening treatment does exactly what it says on the tin. It prevents breakages before they even start, meaning Afro hair can grow strong whether it’s natural or chemically processed. Use a small amount of this versatile treatment to style and strengthen your strands on a daily basis or apply a generous amount overnight, for a deeper hit of hydration and protection.
KeraCare Essential Oils for the Hair
Made with hero ingredients including sunflower, castor, shea and coconut oils, this luxurious botanical blend hydrates the scalp for healthy hair production and growth, while repairing breakage and protecting against environmental damage. Ideal for both natural and relaxed hair types, soak your strands in this restorative oil overnight and reap the benefits as you rinse off the following day, or use over styling products to seal in moisture.
Anita Grant Virgin Mango Butter Coconut Whip
It’s no secret that good hair starts with a healthy and hydrated scalp. If you like to wear weaves, wigs or braids, it’s important to keep your scalp moisturised between washes. Massage a pea sized amount of this heavenly organic virgin mango butter blended with coconut and vitamin E directly onto your scalp every other day for best results, or use as a deep treatment or styling product on strands. Bonus: it doubles up as a delightful body butter, too.
Twisted Sista Leave-in Conditioner
For soft and manageable Afro hair, it’s important to use a leave-in conditioner that will feed your strands with the goodness they deserve. Twisted Sista Leave-in Conditioner is packed with natural ingredients such as coconut, avocado and silk amino acids to lock in moisture and tame frizz, without weighing your ‘fro down.
Shea Moisture Raw Shea & Cupuacu Styling Gel Cream
If your natural curls need a little more definition, you’re bound to love this styling gel cream. Apply the solution to wet hair and finger-comb the product through small sections, for sleek curls without the crunch. What’s more, this superb product also protects humidity-prone hair and tames flyaways.
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KeraCare Defining Custard for Curls & Coils
Perfect for coarse Afro hair, this defining custard creates curls, spirals and waves that remain unchanged for days with just one application. Unlike some curling products, which can dry out your hair or cause your scalp to flake, this miracle worker continuously moisturises the hair shaft with amla, argan and Abyssinian oils, while maintaining style and shine.
Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Co-Wash
Co-washing, or ‘conditioner-washing’, has been a massive trend in the natural hair community for a few years. The idea is to skip your shampoo every so often and just condition your hair, so that its natural oils are protected. Designed for kinky-curly, coarse and chemically damaged hair, Briogeo’s Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Quinoa Co-Wash infused with soothing aloe to cleanse and moisturise hair without stripping away its natural goodness.
Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque
When transitioning from chemically processed hair back to natural, your tresses need to be enriched with moisture in order to rejuvenate damaged strands and prevent further breakage. Using this masque once a week will detoxify the scalp, restore shine to dull hair and leave brittle ends feeling conditioned and smooth.
Main image: Getty