Afro hair isn’t the easiest hair texture to work with, right? Whether you’re battling frizz or hair breakage, afro hairstylist to the stars, Errol Douglas, feels your pain. Having worked with afro hair for 30 years, plus an MBE under his belt (‘not many people have that one, I think I’m the youngest person in the industry’), we spoke to Errol to get his expert tips and tricks on how to handle afro hair…
Is it true that you shouldn’t cut afro hair wet?
That’s a fallacy. It depends on the hair structure. If the hair was extra springy, I wouldn’t cut it wet. A lot of people say if you keep cutting afro hair it won’t grow, but you need to keep trimming your hair to keep it healthy. If you don’t, the cuticle is going to fray and shrivel up – and nobody likes shrivelled up hair.
What types of shampoos and conditioners should afro-haired girls be looking out for?
A lot of women tend to have problems with debris on the scalp. Second lather shampoos are good; with the first lather you’re not going to get a lot out, then the second lather lifts everything from the scalp. Keracare also have products that are specifically designed to put moisture and bonds in your hair. The protein strengthens the hair, but if you’ve got too much protein it can make your hair brittle, so it’s finding the balance. That’s why it’s always good to have professional advice because you can’t diagnose yourself.
Can you ever use too much of a moisturising product?
If you’re using something which is going to sit in the hair, I could be the best hairdresser in the world but if I use too much, your hair will flop. You have to know when to build the hair up and when to just coat it. With heavy styling products, just use a couple of pumps, and use the sides of your hands to move it around, rather than the palm. It’s also ultimately about how you rinse the product out.
Manketti Oil, £42, charlottemensah.com
What temperature water should we be using, then?
A lot of people make their hair worse with hot water, but you should use warm to cool water to close down the cuticle, smooth your hair and make it shinier.
Is coconut oil all it’s cracked up to be?
A lot of people can’t stand the smell of coconut oil, and you should always be careful of products that start to smell when they’re not fresh. You should never use any oil in your hair which isn’t specifically formulated for the hair, because all you’re doing is clogging and blocking the reconstruction part of your hair. Use an olive oil product, not just olive oil.
So you’d go against all those at-home family remedies?
Steer clear, absolutely. The worst thing is lemon and egg, it’s crazy. It’s not natural enough or broken down enough for it to work.
Is there an order you should use all your products?
Use a light shampoo first, and then if you need to use a heavier shampoo, leave that in for five minutes. This breaks down the dirt and the debri. Give it a good rinse, towel dry your hair, and then use a light conditioner – your in between conditioner – before your treatment conditioner that you leave in for 5-10 minutes. If you’ve got a hot towel, amazing. Anything which is going to create heat when a conditioner is on wet hair works well, as it opens up the cuticle. Then use serums and finishing products.
L’Oreal Paris Elvive Curl Cleansing Conditioner, £6.99, Boots
Do you recommend co-washing?
If co-washing means using conditioner and no shampoo, I’d dilute the conditioner. But you can’t use heavy conditioners on hair which isn’t clean, you have to go through a cycle of getting your hair used to not using a shampoo before you can handle co-washing.
Need help finding a shampoo for afro hair? Beauty site Powder will tell you the ones that will suit you.
What’s the best way to dry afro hair?
Drying afro hair takes twice as long. If you’re drying it naturally, twist it so it goes back into its curl. You have to get proper root movement and lift, so if you’re using a heat appliance, pin and clamp it up to get that good foundation.
Oh so you would suggest using heat?
That’s another fallacy, you can’t really live without heat on afro hair. If you’ve got naturally curly hair, use a leave-in conditioner or thermal protection before you dry it.
SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, £12.99, Boots
What about brushes?
You do need good brush movement, smoothing down the cuticle and then reversing it down. Only use wide-tooth brushes and combs, and on wet hair.
How can you control your curls so they don’t fall out as soon as you leave the house?
It depends on your hair type. I’d say use a stronger gloss to moisturise it and give it weight, and keep on spraying a moisturiser to take away any fluff. Be careful not to move it too much with your hands because it’ll go frizzy.
How can you promote growth in afro hair?
The best thing on the market is a tablet programme, we use Viviscal Professional. We’re human beings and we need to be fed from within, and this has all the amino acids and vitamins you need. Be careful not to dry or pull your hair too much to avoid breakage, as well as not using the same products all the time.
Viviscal Supplements, £51.99 for one month's supply, Boots
Yeah, if you’ve got a naturally dry scalp, use a product for a couple of weeks, not forever. After it clears up, you need to go back to using something normal.
How should we sleep to keep those curls intact?
With your head hung over the bottom of your bed… no, I’m pulling your leg. Some people sleep with hats or silk pillows, but at the end of the day hair is going to move in your sleep. You’re going to need to spruce it up in the morning.