7 Black Hairstylists To Follow + Their Best Tips, From Scalp Health To DIY Braids
There is so much to learn and love about your own hair: Think of hair care as a journey, not a destination. Hair, in general, has many, many variables, after all: Everything from the scalp, lifestyle influences, hair density, styling choices, porosity, and texture can all affect our hair health and well-being. That's why when the pros tell us something insightful, we listen—it's their job to know and understand hair, after all.
Here, we're featuring seven brilliant Black hairstylists to have on your radar, with their tried-and-true hair care lessons: From scalp health to detangling tricks to DIY braids, here's what you need to know, from the thought leaders themselves:
1. Towel-dry based on your hair type.
To towel-dry or not to towel-dry: According to hairstylist and founder of Hair Rules Anthony Dickey, it depends on your hair type. Those with curls, coils, and kinks (curl types 3 to 4, if you want to get technical) are prone to frizz as soon as they step out of the shower. That's why Dickey suggests applying product (leave-ins, oils, and such) when their hair is sopping wet. "That's when they have the least amount of frizz," he says.
Consequently, if you have a looser curl structure (waves, slight bends, or pin-straight locks), he suggests gently towel-drying your hair a bit before reaching for product, especially if you're looking to amp up the volume. "If you put product on when it's sopping wet, it's just going to be flatter," Dickey explains.
2. Get to know your scalp.
Just as experts advise you to take time to check in with your skin (a la a skin gratitude practice, skin care journal, or quick facial massage), certified trichologist and inventive colorist Bridgette Hill says you should take stock of your scalp. "I encourage clients to use both hands and feel the major bones that make up the scalp," she says. "Observe the texture of the scalp, the indentations—does it feel tight and restricted or is it loose and squishy?" Tight, stiff skin up top can signal scalp tension as the muscles constrict, similar to how you might tense your jaw or shoulders during times of stress.
That muscle tension can inhibit blood flow to the area—important to note, considering proper blood circulation helps deliver oxygen and hair-healthy nutrients to the follicles (which may help with hair growth). The bottom line, says Hill, is to feel your scalp on the regular to get acquainted with its needs: When you're familiar with your scalp, your hair tends to look and feel healthier, too.
Follow Hill on Instagram to learn all things scalp health.
3. Hold your blow-dryer at least 1 inch away from the hair.
When it comes to using hot tools without causing too much damage to the tresses, many point to the heat setting: A lower heat can help you achieve your desired style without completely blasting the strands. A sound tip, no doubt, but proper blow-dry etiquette includes the angle of your tool, too: "I never put the dryer directly on the hair shaft, I always keep it at least an inch away from the shaft," says celebrity hairstylist Kim Kimble, founder of her namesake line of hot tools and hair care products.
Generally, the farther away you hold the dryer, the less you're blasting the strands with intense heat. So even if you use a hair-dryer nozzle to concentrate the airflow, you don't want to glide it down the strands themselves.
4. Condition curls with cooler water to seal in hydration.
Curls are delicate and more prone to breakage, so it's important to cleanse them properly and gently. As hairstylist Miko Branch, co-founder of hair care brand Miss Jessie's, once told us, "Caring for curly hair starts in the shower." Here's her shower technique to infuse the strands with maximum hydration: "Using warm water, cleanse your scalp to remove buildup, dirt, sweat, and so on. Switch to cooler water to condition your hair midshaft and seal the ends."
The warm water (note: not hot!) creates steam and humidity, which can help lift the hair shaft so the ingredients can penetrate better. The cooler rinse then closes the hair shaft, which helps trap in all the nutrients from the conditioner.
Learn more about Branch and Miss Jessie's here.
5. Skip the rubber band method for box braids.
With box braids, using tiny rubber bands at the base does make it easier to section out your natural hair and help the braids stay tight. However, celebrity hairstylist Annagjid "Kee" Taylor recommends skipping them if you can: "Rubber bands can cause breakage and will pop really fast," she says, especially if they're too tight on the delicate strands.
Box braiding without rubber bands may take a bit more precision, but it's not too difficult. As Taylor explains, "I suggest taking the braiding hair and breaking it down into two pieces, one side larger than the other; hook them together, and add it to the base of your hair."
Wrap the braiding hair around the section of the natural hair you want to braid, and you should have three legs: the two split sections of braiding hair, and one section of your natural hair in the middle. Start braiding the three legs together, weaving in more hair from the larger extension once you reach the end of your natural hair.
6. Detangle gnarly knots with your fingers.
Proper detangling techniques differ for everyone, but when you hit a large snarl, hairstylist Faith Huffnagle, director of education at Prose, says to put down the comb. Rather, she tells us, "Instead of addressing tangles aggressively with a comb or brush, spray a leave-in or detangling spray directly into the knot and massage it gently with your fingers to loosen."
You may have to saturate it with an extra spritz of detangler (or more globs of conditioner, if you detangle in-shower), but keep massaging with your fingers until the knot smooths out. Your fingers have the ability to work through the knot and get into the nooks and crannies rather than hacking straight through it with a tool.
Follow Huffnagle on Instagram here.
7. Use witch hazel to cleanse your scalp (if your skin can tolerate it).
As far as the natural astringent goes, you either swear by its oil-absorbing properties or find it way too drying for your skin. If you align with the former, though, texture specialist and artistic director at Matrix Michelle O'Connor says witch hazel is a great cleansing option, especially for protective styles. "It's a mild scalp refresher," she explains, as its anti-inflammatory and sebum-control properties can help control oil and buildup, as well as relieve itchiness and flakes.
To use it, you can either apply the witch hazel directly onto your scalp with a dropper or spray bottle, or you can saturate a cotton pad and rub it gently on the skin (if you have buildup or dandruff, the second option works well to lift the flakes).
Follow O'Connor on Instagram here.
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