Healthy Summer Hair Tips for Black Women

Shantella Y. Sherman | 6/4/2009, 5:47 a.m.

As the summer gradually descends on the nation€s capitol, thousands of African American women are considering what to do with their tresses. In addition to being harangued by the humidity of the city, Black hair is often caught in style limbo due to damage from over-processing or the many summer activities that €sweat hair out.€ But according to area stylists, all is not loss.

Despite making up only 10 percent of the nation€s population, African American women spend more than $2 billion a year on hair care products according to a report released in 2008 by the Black Owned Beauty Supply Association €" and still, the summer creates or exacerbates some heads.

Stylist Syphira Johnson, 28, of Silver Spring, said having healthy summer hair requires planning and care, and is not reliant upon the amount of money spent on products. Particularly for those Black women who will be going to swimming pools and the beach, prepping ones hair is essential.

€A lot of African American women who are athletic will opt out of relaxers altogether in order to keep their hair from being further damaged by chlorine and other chemicals in swimming pools. However, for those who want to keep their hair relaxed and swim, it is crucial that they wrap their hair first, and then use a swim cap,€ Johnson said.

Johnson said some women have avoided hair caps because they have proven to be unfashionable. In recent years several companies have come up with swim caps that are colorful and stylish enough to be worn by any fashonista.

€I like the look of those from a company called Headcovers, and Speedo makes great latex and silicone bathing caps. Some of my clients will wrap their hair, cover it in a silk scarf, and then use the bathing cap. The key is to keep the hair dry,€ Johnson said.
Johnson said that for those women whose exercise routines cause excessive sweating, braided styles or sets could help maintain a healthy, head of hair through the summer. Johnson recommends cornrows for those who want to change styles often, and individual braids, such as Pixies or Twists, for those who want to maintain a particular style for up to five weeks.

For those transitioning from relaxed to natural hair, Johnson recommends Straw sets, where the hair is wet-set on drinking straws before being dried under a dryer for approximately 30 minutes. This allows the hair to hold the style for a couple of weeks, and prevents further damage through curling or flat irons.

€Braids have become acceptable in the workplace and that allows for a lot more freedom of expression, but also for healthier hair. Many of these styles can go straight from the boardroom into the steam room, so the versatility is worth it,€ Johnson said.

Additionally, for those African American women who have been getting major flack for refusing to give up their relaxers, Naturopathic Doctor, Master Herbalist and author LaJoyce Brookshire, headquartered in New York, said a healthy lifestyle of detoxification means that surrendering to the natural is not necessary.

€We should be in a constant state of detoxification anyway. But, when we have assaulted our bodies with the application of harsh chemicals via relaxers, dyes, and yes even foods, we need to head straight to our kitchen and bathroom laboratories to flush our systems,€ Brookshire said.

Brookshire, who has chemically treated hair, said in order to establish a favorable pH balance with Black hair, we must also have one with our bodies at the same time. That healthy pH should be between 7.0 and 7.435.

As for coloring agents, Brookshire said she is personally not a fan of them because they have a tendency to cause breakage around the hairline. Instead, she suggests natural alternatives, one found in any market.

€If I must use color I use the color sticks or henna. They both work just fine. In the summer, I allow the sun to work its wonder by adding fresh lemon with conditioner to my hair to lighten it gradually,€ Brookshire said.

The key to great summer hair for African American women, whether chemically treated or natural, starts with plenty of water, exercise, and healthy eating habits to detoxify the body. Strawsets, braids, and counter-balancing the pH of the body following relaxing, should produce a city of happy, healthy heads.