Caring for Afro hair

By Shirley McDonald, Consultant Trichologist

Most patients that visit a trichologist do so because they have a problem with their hair and/or scalp. Often these problems are caused by external trauma, including chemical processing, braiding and thermal straighteners. Afro hair that is processed using heat, bleach, tint, permanent waving solution and particularly relaxers can cause minor damage to the skin following these processes, and serious damage if it is not treated promptly. Similarly, abrasion caused by razoring or close clipping can lead to extensive scar damage if not treated.

So now the festive period is over, let’s make 2018 the year we start a new hair care regime. Follow my advice for great looking hair!

Combs and Brushes

Good hair care will maintain the hair and scalp so ensure you choose your tools correctly.

When choosing combs and brushes, go for saw-cut combs made of hard material such as bone. They are more expensive so if you’re on a budget go for a vulcanised rubber comb. Always comb from the tips first, progressing to the roots and select a wide-spaced toothed comb for detangling the hair. A well- designed brush made from natural bristle is better than nylon or plastic that may tear hair. Depending on your hair texture use a soft to medium bristle brush.


We’re all in search of the perfect shampoo and we often need to try a variety to find the one most suited. Wash hair regularly at least once a week. Do remember the main purpose of any shampoo is to cleanse the hair and scalp and with this in mind, it is wise to choose a mild shampoo that won’t strip the hair. If in doubt, seek professional advice. Protein shampoos are designed to strengthen the hair. They contain amino acids but they can also cause a build-up on the hair, so you’ll need to use a cleansing shampoo in between. Moisturising shampoos are designed to keep the hair at its natural PH level (5.0) and retain moisture. Follow with a good conditioner to avoid hair looking dull and brittle, but also to detangle and add body. There are many available and, like shampoos, these must be varied to find the one most suitable.

Women and men with Afro hair tend to include hair oils or creams in their regime to keep the hair moist but avoid heavy oils that clog the hair. Very often the hair is coated in oil but the hair itself remains dry as the oil sits on the outer shaft. Experiment and see what suits your hair type. Don’t assume that coarse hair requires a heavier oil, it has more to with porosity (ability to hold water) healthy hair retains moisture and washing regularly, contrary to popular belief, will keep the more manageable.


Humidity and Hydration

Afro hair is designed to live in a naturally humid environment. In a climate like Africa and the Caribbean, the hot atmosphere contains more water which Afro hair needs to keep it supple and moist. Hydration is the key to good hair and skin. The main advantage our American cousins have is the humidity. Certainly in Britain there is less humidity, less moisture in the air, which tends to leave Afro hair drier, more brittle, less supple, elastic and prone to breakage – this is before any chemicals have been used. Adding to climate in the UK being dry, especially in an inner city environment you have the associated pollutants and this can also have an adverse reaction on our skin. Hair generally grows quicker in spring and slower in the winter. Make sure you’re drinking enough water. Many problems of the hair and scalp including pityriasis simplex ‘dandruff’ can be a symptom of some form of metabolic variation. Stress, poor diet, or even an allergy to certain foods can be responsible for the build-up of dead cells, normally shed naturally.



Finally, a well-balanced diet, including fresh fruit, vegetables and adequate protein is necessary for general health. Include essential fatty acids from flaxseed or oily fish to combat dry hair and skin. Also good for reducing inflammatory conditions in the body. Hair in poor condition requires specialist treatment, in cases of scalp problems that persist after using medicated shampoos and/ or lotions. There are many general health disorders, for example, anaemia and endocrine imbalance and changes in metabolism. Sudden shock, or extensive stress over a long period of time can lead to different forms of hair loss. Should any abnormal scalp or hair condition arise which cause concern, trichological or medical advice should be sought as soon as possible.

For all your Afro hair and scalp problems contact The Hair and Scalp Clinic for appointments in London and Birmingham on 07780971239 or visit