Healthy hair is beautiful hair. And for Black women, wash day is often a sacred act of self-care, since our kinks, coils, and curls require a little more TLC. In our new series Wash Day Diaries, we’re asking influential women to break down exactly what goes into their routines so you can learn their tips, tricks, and products that work for your texture and style.
Sharmaine Joy-el says she never knew what her natural hair texture really was because she'd been getting relaxers since she was around four years old. “I honestly thought I had straight hair because it was always just chemically straightened,” says Joy-el, who is biracial. But when she was in high school, she saw Solange Knowles rock her natural kinky hair, and it gave her the push she needed to embrace her own. “I was like, if she can do it on the huge platform she has, I can do it as a junior in high school. No one’s gonna care, right?”
Joy-el soon learned that plenty of people would care. “When you see it for the first time, you don’t really know how to take care of it,” she says. “So I kind of lost hope that first time and went back to relaxed because I thought that would make my life easier going through college. I didn’t think anyone would like me with natural hair. I had already received comments like, ‘It looks gross’ or ‘It’s really stiff, it doesn’t move.’ Basically all the negative nuances you can think of.”
But two years ago, now older and more confident, Joy-el decided it was time to truly embrace her hair and did a big chop. “It was kind of at that stage where, I’m in my 20s and the last thing I felt I needed to do to 150% accept myself was to get to know my own natural hair,” she says. “It’s a part of me and I never really gave it justice to grow it out and figure out how to take care of it.”
As she started growing out her hair, Joy-el faced ignorant reactions from people who assumed she would have looser curls because she’s biracial—rather than the extremely thick and voluminous Afro she has. She would constantly get comments like, “Is that your real hair?” or “Are you going to loosen it up?”
Her journey to learning about her hair and accepting it inspired her to pivot her skin-care YouTube channel to focus on hair. And as her hair grew, so did her subscriber count.
Joy-el says she wants to see more representation of tight, kinky, coily type-4 hair because looser type-3 curls are what's mostly shown in the media and in ads for hair-care products. “Where’s the rest of the tighter, kinkier, Afro-textured hair? They’re never the faces of these natural hair products even,” she says.
Regarding her YouTube channel, “I wanted my journey to show other women with Afro-textured hair that it doesn’t have to be complicated,” says Joy-el, who washes her hair once a week. “I keep it simple. I want it to be realistic and easy for them to enjoy their hair without feeling like they have to break their back or bank to do so.”
Here's what wash day looks like for her.
I always start with a hot oil treatment as my pre-poo. And I like to use a mix of oils: olive oil, grapeseed oil, then sometimes—not all of the time—a little bit of coconut oil. I'll apply that mostly to my scalp to help get it moisturized and ready for the shampoo. After I've let it sit for about an hour on my head under a plastic cap or bag, it kind of helps me to manipulate my hair into sections before I start shampooing. I have a lot of hair, so if I condition it beforehand, it makes things so much easier. Also, I do all this with no heat. I try to leave heat only for deep conditioning.
I mostly use a moisturizing shampoo, but will use a cleansing shampoo like the Mane Choice Do It “Fro” The Culture Powerful Shampoo once a month to clean my scalp thoroughly. I like to focus more on my scalp with the shampoo, and then as it foams up, I let it do its thing for the rest of my hair.
Deep condition and detangle
After rinsing out the shampoo, I apply a deep conditioner to my sectioned hair, put on a plastic bag, and then put my Hot Head microwavable deep-conditioning cap on for 30 minutes to an hour. I detangle with deep conditioner to avoid pulling and breakage.
$30.00, Hot Head
After washing out the deep conditioner, I apply leave-in conditioner, sometimes a little oil, and let my hair air-dry as an Afro. You see my big ol’ Afro? That’s just what my hair truly looks like. It’s my favorite hairstyle. It’s how I feel most comfortable and most confident, honestly.
Ashley Alese Edwards is the U.S. partnerships manager in the Google News Lab and a freelance writer who covers the intersection of culture and beauty. She is based in New York City.
Originally Appeared on Glamour