How to Keep Your Natural Hair Healthy and Hydrated During the Summer Months

As the summer months come around, those of us with curly, kinky, coily, and Afro hair - from a looser type 3A curl to a tighter 4C curl - are faced with the same conundrum: how to keep your hair healthy and hydrated when it's hot and humid out.

"Textured hair is extremely sensitive to humidity and dry environments and with the summer months deals with issues such as falling flat, looking lackluster, and getting a bit frizzy," Sam McKnight, a hairstylist and the founder of Hair by Sam McKnight, told POPSUGAR.

The reason for this comes down to science, as warmer, muggier temperatures actually alter the hair follicles (as they do with any hair texture). "On a molecular level, the moisture in the air is swelling and disrupting the cuticle (the outer layer of a hair strand) that would usually result in smooth and shiny strands," McKnight said. "Dry heat, on the other hand, draws out moisture from the hair and reduces its capability to retain it, leading to dull, frizzy, and dry hair." This is also why you might notice your curls or coils become less springy during the summer months. "The reason we can experience a loss of definition is that the humidity is playing havoc with the hair texture by lifting the cuticle," said textured hair specialist Errol Douglas, MBE.

Without a strong and reinforced cuticle, hair is also less likely to stand up against the environmental stress and, therefore, becomes dry and brittle. "A lack of moisture can also be caused by the UV rays, which dry out the hair as well as strip the color; while lack of volume is down to the fact that as we sweat more, the sweat dampens the hair, causing it to look greasy and flat," Douglas added. To ensure the moisture, strength, and vibrancy of natural hair textures during the summer months, we asked Douglas, McKnight, and other leading hair experts in the industry to share their tips and tricks.

Protection Is Vital . . .

"It's all about prevention and protection - just as you would with your skin, cover and protect your hair in the sun," McKnight said. "UV rays oxidize melanin particles in the cortex of the hair shaft, leading to color fading; it also damages the cuticle and cortex, leading to dry, brittle, dull hair and therefore encouraging breakage over time."

"The first way to keep your hair protected in the summer is by wearing protective styles like cornrows, braids, or double-stranded twists, which will help to minimize frizz and keep curly/coily hair nourished," recommended hairstylist Dionne Smith.

If you prefer to wear your curls and coils naturally, then it's important to have the right accessories and products on hand. "On scorching days, cover your hair with a floppy sun hat or headscarf to minimize the damaging effects of the sun," Smith said, whilst Douglas recommended combining a leave-in conditioner with a heat protectant and spreading it through the hair. "It's a great way to deliver conditioning properties to replenish moisture to your hair while protecting it from heat," he said.

. . . and So Is Hydration

Just because it feels hot and humid out doesn't mean you should stop giving your hair hydration. "Natural hair requires moisture at the best of times, and particularly during the warmer months, to protect it from the damaging effects of the sun," Smith said. Additionally, McKnight said, "Hair that is well moisturized will prevent excess moisture absorption whilst in humid climates and vice versa - in dry climates, it will lose less moisture." Every hairstylist we spoke with highlighted the importance of continuing to use products with a high level of moisture and de-frizzing properties, like hair butters and creams, throughout the summer, "to ensure your hair receives a healthy dose of moisture on a regular basis," Smith said.

Leave-in conditioners are a particularly useful product to use and have handy during the summer months. "Protect your curls and coils by applying a lightweight leave-in conditioner that you can spritz directly to keep your parched hair nourished - Cantu Coil Calm Detangler ($5) is a brilliant option for this," Smith said; or, as Douglas mentioned above, you can mix it with a heat protecting product for when you're outside under the hot sun.

Be a Smart Swimmer

"Nowadays, you can buy products that you can apply prior to swimming to keep your hair protected from chlorine, such as the Philip Kingsley Swimcap Mask ($30)," Smith said. "This product filters out sun rays and provides water resistance and protection against dryness caused by chlorine and saltwater. When you go for a swim this summer, do also ensure that you wear a swimming cap before diving in, and follow up with a postswim shampoo and conditioner to remove all chemicals from your hair and minimize the chance of damage."

Avoid Mineral Oils, Petroleum, and Silicones

"If there are any ingredients you should avoid in products, avoid mineral oil and petroleum," Charlotte Mensah, a hairstylist and the founder of Hair Lounge in London, told POPSUGAR. "These ingredients can cause an imbalance of oil levels, coating your hair and scalp so effectively that they suffocate them. Instead, look for products that are paraben-free and that also contain UV filters, vitamins, and antioxidants to protect your hair from the sun's UV rays, which can damage the protein structure of your hair."

The same goes for silicones, according to Douglas. "Most products use silicones to help smooth frizz by leaving a hydrophobic coating on the surface of the hair. But most silicones have a high molecular weight and can feel heavy," he said. "That means it is going to feel dirty faster and lead you to wash and style more frequently, which in turn causes more damage and frizz to the hair." Instead look for products that contain oils and butters, such as castor and jojoba oils and shea butter.

Introduce Sets and the Right Tools

When trying to avoid shrinkage, Mensah recommends setting your hair. "Roller, straws, and perm rods are all methods you can use to stretch your kinks, and you can either air-dry or sit under a hooded dryer for straighter results," she said.

Keep Washing and Brushing to a Minimum

One of the best ways to keep your hair in good condition during the hot summer months is to refrain from washing it too much. "For those with curly hair, overwashing can cause dryness, friction, and damage, which leads to hair being even more fragile," Mensah said. "Curly hair is naturally more delicate than straight hair, so you'll also want to minimize constant brushing to avoid causing unnecessary damage."

Smith suggests trying to wash your hair every seven to 10 days. "Your hair craves moisture and will benefit greatly from a deep cleanse followed up with a treatment to restore the natural balance of the hair. In fact, you can also keep a spritz water bottle at hand and spray it directly to your hair on a regular basis," she said.

Comb Through Your Hair Whilst It's Damp

This is advice you should keep in mind all year round. "Textured hair is more prone to breakage due to its coils and curls, which tangle more easily resulting in breakage when combing and/or brushing," McKnight said. "Internal fractures can occur when the hair is untwisted or stretched, leading to brittle strands. Try not to brush textured hair when dry, but comb/brush through whilst wet with a wide-tooth comb or a detangling brush and be gentle. Afro picks and combs with wide and long teeth work really well."

Always Look After Your Scalp

"Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp," Douglas said. "A healthy scalp has clean, open pores with good blood flow. It's essential that the hair follicles and scalp are clean and clear and the microbiome is in harmony with a good balance of bacteria." Depending on the health of your scalp, introducing a scalp treatment to your wash routine every seven to 10 days will help to reduce product buildup.

Prioritize Regular Treatments

Whether you go to the salon for a treatment or prefer to DIY at home, hairstylist Luke Hersheson recommends getting deep hydrating or reparative hair treatments once a month. "You want to focus on hydrating the hair, so it's important to use masks and oils, like coconut oil, that penetrate the hair shaft for long-lasting results," he said. "Everyone has a different starting point when it comes to their hair, but a general rule of thumb in the salon is to opt for steam treatments and deep-conditioning treatments. You want to focus on moisture and hydration in order to improve its volume and definition."

Keep reading to discover the products that these experts swear by to take care of curly, kinky, coily, and Afro hair textures during the summer months.