Two types of hair, two types of tangles. . .
Washing transitioning hair is a process unto itself. Once the water hits it, the stage is set for tangles galore. The curled roots shrink up at random, and the relaxed length starts to mat together. Melding these two tangling mechanisms can create the ultimate knotting nightmare, as loops and mats coalesce to form a super-snarling monster that laughs at conditioner and swallows your best comb, never to be seen again.
But of course, it doesn't have to be that way. If you take steps to avoid the worst beginner errors, you can cut detangling time, as well as the possibility of having to slice out multiple matted chunks of your hair long before you planned to cut.
Due to the damage to the hair shaft, relaxed hair is especially prone to matting. The natural charge of hair is negative but damage to the strand can cause it to become positive in sections.
These sections then become attracted to the negatively charged healthier portions of the hair, and latch onto them. This often happens at weird angles since the charge is not the same the length of the strand.
It's a tendency that can be exacerbated during washing, as water encourages strands to stick together even more. Coupled with the shrinkage-induced tangles in the curly section of the hair, this can be a recipe for some serious hair drama.
What can I do to avoid this?
To minimise the opportunity for these snarl-mat hybrids to occur, it is vital you get your transitioning technique like second nature. You don't want to catch yourself repeating old habits that passed muster on your relaxed hair, but which do the exact opposite now that you have entered the transition.
Positioning and Sectioning
Transitioning hair is best washed head upright in the shower. Leaning over encourages hairs to fall across one another and tangle.
One of the other main things you must avoid doing when washing is piling your hair all on top of itself, mingling roots and ends. This is not even a good idea on relaxed or naturally straight hair, but on transitioning hair it will yield some of the most painful tangle hybrids going.
Instead, washing hair in sections, with the hair hanging down allows you to wash your hair, without having to pick apart a cat's cradle of tangles once you're done. So, if your hair is long enough to be put in a few small ponytails (4-8), then do so. Otherwise, you will have to work on loose hair, with extra caution, as it is a lot more vulnerable to tangling.
Rinsing well beforehand helps remove debris, meaning you can wash with less shampoo. This is important as shampoo can have a matting effect on transitioning hair, which you want to minimise as far as possible. Undoing one ponytail section at a time, rinse under a strong flow of warm-hot (but not too hot!) water.
Keep rinsing for at least three minutes, gently opening up sections of hair near the roots, to ensure the water hits the scalp. Part the sections like a curtain to do so, try not to lift them too much as this might throw some hairs out of position. If you must lift, then grab all the hairs with one hand at the ends to do so, ensuring they all stay in place. Remember to make sure each section is securely back in place before you move onto the next.
Co-washing should be your primary option on cleansing transitioning hair, but every so often – whether every week, every two weeks or every month – it will be necessary to shampoo. Applying a layer of conditioner first kinda gives you the best of both worlds; it serves partly to cleanse, partly to buffer the drying effect of the shampoo, and partly to abate the tendency of the hair to mat following a shampoo. So a key step of any shampoo session on transitioning hair is to lay down a layer of conditioner first.
Start by removing one of the ponytail holders. Next, squeeze a generous amount of a light, silicone, mineral oil-free conditioner into your hand. For most heads of hair, we're talking about a handful per section (based on your hair being sectioned into four quadrants – more sections will require less conditioner per section).
Starting from the roots, gently smooth the conditioner down the length. Then, smooth it down a second time, squeezing as you do so. Next, holding all the hair in the section with one hand, massage the scalp in that area with your other hand. Finally, re-ponytail it and move onto the next section. Don't rinse straightaway; the conditioner needs to be on your hair when you shampoo it to prevent tangles from forming.
Once all the sections of hair are fully conditioned. it's time to apply shampoo. Loosen a ponytail, then squeeze a dollop of shampoo into your hand. Holding the hair firmly at the ends with one hand, apply and massage the shampoo into your root area only.
Once you get used to washing your hair in sections, you can massage the scalp with one hand, with the hair hanging free, although this is tricky to do once you are just getting started. To massage with both hands, make sure all other sections are secured.
Then, allowing the hair in that section to hang free, place one hand at your hairline and work up, with another working down from your crown, massaging towards each other till the two hands meet.
Whether you work with one hand or two, once you've worked up a lather at the roots, it's time to squeeze it gently down the length a couple of times, so that the lather can work through the hair with just the amount of cleansing power it needs. Finally, rinse thoroughly in warm water until the water runs clear. Allow about 3 minutes for each section to ensure all the dirt, lather, buildup – everything is rinsed away. Repeat across all sections.
Al fin y al cabo. . .
All done? Congrats – you've made it through one of the trickiest feats in handling transitioning hair. Once you can shampoo safely, you know your hair has avoided danger at one of the most fragile points for its delicate ends. Result: your hair stays longer for longer.
DHA Hair Care Experts
Dominican Hair Alliance