Hair Like Seaweed
You've seen it: Tossed about by the waves, trampled on ashore, seaweed still manages to stay intact in long, long chains that curl about the beach sand. Its uniquely robust structure of natural polymers is one part of its strength. The other is the slick mucilage that coats the seaweed's surface. This slippery, slimy seal of protection keeps it from drying out, and from falling apart under all of the friction and tension it encounters.
When it comes to conditioning, our best lessons come from nature – and seaweed is a case in point! How much your conditioning method has in common with this seaside plant can make a huge difference in the appearance, length and strength of your hair.
How it works
Making sure your hair feels like seaweed is a foolproof way to be sure each strand is getting the right level of slip from the conditioner – so that the comb, your fingers, or the brush slides its way past, drag-free. When the mucilage layer on seaweed begins to dry and thin, the seaweed breaks, simple as that.
Likewise, when you subject your hair to force – be it washing, combing, brushing, or braiding – minus a substantial protective layer, it simply breaks. Any strand missed by the condish risks being scraped and overstretched from styling unprotected.
The right stuff
The seaweedy effect won't be produced if you're not using a conditioner with high slip. Slip is a huge component of all the best Dominican conditioners, and vital for preserving long hair, shielding it from all the tugging and drag of handling hair when it's wet and fragile.
Wet, wet, wet
Get your hair really wet, soaking and drenched before applying conditioner – less conditioner will go further and it will be much quicker and easier to get it through the hair. So don't bother to squeeze your hair dry after shampooing as some advise. Take advantage of water's spreading properties to get the conditioner distributed evenly through your hair. And if you find your hair drying out during the conditioning process, don't hesitate to wet it again slightly to revive the product.
Sectioning is a big part of getting the seaweed effect – if you miss bits of hair you won't get the effect – or its hair-saving benefits. So make sure you section your hair adequately. Thicker hair, denser hair, coarser hair, tightly curled hair – if your mane fits into any of these categories, you'll need more sections. Start with 4 as a base number and increase the number of sections as necessary.
If you're used to rigidly applying a 50p sized amount of conditioner – as most labels indicate – rather than listening to the needs of your hair, then it might be hard to gauge when your hair has enough conditioner. This is where the whole seaweedy concept comes to life – as a visual aid (does it look super-slimy and coated?) and as a touch aid (does it feel super-slippery and slick?). Knowing your hair is supposed to be like seaweed gives you something to compare the way tresses should be feeling and acting.
Some tresses will still be OK with a 50p amount, but most will need more. If you have dry hair, then feel free to be generous with your conditioner. Start by applying enough to make your hair feel covered completely – you need to feel like there is conditioner on every strand. Then, apply more until you get the beginnings of the seaweedy feel – mushy, but smooth and slippery. Then wait a few minutes...
While many conditioners claim to be instant, most people with textured hair will notice that it takes time for their hair to feel as if the conditioner has actually worked. This is because not all product will adhere to each different type of hair as easily as to others. Your hair is a fibre, and like all natural materials, there is some variation from one individual fibre to another. Once you've applied enough conditioner to coat every strand, leave it in up to 5 minutes. If it doesn't feel seaweedy, add some more, and wait some more.
Unless you've sectioned your hair into rows that are an individual hair thick, then working the conditioner in is a must, to ensure it hits every part of every strand. Once your hair is well-sectioned, this should be a cinch. Smooth the conditioner gently but firmly from the roots to the tips.
How your hair should feel
You should feel a liquid, movable layer between your hands and your hair that you can spread along the length of your tresses if some patches are uncovered. Remember – seaweed feels like seaweed because it is completely and evenly coated in slippery, rich mucilage, which your conditioner is standing in for here.
How your hair shouldn't feel
If you can feel the actual texture of your hair through the conditioner, then you haven’t built the layer up adequately to protect your hair. Either the overall layer of conditioner is not thick enough or there are some strands which have missed out. It's not gonna feel seaweed-y if every strand isn't covered – that is why it's imperative to part your hair into well-demarcated sections so you can get to all of it. Anywhere you feel roughness, add some more conditioner, and if necessary, a little more water, and work it in again, vigorously but gently.
Increase the effect
Once you've conditioned your hair to seaweedy perfection, you may want to squeeze every last drop of conditioning goodness from this experience. A good idea would be to cover your hair in a plastic cap or bag at this point and leave it in for a few extra minutes. This will keep the heat and moisture levels consistent so the conditioner doesn't dry out.
If you are washing your hair in the shower, take this time to do other shower stuff before you rinse. No need to leave the conditioner in upwards of 30 minutes – the seaweed effect works mostly on the outside of your hair, and a time period of several minutes should be enough to do that beautifully.
Once you get to rinsing, your hair might feel so silky that you're tempted to leave some in to keep some of that feel. While this might work for some heads of hair, on most it will leave the hair weighted down, dull, roughened and can even cause a layer of powdery buildup. Most conditioners were simply not designed to be left in the hair. To keep all the benefits, rinse your hair out thoroughly, so it remains soft and smooth. With at least two layers of moisture coming up, your hair will not lack for not leaving in the conditioner.
The end result
By mimicking the algae's protective and lubricating methods, you ensure your hair is as protected and as sealed as possible. And well-protected hair is precisely the hair that gleams, that flows, that grows to amazing lengths.
Catarina Carneiro De Souza
DHA Hair Care Experts
Dominican Hair Alliance