In the Depths of Winter...
Your body really feels the difference when you add extra layers of clothing to keep the warmth inside. Your hair, too, needs several layers of insulation to keep vital moisture locked in, against the cold air that is intent on pulling it out.
Just as putting on a thick overcoat with nothing underneath is unlikely to keep the winter air from sending chills through your bones, one thick layer of grease is not going to do it for your hair.
In the colder months especially, it's important not to be lax on conditioning; getting as many layers as possible traps the moisture most effectively. To get it right, it's also essential to layer in the right order and with the right quantities:
This is the first layer, and, as such, it should be the deepest. Capitalise on its timing in the process to cover as much of your hair as you can – by placing the first layer right inside the strand.
To get your product to penetrate, choose a pretreatment that can actually absorb into your hair. In this respect, not all conditioners are created equal. Once those that can do get in, however, they provide the added strength, ability to hold onto moisture and damage resistance your hair deserves. Scan the ingredients list for coconut oil, olive oil, cetrimonium bromide, cetrimonium chloride and hydrolysed wheat protein – all substances that can actually enter the hair shaft.
Key pretreatments: Virgin coconut oil, BPT Wheat Germ Treatment, La Apretadora.
How much: As your hair is dry, it will need a fair bit more product than you would apply if conditioning on wet hair, since you can't rely on the added slip and spreading water provides. Be generous in your application and make good use of sectioning so that every strand is allowed to benefit.
Depending on your method, you can do this layer before or after the treatment (Step #3). If you're conditioning the traditional Dominican way, this step comes right after the shampoo, to lay a smooth foundation for the treatment. If, however, you plan on using a protein treatment, then this moisturising step should come after, to counter any of the stiffening effects commonly associated with protein treatments, Leave this on for 5-10 minutes, or longer, depending on how long it takes your hair to react. Once your hair feels smooth and silky, you know it's ready to rinse.
Key conditioners: Formulations with great slip, like atrActiva's Keratin Rich Detangling Conditioner or Capilo's Sole & Cinnamon.
How much: Apply until your hair feels covered, making sure your hair is as wet as possible to aid spreading. For hair that is heavily textured, start at a tablespoon. For finer hair, or hair that is prone to getting weighed down, as little as a 5p size might be enough. If you have flat roots, then apply the conditioner starting at mid-length, working your way down to the tips.
# 3 Treat:
This conditioning layer is one of the most crucial in the winter months. Protein treatments are great for strengthening your hair, but in the depths of winter, what your hair needs most is a hydrating salve. Locking in moisture and flexibility are the key to getting your hair to survive the cold. A good rule of thumb is to keep your moisturizing treatment to strengthening treatment ratio at approximately 3:1.
Key Treatments: Try atrActiva Dream Treatment, La Aplanadora Maintenance Treatment, or Baba de Caracol Intensive Treatment.
How much: Apply until your hair feels seaweed-y! Just listen to your hair; the amount of treatment it takes to get the seaweed effect is different for each head. It can be anywhere from a teaspoon to a couple of handfuls – your hair will let you know. Make a note of the amount so in future you apply just enough every time, no guesswork.
Layer number 4 is an absolute must for the winter months. Not only does your leave in provide a layer of resistance against cold air, it also offers a layer of protection against combing and manipulation damage. Even if you are exceedingly gentle, your hair is still extra vulnerable to damage from styling in the drying months of winter.
To get the application of this crucial layer correct, properly sectioning the hair is essential. Start either from your front hairline or your nape, parting with fingers or a comb. Remember to keep clips or covered elastic bands on hand to keep the sections in place.
Number of sections? For fine or thin hair that easily absorbs product, this can be as few as four. Thicker, coarser and less absorbent hair will typically require upwards of 24. You'll know the sections are the right size for your hair if you are able to touch each strand individually, coating it completely. Work the product into your hair thoroughly, too; it's not a layer if it's daubed lightly and randomly across a lucky few strands.
As soon as you've applied your leave in to a section, follow it up with a sealant to lock moisture and emollients inside. Make sure the sealant hits all sides of your hair, not just the top layer, otherwise it's not going to be able to lock anything in. Work it in well; for the most efficient results, brush through with a flexible bristle brush or comb with a seamless comb. If you want to be extra gentle, however, then you can comb with your fingers alone.
Key sealants: Oils and butters, rich cremes or silicones. Try pure Vitamin E oil, atrActiva Shine Drop Smoothing Conditioning Leave-In Serum or BPT Brillantina.
How much: A small amount applied well is sufficient as your hair is already adequately moisturised by the four, yes FOUR previous layers you've already applied. It just needs that final lick of paint to lock in all the good work you've done.
Most hair will require no more than a fingertipful or merely a glazed finger tip's worth per section – just listen to your hair, you'll know it's well sealed when it feels utterly smooth and protected.
And, speaking of sealing, don't forget to seal your strands against moisture loss and friction at night with a good piece of satin, whether a scarf or a pillowcase.
DHA Hair Care Experts
Dominican Hair Alliance