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The Ultimate Guide to Gorgeous African-American Hair

The Ultimate Guide to Gorgeous African-American Hair

Whether your hair is natural, pressed, relaxed, or somewhere in the middle, finding a person you trust, who really understands your hair, is essential. And finding that person can be tough.

So, we took it upon ourselves to track down four hairstylists in D.C. who really get it — they've earned reputations for being savvy with all types of textured hair — and jumped at the chance to pick their brains for the dos and don'ts of their trade. The result? Our first-ever pros' guide to styling, protecting, and maintaining your gorgeous tresses, no matter how you wear them.

Check out these tips straight from the stylists, as well as the scoop on all their fave must-have products.

(Shira Karsen)
Amanda Styles

Stylist at Bang Salon, 601 F Street NW; 202-737-2264

Her mane objective: Styles' M.O. is to use as little product as possible in the hair, with a focus on products that are vegan or vegetarian.

If you have natural hair: "A good shampoo and conditioner make such a big difference. Without that foundation for your hair, you're using only styling products to get nutrients into your hair, which is just crazy. You should deep condition the hair regularly — but not all the time, because you don't want to overprocess the hair with too much conditioner. And get seasonal trims — I recommend getting a trim when you're going out of a season, but it needs to be trimmed at least every four to five months. Think of hair like a plant — grooming and pruning are key. Leaving the hair and just letting it be is never a good idea."

If you have pressed or straightened hair: "With heat-styled hair, you're getting it done every two or three weeks, so you won't be able to go as long between trims. Get the hair trimmed every two to three months; some people could even get a trim every month and a half. Use tourmaline and titanium flat irons and dryers — those are my heat protectants — instead of using more products to style your hair. Drink lots of water and eat leafy green vegetables for healthier hair. For over-the-counter products, coconut oil and vegetable glycerin are the two most effective moisturizers for hair and body."

If you have relaxed hair: "In most cases, relaxed hair is damaged; in fact, 80 percent of clients I've had with relaxed hair were allergic to the relaxer and didn't know it. The hair follicle is very damaged and thin, because it's being relaxed too often. This has always been my thing: Technology has come so far that you can straighten your hair without chemicals, just with a flatiron or a curling iron. But note that certain textures shouldn't be straightened — you could damage the curl pattern or your hair could stay straight."

(Refinery 29)
Her product picks:

Moroccanoil Luminous Hair Spray, $21: "The benefit is that it has argan oil and keratin in it, and keratin is what hair is made up of, so it restores shine and gives it protein and strength."

Moroccanoil Oil Treatment, $15: Smooth this argan oil through the hair to condition and boost shine.

Pureology Antifade Complex Hydrate Shampoo, $26: "The Hydrate shampoo has emollients that moisturize the hair, plus a lot of protein."

Pureology Antifade Complex Take Hold Hair Spray, $19.25: "I always prefer this because it's 100 percent vegan. No parabens, no artificial fragrances, no artificial preservatives — nothing in that bottle is artificial. Nanotechnology means that the product penetrates the hair immediately, so you get all the benefits as soon as put it on your hair — you can immediately see the difference. And you can use it on all hair textures."

Moroccanoil Glimmer Shine Spray, $25: Mist this moisturizing spray over the top of the hair to add shine.

(Shira Karsen)
Lolita Burruss and Alicia Holliday

Stylists at The Edge Hair Studio, 2621 University Boulevard West, Wheaton; 301-588-2701.

Their mane objective: This styling duo concentrates on moisturizing and protecting all hair textures, especially when hair is color-treated or dry.

If you have natural hair: "You definitely want to moisturize a lot, because natural hair is always a lot drier than other types of hair. You want to look for products with jojoba oil; a sulfate-free shampoo is great for any type of ethnic hair, because it's less drying, especially for colored or relaxed hair. You can also do a co-wash, which is just rinsing the hair and using only conditioner, instead of shampooing."

If you have pressed or straightened hair: "The humidity and the weather means that pressed hair is hard here. You’re almost training your hair, so you want to use a serum to smooth it out, wrap it at night, and put it in Velcro rollers in the morning if you’ve lost some of the bounce. And use a humidity-resistant spray for styling."

If you have relaxed hair: "You need to get a trim every time you get a touch up, but at the very least, get one every six weeks. With all types of African-American hair, you want to keep it moisturized, and you want to alternate hair styles. So, if you get it blown dry and straightened one time, then get a roller set the next time, to prevent overworking the hair. Let your hair air-dry a bit to get some of the water out, so you’re not using a blowdryer on your hair so much. And keep track of when you’re getting relaxer and which brand you’re using.”

(Refinery 29)
Their product picks:

Mizani Coconut Souffle, $12.75: "This is a lightweight moisturizer for fine to medium-textured, relaxed, or curly hair. It adds shine as well, and it smells great." 

Sultra The Seductress Curl, Wave & Straight Iron, $215: "This is the best flat iron. If you're able to make an investment in your hair, this should be it — the amount of shine and sealed cuticles you will get from using this iron is crazy."

Aveda Brilliant Anti-Humectant Pomade, $19: "It's a small jar, but it packs a lot of usage. It's great for flyaways, frizz, smoothing hair, taming curls and more."

It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In Plus Keratin, $19.99: "This is great to use after shampoo and conditioner, before you style. Spray evenly all over, then comb through with a wide-tooth comb."

(Shira Karsen)
Denia M. Massetti

Stylist at Roche Salon, 1624 I Street NW; 202-887-8150.

Her mane objective: Massetti nurtures hair that has been dried out and damaged by relaxers and heat styling with intensive conditioning masques and sprays.

If you have natural hair: "Curly, natural hair is usually naturally dry, so I recommend using a good, deep-conditioning moisturizer."

If you have pressed or straightened hair: "Hair that is exposed to a lot of heat from pressing or straightening falls in the same category of dry hair. My advice is to use a masque or moisturizer once a week and leave it on the hair for 10 to 15 minutes. You can cover the head with a plastic cap for better results, and be sure to rinse well if your hair is fine."

If you have relaxed hair: "Usually, 99 percent of my clients who use relaxer in their hair have dry hair. For coarse textures or relaxed hair, use a leave-in conditioner with heat-styling properties. Using a light shampoo and a leave-in conditioner will give a nice smooth look."

(Refinery 29)
Her product picks:

Oribe Signature Moisture Masque, $59: "Relaxers can leave your hair very dry. This is a great moisturizing masque, and it's also perfect for color-treated hair."

La Brasiliana Dieci All-In-One Instant Hair Treatment, $23.95: "This is a great leave-in conditioner to use after shampooing and before blowdrying. It will help detangle and leave your hair smooth, silky and more manageable."

Kérastase Resistance Fibre Architecte, $42: "This line is perfect for damaged hair that has been exposed to harsh chemicals, like relaxers. Using Fibre Architecte with heat tools not only protects your hair, it actually helps repair it."

Kérastase Nutritive Nectar Thermique, $39: "If your hair is coarse or relaxed, use this product after a deep conditioning treatment. Rinse about 95 percent of the masque out, then apply a little bit of Nectar Thermique, which is a heat-styling protective agent."

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