Damaged hair is almost an irrelevant descriptor, because it is standard. Heat and chemically treated hair is the norm. I realised recently, while chatting with my best friend, that she is the only woman I know in her 30s who has completely untreated, natural hair. No colour or chemicals – but even she gets the straighteners out now and then.
Though preventing damage is important, accepting that it is a part of modern hair treatments and trying to minimise it is just as important. Multi-award winning London-based afro hair stylist Charlotte Mensah has her own range of products which prevent and treat damage to the hair, which can be used by anyone with curly, coily and thicker damaged hair. She works mostly with women of colour, encouraging women to minimise hair processing; to embrace and work with their natural hair.
This message is useful for everyone. I use Mensah's Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil (number 1 in photograph; €54 at charlottemensah.com) as a leave-in product on my thick, slightly kinky caucasian hair after washing, but anyone with thicker hair can use it. My sister-in-law loves it just as much on her much thicker coily hair.
According to Mensah, “Crunchy, brittle hair is a basic indicator of damaged hair. When your hair feels rough and dry, it’s a sign that your hair is lacking moisture and it also means that [it] is not in its optimum condition.” She also advises knowing the early signs of damage: “Flyaways not just a matter of having unruly hair, but are usually a sign of failure to retain moisture – they can also signify breakage resulting in short hair strands sticking out.”
I find Shu Uemura Ultimate Reset Shampoo (2; €32.90) and Conditioner (€43.90), available from boutique salons nationwide, excellent for intensely colour treated hair and split ends. When hair is ripping, you still need a trim, but intensely nourishing products are called for, and they tend to be more expensive. If you do brush your hair when it is damp (avoid this if you have very curly hair – use fingers and a cream product to separate the curls by hand instead) try Tangle Teezer Wet Detangler (3; €15 at Boots). Don't use a standard brush, but something with wide teeth, or hair can snap and tear.
Try to wash your hair less often if you can, opting for a dry shampoo like Moroccanoil Dry Shampoo (4; €20.45 at selected salons nationwide) if hair is prone to greasiness. Also ensure that you have a good hairdryer – I like ghd x Lulu Guinness Air Hair Dryer (5; €129 with €10 donation to the Irish Cancer Society at salons nationwide).
If your hair is curly or coily, ensure that you choose a dryer with a good diffuser attachment. For afro and coily hair, Mensah advises “always using a heat protector if you heat style at home and also try to have regular hot oil treatments to seal in moisture. Use a conditioning mask to rehydrate and strengthen at least every two weeks. Always use a good-quality shampoo that contains extra emollients and always use a silk scarf at night as it will seal in moisture.”