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afro hair maintain quarantine
Photography Agatha Powa

Tips on caring for afro hair in quarantine, from hairstylist Kemi Akinbola


TextFelicia Pennant

Use this guide to get your locks on point at home

Not going out means there’s no need to lay down your edges, secure your wig, apply heat or twist/plait/pack (delete as applicable) your hair every morning. Seriously. If you’ve reached the end of your protective hair cycle, take it out and be free, let your fade grow out until you see your go-to person again. “Now is the perfect time to become good friends with your hair,” says Kemi Akinbola, the hair stylist behind the orange and black waist-length braids IAMDDB sported at Field Day Australia in January. “I had braids in and I was like, ‘I’m in quarantine so these braids are coming out.’ (That way) you can see what your hair is doing everyday, keep it moisturised and spend time detangling. When we come out of this, if you do want to put your hair in a protective style, you’ll know that your hair’s been looked after.”

Formally trained to do all types of hair and styles, Akinbola is a crochet specialist with her own burgeoning music career, and a word-of-mouth client base that includes fellow singer Nao and make-up artist and Dazed Beauty community member Mata Marielle. Operating out of her home, the hairstylist’s approach is organic, steered by Subrina Kidd and experimenting on her own 4B/C texture, and all about empowering people to nurture their own barnets in all their glory. “Use the products you have, try different twist outs, braid outs, cornrows or practise having your hair out. Get used to the way your hair looks and being your authentic self with your hair.” So relax and read on for Akinbola’s tried-and-tested afro hair tips and favourite products.

HAVE ON HAND…

“A good shampoo, ideally sulphate-free and a highly moisturising, deep conditioner. I use Creme of Nature which also has an intense treatment conditioner or the Dizziak shampoo and conditioner. I would make sure I have a good leave-in conditioner too from As I Am or Giovanni to leave in overnight if you want too. Then a nice oil. My hero product which I really really love is Sunny Isle Jamaican Black Castor Oil Pure Butter Lavender. It’s moisturising, smells nice, helps edge regrowth, and you’ll find your hair is extremely soft. Decide how much product to use based on how much hair you have and how it feels – I’m quite heavy-handed. Make sure you get the product onto every strand.”

TAKE YOUR TIME

“What I would do is shampoo and then a deep treatment, put a plastic cap on and leave it on for a while. If you have a hood dryer, sit under that to make sure it penetrates the hair. Detangle your hair, rinse the conditioner out, then put your hair in twists to let it air dry. There’s no rush is there?”

BUILD-UP BE GONE

“It’s best to use a really strong shampoo, maybe a sulphate one, or if it is sulphate-free make sure it foams. If you have a protective style and you find you have a lot of product build-up (when you take it out), don’t be afraid to do more than one shampoo, maybe three or four if you need to. Make sure you really scrub every inch of your scalp. As long as the scalp and hair is fully foamed up and really clean, it should go.”

GET YOUR TWIST OR BRAID OUT POPPING

“Get a wide tooth comb and some leave in conditioner and divide your hair into sections. If you do loads you’ll have a more defined twist out, but if you’re not that fussed, 10-15 is fine. Run leave in conditioner through each section, seal it in with an essential oil of your choice, then detangle with your fingers or a comb. If you don’t mind the shrinkage, do a double strand twist (two chunks of hair to create a rope twist) with each section for a more spiral, afro look. If you want your hair stretched out for length and volume, do it with three for a braid out and a more zigzag look. Make sure the ends are fully moisturised so they coil up.”

“Then leave it to dry. It can be your protective style for a week and if you want to take the sections out, get a nice oil, rub it through each twist /braid and unravel them starting from the end. Seperate them, shake it out and see how it looks. It’s a good time to experiment and there are so many tutorials on YouTube. Type in your hair type and ‘twist out’ to search. Choose a YouTuber who has the same hair type and be realistic about the end result.”

REVIVE YOUR EDGES 

“It’s easier to look after your edges if your hair isn’t in a protective style, unless it’s one with your hair like mini twists or cornrows or braids. Castor oil is the main product to apply. Tea Tree oil, rosemary oil, oils that are healing and also give it time. Obviously if your edges are weak, don’t do anything tight around your hairline or slick your hair down. At night, rather than tying a satin scarf around your head like a pirate, which rubs on your edges, put a loose bonnet over your hair instead. A silk or satin pillowcase is fine but if you’re using oils overnight, they’re going to go on the pillow and your face (if you’re not wearing a bonnet). Just keep everything loose until your edges grow back.”

DIY OILS AND TREATMENTS

“Now’s the time to play around with the oils in your cabinet. Extra virgin olive oil is a good moisturiser and people also like to use coconut oil, peppermint oil is anti-inflammatory if you have an itchy scalp. I like castor oil because it’s very good and I have a lot of hair. It really depends on if you’d like your mix to be thick and it’s a case of trial and error. You just don’t want something that will make your hair crispy. People say that honey, eggs and avocado make a good moisturising home-made mask but I’ve never tried it myself. If you run out of shampoo, you can use apple cider vinegar to clean your hair.”

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