Many people are under the impression that Black hair has different elements than non-Black hair. Actually, the components of all hair types are essentially the same; it is in the way the elements of the hair are structured that result in the differences in texture. Often, the outer layer of the hair, called the cuticle, can be twice as thick for Black hair as it is for other types of hair. Black hair also tends to be drier because it is more difficult for the natural oil secretions to effectively penetrate the more tightly-curled hair. Gray hair is also in general, more resistant to coloring and chemical treatments than other hair colors.
How to Care for Your Gray African-American Hair Type
Decide whether you choose to wear your hair in a natural or relaxed style. Decide whether you will let your hair “go gray” or color it hair to conceal your gray. Select your hair care products based on your decision for hairstyle and color preference.
Wash your hair no more than once a week, gently massaging your scalp. Carefully blot out excess water with a towel. Apply a leave-in deep conditioner.
Have your hair professionally cut at least every six weeks. If desired, color your hair with a haircolor preparation made especially to cover gray. Use a hair moisturizing lotion, or shea butter-type oil daily.
African-American hair tends to be more fragile than other types; therefore, take special care when combing and brushing your hair. Using a special shampoo designed for graying hair will help alleviate a yellow tinge in your hair. De-tangle your hair with upward instead of downward strokes. Good nutritional habits will help to keep your gray hair healthy. Gently mist your hair and scalp with a spray bottle in between shampooing especially if you sweat a lot or particular in sports and exercise. Tie or cover your hair with a satin scarf or cap every night to protect it from excessive breakage.
If you decide to both chemically relax your hair and color it, relax it first. Take care in the selection of a hair color when covering your gray hair; try not change your natural color no more than two shades lighter or darker. Take particular cautions in keeping your gray hair moisturized with products specifically for Black hair types. Gray hair in African-Americans tends to dry out and break off more easily; choose your hairstyle accordingly.
Pamela Hilliard Owens is a former public school teacher, college instructor and sales manager. With a master's degree in English, she writes and edits for individuals, grad students and businesses in nine countries. She founded Writing It Right For You in 1998 and is published in many online and print media.