Charlotte Mensah’s Guide To Caring For Afro Hair In Lockdown
Charlotte Mensah’s Guide
Hair care and by extension hair styling for black women is a necessity, an integral part of our daily and weekly routines. Partly because of the historical, social and cultural significance of afro hair and partly because our hair with all its magic and glory can at the very same time be fragile and hard to manage (if you don’t know how). For some of us the responsibility of caring for our hair has been out of our hands since day one. When we were young it was our mothers, grandmothers, older sisters, aunts and cousins (related and non-related) that helped with our hair care. I like many black women have a lot of fond and painful memories of Saturdays or Sundays spent sat on the floor hunched over whilst someone else’s fingers detangled and weaved through my hair. There was always that one aunty that would braid my hair just that little bit too tightly and would wrap my knuckles with the wooden comb should I ever dare to reach my fingers up to feel how much work was left to be done.
As we grew older and became financially independent that responsibility was passed on to our hairdressers and hair stylists. And so, for many of us our experience of doing and caring for our own hair is limited, not because we do not value it but because the opposite is true. Our hair rightly or wrongly is inextricably linked with our identity, a means of self-expression. Hair is so very public and how well you look after it and how you choose to wear it is open to interpretation and judgement by others. For black women that scrutiny conscious or not can be intense and as a result black women tend to spend 6-7 times more than their white counterparts on hair care.
So, when I say there is a slight unease – at best it can be described as nervousness at worst a building panic amongst some black women about hair care during this time I’m really not overstating it.
If you’ve been part of the natural hair movement for some time then you’re probably fine, you’ve probably perfected the skills needed and are already stocked up on the products to get you through the lock down, but if like me you’re still figuring it out then help is at hand in the form of hair maverick Charlotte Mensah the multi award-winning hairstylist, owner and artistic director of the salon Hair Lounge and founder of her eponymous hair brand. One of the most well respected and liked hair stylists in the industry. Charlotte is the go to authority on afro, mixed and curly hair textures and her range Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil was specially formulated for these hair types. In this interview Charlotte talks us through step by step how to care for; natural afro hair, relaxed hair or braids at home. Read on for some expert advice.
HOW should you care for your hair daily whilst it’s in BRAIDS?
Squeeze 2-3 drops of Manketti oil into the palms of your hands and rub them together. Apply daily to the scalp and ends to provide moisture and sheen and then spray braids with Manketti Oil Finishing Mist.
WHAT is the best way to care for your SCALP whilst your hair is in BRAIDS?
As part of your daily regime use my Finishing Mist. Wrap a silk scarf on your head or use a silk pillowcase at night to keep any rough textures away from your hair and scalp. This will keep your hair from getting dry and brittle.
WHAT is the best way to cleanse and condition hair whilst in BRAIDS/ LOCKS?
Washing your hair when you have a full head of braids can be difficult, fortunately there are a few ways to get your scalp and hair clean without actually getting it wet. Spray, sprinkle or drop a little bit of dry shampoo on the scalp and roots and work in gently with your fingertips. Lift up the braids and apply a bit at the roots doing the same process. Finish off by spraying braids with Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Finishing Mist.
What SHOULD you do once you’ve taken out your braids or protective style?
Choose a rich creamy conditioner such as Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Conditioner. This amazing product has been specifically formulated to fill the porous areas on the surface of the hair, keeping the hair hydrated and super nourished.
Apply the deep conditioner to wet (but towel dried hair) focusing on the mid lengths and ends. Spread any conditioner that remains on your hands from the roots to the ends. Pay special attention to the mid lengths and ends which tend to get drier than the rest of the hair.
Use Charlotte Mensah’s Medium Size Paddle brush or a wide tooth comb to evenly distribute the conditioner.
Do you have any TIPS for someone trying out BRAIDS at home for the first time?
1. Watch some tutorials
2. Don’t worry too much about braids being perfect
3. Keep trying
4. Have fun
WHAT are your tips for looking after relaxed hair that is due and how can you improve your hair moisture levels?
Use daily leave-in conditioners and weekly intensive deep conditioners, hot oil treatments. It’s important to avoid heat styling where at all possible.
What advice would you give someone who wants to RETOUCH their hair with an at-home relaxer kit?
I definitely don’t recommend anyone relaxing their own, but if you are desperate, then don’t decide to relax on a whim, especially if you’ve just shampooed your hair. If you know you’re due for a relaxer, avoid cleansing (this includes co-washing) for about 7-10 days before applying any chemicals. You should also avoid scratching your scalp or raking over it with a comb any minor irritation can result in the dreaded burning once the relaxer is applied.
1. Do a strand test
2. Protect your scalp
3. Use a Timer
4. Follow the specific directions
5. Relax small sections
WHAT are your tips and product for conditioning treatments for relaxed hair?
In addition to shampooing and conditioning your hair with good quality products, I’d also recommend regular conditioning treatments, which simply helps and maintains the lustre and moisture of the hair shaft and scalp. Finally, moisturise regularly as most afro hair soaks up moisture like a sponge, always keep your hair moisturised with a hair Oil.
Wash & Trim
Do you have any TIPS on how to achieve a Salon standard blow dry at home?
Preparation is important when blow-drying curly/frizzy hair. Make sure you shampoo with a moisturising shampoo that has extra emollients like my nourishing Manketti Oil shampoo which has been formulated for dry damaged hair.
There is a special way to handle natural hair during the combing out process.Using a wide tooth-comb, detangle the hair from the ends going towards the roots. Start by using a deep conditioning treatment or conditioner to add a boost of moisture, then thoroughly detangle with Charlotte Mensah Medium Size Paddle brush or wide-tooth comb, this will make the hair more manageable and prevent tug damage.
When it’s time to blow dry always use heat protection, I recommend Charlotte Mensah Manketti Hair Oil to seal in moisture and prepare for styling. And remember to moisturise your hair daily with a light cream or oil.
CAN you offer any tips on how to TRIM your hair yourself?
I definitely don’t recommend anyone trying to trim their own hair. It never comes out how you imagine it will but if you’re absolutely desperate then use small scissors, like a pair of nail scissors, the smaller the blade the smaller the mistakes.
Charlotte’s recommendations of easy-to-do PROTECTIVE to try now
What you’ll need: Brush, tail comb, Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Finishing Mist, or any light natural oil and covered elastic bands or hair bands.
Duration: Can be done in 5 mins last 3-4 days.
1. Part your hair in the centre Taking a one-inch strand from the right side, create a classic braid. Secure with a hair band.
2. Repeat this process on the left side.
3. Pull the two braids behind your head and crisscross them over.
4. Pin the braids into place underneath one low bun.
What You’ll Need: Paddle brush, tail comb, Manketti oil Finishing mist or any light natural oil.
Duration: Can be done in 15 mins and can last 2 weeks.
1. Section your hair into 6 parts use and use drops of Manketti oil (or any hair oil that you have) and gentle brush each part.
2. Begin a two-strand twist on each part.
3. After twisting the two strands together, take the whole twist and twist it in a knot secure at the scalp with a Kirby grip.
4. Repeat this technique on the entire hair.
5. Mist hair with CM Finishing for a nice glossy shine.