The Beauty Memo

Beauty’s most asked: how to care for curly, kinky, textured or Afro hair

To answer your most burning beauty questions, we ask the world’s leading experts to share their knowledge. Award-winning hair stylist CHARLOTTE MENSAH – known for her natural approach to haircare and high-profile clients, including Janelle Monáe, Jada Pinkett Smith and Erykah Badu – shares her advice on how to care for your natural texture, manage frizz and achieve super-healthy hair


How should I maintain my hair, day to day?

“So many women tell me that because their hair is curly, they don’t shampoo it – they just use a conditioner, or co-wash it. Do not do this! It leaves the scalp clogged up and the hair heavy, dull and with no shine at all. Shampoo your hair once a week, using a pre-treatment first – this stops the hair from tangling when it’s shampooed, so there’s less frizz later. When washing the hair, use small, gentle movements so you don’t disturb it to minimize tangles and frizz. Always use products for Afro, curly or textured hair, too, as these contain the right botanical ingredients and humectants to put the moisture back. I love an overnight oil treatment, using a few drops on the scalp and along the hairline, where it can get especially dry. Between washes, you can help redefine the curl by spritzing on a mix of your favorite conditioner and tepid water. I also do a Manketti Oil Finishing Mist in my Charlotte Mensah range, created specially to refresh hair.”

Why is curly, textured and Afro hair so easily damaged?

“Breakage is a massive problem, and there are two issues here: the way the hair springs back on itself weakens it, plus it’s naturally very dry and dehydrated – put any moisture on curly, textured or Afro hair and it soaks it up like a sponge. If you put one drop of oil on straight hair, you can immediately see the shine it gives, but do the same on curly hair and you don’t see that smoothness. Curly hair is very individual; whether dual-heritage or Afro, Asian or more Mediterranean-style coarse-textured hair, I’ll see some areas where the curl is more defined, and others where it’s frizzier or straighter. And while one woman has curls at the front, frizz at the back, another woman will have the opposite. It’s why so many women feel they can’t control their hair and end up having it straightened.”

How can I stop my hair being so dry?

“Always use a pre-shampoo treatment, as well as a conditioner afterwards. I also like to add a few drops of oil to both, as you want to have that buttery texture in your product. When you apply the pre-shampoo treatment, section your hair into four, and work the product in well, then twist each section up and secure to your head – this keeps the moisture in for a better treatment. A rich, heavy product tends to ‘sit’ on the hair, so you want something that’s almost slippery in texture [containing a lot of hydrating humectants], so you can really work it into the lengths. The first four centimeters of everyone’s hair is usually in brilliant condition, but after that you see the damage. Any type of dry hair benefits from weekly steaming; using a classic electric steaming cap that you plug in, simply apply your treatment and then steam, as this opens up the hair cuticles to really let the product soak in. It’s also key to remember that healthy hair starts at the scalp; so many women have six products for their face, and then just one shampoo for their hair – your scalp is exactly the same skin, so treat it better. Use an oil once a week, too, like my Manketti Oil, and take the time to massage it in – it gets the circulation going. If you have braids, they can often be too tight, so massaging the scalp really helps. The one tip I always share is, once a week, do an overnight treatment using your favorite conditioner with a few drops of oil mixed in. If you want beautiful hair, you have to make time for a pre-wash treatment, steam and massage with an oil.”

What’s the best way to fight frizz?

“Frizz is an issue of dryness and dehydration, so look at how you treat your hair. Leave conditioner in for as long as possible – try covering your head with a plastic cap for 30 minutes, or condition your hair while you’re in the bath, as the steam helps it to work more efficiently. There are techniques you can use to tame frizzy hair, such as twisting small sections of the hair to encourage the curl, or twist it and then pin it up in a knot, or on a flexi-rod to get smoothness and curl. What you do at night is also very important: braiding, twisting or using the flexi-rods (like bendy rollers) overnight is a great way to achieve a full head of even curls.”

What about general maintenance for curly hair?

“A great cut is so important because, no matter if your hair is frizzy, you will still have good structure. When washing, use warm, not hot water. Buy a flat paddle brush without ‘knots’ or bumps on the ends of the bristles, as these can yank the hair, and always brush starting from the ends, working up the lengths in sections. Finally, sleep on a silk pillowcase or use a silk bonnet – it does make a difference, because cotton absorbs moisture.”

The model featured in this story is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown