Afro HairstyleQ: I have two African sons, and want to try afros on them. What is the best way to do it? So far I have just left it alone and cut it occasionally. Now I want to grow it out, should I let it grow naturally, or try to brush/comb it every day? What kind of brush or comb would not hurt them? Thanks.
A: From all my research and consulting with some of my African-American colleagues (former Cosmetology School classmates) it seems the most favored method of growing out an afro style is to simply let the hair grow until it is long enough to braid into cornrows, then use that particular styling method to contain the hair while it grows, periodically taking the hair down and re-braiding it to maintain the tension in the braided style and check the progress of the growth.
You'll want to make sure to keep the scalp and hair clean and conditioned, and most stylists favor the use of very lightweight fruit oils and products like shea butter for moisturizing and detangling the hair. The number of products available to fit the bill in these areas is staggering, so be prepared to read labels and select one that you think you'll like working with. Or better yet, if you are having the braiding done at a salon, simply ask the stylist what he or she recommends you use for the boys' hair.
Once the hair has grown out to the desired length for the afro style, you can maintain it by using the right styling tools. A pick is a good choice for an initial tool, and works better than a comb because the teeth are longer and are designed to penetrate deeper beyond the perimeter of the hairline.
Just remember that while the comb is designed to be dragged through the hair from scalp to ends, the pick is meant to be used in the direction in which the afro grows. Insert the pick teeth first into the hair and lift it away from the scalp to separate and detangle any of the hairs on the head that may need it.
Start out with a wide-tooth pick (a long-toothed comb can also work) and move to a more compactly-toothed pick as you get any tangles removed. If you encounter snags and tangles, be sure to work from the outside inward toward the scalp to loosen them. Simply trying to pull the pick up through the tangle is only going to result in the hair being damaged, broken or further snarled.
You can get detangling sprays made specifically for afro-styles to help prevent snags and snarls in African-textured hair. These can make maintaining an afro style much easier and a more pleasant experience.
Finally, make sure to keep the hair and scalp clean and healthy, and good shampoo and condition, and a proper diet are all essential to growing long, strong, healthy hair, regardless of ethnicity.