How To Summer-Proof Your Natural Hair

As hairstylist Anthony Dickey, founder of Hair Rules salon, and celebrity stylist Felicia Leatherwood will tell you: summer is simultaneously the best and worst of times for natural hair. It's a low-key season to experiment with different styles, perfect your wash and go, and let your 'fro fly free. But between trips to the beach and BBQs, the sun and heat are lurking in wait to suck your strands dry.

"Your curls — whether curly, wavy, straight, or kinky — are constantly exposed to sun, which dries out the hair and leaves it brittle," Leatherwood says. We all know moisture is key year-round for natural hair, but it's particularly essential during the steamy summer months.

To help you live your best tress life, Dickey and Leatherwood weighed in on the steps you should be taking to protect your natural hair — and the products that can help you along the way. Cheers to a summer of French fries, falafel, and healthy 'fros.
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One of the best things you can do for your curls this summer is invest in all of the conditioner. "Stocking up on a good, hydrating hair-care system is a must," says Leatherwood, who works with P&G. Her go-to is Herbal Essences Hello Hydration, because not only does it smell middle school good, it also leaves your strands drenched in moisture.

"The Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Conditioner is great for defining curls," says Leatherwood, who recommends using it as a leave-in. "It’s not heavy, adds shine, and, most importantly, acts as a sunscreen, so hair doesn’t get brittle."

Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Moisturizing Conditioner, $6.29, available at Walgreens.
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Dickey adds that the summer is a great time to really embrace your wash and go. A key component to this particular 'do? Co-washing. Just don't waste your money on a cleansing conditioner, advises Dickey. Your regular ol' conditioner does the same job.

"It doesn't make sense to go out and buy a separate product," he says. "The whole point of co-washing is that you're washing with water and then reconditioning your hair texture." (Shampoos can be stripping, leaving natural hair parched.)

He says to find one with a lot of slip and that softens the hair, like Hair Rules' quench, from his own line. Once you find your golden product, bathe your hair in that sucker. "They weren't thinking about women with kinky hair when they said to use a dime-size amount," he says. The more, the merrier.

Hair Rules Quench Ultra Rich Conditioner, $29.99, available at Hair Rules.
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"Towels are rough on hair and cause breakage and dryness," says Leatherwood, who explains that tiny terry cloth loops can hook and lift hair cuticles, allowing precious moisture to seep out, leaving strands prone to additional breakage. "Try drying with a soft cotton T-shirt, instead."

Don't have a shirt you're willing to part with? We're also fans of the gentle mircofiber Devacurl DevaTowel, which is made to pamper curly hair.

DevaCurl DevaTowel, $12, available at Sephora.
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We know, we know — enough with the conditioner recs. But we're not messing around with this point. It's that important. Both Dickey and Leatherwood also swear by Aussie's 3 Minute Miracle Moist, which contains jojoba oil, a key ingredient for protecting hair pre-swimming.

"Summer's incomplete without swimming or playing in the water, but chlorine and sea water are harsh on the hair, so you've got to stay protected," says Leatherwood. "Just twist a palmful of conditioner into your hair and put on a swim cap. Your strands get infused with moisture as you splash around."

Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deeep Conditioner, $2.97, available at Walmart.
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Dickey also recommends wetting your hair prior to taking a dip, then applying a tablespoon (or more depending on length and thickness) of coconut oil.

"Because oil and water don't mix, if the hair is saturated with water and you add oil, there's very little chance of chlorine attaching to your strands," he says.

Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture Scent & Shine Coconut Oil, $26, available at Sephora.
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This mask from Kinky-Curly is a great way to reboot your hair post-swim or just after a long day in the sun. It's formulated with coconut and sunflower oils, glycerin, and aloe to replenish dehydrated locks after languorous summer days.

Kinky Curly Sea, Sand & Sun Replenishing Masque, $24.99, available at Sleek Hair.
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Humidity also brings added frizz to the curly hair party. "When hair dries out from the sun, the cuticles open and attempt to grab moisture from the air, which leads to that unsightly halo of frizz," says Leatherwood. "The extra moisture is good for the softness of the hair, but the frizz action is a problem."

This oil blend from Briogeo quenches strands before they have to open up; rosehip oil, in particular, shields hair from UV and free-radical damage. You wouldn't go to the pool or beach without sunscreen. That same level of protection should extend to your hair, adds Dickey.

Briogeo Rosarco Oil, $28, available at Sephora.
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Protective styles, like box braids, faux locs, and goddess braids, are popular with naturalistas in the summer. (Who doesn't want their hair out of sight and out of mind?) But what seems low maintenance in theory actually requires exactly the same amount of hydrating care.

This Carol's Daughter conditioning mist is made specifically for protective styles, thanks to a lightweight formula of sunflower and coconut oil that won't leave braids gunky, greasy, or weighed-down.

Carol's Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey Conditioning Mist, $12, available at Carol's Daughter.
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