There's a common misconception that afro, curly, kinky and coily hair is difficult to look after. This is partly down to a lack of representation in mainstream media, not to mention adverts and hair products calling for women to "tame the frizz". Those of us with textured hair will know that our tresses are full of life and vitality. However, with salons closed for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic, it has become increasingly hard for women to maintain, treat and style their hair at home.
What is Carra and how does it work?
Launched by Winnie Awa (who also founded Antidote Street, a digital shopping platform for those with afro and multi-textured hair types), Carra is a personalised haircare website. It is designed to offer styling advice and product recommendations, and can help you put together an entire haircare routine tailored to your individual hair needs.
Once signed up to the subscription service, you're prompted to take a quiz to determine your hair concerns, whether that's slow growth, dryness, thinning edges or undefined curls (to name a handful). Next up: scalp health, hair texture (from 4C to 2) and hair density. Carra then cleverly calculates your answers and gives your current haircare routine an overview before assigning you an experienced IRL hair coach to support you in achieving your best lengths ever.
Intrigued, I had to sign up and give Carra a go. It was easy to input all my details, such as hair type (3C) and hair velocity (fine). I also listed the products I'm currently using: Curls Blueberry Bliss Leave-In Conditioner, Dizziak Deep Conditioner, Lush Avocado Shampoo Bar and Extra Virgin Coconut Oil for deep conditioning.
To access Carra's expertise, you can choose between two packages: the Carra Starter Ludus, £40, which includes one session, or the Carra Bundle Philia, £100, which includes three sessions. I opted for the former. I met hair professional Kemi Sade for a 20-minute appointment over Carra's virtual consultation platform (basically a Zoom meeting for hair) where we discussed my routine and any hair worries.
Kemi had some stellar advice about how to treat my coloured hair, which is something I've been struggling with lately. She explained that coloured hair behaves differently from virgin hair as each dyed hair strand tightens and becomes a lot drier. Because of this, she recommended I use a clarifying and moisturising shampoo, as well as an at-home protein treatment (occasionally added to my conditioner) every other month to maintain moisture and hydration.
I had a couple more questions. Lately there has been lots of discussion around whether co-washing is all it's cracked up to be when it comes to looking after curls so I asked Kemi whether it was the best technique to use on my hair after a workout, since I exercise a couple of days a week. Interestingly, it could be holding you back from amazing curls. "You should wash your hair with shampoo rather than conditioner, or if you like, use a co-wash cleanser," Kemi told me. Experts argue that not removing build-up properly can leave the scalp clogged and make hair appear dull as it grows through.
We also discussed hair treatments. Kemi recommended Avlon Affirm Care MoisturRight Hair Repair Masque and rosewater, a product which surprised me. According to the pro, this is a simple yet effective way of shuttling extra moisture into curly hair. What about my coconut oil deep treatment? Judging by the look on Kemi's face, it's not a great addition. "If you need to detangle your hair ahead of wash day, use a few drops of tea tree oil or rosemary oil, mixed with extra virgin oil or jojoba oil instead," Kemi told me.
Carra's experts also know a thing or two about styling. I've been thinking about installing braids during lockdown since wash and go has been the bane of my life, so while I had Kemi on the line I asked her how to wash, maintain and style braids at home. Kemi's top tip is to wash the extensions before use to minimise irritation. Leaving them in apple cider vinegar and water solution for three to five minutes then giving them another wash in diluted shampoo works a treat. Simply dip the extensions in a few times before rinsing and drying and you're good to go.
After our call, I received the Carra report, which explained everything and set out the best techniques for my hair type and concerns. I even have a new routine, which is as follows: Healthy Hair Studio by Enitan Protein Defence, Camille Rose Naturals Clean Rinse Moisturising and Clarifying Shampoo and As I Am Coconut Co-Wash. All of these products are affordable and save me from trying others which might prove to be a waste of my money. We're all unable to book salon appointments during lockdown but once doors open, I'll be heading along every two months for a deep moisturising treatment on Kemi's recommendation.
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Is Carra worth it?
I really enjoyed the service and I found it helpful, especially as I can't get to my professional hairstylist. Like a lot of Black women, I know that the perfect haircare routine takes trial and error, and while I might have been getting some things wrong, chatting with Kemi taught me a lot. The report also directed me to some brilliant YouTube hair technique videos, including Hair Washing Hacks That Will Save Your Hair by Brad Mondo and How To Wash Box Braids by Shanique Buntyn. For £40 a session, it's nice to know that I can jump on a call with an expert (or as I like to call them, fairy godmothers of great hair), as it's clear they really do understand textured hair concerns.
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