This is one question I get asked the most. Notwithstanding our hair is so different and the answer may not be one size fits all, I have tried to answer the question here. I hope it will help you. Here goes…
What makes hair hard to the feel is either, lack of moisture, product build-up, damage to the hair shaft or the kinky structure of the hair which naturally has cuticles that do not lay flat to the hair shaft making the hair feel rough or hard. So what can be done to make hair soft? Let’s address these causes.
If you use a lot of product on the hair, a 2 in 1 shampoo or conditioner only, co-wash, will not clear the build-up. So you may need to do a proper shampoo for cleansing at least once a month. Otherwise the other washes can be done using a conditioner only. Clearing product build up is important in order to get other products applied on the hair to have the intended effect. If there is product build up, any product added will just sit on top of the hair shaft and will not penetrate nor benefit the hair in any way.
For moisture retention, after shampooing, make sure to condition the hair. You can also leave the conditioner in your hair for longer, 15 to 30 minutes for deep conditioning. Try to smooth the hair down the hair shaft when rinsing out the conditioner. This will encourage the cuticles to lay flat. After rinsing out the conditioner, apply some leave-in conditioner and then seal with a butter and/or oil for sheen. When using butter and oil, make sure you use very little because using more may cause unnecessary build up making your hair hard and flat (not shiny). Always add some moisture to your hair by spritzing with a water based spray at least once a day unless you are wearing your hair straight. This will keep the moisture levels up most of the time.
Smooth your cuticles down as well when applying the conditioner, butter and oil to encourage it to lay flat. Chunky braid or chunky twist your hair to stretch. You can also do African threading, flexi rods, perm rods and many other hair tools to stretch the hair. I find that chunky braiding or twists make it easier to smooth the cuticles down as you braid or twist the hair. After drying, my hair is normally much smoother and softer.
If the hair is damaged, deep conditioning alternated with protein treatments will help to nurse it back to health. Deep conditioning can be done weekly or every time you wash the hair with a maximum of 2 protein treatments a month. Make sure to follow a protein treatment with some conditioning to make the hair feel softer as protein treatments, though they make hair fuller and stronger, they have a tendency of making it hard as well.
You will also need to do an investigation to find out which products work well with your hair. Try and use one of each category for 3 consecutive washes and see the results.
I hope I have answered you fully. If not, or you need more explanation, please write your questions in the comments below instead of writing me an email. That way, I will not have to answer the same question several times as this may take a lot of time. If you have more tips on making this kinky hair softer, please write those as well in the comments section.