The impression most people have about going natural is that it is a lot of work, and that you constantly have to play around with your hair. On the contrary it’s actually very simple. The trick is just to get out of the mindset of dealing with your hair when it was relaxed, and work with your kinks in a way that won’t make them rebel. You cannot treat natural hair the same way as you treated relaxed hair. I can’t stress this enough. But once you figure out the basic rules, you’ll have come up with a routine that works for you in no time and will actually start really looking forward to wash day so you can play with your hair (or maybe I just need to get a life).
Of course, everything has to be tweaked to each individual, and what works for one person will not necessarily work in the exact same way for the next. And we all know rules are made to be broken. But if you are at a loss about where to start, these tips may come in handy when caring for your natural hair:
Moisture, moisture, moisture, is all our hair craves, and the best way to get moisture is from water itself, so make sure you are wetting your hair at least once a week. However:
Washing does not always mean shampooing! Most commercial shampoos contain sulphates- sodium laurel/laureth sulphate (SLS), or ammonium laurel sulphate (ALS). These strip your hair of natural oils, leaving it dry and brittle. Check the ingredients list to see if your normal shampoo contains these, and try and limit their use to only when you are experiencing heavy build-up. Switch instead to natural sulphate-free shampoos or clarifying cleansers such as JBC Shampoo or black soap, but even better, try ditching the shampoo every other wash and “cowashing” instead. This consists of washing hair with a conditioner, such as Rosemary & Hempseed Conditioner Treatment, Raw Honey, Shea & Argan Oil Conditioner, or Roots Hair Milk & Conditioner Pro.
Eliminate or limit the number of products with silicones (‘cones) in them. These are ingredients which end in ‘one, ‘xane, ‘onol. These are useful in products like heat protectant should you choose to straighten your hair, but not so necessary in conditioners and moisturizers. Building up in hair, requiring a sulphate shampoo to strip them out.
Avoid anything containing mineral oil/parafinum liquidum/petroleum. Mineral oil (present in most products marketed at “Black Hair”) can be a complete nightmare for natural hair. Although a number of naturals do find it useful in sealing (see below) and protecting their ends, the side effect is it coats the hair shaft preventing moisture from entering, and leaving our strands dry and brittle. It also attracts dirt and dust to the hair, leaving it quickly looking dull and lackluster. The only way to remove them is by using sulphates, leading to more dryness. All in all, mineral oil is a disaster in my opinion: Petrochemicals have no business in our hair!
Conditioner contains enough surfactants to clean your hair and scalp, and provided you are using all-natural products that do not bind to your hair, you shouldn’t experience any build-up. However, before you start on this routine, you will have to use a strong shampoo such as: Blackseed Scalp Renewal Deep Refinement Shampoo the first time to strip out the junk from all the bad products you’ve been using up until now.
Try and deep condition once a week, or once every two weeks, with Roots Deep Conditioner, Repair & Recovery Plus. If you feel your hair needs an additional boost, add honey, olive oil, shea butter or any other natural oil to your conditioner. Apply to hair, cover with plastic cap for at least 20 mins with a hooded dryer/hot towel/heat cap, or for an hour using just body heat (towel wrapped around your head to keep this in).
Going back to the earlier subject of heat, limit the use of this on your hair. Wherever possible, try to air-dry your hair (as it gets longer, you might find it best to do this while it is stretched out in twists or braids to minimize tangles). If straightening, make sure you ALWAYS use a heat protectant.
Never comb hair dry! The best method of combing hair is when wet or damp, and loaded with conditioner.
Kinky hair tends to thrive more if kept in protective styles more often than wearing it out. These include twists, braids, buns, or any method to keep hair stretched out as it dries, and also keeping ends up and away from your clothing. (Check back later for more protective styling tips) If you prefer to wear your hair loose, stretch it out while drying to minimize tangles and lock in moisture, thereby retaining length: i.e. twist or braid hair with leave-in/moisturizer when wet, and then loosen when dry.
Keep hair moisturized between washes. There are many ways to do this, and many products to use, but my favorite is our Daily Hydration Spray with purified water and some oil (e.g. castor). Shake up, and spray on hair daily.
Oil is not moisture! You can only get moisture from water, products with water high up in the ingredients list, or humectants, such as aloe or glycerin. Oils and butters only lock in the moisture that is already there, so use natural oils and butters (such as extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil & pure unrefined shea butter) to seal in the moisture after using a water based moisturizer. Never use oil on its own on dry hair unless you are planning on starting a brush fire. Note though, that sealing after moisturizing is extremely important to help retain that moisture, and also to keep your ends lubricated, minimizing splits.
Handy tip on humectants: These work by drawing moisture out of the air and into your hair. In dry climates, however, there is no moisture in the air, and so they can end up pulling the moisture back out of your hair. Although the climate in Nigeria is generally humid, we sometimes spend our days in dry air conditioned rooms. So a good trick when using products with humectants, is to apply them before you get in the shower, and let them soak in the steam for the best moisturizing benefits.
Always sleep with a satin scarf or bonnet, or on a satin pillowcase. Cotton draws the moisture out of your hair.
The information can be overwhelming, so through this blog, we will attempt to tackle issues a step at a time. Keep checking back for updates as we review and suggest products, discuss routines, styling tips, care for kids’ hair, etc. We want this blog to be interactive, so please feel free to leave comments or suggestions, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org