8 Rules of Natural Hair Care
© Nicole Paschal, All Rights Reserved
As African-American women, we all know that there exists a myriad of choices concerning the daily caretaking of our hair. Although such a range of pliable options exists, we also know that imbedded in how we wear our hair is history, social relevance, stereotypical assertions and misinterpetations. Simply, the state of African-American hair has always been more than just a fashion statement. Regardless of which option we choose, whether relaxed, locs, natural or something else conceivable, our hair requires a great investment of time and for the majority of us- money. Considering the billions of dollars invested into the black hair care industry yearly, maintaining healthy hair is simply no toss of the hat.
Having begun my “natural journey” in 2002, I embarked on this road, alone, without insight into just what was required to maintain healthy, natural, hair. Since “natural” can sometimes be an ambiguous term, I mean hair that is not chemically relaxed or straightened. The first few years resulted in trials and errors, with many failings. When it broke or became damaged from using the wrong products, I simply began again until I found what worked for me. Eventually, I began mixing and making my own hair tonics and solutions. This is something I will discuss later for the “do it yourself” girl. However, in this journey, I still discovered that regardless of hair texture, there are a few mandatory things that our hair needs that are often overlooked. Although this article will not detail specific products (the next will), the natural diva should be sure to include the caretaking tasks below as part of their regular regime
Before you begin running for cover, it is fair to let you know that what was the greatest enemy of the chemically conducive is the dearest necessity of the kinked, curled, and carefree natural diva. Moisture is vital to naturally curly hair. Natural hair can be dryness prone if not governed properly. Also, due to the natural hair oils that originate from the sebaceous glands at the scalp not being dispersed to the ends because of the curly hair pattern, the ends are extremely susceptible to dryness. The result is often natural hair that will grow a certain length, and then break off, never reaching its full potential. In addition, if your hair is colored at the ends, like mine, you are especially in danger of these phenomena. Essentially, there are a few ways to add moisture. My present regime is to add moisture to my hair at night, before work in the morning. I try to do this at least three times a week. How do you add moisture, you ask? Well, there are different ways. (1)The easiest and cheapest is water. Please be careful about where you are living and what elements reside in your water. Some elements, like lime, actually work against your hair. So, purchase a spray bottle and spring water. Spray the mist lightly over your hair at night if you can’t do this in the day. Many women twist, curl or braid their hair at night. You should do this if your hair is prone to tangling when wet. If you want a scent, put a drop of your oil of choice in the spray bottle. (2) The second option is to purchase a purified water based product. My favorite is Giovanni Direct leave-In Conditioner. A mixture of natural oils, purified water, and other organic ingredients, it has done wonders for detangling and moisturizing my hair. (3) Pure aloe vera juice is another option I have heard of that can be extremely beneficial.
2. DEEP CONDITION
I firmly believe that deep conditioning is a vital necessity to taking care of and securing strong natural hair. From my experience, it is vital that you deep condition at least once every two weeks. Although I will suggest my product reviews and personal mix ideas at a later date (because the information is massive), I personally think that Carol’s Daughter tui hair smoothie is one of the best deep conditioners I have known. If you know of some yourself, please use it. I am personally always on the search for good deep conditioners. If you want, send me a message and I will tell you something cheaper that you can do yourself to replenish your hair like a purchased deep conditioner.
3. YES, CLARIFY IT
WARNING:Please read this portion carefully because clarifying shampoos can be an absolute asset to your natural hair styling, or it can ultimately make your hair dry, damaged, and unmanageable. Let me explain further. For your average individuals, not swimmers, or any other natural diva that may need to constantly use clarifying shampoo, it should be done NOT more twice a month. The purpose of this is to remove the chemical build-up from the products that you use. I have noticed that a build-up of products on natural hair specifically, helps to induce tangling, especially at the ends and then drying and breaking occurs. Essentially, the most at risk parts of your hair suffer the most from the chemical build-up. I too was afraid to clarify for risk that my hair may be worse than when I started, so I continued to let it stick together at the ends and tangle. Finally, after the suggestion by another natural diva, I did it allowing me to separate my hair and take my hands through it without the balls at the end. Also, it falls better, because the strands are not carrying the weight of the product build up.Naturally, as a follower of the “do it yourself” motto, there are homemade clarifying possibilities that I, again, will discuss in a future article. For right now, however, we will talk about the clarifying products that can be purchased. First locate one that is Ph balanced and actually says it. Although it is cheap, I have had good results with Suave clarifying shampoo. It is clear, lacking many of the impurities you don’t need and Ph balanced. So, as you wash your hair with the clarifying shampoo, you only need to do one wash and rinse. You don’t want to remove your natural oils from your strands leaving your hair brittle. Myself, to ease the damage, I pre-mix water and clarifying shampoo in a bottle and shake. I wet my hair fully, spray it on, and massage the hair. I noticed that this leaves a better texture and still does the job this way rather than pouring the shampoo directly on the hair. As a woman who cares about African-American hair, I must say, please don’t bother clarifying if you don’t have the time for the next step. You MUST deep condition after EVERY clarifying endeavor. See number #2 about deep conditioners.
4. NO SULFATES
During the week that we are not clarifying, we are using regular shampoo. For the natural divas that have not received the telegram, THIS JUST IN: SULFATES ARE NOT OUR FRIEND! Certainly, I was addicted to the tiny, white, frothy bubbles too, but it is time to let them go. They are responsible for the drying of our hair in addition to carcogenic properties that that threaten the health of our eyes and scalp. Although there are presumably a number of sulfate free options available, I’ve tried two. I used Carol’s Daughter products, but since my inability to cover the cost of her products in this economy, I found Organix shampoos to be good, cheaper options. Also, you way want to take a look at their conditioners.
Petrolatum, deeply imbedded in the roots of African- American hair care and styling, is often a subject of controversy. To use it or not to use it. I like many African-American girls, I grew up with my mother using it on my hair/scalp and I possessed a long, thick head of hair throughout my childhood. My grandmother, like my mother used it as well. Essentially, no one has seen fault in it- until now. So, what is it all about? Well, now it is perceived as an agent that binds to the hair, repelling any moisture ( which goes against rule #1), and causing buildup to the scalp, preventing the scalp from breathing, promoting dandruff, and inhibiting oil of the sebaceous glands from being distributed. Well, where am I on this matter? I think we should typically be petrolatum/mineral oil free. However, I do confess that I use it on my hair with water to make my curls last longer without frizz. When I do use this, I use a petrolatum/coconut oil mix. Although I may do this once a week, I do not apply it to my scalp. The mix is a bit milder I think than your typical petrolatum. So, natural divas, I leave this rule with one amendable option. Do not use at all or use sparingly, in mixed form, and not on your scalp. I hope I don’t receive any slack about this one…J
6. NATURAL OILS AND BUTTERS
Whether you use shea butter/oil, mango butter, coconut, jojoba, or any other oil you find ideal, there should always be some things to consider. First, like many others believe these are great for natural hair; however, individuals that write on this subject fail to specify whether they mean shea butter lotion, shea butter repair cream etc… I will tell you this. Shea butter is good for you. Everything that says shea butter IS NOT good for you! I am an advocate of “natural” I buy natural shea butter, natural mango butter, and make my own. When you purchase a product made “with” shea butter (or some other vital oil/butter) the other chemicals included can be detrimental to your hair. So, natural oils and butters are a rule for soft, healthy, manageable hair, but be weary of those that are in forms mixed with other chemicals. The beneficial agents of shea butter can not overpower something adverse to your hair quality. Read the back of the bottle carefully. Look them up online and see what else is there. They may be okay, depending on the product, but this is not always the truth, some can contribute to drying, breaking, unhealthy hair.
7. BE WEARY OF WEAVES, EXTENSIONS
Although this too may generate controversy, I have to be truthful. I have met many African American women with natural hair who say something like, “I’m want to be natural, so I am going to get extensions braided in my hair and wear it until the hair grows out.” When I see them again, rather than this miraculous growth of hair they spoke of earlier, they have a lot of breakage and dryness after the braids are removed, sometimes worse than before they had their extensions braided into their hair. After seeing the results, the women go back to relaxing their hair, saying that the “natural alternative” is not fit for them. For the women who have braids with extensions and natural hair (unrelaxed) underneath who are doing your thing, taking care of your hair with no adverse results, this is not for you. For the other women, let me explain something. First of all, depending on the type, nature, and application of the weave/extension it can ruin your hair. If it is braided too tight and like one friend of mine, your hair falls out when it is taken loose, there is a problem. You have an even bigger problem if these strands lying in a crumbled heap on your floor have tiny white bulbs at the end. These are the hair root bulbs, possibly permanently damaging your scalp/follicles. In addition, long extensions can add too much weight to the hair, causing extra damage. Also, many times the ends are left without the care they need (mentioned above) while smothered under the false hair. To summarize, I am not a fan of extensions when while wearing natural, unstraightened hair- if you don’t know how to give your hair what it needs. I have always been a fan of the natural hair without extensions so can’t offer any advice to the women who choose to wear them, but I have seldom if ever seen good results. So, just like rules 1-6, be weary of what you add to your hair.
8. BE PROUD, LOVE YOU
This the most important rule of them all. Although this is the 21st century, in many parts of the world there still exists a negative stigma regarding black women wearing their hair in its natural, curly, kinky conditions, whatever it may be. This sentiment can tear away at your self-esteem, self-respect, and feelings of worthiness- if you let it. Going natural was my own personal liberation and one I hold responsible for many positive choices I’ve made in my life since. Others have said the same. We must love ourselves, inclusive of our hair, and what we perceive as its attributes and imperfections first, before others can love us for who we are.