Friday, July 24, 2009

Basic Regimen & Products for HEALTHY Natural Hair

Post inspired by a reader. Thank you for your questions, and I hope this can answer some of them.

Part of perfecting a regimen is learning what your hair likes and dislikes. But before you reach that point ... before you come to know your hair, where do you begin?
One and half years ago, I went natural and had the same question. My years of using a relaxer could not prepare me for what was about to come. My chemically straightened hair was accustomed to products that my newly natural hair now despised. My hair care regimen also had to radically change. I went through a year of trial and error before I finally "figured it out". During that process, I determined the following basics which I hope can be a good start for newbie naturals. In time, as you learn your hair, you can tweak the "basics":

A clean scalp is vital for healthy growth. Cleansing the hair is also a product of good hygiene. Start by washing your hair 1x a week and tweak it from there. In between washes, does your scalp or hair feel extra dirty? If so, increase the frequency of your washes. If your hair is 5 inches or longer, I highly recommend washing in braided sections.
Choosing a shampoo: It is important to invest in a weekly shampoo that lacks Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate, which are surfactants that may be too harsh for the hair and scalp. I generally gravitate towards shampoos containing gentler cleansing agents to be on the safe side.
Product recommendations: Giovanni Tea Tree, Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Moisturizing Shampoo, Chagrin Valley Shampoo Bar, Desert Essence Shampoos


Whether you wash 1x a week or 3x a week, follow it up with a deep conditioning session. Why? Because each wash rinses away the benefits of the previous the deep conditioning session. Deep conditioners are important because they temporarily bind to (and sometimes penetrate into) the hair protecting and/or smoothing the strand until the next wash. Undo each braid, apply the conditioner, and rebraid. Put on a shower cap and be sure to allow the conditioner to sit for at least 20 minutes before rinsing.
Choosing a deep conditioner: Look for one that contains moisturizing ingredients, such oils (e.g., olive, coconut), fatty alcohols (e.g., cetyl alcohol) and humectants (e.g., glycerin).  The particular ingredient depends on what your hair likes.  I also recommend finding a deep conditioner that has 'slip' and weight, both of which ease the detangling process. Deep conditioners like this usually contain heavy oils and fatty alcohols, like listed above.
Product recommendations for moisture & slip: Suave Coconut conditioner (mixed with olive/coconut oil); Aubrey Organics HoneySuckle Rose conditioner
Product recommendations for moisture, slip, & weight: Lekair/LustraSilk Cholesterol (add olive oil for more moisture); Avocado detangling conditioner (recipe here)

Our curls, coils, and kinks like to tangle upon themselves, so detangling regularly is a necessity for many naturals. If you have thick strands, I highly recommend detangling conditioner-soaked hair and with a wide tooth comb. Take down a braided section, detangle, and rebraid the section. Then rinse out the conditioner.  However, if you have fine strands, you may fair better with finger detangling on dry, lubricated hair.

Water is the best moisturizer out there for natural hair. After a good wash and deep conditioning session, you can follow up with an oil or butter to seal in the water. In between washes, if your hair gets dry, you can apply a bit of water or do a full-on rinse and then re-seal. Another option is using a water-based spritz.
Choosing a moisturizer: Go straight for the water or look for water-based moisturizers (where water will be the first ingredient listed).
Product recommendations: Water, Homemade spritz of rosewater and glycerin (a humectant), Kinky Curly Curling Custard
Choosing a sealant: Look for products that contain oils and/or butters.
Product recommendations: Homemade whipped butter (recipes here), grapeseed oil, olive oil, avocado oil, castor oil, Jane Carter Nourish & Shine

Wear the twists/braids (great protective style!) until your next wash or unleash for a twistout. (See twistout instructions here.) Be sure to wear a silk scarf to bed or use a silk pillow case to protect your cuticles as you sleep. Other styles for natural hair - protective and low manipulation - can be found here.

Extra steps you may want to include in your regimen:

If you find that frequent shampooing is drying to your hair, you may want to explore using a conditioner to wash. Just wet your hair, apply conditioner, and massage your scalp and hair as usual. After rinsing the conditioner out, seal and style.
Choosing a conditioner: Look for a non-heavy inexpensive conditioner. Heavy conditioners will build up on the hair too quickly.  Avoid protein-based and silicone-based conditioners when it comes to co-washing.
Product recommendations: Suave Coconut Conditioner, V05 Champagne Kisses, V05 Honeydew Smoothie, V05 Passionfruit Smoothie, V05 Blackberry Sage Tea

For more on prepooing, check this post.

If you find that regular shampooing does not adequately remove product buildup from your hair, you may want to explore clarifying. Start with doing this once a month and then adjust as needed.
Product recommendations: V05 Kiwi Clarifying Shampoo; Baking Soda and water mix followed by Apple Cider Vinegar rinse

If your internal health is not on point, work on it. Drink sufficient water, get plenty of rest, exercise, and include the hair foods (click here) in your diet! Internal health as just as crucial to hair care as external care.

For my mixologists, many natural ingredients can be found at From Nature with Love!
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Tican Belle said...

Thank you for this post:
My hair anniversary was this May, and I'm still learning about my hair, I have everything down but how to work with

1. Hair knots
2. Dry Ends

Thats keeping me from any signficant lenght, I would love for you to touch on those two topics

Love the blog!

Loo said...

You're welcome! Happy Belated Nappiversary.

Sure thing. I'll discuss the topics in separate posts. Thanks for dropping by!

Ashleigh Brown said...

This is my first time doing research on healthy natural hair and I wanted to clarify if it was absolutely necessary to wash your hair in braids??

Loo said...

When the natural hair gets longer than 6-8 inches, many naturals switch to washing in braids or twists. It helps to minimize tangling and thus breakage.

However, it is better to do what your hair likes. If your hair thrives without washing in braids, then there is no need to fix what isn't broken. If you're having difficulty retaining length, then washing in braids may work for you.