Friday, November 18, 2011

The Golden Rules of Natural African Hair Care

Its been a while since my last post, but its because I've actually taken a JOURNEY inside of my natural hair care journey!  I've been around the world and back again, trying new products and methods.  I went through a whole host of different leave-in conditioners and oils, searching for the best way to seal and moisturize my hair.  I searched high and low for the perfect Natural African Hair Care regiment, but then I discovered my original routine is the best overall option for my hair.

Although I tried a myriad of new products and methods over the past few months, my wash routine has not changed.  I shampoo my hair once a month with Suave Almond and Shea Butter shampoo.  I've yet to start washing with a silicone free shampoo, as I find them to be a bit pricey and hard to find.  I do co-wash (wash with conditioner only) my hair 2-3 times a week, however, with Suave Almond and Shea Butter conditioner.  After I co-wash, I towel dry slightly, then apply Cantu Shea Butter leave-in conditioner.  For those readers new to Natural African Hair Care, you may think co-washing 2-3 times a week is too much for your hair.  Not true!  Nothing provides more moisture than water, as well, co-washing gets rid of product build up and reapplies another coat of conditioner.  There's nothing that natural hair loves more than to be moisturized and conditioned!

I deep condition once a week.  My recipe consists of one dark green avocado, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/2 cup of coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil, 1 tablespoon of castor oil, 1/2 teaspoon of tea tree oil, 1/2 tea spoon of lavender oil and 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary oil.  I put the avocado, olive and coconut oil in the blender (use a spoon to help mix it while blending - very thick).  When the mixture is completely smooth, I add the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl and mix it all very well.  After I've washed my hair, I put the conditioner in the microwave to make it very warm, not hot.  I then pour it into my hair, making sure its evenly distributed throughout.  Then, I put a plastic conditioning cap on and sit under the dryer for 30 minutes.  When my time is up, I co-wash the mixture out of my hair two to three times.  Afterward, I apply my leave-in, air dry, seal and twist.       

One of the products I've changed a few times over the past few months was my Cantu Shea Butter leave-in.  I wanted to see if I was missing something, so I began trying different things.  I tried Hawaiian Silky 14 in 1 and Mixed Silk Elements and I must say there was a noticeable difference.  Compared to the Mixed Silk Elements, Cantu goes the furthest for the amount, leaves my hair softer and doesn't cake up.  As for the Hawaiian Silky 14 in 1, Cantu wins, hands down, for going the furthest for the amount, smell and softness.  After I slightly towel dry, I generously (not too much) apply the Cantu throughout my hair making sure its distributed evenly from the roots to the ends.  Then air dry.

Its necessary to seal natural hair with an oil after you've applied a leave-in conditioner, as it helps to retain moisture.  My staple seal is pure African Shea Butter, but I wanted a change, so I started exploring.  I discovered  Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum and I must say, its the thickest and smoothest oil I've ever put on my hair.  A little goes a long way, but I don't have to conserve, because my hair soaks it right up!  And the coconut scent, BONUS!  I'm going to continue exploring however, because the Coconut Milk has three to four chemical ingredients in it.  To keep it all natural, I'm going to experiment with a combination of Coconut oil, Shea Butter, Castor Oil, Mango Butter and maybe an essential oil to give the mixture a fragrant scent.   

I don't comb my hair often.  When I changed my style to an up-do, I had to comb and brush my hair everyday in order to achieve the style.  After a while, I noticed a lot of hair in the comb and brush.  Nevertheless, I kept on combing and brushing for some time thinking it was normal.  I briefly went back to my curly Afro just for a change in style.  As usual, I co-washed, air dried and two-strand twisted my hair without combing it and noticed I hardly shed any hair.  I concluded that constantly combing and brushing was actually pulling my hair out, so I've gone back to only combing when co-washing and there really isn't any reason for me to brush at all.  To detangle between combing, I run my fingers through my  hair when I two-strand twist.   Finger detangling, provides the same evening effect as combing with a lot less hair loss.
When you do comb your hair, its important to always use a WIDE tooth comb, as natural African hair is delicate, thick and nappy in an non-detangled state.  Combing with a small tooth comb will tear through natural hair causing hair damage and loss.  Further, when combing with a wide tooth comb, its important to section the hair and start at the ends, gradually moving up to the root.  Once the entire section is combed out, then it can be combed and smoothened from the root.  Starting from the root when combing will also cause hair loss and needles to say, great discomfort.  

Constant, direct heat is death to African hair, natural or chemically treated.  We must use blow dryers, flat irons, hot combs and curling irons sparingly.  I blow dry my hair straight to dust (trim) it and I do that every 8 to 12 weeks.  In between that time, I may blow dry my hair straight 2-3 times, just for some versatility, but that's it!
Excess heat will cause hair to become brittle, dry and eventually break.  There are natural alternatives to heat straightening, such as Shea Butter, when used in conjunction with the two-strand twist. Your hair will still be curly when the twists are taken out, but you'll suffer from less shrinkage.  Using heat properly can be beneficial however, as heat makes the hair strand expand, allowing moisture and conditioning agents to penetrate.  This is why its important to use a heat source when deep conditioning.  To utilize natural heat, apply a thermal heat cap for 30 to 45 minutes, longer for damaged or color treated hair.  When using an over head dryer, its essential to cover your hair with a conditioning cap to prevent direct heat exposure.
To achieve my curly Afro, I part my hair in 10-11 thick sections.  Then I apply Shea Butter, two-strand twist each section and cover my hair with a satin bonnet when I go to bed.  Every morning, I just take out my two strand twists, pull the sections apart a little, fluff, pin and go.
Protective styling is beneficial to natural hair when growing it out, as its protected from outdoor elements that can be quite damaging.  There is literally no limit to the number of up do's, twisted and braided styles that qualify as protective.  Its important to keep your hair moisturized while wearing protective styles, as well has minimizing combing, brushing and pulling.  Last winter, I wore my hair protected in two-strand twists for the ENTIRE season and my hair grew 5-6 inches.  This winter, I plan to further grow my hair out by keeping it braided in box braids (re-braid every 2 months, no micro).  When utilizing this method, it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to keep the roots of the braid THOROUGHLY MOISTURIZED, as dry, neglected braids WILL break natural hair.  The most optimal moisturizing method I've found is to spray a Castor-Jojoba oil mix into the roots of your braids EVERY SINGLE DAY.  If your hair is very dry, do it twice a day.  This method of growing out natural hair has been proven to achieve phenomenal growth over a 5 to 7 month period. 

The Science of Natural African Hair Care dictates, "dust" (trim) your hair, RELIGIOUSLY, every 8 to 12 weeks!  Dusting takes off most split ends and knots, which prevents tangles and therefore breakage.  If while performing your daily hair regiment, you start to notice a lot of breakage, that means its time to dust.  When dusting, its not necessary to take off EVERY split end and knot.  If you dust too much, then you aren't going to see much growth.  Cutting off 1/2 inch or less should suffice.
I've coined the word "Knot Mining" for Natural African Hair Care, which is periodically searching through and cutting out knots that develop on natural hair strands.  Because natural hair is so kinky, it frequently folds in on itself, forming tiny knots.  I cut the strand directly above the knot, no matter if the knot is on the end or middle of the strand.  It is beneficial to knot mine every so often, as these knots frequently tangle up other strands of hair and cause breakage.       

Castor and Jojoba oils have been proven to stimulate hair growth.  It is important to rub or spray a good amount of either oil, or both, on your scalp every day.  Rosemary, Lavender and Tea Tree essential oils are said to stimulate growth as well.

By now, anyone reading this article should know the answer to that question is YES!  Everybody's hair grows, no matter where you come from or what ethnic group you belong to.  Some people may have issues specific to their hair as an individual, but as a rule, everybody's hair grows, 1 to 2 inches per month in fact.  The reason it has been hard for Black women to grow long and healthy hair, traditionally, is because all the methods we've been taught to apply to our hair have been utter JUNK SCIENCE.  Hot combing (flat ironing today), equals excessive heat, which equals breakage.  Perming, equals chemically altering, stripping and drying, which equals loss and breakage.  Weaving (sometimes on top of perming), equals stress and pulling, which equals loss and breakage.  So, while your hair is growing each and every month, if you are applying one of these outdated, toxic methods, you'll never retain that growth, because it will continually break.  I know, I know, some women are able to retain growth while perming however, we all know, all well and good, those Sistas are the exception to the rule.           
We no longer have to hide our KINKY Sistas!  The Science of Natural African Hair Care has been revealed!  There are 5 Golden rules: Condition, Moisturize, Seal, Trim and Protect.  Its that SIMPLE.  Ready for another revelation?  BLACK WOMEN HAVE GOOD HAIR!!!  That's right, WE have "good" hair!  When our hair is properly taken care of it is the juiciest, most luscious and versatile hair on the PLANET, in my humble opinion!  When, where, why and how we were made to believe OUR hair was "bad" is a thing of the past.  Step into the 21st century and FREE YOURSELF!  Now go 'head and Grow Your Natural!     

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