I’ve often been caught between the options of using chemical relaxers to soften my hair and make it more manageable; and continuing to bear the pain of combing out the associated tangles. There were times I felt like giving up on the whole natural hair business, but the beauty of it would always dissuade me.
It’s no secret that African hair can be very tough; I should know, my friends call mine ‘iron sponge’ somewhere along the line we discovered how to soften our hair, make it wavy, silky even. Then suddenly, going back to un-relaxed hair became a trend again. I don’t know who initiated this trend but I went back to natural hair because the softening chemicals were doing more harm than good.
I had experienced hair growth retardation, breakage, dandruff, to mention a few. Then, I decided to cut off all of my hair (not that there was much of it left after the relaxers) and I started from scratch again. I am proud to say that I started before the trend.
Let’s leave the pride aside for now. Whilst beautiful, maintaining un-relaxed hair can be the bane of one’s beauty attempts.
WHY IS IT CALLED NATURAL HAIR?
Hairs generally are natural, yes? So, why then the distinction? The concept is borne from the fact that said hair has not undergone a chemical re-texturization. Natural hair is supposed to connote hair in its natural state. It is also known as virgin hair; and the reason for this also follows the former concept. The natural or virgin hair is very easily identifiable by its rough, spongy, thick and non-pliable texture. It is usually used for the Afro hairstyle, which is one of the blessings of the African hair texture, but also can be used for any other.
HOW DO I CARE FOR MY NATURAL HAIR?
There are diverse theories and ideas on the methods of caring for natural hair. There are both natural and man-made products that can be applied to hair to soften it, prevent breakage, promote growth and luster;
- Allow hair to air dry. Minimize the use of heat as much as possible. Too much heat application may lead to breakage.
- Always use a conditioner after rinsing hair out. Comb before rinsing off. Do not completely rinse off the conditioner.
- Apply hair oils and leave-in conditioners.
- Comb hair before washing. This makes hair easier to comb after washing.
- Comb hair out and allow drying.
- Do not comb dry hair. Always dampen hair before combing. Combing hair while damp not only minimizes breakage, but also, increases the space between hair strands and prevents tangling.
- Do not use a small comb to comb out large portions of hair until a bigger comb has satisfactorily gone through.
- Do not use finger nails to wash scalp. It can cause irritation. Use the finger pads or tips instead to scrub softly.
- Make hair into thick braids and wrap in satin or silk scalp before bed.
- Steam hair at least once a month.
- Use a cotton towel to pat hair dry. Do not squeeze hair.
- Wash hair with lukewarm water.
WHICH NATURAL OILS ARE BEST FOR NATURAL HAIR?
Natural hair products abound in stores, markets and marts. But there is the wide belief amongst natural hair carriers that to maintain the hair, one has to make use of organic products. Organic products can work wonders for one’s hair and the user can be sure of the source and outcome. Some oils that can be used are;
- Coconut oil and Shea butter these oils or a combination of both is one of the most commonly used oils amongst natural hair carriers. They are believed to make hair grow longer, thicker and faster. The vitamins and essential fatty acids usually found in the oils nourish the scalp and help to eliminate sebum, which in turn prevents dandruff.
- Olive oil oil processed from olives has the amazing effect of rapidly lengthening hair.
- Avocado oil
- Jamaican black seed castor oil
- Grape seed oil
- Jojoba oil
- Argan oil
- Macadamia oil – this is usually very effective with very dry hair.
- Kalahari’s melon seed oil – usually best from sensitive scalp.
- Almond oil – for treatment of dandruff.
- Baobab oil – usually used to boost growth.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY HAIR?
The outermost layer of the hair, called the cuticle is responsible for how healthy or not the hair appears. This, in turn, is determined by; a person’s diet, exercise routine (believe it or not) and only sometimes, hair products used.
The glory of a person’s hair is not inherent in products applied, but one’s diet. Applying the best or the most expensive products will have little to no effect if adequate nutrients are missing. Hair luster starts from the inside.
Vitamins, minerals, proteins, consumed in adequate quantity makes for healthy hair. Another factor that can contribute to the luster of a person’s hair is genes. That is to say, if a person has baldness in their genes, food and hair products can only go so far.
HOW DO I STEAM, HYDRATE AND TREAT MY FRIZZY HAIR?
It is often difficult to control unruly hair. Hair frizz is when hair is dry and lacks moisture, according to Gurgov, when hair is dry, the cuticle is rough, and when the weather is humid, it’s the perfect recipe for frizz. The outermost layer of the hair takes in the moisture from the air, causing the hair to swell and frizz. Dry, brittle and frizzy hair can be difficult to handle and usually require extra care than normal. But hopefully, the following can help; it is what I do for my hair.
- Wash hair with shampoo and conditioner as normal.
- Heat up shea butter by steaming (put it in a cream cup and boil in water) to acquire its oil form. Do not put directly in the pan to melt.
- Once shea butter has been turned into shea oil; add olive oil and conditioner (not leave-in).
- Massage into wet hair until it is evenly distributed.
- Cover hair with a satin or silk bonnet and leave for about one (1) to two (2) hours.
- Rinse hair with cold water (without shampoo). The purpose of this is to rinse out conditioner and still leave the oil locked in.
Doing this once a week will keep hair looking lustrous, after about five (5) to six (6) consecutive times.
To keep natural hair thinner and more flexible;
- Use hair masks like the one mentioned above.
- Trim split ends to free the tips from tangles. Hair tangling can prevent its flexibility.
- Apply hair cream before blow-drying; if you must blow dry. Blow dry after hair is almost dry.
- Using heat styling tools like a flat iron or a blow-dryer can speed up this process, although it is not advisable to over indulge.
- Use a smoothing shampoo and conditioner.
- Use sulfate free, glycerin-packed shampoo. An alternative to this is adding glycerin oil to hair creams or oils.
THE BEST HOME MADE MOISTURIZERS FOR REVIVING DULL, COARSE HAIR
- Blueberry bliss leave-in conditioner.
- Curls dynasty, Kalahari coconut oil leave-in.
- Moisture miracle, coconut oil and baobab oil leave-in.
- Shea butter and pure coconut oil leave in conditioner.
- Shea butter moisturizer.
- Silk buttercream curl quencher.
HOW TO STRENGTHEN NATURAL HAIR WITHOUT CHEMICALS
Wash out hair and brush dry. A recipe from Glamrs recommends applying a do-it-yourself mask twice a week for two months in order o relax and straighten your hair.
To achieve straightening, a cup of coconut milk, five tablespoons of lemon juice, two tablespoons olive oil, three tablespoons cornstarch; should be added together to form a hair mask that can aid hair straightening.
Using a flat iron works faster. But before use, ensure hair is well moisturized and hydrated. It Is advisable to refrain from flat ironing dry and dull hair.
A texturizer is the fastest way to soften natural hair. It is quite different from relaxers and does not change the state of your natural hair, only soften it.
Maintaining the virgin hair can be a hassle. Finding the right products, even the right natural products, can be very frustrating. But if the need for relaxed hair arises due to inability to bear the hassles, it is advisable to reevaluate your reasons for choosing to go virgin. For some people the cons outweigh the pros.
Many have been known to complain about the associated pain and dropped out along the way. Some people do better with relaxed hair, well treated and taken care of. And yes, it requires some amount of care as the virgin hair. So the only benefit it has over the natural hair is the ease of combing and styling. But for those who have chosen the ‘natural way of hair’, you would agree that albeit the stress, it is wonderful seeing your hair in all its glory without the aid of chemicals. The stares it garners and the compliments it extracts may just be well worth the pain after all.
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