I have been natural for over 10 years now and one thing that I have learned is that in transitioning, there is a lot of trial and error! It is no harder working with natural African-textured hair than with straightened hair, but it is definitely different, and at times more time-intensive. Over the years, I have used many different products on my hair, ranging from mainstream, chemical-laden products to all natural and organic ones. There are as many different opinions on the perfect products as there are textures of natural hair! If you are anything like me, at times you can begin to feel overwhelmed!
One thing to note about natural hair is that there is so much variety! Hair texture is a fascinating topic for me, you can see extreme variation between siblings, as well as variation of texture within your own hair! From hair that is tightly curled like fresh cotton reaching for the sun to the loose wavy curls that fall like waves, it’s ALL “good hair”! That being said, different textures react differently to different grooming products. This list is a combination of products my hair loves, and ones that I have found effective for other people.
This is one of the best products I have found for all stages of the natural hair journey. It is high in vitamins, minerals and enzymes that naturally balance scalp PH and promote hair growth. I prefer to work with fresh aloe, which I grow and harvest sustainably. It is a very easy-going plant, with so many healing properties that I would recommend lovingly growing your own. You can also find the whole leafs of aloe in the refrigerated section of many stores, such as Whole Foods or other food stores (I would call ahead).
I scoop the clear pulp out with a spoon and blend it in a blender, then strain it through a fine mesh screen (this step is especially important for using it as a hair gel). The resulting gel is very watery, which is fine for my purposes thus far. I have yet to experiment with thickeners, but may post about that at some point.
Aloe makes a great detangler, due to its slippery consistency, and it is also excellent for promoting hair growth. You can saturate you hair with aloe gel, massaging it into your scalp, hair and ends as a great conditioner which softens and nourishes the hair and scalp. I like to let it sit for at least 30 minutes, or while detangling before rinsing. The freshly blended aloe can also be used as a gel for hairstyles and locs. Though it is a bit runny, the hold is great, and it is easy to wash out, and thus will not build up in your hair.
Another great thing about aloe, is that it can be taken internally, and nourish your hair from the inside out. Taken internally, among other things, aloe provides healing to the digestive track and detoxifies the blood. I love to mix a good sized stalk into my smoothies; the fruit masks it’s bitter taste and keeps the kids begging for more!
DELICIOUS DEEP CONDITIONERS
Natural hair loves delicious treats! From bananas to avocados, coconut cream to honey, natural hair gobbles it up! One of my favorite deep conditioners calls for coconut milk (fresh squeezed is best), a ripe banana, olive oil and honey. It is simple, delicious, and highly nourishing for your hair. I recommend using a secondary container to apply the conditioner to your hair so as not to contaminate your original batch – that way you can eat any extra, and nourish your roots from the inside out (and it’s SUPER tasty)!
Here is the simple recipe, it can easily be scaled up depending on the length and thickness of your hair.
1/4 cup of (fresh whenever possible) coconut cream or coconut milk
1 very ripe banana
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP raw honey
Place all ingredients into a blender and thoroughly puree (you don’t want chunks of banana mashed into your hair). Apply to the hair, saturating it from the scalp to the ends, and cover with a shower cap or plastic bag for 1 hour or more. Rinse thoroughly and enjoy your soft, moisturized and nourished hair!
Herbal infusions are a great, easy way to get large amounts of nutrients into your body and hair. When you infuse healing herbs, you are extracting more of the healing properties from them, creating a liquid super-food! A great way to start would be to commit to making a weekly batch of infusion (if a daily commitment seems overwhelming). I use the big glass sun tea jars, put in a generous portion of herbs – maybe around 2+ cups worth – then fill the rest of the container with boiling water.
Then all you do is cover your container and leave it to sit on the counter overnight! Come morning, your infusion will be ready; simply strain, and it is ready to use. I recommend taking some internally, as a natural vitamin and mineral supplement, which in turn will help with the growth and health of your hair. Some of my favorite “go to” herbs for both internal and external use are Nettles, and Oat Straw. Feel free to add some honey or a pinch of salt according to your taste. These herbs both have great healing and nourishing properties and are full of nutrients.
Pour enough of the infustion to give your hair a thorough rinse. I like to soak my hair in the infusion, using a sink or bowl, so that the herbs can fully saturate and nourish all of my hair and scalp. If that is not possible for you, you can use it as a rinse in the shower. Use the herbal infusion as the last step after thoroughly cleaning your hair. You can rinse it out if desired, but to get full effects, it is best to use it as a leave-in conditioner.
Make sure you research any herbs you plan to take internally, especially in a concentrated infusion, to make sure there are no contraindications for you. It is also important to research potential side effects of herbs. While they are much safer than chemical drugs, they are still powerful, and one should use them with respect. Other great herbs to consider are Horsetail, Rosemary, Chamomile, Lavender, Comfrey, Parsley and Sage.
RAW SHEA BUTTER
Shea butter is a natural butter from the nut of the Shea-Karite tree which grows in West Africa. I have been using Shea butter as a natural sunscreen for years, and have never had a sunburn while using it! I have also used it in my hair and my clients’ hair with great reviews, so it is little wonder that it has been dubbed “Mother Nature’s Conditioner”. Shea butter has many healing uses for the skin and body and has been used in its native land for conditioning African-textured hair for centuries.
A great source for authentic African Shea butter in the Dallas area is The Pan African Connection. You want to look for pure, unrefined, 100% Shea butter. Beware of labels that use “Shea Butter” as a catch phrase; read the label to confirm that the ONLY ingredient is Shea butter.
Shea butter in its natural state is slightly solid, but melts easily between your fingers. Start small when applying to hair to ensure all of the Shea butter is absorbed, and you are not left with any visible in your hair. I like to apply to freshly washed and moisturized hair to seal in moisture, or use it on damp hair while styling.
If you prefer a lighter, more spreadable consistency of oil, you can blend it with your choice of natural oils, such as olive, jojoba or coconut, and still reap the healing benefits.
It is an excellent conditioner, and infuses your hair with essential vitamins. It helps heal and prevent hair breakage by moisturizing and conditioning. Just as it protects skin from sunburn, it protects the hair from becoming damaged from over exposure to the sun and to the cold dryness of winter. It also heals and soothes the skin of the scalp from conditions such as dandruff and eczema, which makes it a great scalp oil.
Give it a shot, your hair will thank you!
Not only can you get creative and make some amazing smelling natural hair and body products for yourself with essential oils, these oils have some powerful healing properties! It is hard to narrow it down, but some of my favorite for use in hair are:
Rosemary– This powerful essential oil helps with hair growth by improving circulation to the scalp, dilating blood vessels and stimulating cell division, thus encouraging growth.
Lavender– This ultra-soothing herb is one of the most popular essential oils for use on hair. It promotes hair growth and helps prevent hair loss as well as soothing scalp conditions. Since it has strong relaxing and anti-stress properties, it helps in combating stress-related hair loss as well.
Chamomile– Another ultra-soothing oil, chamomile helps heal chemical damage to the scalp as well as the physical damage that can be caused by improper styling (which is why I do things differently ). It also helps sooth dandruff and psoriasis of the scalp.
Peppermint– You can feel this super-oil working as soon as you apply it. That tingling means that the herb is stimulating blood flow to your roots, which leads them to receive increased nourishment. It is a great oil for promoting hair growth and overall healthy hair!
Ylang-Ylang– This is my most recent hair essential oil find. It is great for overall hair health and luster, as well as healing the scalp.
I like to use essential oils in a simple, homemade, nourishing hair mist. You can use this spray after washing your hair and to moisten it while styling or detangling. Simply mix roughly 3 parts of water to 1 part carrier oil (such as olive, jojoba, coconut, etc…) and several drops of essential oils. Shake well before each use of the spray. I also use essential oils to enhance my Shea butter and other oils I use in hair care. If you’d like, you can add them to your shampoo or conditioners. It is important to make sure you properly dilute these oils, as they are ultra concentrated. A general rule of thumb is about 6-30 drops of essential oil per 1 oz of carrier oil.
There are many other natural hair treats, but I wanted to share some of my favorites to make things a little easier on those who may still be transitioning to their natural textures. What are some of the natural hair products you love? Any from the post that you would love to try? Please leave comments below and subscribe so that you never miss a post!
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