© 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.
ANYTHING TO ADD?
brad kina on October 24, 2015:
Great hub, I have been using natural products myself for more than 4 years, i ditched sulphate and clarifying shampoos all together!
Veronica Lewis from Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania on September 19, 2015:
Great hub! I've been natural for almost twenty years. I've worn locs, braids, curls but now mostly an afro. Where I live we have long, cold winters so I also wear wigs. One of the things I did want to mention is about the braids and extensions. There are some styles that do help to 'rest' the hair. Also, whenever I put braid extensions in my hair or my daughter's hair I use natural butters/oils on the hair before and as I am braiding and I even smooth it onto the hair extension. I find that when I take out the extensions the hair is not damaged and has a nice healthy feel to it. But then again, I only leave the extensions in for a week to three weeks at the most so it's not something that's gonna be in for several weeks. Anyway I love your hub. And I appreciate that you are promoting the use of healthy yet inexpensive products!
Patrice on July 21, 2014:
I was hoping you would address how to comb one's natrual hair and the best type of comb to use on natrual hair.
ChristinaLA on March 01, 2014:
Try Shielo's Smoothing shampoo & conditioner. It has a hair oil in the product. My husband started using it and my children (my son has very sensitive skin, but he has no problems with Shielo). They are mixed babies and their hair likes the extra moisture.
Shandria Ball from Anniston on June 05, 2013:
great hub ,I just started my natural hair journey and found this info useful.Thanks!
Liz on January 31, 2013:
I agree with just about everything except for the section about extensions and braids. I am an advocate for them because every time I put braids in my hair and take care of my hair very well it grows. The last time I put extensions in my hair it grew down my back. The problem was however my hair dresser cut too much of it off and so I just decided to cut it short all together and start over.
Nicole Paschal (author) from Saint Petersburg, Florida on January 19, 2013:
Hi! I used to have that problem, but once I started clarifying ( Suave Naturals Clarifying is ph balanced and mild) and taking away sulfites from my standard shampoos, it was better. I know of 2 other things.
1. Use light virgin olive oil and rub it on your scalp the night before you wash it. In one of my other articles,I mention using it on your hair before a wash for greater manageability. It will help your scalp, too. Be careful, don't make it too hot and massage it in. Don't over do it, or it will clog your follicles. Then put on a heating cap
2. I would try this one first. This is old school and a lot of people don't know it. My mother used it on me and I always had long healthy hair. I'm almost certain it will cure the problem. Glover's Dandruff control Medicine. Massage it in to your scalp about 4 hours before you wash. While you're at it, put it on your hair too . It will make it more manageable during the wash. The smell is strong, so floral fragrance is a little easier to handle. I put it in the night before and cover with a cap, but I don't recommend your first time. It's sulfur based and you may be allergic. So, if it burns, wash it out. Don't worry, it won't take out your hair.
Sidenote: Sounds as if your PH Balance is off. If you've been okay until now, you may want to take note of external AND internal changes. New shampoos? Birth control medicine/medications? Stopped exercising - not sweating out impurities? etc...
Good luck and come back to let us know how it worked out!
Kay on January 19, 2013:
This is great information, but I need some natural help, ha-ha! I've been au natural with my hair for going on 4 years, but have JUST started having major problems with scalp build up ... namely that no matter how much I scrub or wash or rinse, etc., I always seem to have that white layer of build up that remains. I just did a natural black soap wash, followed by a vinegar rinse ... and low and behold, I STILL have that build up! My hair feels great, and the top of my scalp feels great (for a while) ... it's the back that has the major problem, and my whole head is itchy after like 2-4 days. I don't know what else to do but I'm gettin' PRETTY frustrated! Any advice?!
Nicole Paschal (author) from Saint Petersburg, Florida on January 12, 2013:
Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the article.
Ms J on January 02, 2013:
Thanks so much for your insight. I didn't know where to start and I think you pointed me in the right direction.
Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on November 14, 2012:
Great information you have shared here. I, too, have found that water is my hair's best friend. I never thought to buy distilled and spray it on. Good suggestion. Thanks so much!
Nicole Paschal (author) from Saint Petersburg, Florida on September 16, 2012:
@coffeewrite. I totally agree. Unfortunately, for most of us it's trial and error. I found out about the natural vs chemically induced product the hard way. That's why I think its so important that we share our discoveries with other naturals. Thanks for replying!
Keneesha M Hodge from Chicago, Illinois on September 15, 2012:
I like that you noted to use actual Shea butter, or the actual oil, butter, or cream of any product and not a brand that mentions containing the natural product within the chemically induced product. When I tell people I use Shea butter and how it softened my hair, I always have to clarify that I used actual raw Shea butter and not a product with Shea butter in it. Most of the women I've told that to don't even know you can buy Shea butter raw. I'm still new to being natural, it's only been two years, but it amazes me how much we don't know about our hair and what's out there for our hair.
Nicole Paschal (author) from Saint Petersburg, Florida on August 23, 2012:
THANKS EVERYONE FOR YOUR GREAT COMMENTS! I hope to have some on transitioning very soon.
Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on August 23, 2012:
I'm about to go natural and I need all the help I can get so these tips come in handy. I didn't know about sulfates and clarifying shampoos- so I'll be sure to look out for that. Great hub!
Marlene Bertrand from USA on August 21, 2012:
I have been "natural" for over two years now. I have to admit that it was a hardship at first, but now I don't think I will ever go back to relaxing or wearing extensions again. Very nice hub.
Rema T V from Chennai, India on August 21, 2012:
Very good hub informative and written very well. Yes, being proud of how we look and what we are and loving ourselves is the most important part of life, the rest falling in place 'naturally'.
This hub is good especially because it has been written after your own experiments, so it is bound to be genuine. I wish you all the best on HubPages. I'm sharing it across the hub community and pinning it too.
maw on March 15, 2012:
Thank you so much for sharing,it was just what I needed! I especially love the part about loving yourself because positive support is few and in between!I have been transitioning for 13 months,and "no" it has`nt been easy, but I love who I am! I was born natural, so I`ve decided to be natural and I`m loving it!!!
James Brown from United States of America on July 10, 2011:
I love a black woman with natural hair! thanks for sharing.
Research Analyst on August 18, 2009:
Nice pictures, I like the part when you say how deep conditioning is best for natural hair and I agree carols daughter hair smoothie is wonderful.
Om Paramapoonya on June 06, 2009:
Yeah no. 8 is the most important rule for every woman; we must love and be proud of what nature has given us :-)
Awesome first hub! Thumbs up!!!