Hey lovely naturals and aspiring naturals! So in the first blog to this series we established that hair is always growing (with the exception of some health/medical issues). However, our hair breaks when not properly cared for causing us to never really reap the benefits of this growth. Therefore preventing hair breakage is the best way to retain the hair you’re growing and this is what will ultimately help you reach your hair length goals. In the first post I mention the SEVEN culprits of hair breakage and discussed number one which was product build. If you missed it click ***here*** to go back and get caught up!
This blog will focus on the second culprit of hair breakage: Not moisturizing enough, using the wrong products/ingredients to moisturize with, and improper moisturizing techniques. How often should you moisturize your hair? In all honesty there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The key is learning your own hair and knowing that when it starts to feel a little dry then it’s time to break out the water (or water-based products). Some women moisturize daily, others a couple of times a week, and then some can go a full week without putting any additional product on their hair after wash day. I would recommend that you moisturize your hair twice a week in the beginning and then adjust your routine as you learn your particular hair needs. When I first went natural, I moisturized every day. As my hair grew longer, it became tiring to tamper with it daily so I started moisturizing twice a week. Then eventually I even tried to see if I could get away with doing it only once a week. In the end I realized that daily moisturizing was too tedious even though my hair loved it, and once a week wasn’t enough because my hair would dry out and start shedding or breaking. So, I ended up settling for middle ground and now I once again moisturize twice a week (once on wash day and then again mid-week).
So now that you are moisturizing every few days, let’s talk about whether you are using the right products. If you moisturize your hair and by the end of the day or the next morning your hair feels dry, then the problem could be your products. In any product the first five ingredients are the most concentrated and therefore the most important. If you are going to help your hair reach its full potential then you need to become more conscious and informed about what you are putting in it. The first thing you should avoid is drying alcohols. If you are in a store shopping for a moisturizer and you flip it over and it has SD Alcohol 40, Isopropyl (Alcohol), or Ethanol listed as an ingredient… put it back on the shelf. These short chain alcohols having been known to be drying and lead to breakage…especially when used in black people’s hair because our hair is naturally more prone to drying out anyway.
Now all alcohols aren’t created equally, and there are some that you should be happy to see on the back of your hair products. Alcohols like cetyl, stearyl, or cetearyl alcohols are fatty alcohols that are good for your hair because they add moisture to your hair and also slip. In case you are wondering, slip is what allows your hair strands to glide pass one another making for a much easier detangling session. For a full list of good vs. bad alcohols click ***here***.
The other conditioning agents you should look for in the top five ingredients of your rinse out, leave-ins and styling products are things like behetrimonium chloride or methosulfate, cetrimonium chloride, stearalkonium chloride, and stearamidopropyl dimethlamine. All of these help add moisture, slip, and shine to you kinks and curls. You should also look for humectants which are materials that draws moisture into the hair. These are great for leave-ins and examples include glycerin, sorbitol, and propylene glycol. Oils and butters are also great ingredients in leave-ins because they help seal the water into your hair, and can be used alone as sealants as your final step in the moisturization process. Some oils that I love are coconut oil (mix with another oil because it turns solid at 76 degrees), olive oil, grapeseed oil (a light oil good for finer textures), almond oil, argan oil, and avocado oil. If you find that you need something a little thicker than an oil then you probably want to check out some butters or products that contain butters. The main butters that you will find useful are shea butter, cocoa butter, and mango butter. For a list of black owned hair care lines that where specifically created to nourish our kinky, curly coily stands please click this ***link*** this should get you started in selecting great products from great companies.
Now that you know how often to moisturize and what ingredients to look for in products it’s time to address the process of moisturizing. The first thing you want to do is make sure that the water is penetrating your hair strands. The best way to do this is take a deep conditioner or a good regular conditioner and pair it with indirect heat. Heat helps lift the cuticles of the hair and allows moisture to enter the strands. Right after washing/clarifying, you can either place a plastic shower cap over your hair and let your conditioner sit for an hour, or you can speed up the process by sitting under a hooded dry for 15 to 20 minutes. Put the dryer on low to medium heat, grab a good magazine and let the magic happen. If you really want to get jazzy with it, grab a nice glass of wine and turn it into a little spa treatment!
The next thing that many naturals do is layer their products. Many naturals have adopted the LOC, LOCO, or LCO. The L stands for liquid/leave in, the O stands for oil, and the C stands for cream or thicker leave in. For example, I usually put my Shea Moisture’s Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner as my leave-in, then I follow up with pure olive oil, then I use my Cantu Argan Oil Leave-In Conditioning Repair Cream. Afterwards, I top it all off with a small amount of olive oil that doubles as shine and a sealant. Therefore my moisturizing routine would be considered the LOCO method. What this does is create enough layers of moisturizing products so that your hair won’t dry out in a day or two. You don’t have to take all these steps; in fact, if you have a finer/loser texture putting too much product on your hair can weigh it down and make it look lifeless. What you should do is try these methods and see which one works best for you. You might even find that all your hair needs is a leave-in and a little oil. Or you might find that your hair hates oils all together and chose to completely remove it from your routine. The goal is to be able to go 3 to 4 days or longer without having to re-moisturize. Once you’ve found the formula that allows you to do that… stick with it!
So now that you are armed with all this information about when to moisturize, what ingredients to moisturize with, and how to moisturize…go ahead and go moisturizing crazy girl! Happy growing yall!