I would be starting my weekly hair care articles with some essential information you need for starting or continuing your natural hair journey.
Starting a natural hair journey can be extremely confusing as you have A LOT of information thrown at you, I know that’s how it was for me. Even now that I have been natural for over a year, I still learn new things and discover new tricks, so this is just going to be a post highlighting some important information for natural hair to help guide you to what you need to be doing to achieve healthy, long hair.
Shampoo – Yes or No?
I genuinely don’t think you can write a natural hair guide without talking about the controversial topic of shampooing. For me, shampoo is good and bad. Most of your basic drugstore shampoos are extremely chemical laden, containing Sodium Lauryl Sulphate – commonly known as SLS. This is relevant because this sulphate present in shampoo acts as a surfactant, which traps oil based dirt from your scalp so it can be washed away. Not to give you a science lesson, but this is relevant because this, among other ingredients in shampoo tend to be VERY drying as they strip your scalp of your natural, essential oils.
Natural Afro-textured hair is already prone to dryness and most of our time is spent trying to trap moisture so to many it seems counter-intuitive to then use a product to dry out our hair after spending so much time trying to maintain moisture.
So – should we ditch shampoos completely?
My answer is no. I opt for sulphate-free shampoos or moisturising shampoos that swap SLS for milder chemicals which are still cleansing. I shampoo every 2-3 weeks and co-wash in between (don’t fret if you don’t know what co-wash means!) I find shampooing to still be an important part of my wash day because in as much as we want to prevent drying scalps, we should also note that scalp-buildup is equally as bad, as it prevents hair growth and can cause irritation and itchiness. I think if you are prone to using an excessive amount of product on your hair, you shampoo more frequently and if not, shampoo less frequently. My favorite shampoo has to be the Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Shampoo which is sulphate free shampoo that also happens to be moisturising.
*Before you pick a shampoo containing SLS – remember that it is also an ingredient in floor cleaning products.
2. Do not skip deep conditioning, but…
Initially, when I went natural, I did not understand the difference between regular conditioning alongside shampoo and deep conditioning. After doing hellaaa research, I now know that it is a step not to miss.
I will not bore you with the chemicals present in deep conditioners but just know that keep hair moisturised which is always a natural hair goal. I deep condition every week, especially now that its winter as hair tends to dry quickly during the season.
Try to involve heat in your deep conditioning treatment. Steamers, hooded dryers or just wrapping your hair with a towel help to maintain moisture which is a plus.
There is a but however- do not deep condition for more than the time prescribed on the container. Yes that sounds extremely strange as most people leave their deep conditioner overnight. (I do that sometimes because I am lazy lol) but this is not as great for your hair as you would think, deep conditioners begin to work immediately they are on your hair and reach a maximum capacity around the 20-30 minute period. Overnight deep conditioning could potentially lead to hygral fatigue which obviously does not sound pretty. The exceptions are DIY deep conditioners and Henna treatments which probably need more time to get hair fully moisturised.
Some people says this works for them, which is fair enough, but in my view, they put a time frame on the bottles of deep conditioner for a reason – why ignore it?
3. Food and water
Many people that embark on their natural hair journey tend to forget about an important tool to healthy hair and hair growth. What you eat and drink tends to affect your hair growth more than you know.
Food is a silent killer especially with hair, I have read so many articles of people explaining how their diet consisted of fatty foods and at that point they did not experience much growth and even experienced breakage. Though this may sound far fetched, research has actually proven a link between healthiness of hair and diet. Most diets skip vegetables, fruits and healthy fats but I recommend including these things in your diet. When you lack nutrition, you hair does so too. Try foods like salmon, avocado, dark greens like spinach (if you like efo you are sorted), lentils and beans, NUTS! (walnuts, cashew, brazil nuts – these are strong in Zinc which are terrific for hair health.) This list is obviously not exhaustive but start somewhere!
Water is equally as important. People stress the benefits of water for skincare and health, but often neglect hair growth. If you are dehydrated, it is most likely that your scalp would be relatively dryer than someone who drinks a lot of water.
Yes, the dryness of your scalp or the health of your hair is determined by several things, but I think food and diet play a big part. When I went for the Big Chop in 2015, I was at my healthiest in terms of food, diet and exercise, and this was the period in which I saw the most growth – I went from a tiny afro to almost shoulder length hair in 6 months. As my diet and water intake deteriorated so did my hair growth even though I was doing similar things! I am your walking proof that water and diet are EXTREMELY important for hair growth.
These are just some tips which I find to be very useful if you are just starting out or even if you are an expert already. This list is not exhaustive and there are so many other things that impact hair growth and are beneficial, but start here and see a difference with your hair.
Stay tuned for more weekly tips and in between that time check my natural hair Instagram page for hair inspiration, tips and styles!