Hey good lookin'
Today we will address 2 emails that are all centered around the same issue: an issue that we find many women who are going natural experience (even more so in the early stages): 'Hard' hair and the whole Product thing...
NB: For the sake of length, we have edited the emails and shortened them a wee bit.
The first email is from Kat, it reads:
Love your posts/blogs on hair. Im thinking of going natural without cutting up my hair and Ive read your tips and guidelines. Thing is my natural hair is quite kinky, dry and hard to comb.... i just need help in identifying products that will work for this transition (like specifics on which moisturizer, hair oil, conditioners, etc) and if possible where to get them.. on the off chance that i decide to continue relaxing, do you have advice on which products to use?....
The second email is from Wambui, hers was an outright cry for help: (We hear you sister)
Dear Kurly Kichana,
I feel like I have a humongous problem.
I woke up one day in early December 2011 and asked my friend to chop off all my hair, so she did. I felt great!! My hair has never really loved me and it was a relieve to let it go wherever it would "find itself" or whatever!
Now, it's been almost four months and my new hair or whatever was left of the old hair seems to still hate me as well. I thought that giving us a new start would work...I was wrong! It's roughly about 2-3 inches long when stretched and knots terribly all the time.
I wash my hair daily...or at least wet it. No shampoo...I co-wash once a week and shampoo every month. I co-wash with the Arosci moisture treatment and I sometimes combine with the Arosci protein treatment. By co-wash I mean that I mix the two products and apply to my wet hair, let is stay on for about 5-10 minutes, comb through with an afro comb then rinse.
My hair has really tight coils and looks like it's just an inch long most of the time. It also knots and breaks more often than I care to recall. I feel like I look like a man from the back...I swear I've heard people call me BOSS from the back..... I used to wear beauty and confidence and now I just wear confidence with a tinge of underlying insecurity...yeah and a TWA!
Oh...and I don't tie anything over my head when going to bed, do you think that could be a cause of the knotting?
Looking forward to hearing from you...
The Kurlies Response:
My dear Watson,
(HUGE Sherlock Holmes fan - sue me) ahem...
Through the uncanny gift of deduction it would appear that we have established a pattern here:
- 1st: Most newly naturals exhibit an acute inability to manage and/or properly manipulate their hair in its natural state - this is quite understandable as the onset of natural hair is an alien concept to them. This is something that we went through as well.
- 2nd: It is equally clear that unintentional Protein Abuse (natural hair crime #1) reigns rampant on the streets. The unavoidable truth is that natural hair and regular protein intake are as akin to one another as beer and crumpets (hurr durr).
-3rd: Poor Mechanical practices is one of the leading causes of nature degradation. Failure to adhere to warnings such as sleeping with protective head gear, proper detangling sessions and regular protective styles, will leave one literally pulling at ones hair in a state of inconsolable hysteria - a state that I am far to familiar with.
But fear not comrades, for all is not lost, today we shall address these three slights in great detail.
1. One must adhere to the rules when it comes to managing natural hair: DO regularly moisturize your hair (spritz bottle, plain old water, moisture rich conditioners etc) and SEAL in the moisture with a natural oil (extra virgin olive oil/ coconut/ jojoba/ what have you). DO sleep with a silk and/or satin scarf - failure to do so will lead to matting, knotting and ultimately breakage. DO detangle your hair with a wide toothed comb when heavily saturated in conditioner. Do it in separated parts, take your time and be gentle. If your hair is long enough, follow up your detangling sessions with a quick protective style such as matutas, twists etc that will stretch your hair and prevent it from knotting up.
2. Protein Vs. Moisture is what it bottles down to. As a natural I would have to say you require 85% of your product application to be solely moisture based. The remaining 15% would cater to protein where application would be on a need-to-basis or as a curative measure. Allow me to elaborate: natural hair needs moisture - and lots of it. Without it our hair would dry up leaving it brittle and susceptible to breakage - too much of it though will leave your hair saturated and stringy. Natural hair also needs lesser amounts of protein. This is to fortify the cuticle and toughen it up. But as mentioned, too much of a good thing is toxic - too much protein can lead to the hardening of hair, making it kinky and unmanageable as mentioned above.
So where does that leave you?
Moisture is easily lost to the environment - hence the need to reapply moisture/ moisture based products. We personally like to cowash our hair every so often (once - three times a week). Our daily moisture routines involve daily spritzing and sealing as well as applying moisture based products every other day. This works for us and our lifestyle and our climatic conditions... it may vary from individual to individual... so our advise is to jot down your regiment for a specified amount of time and monitoring how your hair reacts to the adjustments that you make. It will take time, but you will fall into a rhythm that works perfectly for you.
Now, moisture does have its evil side - this is especially true for humid areas that interact with the humectants found in various products. In humid areas, when the air is pregnant with moisture, humectants will pull even more moisture into dry and open cuticles... the end result is rough frizzy hair that is easily course and prone to breakage:
The good people at Naturally Curly have compiled a list of products that are rich in humectants. Should you reside in a humid region (say the Coastal region) take note:
Phytantriol — enhances moisture-retention, increases absorption of vitamins, panthenol, and amino acids into hair shaft, imparts gloss
Isoceteth-(3-10, 20, 30)
Isolaureth-(3-10, 20, 30)
Protein is meant to fortify hair. Now look here, natural African hair is HEAVILY fortified to begin with. So ladies, CALM DOWN with the protein based products, be it animal or plant based protein. Failure to adhere to this stern warning will result in HARD, UNMANAGEABLE, BRITTLE, hair. If it's so evil, why do we need it you ask? Well some times, we put our hair through hell and back with over-manipulation, excessive heat, stretching, and rough detangling and over moisturizing - rendering your hair weak, limp and lifeless. Here is where protein comes in to save the day! Protein reinforces the cuticle (which is basically protein in itself) making it more resilient to the damage we have done.
For the sake of knowledge, here is what to look out for when purchasing products (what to avoid if you want to stay away from protein, and what to look for if you need it):
Proteins in Hair Products
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed casein
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed collagen
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed hair keratin
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed keratin
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed rice protein
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed silk
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl silk amino acids
Cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
Cocoyl hydrolyzed keratin
Hydrolyzed oat flour
Hydrolyzed silk protein
Hydrolyzed soy protein
Hydrolyzed wheat protein
Hydrolyzed wheat protein
Potassium cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein
(List compiled by Tonya McKay)