It’s Friday already, Day 5 of Going Back To Natural and today, we are talking about products!!
Sorry, I’m not here to give you a list of products to buy to start you off on your natural hair journey. 😛 The truth is, your sister’s favourite hair product may do nothing for you. The product I’m raving about right now may be rejected by my hair in the future. Such is the wonder of our kinks. The lovely fun of product junkie-ism is waiting for you to discover it, but I’m going to just go over a few things to help you make informed decisions.
For a very long time, products were not made for our natural hair types, but now with the big boom in the natural hair revolution, and hair consciousness amongst black women in general, we’ve seen relaxer lines come out with natural lines- and many more products in our interest. When I do Product reviews on the blog, I do it to document my experience for reference in the future, and also, just in case anyone is considering trying the products I used. My experience is in no way a “sure banker” guarantee that a product will work, or not work for you.
The thing is, we write from what we know, so there is a tendency amongst bloggers (I try to fight it) to pass off the facts of one’s experience with something as hard facts for everyone. There are no hard and fast rules about whether a product is good or bad. It’s just important that you know what you’re putting in your hair, how it works, why it works the way it does, and make it work for you.
Ask yourself, what will be your yardstick for choosing products? To my mind, there are three types of naturals in this regard. Which one are you?
1. You’re natural because you want to live a chemical-free, healthier lifestyle in general, so you’re more interested in all-natural products.
2. You’re like, the more natural the better, but I’m not anti-chemicals. You’re happy buying products that aren’t all natural, but you will take your time to study and research ingredients. (this is me)
3. Ingredients? #aintnobodygottimeforthat! I’d try anything, I don’t care what’s in it, just as long as it works!
An all-natural hair stash is a really good thing, mostly. For one, you never have to suffer or worry about suffering from gross product misrepresentation like this. The best we can do with manufactured products is to assume that the makers are being honest.
Depending on your choice of natural products, it can be cheaper or more expensive than buying manufactured products. Though you’re using naturally occurring products, you should note that not everything is good for you just because it’s natural. Naturally occurring products can give you unwanted, and in some cases- life threatening effects.
Essential oils for instance. Women are advised to avoid certain essential oils during pregnancy. Some naturals say honey lightens their hair- some appreciate this, and some don’t like it at all. Apple Cider Vinegar is MEANT to be diluted. Using it on your hair in concentrated form is not going to help you get the best out of it, rather you may be left with an irritated scalp. Read about Dabs of Naija Hair Can Grow’s horrible experience with Neem Oil here.
Did you know that shea butter has latex properties and that some people actually react to this? That for some naturals, natural oils help solve the problem of dandruff whereas in some, it only makes it worse? These are more rare conditions, I admit, but I just want you to keep your eyes open and not just accept anything and everything because it’s natural. Be observant about your experience, and when you google benefits of Fruit X, also google for side-effects. Are we good? Okay.
Natural hair products I think you could try are:
Olive oil and shea butter as sealants (they’re cheap and easily accessible)
Honey is a really good humectant and it makes for a great moisturising deep conditioning treatment.
African black soap, for instance, Dudu Osun as an alternative to regular shampoo.
On the flip side, let’s talk about commercial products, products with long lists of ingredients.
Ingredients are listed in order of their proportions in a product, from the greatest to the least. If you see a product that claims to be some Castor Oil hair wax for instance, and you read the ingredients and see that Castor is three ingredients away from being the last on the list, clearly, that product is like Castor flavoured. You’re buying it for the Castor goodness and you’re getting a whole lot of other things that your hair doesn’t even want or need.
Always read the ingredients, particularly noting the first 3.
Having said this, let’s talk about the big bad 3. By the big bad 3, I’m talking about three ingredients that have been singled out in the Natural hair community as the bad guys.
Product labels proclaim: No Mineral oil, No silicones, No parabens!
As a new natural, if you can, it’s not a bad idea to avoid them in the beginning, but you can eventually make them work for you.
Mineral oil is derived from petroleum (crude oil). It is an oil and cannot moisturise, because it is well, an oil. Moisture = water and if you like, aloe vera which has water in it soooo…
Mineral oil in concentrated form (think Vaseline, Apple Hair Cream, Dax, Bergamot, any regular supermarket pomade you know), should be used as a SEALANT. That is, you should already have moisture on your hair that you are locking in. It can also be a styling product, it’s just not a moisturiser!
Mineral oil in hair products is meant to play the same role as other emollients, so if you read the ingredient list and you’re still wary, as long as mineral oil is not so way up the list, you may still go ahead to make your purchase.
Silicones are products that end in –cone, for instance, dimethicone. They provide great slip for detangling, but they aren’t water soluble. By this I mean, water alone cannot rinse them off.
The thing with mineral oil and silicones is that they coat the hair shaft and are difficult to wash off properly with a hair regimen that doesn’t accommodate shampoo. By wash off properly, I mean that even when on the face of it, after a co-wash, your hair is clean, little parts of these substances may be deposited in your hair shaft and you won’t know it until your hair starts complaining of product build up! Mineral oil and silicones are not in themselves the enemy. If you must use them, just be ready to shampoo more often.
Parabens are used as preservatives in product formulas. How to identify them? They end in something-paraben. In relatively recent times, certain studies have claimed that parabens are carcinogens- possible causes of cancer. There have also been studies rejecting this proposition, but nobody wants cancer. These fears are definitely not unfounded, but could you read the back of the pack of your new lippie? Or your deodorant or body lotion? I have a good feeling that you’ll find parabens listed there. I’m not saying expose yourself to cancer, I’m saying if you really want to go paraben free- don’t just stop at the hair. Thankfully, there are new substitutes to parabens.
I’m still learning a lot about hair product formulas and how the different ingredients affect our hair. This is a very fascinating area of hair science, and maybe we could have another series about ingredients in the future when I’m much more knowledgeable.
I hope this helps!