How to Maintain a Hair Care System

Photo by Keston Duke

In the beginning…

Our hair is designed to be a moisture machine. The kinks, curls, coils, and bends are intended to trap water (from the atmosphere, and from our bodies) to keep us cool in the summer, and to collect escaping heat from the crowns of our head, to keep us warm in the winter. Our hair is not just an accessory to our sense of style, but a needed extremity in the total unit of the body. When u respect and appreciate that, you’ll find your relationship with your hair improving by leaps and bounds. There

is a system to natural haircare and unbeknownst to many, IT DOESN’T HAVE TO HURT! If its done right, done with love and patience, and the understanding of how natural hair behaves…you can get beautiful results.

…And God saw the light, that it was good…

The system begins with a good shampooing and conditioning regimen. For those of you that are washing your hair every day or several times a week (and wondering why it’s so dry)…. Know that you are stripping the hair of its natural lubricant called SEBUM. Sebum is secreted by the oil glands inside the hair follicle, and from glands in the skin itself. It protects both the cuticle layers of the scalp and of the hair strands from the bombardment of harmful bacteria and fungi. Know that these glands produce this stuff as often as you wash it. So if you’re washing everyday, the Sebum is building up everyday and its building up extra to compensate for the daily loss (which causes an unbelievable and irritating itching!). Begin by stretching out those shampoos to once a week, then to twice a month. You’ll notice that over the course of a month or two, the Sebum will only get its heaviest right before its time to wash it (usually a day or two in advance). For lockwearers, try to stretch this out a little longer once you’ve passed the “baby lock” stage. With locks, its important, in the initial few months, to let the Sebum build up a little. I know…this sounds utterly gross. Its not always pretties, and itches a little in the first 8-10 weeks. But what’s going to happen is that the buildup of Sebum will calcify and act as a natural beeswax, holding those strands together to aid in the matting process. To wash your hair, prematurely, could unravel those tiny buds, fill the hair cuticles with water, swell them up…and set u back a few weeks. Now, some have washed all the way through, with little to no problems at all. The shampooing of the hair, and the alkaline chemical composure of the shampoos opening the cuticles, that end up hooking onto each other (the other strands with open cuticles), thus, matting the hair. I’ve seen the later work more so on the straighter grades, than the highly textured ones. So, use your discretion on that one. Know your hair.

Photo by Keston Duke

For those times (for the lockwearers) while you are not shampooing, u can cleanse your scalp with an antiseptic such as SEA BREEZE or LISTERINE. This stuff removes harmful bacteria, dissolves some of the oil buildup on the scalp (while not stripping it from the hair, where its needed), and feels cool and fresh (bumpin’!, legit! Hahahaha..jes kiddin!)

The next step is to follow up with some sort of conditioner (after a shampoo). On the pH scale, shampoos and conditioners directly oppose each other. The Shampoos being an alkaline and Conditioners, an acidic. (*note: Sebum is an acidic as well). Whenever you purchase a shampoo…always grab its accompanying conditioner. They are manufactured to work in harmony with each other. Be careful though, Conditioners on not-fully-locked hair can sometimes prove disastrous. So before u add conditioner to your regime, the young locks must be able to first survive a thorough shampoo. If they aren’t, then u can follow a scalp cleanse or a mild shampoo (being careful not to scrub too vigorously!) immediately with a light oil or a non-petroleum, pomade). Oils and pomades are neutral on the pH scale, and keep the hair from getting to crunchy until u can use a real conditioner.

But for fully locked hair, or free (unlocked) natural hair, conditioners are okay. I’m a huge fan of the Organic Root Stimulator Mayonnaise Conditioner. Anyone, who’s sat in my chair, knows I swear by this stuff. It’s actually a homemade recipe that someone ingeniously decided to market to consumers. For loose/free naturals…it’s a good detangler. Use a generous amount all over the hair, then take a wide-tooth comb and work it all through. Detangle the ends first, then take the comb in closer to the root each time. This takes a little bit of time, about 15 minutes or so (depending on the length of hair)…so allot time in your regime for this. I like to put clients under a hooded dryer with a plastic cap on their heads after the detangling session so that the conditioner can absorb into the cuticle layer. If you don’t have a hooded dryer at home, u can get the same deep conditioning effect by wrapping your hair in a moist, warm towel and leaving it on for about 15-20 minutes. This stuff also works lovely on mature locks as well (don’t worry, it softens them, but won’t unravel them). The mayonnaise treatment, u don’t have to do too often, about once a month should surfice. Overuse of the Mayonnaise or any other thick moisturizing conditioner can build up on the hair and give it a gray, ashy appearance. Observe your hair. Learn its language, it’ll be the first to tell u what it needs, and when.

…And the evening and the morning were the second day…

Photo by Keston Duke

Now that we’ve covered cleaning and conditioning, lets discuss oil. Before I name u a series of product hopefuls, I should let u know that sometimes dry scalp, dandruff, seborrhea and some of the other flakey conditions can be solved from the inside, out. A professional (a dermatologist and/or a trichologist) must, otherwise tend to what can’t be solved by nutritional measures.
I’ve composed a list of things u may want to check into, nutritionally. These are from “Prescription For Natural Healing”(1997)

– Essential Fatty Acids (flaxseed oil, primrose oil, and salmon oil are good sources). See label for dosage. These help relieve itching and inflammation and are essential for healthy skin and scalp

– Kelp 1,000-1,500 mg daily. Supplies the needed minerals, especially iodine, for better growth and healing of the scalp.

– Selenium 200 mcg daily. An important antioxidant to aid in controlling dry scalp.

– Vitamin B Complex 100mg twice daily. B Vitamins are needed for healthy skin and hair.

– Vitamin E 400IU and up. For improved circulation.

-Zinc Lozenges 1, 15-mg lozenge 5 times daily for one week (do not exceed a total of 100mg daily from all supplements). Protein metabolism depends on Zinc. The skin is composed primarily of protein.

Of course, there are many more. But u may want to grab a copy of this wonderful book.

Photography: Jati Lindsay Make-Up: Dise

Photography: Jati Lindsay
Make-Up: Dise

Okay, once you’ve taken measures to solve this nutritionally, lets examine hair products. I avoid Petroleum, or petroleum-based products at all cost. It clogs pores and doesn’t break down to be absorbed as easily as some of the other oils. Not only that, but it can seep down into the hair follicle and cause irritation. I also try to avoid shea butter (when applied to the hair). Its difficult to wash out, and after repeated usage, builds up a gray coating on the hair. This gray coating gives it the appearance that its dry, provoking the user to apply more, continuing a viscous cycle that only gets progressively worse. I know this is a rather unpopular opinion, but anyone who’s had to do numerous shampoos to get that gook out of someone’s hair, knows what I’m talking about.

Dealing with natural hair day after day, I’ve discovered that oil usage tends to be more effective when its applied while the hair is slightly damp, taking advantage of the hairs elasticity, and locking moisture into the hair.

As with any product-shampoo, conditioner, oils or otherwise…sometimes a little trial and error is involved. One has to be an informed consumer when shopping for hair products. One must also be aware of “gimmicky” products that come in cool packaging and smell nice, but have no therapeutic value to the hair, skin, or scalp. But again, this is something that can be subjective to the user, as one product will make a profound difference, and another…nothing at all. The key to productive shopping, is to examine the ingredient content on your products. The most active chemicals will lead the list, so these are the ones most likely to affect your hair.

I hope this has been of some aid to those who haven’t developed a regime, and wish to adopt one, or to those who have a regime, and have yet to see any results. Most things being subjective, it is you (and/or your beautician) who will ultimately decide what’s best for your hair.