May 21, 2021
In your natural hair journey, you must have come across many emollients, occlusives, and humectants, the three classes of ingredients we want in a jar of hair moisture cream.
Not everything that goes on your hair is good for it. That's why, here, we'll classify the ingredients into two groups - the good and the bad.
If it dries your hair, induces hair loss, causes product build-up, or makes your scalp itch, it's not for natural hair. On the other hand, if it stimulates growth, nourishes your scalp, strengthens your afro, or treats dandruff, we want more of it because that's what our hair needs.
So, what would you like to hear first, the good or the bad?
Let's start with what shouldn't be in your natural hair moisturizer and then move on to good stuff, the five best ingredients for your curly hair. I’ll let you in on a secret, we’ll only list exotic oils in our best five.
Some silicones, such as dimethicone, are good in foundations and facial moisturizers. Dimethicone softens your skin as it locks humectants on the surface to reduce moisture loss.
However, since it's not water-soluble, it can cause product build-up when it's in your hair moisturizer. The build-up blocks moisturizing agents from penetrating your hair shafts leading to dry, unhealthy hair.
Even after you rinse your hair a dozen times, it's still greasy. Do you know what happens next? You go for a stronger shampoo, one with harsh surfactants (detergents) like sodium laureth sulfate (Source: Healthline), because words like extra foam and deep cleaning attract you to such a shampoo.
In the end, dimethicone leaves you with dry hair and an irritated, flaky scalp.
This antibacterial ingredient slows down or stops bacterial growth, and it's also a preservative. However, these benefits come at a cost; you're at risk of several health issues (Source: Beyond Pesticides), including contact dermatitis.
With benzene, it's more of the harm it can do to your organs, not necessarily how it damages your hair. It comes from gasoline or crude oil for use as a fragrance. There may be devastating effects on your cells when you inhale benzene.
Plus, it may damage your immune system in the long term.
Onto controversial ingredients:
You must have heard the discussion about alcohols in afro hair circles. We need some alcohol in our hair care products; but, not all alcohols help us. We need the emollients - the ones that soften our hair and moisturize it.
These are the long-chain alcohols like cetyl and stearyl, derived from coconut and palm oil, respectively. That's how they acquire the name fatty alcohols. They have a heavy molecular weight, so they coat the hair shaft without penetrating it. They also thicken a hair product.
Then we have the short-chain alcohols. To name a few that fall in this bracket, we have ethyl, isopropyl, and benzyl. When you see these on your bottle of leave-in conditioner, run! You're about to coat your afro tresses with a solvent that'll strip off the moisture in your hair shaft.
It has some benefits on curly hair. For instance, it's an occlusive agent, so it creates a barrier that prevents the passage of water or moisture from the environment to the hair shaft. Hence, it saves your tresses from the damaging swelling and drying effect. It also reduces split ends and friction, which means there’s lower damage as you comb your hair.
But at what cost?
For starters, it leaves a nasty build-up that'll take several rinses. Further, your hair still loses proteins as it doesn't penetrate hair shafts to repair their structure.
This ingredient has so many nicknames in the market, such as petroleum, but whichever name it comes with, weed it out of your shopping cart.
Phew! That's over. Onto some good vibes now.
To learn how to moisturize natural hair, understand the effect of each ingredient on your hair shafts and scalp. If it doesn't treat problems in these two areas, it's not for your hair type.
Let's start with:
One of Morocco's endemic trees is now a sought-after ingredient for its nourishing benefits. Though there's scanty research into the richness of this oil, we know it contains antioxidants, such as tocopherols (vitamin E).
Hence, when you massage your natural hair with something like KISS Supreme Curl Define Set, it makes your curls shine, prevents hair breakage, repairs the damage by free radicals, and calms your scalp.
Argan oil works better when it's pure, so it undergoes a long extraction process that can produce about a liter in 10 hours, making it one of the rarer ingredients.
Another exotic oil to have in your hair cream is:
From South America into your tub of hair cream so you can enjoy some tropical goodness that's similar to coconut and olive oil. Yes, babassu has lauric acid found in coconut oil and oleic acid found in olive oil. These two fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and moisturizing agents.
This one's different from the two ingredients above. Rhodiola is more for overall body health, not for growing your hair or treating your scalp. Europeans and Asians used it centuries ago to treat fatigue and boost endurance.
That being so, you'll tap into its antioxidant properties to fight free radicals that damage body cells. Also, stress causes hair loss. It pushes your hair follicles into telogen effluvium prematurely (a resting phase); hence, your hair is healthier and thicker when you control stress. Rhodiola takes care of stress.
We're only talking about earth's gifts to your hair. Here's another one, an exotic oil from southern Africa. Consequently, our Dear Curly Friend, tap into this rich goodness; moisturize your hair with amino acids, fatty acids, and antioxidants from marula oil.
Broken down further, we're talking about the hydrating glutamic acid, which has anti-aging properties, the moisturizing benefits of oleic acid, and vitamin E to fight cell damage. What's more, marula oil is non-greasy.
The last ingredient:
It's another rich oil from southern Africa, and it contains fatty acids and vitamins. Baobab is one of the best oils for 4C hair because the vitamins in it induce hair growth. This oil also treats dandruff to improve overall scalp health.
Further, baobab oil moisturizes hair shafts and penetrates to boost hair elasticity.
Before we conclude, let's answer some:
The best tactic for 4C hair is the LOC method. It stands for Liquid, Oil, and Cream, three steps that hydrate and seal in the moisture the whole day. 4C hair’s tight curls may cause hair breakage when you comb, so you want to keep these hair tresses moistened and soft all day long. You also want to keep the strands healthy using a moisturizer that penetrates the hair shafts.
Here's what to do,
Marula & Cupuaçu Moisturizer suits their hair. Black men's hair dynamics change the moisturizing game altogether. No weaves or wigs to protect the hair from the weather, hair trimmers cause scalp irritation, male pattern baldness...
Therefore, brothas need a moisturizer cream that penetrates the hair shafts to repair damaged cells, boost hydration and treat skin irritation. Cupuaçu treats dandruff and dry scalp issues, marula prevents moisture loss.
On top of that, such a combination is non-greasy, so no stained collars.
A moisturizer hydrates and nourishes your hair. It coats your hair shafts with an emollient that smoothens the hair and penetrates to repair any damage. If the moisturizer has anti-inflammatory properties, it treats an itchy scalp and enhances the removal of flaky dead skin cells on the surface.
It also reaches the hair follicles to unclog them and induce the growth phase. Since afro hair loses moisture before sebum travels from the root to the tip of the hair, applying a moisturizer prevents dryness and keeps your hair healthy.
These benefits depend on the ingredients in your tub of moisturizing cream.
First, drink water to keep your hair hydrated from inside. Two, seal in moisture using oils like avocado oil as it lasts all day long. When you apply avocado oil, massage it from the root to the tip of the hair to stimulate the blood vessels on the scalp.
Avocado oil also enhances growth, lowers hair loss, and unclogs hair follicles to release more sebum onto the scalp. Also, wear a silk bonnet at night to wake up with healthy, moistened hair that can withstand the crazy weather conditions outdoors.
Last but not least, a regular hair washing routine also prevents product build-up that may cause a dry, itchy scalp.
But, we have different hair types, environments, lifestyles, and health statuses, so we can't say all hair retains moisture the same way.
That being so, find a routine that doesn't cause product build-up or leaves your hair dry for too long. For example, moisturize it three days a week, then see how your scalp and hair take it.
Some suggest doing it daily, but girl, you know your hair better. I wish afro hair is like Joshua trees that survive on one rainfall per year in the Mojave Desert. Sadly, it's not, so we must moisturize it as often as possible.
There's a lot of debate about alcohols and the effect they have on natural hair. The bottom line is, look for alcohols that moisten and soften your hair. When you gla nce at a list of ingredients on a tub of hair moisture cream, and there's isopropyl alcohol, skip that brand. It's not for your curly or coily hair.
Silicones like dimethicone also masquerade as good ingredients. However, they'll make your hair brittle from all the rinsing afterward. Instead, nourish that natural afro with gifts from southern Africa, such as baobab and marula oil.
Alternatively, use a natural hair moisturizer with babassu oil to enjoy the botanical wealth of the Amazon rainforest. (Sorry about the cheesy line... but I had to).
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