There are 4 basic elements of caring for your textured hair that must be kept in mind to help you avoid getting frustrated and overwhelmed.
Cleanse – How Often? Which Shampoo?
Hydrate – Why it matters and what ingredients best hydrate your hair.
Nourish– The role of ‘feeding’ hair and proteins
Moisturize – A most important step in preserving moisture in the hair. This step helps seal moisture into the hair AND creates shine and flexibility to avoid breakage.
At Bee Naturals, we believe that the best skin care starts with the basics of CHM- Cleanse, Hydrate and Moisturize and this ‘system’ also perfectly relates to the care of textured hair, in particular.
Let’s start with C, Cleanse
How often you shampoo your hair is going to depend on how active you are, how many products you use on your hair through the course of a day, and how it looks and feels to you on any given day. For some, a daily ‘rinse’ is important to hydrate and freshen the hair, especially if you work out and perspire, but remember, if you have very porous hair, frequent shampooing will actually cause more damage due to your hair’s porosity. Every wet/dry cycle ‘lifts’ the protective scales, or cuticle, because your hair absorbs so much water and this causes weakness and damage, so it’s probably best to limit washing to once weekly, max.
If you don’t use a lot of products and don’t have buildup on the hair and find that your hair is more manageable with less frequent shampooing, you may choose to limit shampooing to every 7-10 days. If needed, use a conditioner, or co-wash for most shampooing, then do a deep cleansing shampoo once every couple of weeks.
If your hair is not porous and takes a long time to ‘wet’ when you do shampoo, then daily rinses with water will actually help hydrate your hair without causing damage or breakage.
In general, mild, low surfactant (cleansing agent) shampoos are the mildest and adequate for gently cleansing your hair and causing the least amount of damage and dryness. If you find that your hair has stopped responding to your favorite products, you most likely have build-up on your hair and a deep cleanse may be in order, especially if you use a lot of deep, thick, and rich hair moisturizers. It takes a shampoo with significant cleansing agents to remove these products, so at these times, you may need a stronger shampoo such as a clarifying shampoo, or if the buildup is really heavy, you may even need the strongest type of shampoo, a chelating shampoo. At times when you must use these, it is imperative to allow time to give your hair a deep conditioning treatment to help restore lost moisture and oils that have been removed by these strong shampoos, or you may end up with hair that feels like straw and starts to break.
Hydration or H
Hydrating textured hair is an important balancing act, as most textured hair is chronically dehydrated. This does not mean it lacks only oil, but actually, moisture (water). As with skin, it is moisture (water) within the skin that creates plumpness and flexibility. Think about a dry leaf in the fall. It’s completely dry and brittle because it no longer contains water. If you put oil or emollients on the leaf, it will be temporarily more flexible, but deep down, it’s still a desiccated, dehydrated leaf. If we first soak that leaf in water, or other hydrating fluids, it will plump up again, to some extent, then we apply emollients (oils) to help seal in that moisture for flexibility.
As discussed in the first part of this series, these are the ingredients to look for in products that will help hydrate your hair.
Water, honey, glycerin, propanediol, sodium lactate, aloe vera, glycols, urea, NaPCA, sorbitol, galactoarabinan, etc.
Also, running a humidifier or vaporizer in your home in the winter months will help reduce hair dehydration (your skin will benefit, too).
By nature, these ingredients and the products they’re contained in will be thinner and watery or serum-like in consistency. Try to avoid hydrating products that contain heavy oils- they’ll be limited in their capability to actually be absorbed by the hair. Save the oil-containing products for the last step, after hydrating.
Again, always take into consideration the porosity of your hair. If your hair easily absorbs water, you won’t want to hydrate to excess or you can end up with frizz and possibly damage and breakage. You want just enough moisture in this hair type to keep it healthy, but don’t apply so much mist as to make your hair ‘wet’.
Nourishing or N
Nourishing your fragile hair is very important and is generally accomplished by using various types of proteins, such as panthenol, silk amino acids or peptides, keratins, etc. Be aware that using too many protein products can actually have a counterproductive effect and leave a brittle coating on the hair, which can accelerate breakage.
If your hair appears dull, flat, or brittle, you likely have a build-up of too many protein products. Protein ingredients, when properly balanced in daily products, should make the hair soft and shiny, and healthy-looking and give your hair strength. It’s sort of like taking vitamins; there’s a sweet spot between just enough and too much of a good thing.
Some common protein ingredients to look for in nourishing hair care products are:
Panthenol, keratin, silk amino acids/peptides, bamboo extract, Rhodiola extract, barley, wheat or rice quaternions, jojoba protein, silk protein, quinoa protein, soy protein, and many others.
M for Moisturize
This is the final step to seal in moisture and your choice of ingredients is a very individual thing, but do keep in mind that petroleum-based ingredients can tend to have a dehydrating effect (please add a citation) in the long run and they add no nutrients to the hair. Generally, the oils that are most beneficial, least prone to build-up, and most nourishing are: coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil. Certainly, there are many other great non-petroleum oils to consider, such as grapeseed, jojoba, castor, sunflower, and argan. Obviously, avoid any oils you may be allergic to, and don’t forget to consider the condition of your scalp, too.
The heavy hitters- Butters
These emollients are known for their richness and nourishing benefits, but remember to not overdo it for your hair type and lifestyle, as they build up on the hair much more readily and a little goes a long way. Also, the more heavy oils and butters you use on your hair, the less your moisturizers (hydrating ingredients) will be able to get into the cortex of the hair. Water can’t penetrate oil, so these ingredients not only help ‘seal’ in moisture, but they also seal it out. Butters to consider are shea butter, cocoa butter, kokum butter, tucuma, mango, and others.
Some other considerations:
Make sure your products are pH balanced toward the acidic to help keep the cuticle of the hair flat and smooth. Not sure? Buy some inexpensive pH paper or strips and dip them into the product. The ideal pH range should be between 5 and 6.
Aloe Vera is an important ingredient in all the benefits it offers textured hair and it helps balance product and hair pH.
Consider getting a water softening system if you have hard water. Mineral buildup on hair has a negative effect on your hair and contributes to mineral buildup, dryness, and brittleness.
Fragrance and essential oils-
Who doesn’t love smelling good? Keep in mind that fragrance is the #1 cause of sensitivities and allergic reactions, so try to keep these ingredients limited, or better still, use unscented products, especially if you’re sensitive.
Essential oils can have beneficial effects for hair and scalp, but be sure to do your research and remember that no essential oil is going to completely reverse hair loss, cure dandruff or transform your hair, miraculously. Some potentially beneficial essential oils for hair care are rosemary, peppermint, lavender, and tea tree.