I always think back to an encounter I had in elementary school with my best friend, Jennifer.
I remember asking her why her hair grew while mine did not.
Nine-year-old Jenny didn’t have the answer to that question, but that did not stop her from trying to help out a dear friend. The next day, she arrived at school with a backpack full of her hair products and wanted to give them all to me!
You cannot imagine the joy I felt! I thought, Wow! Now my hair is going to grow and be just like hers!
I now had my hands on her Holy Grail! Her products! I eagerly washed and washed and conditioned my hair every day with those precious products.
But much to my disappointment (and I am sure Jenny shared the frustration), our little product swap had no effect on my hair. It was not that the products did not work; it was simply our lack of understanding about black hair needs that caused our experiment to fail.
We did not understand how products must complement each other and work together to benefit the hair.
Let’s take a closer look at the various types of products used in a healthy hair care regimen. Ingredients-label reading will take on a central role in this chapter as we develop our product understanding.
Most shampoos, conditioners and moisturizers are not simply natural concoctions of berries and flowers.
Many hair products contain complex chemicals to make the formulas less runny, more fragrant, and more pearlescent or foamy.
As you become more label savvy, you will be better able to evaluate hair products and compare product claims against reality.
Additionally, learning how to dissect product labels will help you determine the protein and moisture strength of products before you ever use them on your hair.
Not only will this improve your efficiency in developing an appropriate hair care regimen, but it will also save you lots of money. Quality hair care products combined with the proper hair care techniques can make a difference in the overall quality of our hair.
When these products are used in a hair care regimen as part of a basic protein and moisture-balancing strategy, the hair will always reach its greatest potential.
But because today’s haircare market is so saturated with products to meet consumers’ needs, separating the good products from the bad ones can be difficult.
Your Hair Product Arsenal
Shampooing and conditioning are processes often taken for granted in most healthy hair care regimens.
In addition to the healthy hair foundation that quality shampoos and conditioners provide, ancillary hair products such as leave-in conditioners, water-based moisturizers, oils and serums also help round out healthy hair regimens.
These products help support our styles and keep our hair looking polished and well put together.
Even if no other hair products are used, shampoos and conditioners are almost always a part of an individual’s hair product arsenal. Shampoos and conditioners are the foundations of your healthy hair care regimen.
Selecting the right shampoo and conditioning formulas for your textured hair type is imperative if growth results are to be realized. Shampoos and conditioners not only cleanse the hair, they support the overall cosmetic integrity of our hair fibers.
The moisturizer you select also makes a large contribution to your hair’s cosmetic appearance. Without a doubt,
oils reign supreme in black hair care and are supported by generations of strong tradition.
By contrast, the importance of water and hydration in black hair care has only recently garnered much-deserved attention.
You will find a detailed list of product recommendations toward the end of this unit.
Do keep in mind that new products enter and older products exit the market on a continuous basis, so the products listed in the Regimen Builder should not be considered the entire range of your product options.
Textured Hair Cleansing Basics
The Power of Frequent Hydration
Textured hair thrives in high-moisture environments. Regular shampooing and conditioning sessions allow us to fully supply this need for moisture.
Frequent cleansing greatly improves the hair’s moisture content because water is encouraged to bind within the hair shaft each time. Ideally, textured hair should be hydrated (by shampooing/rinsing) and conditioned once per week.
Extra hydrating and conditioning may be necessary in the early stages of starting a healthy hair care regimen. In the first few critical months of regimen building, engaging the hair by hydrating and conditioning every three to four days can help to restore the hair’s moisture balance quickly.
Does Water Dry Out the Hair?
Black hair desperately needs moisture and hydration more than any other hair type. Unfortunately, generations of old wives’ tales have told us, “Water is bad” and “Water dries out our hair” neither of which happens to be true. This unfortunate line of thinking places water and moisture in an antagonistic relationship with our hair and scalp.
As a testament to the strength of misinformation given a platform, many of us still do not take advantage of weekly cleansing and conditioning as a critical step in healthy hair maintenance.
How can water, nature’s primary moisturizer, dry the hair out?
The question we should probably ask is: How is it that some people do seem to experience dryness when they shampoo and condition their hair weekly? The answer is:
Dry scalp and hair come from using products that are not suited for frequent use or are improperly designed for textured hair.
The products that are typically expected to suit the unique moisture needs of the black community are 1) oily, silicone-heavy coating conditioners, moisturizers and greases and 2) harsh stripping shampoos that are intended to remove those oily conditioners, moisturizers, and greases. Unfortunately, none of these types of products works to support proper moisturization of our scalps and hair fibers.
Using them frequently will certainly dry out our hair.
Squeaky-clean hair is not a goal in black hair care. Proper cleansing can be achieved with gentle shampoo formulas or even with shampoo-less hair care regimens. Stripping shampoo products produce bare, unprotected hair fibers that become prone to dryness, cracking, splitting and breakage over time.
The moisture stakes are high for black hair. We need properly lubricated fibers to help us retain internal moisture and reduce frictional forces between our hair fibers. Unfortunately, many commercial black shampoo formulas strip the hair of its natural oils and leave the hair feeling squeaky clean.
If this stripped-clean state is not addressed with the application of a proper conditioner with humectants and light emollients, the hair will begin to feel dry.
Just as squeaky-clean hair is not a goal in black hair care, oily, weighed-down hair is not a goal either.
Inadequate moisturizers, pomades and conditioners that load the cuticles down with silicones and oils rather than infuse true moisture into the fiber—also leave the hair feeling dry.
These formulas make the hair look nice immediately after use, but never actually support the true, longer-term needs of the fiber. Under these conditions, frequent shampooing and conditioning become a battle.
Without adequate sources of true moisture and products to support effective hair hydration, we end up with dry, parched hair. The market offers an abundance of sealants and moisture-barrier products, as well as shampoo products to remove the barriers, but very few black hair-care products work to infuse water into the fiber.
This is why we perceive “dryness” when we attempt to regularly hydrate our hair.
Hair Proteins Love Water
Our hair loves water. Black hair thrives when it is maintained in a high-moisture, hydration-focused environment.
The proteins that make up our hair are attracted to water, and water is incorporated extensively into our hair’s natural bonding structure.
Hair proteins even seek out water in the air around us! But daily wear and tear cause us to lose much of our hair’s natural moisture to the air and to treatments like blow drying and flat ironing that work by quickly evaporating the hair’s moisture in order to flatten and straighten the hair fiber.
Sometimes water never makes it into our hair fibers because it is blocked by layers of oils and silicone coatings. Regular misting, wetting and conditioning keep the hair’s elasticity within normal ranges and reduce breakage when the hair is manipulated.