24th August 2019
Natural and afro textured hair always fascinated me as a child, especially with having a mixed raced father who hated his hair because it sat in, mini afro-style finger waves and he had no idea how to manage it. ( These days he’d be right on trend.)
Anybody that knows me knows I have curls for days ( as does my sister) thanks to being a mix of our father and our caucasian mother who has poker straight hair, and when I was a young whippersnapper, trainee hairstylist, I had to go on the eternal search for both my sister and I for the best products that would help us cope with our frizzy corkscrew-esque curls and also gather info on how to care for it too, as neither of our parents had a clue ( bless ‘em) I didn't even know I had curly hair until I was about 11 years old as my father would take me to the barbers to get all my hair chopped as short as possible so there was nothing to deal with.- exactly like his. My sister sported some strange haircuts too - which was my mother’s attempt at trying to tame and almost rid of what she saw as unruly curls that made it look messy- until she was old enough to figure out what hair she really had and then was able to embrace it.
If my father was alive and young now I think he’d like his hair a lot more than he used to, with all the latest products that are around.
Anyway, enough about me, and let’s take a look at how to deal with natural and afro textured hair. Afro hair comes in many shapes and forms and more recently with the trend of championing and enjoying your natural texture, many women ( and men) are referring to the hair typing systems created to describe the way their hair is.
It’s nye on impossible to recommend one product for all similar hair types just the same as it’s impossible to recommend one moisturiser for all skin types.
Andre Walker is Oprah Winfreys hairstylist and he released a book in 1998 titled Andre Talks Hair! Even though his system outlined in the book could possibly do with an update, its not a bad guide to follow in order to determine your hair type, although it has been criticised over the years.
The NatuallyCurly system helps to not only determine your hair type but also the right products and hairstyles for your hair. It focuses on three types of hair: Wavy, Curly, and Coily. It also classifies these categories into sub-classes: A to C, based on the hair’s diameter which is borrowed from the Andre Walker hair typing system.
These systems look at all hair types although the Naturally curly system deals a lot more with curly -afro hair so if you want to determine your hair type more specifically then check them out.
I’m going to generalise a little here though ( don’t kill me ) but the rules for looking after all the different types of naturally curly through to natural afro hair are pretty similar to be fair. The main reason being is generally these hair types lack moisture, hence why they feel more dry, coarse, frizzy, brittle etc ( just some of the words used to describe the textures) .
The best way to counteract this is by using the right shampoos/conditioners and treatments, then using the correct styling products too. These types of hair can naturally feel a tad brittle and you need to feed it with moisture. Also you will find that the scalp tends to be dry too, with there being a general lack of natural oils. .
Shampoos and conditioners with aloe, argan, lavender and rosemary really help and it’s really important these days to make sure they are sulphate ( ‘sulfate’ being the American spelling), paraben and silicone free too.
Sulphates have been added to many cleansing products over the years ie: shampoo, toothpaste, body wash and facial cleansers, because they create a lather that leaves hair, teeth and skin feeling squeaky clean. The negative side is that they can also strip natural oils from the scalp and hair, making it more dry, brittle and cause even more frizziness in curly/natural textured hair. Also if you have a sensitive scalp, sulphates can cause irritation like redness, dryness, and itching and encourage colour fade too. Technically speaking they are a type of ‘surfactant’ which is the term used for various detergents, emulsifiers, and foaming agents, attracting oil and water. Sulphates allow dirt, oil and dead skin cells to be removed from your skin and scalp and wash away with water,
They originate from sulphur which does occur naturally, but is usually synthesised from the ingredient petrolatum and lauryl alcohol, which derives mainly from coconut oil. This reaction produces hundreds of different sulphates, but 'sodium laureth' and 'sodium lauryl' are those you'll see listed the most. Petrolatum is also running out, so many companies are going 'sulphate-free' for eco-reasons too.
The main thing to remember with sulphate free products is that there will be a massive reduction in lather. FYI: This is not a bad thing, so don’t panic!!! 99.9% of the population believe that the lather is cleaning their hair. Lather has been created as a way for us to mentally think its cleaning!! Its actually cosmetic and it’s created to make the experience of shampooing and washing a more fluffy, bubbly and gorgeous experience. Who doesn’t love some bubbles?. A lot of brands that have sulphate free products in their range are now calling them “cleansers” instead of shampoos to help try and differentiate them.
Parabens are common preservatives used in cosmetics and hair care. They are cheaper, and mimic anti-microbial agents in plants. but on the negative side they have the ability to mimic estrogen and cause breast cancer. Research has found that parabens and mineral oil can cause considerable damage to the hair and scalp. More recent studies show that Parabens are not good to be used if pregnant too. Medical research has shown that exposure to certain common phenols during pregnancy, ie: parabens and triclosan ( which is an antibacterial and antifungal agent present in some consumer products: toothpaste, soaps, detergents, toys, and surgical cleaning treatments), and may disrupt the growth of boys during fetal growth and the first years of life.
Silicones are kind of like rubber or plastic. It acts as a sealant against water and even air, so it can be great if you’re trying to smooth textured hair out to straight, but It’s not a natural ingredient, and it can be bad for hair. Look for any ingredients ending in the word “…cone” It gives the illusion of shine and a slippy feeling, but it is not real shine, it is a fake shine from the plastic. The best shine comes from when the cuticle layer is sealed and light reflects off the hair. This only happens when hair is properly hydrated and kept as healthy as possible. Silicone actually prevents moisture from penetrating the hair shaft and attracts dirt and other ingredients. So basically you get a good fake shine for a couple of days, but over time it will dry hair out because conditioner and moisture will only end up sitting on the surface. This lack of moisture to hair will potentially make it become more brittle leading to more frizz and breakage. Whilst silicone isn’t terribly bad for hair, it just doesn’t do it any good either.
So let’s now cut to my favourite products to use. the first, and I’ve mentioned this before in other posts is Dizziak. It has no parabens, no sulphates, no silicones, and no mineral oil. Its also Vegan, and it’s actually suitable for all hair textures. Created by Loretta De Feo – a Londoner with massive hair & a deep-rooted understanding.
It smells divine, like a spa and it feeds the hair with all the moisture it can handle
It comes as a shampoo ( or Hydration Wash as it is known) and also as a Deep Conditioner.
The Hydration Wash ( retailing at £20.00) is pH balanced, packed with a blend of smart naturals that clean deep while infusing the hair and scalp with lasting moisture.
It delivers the ultimate cleanse by lifting grease and product build-up without compromising the hair.
The Deep Conditioner ( retailing at £22.00) is rich and creamy and is the ultimate shine-enhancer, infusing the hair with an effective boost of lasting hydration, for luxurious moisture. It can be used as a regular conditioner where you leave it on for a few minutes then rinse off or like a treatment where you can put it on your hair and leave it, probably wrapping your hair with some cling film or a plastic cap and even wrapping a towel around your head to keep the heat in.
I love these 2 products and use them on my own hair and I have to say they make it very happy and it feels properly moisturised when I use them.
Naturally textured hair is thirsty and will drink every bit of moisture you give it.
FYI: After rinsing out any conditioner or treatment I always recommend to rinse your hair in cold water. This helps to close down the cuticle which in turn will help your hair look a little smoother.
Another great shampoo and Intense Conditioning Treatment is from Creme of Nature with Argan Oil. A US based brand focussing on natural ingredients.
Their Moisture and Shine Sulfate Free Hair Shampoo is super moisturising with a sweet, nutty smell, which strengthens your hair and scalp. Its infused with argan oil and is not only sulphate free but has no mineral oil, parabens, silicones, phthalates, gluten, parafin or propylene.
The Intense Conditioning Treatment is an intensively deep conditioner infused with Argan Oil that strengthens, revitalises & gives great shine, preventing hair breakage, infusing moisture from the inside out.
A couple of my friends with natural afro hair have tried this shampoo and conditioner out and they love how it makes their hair feel as it really helps with detangling and say their hair feels a lot softer but without unwanted chemicals being used in the process. Its also very reasonably priced on Amazon with an RRP of £9.99 ( 12fl/oz) for both products.
A lot of people with natural textured hair like to use an oil as a treatment, and I agree that it’s a good idea for this hair type, but it’s important to use a good oil without silicone in.
A great one is by Leonor Greyl : Yes these are a little more pricey but trust me, they’re worth it.
They have 2 separate scalp oils and a hair oil, the first scalp oil is Régénérescence Naturelle ( £35.75 for 60ml) which contains essential oils and botanical oils to stimulate and purify the scalp while encouraging hair growth.
For the sensitive scalp there’s Huile Apaisante ( £29.00 FOR 20ml) formulated using natural oils with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties which offer an immediate soothing effect. It normalizes and purifies the scalp, rebalances sebum production, reduces dandruff and redness, repairs skin’s hydrolipidic film to prevent dehydration. The roll-on bottle allows for precise application on targeted areas and it’s a 100% natural and fragrance-free formula which contains no essential oils.
Their pre-shampoo oil treatment is L’huile De Leonor Grey. ( £31.00 for 95ml) It is formulated with natural oils (Mongongo, Coprah), and this treatment nourishes, detangles, softens and repairs dry or coloured hair throughout the year.
In the summer, it protects hair from the damaging effects of sun, sea water and chlorine
Another great hair oil is by Phyto: Phytospecific Baobab Oil is amazing. Baobab oil contains vitamins A, D, E, and F, which all combine to improve the elasticity of your locks, and encourage cell regeneration. It also contains fatty acids for hydration and nourishment. This retails at £24.00 on Phyto’s own website
Applying is really important as it’s really about sectioning off your hair from the nape through to the forehead and applying the oil section by section. Leave for about 10 minutes or you can even leave overnight then shampoo out.
A cheaper, good alternative is the 100% Cold Pressed Virgin Marula Oil from The Ordinary ( retails for £8.10 for 30ml) . Rich in antioxidants and nutrients, this luxurious oil is derived from kernels of the Marula Tree Fruit and is mostly composed of Oleic and Linoleic Acids. It’s good for keeping hair soft, supple, and moisturised. Versus Argan Oil Marula Oil is better for curly, frizzy and thick Hair. FYI, whilst Its vegan, silicone, water, alcohol free, it does derive from a nut so anybody with a sever nut allergy, be careful. You can also use this oil on your skin. Its good for oily, acne-prone, dry, and ageing skin.
For combing out your hair a good detangling comb is important. You need a wide tooth comb, don’t use a comb where the teeth are too narrow, and also I would comb it when you have the oil or conditioner in it whilst in the shower or bath.
Don’t comb it when it’s dry. This can snap your hair off. Also after you’ve shampooed and conditioned, a great detangling product is absolutely vital. I highly recommend Deva Curl No Comb Detangling Spray. Retailing at £17.64 It’s lightweight with a lemongrass fragrance plus It’s sulphate, silicone and paraben free. Of course you can use a comb with it despite the name. These guys also do a great antifrizz microfibre towel for curly - natural hair, available from Amazon for £26.80. In the US Deva Curl have their own website www.devacurl.com
If your hair is super coarse and thick then I would suggest a good leave in conditioner. One of my favourites is Tgin Green Tea Super Moist Leave In Conditioner. available from Amazon for £17.59 Again with no parabens, sulphates or silicones, it contains Argan oil to penetrate the scalp and nourish the roots of your hair. It detangles knots and repairs the cuticle, reducing frizz, flyaways and breakage.
These guys from Tgin also do a good Moisture Rich Sulfate Free Shampoo which does not contain harsh detergents that strip the hair of its natural oils
Infused with Pro Vitamin B5 for reduced breakage and increased moisture. It contains Amla oil, Coconut oil and has no parabens, sulphates, petrolatum, lanolin or artificial colours.
Again available from Amazon for £20.54
Let’s talk about cutting. Like all hair types it’s important to get your hair cut regularly. Just because your texture hides and disguises a lot of dry ends, you still have to make sure you get it trimmed regularly. As I say for all hair, a nibble every 6-8 weeks is always better than a big chop 6 months later because your hair is too knackered and split. You are not exempt from nibbling.
Also if you have a full on fro, then I wouldn’t suggest to sleep with your full fro all combed out. It’s better to lightly tie your hair into largish sections of soft knots or loose braids whilst you're sleeping, and if you’re really into protecting it whilst sleeping ( which is important FYI) then buy a satin or silk pillow to sleep on too.
One last piece of advice…….. One of the best ways to have healthy hair is nutrition, so eating things like eggs, berries, spinach, fatty fish, sweet potatoes, avocados, nuts, seeds, sweet peppers, oysters, prawns, beans, soybeans and meat are great.
A lack of the right nutrients including vitamins A, B, C, D and E, zinc, iron, biotin, protein and essential fatty acids can slow down hair growth or even cause hair loss, but meanwhile there is a fantastic supplement you can take that I’ve recommended to so many people over the years. It’s called Viviscal and there is a women’s and a man’s version. They both contain Biotin, Zinc and AminoMar C to help maintain healthy hair. Click HERE to check out their website and purchase. 1 month supply is £38.99 and the recommended amount to take to start seeing a difference in your hair is 3 months minimum. I’ve taken them everyday now for about 3 years.
I hope that’s helped with caring for your natural textured and afro hair. Of course there are many products out there for your hair type but just keep an eye out for those sneaky sulphates, silicones and parabens, and of course DM me if you have any other questions.