Natural hair care should be simple, right?
Whether you’re an experienced natural or a new natural, at the end of the day you have two primary goals as it is related to products: To find products that work for your hair and to use them in the way that’s best for your hair.
That’s it. It doesn’t matter how well the product works for another natural, if it doesn’t work the same way for your hair.
If you’ve been following us for a while, then you probably know that we do tons of research and read just about every natural hair book that’s released.
A few months ago, I was about to purchase a copy of a hair book when I read the following statement advertising the book:
“Get a secret oil mix that grew my hair extremely fast and also cured a bald spot and thinning hair line. You won’t find it in your local beauty supply store, but I will show you where to get it. The results of this oil have been miraculous and I continue to use it and see results.”
Does anyone honestly believe the statement above?
These types of claims should make you raise an eyebrow and lead you to ask several questions. If it is so easy to use this secret oil mix and grow your hair extremely fast, then why aren’t they selling the oil mix, instead of a $25 book that will reveal the secrets? You could make substantially more money with your secret oil mixture.
This isn’t an article about how you should take things slow and keep it simple, because eventually you’ll figure it out. You’ve heard that strategy before (and that strategy does work).
However, if you want to speed up selecting the right products for your hair, then you should focus on finding hair care products that work well together and addresses two critical needs: moisture and protein.
Keep the following point in mind, there is really no right or wrong way to determining your natural hair regimen. If you ultimately find products that work well for your hair, then you’ve accomplished your goal.
You will likely notice that even if you do find the “right products”, that the effectiveness of these products may change from time to time. This is why you hear many naturals talk about their winter regimen or their summer regimen. If you live in an area where there are extreme fluctuations in humidity or temperatures, there may be a need to adjust your regimen during these periods. This can often make building a complete natural hair regimen more difficult, especially for new naturals.
The Natural Hair Regimen That Works
Now, if you’re a regular reader of the Natural Hair Community blog, then you know that we’re about taking action (and if you’re new, welcome) – and please be sure to check out our natural hair basics article prior to proceeding with the information provided below.
You will need to consider protein based products and moisture based products for your regimen. If you’re not familiar with the aforementioned product segments, check out this article on the concept of moisture and protein balancing.
There are several product types that you need to consider when you start your natural hair regimen. Depending on how the needs of your hair change over time (and during various seasons), you may need to select more than one product from the various categories shown below.
Disclaimer: Don’t take this information as the only way to create a great natural hair regimen. You may currently have a regimen were you utilize fewer products or different products. Please don’t change a hair care regimen that works for you, on account of the information provided below. However, if your current regimen doesn’t work as well as you would like or if you’re newly natural, the information provided below will help you create a regimen that works.
Selecting an effective shampoo or shampoos will be critical to the success of your natural hair regimen. For new naturals, I generally recommend that you wash your hair once per week and over time you will be able to determine whether that works well for you. You will need to make adjustments based on your schedule and as you learn more about your hair and the needs of your hair. The products that you use, your level of physical activity or many other things may influence how frequently you decide to shampoo.
There are two types of shampoos that you’ll need to consider: moisturizing shampoos and clarifying shampoos.
Moisturizing shampoos (also referred to as Conditioning Shampoo)
When selecting a moisturizing shampoo it is usually ideal to look for a product that doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate or ammonium lauryl sulfate. Your moisturizing shampoo should be a gentle cleanser that you use consistently throughout your regimen. Typically, we recommend using this product once per week if you’re newly natural. As you learn more about your hair, you may determine that using this product more or less often is more appropriate for you.
Several women within the natural hair community look for shampoos that are sulfate free. You will notice that several product manufacturers have created products that are free of sodium lauryl sulfate, SLS-free or ammonium lauryl sulfate-free. There are many other variants of the “SLS-free or ALS-free” advertising, but there are a couple of things that you need to consider.
Shampoos often contain sulfates because they help clean the hair. The presence of sulfates allows the shampoo to more easily remove product buildup and dirt from the hair. If you decide to utilize a shampoo that contains sulfates, there is one thing to consider. There is an inverse relationship between sulfates and the moisturizing ability of a shampoo.
Typically, a shampoo that contains multiple sulfates won’t be very moisturizing. Since the desire to retain moisture is a primary goal for many women, often naturals look to avoid sulfates all together when selecting a moisturizing shampoo.
The specific ingredients that you should avoid are outside of the scope of this article. When you consider the creativity of product manufacturers with respect to listing ingredients, maintaining an updated list of ingredients to avoid becomes an exercise in futility.
When selecting moisturizing shampoos look for a product that doesn’t contain sulfates, this is probably easiest for a new natural. More experienced naturals can utilize products that contain a relatively small percentage of sulfates or contains milder sulfates once you learn more about the purpose of the various ingredients included within a shampoo.
Clarifying shampoos should be used when build up is evident, because they strip the hair – making it squeaky clean. When Jael talks about clarifying shampoos, she often compares it to a painter working on a fresh, white canvas. This is actually a very good metaphor to describe how clarifying shampoos work conceptually.
When you want to deposit moisture or protein into your hair strands, you can choose from a few different types of conditioners. Generally, conditioners provide a temporary remedy or cosmetic fix for hair that appears damaged or feels dry. It’s important to note that conditioners have limitations and can only mend the hair to a certain extent.
Conditioners are generally available in three categories:
- Leave-in conditioners. Leave-in conditioners are generally used after you wash your hair. This product is applied to the hair and not rinsed out.
- Rinse-out conditioners. Products that are worked through the hair and then rinsed out.
- Deep conditioners (also referred to as treatment or repair conditioners). These are penetrating conditioners that add moisture and protein to the hair strand. Often times it’s recommended to utilize heat when applying deep conditioners. Adding heat to a conditioner doesn’t make it a deep conditioner. You should utilize a moisturizing conditioner on a regular basis.
The conditioners that you use consistently within your regimen should be moisturizing conditioners. You should only incorporate protein-based deep conditioners into your regimen on an as-needed basis.
When selecting moisturizing conditioners, some women avoid cones or silicones like the plague. The idea is that if a product contains a high percentage of cones, the product will eventually lead to dry hair due to the moisturizing effectiveness of the product being mitigated. Listing every ingredient that you should avoid isn’t practical.
So here are some general guidelines: When selecting a moisturizing deep conditioner the ingredients list should contain water, fatty alcohols, and humectants at a minimum. The idea is to avoid ingredients that will coat the hair strand and mitigate the moisturizing effectiveness. You can always check our resource page for the current products that we recommend.
Oils and Butters
Moisturizing the hair is a critical component of each natural hair regimen. We tend to answer many questions each month about maintaining moisture-protein balance. While it is important to incorporate water-based moisturizing products into your regimen, it is also important to seal the moisture into your hair strands. We recommend using oils or butters to accomplish sealing in moisture within your regimen.
Protein treatments can vary greatly in potency. It is critical that you read and follow the instructions provided on the product’s label. Misuse can possibly do more harm than good. The hair is roughly 70% keratin protein. Using protein-based products on your hair can help to reinforce or strengthen the hair shaft. This will provide additional support to your hair strands as your try to combat breakage. These products are generally used for rebuilding the hair strand. How often you utilize protein treatments will depend on the amount of damage that you intend to mend. The amount of protein needed will likely be different for each person.
You will have to experiment some to determine exactly what your hair needs, but we can give you some general guidelines: protein treatments should be performed on an as needed basis. The goal is to truly understand your hair, what it needs and when it needs certain products.
There are many things that you should consider when you’re putting together your natural hair regimen. For example, it may be beneficial for you to create hair goals that include protective styling options and incorporate parameters for heat styling (ex. no heat usage or once per quarter). However, one of the most important things that you can do is create a killer natural hair journal.
It’s important that you learn and adjust to the specific needs of your hair. There are several natural hair websites that will tell you to do this once per week or that once per month. Please don’t follow this advice. It’s fine to use generic advice as a guide when you first go natural, but don’t continue to follow generic advice because you will have hair problems and not understand how to deal with them throughout the course of your journey.
You will need to select several products for your natural hair journey. We suggest that you place your products into two categories – moisture-based products and protein-based products. You will need to find shampoos, conditioners, sealants and protein treatments for your hair. We could make a variety of product recommendations throughout the course of this article, but I don’t want you to spend money if it’s not necessary. That’s not what we want you to focus on with this article. Remember – you can always check out our resource page to see our current product recommendations.
The next immediate step is to take an inventory of your current hair care products. Then, determine which role each product that you have will play in your natural hair regimen using the guidance provided in this article. For more information about taking an inventory of your current hair care products and creating a natural hair regimen that works, read through Jael’s series below on “How to Create a Natural Hair Regimen”.
- How to Create a Natural Hair Regimen – Part 1
- How to Create a Natural Hair Regimen – Part 2
- How to Create a Natural Hair Regimen – Part 3