July 9, 2015

The Beginner's Guide to Natural Hair Products

Photo Courtesy of Ambrosia Malbrough

With our curls, coils, and waves we have choices despite universal practices for all curlies like cleansing, conditioning, moisturizing, styling, and health reinforcement. Within each category you determine what works best for your hair by trial and error and I cannot stress that enough. Thinking you can just come out of the gate knowing what your hair likes might be unrealistic. Patience and a willingness to learn what your hair needs take time and practice through trying different products and techniques. Here are regimen categories with different product options that cater to your specific needs.

Read On!>>>

This is the most popular cleanser of hair. They are cleansing formulations usually with water as the primary ingredient, surfactants, and following that can vary with thickeners, conditioners, and preservatives. Shampoos tend to be quite harsh on curly hair and the main reason many curlies steer clear of them. The sulfates in them are lathering agents that can dry out and cause frizz, so many have opted for sulfate-free shampoos for effective cleansing without stripping the hair of its natural oils and creating frizz.

Popular shampoos: SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo and Kinky-Curly Come Clean Moisturizing Shampoo.

Short for “conditioner-wash”, this means skipping shampoo altogether and cleansing the hair and scalp with a conditioner and preferably a cleansing conditioner. It is gentler on curly hair by not stripping the hair of the natural oils is needs to be moisturized and non-frizzy. You can use a botanical conditioner or a cleansing conditioner specifically made for cleansing the hair. Some feel this is not really cleansing the hair but a great substitute when shampooing too often is not desired or if hair is not full of buildup.

Popular co-washes: As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner and Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Quinoa Co-Wash.

Clay washing is becoming increasingly popular among curlies and for good reason, as it removes toxins while leaving hair clean and shiny. It is natural (dependent upon where you purchase your clay), inexpensive, and a winner if shampoos are too harsh and cleansing conditioners are not hardworking enough for your hair. These clays, which are born of the earth, have been used for centuries for ridding the body of toxins.

Popular clays: Aztec Secrets: Indian Healing Bentonite Clay and Rhassoul Clay Hair and Facial Mask (Ghassoul) by Poppy Austin.

Diluted castile soap
Castile soap is a vegetable soap that is traditionally made from olive oil, water, and lye. It is eco-friendly, biodegradable, and can be used for more than just cleaning your hair. Now, this is great at cutting grease and buildup, but if it must be diluted to combat that lye.

Popular castile soap: Dr. Bronner's Fair Trade and Organic Castile Liquid Soap and Natural Way Organics Ultra Mild Unscented Castile Soap.


Rinse-out conditioner

Rinse out, daily, or regular conditioners are basic, lightweight conditioners used right after shampooing that only require 1- 5 min. of waiting time. These formulations do not pack the punch of deep conditioners. They are great for daily use and manageability of your textured strands. The ingredients are to be moderately absorbed.

Popular rinse-out conditioners: DevaCurl One Condition and CURLS Coconut Sublime Conditioner.

Deep conditioner
These heavy-duty conditioners or masques are usually thicker and require a longer time on the hair for deep nourishment. They are often accompanied by heat to give a deeper treatment and can stay on the hair from 15- 30 min. although some curlies will allow them to stay on overnight. They penetrate the hair nourishing the hair’s cuticle and their effects on the hair last longer than a rinse-out conditioner. They should be used after every wash for a curly and no less than once a month.

Popular deep conditioners: Curl Junkie Curl Rehab Moisturizing Hair Treatment and EDEN BodyWorks JojOba Monoi Deep Conditioner.

Leave–in conditioner
Lighter than rinse-out conditioners, leave-in conditioners are watery and designed to be left in the hair so they are less likely to cause irritation to the scalp. They are designed to help keep hair manageable by keeping hair detangled and free from frizz and fly-aways. Some feel it is a necessary step in conditioning, but many curlies keep regular conditioners in their hair, especially if they are following the Curly Girl Method.

Popular leave-in conditioners: Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper Original and Oyin Handmade Hair Dew.


Hair milk
Hair milk can be confusing, because it is not something that most truly understand. What is it? Well, hair milk is much like a leave-in conditioner that is light enough for daily use to revitalize your curls. They can be detanglers and used with styling products. Their primary goal is not for styling but to provide light conditioning and to revive dry, frizzy, or rumpled curls.

Popular hair milks: Camille Rose Naturals Curl Love Moisture Milk and SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Milk.

Hair butter
A much heavier moisturizer than hair milk, these creamy consistency moisturizers are great for everyday use and for those with tightly-coiled hair. The term butter usually refers to one of the more popular butters like coconut, shea, or almond as a major component of the product. They are usually in jars with little to no water and are designed to seal hair after it has been moisturized. Also not a styling aid, they can be used in conjunction with a styler.

Popular hair butters: OBIA Natural Hair Care Twist Whip Butter and Carol's Daughter Healthy Hair Butter.


One of the more popular styling aids of curlies, gel can have light, medium, or hard hold and fight frizz better than most styling aids for curlies. Gels are quite popular in the summer months to fight off humidity and heat without weighing the hair down. Finding the right gel for your hair takes time and patience and because of that some curlies feel gels are not the way to go.

Popular hair gels for curlies: Ouidad Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel and DevaCurl Light Defining Gel.

Hair Serums
Hair serums (sometimes called elixirs) are for combatting frizz and giving curly hair a smoother look and feel. Great for damaged and/or dry hair, hair serums help to smooth the hair follicle. They are often used in conjunction with conditioners and other stylers in a hair cocktail for optimal smoothness, shine, and softness.

Popular hair serums: SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Reconstructive Finishing Elixir and Oyin Handmade Shine and Define Styling Serum.

Pure oils

Many curlies are turning to the natural sources for styling their curls, especially for those much-loved DIY concoctions. From flaxseed oil to coconut oil, the ingredients are as creative as the curly. With an endless supply of YouTube videos sharing recipes and how-to steps, it is no wonder this option is become more popular by the year. What’s the most popular? Whatever you prefer! From smoothing flyaways to slicking down edges, pure oils are just as popular as pre-made products, so find your favorite and experiment.

Note: You do not need more than one product from each category. Keep it simple!

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