3 Must Haves For Your Natural Hair Shampoo

by Nicole Harmon of Hair Liberty

In my opinion, your shampoo may be the most important product in your arsenal. I say that because a good shampoo keeps your scalp healthy (which means better hair growth) and makes your hair easier to comb. A bad shampoo will lead to drier hair, scalp irritation, and unstoppable frizz. Your shampoo is truly the first step to smooth, manageable hair. You NEED a good shampoo in your life!

The best shampoos contain:
• Sulfate-free cleansers to prevent excessive dryness and scalp irritation
• Cationic ingredients to condition your hair while you cleanse
• pH adjusters to balance the pH of the shampoo and prevent unnecessary cuticle damage to your hair

4 Steps to Prep your Natural Hair for a Big Event

by Nicole Harmon author of Coils and Curls

Summer barbecue filled with eligible bachelors? Photo shoot? Wedding? Sometimes you just need everything about your look to be on point. These 4 steps will help you achieve picture perfect styles that last.

Step 1: Start by conditioning your hair

Pre-shampoo treatments are often recommended because they prevent the hair from swelling when it absorbs water too quickly, but that’s not the only benefit. Applying oil before washing your hair also helps your strands absorb and “hold on to” more conditioner once you’re in the shower. For DIY treatments, coconut oil has the strongest scientific evidence for conditioning the hair. If you want to step it up for a big event, opt for a professionally formulated pre-shampoo treatment like Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Extreme or L’Oreal EverStrong Overnight Repair Treatment.

Read On!>>>

3 Oils with Sealing Power!

by Nicole Harmon of Hair Liberty

As you know, water evaporates from coils and curls super quickly. If you don’t seal in moisture after washing your hair, you could end up with bone dry strands in less than an hour. To help your hair retain moisture, choose one of these oils that stand out from the rest because of their proven sealing power.

1) Mineral oil, also known as paraffinium liquidum, is the most effective oil for sealing moisture into the hair or skin. It’s obtained from drilling into the earth, which sounds nice, but everything that comes straight from the ground (including water), is actually pretty dirty. The Food and Drug Administration requires mineral oil to be refined and purified to remove impurities before it can be used in cosmetics or pharmaceuticals. Mineral oil works best to increase moisture retention because it’s made of hydrophobic/water insoluble compounds. That means when you seal with mineral oil, the water that absorbed into your hair when you washed has to work hard to escape past the “barrier” or “seal”. It will still get out (i.e. your hair will still become dry) but it will happen much more slowly than if the mineral oil wasn’t there. The downside of mineral oil is that it can leave a greasy feel.

2) Silicone oil aka dimethicone
Silicone is a type of synthetic oil made in science laboratories using silicon (a naturally occurring element found in sand) and oxygen. Dimethicone is a type of silicone that is used in different molecular weights. Higher weight dimethicone is thick and sticky and it’s used for industrial applications like sealing moisture away from bathroom tiles and walls. Lower molecular weight dimethicone is thin and it spreads easily; it’s used in personal care products to seal in moisture on the skin and hair. The silicon and oxygen in dimethicone make it slightly more water soluble than mineral oil which means it won’t help your hair stay moisturized for quite as long. The advantage that dimethicone has over mineral oil is that it’s more resistant to being rinsed off (but it washes off with sulfate-free cleansers) and it gives the hair a little bit more shine.

3) Shea Oil
Shea oil is the liquid form of shea butter and they both come from the nuts of the shea tree. The natural fatty acids in plant oils make them more water soluble than mineral oil and dimethicone which means they don’t create an effective “moisture gate”. Water will evaporate from your hair faster when you seal with shea oil (or butter) compared to mineral oil or dimethicone. However, of all plant oils, shea can trap the most moisture because it contains allantoin, a unique natural component that helps keratin cells hold on to water molecules. Shea oil will help your hair retain moisture but it’s less effective and more expensive than dimethicone and mineral oil.

Even the best sealing oils do not prevent moisture from escaping from your hair’s cortex, they just slow down how quickly moisture escapes. Next time you reach for a moisturizing product or head for the shower to wash your hair, take a moment to realize that water escaped from your hair despite your best efforts to keep it in. Your hair dries out even faster than your skin! The best strategy to combat dry hair is to re-moisturize at the first sign of dryness, even if that means every day. Seal in moisture with mineral oil, dimethicone, or shea oil to keep your hair smooth, soft, and shiny between washes.

Nicole Harmon is a Cosmetic Chemist and the Founder of HairLiberty.org. She has received rave reviews for her seminars on ethnic hair education and science. She's on a mission to help the Product Junkies of the world save MONEY, sort through marketing HYPE and buy SMARTER! Hair Liberty is the freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself!

What oils do you use to seal?

Updates to Old School Hair Care


by Nicole Harmon of Hair Liberty 

Back in the day, our mothers and grandmothers had very few hair products to choose from. They were forced to “make it work” with what they had. Some of their old school methods worked pretty well because many of us have childhood pictures featuring beautiful Rudy Huxtable-style ponytails. Today, we have access to a whole new set of tools and products. Some of those old methods need to be left in the past, while others have stood the test of time.

Old School Method: Petrolatum and Mineral Oil-based styling products

I’m referring to all styling products that contain petrolatum, mineral oil or any type of wax in the top 5. Examples include Blue Magic, Luster’s Pink Oil Moisturizer, Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Nourishing Sheen Spray, and Clairol Vitapointe. Back in the day, petrolatum and mineral-oil based products laid down fly aways and made our hair shine better than anything else could.

Why petrolatum and mineral oil-based products worked

Petrolatum, mineral oil, and wax are heavy emollients. Emollients are ingredients that leave a smooth, soft coating on the hair. Heavy emollients literally weigh the hair down with a thick coating that smoothes the cuticle.

Why petrolatum and mineral oil-based products are old school

The heavy, greasy look that comes from petrolatum and mineral oil is outdated. If you have relaxed hair or fine-medium natural hair, heavy emollients will leave your hair looking thin and stiff. To get soft, fluffy hair, most women need products light enough to smooth the cuticle without leaving an oily residue. If you have thicker strands, you might like the effect petrolatum and mineral oil have on your hair. If so, you should definitely continue using them.

The Modern Option: Silicone oils

Years of scientific research have made it possible to get the benefits of petrolatum and mineral oil without the greasiness. In 1998, cosmetic manufacturers began replacing the heavy emollients in hair products with the lighter types of emollients they were using in skin products. The newer lightweight emollients are called “silicone oils”. Silicones are synthetic oils. Examples include dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, and phenyl trimethicone. Silicone oils are also used in lotions, face creams, and skin medications. These days, hair products from almost every brand contain silicones including Motions, Carol’s Daughter, Pantene, Nexxus, and many more. To learn more about silicones, read Synthetic Oils to Combat Dry Hair at HairLiberty.org.

Old School Method: Hot Combs

Hot combs are metal combs that heat on a home stove top or in a professional ceramic heater stove. They used to be the go-to tool to straighten African American hair. Electric hot combs are also available.

Why Hot Combs worked

Hot combs were used for decades before relaxers were invented. Ceramic stoves can heat the hot comb up to 500 °F which is more than enough heat to transform tight natural coils to stick straight hair with 1 or 2 strokes.

Why Hot Combs are old school

Pressing combs can cause severe heat damage. Healthy coils and curls usually have a similar texture throughout but just a few styling sessions with a hot comb can leave the hair permanently and unevenly straighter. Some call that “heat-training” the hair. Heat damage is irreversible, which means once your natural texture is gone you won’t be able to get it back. Sadly, there are no products that can repair or “define” heat-damaged curls and coils (so don’t waste your money!).

Heat damage takes away some of your hair’s versatility. When you end up with multiple textures, you have to choose between straight styles or wet-sets. Both options take much more time than a curly wash ‘n go or quick twist-out. Hot combs should never be used on relaxed hair because the high heat can cause immediate breakage.

The Better Choice: Ceramic flat irons 

To get sleek, straight hair without ruining your natural texture, it’s best to use a ceramic flat iron. Flat irons press your hair between two smooth plates that heat more evenly and quickly than hot combs. Most natural hair can be straightened with a setting between 350 °F and 400 °F. Relaxed hair responds to heat as low as 300 °F. The trick with a flat iron is to get as close to your roots as you would with a pressing comb. Take sections about 1” wide and pull the hair taut before you iron it (just like you would if you were ironing a shirt).

Old School Method: Protective Styling

Mum Oprah (as I like to call her) explained this old school method to Chris Rock on her talk show in 2009. She said, “I have worn weaves, I have worn wigs, I have done all of it, because in order to keep your hair, you can’t put heat on your hair every day! You have to give your hair a break.” Protective styles like wigs, weaves, braids, and twists have always been used to give our hair an extended break from daily combing and heat styling.

Why Protective Styling works 

Coils and curls are more likely to be damaged by simple combing and styling than any other hair type. Fine to medium strands also break more readily than thicker strands. If your hair starts to break more when it gets to shoulder length that means it's being damaged faster than it grows. Protective styles allow you to slow down the damage cycle by not combing your hair for a few weeks at a time.

Why Protective Styling is optional 

This old school method still makes sense, but it’s not a requirement for growing long coils and curls. If a protective style is put in too tight and/or left in for too long, it can do more harm than good. The hair can become matted and brittle from not being thoroughly washed and when it’s time for the style to come out, the length retained during the rest period can be ripped away by one rough combing session. Current scientific research shows that tight styles that are left in for long periods of time cause stress on the scalp that can lead to permanent hair loss.

The Modern Choice: Protective Products 

You can slow down the damage cycle by using products that not only condition, but also protect your hair from heat and combing. Makes sure all of your products contain a combination of emollients, cationic conditioners, and hydrolyzed protein because those ingredients will patch and protect your hair with every use. It will always be important to comb your hair as little as possible, but the days when you had to “put your hair away” in order to grow it long are over!

Nicole Harmon is a Cosmetic Chemist and the Founder of HairLiberty.org. She has received rave reviews for her seminars on ethnic hair education and science. She's on a mission to help the Product Junkies of the world save MONEY, sort through marketing HYPE and buy SMARTER! 
Hair Liberty (def.): The freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself!

The Secret to Super Slippery Conditioners

by Nicole Harmon of Hair Liberty

Between washes your hair gets drier each day, the strands start to wrap around each other, and the volume starts to go to “the bad place”. Your basic conditioner has one very important job to do and that’s to make your hair smooth and easy to detangle. That’s because coils and curls experience the least damage from combing when they’re wet and saturated with conditioner. Once your hair has been thoroughly combed out, it’ll be easier to achieve your final style.

Conditioners that effectively detangle coils and curls contain:

• Emollients, which are conditioning ingredients that form a protective film on the hair to help your strands slide past each other as you detangle
• Cationic ingredients to condition your hair’s cuticle

Emollients that offer good slip (the more of these in the top 5 the better):

• Dimethicone
• Cyclomethicone
• Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride
• Mineral Oil
• Shea Oil
• Jojoba Oil
• Jojoba Esters
• Sorbitol Esters
• Cetyl Esters
• Cetyl Alcohol (don’t worry these are not the drying kinds of alcohol)
• Cetearyl Alcohol
• Stearyl Alcohol

Cationics Conditioners:

• Amodimethicone
• Behentrimonium Chloride
• Behentrimonium Methosulfate
• Cetrimonium Chloride
• Cetrimonium Methosulfate
• Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride
• Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine

Conditioning Do’s and Don’ts

Do saturate your hair with conditioner from root to tip.
Don’t ignore the inner layers of your hair. Distribute the conditioner as evenly as you would a relaxer.
Do comb the conditioner through before you rinse it out.
Don’t leave the conditioner on for longer than the maximum time in the instructions. The ingredients in rinse out conditioners are not meant to be left in contact with your skin for long periods of time.
Do comb out your hair by starting at the ends and working your way up to the roots. If you start from the roots, you’ll cause your ends to wrap around each other which can lead to more tangles.

Is your conditioner a keeper? If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions after using a conditioner, go ahead and buy the largest bottle you can find. Conditioner is the product you will go through the fastest.

1) Did the comb glide through your hair as you detangled? You haven’t found your conditioner match until you can comb through all of your hair within 5 minutes.
2) Was the conditioner easy to apply? You have to condition every inch of every hair to get the best results. Choose a product that comes out of the bottle easily because that’s a good indication that it’ll be easy to spread and distribute.

Recommended Conditioners

BARGAIN BUY – Tresemme Naturals Nourishing Moisture Conditioner, $6 for 25 oz.
Available at drugstores
You read that right, $6 for 25 ounces of conditioner. This conditioner has good slip, it spreads easily, and it contains a special “copolymer” that will help your hair retain moisture. It’s a great place to start if you’re on a tight budget.

Dove Damage Therapy Nourishing Oil Care Daily Treatment Conditioner, $6 for 8 oz.
Available at drugstores
Dove’s Damage Therapy conditioner is filled with ingredients that will help you detangle. It’s relatively thick, so an 8 oz. bottle may not last very long.

John Frieda Full Repair Full Body Conditioner, $6 for 8.45 oz.
Available at drugstores
This product smoothes and detangles the hair without being too heavy. That’s a difficult combination to find in a drugstore conditioner. Some stores also sell a 20 oz. size that comes with a pump, which is helpful when you have a lot of hair to work through.

Free Your Mane Daily Detangling Conditioner, $16 for 10.14 oz.
Available at FreeYourMane.com
This conditioner spreads easily and has enough slip to get through stubborn tangles. It also has extra ingredients that give lasting shine and smoothness to the hair.

Joico Smooth Cure Conditioner, $14 for 10.1 oz.
Available at beauty supply stores and online
The Joico Smooth Cure conditioner and the matching shampoo make a worthwhile combo for coils and curls that get heat-styled every week. The conditioner has a combination of emollients, cationics, and hydrolyzed keratin, so it also qualifies as a deep treatment.

Nicole Harmon is a Cosmetic Chemist and the Founder of HairLiberty.org. She has received rave reviews for her seminars on ethnic hair education and science. She's on a mission to help the Product Junkies of the world save MONEY, sort through marketing HYPE and buy SMARTER! 
Hair Liberty (def.): The freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself!

What’s your favorite slippery conditioner?

Secrets to a Simple Natural Hair Routine

by Nicole Harmon of Hairliberty.org

Wash Day
Shampoo and Condition

-Start each wash by rinsing your hair for 2-3 minutes. The long rinse will loosen up product residue so you can use less shampoo.
- Comb the conditioner through your hair before rinsing it out. Your hair experiences the least damage when it’s covered in conditioner.
- Be sure to apply leave-in conditioner and/or a curl styler within 5 minutes after your wash. It’s always best to seal in moisture immediately.


Moisturize or Co-Wash

- If co-washing works for you, feel free to wash your hair daily or every other day. Saturating your hair with water is the only way to fully re-moisturize it.
- If co-washing leaves you with scalp problems, you can still partially moisturize your hair between washes. The best moisturizing products have water and an oil or butter at the top of the ingredients list.

Mid-Week or more often 

- Those with oily scalps or a frequent exercise schedule will need to shampoo mid-week. Don’t be afraid to wash your hair. When you choose a shampoo based on the recommendations in this guide, you don’t have to worry about shampoo damage or stripping your hair color. Always follow shampoo with conditioner.

1 to 4 times per month 

- Co-washing does not cleanse your scalp enough to keep it healthy. Shampoo your hair at least twice a month.
- Deep Condition your hair as often as possible. Always saturate every inch of hair with your deep treatment and leave it in for the full recommended time.

Styling Tips 

- Don’t comb or brush your hair after you’ve rinsed the conditioner out or your natural curls will frizz out and seem to disappear.

- The best way to seal in maximum moisture and define your coils is to apply your products to wet hair before you get out of the shower. After you’ve distributed product throughout your hair you can gently towel blot it (so it’s no longer dripping wet). Be sure to try this method if you’re new to wearing your natural hair.

- Natural hair looks best when it’s dried with minimal heat and minimal touching. Dry your hair with a bonnet dryer or a blow dryer and diffuser on the Low or Medium setting. Air dry your hair whenever you have the extra time.

Must haves: 

- Shampoo
- Conditioner
- Deep Conditioner
- Curl Styler and/or Leave-In Conditioner
- Wide Tooth Comb
- Blow Dryer and Diffuser

What step in your weekly regimen would you never skip? 

Nicole Harmon is a Cosmetic Chemist and the Founder of HairLiberty.org. She has received rave reviews for her seminars on ethnic hair education and science. She's on a mission to help the Product Junkies of the world save MONEY, sort through marketing HYPE and buy SMARTER! 
Hair Liberty (def.): The freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself!

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