How Do I Know if I'm Protein Sensitive?

Hair Liberty's Nicole Hollis, our Resident Curl Chemist, is answering your most urgent hair questions. Got one for her? Email me at [email protected] using "Hair Liberty" in the subject line and she may answer your question right here on the blog.

Q: How do I know if I’m protein sensitive?

A: Adding protein to your hair is one of the only proven ways to improve its moisture retention. Sealing in moisture is important, but some hair types are so porous that the strands have trouble holding enough moisture to begin with. If most of the moisture evaporates from your hair in the first 2 minutes that you’re out of the shower, you don’t have much to seal in. Protein acts as a humectant that helps trap moisture in the hair shaft. Hydrolyzed wheat protein is often included in hair products because cosmetic scientists have found it to be one of the most effective protein options. Hair treated with a leave-in conditioner or styler that contains hydrolyzed wheat protein should stay moisturized (instead of becoming brittle) for hours longer than hair that hasn’t been treated with hydrolyzed wheat protein.

The term protein sensitive is a myth. Any type of curly hair will benefit from protein, but remember, both the ingredient and the recipe matter. If you don’t like a product that contains hydrolyzed protein, don’t blame the protein, blame the company’s recipe. Your hair may benefit from a product with a lower amount of protein. Or you might like a product that has a high amount of protein (first 5 ingredients) but it’s blended with castor oil or a silicone for added softness. The best protein product can be used at least every other wash without any negative effects. Protein washes off easily so anything you put on is usually removed during your next shampoo. Some products are formulated to stay on your hair for longer, but it’s safe to assume that even those products will wash off within 3 shampoos.

If you usually think of yourself as protein sensitive, keep in mind that applying 3 products could mean you’ve put 20 or more ingredients on your strands. It’s impossible to know if a dry or stiff feeling is coming from any one of those ingredients. It’s more likely that some ingredients don’t like to be mixed with each other. The result is usually a stiff coating, a white residue, or a sticky feeling. It’s important to know about ingredients, but the recipe and the amount of product(s) matter too.

Hair Liberty (def): The freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself! For more info, visit

How Can I Achieve Thicker Natural Hair?

Hair Liberty's Nicole Hollis, our Resident Curl Chemist, is answering your most urgent hair questions. Got one for her? Email me at [email protected] using "Hair Liberty" in the subject line and she may answer your question right here on the blog.

Q: I have really fine hair, how can I make it thicker?

A: Before you start trying to thicken your fine hair, you have to check your expectations. A strand of hair is considered fine if it has a diameter of about 0.006 cm. That’s compared to a thick strand of hair which is around .01 cm. So, to thicken “fine” hair enough to be considered “thick”, you would need a treatment that could almost double your strand thickness. That type of treatment does not exist. And if it’s ever invented, you will hear about it here first! Most treatments that promise thickening do deliver, but only by turning your .006 cm strands into .007 cm strands. That’s enough for companies to sell products, but not enough to make your hair dreams come true. Plus, the results are product-dependent…if you stop using the thickening product, your hair will go back to “normal”. Most conditioners and treatments that contain hydrolyzed protein, thicken hair by about the same amount when used consistently.

Henna is often recommended for thickening fine strands, but you have to be careful. Adding weight to the surface of the strand can make it break more easily. Naturally thick strands aren’t just thick on the very top layer of the cuticle (where henna sits); they’re thicker at the cortex making them less prone to breakage. There’s nothing wrong with using henna to thicken your hair, just be careful. The first few treatments may plump your hair up nicely, but if you start to do too much, you may experience breakage from the additional weight. People often refer to that as “protein overload” which is not likely to happen if you follow the instructions on a high-quality conditioner, but easy to do when you’re experimenting with henna.

Trying to achieve and appreciate a .001 cm increase in your strand thickness might just drive you crazy! My best advice is to focus on hair health. Hair of African descent is usually much denser than other hair types. So, even though it may seem like many of us have fine hair, nature has already balanced that out by giving us a lot more strands to work with. We usually don’t have problems with thinning hair unless alopecia or breakage (or both) is at fault. Follow what you already know to be true about hair health: low manipulation and low tension styles, weekly shampooing, strengthening treatments, and trims. You probably despise your fine hair the most when you look at the front half, which is most breakage prone. If you can get the breakage prone areas to retain length, they’ll blend in with the rest of your strands and make your hair look thicker overall. It won’t happen overnight, but when your hair is truly in its best condition, it will look thicker than it ever has.

Hair Liberty (def): The freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself! For more info, visit

'Low Manipulation Styles' & 'Knowing When to Trim'

Hair Liberty's Nicole Hollis, our Resident Curl Chemist, is back from hiatus answering your most urgent hair questions. Got one for her? Email me at [email protected] using "Hair Liberty" in the subject line and she may answer your question right here on the blog.

I work full time in a “professional” environment. Not saying I can’t wear a protective style, but it’s been very difficult to find a protective style, that I can actually do myself, that looks half decent…which means, that 9 times out of 10, I’m rocking a twist out or a wash and go. Now, I can get 3-4 days out of a WNG if I use the right product (Kinky Curly Curling Custard). But is it possible to WNG or twist out on the regular and still maintain length?? I just cut off 3 inches of split up, jacked up ends so I’m evidently doing something real wrong.

Protective styles can do more harm than good if you’re not careful. The main goal with natural hair is to protect your hair from over-manipulation. Some people use protective styles to keep their ends from rubbing up against their clothes all day, but that’s rarely a problem for natural hair because it shrinks so much. If you can’t easily braid or pin your hair into an updo or bun, you’re better off with a twist out or Wash n Go.

When you’re manipulating your hair, whether it’s to wash it, detangle it or style it, your hands are up on top of your head (and your arms are getting tired). Low manipulation means you keep your hands down as much as possible. A Wash n Go that lasts 3 days keeps your hands down much more than a protective style that’s difficult to put in and has to be re-done sooner than later. It’s also important to shampoo your hair at least once a week and you might be inclined to skip washes once you have a protective style in. it’s not worth it!

If you’re already doing low-manipulation styles and split ends are still a problem, you may have fine hair. The two most important strategies for healthy fine hair are:

More frequent trims - Ends that are severely damaged will split further up the hair shaft if they aren’t cut off. That means you can start with a ¼ inch of damage, but if you don’t get rid of it, it will turn into an inch of damage very quickly. It’s better to get small trims over time so you don’t have to cut off 3 inches all at once.

Strengthening Products: Fine hair needs to be reinforced with a strengthening product every 2 washes. Try Nexxus Emergencee Strengthening Polymeric Reconstructor, Living Proof Restore Mask Treatment, or Ouidad Deep Treatment. Those products all work in different ways, but they are all very effective when used regularly. Even if you’re not sure you have fine hair, strengthening products are worth adding to your routine when you’re trying to grow your hair long.

How do I know when it’s time to trim my hair?

These are a few signs that your hair is overdue for a trim:
  • When your hair is wet, the ends clump together like very thin threads. You have to wash and detangle in small sections.
  • When your hair is dry, the ends catch on each other and knot easily.
  • You find single strand knots often (knots can happen anywhere on the strand, but they are signs that something in your routine is causing problems and you should be getting trims at least every 10 weeks).
  • If you straighten your hair, you feel like you have to curl your ends under because they look “raggedy” when hanging straight.
  • If you straighten your hair, the upper portion of the strand smooths out easily, but the ends seem to require extra passes (the ends should need the least heat, not the most)
If those are issues you experience all the time, you’ll need to change up your routine in order to see your hair improve. Check the Hair Liberty Product Ratings to make sure you’re using the best products for your hair type and don’t brush your hair….ever! When you need to detangle or style, start with your fingers then switch to a wide tooth comb. And remember, you can’t avoid damaging your hair, but you can slow down the damage cycle. The absolute longest anyone should go between trims is 12 weeks.

Hair Liberty (def): The freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself. For more info, visit

Stopping Hair Breakage & Proper Cleansing- Q&A

Hair Liberty's Nicole Hollis, our Resident Curl Chemist, is back from hiatus answering your most urgent hair questions. Got one for her? Email me at [email protected] using "Hair Liberty" in the subject line and she may answer your question right here on the blog.

What’s the best way to cleanse my hair? Is the shampoo free method or Low-Poo method better than regular shampoo?
The point of shampoo is to clean your hair and scalp. Everyone needs a regular shampoo! Think of washing your hair like washing your face. Shampoo free and Co-washing are like the Oil cleansing method, Low-Poo is like using Cetaphil or some other lotion-like cleanser, and regular shampoo is every other face wash on the market. If you have acne prone skin, or you wear a lot of makeup, or you sweat a lot during the day, you choose a face wash with those things in mind…same thing with shampoo. We all know the kinks in our hair prevent the natural oils from traveling down the hair shaft. But, think about that. That means the oil is left sitting on the scalp, mixing with sweat, and dirt from the environment. The excess oil needs to be cleansed away regularly for your scalp to stay healthy. Plus, leaving product residue on your hair will cause tangles and breakage. You have to cleanse thoroughly, but gently, and there are plenty of shampoos that can do that. Some of the shampoos that earned the Hair Liberty “Highly Recommended” status are Jane Carter Solutions Moisture Nourishing Shampoo, Kinky Curly Come Clean, and Motions Weightless Conditioning Shampoo.

I'm finding little pieces of my hair on the sink. Please help me keep my hair from breaking off!
Many people try to stop breakage with extra moisturizers and/or protein, but you really have to pay attention to every step of your hair care routine. You have to use a gentle shampoo and a conditioner that contains hydrolyzed protein and good detangling ingredients. It’s equally important to only comb damp or conditioner-saturated hair. The more kinky the hair, the more it will break when it’s combed and it should never be brushed. Brushing isn’t for hair health, it‘s just for styling. 50 strokes a day to help hair growth is a myth and even then it was never meant for kinky hair.

If you’re not sure why your hair is breaking, it’s best to get a trim. Everyone hates to lose hair, but even if you turn your whole routine around you won’t be able to drastically improve breaking ends. It’s better to “start fresh” and maintain your ends from there. If they start to get thin and tangled again soon after the trim, you’ll know you’re still doing something unhealthy. You want to be able to go at least 8 weeks before your ends start to feel like tangled threads. Remember, your hair is always being damaged. Your goal is to slow down the damage cycle so you can enjoy each inch of hair for as long as possible before it needs to be cut off.

It can take a while to find a routine that reduces breakage, but once you have the right products and are doing the right things, don’t stop! Don’t look for cheaper substitutes for your holy grail products and don’t start heat styling or combing more because you think your hair is stronger. Kinky hair will always be fragile and it will always need the best care you can give it.

Hair Liberty (def): The freedom to rock whatever style you want, whenever you want. Curly, straight, natural, relaxed, whatever! Free yourself. For more info, visit

How to Wash and Condition Natural Hair

by Nicole Hollis of Hair Liberty

African American hair can be dry and fragile. A difficult combination, especially if you're a busy woman. Treat your wash day like a pampering spa appointment for your hair. Follow these steps and you'll get soft, moisturized hair that's ready for a variety of styles.

Key Tips
  • Start by rinsing your hair with lukewarm water for about 3 minutes.
  • Comb your hair out from ends to roots before you rinse out the conditioner.
  • Always apply a leave-in conditioner before you proceed with styling.

Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment
Step 1: Using your fingers, divide your hair into 4-6 sections.
Step 2: Apply approximately 1 tablespoons of pure coconut, olive, or avocado oil throughout each section. Make sure to put oil on every layer of your hair - you will use 4 to 6 tablespoons. Try Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, $13.54 for a pack of 2 ($11.99 each MSRP).
Step 3: Cover your hair with a plastic cap to keep the oil from dripping down your face and neck.
Step 4: Leave the oil on your hair for 1 hour or more.

Step 1: Detangle your oil-soaked hair with your fingers. Gently pull apart tangles and knots so that your hair will be easier to wash.
Step 2: Once in the shower, rinse your hair with lukewarm water for 3-5 minutes. This long rinse will loosen up and rinse away product build up from the week.
Step 3: Apply a nickel to quarter-sized amount of a gentle, conditioning shampoo to your scalp and hair. Pass your hair back under the water to create a good lather. Try Kenra Moisturizing Shampoo, $24 for a pack of 2 ($12 each MSRP)
Step 4: Gently rub your scalp with the shampoo lather.
Step 5: Gently and quickly, work shampoo through the length of your hair - don't separate the hair into sections or try to detangle it.
Step 6: Rinse thoroughly.


Step 1: Apply a generous amount of a thick, rich conditioner throughout your hair. The amount you will use depends on your hair length and thickness. For natural hair, try Shikai Color Reflect Intensive Repair Conditioner, $28.97 for a pack of 3 ($9.99 each MSRP). For distressed hair, try Joico K-Pak Moisture Intense Hydrator, $17.96. If your hair is very thick or very curly, you may use a palm full of conditioner or more.
Step 2: Work the conditioner through your hair from root to tip.
Step 3: Pass your head back under the water to help you distribute the conditioner. Make sure every strand of hair is saturated. Leave the conditioner in your hair for the amount of time specified in the instructions on the container.

Step 4: Before you rinse out the conditioner, detangle your hair with a wide tooth comb. Remember to start combing at the ends and work your way to the root.
Step 5: Rinse thoroughly.
Step 6: Once out of the shower, apply a creamy leave-in conditioner to your hair. Leave-in conditioners make African American hair easier to comb, which helps prevent breakage. Try Neutrogena Silk Touch Leave-In Cream, $15.99 for a pack of 3 ($6.99 each MSRP).
Step 7: Remember to air dry your hair whenever possible.

Any tips or tricks to share for an awesome wash day?

Your Questions Answered...

Several questions came up in response to yesterday's post on silicones by our Resident Curl Chemist Nicole Hollis of Hair Liberty. She addressed them in an email and I thought I'd share them with you!

Q. Okay, so I'm using silicones again... which shampoo, or better yet, which type of surfecant removes them?

A. The answer is that any shampoo can mitigate build up. Build up is a term that's been defined and redefined by the Internet and I think people are really just saying "how do I keep my hair from getting really dirty?". Answer = Wash it with shampoo!

The surfactant discussion confuses people because "sulfate-free" is a marketing term. Even if a "harsh" surfactant is used in the shampoo like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, the product maker can mix it with a really mild surfactant like Cocamidopropyl Betaine to make a gentle, but effective shampoo. Effective enough to remove excess silicone, but not so strong to strip the hair. So, you can't analyze a shampoo based on the sheer presence of the ingredient, the amount and combination of surfactants is critically important.

To give you a little more insight, my worst hair setback was caused by an organic shampoo targeted to naturals.. It is "sulfate-free" and only uses a very mild surfactant, Decyl Glucoside. The problem was that it was not pH balanced and my hair got totally stripped. Clean, clean, cones left on the strand whatsoever. And you know what? My hair looked Awful. Fly aways, feather-light, completely uncontrollable. I suddenly realized how much progress my hair had made because after one week with that shampoo, all of the progress was literally washed away.

Also, we don't want to remove all of the silicones, most silicones (amodimethicone for example) are attracted to the damaged areas of the strand (like two magnets). If it doesn't come off with shampoo, that's because the damaged area won't let it go. It is the closest thing we can get to permanent repair.

For more information on 'gentle' surfacants, see THIS ARTICLE.

Q. Which shampoos do you recommend? Nikki likes Elucence Moisture Benefits Shampoo,
CURLS Curlicious Curls Cleansing Cream, and Giovanni.

A. Those are all good. The Giovanni shampoos are all pretty similar, but Smooth as Silk looks like one of the better options there.

To assess a shampoo at a glance, see if it has more than 1 surfactant (there's usually at least 1 ingredient ending in -ate, and coco betaine). If they have a combination of surfactants and they are marketed as gentle or for curls that's a good bet. Elucence and CURLS cream stand out from Giovanni because they also contain polyquats. For all intents and purposes, polyquats are the same as silicones, but with more humidity protection. I'll definitely talk about them in the ant-frizz post coming soon! Polyquats are often used as the "conditioner" in conditioning shampoos.

Q. I've always wondered– after you seal, can you moisturize and seal again in a few days? I would think that the moisture can't get through the layer of oil on the hair.

A. Yes, you can re-moisturize after using a silicone. The water may absorb more slowly if you've used a serum, but it will still absorb, just moisturize as usual and let it be. With regard to silicone in conditioner, re-moisturizing is not affected at all. People co-wash with Herbal Essences all the time and don't worry about the silicones in that affecting their moisturizing routines. Silicones are not extra thick (serums are usually lighter than castor oil) and they are not glue-like. Most of the time you can't feel them on the hair at all, and if you do, it translates as softness.

**Got questions for Nicole? Shoot me an email [email protected] and use 'Nicole the Chemist' as the subject line!**

In the meantime, check out her site Hair Liberty for more information!

Silicones and Other Sealants for Natural Hair

by Nicole Hollis of Hair Liberty

When compared to other hair types, African American hair is particularly fragile. That's because any type of curly hair is dry due to the bend or kink in each curl. The area where the curl bends has raised cuticle scales, which means it's porous and can't hold on to moisture well. The more kinks in a strand, the more porous and dry the strand will be. With that in mind, the #1 goal of a good regimen for African American hair is to keep the hair moisturized and therefore minimize breakage.

As you've learned by now, there's no point in applying moisture to porous hair, without sealing it in. When you apply an effective sealant to moisturized skin or hair, the moisture can stay in and benefit the keratin cells, instead of quickly evaporating away. If you don't apply an effective sealant, the skin or hair will become dry quickly and you'll need to re-apply moisture over and over again. African American women with natural hair often prefer natural sealants like coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil, jojoba oil, and shea butter. Those oils are rich in nutrients like fatty acids and Vitamin E, so they can replenish what the strands may lack. Plant-based oils have many proven benefits for the hair, but they actually don't make the best sealants.

For many years, the best personal care sealant available was mineral oil, a byproduct of petroleum. In scientific studies, mineral oil was shown to provide a better seal or protective layer than other oils. Since African American hair is known to be porous, mineral oil and petrolatum began to appear in most ethnic hair care products. Even though the products created back then were very simple, they provided two crucial elements: water for moisture and mineral oil as a highly effective sealant (and pretty good heat protectant too).

Fast forward a few decades and moisturized hair is not enough. African American women want their hair to be soft, but not greasy and strong, but not stiff. Customers also want their hair to be easy to comb, even if it hasn't been washed in days and thermal protection for flat irons that get as hot as 450°F. There is no natural oil that can meet all of those demands, which explains why hair care companies began using silicones.

Slicones are synthetic oils. They come from "silicon", the naturally occurring element that makes up glass and sand. The first commercially available silicone, dimethicone, has been used in skin creams and lotions since the 1950s, but about 20 years ago, the hair care industry began adding it to shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in products. In studies, dimethicone was found to condition the hair and protect it from dehydration better than mineral oil. Companies have continued to create new and better silicones over the years and now there are silicones that can help the hair dry faster (cyclomethicone), target the most damaged areas of the strand to provide deep conditioning (amodimethicone), and even strengthen the hair (aminopropyl phenyl trimethicone).

Despite the proven advantages of silicones, some women make a big effort to avoid them. These women are often choosing to follow the hair care method promoted by Lorraine Massey in her 2001 instructional book for curly-haired women, Curly Girl: The Handbook. Regarding silicones, Massey wrote:

I suggest that you avoid conditioners that use silicones. Although they do add temporary shine to the hair, I find they weigh down curly hair. (That means avoid using products with ingredients whose name end in -cone.) The ingredients you absolutely need in conditioner include emollients, humectants, proteins, and moisturizers.

Four years later, in a Q&A featured on, Massey admitted that her original book was written before she ever heard of more sophisticated silicones like amodimethicone. Unfortunately, misinformation had already spread across the Internet and to this day, silicones are wrongly blamed for drying out the hair due to build up when in reality the opposite is true.

Any oil, natural or synthetic, can build up on the hair, but you can easily avoid build up by using shampoo (not just co-washing). And, if you're concerned about damage caused by shampooing too much, simply choose a pH-balanced shampoo for your hair type. Hair care companies use words like "dry", "coarse", "fine", and/or "chemically-treated" on their labels to help you choose the products that they think you'll like best (and therefore continue to buy). So, if you're concerned that shampoo will make your dry hair even drier, instead of avoiding shampoo, choose a shampoo formulated for dry hair. That usually means a conditioning shampoo that's effective enough to remove build up, but gentle enough that it can be used every wash.

Silicones, especially dimethicone, are in many parts of our lives. You can find them in lotions, deodorants, skin medications, and even Chicken McNuggets. The reason thousands of hair products contain silicones is because they work extremely well to condition, soften, and seal the hair. If you've been following a "no cones" or "no poo" regimen and you aren't seeing the results you hoped for, it's certainly time to explore the other side!

Hair Liberty is a comprehensive resource for African American hair care information. We sort through the latest hair care advice and compare hundred of products to find the most accurate recommendations for our readers. Visit to learn about your hair and how to achieve your hair goals. And be sure to Like the Hair Liberty Facebook page for extra tips and info!

Henna for Natural Hair- Let's Review!

by Nicole Hollis of Hair Liberty

Henna is a plant that grows in the hot, dry climates of the Eastern hemisphere. For decades, women from North Africa, India, and the Middle East have used henna to stain their hair, skin, and nails. The red henna dye is contained within the leaves of the plant. After the plant is harvested, the leaves are dried, ground and sifted into a flour-like powder. In the last few years, henna has become a popular treatment option for African American women seeking more natural remedies for their hair. Here are the most frequently asked questions.

Is henna safer than commercial hair dye?

Yes, but it's very important that you only use 100% pure henna. Low-quality henna mixtures may contain additives like PPD to make the dye stain stronger and darker. Dye additives may cause allergy problems or react with chemicals that have been previously applied to your hair. Unfortunately, the FDA has approved henna for use as a hair dye, but does not regulate its safety. So, the seller of the henna is the only person who really knows the purity of what you're purchasing. and LUSH Cosmetics are two suppliers known for high quality.

Henna is gentler on your hair than permanent hair color because it only deposits dye onto the surface, not inside the cortex. The effects from henna are most similar to semi-permanent hair color. Both are safe enough for fragile African American hair.

Can I get the same color results using henna as with commercial hair dye?

Maybe. Pure henna leaf powder can only produce a red to orange-red color. Different crops (depending on location) produce different levels of red, ranging from auburn to cherry. If you see henna advertised as producing black or brown shades that means the henna has been mixed with some other herb or product. For example, henna is commonly mixed with cocoa powder to produce reddish brown.

Since henna is a depositing dye, it cannot lighten your hair...only bleach can do that. If your natural hair color is dark black, henna may not show up at all or it may produce a red shimmer.

If your natural hair color is dark brown or lighter (including grey), you are likely to see a color change after your first henna application. The color should be subtle, but it will increase in intensity after every treatment.

If your hair is bleached or relaxed, your hair is more porous. Porous hair absorbs chemicals more easily and the henna dye may absorb into the hair cortex instead of just coating the outer shaft. The color may still be subtle, but definitely noticeable in direct light.

*Henna is a very inexact method of coloring your hair. If you really want a substantial change in hair color, you're better off visiting a professional cosmetologist.*

Will henna loosen natural African American coils?

Sometimes. A quick Internet search produces thousands of results on the subject. The only thing we know for sure is that everybody's experience is different. If you want to loosen your natural coils, you can definitely experiment with henna. Any effect will be gradual. Most women who report looser curls say that it took 3 or more treatments to see any difference. However, if you truly wish to transform Type 4 coils to looser curls, a chemical treatment (applied by a professional cosmetologist) will deliver more significant and uniform results.

How do I get the most out of my henna treatment?

First, purchase your henna from a reputable supplier (see above). To get the most value for your money, choose pure henna with high dye content. Typically, 100 grams of pure henna only contains 2 or 3 grams of dye. The rest is just ground up henna leaves. So, for the most effective treatments, you definitely want the highest dye content available. Ask your supplier which henna they recommend to cover greys because that usually means maximum dye content.

When working with pure henna, the liquid that you use to help the dye release can impact the treatment results. An acidic liquid will help the dye release faster. Aloe vera juice is a great choice because its pH is low enough to smooth your hair's cuticles without making your strands stiff or dry.

Henna hair treatments have been done by North African and Indian women for decades with little to no instruction. Unless you're really hoping to achieve curl loosening or a color change, feel free to experiment by adding Ayurvedic herbs to your mix (supplier websites usually offer plenty of recipes). When attempting to change your curl pattern or hair color, keep it simple and just add an acidic liquid. A batch of high dye content henna can quickly become low dye content if you add too many oils and herbs to the mix.

If this is all sounding like too much guess work, try one of the pre-mixed henna bars from LUSH. They combine henna, lemon juice, cocoa butter, and herbs into one firm block that you just have to melt in a bowl of water.

The biggest advantage with henna is that you can do it yourself. Your henna supplier will give you all the instructions you need for a successful treatment. Whether your hair is natural or relaxed, a properly applied henna can add shine and softness to your hair. You can't count on any other benefits, but feel free to try it a few times and see what you get!

Ayurvedic Hair Care: An Introduction

by Nicole of Hair Liberty

Henna, Indigo, Amla, Neem, Shikakai...those are just a few names you might read when seeking natural hair care advice on the Internet. They are herbs and plants that are usually included in a Ayurvedic hair care regimen. Many African American women who decide to go natural, explore Ayurvedic hair care as a way to promote healthy hair and use more natural remedies. An ayurvedic hair care regimen usually includes herbal mixtures and natural oils that are minimally processed, or in many cases, used whole. Although, Ayurveda is usually discussed with regard to natural black hair, anyone can benefit from its principles. To decide if Ayurvedic hair care is right for you, it's important to first understand "Ayurveda".

Ayurveda is a 5,000 year old system of preventive medicine and healthcare that originated in ancient India. Ayurveda means "knowledge of life span". The book, The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: The Most Complete Guide to Natural Healing & Health with Traditional Ayurvedic Herbalism, explains:
Ayurveda looks to create a balance between body, mind, emotion, spirit and environment, and places emphasis on the ability of the human body to heal itself, with the assistance and support of a variety of non-toxic therapies, including medicinal foods, dietary programs, and herbal medicines. Today, many of the health and medical "discoveries" being heralded as breakthroughs by scientists every day were long ago observed and documented by the Ayurvedists.
Basically, Ayurveda says that everything from a healthy head of hair to a healthy heart is determined by your emotional well-being. Ayurvedic medicine requires that you get in tune with your emotions and inner thoughts and then pursue a lifestyle that keeps you feeling balanced and stress free. That's a powerful concept, especially for today's women who are busy with work, school, bills, kids, etc. If you want to pursue an Ayurvedic hair care regimen, start by using some of the alone time that you get when you're doing your hair as an opportunity to relax.

A scalp massage with essential oils (instructions), relaxes your mind while stimulating your hair follicles and encouraging growth. Take Deepak Chopra's Dosha Quiz to find your Ayurvedic "mind-body" type. Then, incorporate these suggested essential oils into a daily scalp massage.
Vata dosha: Creative, tendency to worry, energetic
Best essential oils: Patchouli, Basil, Lavender, Sage

Pitta dosha
: Likes challenges, tendency toward anger, cannot skip meals
Best essential oils: Ylang-ylang, Lavender, Rose, Sandalwood

Kapha dosha: Detail oriented, thoughtful, resistant to change
Best essential oils: Eucalyptus, Lemon, Peppermint, Rosemary

Add 2 or 3 drops of the recommended essential oils to a base like Almond, Oilve, Coconut, or Jojoba Oil. The essential oils are included for their aromatherapy benefit, so remember to breathe deeply and take in each scent. You can also use herb-infused oils that are known to promote hair growth or stop hair loss, examples include Brahmi (also known as Mandukaparni), Amla, and Bhringraj oil. It's important to buy herb-infused oils from a trustworthy retailer to be sure you're getting an authentic product.

Healthy hair comes from a healthy body, so, in that sense, everyone can benefit from Ayurveda. However, keep in mind that Ayurvedic principles do not suggest that you get rid of commercial products and make everything at home...especially if that requires time that you don't have or causes you more stress. When it comes to your hair, doing what makes you feel good (inside and out) is always most important.

Myth vs. Fact: Deep Conditioning

by Nicole of Hair Liberty

If you are like most African American women, you've been told that "deep conditioning" is one of the keys to healthy hair. Usually, that means applying a deep conditioner, putting on a plastic cap, and sitting under a bonnet dryer. Some women sit for 20 minutes...or 30 minutes...or even 40 minutes and longer. But if sitting under the dryer to "deep condition" is so important, why isn't that step listed in the directions? Take a look at the directions on these popular conditioners from Sally Beauty Supply...

Mane N Tail Deep Moisturizing Conditioner
For best results begin with deep moisturizing shampoo. After rinsing remove excess water. The amount of product to use will vary with hair volume and length. Massage Mane 'n Tail Deep Moisturizing Conditioner into scalp and hair, leave on for 1 to 2 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. Style as usual.

Lustrasilk Olive Oil Mayonnaise Deep Conditioning Treatment
Rub a small amount in palms and apply evenly from scalp to ends. Give extra attention to overly damaged areas. Leave in for 3-5 mintues, rinse with warm water and style as usual.

Silk Elements Megasilk Moisture Treatment
Apply to wet hair. Allow to sit for 3-5 minutes then rinse. Style as usual.

Biotera Color Care Intensive Reconstructor
Apply to wet hair. Allow to sit for 3-5 minutes then rinse. Style as usual.

A few products tell you to apply heat, but not for long...

Motions CPR Critical Protection and Repair Treatment Conditioner
Saturate hair from root to end; for extreme conditioning, cover hair with plastic cap and place client under warm dryer for 5 minutes. This is a professional product for use by cosmetologists only. This product should be used by every professional stylist for the treatment of breakage or when breakage is anticipated.

L'Oreal Nature's Therapy Mega Moisture Nurturing Creme
Apply to shampooed, towel dried hair. For deeper conditioning, leave on for 2 to 5 minutes. For even more intense conditioning, apply moderate dryer heat for 5 minutes. Rinse.

Here's the truth: Most conditioners, even those labeled as "deep conditioners", only condition the outside of your hair. They coat your hair so it will feel soft. Using heat for extended periods of time does not help the conditioner coat your hair, nor does it help the conditioner penetrate into your hair. That's why sitting under the dryer isn't usually in the instructions - because it won't help!

When the instructions do say to apply heat, that means there's no benefit in sitting under the bonnet dryer for more than the time listed. Hair products are tested by scientists and hair stylists multiple times. The instructions on the bottle tell you exactly what to do for the maximum benefit. Follow the directions as written, making sure to saturate your hair with conditioner from root to tip. If you're not happy with the way your hair feels after following the package directions, then it's time to find a better conditioner. Shop the Hair Liberty Boutique to find hand-picked conditioners that are truly effective for African American hair.

So, the next question is, why does your hairdresser deep condition with heat when you go to the salon? Only she can answer that, but here are some possible reasons:
    She is using a conditioner with instructions that say "apply heat".
    She charges for deep conditioning.
    She uses the time that you are under the dryer to work on other clients.
    She uses the time that you are under the dryer to rest or eat.

As you read the wealth of information available from Hair Liberty, you will find other things that seem directly opposite of what your hairdresser says and does. It's time to base your hair decisions on facts and not old habits. That time wasted under the bonnet dryer is better spent during the styling process, which, as you know, is where the real work comes in! If your hair is not as healthy as you want it to be, it's time to change your routine.

So, in summary, arbitrarily applying heat to your conditioner is probably not damaging to your hair, but it does not provide any real benefit. To give your hair extra softness, do a pre-wash oil treatment each week before you shampoo.

Pre-Wash Oil Treatments for Natural Hair

by Nicole of Hair Liberty

Black hair is inherently fragile. Unfortunately, African American natural hair is sometimes described as "nappy", but it's really just extremely curly hair. African American hair is breakage prone because it tangles and knots more readily than the hair of other ethnicities. That's why many African American women (over 60%) opt for relaxers instead of their natural hair. Unfortunately, relaxers may make African American hair easier to manage, but they also cause serious damage. It's an uphill battle no matter what you do, so you must always take time to give your hair the TLC that it needs.

Start pampering your hair today by doing Pre-Wash Oil Treatments!

For many years, women from India and other parts of the world have applied oil to their hair before washing it. That may sound completely backwards, but it works! Cleansing your hair with shampoo is important because it washes away hair products, dirt, pollution, and anything else that's gotten stuck to your hair during the week. The downside of shampoo is that it can also strip the natural oils from your hair. Your hair needs a certain amount of oil to stay healthy, so you don't want to wash it all away with shampoo. You don't want your hair to be "squeaky clean"! Women on the Eastern Hemisphere figured out a wonderful solution to this problem many decades ago. Oiling your hair before washing it, gives your hair a softening, deep oil treatment. It also provides extra protection so that your hair doesn't get completely stripped during the shampoo process. No wonder hot oil treatments became so popular for a while! Warm your oil in the microwave or cover your head with a warm towel for faster results.

The key to this long tradition is choosing the right kind of oil. The only truly effective oils are: coconut, olive, and avocado oil. These oils are high in saturated fat which means their molecules are small enough to penetrate into the hair shaft. All you have to do is soak your hair in the oil and let it absorb. Coconut oil is the easiest to use because it's solid at room temperature. You can scoop it out of the container and rub it between your palms. Olive and avocado oil are liquids so applying those could get messy.

Here's the most important thing: You have to use pure oil for Pre-Wash Oil Treatments - like the extra virgin olive oil in your kitchen cabinet. Don't be fooled by hair products like "Olive Oil Mayonnaise" or "Coconut Oil Hair Conditioner". Those products rarely contain any significant amount of high-quality oil. Many times they are mostly made of mineral oil, which cannot penetrate the hair shaft. Pure, edible oils are the only way to go. You can find recommended brands in the Hair Liberty Boutique. You should do Pre-Wash Oil Treatments whether you have relaxed or natural hair.
How to do a Pre-Wash Oil Treatment

Step 1: Using your fingers, divide your hair into 4-6 sections.

Step 2: Apply a heavy coating of pure coconut, olive, or avocado oil throughout each section. Make sure to put oil on every layer of your hair. Use 4-6 tablespoons depending on your hair length and strand thickness.

Step 3: Cover your hair with a plastic cap to keep the oil from dripping down your face and neck.

Step 4: Leave the oil on your hair for 1 hour. Some say it's better to keep the oil on longer (even overnight), but you'll have to decide for yourself. You can try different lengths of time to see if your hair feels better after longer treatments.

Step 5: Before you shower, comb your hair out with a wide tooth comb to remove tangles or knots.

Step 6: Wash and condition your hair according to these instructions.

Step 7: Be consistent. Do a Pre-Wash Oil Treatment before every shampoo.

Pre-wash oil treatments are a great way to soften and strengthen black hair. Try one and see for yourself!

We've discussed pre-poo treatments in the past on
For those of you who regularly engage in this nourishing treatment, what effects have you seen?

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