Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Black Hair Care and Products

Relaxed and natural hair have different structures, therefore require different products sometimes.

Washing hair:

  • Relaxed hair: You will need to wash your relaxed hair at least once a week. Any longer and the buildup of product you use on your hair and sebum on the hair and scalp may cause scalp problems and in the worse case scenario, hair loss. Be very gently when you wash and take care not to scratch your scalp, especially if you intend to relax your hair again when the new growth comes in. Use a protein conditioner if your hair is breaking as this will encourage strength in weakened strands. Always use conditioner.

Always use a leave-in heat protectant after washing if you are going to use heat straigteners like flat irons or curling irons.

For all Afro hairtypes, relaxed or natural, it is best to use shampoos that do not contain sulfates, as sulfates are very harsh and increase dryness and over-production and buildup of sebum, which cannot effectively be removed except by more washing. It’s a never-ending cycle you do not want to get into.

  • Natural hair: If you have natural Black hair, you have the freedom to allow your hair to get wet as often as you like, without worrying about your hair going back, because it’s already there!

If you have very thick natural Black hair, here is a good technique: Section and braid/twist your hair before you wash, wet your head, take out one section at a time, and wash/put conditioner in, re-braid or twist that section and move on to the next one. When you do the final rinse, take all sections out and rinse the conditioner out.

Styling products:

Relaxed Black hair usually requires heat protectants and gels, sometimes people use “grease”. However you need to steer clear of any product containing petroleum products. These products may create the illusion of shine, but what they do is lock moisture OUT of your hair, causing dryness. Put on your scalp, these products clog your follicles, preventing your scalp from its natural function of breathing and eliminating impurities causing scalp issues such as dandruff and infections.

Natural Black hair has the benefit of being able to use water-based products for styling. Just like relaxed hair, do not use petroleum products on your natural hair or your scalp. Also, you should not use styling products containing too much silicone, which can make your hair look good in the short term, but eventually turn the hair crunchy and prone to breakage, especially if exposed to sunlight for long periods. Steer away from protein leave-ins and conditioners. You don’t need them.

There are many styling products designed for Black hair, both relaxed and natural, from small companies producing quality products without petrochemicals. You need to do your research, check your ingredients and look for testimonials.

For natural haired sisters, the website to go to for products and techniques for your hair is www.nappturality.com.

Black Hair Care Basics

Black Hair - The Challenges and the Joys

Black Hair: afro hair, kinky hair, frizzy hair, nappy hair. Many terms describing the same hair type, each with its own negative and positive connotations.

As an African American woman with this hair type, I have run the gamut of hair treatments, hair products & procedures, styling methods, styling tools, shampoos, conditioners, leave-ins, rinse-outs and everything in between.

Styling Black hair (afro-type hair) can be complex and time consuming if you don’t have the right tools and products at hand. Following are some terms which will be helpful for you to know about when deciding what products to use on your hair.

  • Natural hair: Hair which has not been permanently chemically altered in any way.
  • Relaxed hair: Hair which has been straightened using a chemical relaxer.
  • Permed hair: Hair which has been restructured using a permanent chemical process. Some people refer to relaxed hair as permed hair. A “perm” being an abbreviation of “permanent”
  • Chemical relaxer: a chemical treatment applied to the hair that permanently breaks the bonds of the hair, causing it to straighten out. These relaxers may contain lye or other harsh chemicals and usually require a “neutralizer” to stop the chemical process before it melts the hair.
  • Natural relaxer: many of these contain similar or identical ingredients as chemical relaxers. There is no such thing as a permanent “natural” relaxer because chemicals are required in order to permanently straighten the hair.
  • Texturizer: usually a weak chemical relaxer or a relaxer left on the hair for a shorter time than the recommended time.

Hair Structure

Afro-type hair strands are flat, like ribbons. The flatness of the hair shaft adds to the curliness of the hair in much the same manner as with curling ribbon. Flat ribbons curl more tightly than round ribbons, and hold the curl longer. In general, Caucasian hair strands are oval, accounting for some waviness, and Asian hair strands are round, accounting for the straightness.

The flat, ribbon-like quality of the afro hair type adds to fragility, because as the hair coils, it may reverse direction along the single strand, causing weak spots prone to breakage. Also, the hair’s natural lubricant, sebum, cannot travel as effectively down a ribbon shaft as it can a round shaft, making the hair prone to dryness and lack of sheen.

Along with the flat strands, the texture of the strand itself is variable. Fine hair strands create a soft, light fluffy texture which is also the most delicate. Medium hair strands can withstand more manipulation without breakage than fine strands. Thick hair strands can be wiry and resistant to chemical treatment. It is also the strongest strand type.

Density is another factor in determining the best hair tools for you. Density refers to the number of strands/active hair follicles per unit of scalp. A high amount of hair strands per unit qualifies as dense hair; a low amount of hair strands per unit qualifies as sparse hair.

Your individual hair type can have any number of variations of the above, which is what makes your hair unique to you.

Hair Growth

The hair growth cycle consists of 3 phases. Anagen, Catagen and Telogen. Anagen is the growth phase; catagen is the involuting or regressing phase; and telogen, the resting phase.

During the Anagen phase, the cells in the root of the hair are dividing rapidly, adding to the hair shaft and your hair grows. During this phase the hair grows about 1 cm every 28 days. Scalp hair stays in this active phase of growth for 2-7 years. The amount of time the hair follicle stays in the anagen phase is genetically determined. In other words, your hair will only grow as long or as fast as is genetically determined by this phase. At the end of the anagen phase the follicle to go into the catagen phase. We do not yet know how this happens or how a signal is sent to the follicle to stop growing.

During the Catagen phase, the hair does not grow but is held onto the scalp for about 2 -3 weeks.

During the Telogen phase, the follicle rests, eventually the hair strand is shedded out of the scalp. This phase lasts about 3 months before the follicle *wakes up* again and begins to produce another strand of hair.

Now that you know more about your hair and how it looks and grows, we can start looking generally at products and techniques available to help enhance what you have!

I hope this helps folks out and I will be adding more posts often!