Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Afro hair

After 10 years of relaxing my hair I decided to stop. The caustic chemicals in relaxers would often burn my scalp and yet I continued to use them for such a long time. Why?

There is a huge social pressure on black women in particular to wear their hair straight whether by relaxing or hair extensions. In our society long straight hair is seen as the ideal which most woman black or otherwise strive for. Afro hair is the complete opposite and is often regarded as being difficult and unmanageable. There is a concept of having "good hair" or "bad hair", "good hair" having a looser texture whereas "bad hair" is coarser and very tightly coiled and therefore less desirable. With these negative connotations and the ideals set by society we see younger and younger girls, sometimes as young as 5 and 6 years old relaxing their hair. Would you dye a child's hair at that age? Probably not. So why will some mothers allow these harsh chemical, potentially carcinogen chemicals to come into contact with their child's skin?

It's very rare these day to find a black women who has never chemically processed her hair at least once in her life. Go in to a room of black women and you'll be hard pushed to find someone wearing their hair naturally. So you'd think that there must be something to gain from relaxing simply due to its popularity. A major advantage to undergoing this caustic process, well not really. In fact, relaxers severely weaken the hair as well as a substantial loss of elasticity . Relaxed hair is prone to breakage, so much so that some women will see very little hair growth year after year.

Although I choose not to relax my hair any longer, I have nothing against women who choose to relax their hair. I am concern that women use them because they feel it's the only way they can deal with their natural hair and also when women continue to relax despite being burnt time after time after time.

Today there is more information available than ever about how to deal with natural hair. Certain methods and products we once used haven't been doing us any good. Whether relaxed or natural these tips will help keep your hair as healthy as possible.

  1. Avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulphate in shampoos. This harsh detergent is very drying something we don't need.
  2. Avoid mineral oil. It clogs pores on the scalp inhibiting growth and dries out hair by creating a barrier on the hair shaft. Ironically mineral oil is found in most of the products aimed at afro/relaxed hair. Also look out for petrolatum, paraffin liquidum. Natural vegetable oils and butter are far superior and also contain nourishing vitamins.
  3. Only comb hair when it soaking wet and saturated with conditioner (natural hair only). Combing dry hair will cause breakage and frizzing. Start from the end and work up to the root. And be gentle!
  4. You don't need to "grease" your scalp. The scalp is just skin and using traditional mineral oil containing hair oils can block pores.
  5. Wet you hair often. Contrary to popular belief water is your best friend and is the only way to moisturise the hair. You cannot moisturise you hair with oil alone! I recommend washing at least once a week, with just wetting and conditioning in between.

"Take the kinks out of your mind, not out of your hair" Marcus Garvey

Saturday, 9 August 2008


Everyone uses shampoo, but how many of us realise what we are putting on our hair and bodies? Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is found in 90% of conventional shampoos as well as in a number of personal care products, including toothpastes, shower gels and bubble baths. SLS is a harsh detergent that works by removing oils from the hair and skin. Its cleaning power is utilised industrially and it is commonly used as an engine degreasers, floor cleaners and in car washes. I haven't used shampoo since realising it's harsh nature on delicate curly hair.
As well as not being curl friendly there are a number of health concerns associated with the use of SLS in commercial personal care products. It is a suspected carcinogen with links to kidney and liver damage. It is also known to cause eye irritation, which can lead to cataracts and SLS is often used in clinical and laboratory testing to deliberately provoke skin irritation.
My advice is always read the label and when you consider that the skin (including the scalp) can absorbs up to 60% of the products we use, natural products seems a good idea.

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Curly Girl Routine

The curly girl routine (or CG routine) was devised by Lorraine Massey in her book "Curly Girl: The Handbook". She talks about her experience of using conventional shampoo and how it caused her naturally curly hair to become frizzy. She discovered the benefits of going shampoo free and hasn't used shampoo for years.
Although it may seem like an odd concept at first, there are enough surfactants in conditioner to clean the hair properly. And no, your hair won't smell at all! In fact you hair and scalp will thank you for it.
One factor to bear in mind if you want to try this routine is that you must avoid silicones in your styling products. Many silicones are insoluble in water and can only be removed with harsh detergents like sodium lauryl sulphate. This can lead to product build up, which can leave your hair looking greasy. Curl Harmony Cleansing Conditioner contains no silicones and only gentle surfactants and is highly recommended if you suffer from dry or frizzy hair.