I claim no expertise here. Lord knows that there are places all over the internet where you can find people dedicated to the art and science of natural hair. I suppose that I bring to the table the same experience of any product junkie, who has covered the gamut of products and product reviews in the effort to find those secret ingredients that transform me into a kinky-coily version of Rapunzel. (Just kidding). All jokes aside, when I thought about what has consistently worked for me in these five years of journeying, I thought more about those products that help my hair stay healthy, which is a different perspective than those products that might result in length (although the latter can and should be the result of the former). I also thought about the scores of women who complain about the cost of going natural. Personally, I am unconvinced at this point that I lost money in leaving the “creamy crack” behind, and for what I gained in terms of emotional and psychological intangibles, I never intend to pick it back up. But that is a conversation for another time. In the meantime, what is listed below is my idea of the “must-haves” for this fine, curly, 4A coif. For the naysayers who speak of price, almost all of these products are well under $10; indeed, several are closer to $5. I should also mention that, though I have no particular issue with store-bought products (I use those, too), all of these listed below are natural products and require some home preparation to be effective. Perhaps I am growing to appreciate the simple in my middle age. 🙂
- Bentonite clay. Before arriving at a staple for cleansing and moisturizing, I went the route of many a naturalista, trying out the most popular product of the time. Any unique feature made the product that much more appealing. Enter my brief experimentation with Terressentials’ Mud Wash. This product worked well, but the mud in the container does become problematic as the product dries. Also, this wash, and others like it, is expensive for those who take to heart the words “use liberally.” So I did a bit more research and found bentonite clay. I will defer to others’ expertise, but from the link that follows, here are the numerous benefits of sodium bentonite clay:
- Gently absorbs product buildup, oily residue, dirt, dead skin cells and other particles from hair and scalp
- Thoroughly deep-cleans your hair which results in better moisture retention
- Enhances your hair’s natural curl pattern
- Imparts sheen, especially when combined with an acidic liquid such as apple cider vinegar or Aloe Vera gel
- Natural detangler which reduces breakage by making hair easier to comb and style
- Contains over 70 forms of trace minerals beneficial to the hair follicle including magnesium, calcium, iron, silica and potassium
You can read more about this magical (and economical) powder here. The beauty of this product is that, at least for me, I only need to use it monthly. I cleanse my hair and then use the remainder as an excellent facial mask.
- Apple cider vinegar. Honestly, I have used ACV for various internal and external applications, but I had not heard of the real ACV with the “mother” until I became more involved in the natural hair community. I absolutely love its healing properties! It is now our favorite “tea” (mixed with honey) for colds/ sore throats/ general crud prevention. I mix my bentonite clay with ACV and almond milk (1/3 cup each) for clean, shiny, and silky hair.
- Henna. If you have followed my blog for the last few years, you know that I vacillated between dyeing my grey and letting it do its own thing for a long while. I finally decided to experiment with color after realizing that over 90% of my gray was in my front hairline. So began my henna journey. I have stayed with henna for well over a year now, and though I still have the potential to create a big mess, I love the results. I love seeing my hair in the sunshine, when it’s bright, bright red, and then in regular light where it is deceptively dark brown. I also love the natural effect of the henna; it “dyes” different shades of my natural hair in different ways, so that the gray, the brown, and everything in between is a different shade of loveliness. I love the strength of my hair, and seeing less hair in my comb while more grows on my head. This is also a monthly to six-week hair treatment, and for me, it has been well worth it.
- Oils and oil blends. This is where my list deviates from the “under $10” pledge. Pure oils will cost you money. And there are so many until you might borrow from a retirement plan trying to buy every oil that might do something of value for your hair. Thankfully, there are staples, like coconut, jojoba, olive, and castor—assuming you have no allergies and/or can stand the smell. Then there are numerous others of varying benefits, from the potential to calm your spirit, to helping fight scalp itching and dandruff, to enticing your partner via an intoxicating aroma. Read more here if you are interested.
- Flax seeds. A friend of mine introduced me to flax seeds as a potential ingredient in my smoothies. “We’re talking energy(!),” she said, as I reluctantly blended in beets and this new-found delicacy into my fruit mix. Not bad. Not bad at all. By the time I read of the many benefits of flax seeds in the body, and then found out that it is a natural curl definer??!! I’m sold!!! The boiled, strained seeds (I use ¼ cup seeds in 2 cups of water, which is another blessing—so few seeds do so much, and they are reusable), with a teaspoon of your favorite oil(s), will replace any curl crème/ curl gel/ shine and define type of product that you have. Just store it in the fridge, and toss it once the smell is no longer desirable (within 3-4 weeks in our home, if we have not used it up by then).
I did not mention many products included in my washing/ conditioning regimen. I have products that I enjoy, but honestly, they could change. I also did not list the obvious helps in this list: prayer, water, and as much clean eating as I can enjoy without feeling cheated of an occasional dessert. This journey and all that it has entailed has been nothing short of amazing for me. I even love what my changes have done for our children as I hear them making conscious decisions about what they eat and how foods affect them inside and out. Praise be to God from whom all blessings, including healthy hair and skin that glows.