The original title of this post was Natural Hair for Dummies, but I decided to go with something more appealing. I often get asked the same repeat questions by new naturals or those just getting to know their hair. Where do I get started? What tools should I use? How do I keep my hair from being so dry? I realize that there are many who have never dealt with our own natural hair so they are at a loss as to what to do. They often will go to a hair forum and post what they consider to be a new question, rather than searching old threads or post a comment on a hair blog before reading the FAQ ,then summarily get a snappy response or down-right ignored. In an effort to avoid that, I am making this post its own page so it is easy to find and reference. Feel free to refer back, comment and share.
Most of these items can be found in your local beauty supply store, grocery store, pharmacy or natural food store. If you cannot find them around town, do a google search and purchase from Amazon or another reputable online retailer.
- Spray Bottle—Your hair needs moisture and that comes from water. Whether you get it wet in the shower or use a spray bottle you should water your hair and scalp daily. Good ol tap will be just fine or you can get fancy and use distilled water.
- Wide-tooth Comb—Essential to any natural hair detangling regimen. There are lots of snazzy tools that can also be used but this is a basic, cheap and widely available. When detangling add conditioner or oil to the hair to provide slip, separate into manageable sections and start combing at the ends working your way toward the roots.
- Color Applicator Bottle—This simple device will be such a God-send for mixing, containing and applying your hair mixes without causing a lot of mess and allowing you to control how it is applied. You can find it at any beauty supply store.
- Elastic Headband—You will want to pull your hair back and the puff is probably the most popular style. Make sure you get the headbands without the metal clasp so that your hair is not snagged.
- Satin Pillowcase or Bonnet—While you are sleeping you need to protect your hair from tangles and breakage that can be caused by friction of the cotton pillow case. Tuck your hair inside a bonnet or pick up a satin pillowcase.
- Microfiber towel or Old T-shirt—A common complaint of naturally curly hair is frizz. Frizz is commonly caused by rubbing or friction especially when done with an ordinary body towel is used to dry the hair. To soak up excess water blot, don’t rub, the hair using a micro fiber towel or an old cotton t-shirt.
- Sulfate-Free Shampoo—Sulfates are strong cleansers that can often strip or dry-out natural hair which is already prone to dryness. Opt for a sulfate free or low sulfate shampoo to minimize the drying effect.
- Conditioner for Dry or Curly Hair—These products are formulated with additional herbs, extracts and oils to help soothe, moisturize and soften your tresses. Curly and dry hair both have the same basic issues so don’t fall into a marketing ploy. A product designed for Caucasian women with curly hair will also work well for African-American women with dry hair. Your hair will want to drink it up so grab the big family size bottle.
- Deep Conditioner—Natural hair can be prone to dryness and regular deep conditioning treatments will help revive dry, limp, frizzy and/or lifeless hair. Look for deep conditioners that do not contain mineral oil or petroleum. Ingredients like shea, aloe, herbs, natural oils are key things to look for.
- Moisturizer or Leave-In Conditioner— These moisturizers should be water based (water should be the first ingredient) and should not contain mineral oil or petroleum. They are used to add additional lasting moisture and softness to your hair after you have gotten it wet by either washing our spritizing water.
- Aloe Vera Gel—Aloe vera gel is a simple way to add moisture to the hair and help promote curl definition. I do not endorse any brand however I actually use Fruit of the Earth which you can find at Wal-Mart and Lily of the Desert which is in most health food stores. You want to look for an aloe gel that is alcohol free, non-medicated and free from dyes. You can find this in the lotion or sun block section.
- Oil—Oil is used to lubricate the strands and seal in moisture. While the great to oil or not to oil the scalp debate goes on without end, choose for yourself what is best. Make sure you are actually purchasing oil and not silicone. I know that sounds silly but most products found in the hair care section labeled as oils are actually silicone. Go to the grocery section and look in the baking aisle. Choose from Olive, Grapeseed, Safflower which all work well for natural hair and are listed in order of density with Safflower being the lightest.
- Butter—Not actual butter that you eat, but rather shea butter or coconut oil (which is not a butter but is a solid at temps of 70-75˚F or below). These are additional sealants in addition to the oil that can be used to keep your hair moisturized, as a styler and also add shine. Coconut oil can be found at the grocery in the baking aisle. Shea butter can be found at most BSS, African Grocery Stores, or health stores.
- Hair Gel—Opt for an alcohol-free hair gel that will help define the curls, minimize frizz, and lock the style in place. Experiment with different levels of hold and ingredients to find one that is right for you.
The approximate price for this Natural Hair Kit would be $10 tools + $25 for products, just under $40. You can look into salon or boutique items which will add extra cost but I always suggest you start simple with the basics and get to know your hair first. I always advise you buy smaller size or sample items of products while you are still trying to find the correct products. While this is a basic list not all of these products will work on everyone; shea butter may be too heavy for some while moisturizers may not be enough for another. But by starting with these items you are on the right track to getting to know your hair.
That is my Natural Hair Starter Kit. What would you include?