It’s a known fact that we Black women spend billions of dollars on our hair yearly, mostly on weaves and harmful products that we believe make us more appealing. What we don’t realize is that there’s a huge difference between healthy hair, and good-looking hair. Unfortunately the majority of us choose the latter, when we should be going for both since healthy hair automatically gives us good-looking hair.

Here are a few examples of how good-looking hair is NOT healthy hair:
 When you get it flat-ironed/blow dried and it looks silky and shiny, but after the third day it s splitting and breaking off.
 When you sew in a weave, but the crown of your head is shorter
than the rest of your hair due to brittleness.
 When you relax and style it, but whenever you wet it, it looks dull and lifeless.

In short, relaxed/permed hair is NEVER healthy, no matter how silky
smooth it looks. Relaxers break hair down to its weakest form, leaving it more prone to breakage and dryness. However, did you also know that all those chemicals don’t only sit on the surface of our scalp but get absorbed into our skin, and possibly into our bloodstream and brain?

Look it up. Relaxers contain phosphoric acid and ammonium hydroxide, which are pretty much considered health hazards. That’s why the instructions on a relaxer pack discourage pregnant women from using it and carefully tell us to apply the relaxer at least half an inch away from the scalp.

I want to focus more on how to get healthy hair and saving money. In my experience, going natural was the cheapest way of maintaining my hair. On most days, water is the only thing used to style it. To achieve a “healthy look” on relaxed hair, you end up spending more money repairing damage than actually styling it. It doesn’t have to be that way; you can still straighten natural hair without the harm of chemicals, and if you do it correctly it actually looks better and shinier than when it’s relaxed.

As a person of color with loose or tight curls, your hair is normally dry and needs a lot of moisture. Now do not confuse moisture with grease/oils. They do two separate things. Moisture (from water, leave-in conditioners, nourishing sprays, etc.) penetrates the hair cuticle and nurtures it and oil (hair oils/mayonnaise, grease etc…) protects the hair from getting dry. If you apply oil to dry and un-moisturized hair, you’re basically putting a band-aid over a gun wound because you’re not treating the root and inside of your hair, and if you moisturize your hair without applying some protection, it will dry up faster. Once you really understand this concept, you’ve done half the work.

Moisturizing Your Hair
Water, surprisingly enough, is the best moisturizer. A warm bath followed by a quick cold rinse always does the trick. Warm water softens the hair and allows it to absorb moisture, and cold water locks the moisture in, leaving the hair shiny and frizz-free.

When using a shampoo, don’t lather, rinse and repeat as the instructions say. It will dry your hair even more by stripping down the natural oils. A small amount and one rinse should be enough. If you have really dry hair, replace your shampoo with a cheap conditioner, then use a good deep conditioner afterwards. Don’t worry, it will clean your hair just as good as a shampoo will.

For post-shower care, you can make your homemade leave-in conditioner by mixing 3 parts of distilled water, 1 part of light
conditioner (any brand that works on your hair) and half part of oil (olive or almond). Pour the mixture in an empty spray bottle that you’ve saved from previous hair sprays and shake well. Spray on damp hair.

Protecting Your Hair
All hair types produce a natural oil/protection called sebum. It’s the oily substance on your scalp that starts to build up after a few missed shampoos. Some hair types produce it more than others, so if you have that, you need little to no oil/lotion to protect it or give it shine. For drier hair types, use the following as substitutes.

Shea butter: Very cheap, can be bought by the pound. Melt it at very low temperature or heat it by rubbing your palms and apply a small amount to the tips. it’s best when used after a rinse on dried hair.

Olive/Jojoba/Coconut/Almond/Avocado oil: Massage and leave in hair for 30 mins. then rinse out. Almond and Jojoba oil also work as leave-in conditioners and can be applied as regular lotion.

Hair serums/silicone: Possibly the most effective way to protect your hair. Also lasts longer because a drop goes a long way. Apply to towel-dried hair.

You don’t want to use heavy grease or vegetable oils because they weigh the hair down, suffocate it, and make a mess. Light oils like the ones mentioned above may be a bit pricey, but nowhere near the amount of money would you spend on a kit of products, monthly salon visits, and hair weaves.

Another way to help your hair is through diet. Foods rich in zinc, vitamin A, C and E strengthen hair cells, reduce hair loss, and are good for the scalp. Add carrots, green leaves, nuts, and beans to your regular meals. It won’t make fragile hair strong overnight, but it can improve the overall well-being of your hair.

Get some of the suggestions from the above article and come up
with a “healthy hair” routine that fits your schedule and needs.

B Y  Y V E T T E  G Z

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