Newly Natural Series part 3: Choosing and buying products
When I went natural I had not done any research so I had no idea what products worked best with natural hair or why certain products were preferred to others. I continued using the products I had used when I had relaxed hair and I soon found that most didn’t help. My hair would be dry and greasy rather than soft and moisturized. Thus began my product junkism! My product junkism had good intentions though, it was a mission to find hair care products sold locally that worked for natural hair. It has taken me 2 years though so let me save you some time :)
Below are a few things to remember when choosing products that will prevent you from buying everything under the sun. I have included the links to my sources in case you want to read more.
Get to know good and bad ingredients
Here are the commonly mentioned ingredients healthy hair fans are advised to steer clear of:
- Sulphates — Sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate are used as detergents and surfactants. If you look at most hair products, they are used in over 90% of them. They are used because they cause a lot of foam. And to us, foam = clean. Well according to research, it is possibly the most dangerous of all ingredients in personal care products. (via Natural with Kendra)
- Alcohols — There are two kinds of alcohol used in cosmetics that can be drying to skin and hair:
- Ethyl alcohol (also listed as Ethanol, Alcohol Denat or SD Alcohol)
- Isopropyl alcohol (also listed as isopropanol).
These are drying to skin and hair because they can act as solvents. They can dissolve the natural protective oils in your skin and hair.-Other kinds of alcohols can actually be good for your skin and hair because they are long chain fatty alcohols which means they act like an oily moisturizer. The most common ones include:
- Cetyl Alcohol
- Stearyl Alcohol (via Blackgirllonghair)
- Silicones — Although silicones have a bad rep, they are not all bad for your hair. There are two types, water soluble silicones and non water soluble silicones which require sulphates to be washed away. So if your hair gets dry easily and you want to avoid sulphates, it goes to follow that you should avoid non water soluble silicones. Otherwise silicones are not harmful, they are used for cosmetic purposes: make your hair look sleek and shiny and reduce frizz but the effect goes as soon as the silicone is washed off. (Go to Blackhairmedia.com for the list of water soluble and non water soluble alcohols)
- Lanolin, Petroleum and Mineral Oil — These cheap ingredients are widely used in greases and pomades formulated for black hair and offer no real moisturizing benefits. In fact, these ingredients often weigh the hair down, prevent the hair from absorbing moisture and prevent the natural oils produced by the scalp from being absorbed by the hair shaft. For a natural alternative, try jojoba, coconut, or sweet almond oils for their conditioning properties.(via Thank God I’m Natural)
- Parabens — Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in cosmetic products and they stop fungus, bacteria and other microbes from growing in creams and makeup. However, the jury is still out on whether parabens are really bad for hair or not. Some scientists think it to be linked to cancer but there is no decisive evidence that links the two. So it’s really your choice at this point whether to use products with parabens or not. (via Besthealthmag)
Generally I tend to avoid lanolin, petroleum and mineral oil when I can, those are my strict no nos. The easiest way to avoid having to become a chemist over night though is just to stick to natural products.
Natural vs non-natural products
In this case natural means products that contain 90% or more of ingredients that occur naturally in nature, examples include honey, unprocessed shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, castor oil, aloe vera and avocado. In some cases processing is needed to extract the ingredient from it’s corresponding fruit, seed or plant but the ingredient itself is not altered in any way. I have found that my hair responds best to such products. Natural products also contain a lot of natural minerals, vitamins and oils that improve the health of hair regardless of type and race.
However that is not to say some people don’t get good results from using both natural and non natural products or using non natural products alone. You will find that some non natural products do wonders for your hair and some natural products don’t. In my personal experience, Dr Miracles Curl Care line which has no sulphates or parabens has not left my hair happy. While VO5 conditioner which has those things has left my hair soft and fabulous. So use your discretion, pick a good product and give it a try and see how your hair responds. If it’s bad, drop it and try another.
A lot of hair companies are now jumping on the natural product band wagon which I’m happy about because it gives us more options. However sometimes it’s nice to pop down to the pharmacy and spend a measly 20 pula on apple cider vinegar which will leave my hair soft, clean and silky as opposed to a 70 pula product that does the same thing though not as well.
A few tips
• Do not try more than two new products at a time
It is more difficult to tell if a product is good if you are simultaneously trying multiple new products. It also takes time to determine whether a product is good or not, unless your hair is falling out or the product causes itching, give it a couple of months before abandoning it.
• Order of Ingredients
The further down on the ingredient list, the smaller the percentage of the ingredient in the product, which of course means the smaller effect it will have on your hair.
• Styling products
These are extremely important because they stay in your hair longer than any other product. Those that contain synthetic ingredients can build up and dry out your hair over time causing breakage. Ingredients such as petroleum and mineral oil have been known to coat the hair shaft and seal out moisture. They are also believed to attract dust and dirt particles, causing the hair to look dull. (via Curly Nikki)
• “Black” products vs “Caucasian” products
Just because a product is marketed towards white people does not mean it won’t work on your hair. At the end of the day, hair is hair and products can’t discern between race. I have had great results with Pantene, Tresseme and V05. Don’t be afraid to venture into the “white” hair care aisle, you may be pleasantly surprised!
And that covers the hair products crash course. Next we’ll go into building a hair regimen or hair care routine. I am still working on mine and making adjustments as I go. Till then, happy product buying!