If your natural hair is starting to look dull, brittle, or just plain dull, it might be time for a product change. Just because natural hair is considered chemical-free and worn in its natural state, doesn’t mean it doesn’t require special attention.
Finding the right ingredients is crucial to reviving it. To restore it to a healthier and more vibrant state, appropriate care and products are essential.
“In many cases, protein is helpful in strengthening natural hair and preventing it from breaking so easily,” says Angela Stevens, an Emmy-winning hairstylist in West Hollywood, Calif. “In addition, hydration in the form of water and oil is also helpful in preventing natural hair from drying out and splitting. It’s also important to incorporate treatments into your natural hair process.
Hot oil treatment
A good choice is a hot oil treatment. It is the process of coating strands with heated oil to reap benefits such as promoting hydration, increasing elasticity and preventing damage. “Hot oil is a great option because it opens up the cuticle and allows the oil to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft,” Stevens says. “Hot oil treatments are especially good for thick hair and low porosity hair.”
The benefits of this easy-to-do at-home process are many. “They help improve hydration,” says Uchenna Okereke, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Boston. “Oils are best applied to wet or damp hair to lock in moisture, increase shine, and reduce dryness over time.”
Tempted to try it on dry hair? Don’t. “It just sits on the hair, the same way oil sits on your skin if it’s dry,” says Okereke.
Not sure which oils to use? Okereke recommends using shea butter, jojoba, and coconut oil for ultra-hydration. If you’re not ready for a hot oil treatment, look for products that contain glycerin as an ingredient. “A leave-in conditioner and a deep conditioner that contains glycerin are good options,” says Okereke. “Glycerin is a humectant and will therefore attract water to the hair, improving hydration.”
It’s no surprise that dryness can lead to breakage and damage. To condition strands, look for products formulated with natural ingredients.
“Some growth-promoting ingredients are herbs like saw palmetto, horsetail, and vitamin B3,” Stevens says. “Oils like coconut oil, vitamin E oil, pumpkin seed oil, peppermint oil, rosemary, tea tree and thyme oil are additional options.”
Although natural ingredients abound, some synthetics can be just as beneficial for people who are losing their hair due to damage.
“I often recommend minoxidil, which is an FDA-approved ingredient for hair loss, because it prolongs the growth phase of the hair cycle,” Okereke says. “It’s effective and often patients are pleasantly surprised by the results. I usually have minoxidil mixed in with other ingredients which works better for textured hair, versus over-the-counter mousse or solution, which can dry out frizzy, curly, or frizzy hair.
Skip pickling ingredients
While some synthetic ingredients can work wonders, others should be avoided or used sparingly.
“Products that strip hair and remove all-natural oil can be helpful for cleaning,” Stevens says. She recommends using them “only when deep cleaning is needed” and not on a regular basis.
Also, products that dry out the hair, like sprays and hard gels, are not recommended for long-term use,” Stevens says. “Ingredients such as isopropyl alcohol, formaldehyde, benzene, heavy fragrances and added dyes are not recommended due to the chemicals and long term negative effects on hair and skin.
Ingredients called sulfates may need further consideration if you are trying to revive natural hair. “These dry out the hair,” says Okereke. “However, sulfates can be applied directly to the scalp to cleanse or treat dandruff. The health of the scalp is very important for the general well-being of the hair.
Get inspired by your kitchen
Are you looking for inexpensive and DIY (DIY) ways to take care of your natural hair? If so, you’re in luck.
“There are so many great ingredients you can find in your cabinet and fridge that are good for natural hair,” Stevens says. “Egg is a great natural protein to add to your conditioner or mask. Avocado and honey have amazing compounds that help give hair moisture and shine. Plus, apple cider vinegar is a natural cleanser, so it will help remove buildup and irritation while helping to add shine to hair.
While these kitchen staples won’t permanently change your hair, they can have a short-term effect, much like a homemade skin mask for your face.
Find your perfect formula
No matter what ingredients you try, stick to what works.
“The key is to cleanse and moisturize regularly and create a system that your hair responds to well over time,” says Stevens. “Identify the products and regimen your hair likes and stay close to that. Not everything works well for everyone, so it’s up to you to discover the best way your hair likes to be treated. Knowing your type and your Hair texture plays an important role in knowing how to take care of your hair.
Ultimately, natural hair is a way of self-expression and should be embraced and treated accordingly. Stevens adds, “Our relationship with our hair should be a beautiful journey of self-expression and self-love.”