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Tips for Going into Battle with Your Natural Hair

Tips for Going into Battle with Your Natural Hair

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when three or more black women are engaged in conversation for more than fifteen minutes, they will start to exchange hair-care tips.

Honestly, it’s uncanny. And in the spirit of that, here’s some of my ABW tips for Going into Battle with Your Natural Hair. (For the record: I love my hair, I do. But I admit that dealing with it can feel a tad antagonistic).

Nothing against texturizers, relaxers, hot combs and all other manner of hair-taming devices, but I ditched those years ago after I got sick and tired of watching my hair break off. If you do use a texturizer, may I suggest the Creme of Nature mild relaxer. Do it very carefully, as it’s a lye-based relaxer and will burn your scalp, but it’s actually paradoxically much easier on your hair than a no-lye relaxer. Don’t leave it in too long, seriously! But I used it for years and it was the only thing that worked on my shorter hair.

First, a description of my hair-type, to clarify whether or not any of this will be useful to you. My hair is long– about touching the end of my tail bone if I stretch it out. It used to be nappier when it was shorter and I was younger. For the last several years it’s been significantly easier to get through– I suspect that’s because once it got past a certain length, it started to grow differently. Still, it can get pretty nappy.

So, going into battle.

My chosen arena: The shower. I put in gobs of conditioner, wait a bit, and then comb it out with the conditioner still in, under running water.

My weapon of choice: A fro-pick, of course. And, equally important, a heavy boar-bristle brush, like this one.

My armor of choice: A good, heavy, moisturizing conditioner, like Herbal Essences. Shampoo only in small amounts about once a week.

The terms of surrender (uh, sorry, this metaphor is getting a little belabored): At the moment, I’m using great globs of beeswax, purchased from my local black hair care emporium. I have previously employed Mane ‘n Tail Leave-In Conditioner, which doesn’t work too well as an in-shower conditioner, but is a great, heavy moisturizer that prevents untamed fly-away afro-puffs and those giant knots you cry over in the shower.

Frequency of battle: About every other day, though sometimes I’ll use a do-rag/put my hair in a bun for a third day if I don’t want to deal with it.

Other tactical considerations: I use big hair clips to keep my hair up after I wash, comb and moisturize it. I have discovered that the longer I let my hair take to dry, the more manageable it stays. Sometimes I want the giant afro look, and then I’ll let it dry right out of the shower. But otherwise, I let it dry over the course of a day. That night, I put it in two braids, where it dries completely. And then the next day I have hair that looks nice, isn’t too tangled, and doesn’t break when I comb it in the shower the next morning.

Other products I have tried:

Frizz-ease– Didn’t work at all. Leaves my hair way too stiff and brittle. I want to prevent the ends from splitting, people!

Deva Curl “No-poo” cleanser– Expensive, but this is great! I couldn’t believe how easily I got the pick through my hair after using this stuff. Wow!

Deva Curl “Set Up and Above”– Not so great. I need waay more moisturizer in my hair creams. Left my hair feeling brittle and sticky. See: Frizz-ease.

Hair mayonnaise– Gross. I know some people swear by this stuff, but it smells funny and doesn’t actually seem to weigh my hair down enough.

Other products I want to try:

Anything by Miss Jessie’s. Anyone used this stuff? It’s expensive, but that Curly Meringue looks like hair-cream heaven.

Good luck! And if you have any tips for me, I want to hear ‘em.

26 comments to Tips for Going into Battle with Your Natural Hair

  • I’m white with really curly hair that goes to frizz — and I swear by Keihl’s Silk Groom conditioner — it’s all natural with a lot of lanolin in it and is the only thing that’s kept me in curls, not frizz — I’m even growing my hair out a little bit after decades of just cutting it short …

    • nojojojo

      Charlotte,

      I don’t think lanolin-based stuff is good for black hair, personally — it’s heavy and tacky and doesn’t actually moisturize. Other peoples’ mileage may vary. Plus, I’m not really concerned about frizz.

      I think there’s a significant amount of difference between black hair and curly white hair, so products that are made for curly-haired white people really aren’t a good match. (Speaking of which, Alaya, I tried Frizz Ease too; hated it.)

  • nojojojo

    I’ve been having good luck lately with Jane Carter Solution products, most notably Nourish and Shine. My hair is straight-up nappy, and though I don’t relax it, I do color it. This tends to make it dry, especially in the winter. The N&S isn’t hair grease — I hate grease, fucks up my hair and scalp something awful, and I blame my teenage acne (which was near my hairline) on it. The N&S is basically lotion; you can use it on your skin too.

    That’s the only product I use, generally. Rub some on, two-strand twists to style, finger-comb once it’s dry, go.

    I didn’t like Miss Jessie’s. Made my hair too stiff, smelled too strongly-perfumed for my tastes, and kept flaking off like dandruff. I followed the instructions. Just didn’t work for me.

  • ej

    I’m a huge fan of the Oyin Handmade products, specifically the Honey Wash, the Honey Hemp conditioner, and the Burnt Sugar Pomade. I love these products; they leave my hair manageable, soft, and beautiful. All of the ingredients are natural, too, and their products smell heavenly. I also love being able to support a small (black-owned) business.

  • Jonquil

    Strictly a product comment — if you like Deva Curl, you may like Jessicurl, too. Also very $$$. I’m using the Gentle Lather and Aloeba Conditioner right now.

  • Plaid

    Second nojojojo. Jane Carter Solutions is one of the only product lines that doesn’t make my hair feel dry and brittle after repeated use.

  • Tanya

    I have really curly mixed hair and I have yet to find a product that I absolutely love but as far as moisture goes, olive oil works great. Just put it in your hair at night with a hair cap over and shampoo it out in the morning. You’re hair will be super soft and moist!

  • Seconding the Oyin love. I’ve used their Grand Poo Bar for almost a year now, and I adore it. Between that and the Shine and Define, my hair’s been looking and feeling great

  • ladyjax

    Even though I’m using a texturizer these days, I’m still experimenting on what works for care and maintenance. For the once a week wash (I usually wet it down daily, add product, scrunch and go), I’ve been indulging in the Deva Curl No-Poo shampoo which another friend turned me on to. Since I’m not using it heavily, that one bottle is going to last me for a while.

    For styling products, I was using Mizani’s Thermastrength Style Serum for over a year but my stylist was out of it the last time I went in so I’m back to using Mixed Chicks Leave-in Conditioner with a little Africa’s Best Herbal Oil for a base.

    My stylist has used Miss Jessie’s Curly Merengue at least twice and I wasn’t particularly impressed. Felt a little too heavy and when it dried, my hair had a slight helmet-like feel.

  • it's me

    What kind of Olive oil is good for hair?@Tanya or anybody

    • karnythia

      Plain old olive oil works for me. Whatever is cheapest, though I don’t leave it in overnight. Instead I heat it up (microwave just until it is warm to the touch), add honey and whatever my essential oil of the moment is, and apply to my whole head. Add one shower cap and a bonnet dryer on low for 15 minutes. Wash and enjoy.

    • Jonquil

      Again, white hair isn’t black hair, but my hairdresser recommends jojoba oil as being a little lighter than olive; I’ve tried it and liked it, but you have to buy it in health food stores at $$$$.

      • ChloeMireille

        If I remember correctly, jojoba oil is the closest to the natural oils we produce on our own.

      • Stewardess

        The cheapest source for jojoba oil I’ve found is Whole Foods. A 4 ounce bottle is about $8 there, $13 at beauty stores. I mix half a tablespoon of jojoba oil into conditioner to apply — makes it much easier to distribute.

  • Babs

    I feel silly tooting my own horn, but I wrote an FAQ about not using shampoo but instead using baking soda and apple cider vinegar. It’s since been republished hundreds of times. The method was popularized amoung curly girl and long hair communities and I hear the best success stories all the time. :) The FAQ is originally hosted here: http://babyslime.livejournal.com/174054.html

  • you know, yesterday, after weeks of neglecting my hair, i decided maybe it’s due for a detangling session. My hair was in TERRIBLE shape, like I had so many knots falling out. i felt horrible. I was thinking “I would love to have someone address this” and here you are! Addressing it! I would love to buy some of those products you mentioned, the ones online but they are so expensive. Right now I am using bioinfusion: the conditioner, the shampoo and the leave in conditioner. Has anyone ever used this stuff? I feel like it leaves my hair kind of squeaky…like it might be making the tangling worse. Maybe it’s time to invest in those online stores. Anyway, thanks for writing this! Much needed!

    • nojojojo

      Never heard of bioinfusion, but anything making your hair squeaky is drying it out/having an astringent effect. This is the biggest difference I’ve found between products aimed at white users and products that women of color with kinky hair need to use — they’re trying to get oil out of their hair, and we’re trying to keep our natural moisture in. “Squeaky clean” = eventually going bald, for some of us.

      That said, I have found a few “mainstream” products that worked for me. They’re just expensive. On another sista’s recommendation I use Nexus Humectress shampoo and conditoner; that works well to keep my hair from losing moisture when I wash it, especially paired with the Jane Carter stuff I mentioned upthread. Though really, any good shampoo which moisturizes and is non-astringent will work.

      Maybe try that olive oil thing that got mentioned upthread; I’m going to. =) Sounds like your hair needs some hardcore conditioning, if you’ve been neglecting it.

      • Hi Nojojojo!

        I super deep conditioned it and it’s back and singing praises and looking wonderful lol. I just needed to moisturize it. Thanks for the advice! Much appreciated!

  • Amina

    he he. Well… most of us have spent hundreds of dollars on products. I think the first step for anyone is to really understand thier hair type (1,2,3,4) and also do a bit of reading on forums dedicated to AA like long haircare forum and nappturality.

    What’s good for the geese may not be good for the gander.

  • it's me

    Thank you karnythia,it’s greatly appreciated.I’m gonna try this for the first time.I’ll come back and let you know how it works out for me.I’ve hear that olive oil is healthfully beneficial for so many things I never thought to use it in my hair.I talked with my stylist about it and she told me I should be able to try it and that I should expect for it to do what oil sheen would do for my hair.I’m thinking it will be better though because of all the health benfits.I’d rather use anything natural rather than any harsh chemicals.So thank you. i’ll let you guys know how it works out,if you care to know.

  • ChloeMireille

    (For reference, I have nappy/kinky/type-4 hair.)

    This is going to sound crazy, but the best moisturizer I’ve ever used is Long Aid Curl Activator. You know, the gel activator in the clear jar with the green(or blue) label? It is literally the only thing that moisturizes my hair worth a damn. Be warned, though. You may not like the activator smell or the greasy feel of your hair after you put it on, but when it works, your hair should be very soft.

    You can also make your own activator with aloe vera gel and glycerin, or a spray with aloe vera juice and glycerin.

    As for deep conditioning, I use henna once a month. I really only recommend it if you like making a mess. (My inner child enjoys it.)

    Regarding Miss Jessie’s: I wouldn’t waste my money. They’ve changed the formula for all of their products in the last 2 or 3 years, and a lot of the better ingredients have been replaced with petrolatum, mineral oil, and all the other things we’ve been told to avoid for our hair.

    If you want to try a product line, try Oyin, Qhemet Biologics, or Carol’s Daughter. A lot of my nappy sisters use them with good results, but I’m too broke to buy it.

  • Late to the fair, but I am happy with what I use these days: Trader Joe’s “Nourish” conditioner. Only $3.50/bottle, so tres cheap. I use lots and I use it every day. I only shampoo once a month or so.

    When I shampoo I use something fairly harsh, like a homemade black soap, and then slather on the TJs, rinse, and comb while wet with a big ole green comb.

    Like Alaya says, the longer it takes to dry, the less tangly my hair winds up being. So frequently, if not trying to look particularly fetching, I braid it all up.

    I have kinda soft hair. Wish I could find you that picture of me in eighth grade with the Angela Davis do out to my shoulders. My fro was always falling down, though. Nowadays looks like I use a relaxer, but I don’t.

    But all of yall try the TJs. It’s nice and oily, pretty much natural ingredients, and the exact opposite of spendy.

  • ANON

    Nooo, Herbal essences. Proctor & Gamble = evil!

  • Natural hair really needs alot of moisture, but I don’t mean oily type moisturizers either. The Take Down Product line has a great Moisture Restoring Hair Lotion. It is great for daily combing as well or for styling. Alot of men like it too for their afros or bald scalps.

  • Keisha

    When i first went natural it was a battle but when i discovered an all natural line by Uncle Funkys Daughter i began to love my naturally curly hair. The line features all natural products that help to define and hold your hairs natural curl pattern as well as eliminate frizz. This line also promotes moisture all of its products mouisturize and nourish your hair all while keeping it natural. I particularly and in love with this line of products.