My hair has been giving me a tough time, and I am going back to what works. I also revisited a piece I wrote a year ago that features advice from natural hair care experts. Enjoy.
For those of us sporting anything from a teeny-weeny Afro to hair so long it would make a horse jealous here are some tips for caring for natural hair on a budget. These eight ingredients are probably already in your kitchen, and they can help promote beautiful hair.
1. Baking Soda—Cleanses the scalp with a natural base. Put a pinch of powder in the palm of your hand, and mix with a dollop of luscious shampoo. Place a tablespoon in a cup of water and use it as a rinse. “It helps open the cuticle and clean it out,” said Shelley Davis, chief executive officer of the Los Angeles-based Kinky-Curly Hair Products, LLC.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar—Clarifies the scalp with a natural acid. Be sure to do this after a baking soda rinse to close down the cuticle. Pour a capful to a cup of water for a delightful rinse. The scent washes away in the shower. “It gets rid of scalp buildup,” said Anita Grant, who mixes and sells her own potions at her London-based Web site. “The skin regenerates itself, and the sebum, the natural oil, needs to slough off.”
3. Aloe Vera Gel, Juice or Plant Leaves—Nourishes the scalp. Smooth onto scalp with your index finger, or add it to water in a small bottle and spritz on the hair. “The more natural, the better,” said Michelle Breyer, co-founder of Naturally Curly. “You can get it in a number of different forms at pretty much any price point, including the plant itself.”
4. Butter, Shea Nut—Seals in moisture. Emulsify between fingers, lock in moisture and pamper ends. “It’s a very rich butter that will protect your hair from weather damage, dryness and brittleness,” said Nikki Walton, creator and editor of Curly Nikki. “Naturals and relaxed heads can apply it to hair ends to prevent splits.”
5. Olive Oil—Treats the scalp and hair. Slather on hair before shampooing or rub it on your scalp. “It can be used to add shine and smooth dry hair,” said Marsha Coulton, product developer and owner of the Brooklyn-based Curl Junkie Hair Products, LLC. “Add it to dry hair as a pre-shampoo treatment, or add to your regular conditioner to boost softness.”
6. Jojoba Oil—Locks in moisture and is very lightweight. “One of the primary concerns we have is dryness,” Davis said, “and I think we’re just going about it the wrong way by slapping a lot of petroleum-based products on our hair. Spray the hair with water and then seal it in.”
7. Honey—Acts as a natural humectant. Use sparingly with other products. A little goes a long way. “This is great ingredient in that it can be added to your conditioners to give them an extra boost of moisture and added to styling products to add extra hold and shine,” Coulton said.
8. Herbs—Stimulate the hair and scalp with an herbal rinse. “Make sure it’s fresh rosemary out of the garden,” Grant said. “Add the rosemary to boiling water and let cool. Use the water as an herbal rinse for the hair. You can also use organic roses, nettle or horsetail.”
A version of this essay first appeared on The Root.