ALFS 7-step weekly hair care template for the uninitiated
The Curly Girl Method may be a basic template for curly/kinky/coily hair care, but neo-naturals have their own spin on it. As I’ve perused the top natural hair video logs and blogs over the years, I found a few gurus that taught methods I could agree with. But, even among the organic neo-naturals I found elements in their routines I couldn’t completely get on board with.
I did, however, learn something. And in the end, I came up with my own template for caring for curly/kinky/coily hair with primarily organic ingredients in homemade recipes.
Each step in the washing and maintenance process is a layer. It’s like eating breakfast, snack, lunch and supper in order to fulfill your body’s daily nutritional requirement. No one step is independent of the other. They’re each part of one hair diet which, in turn, is an extension of your body’s diet. So, skipping a step is like skipping a meal.
After about a week or two of product build-up, styling and environmental exposure, the hair’s pH balance is probably a little off. The normal pH for hair and skin is between 4.5 and 5.5 — a little on the acidic side depending on genetic disposition and diet.
So, before you co-wash, it’s a good idea to rinse with a solution — such as an ACV, tea, beer, milk rinse or a combination — that breaks up product build-up, regulates the hair’s pH and restores the hair’s moisture balance.
Everyone can’t co-wash all the time. Some people need stronger cleansers to break up accumulated styling product, oil and dirt build-up. Top organic cleansers that do the trick — such as African Black Soap and Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soaps — have high alkali pH that can stress and strip hair of moisture and nutrients. So, it’s essential to use a moisture-rich pre-conditioning treatment.
Nearly all the non-organic neo-naturals recommended pre-conditioning with pure Coconut Oil. In fact, you can use several oils or oil combinations that include Olive, Grapeseed, Rice Bran and Sunflower oils as a pre-conditioner as well.
You can also use an herb infused oil. I make a rosemary oil infusion from fresh rosemary and grapeseed oil (ooops! looks like another how-to post to write).
3. Hair Packs, Masks and Treatments
Regular hair packs. masks and treatments can fortify and nourish your hair with nutrients your body may not readily manufacture. I consider them essential to a balanced hair diet.
It’s common knowledge that hair flourishes when it has the proper protein-moisture balance. Since no two heads of hair are alike, that balance is different for everyone.
Here’s a hint: the kinkier your hair is, more protein it needs. Here’s another hint: the kinkier your hair is, the more moisture it needs. So, I recommend alternating between protein and moisture packs from week to week.
Wavy and curly hair types tend to have lowered cuticles and keratin-fortified hair shafts. These hair types aren’t weakened by tight curl patterns. Therefore they need a different balance of protein and moisture.
Too much protein will stiffen and frizz them. Too much moisture will weigh them down. So, one to two hair treatments a month should do the trick — a moderate strength protein pack and soluable moisture treatment.
I find the combination of pre-rinses and treatments have already cleaned residue and deposited moisture and protein by time I co-wash. So, I choose a light-weight conditioner as my wash.
However, after a weekly hair pack, I may need something stronger to wash out the excess residue. So my second go-to cleanser is a homemade clay wash (Naptural85 cracked the code on this) or mud wash (my favorite recipes are from Roots4u45). I love many clays for hair but my favorites are Bentonite and Rhassoul.
5. Conditioning Rinse or Oil
Depending on how my hair is feeling that day, I’ll follow Naptural85’s co-wash advice. I’ll apply an extra layer of my oil mixture on top of my co-wash before I do a final rinse. For instance, after rinsing out my hair pack, I section my hair, saturate it with my co-wash, take a nickel sized amount of the oil mixture of my choosing, twist it and go to the next section. I’ll leave it in for about five minutes and rinse.
At this point, my hair is completely conditioned. Those with wavy and curly hair textures can use a conditioning rinse before the final rinse. Coconut milk with coconut and avocado or rice bran oils are wonderful for replenishing the moisture balance.
6. Cold Cuticle Sealant
No matter what your hair type and curl pattern is, don’t fudge on this step. Hot water from co-washing alone has raised your hair’s cuticle. If you used a mild cleanser, it’s raised even more so. So now your hair has to calm down.
Start with a cool water rinse. Once you’re out of the shower and towel (or t-shirt) dried your hair, spritz cold Aloe Vera juice throughout your hair and work it in gently. You can also use a lavender oil and water spritz as well.
7. Oil Sealant
This step is best for kinky and coily hair textures and optional for curly and wavy types. The oil will form a barrier over your lowered hair cuticle to lock in the moisture from the treatment, co-wash and aloe vera juice.
I love castor oil for this step. I generally mix castor oil with an essential oil such as ylang ylang, lavender, sage, rosemary or whatever my hair is hungry and thirsty for.
By time I finish this step, my hair is thoroughly nourished. How can I tell? It’s springy, bouncy, shiny and defined.
My personal testimonial
Since I adjusted my approach to hair care — treating it as a diet that feeds my hair and, still, part of my body’s whole diet — my hair has gradually strengthened with less breakage, loss and brittleness. My ends maintain their integrity which allows my hair to grow without being interrupted by frequent trims.
But don’t take my word for it.Try it and tell me if and how its working for you!