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Styling with Hair Products

chicoro loves petroleumSomewhere along the way, the cultural myth that greased-up, oiled, slicked-down hair was healthier hair became the norm for many black women. Too often, product after product for black hair is just another version of grease or oil. Yet all the grease, oil, and emollients in the world won't produce longer, thicker, or healthier hair.-PAULA BEGOUN



I started this article with a quote from one of my favorite hair product critic, Paula Begoun.

I learned from Paula's book, Don't Go Shopping For Hair Products Without Me that hair products alone will not make your hair grow longer nor faster.

The chronic short hair situation that many black women experience is often misunderstood as resulting solely from the use of cheap and/or inadequate hair products.

Hair products can influence the softness and flexibility of your hair texture, but they are not at the root of hair growth. When you think of hair products, you should know that they can only affect the touch and the feel of your hair texture.

Hair products that provide great moisture and softness are important to any hair growth journey because they help to reduce broken hair. Hair products that moisturize support hair length retention, but do not cause or speed up hair growth. Keeping your hair soft hair will improve the likelihood of you achieving longer, stronger hair because it will be less likely to become dry and damaged.

Hair products are only useful on the hair strands, not the scalp.

It is so important to place the function of hair products within their proper perspective. How you use hair products on your hair will either act to support your hair growth journey or cause you to become frustrated and discouraged with your kinky, curly hair texture.

Have you experienced an unpredictable, stressful relationship with hair products? Are you constantly buying new hair products, but never really impressed with how they perform on your hair? The first thing you have to do is refocus your attention away from your scalp and onto the hair strands.

Three Functions of Hair Products

  1. Moisturize (water)
  2. Soften (oils, silicones, grease)
  3. Protect (protein, silicones)

Hair products can benefit the hair strands in three ways. Hair products moisturize, soften and protect the hair strand. Kinky, curly hair textures need moisture (water) the most. Chemically treated natural hair will need regular protein treatments to help rebuild the
weaken hair strands.

The Hair Grease Myth

The most popular hair product among black, African American people is petroleum or hair grease. Some people love petroleum-based hair grease because it can make the hair shiny and more manageable. The way so many African Americans use hair grease is an example of how the misuse of hair products can be destructive to healthy, long hair.

The biggest hair myth that exist among African Americans regarding hair care is that placing hair products, particularly hair grease, on the scalp will make the hair grow faster and longer. Placing petroleum-based hair products on the scalp will not make your hair grow faster. If this were the case; then most black women would have long hair gracing the middle of their back.

As a child, I remember my mom advising me to grease my scalp. There was so much emphasis on greasing the scalp. I thought that the hair grease would support hair growth. In actuality, all it really did was give me an itchy, irritated scalp. Petroleum is not a hair growth aid; and should not be placed onto the scalp.

Petroleum is a basic ingredient with limited influence on the hair shaft. Sure it can make the hair shiny. But placing petroleum on your scalp is counter-productive because it smothers the natural oil that is trying to release from the scalp and moisturize the hair strands.

Petroleum cannot moisturize your hair. Petroleum is not made up of water, but it works great to prevent moisture loss. It is so thick that it blocks water evaporation. However, it is not your scalp that needs moisture; it is your hair strands. Petroleum should only be used to coat the hair strands and hold moisture (from a water-based hair product) on the hair longer.

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Cathy Howse's opinion on petroleum-based hair products.

Is petroleum-based hair products bad for black hair?

There is a lot of controvery about the use of petroleum on black hair. The age old tradition of placing grease onto the scalp for hair growth is exposed as a hauxs. The biggest issue petroleum poses to healthy hair is the habit of placing hair grease on the scalp.

Petroleum is used on the skin to prevent moisture loss. In a similiar way, petroleum on the hair creates a barrier that blocks moisture from absorbing into the air. The scalp is made up of skin; therefore, it will shed dead skin cells. You do not want dead skin cells along with petroleum remaining on the scalp clogging your pores and stunting hair growth.

Petroleum is a decent ingredient as long as it is used properly as a sealant. We place too much emphasis on the scalp. Focus on the hair. You will not find many hair products at your local drugstore formulated for the scalp. It is safe to say that most over-the-counter hair products are to be used in your hair shaft.

Unless the scalp is itchy, diseased, or scabby, there is no reason to regularly place products onto it. The scalp is alive and has the capacity to lubricate and rejuvenate itself. Keep the scalp free of residue and substances that may prevent it from functioning properly.

chicoro loves petroleum

Chicoro, within her book Grow It! mentions, "My favorite, though is petroleum jelly. Many people consider petroleum jelly a terrible product for the hair and skin. However, it works for me, so I use it." Chicoro uses petroleum jelly on her hair not the scalp. Chicoro uses petroleum jelly after applying a water-based leave-in conditioner.


WATER, the forgotten moisturizer for black, African American hair.

I have purchased a bunch of different hair products but one of the most important substances I use for my dry hair is free, water. Water is the root of life. I have experienced a number of dry hair problems because I was ignorant to the basics of black hair care, which I later learned should always involve a lot of water.

The funny thing about water is that it is always on the move, evaporing and leaving the body in one way or another. So the task for you and I becomes replenishing this loss moisture daily. When you fail to do this basic healthy hair step, you will experience more and more problems with your natural hair.

black hair moisturizers and water

For example, if you allow your hair to become extremely dry; then it will become so brittle that the slightest touch can cause it to break. It may not be a special hair product that your hair needs, it could simply be water--the kind that flows from your bathroom or kitchen faucet.

When your hair feels dry, you should turn to pure water first. When our kinky hair is dry, we love to turn to our hair products; but the opposite of hair dryness is hair moisturization. Hair mositure starts with water and so should the ingredient list of any hair product that claims to be a moisturizer.


The Basics of Hair Products. What's in Your Hair Product Bottle?

One of the biggest lessons I took from Paula Begoun's book was that there are few product ingredients that can benefit the hair. The main ingredients that support the hair shaft are water, protein and oil. These are the three substances that I must see on the ingredients list of all of my hair products. Water moisturizes the hair, protein protects the hair, and oil lubricates the hair. The hair strand does not require much to thrive. The great news is that most hair products are formulated with variations of all three of these ingredients and more.

Oil and protein additives are temporary on the hair, only lasting until you cleanse your hair.

It is so important to understand the range and limitations of hair products, particularly, oils, silicones, and protein additives. These are ingredients that work great to coat the hair strands. Often, people mistake oils, proteins, and even silicones as hair moisturizers. They cannot moisturize your hair.

Proteins, oils, and silicones are not comprised of water. If you use these ingredients in place of water; then your kinky, curly natural hair will be dry. When your hair is starving for moisture it becomes britte, stubborn and positioned to break with the slightest touch.

Oils, silicones, and protein are not moisturizers, but they can help hold moisture on the hair longer. They can coat the hair strand and increase how long your hair remains moisturized. Moisture protects the hair strands so the longer your hair feels soft and flexible the less possibility of hair breakage.

Substances you should IGNORE on your hair product ingredients list.

Another noteworthy lesson I took away from Paula Begoun's book Don't Go Shopping For Hair Products Without Me was that the beneficial nature of vitamins and plant extracts on the hair strand is overrated, if not inflated for marketing.

Paula mentioned that under a microscope such ingredients do very little or nothing at all for the hair strand. They do not improve or moisturize the hair, so why use them? Or worse why pay more money for hair products that are loaded with ingredients that have little affect on the health of your hair?

If you love to have vitamins, fruits and grains whipped into your hair products; then fine use them, but keep them in their place. Purchase these organic-based hair products for their scents or how soft they make your hair feel. But you should not assume that they are better for your hair than hair products that do not contain hair moisturizers and water

Is shea butter better for your hair than petroleum? Let your hair texture decide which product feels better. Afterall, they would both go into the lubricating oil healthy hair category.

Organic hair product branding is not the new black hair product magic potion. Hair is dead protein and it can not be externally nourished. Vitamins work better for the hair when they are taken orally to support the internal structure of the new hair growing out of your scalp.



Use hair products; don't let hair products use you.

Hair products do not cause hair growth. Your hair will continue to grow whether you use hair products or not. The body does not need a special hair product to trigger hair growth. Hair grows on its own. Unless you have a chronic scalp disease that is preventing your hair from growing, you should see an inch of new hair growth every two months.

Instead of focusing on increasing hair growth by buying a bunch of different hair products, learn how to stop your hair from chronic breakage. Once you minimize hair breakage, you will naturally gain stronger, longer hair.

Hair products become important in regards to eliminating hair breakage because hair breaks when it is dry. The most important job of hair products is to moisturize the hair strands.

Learning how to properly use hair products will help you to eliminate the guessing game with my hair. It is not enough to know which hair products are working for you. You should also understand why they are producing the results that you see.

I understand which hair products to use for each hair situation. Depending on the hairstyle, I can easily predict how my hair will turn out. Once you finally understand why certain hair products with specific ingredients work better on your hair, you will enjoy using hair products much more.

Learn the best way to moisturize black natural hair.
Learn why pH of hair products is super important.

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