Try googling the title of this post and then come up with a definitive answer to this problem. There are so many different amazing ideas, but there is such a thing as too much information, people are too helpful!
So I read all of the really smart advice, tried out various things on my afro and came up with the below.
The number 1 most important thing is: try to eat as healthily as possible! Think of your afro as a beautiful house standing proud, however, to weather any storm that might come along your house needs strong roots. You can waterproof it from the outside and it’ll withstand some rain and continue to look good, but a big gust of wind will completely flatten your house if it doesn’t have good foundations. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help give your hair the strong foundations it needs to tackle the daily damage that a modern hectic lifestyle can do. Make sure your weekly diet includes the following:
- Vitamins A (beta carotene), B, C, D and E,
- Essential fatty acids.
Contrary to popular belief hair cannot metabolise anything as your afro is not living tissue – although we all know that sometimes it has a mind of its own but that’s another issue! Ultimately this means that your afro doesn’t absorb vitamins or nutrients from products. Some nutrients can get into your body through your scalp, but the science I’ve read suggests that this could be negligible. Therefore, the hair masks and conditioners that we slather onto our heads on a regular basis add layers or a coating to our afros rather than any strength/goodness into individual strands of hair. Conditioners can stick to your hair and fill in any micro imperfections giving the impression of smoother curls, which is why it’s important that you find the conditioner (and shampoo) that works best for your hair. Bear this in mind when you are concocting your own hair mask, you want good water content but at the same time ingredients that will stick to your hair for as long as possible.
But please don’t get me wrong, I still believe that a pampering session using a homemade hair mask does wonders for your head. The whole process of researching and sourcing the ingredients, preparing the mask and then applying it can be exciting and relaxing. When covering your afro in it, the massage you give your head and its follicles will be stimulating and regenerative. Washing, rinsing, putting on the mask, waiting, rinsing again will give your hair a thirst quenching long soaking, allowing it plenty of time to absorb moisture. Treatments can also help sleek out some kinks which can give easier pathways for nutrients to travel up the individual hair strands from the roots which will also help make your afro look fabulous. And at the end of the day, the most important thing about any treatment you undertake is how it makes YOU feel. So if you feel that a hair mask improves your hair and therefore your mood and confidence, then who’s to tell you any different (suck on that science). Actually science has proven that being and feeling happy can boost your immune system and get sick less, so even if this was the only ‘scientific’ benefit from a hair mask I’d take that!
Here’s my recommendation for some oil bases for a hair mask:
- Shea butter
- Jojoba oil
- Avocado oil
- Peppermint oil
- Olive oil
- Black castor oil
I tend to include coffee in my mask as caffeine has been proven to aid hair growth, and I find it also adds richness to my hair colour. Aloe vera gel is also a favourite ingredient to give your scalp a good cleanse, and I tend to find it keeps it flake free for longer (even after a good scratch days after wash day!). Finally for some fragrance I use lemon verbena oil, which I got hooked on following a present of some toiletries from my big sister several years ago, and lavender oil which has long been used as a hair growth stimulant.
You need to experiment with what works best for your hair. The way I would do this is try them one at a time, and by themselves. For example, one week try using jojoba oil and study the effect it has on your afro in the following days. Then once you settle on a base oil that works for you, you can then start experimenting with fragrances and ingredients, but try to stick to natural products from trusted sources.
NB Varying water temperature can help prep hair to be more receptive to moisture and consequently seal it in. Oils seal in moisture but they also stop more moisture getting in so a heavy, continuous coating of oil on your locks over a period of several days will start to have a detrimental effect and can dry out your hair.