I hate to admit this! I don’t like the division between relaxed and natural hair, so I’m always advocating how similar healthy hair care is regardless of texture. However, I have to come clean and admit there are certain challenges I face now that I didn’t have with my relaxed hair that require a certain set of natural hair essentials – tools and products alike. Some things are ubiquitous like wide tooth combs and coconut oil, but I want to talk about the items I didn’t realize are absolute necessities to my natural hair journey.
1. Fog Free Mirror
With the amount of shrinkage my 4c hair has, plus the thickness and density of my hair during wash days, every single week, I was finding that I was not rinsing the product(s) completely from my hair. No matter how much time I spent under the shower head, how well I thought I rinsed the shampoo and/or conditioner from my hair – every single time when I got out of the shower, I would see a big glob of product hidden in my hair! My good hair friend, Mrs Doing Me, suggested a fog-free mirror and I literally wanted to jump through my screen and give her a giant hug in person!!! Having a fog free mirror in the shower allows me to peek at not only how well I’ve rinsed the product from my hair but also helps me see if I missed any spots with shampoo. I purchased TWO so that I could not only see from the front but also check out the back before I jump out of the shower. MUST HAVE!!!! Thanks Keoshia!
2. Shampoo Brush
Along the same lines as item number one, every wash day I was finding not only product being left in my hair, but also caked up on my scalp! Now we all know the key to growing healthy hair is great scalp health, starting with it being clean! The fact that I wasn’t cleaning my scalp sufficiently was really causing me a huge problem!!! After getting a couple fog-free mirrors, I was rinsing the product away but my scalp was white. So, I invested a whopping $7 in a shampoo brush and it changed my life!!! I made sure to get one that had rounded, somewhat wide teeth because I was super worried it would cause tangling. However, my worries were unfounded because this bad boy not only helps me clean my scalp better but also provides an extremely relaxing scalp massage. Some people prefer the upgrade to the vibrating shampoo brush, but I don’t have that model so I can’t speak on its performance.
3. Staple Gel Styling Product
With relaxed hair, doing a braid or twist out with a soft holding product was plenty to achieve great, lasting definition. With my natural hair, these same products will initially give great results that promptly frizzes a poofs up upon leaving the house! I realized that I needed a gel defining product for a little more oomph and holding power to make my styles last! It doesn’t have to be expensive either – my two favorites are African Miracle Curl Styling Custard (available in most Dollar General & Wal-Mart retail stores) and Curls Botanical Goddess Curl (available in most Target stores). I apply these products using the LOC method, so they are layered after my hair has been moisturized and sealed – however I find with both of these gels, they give “moisturizing” hold. Meaning the product definitely gives a firmer hold than most butters and moisturizers but do not dry the hair strands, flake or cause buildup the way we traditionally think gel products do. A definite must-have!
4. Gentle Clarifying Shampoo
With relaxed hair, I liked strong chealating clarifying shampoos to make sure that my hair was extremely clean before relaxing and then was completely neutralized after rinsing the relaxer from my hair. Now that I am not using chemicals on my hair and typically use “natural” ingredient based products that don’t have cones or cause a lot of buildup on my hair, I don’t need such strong clarifying shampoos, but still need to deep clean my hair every so often. Believe it or not there are some great sulfate-free clarifying shampoos that are gentle enough to be used every week if needed! My favorite is Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow and Restore shampoo. This product is available everywhere Shea Moisture is sold – Target, Walgreens, CVS, Sally Beauty Supply – for around $10. The description reads:
A clarifying, Sulfate-free shampoo that removes product build-up, while infusing hair with moisture. Leaves hair soft and shiny. Gentle enough to use every day. Promotes growth by nourishing and strengthening damaged or chemically processed hair, reducing the appearance of breakage and shedding. Apple Cider Vinegar aids in regulating and balancing pH levels on the scalp, while softening hair to promote enhanced growth.
I can personally attest that this shampoo definitely cleans my hair deeper than most of my moisturizing sulfate-free shampoos, which is exactly what I need after doing the LOC method on my hair a couple times per week. Other ladies make their own clarifying washes from apple cider vinegar and baking soda, but I prefer to something that suds.
5. Satin Scrunchy
So, the pineapple is the way to go when trying to preserve your natural hair styles for as long as possible. To be honest, I wish I made myself one while relaxed. That’s right ladies, I sewed my own satin scrunchy! Little known fact about me – my mother enrolled me in sewing lessons for a few years when I was in middle school, and the scrunchy was the first thing I learned to make. So, I had some elastic and satin fabric lying around and decided to whip one up. I made mine with the fabric extra wide so it would be extra “cushion-y” if that makes sense. This helps me pull my twist outs up and preserve the curls so much better than regular elastic bands because it cocoons the hair in place above my head rather than creating a hard line. If you want to purchase one rather than make your own, here is a quality satin scrunchy from Penny’s Boutique and it is available in five sizes, depending on your hair length and thickness.