Have you ever wondered why your hair used to really love a particular conditioner when you were relaxed but detests it when you transitioned to natural hair? Have you ever experienced having a moisturiser that does work when you are relaxed but miraculously starts softening and moisturising your new natural growth? Here is the science for transitioners and new naturals who may be considering switching between hair products.
1. Hair conditioners
Increasingly, hair conditioners are really becoming more similar ingredient wise. There is a tendency to reduce mineral oil use and increase the softening ingredients. It is therefore entirely possible to find that someone with natural hair may pick exactly the same conditioner as someone with relaxed hair. However, you should bear in mind that if a product is specifically formulated for relaxed hair, it will tend to be a damage repair conditioner. It will be formulated for hair that may have damaged cuticles and increased porosity as is common in relaxed hair or in old natural hair (3 yrs plus). This includes ingredients such as hydrolysed proteins, silicones and mineral oil. While none of these ingredients are particularly harmful to natural hair, a hair conditioner designed to soften the cuticle and increase moisture is probably more useful for increasing the manageability and lustre of natural hair. Selecting a product that claims to soften or deal with dry hair is probably more beneficial at this stage than one designed to repair damaged hair. Later as your natural hair gets older, the damage repair product may now actually have a better function.
Once more it is important to bear in mind that relaxed hair will tend to be more damaged than natural hair which has no permanent colour treatment (excluding henna). Humectants in general (aloe vera, honey) and specifically glycerin based moisturisers (e.g curl activators) work well with natural hair. They are also known scientifically to strengthen natural undamaged hair through increasing moisture and flexibility. This benefit is not seen in relaxed or bleach/permanently coloured hair in part because the surface damage to the cuticle may make the humectant less effective. Therefore prior to transitioning, you may have thought that this type of product is not for you. It is time to give it a try when you decide to go natural.
Many people with relaxed hair nowadays do actually use oils and butters that are common with naturals too. You will, however, find that in order to keep relaxed hair with bounce and body, you need to use the oil sparingly. With natural hair, it will normally take quite a bit of oil to weigh hair down, so you can definitely try using more product provided you spread it well and evenly. However, the general principle of using less product is useful for both relaxed and natural hair. Silicone serums and mineral oil based products equally can actually work with both relaxed and natural hair depending on how your hair responds. Some naturals who find it difficult to hold on to moisture even with thicker natural butters such as castor oil or shea butter may find that a mineral oil grease based product is helpful. Others will find that mineral oil creates a very compact layer on the surface of hair and this slows down moisture uptake severely. For those naturals, a plant or nut based oil/butter will be better. Click here for a list of the 7 best oils for natural hair.
Have any of you made the transition from relaxed to natural hair products? What tips and advice would you give?