The secret for finding that perfect afro hair product combo is simple.
We find it sad so few people have been able to find their ideal afro hair care products, not just because great products are rare, but because the market is flooded with myths. We want to help.
You don't need to select exotic ingredients to look great and feel like a hair model! You don't need to spend your entire pay check and get products from far flung corners of the globe. You can sit in the comfort of your own home or pop to the high street and find the perfect products for your kinks and curls if you follow this guide.
Is this for you?
Do you love your hair but find that your products aren't working for you? Do you struggle to find solutions to afro hair breakage, dandruff, hair loss and an itchy scalp? We feel your pain, read on!
We believe that with the right hair care practices and products, you can love and enjoy your natural afro hair.
There are so many afro hair products out there that promise the world and deliver disappointment. We're changing this.
Our afro hair product guide will help you to:
What are you waiting for? Let's dive in!
Afro Hair Products Essential Guide
1. Understand what you need for a simple afro hair product routine
Finding the right products starts with knowing what you need. Knowing what you need starts with understanding your hair structure.
Hair is made up of a cuticle, cortex and medula. The cuticle is the scale like covering that lays on top of the cortex. The cuticle can be raised and lowered slightly depending on factors such as pH and temperature. Almost like a protective sheild, the cuticle keeps the cortex from damage.
The cortex is comprised of keratin bundles joined by disulphide bonds. These bonds determine the shape and strength of the hair and are changed by relaxers. There are also weaker bonds governing our hair structure: hydrogen bonds. The reason your hair changes when wet or is set using a liquid lotion? It's hydrogen bonds. Hydrogen bonds can be altered by wetting hair or applying heat to temporarily change the way the hair lays. This is why water based products are great for styling and setting afro hair in place.
Over time, all hair strands will have small gaps in the cuticle due to damage that chips away at the cuticle covering the protein cortex. This damage can come from things like straightening, blow drying, combing, bleaching or even exposure to UV rays at the beach! When you hear people talk about hair porosity this is what they mean.When you apply products to your hair you are either aiming to remove dirt from the environment, sweat and natural oils or to moisturise or to style. Moisturisers need to penetrate the cuticle in order to work. Conditioners and styling agents sit on the cuticle and seal in that moisture.
Top Tip: Remember oils don't moisturise your hair. If your hair is dry, you need a water based moisturiser. "Water-based" means that water is one of the top ingredients on the product label. Because hair is comprised of keratin bundles joined with disulphide and hydrogen (or water) bonds, it gains moisture and strength from water. That's right, your aunty was wrong, water is great for Afro Hair!
2. Learn why ingredients in afro hair products matter and what to look for
So now you get how hair works, you need to find quality ingredients to cleanse, condition, moisturise and style. Where do you start and how do you know that they will work?
Look at the ingredients. After over a decade of research including years spent studying Trichology and cosmetic science, our team has learnt that nature knows best. Natural ingredients work wonders for afro hair and there are many reasons why.
We don’t just need to know which products we should be putting into our hair; we need to know what ingredients are in them. Worryingly, far too many Afro hair products are packed with ingredients and chemicals that not only damage our hair, but have also been linked with a range of health issues ranging from skin irritation to cancer.
Take silicones for example. Promising to bring moisture and shine, they are found in a number of afro hair products. Unfortunately, the shine from these products is artificial as it come from the plastic in the silicone. Silicones also prevent moisture from penetrating into the hair shaft, meaning your strands attract dirt and build up. The result? After some initial shine, your hair will end up dull, limp and brittle, opening the door to breakage. Our solution is to bin the silicones and instead use silicone-free conditioners like Swirl and products containing wheatgerm oil such as Seal. Like all of our ingredients, these sealants are natural and offer a more gentle solution to managing your hair.
You should also look for afro hair products that clearly state that they are free from parabens, sulphates and phthalates, all of which will cause hair drama.
Top Tip: When reading the labels, ingredient order matters. Ingredients must legally be listed in descending order of weight. However ingredients that make up less than 1% can be listed in any order. If a product claims to be full of olive oil, argon oil or gold particles but these coveting ingredients are the final ingredient on the list (or entirely absent) then do not pay over the odds for what is really just a marketing scam in disguise!
We believe all women should be able to access safe and effective haircare at their convenience, that's why all of our products are 97-100% natural and we never use parabens, sulphates, phthalates, harsh preservatives or artificial fragrances. We choose a few key ingredients that are proven to work for Afro Hair and we trial our products on real people. Check your labels to make sure you're not exposing yourself to common toxic chemicals. You deserve that level of safety. Don't settle for less.
3. Know which products you need to solve your afro hair problems
For general, non problematic, afro hair care you can keep your routine simple. You need just three types of afro hair product:
i. Cleansers, Conditioners & Scalp Care
Conditioner functions to keep hair looking great by balancing out the anionic charge left on your hair after washing with a cationic counter charge. Because of their positive charge, that conditioner stick to damaged sections of the cuticle and improve their condition (hence the name!) When applying conditioner, choose a silicone free option and focus on the length of the hair and the tips. The ends of the hair are the oldest, most fragile and most in need of care.
ii. Moisturising Products & Sealants
Afro hair is unique in that it curls straight from the hair bulb as it grows in a zig zag type pattern. Afro hair is actually the strongest hair type in terms of tensile strength and the amount of water it can hold. At the same time, afro hair is also the most vulnerable to breakage and damage as every kink and curl (and there are many) is a point where breakage can occur.
The natural sebum our scalps produce can't easily glide down kinky afro hair so the ends are often dry and brittle. As such, moisture is the key to healthy afro hair. Select a water based moisturising and layer on an oil to seal in the moisture using the LOC or LCO method.
iii. Styling Products
The best base for a great style is healthy, clean, moisturised hair. Styling products work best when hair isn't weighed down by a build up for dust, dirt and sweat so make sure you shampoo before you style. We recommend opting for simple water based products for hold and applying gels, pomades and mouses sparingly.
It's not every day "lay your edges"! Get comfortable with the natural texture and appearance of your hair and find styles that work with your natural afro hair, not against it and you'll find you need fewer products overall.
So those are the basics. Sometimes things are a little more complex. If you have a hair problem then you need to get your hair back to healthy before you can simplify your routine. The right afro hair products paired with a healthy hair care routine will help you with growth, breakage and problems such as an itchy scalp. Let's address the biggies.
Slow afro hair growth: You have a lot of hair. No really. You lose about 100 hairs a day and I bet you didn't even notice! Hair grows at around 6 inches a year, so every month you can expect around half an inch of new growth. More in the summer. Less when you're stressed. Eating healthily and taking a multivitamin will help your hair growth. Using a quality lightweight scalp oil can stimulate blood flow to the scalp and encourage healthy growth.
Breakage: Yep that old problem of losing our hair faster than we can grow it has led to the myth that Afro hair doesn’t grow. Dryness, wearing styles that are too tight and over manipulation of hair are some of the most frequent causes of breakage.
So, as well as laying off the tight styles, heat and fine-tooth combs, picking out Afro hair products that infuse your hair with moisture will help you battle breakage. A great place to start is with The Wash Day Set or Moisture Surge Set. Each of the products contain moisturising ingredients to fight back against hair breakage, and leave your strands quenched, smooth, and manageable.
Dry, itchy scalp: While a dry, itchy scalp is a common problem that many of us face, it doesn’t make it any less annoying!
Factors ranging from hormonal changes to medications and lifestyle can be behind an itchy scalp, some ingredients in Afro hair products (sweet smelling parfum and sodium lauryl sulphate being two of the worst offenders) cause real issues for our scalp.
If you want to ditch the itch (who doesn’t?) choose a sulphate-free shampoo like Swish to gently clean away build up without drying out your hair and scalp. You can also add a scalp oil – we recommend Soothe, to relieve the itch, and keep your scalp in top condition.
When choosing Afro Hair products, for the sake of your health we recommend that you avoid toxic chemical nasties such as parabens, sulphates, phthalates, harsh preservatives and artificial fragrances. These have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, developmental and reproductive damage, allergies and other adverse health effects.
Top Tip: Choosing natural products can save you money if you do a little research before committing to a brand. Cheap, chemical filled afro hair products leave your hair dry, flaky and dull over time. You may think the problem is your hair when it’s the products you’re using and in sets the product junkie spiral... you buy more products - different brands from the same stores (often owned by the same companies and made in the same factories) and you repeat the process. You end up frustrated with the same result and buy even more products or don a wig! Switching to quality natural afro hair products save you money because they don't just collect dust on your dresser, they actually work!
So How Do I Know This Afro Hair Product is Best for ME?When you try a new product, make sure you have a routine and you try it out for a decent period of time. For instance if you use the LOC method and it isn't moisturising your hair, you could try a new oil and cream, you will notice a difference then you know it's the products and not the process. Once you've established a healthy hair routine, try to change only a few things at a time so that you know what's making the difference.
That's all for now! When shopping for Afro Hair products don't be fooled by marketing. Always make sure you read the label to understand what you're paying for before you commit.