By Nicole of HairLiberty.org
Black hair is inherently fragile. Unfortunately, African American natural hair is sometimes described as “nappy”, but it’s really just extremely curly hair. African American hair is breakage prone because it tangles and knots more readily than the hair of other ethnicities. That’s why many African American women (over 60%) opt for relaxers instead of their natural hair. Unfortunately, relaxers may make African American hair easier to manage, but they also cause serious damage. It’s an uphill battle no matter what you do, so you must always take time to give your hair the TLC that it needs.
For many years, women from India and other parts of the world have applied oil to their hair before washing it. That may sound completely backwards, but keep reading! Cleansing your hair with shampoo is important because it washes away hair products, dirt, pollution, and anything else that’s gotten stuck to your hair during the week. The downside of shampoo is that it can also strip the natural oils from your hair. Your hair needs a certain amount of oil to stay healthy, so you don’t want to wash it all away with shampoo. You don’t want your hair to be “squeaky clean”! Women on the Eastern Hemisphere figured out a wonderful solution to this problem many decades ago. Oiling your hair before washing it, gives your hair a softening, deep oil treatment. It also provides extra protection so that your hair doesn’t get completely stripped during the shampoo process. No wonder hot oil treatments became so popular for a while! Warm your oil in the microwave or cover your head with a warm towel for faster results.
The key to this long tradition is choosing the right kind of oil. The only truly effective oils are: coconut, olive, and avocado oil. These oils are high in saturated fat which means their molecules are small enough to penetrate into the hair shaft. All you have to do is soak your hair in the oil and let it absorb. Coconut oil is the easiest to use because it’s solid at room temperature. You can scoop it out of the container and rub it between your palms. Olive and avocado oil are liquids so applying those could get messy.
Here’s the most important thing: You have to use pure oil for Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatments — like the extra virgin olive oil in your kitchen cabinet. Don’t be fooled by hair products like “Olive Oil Mayonnaise” or “Coconut Oil Hair Conditioner”. Those products rarely contain any significant amount of high-quality oil. Many times they are mostly made of mineral oil, which cannot penetrate the hair shaft. Pure, edible oils are the only way to go. You should do Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatments whether you have relaxed or natural hair.
Step 1: Using your fingers, divide your hair into 4–6 sections.
Step 2: Apply a heavy coating of pure coconut, olive, or avocado oil throughout each section. Make sure to put oil on every layer of your hair. Use 4–6 tablespoons depending on your hair length and strand thickness.
Step 3: Cover your hair with a plastic cap to keep the oil from dripping down your face and neck.
Step 4: Leave the oil on your hair for 1 hour. Some say it’s better to keep the oil on longer (even overnight), but you’ll have to decide for yourself. You can try different lengths of time to see if your hair feels better after longer treatments.
Step 5: Before you shower, comb your hair out with your fingers to remove tangles or knots.
Step 6: Wash and condition your hair.
Step 7: Be consistent. Do a Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment before every shampoo.
Pre-Shampoo oil treatments are a great way to soften and strengthen African American hair. Try one and see for yourself!
Ladies, do you do pre-shampoo treatments? How do they affect your hair?
Hora, RM, Ruffenachm, F. Inner Beauty: Discover Natural Beauty and Well-Being with the Traditions of Ayurveda. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books; 2005: 72–73.
Keis, K., Persaud, D., Kamath, Y., & Rele, A. Investigation of penetration abilities of various oils into human hair fibers. J Cosmet Sci, 2005: 56(5), 283–295.
Rele, A., & Mohile, R. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. J Cosmet Sci, 2003: 54(2), 175–192.