BuzzFeed Life spoke with Gwen Jimmere, CEO and founder of Naturalicious, to get the real on these common black haircare myths (or truths).
Jimmere is also the first African-American woman to hold a patent for a natural hair product. Translation: SHE’S ON HER ISH!
1. You can use apple cider vinegar as a substitute for shampoo.
FALSE: Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is great to use as a clarifying rinse, and has been known to be able to fight some fungal scalp issues. But it’s important to not use it too often, such as using it in place of shampoo. ACV alone is very acidic and using it as often as you would your normal shampoo can completely screw up the pH balance of your hair, making your hair very brittle and causing it to become incredibly dry over time. This eventually leads to breakage, severely split ends, and loss of length retention.
When diluted and used about once a month, ACV can clarify your hair very well and leave it shinier than before. Not to mention, it really gets those curls popping! To properly conduct an ACV rinse, be sure to mix one part ACV to three parts water. Diluting the ACV this way is healthier for your hair longterm and significantly reduces the potential for a counterproductive experience.
2. You can co-wash instead of shampooing your hair.
FALSE: Conditioners are not designed to clean. Generally speaking, most conditioners don’t have the cleansing properties needed to efficiently clean your hair and scalp. And without a clean scalp, your pores get clogged with buildup and your hair cannot thrive and grow at the rate it normally would.
Let’s consider the history of co-washing. Co-washing began at a time in modern natural hair history when there were very few sulfate-free shampoos marketed to the natural hair community. Naturals were beginning to realize that sulfate-based shampoos were extremely harmful to the hair, stripping it of necessary natural oils. Since there was virtually nothing available on the market, the natural hair community started using conditioner to cleanse their hair, purely as a substitute for an otherwise suitable hair and scalp cleanser. Since then, however, cleansing products have hit the market that are sulfate-free, eliminating the need to wash with conditioner.
3. A product is OK to use as long as the label reads “all natural.”
IT DEPENDS: There are very few things on the front of a label that are actually regulated by the FDA, which means brands can get away with saying their product is “natural,” “all natural,” or “organic,” and use other buzzwords that catch your attention. The front of a label is mostly a marketing tool. (Note: “Certified organic” does have a regulated meaning, so most “certified organic” products have actually gone through a rigorous testing process in order to be certified.) Crazy, right?
The ingredients on the back of the label, however, are regulated, by the FDA. So when you go to the store, make sure you bypass the front label marketing, and look at the back of the label before you buy. In general, look for products that are free of sulfates, parabens, mineral oils, and petroletums.
Lastly, even if the product is truly all natural, that doesn’t mean it’s good for your hair. Apple cider vinegar, for example, is natural and it can be good for your hair if used sparingly, but if used too often it can be very bad for your hair.
4. Spraying ACV on damaged pieces of hair will restore lost curls.
FALSE: Unlike skin, our hair cannot heal itself. Once your hair has been damaged from heat, the molecular bonds have been broken and there is no way for it to revert back to its curly state.
There’s nothing you can spray or put on your hair that will force the broken bonds to reconnect, and in turn, restore the lost curl pattern. Also, be wary of products that promise to repair your damaged hair. These products merely provide a temporary fix that washes out. Because science tells us that hair cannot be repaired, you’ll likely find that once you wash your hair, you’ll have the same issues as you did before using that product.
5. Baking soda can function as a shampoo or conditioner.
FALSE: Baking soda is more alkaline on the pH spectrum. In fact, it has a pH of 9 — which is 100 times more alkaline than water — and is a known irritant. Alkaline products strip the hair’s natural oils, causing dehydration, and can lead to porous, fragile hair, which is the last thing people with dry hair need. Although it may make your hair seem soft at first, over time it can eventually cause serious damage to your hair.
6. Jamaican castor oil will help damaged edges to grow back.
IT DEPENDS: Jamaican Black Castor Oil (JBCO) can be excellent for growing your edges back, as long as your roots are not dead. If you’ve been pulling the edges of your hair back or wearing heavy hair styles that pull on your edges for a very long time (we’re talking years), some roots of your hair might be dead. Just like a tree, if there are no roots, nothing can grow.
You can’t just use JBCO (or any other topical treatment) for a short period of time and expect instant results. Give it a full 90 days of consistent, daily use and you’re much more likely to see the growth you’re looking for. Combine one part JBCO with one part NATURALICIOUS Spanish Almond Regrowth Oil for even faster results.
7. Relaxers are OK in moderation.
FALSE: Our skin is porous, meaning that almost anything you put on your skin and scalp has the ability to seep into your body and affect your organs, bloodstream, and other bodily systems. From a safety standpoint, all you need to do is view this clip from Good Hair to determine if relaxers are safe. (Spoiler: They’re not.)
8. Home relaxers are a safer, milder alternative to salon relaxers.
FALSE: Relaxing at home versus at a salon isn’t necessarily safer. Relaxing your hair at home is usually a much less costly alternative to going to a salon. However, if you’re unskilled at applying relaxers yourself, you can burn your scalp and severely or permanently damage your hair.
Similarly, if you go to a stylist who is unskilled, not paying close attention, or is using expired product, you can experience the same thing. If you’re relaxing your hair at home, be totally sure you’re following the instructions to the letter. If you’re having a stylist relax your hair, make sure that person is a trusted professional, knows what he or she is doing, and has a track record of doing great work. Get references if you must. The bottom line is to make sure that you are paying attention to either what you’re doing or what your stylist is doing.
9. Keeping your ends trimmed promotes hair growth.
FALSE: Hair grows from the scalp, not from the ends. So trimming the ends of your hair has nothing to do with growing your hair. Rather, keeping your ends trimmed prevents split ends from traveling further up your hair shaft and resulting in a frizzy hot mess. If you keep your ends trimmed on a regular basis, you’ll find that you may be able to retain more length over time since your hair won’t be shedding or breaking as much.
10. Dry scalp and dandruff are the same.
FALSE: Dandruff is actually caused by an overproduction of sebum, our skin’s natural oil. It’s greasy and has a yellowish white color. Flakes from dandruff tend to be larger than dry scalp flakes. If you have dandruff, you may experience some itching and scalp odor. This is a medical condition that you should visit your dermatologist about.
Dry scalp, on the other hand, is caused by a lack of moisture at the scalp. Dry scalp doesn’t always result in flakes, but when it does, they are usually small and white. At times itching can be involved also.
11. Penetrating oils are great for soothing dry scalp.
TRUE: Penetrating oils, such as virgin coconut oil, unrefined sunflower oil, and unrefined babbasu oil are excellent for helping to relieve dry scalp and can help alleviate itchiness. Most other oils sit on top of the scalp and cannot penetrate its various layers, which means they do virtually nothing for relieving dry scalp. But because the aforementioned oils have a high percentage of triglycerides and contain monosaturated fats that can seep under the cuticles, they can actually penetrate the scalp, enter into your pores, and help relieve dryness and itchiness.
A good remedy for dry scalp is using a natural penetrating oil, such as virgin coconut oil, and lightly massaging it directly into the scalp one to two times a day. If the problem, persists, try conducting an apple cider vinegar rinse to get rid of hard-to-remove buildup, then follow up with a natural penetrating oil.
12. The Liquid, Oil, Cream (LOC) Method is great for retaining moisture.
FALSE: There’s basic science that tells us that layering liquid, oil, and cream in that order is incorrect. Instead, you should be applying L, C, and then O. Here’s why:
Water, which is your L, is the most moisturizing thing you can ever put on your hair. Think about how great your hair looks fresh out of the shower or after a swim. But, by itself, it will soon evaporate and leave your hair dry. To retain the moisture, you have to layer other products on your hair, too.
Oil and water don’t mix, however, so layering oil on your liquid will only seal the shaft, preventing the C, or cream, from penetrating the hair and working with the liquid to enhance moisture.
But, if you put a moisturizing cream on top of the water, and then apply oil on top of that, you’ll allow ALL of the moisture to penetrate the hair, and the oil will seal it all in.
Oils are excellent, but they must be used in the correct order to achieve the results you are looking for. If you’ve been doing the LOC method and are still experiencing dry hair, this is probably why. You’re doing the right things, but in the wrong order. The Naturalicious OooLaLocks Hair Care System (coily edition, wavy edition) numbers the products in steps. It makes it easy to know the exact order in which to complete your regimen.
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