Welcome to Relaxed Redefined ~ a better, healthier way to care for chemically relaxed hair. This is a personal hair journal created to share easy, do-at-home tips and techniques that have made my hair stronger and longer. I hope you'll learn something here that will enhance your healthy hair journey or better yet insprire you to start one. Happy Hair Growting!

3.15.2010

Natural Care for Relaxed Hair, Part 3: Natural Oils

Even though ancient civilizations used natural oils for thousands of years, the value of using oils in modern healthy hair care has only become more visible in recent years. Learning the most beneficial way to use natural oils was a new concept for me, but it’s a lesson I gladly learned. First I learned generally oils do not moisturize hair, not to be too scientific but the basic molecules of oils are too large to penetrate the hair strand. However, those large molecules are excellent for sealing moisture into hair and that is how oils are best used—as sealers. Applying moisturizer to hair daily (or every other day) is a great healthy hair practice but if the air can evaporate a puddle of water, even the best moisturizer will eventually evaporate away from my hair. To slow that evaporation and keep moisturizers in my hair longer I learned to use oil as a barrier between my moisturizer and the air. After my moisturizer, I apply a small amount of oil, a dime size or smaller to the length of my hair which keeps my hair soft and adds a great shine that last all day.

Oils can also be used to sooth a dry scalp, this is not the same as old school “oiling the scalp” which is really just an unnecessary old wives tale. The only time I ever part my hair and apply anything directly to my scalp is when I’m prepping for a relaxer and then I’m trying to protect my scalp not moisturize it. “Oiling the scalp” with grease or any other type of moisturizer is just clogging hair follicles, which need oxygen in order for hair to grow. The scalp produces its own oil naturally called sebum, ideally sebum should travel down the hair strand and add natural moisture, but sufficient sebum distribution is effected by many things including a relaxer. Sebum is also easily removed from the hair and scalp with normal cleansing and it could take a day or two after a wash for the scalp to produce enough new sebum to ease the dry tightness that can sometime be experienced. Natural oils can be used in the “mean time” to soothe dryness, but just as with sealing a little goes a long way. I only need a small amount of oil applied to the pads of my finger tips and then I massage onto my scalp (think of the way you massage your scalp during a shampoo), no parting or slathering involved.

I also learned just like any other hair product natural oils are always best. Most of the commercial oils sold in beauty supply and drug stores are cheap blends made with inferior quality oils, if they’re even oils at all, often they are petroleum and or silicone neither of which are good for healthy hair. Natural oils are those produced from plants, fruits and vegetables—as in things found in nature, but even within natural oils some are better than others, commercial oil blends sometimes contain safflower and peanut oil and while these are natural oils they are not the most beneficial for hair. Here is a list of some of the best natural oils for healthy hair:

Coconut Oil- when I said generally oils do not moisturize I had to leave that door open specifically for Coconut oil, it is the only oil that has been scientifically proven to penetrate hair strands and actually moisturize. I also recently learned when applied as a pre-poo coconut oil can actually help hair retain water which further increases moisture. Coconut oil is becoming more widely available as more people use it for cooking (it is very healthy to eat as well) and is usually sold in solid form because it quickly solidifies at room temperature. But it only takes a few seconds to melt in the microwave and it has never left me smelling like coconuts (which I hate the smell of).

Olive Oil- is an excellent sealer and over time helps to improve the strength and quality of hair. Available in most grocery stores olive oil is denoted at extra virgin or virgin to indicate the process used to harvest and refine the olive. According to curezone.com “The best oils, those called "extra-virgin," are cold-pressed, a chemical-free process that involves only cold pressure or cold centrifugation, which produces a natural level of low acidity.” Good quality extra-virgin olive oil is can be expensive and are usually sold in dark glass bottles to protect the oil from light. The only down side to olive oil is that it can easily go rancid if left in unsteady temperatures.

Avocado Oil-it is believed this oil may possess some of the moisturizing qualities of coconut oil. According to buzzle.com “it has a number of nutrients such as vitamins A, D, and E, amino acids and folic acid, all of which is extremely essential for hair growth and nourishment of all kinds of hair, especially dry hair and African American hair.” It is also known to have natural sunscreen properties that can protect the hair and scalp from the damage caused by harmful UVA and UVB rays. It works better when blended with other natural oils like almond oil or olive oil.

Almond Oil- also called Sweet Almond Oil, the composition of multiple fatty-acids found in almonds makes this oil ideal for softening and adding shine to hair. It is a great source of vitamin E and can soothe and fortify hair strands, Ancient Egyptians used almond oil to prevent hair loss. Almond oil has also shown to be a very good cleansing agent. Buzzle.com says “If you apply almond oil on your hair a few hours before you go for a bath, the sticky fats on the oil absorb and collects the particles and the particulates of dust and pollution that have entered your hair. Eventually, when you wash your hair, the whole mixture of oil and dirt gets washed off effectively cleansing your hair and your scalp.”

Jojoba Oil- (pronounce ho-ho-bah) is the oil that most closely matches the natural sebum produced by the scalp and therefore is an excellent scalp moisturizer. It also has antibacterial properties and is used for treating and healing sores, cuts on the scalp. Jojoba oil is produced from an evergreen-like desert plant called Simmondsia Chinensis found in Mexico and southern Arizona and California. It is highly regarded as an effective conditioner, moisturizer, cleanser and softener for the skin and hair. It is clear odorless and less oily than other natural oils.

Once I learned the importance of natural oils it took some experimenting before I found the right oils for me coconut and avocado are my current favorites. Because of my scalp dermatitis I am usually weary of adding any oil directly to my scalp, but I have used all of the oils listed at one time or another. This list could go on but this post has to end somewhere, I have also had success with castor oil, tea tree oil, grapeseed oil and I found I’m much better off buying my oils from the grocery or health food store such as Vitamin Shoppe or Whole Foods, and then I know I’m guaranteed the full benefits of food grade or organic quality oils.

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