If there was a line graph showing the natural hair craze in the last ten years, its peak would definitely be between 2015 and 2016. I loved every minute of it and caved into the pressure of transitioning back to my roots. More and more women were starting to realize that there was nothing wrong with shrunken hair in its natural state. More women were making healthier lifestyle choices for their hair, and soon the type 4 curls were also acceptable for ‘special occasions.’ In fact, they were preferred in some instances.
As the years have gone by, a lot of research has been done and continues to be done to make life easier when dealing with natural type 4 hair. While type 4 hair is beautiful, it sure is more prone to dryness, breakage, and tangling. This means that we have to put in almost double the effort that people with loser curls do just to have a smoother process. For this and many other reasons, products become an essential part of any natural hair journey. They determine how easy or hard it will be to manoeuvre open hair.
As years passed, we started to see a lot more online content on the ‘bad’ and the ‘good’ products. For years, we had been using grease, silicones, and sulphates for our hair, and then just like that, they were deemed ‘unnatural.’ The problem with the internet is that it can literally change your way of thinking. If you have watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, you may have seen how algorithms can work to show you what they want you to see. As such, many of us ended up categorizing products as bad and throwing them away. We chose to go for the more expensive butters and creams which had undergone less processing and had more ‘natural’ chemicals in them.
The big question to ask yourself is, “What used to happen before?” Before we discovered that silicones are bad, weren’t they being used? Didn’t people have long, healthy 4C hair even while using these ingredients on their hair?
I might be a sceptic, but what comes out as rather obvious is that it is not that the products are bad, it’s the way that we use them that should be in question. Grease, for example, is heavy on the hair and could block the pores from absorbing moisture. However, using it as a sealant for moisture works perfectly, especially for high porosity hair. So, why do some people say that grease dries out your hair? It’s because they apply it once their hair is already dry. Since grease not only keeps moisture from getting out of your hair, but it also prevents any from getting in, you must apply it to wet hair. Beauty: Is Grease Bad For Your Hair?
Let’s move on to sulphates. There was a period where using sulphate shampoos was almost taboo in the type 4 hair community. They were deemed as harsh. People said that they can strip moisture from the scalp and hair strands, which may be the reason behind dry, frizzy hair. However, I would argue that after a four-week protective style, you definitely need to strip your hair of all that product build-up and start afresh. Trefor Evans, who is Director of Research and Institute Fellow at TRI-Princeton, an independent hair fiber science research organization, says that any effect sulphates might have on hair is minimal compared to heat, styling, and chemical treatments.
Then we have silicone, a haircare ingredient that seals the hair and keeps it hydrated from within. Skeptics argued that it can build up on your hair, resulting in a dry feel and dull appearance. You may even notice that your hair becomes weaker and more prone to breakage. However, with a good wash and a strong shampoo, you can get rid of the buildup. According to Healthline, in fact, silicone isn’t a toxic chemical. In fact, it’s completely safe to apply to your hair and won’t harm your physical health in any way. It coats the hair shaft, which locks in moisture, reduces frizz, and gives hair that coveted soft and silky feel.
Only recently, oils such as coconut oil that were originally praised have joined the list of ‘bad hair products’ in the natural community. Why? People are now claiming that because it is a heavier oil, it will weigh down your curls if you use too much. It’s not just coconut oil, but many other oils are now being deemed as bad. Because vegetable oils don’t mix with water, except through the intervention of an emulsifier, they create a barrier that delays moisture release, however, they also prevent your hair from taking moisture from the atmosphere. Beauty: 5 Benefits Of Jojoba Oil Vs Coconut Oil
Oils are now being replaced with foam wraps which are lightweight styling lotions or mousses that mould the hair or wrap it in a smooth style. These foam lotions not only provide a good hold for hairstyles but also offer hair care aspects like moisturization, conditioning, and improved hair softness and shine. Ironically, some people have found that it is terrible for the scalp. Others have said that it is not a good moisturizing conditioner. People are also now switching to using hair gels instead of oils.
The word ‘chemical’ tends to be overused to a point where it has a negative connotation, but we need to realize that in the real sense of the word, almost, if not all products contain ‘chemicals.’ Before you disqualify a product just because of the word out there, I would strongly advise you to do your due diligence. Just like with skin, what works for one person cannot always work for you. If you want healthy type 4 hair, research. Observe how your hair reacts to products, and make accurate conclusions that are based on your experience.