Friday, 12 October 2012

Moisturizing and Sealing 101

As most of us on Healthy Hair Journeys know, one of the most important aspects of growing and maintaining healthy hair is the practice of moisturizing and seal. For those who are new to this whole process (as I once was) moisturizing and sealing is so important because hair--especially African hair-- is more susceptible to breakage when it is not moisturized. Every kink, coil, curl, and bend in the hair strand weakens the hair slightly, and is a potential point at which the hair can snap and break, taking away valuable length. Since I absolutely love food, I try to make parallels between food and life, so think of hair as a piece of spaghetti. Dry, it is virtually impossible to bend the spaghetti without breaking it into pieces; however, once the spaghetti is boiled and the water has time to penetrate, it is easier to move and maneuver the spaghetti without worrying about it breaking as easily (granted, if you tug and pull like crazy, it will still snap). Our hair is essentially just like that. To keep our hair malleable, we have to ensure that our hair is moisturized all. the. time. So now that we know the importance of moisturizing hair, what exactly should we use to do the job?

Water. Water. Water!! I cannot stress how important water is in terms of moisturizing. Water is the essential substance for survival in every living thing, so of course, it’ll be important in maintaining healthy hair. There are many ways to apply this to your hair:
1.               You can do my tried and true method of simply spraying/spritzing hair with water—simple and to the point. It’s water in its purest and simplest form; no need for all the extras.
2.               Mixing the water with a humectant such as glycerin to pull moisture from the air to your hair. Extra moisture? Bonus! If using glycerin, you might want to do a 3:1 mixture of water to glycerin, since pure vegetable glycerin is quite sticky to the touch and can leave your hair feeling like your 2 year old cousin was touching your hair after eating a jumbo lollipop….sigh.
3.               The commercial route of premixed moisturizers. Make sure, however, that the first ingredient on the list is of course, water. Anything else in that first slot, and you might as well put in back on the shelf. Also, when using commercial products, stay away from items that include mineral oil or petroleum on the list, as they can coat the hair strand and the scalp and block any moisture from penetrating. 
**When I moisturize, I always allow the product to sit on my hair for about a minute or two before putting the oil on to seal.

Now, when it comes to sealing, I ONLY use natural, and I mean 100% natural oils. My hair has always been very “light” so the slightest bit of product can weigh it down and leave it looking oily (a problem I had, even when I was natural). It was important for me, then, to find an oil that was light enough that it didn’t leave my hair feeling like an oil slick, yet would coat my hair enough to protect my strands. Living on an island, the easiest oil for me to come in contact with was coconut oil (it’s like EVERYWHERE down here) and since I had heard of all the benefits of coconut oil, it was the first natural oil I tried and absolutely fell in love with. I also occasionally use castor oil (I’ll go more in depth in a future post) but typically only when I know I’m going to be home for a while, or when I’m fair into my relaxer stretch. Trust me; no one wants to see product heavy hair walking down the street. Most times, I don’t use more than a quarter sized amount of oil to seal, but it will differ from person to person based on hair texture, length, and porosity.

Remember after doing all this work to tie your hair down with a silk scarf or bonnet to protect your hair even more if you are going to sleep or lounging around the house. If you’re going out, just tuck your ends under to protect them even more.

So, just as a quick recap, here are the steps in MY moisturize and seal routine. Ahem.
1.               Spray hair with moisturizer (water) until damp.
2.               Do the “noodle dance” (does anyone remember PB & J Otter???) for about 2 minutes.
3.               Use a quarter sized amount of natural oil and coat the hair from ends to roots.
4.               Tie with a silk scarf or throw on my handy dandy satin bonnet!

Hope this was at least somewhat helpful, and if there are any more tips or ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Happy Hair Days!