DIY hair care has increased considerably over the last years, not only in the natural hair community but everywhere. People want to have more control over what they put in their bodies and hair and not be at the mercy of companies using ingredients known to cause allergic reactions or to have the potential to cause cancer. Though the principle is a good one – using ingredients as unaltered and as close to nature as possible – in practice there seems to be a problem with DIY and natural hair care.
Why So Many Of Us Do DIY
When I started my journey to natural hair I wasn’t looking to get away from all chemical ingredients, in fact, I had very little knowledge about the whole subject, I just wanted to be relaxer free. But I soon discovered (well, it’s more like I was told everywhere) that there were more natural alternatives to chemical/synthetic ingredients and even hair dyes.
I don’t know how it was for you, but for those like me taking their first steps in natural hair care without access to many of the US brands raved all over the net or having access to a few but at a hefty price represented a real problem five years ago.
So I ended up with a hybrid hair care where half of my hair care – my shampoo, conditioner and deep conditioner – was store bought and the other half was all about DIY – my styling products. To me, this was cost-effective and healthier than the market alternatives I had.
Today, this issue is greatly overcome by the rise of good British hair care brands and representation of US brands in Europe. However, concerns about natural hair care products still being expensive and a greater sense of control over what we buy still make DIY very popular.
Hey, I’m Not Against DIY, But…
I know you’re probably thinking I am going to trash DIY, but I’m not. There’s no doubt that many of the natural ingredients used to make our concoctions do have their benefits. You have honey and aloe vera, two natural humectants used extensively in natural hair care products. You can also whip up a buttercream, as I did, using some oils and hair butter and have a great hair conditioner to prevent moisture release, help lubricate and smooth the hair.
Then, of course, you have coconut milk, eggs, avocado, apple cider vinegar, clay masks and each and every one of these ingredients provide their own benefits to hair – protein, vitamins, natural oil, antioxidants, etc.
However, while I think that doing a little bit of DIY once in a while for fun and indulgence isn’t going to create problems or damage your curly hair (with the exception of using baking soda!) if you have a good hair regimen going on, making your whole curly hair care about DIY can have unsavoury results (liked my little wordplay there 😉 😀 ) .
The Problem is
Most of us step into this natural hair journey knowing nothing or too little about hair structure, product formulations and proper hair care practices. So when the break up with relaxers happens, when we start learning about harmful and drying hair ingredients to curly hair DIY seems like the perfect option.
However, with the exception of a few people who really get into it, we’re not certified in making stable and effective concoctions. Take egg masks, for instance, if you’re transitioning, have chemically treated hair or use heat regularly the protein in eggs is too big to provide any ‘support’ to the internal structure of the hair (cortex). To do so they need to be hydrolysed and in that case, they’re only conditioning the hair not actually treating it.
Additionally, if you’re using lots of oils and butter in your DIY recipes, and most curly girls DO, and you’re not using a strong enough cleanser to remove them from the hair you’re just creating buildup, preventing hair moisture and promoting breakage. And this also happens if you only co-wash or don’t clarify.
Finally, have you ever thought that the benefits of those egg, avocado or banana hair masks you do are washed off once you shampoo properly (that is with a sulphate free shampoo)? Oh, you only do it after your shampoo/cleanser?! Well, then you’re leaving oils that lubricate the hair (and don’t actually close the cuticle layers) and won’t allow our hairstyles to shine not to mention dryness if you’re using the right hair cleanser. Yes, it’s a vicious cycle!
Take Me For Instance
As I said before, I had a hybrid hair regimen and for a long time, my styling products were all DIY. Let me just say I used a lot of oils and a heavy buttercream. Both these things build up on the hair over time especially if you’re just using apple cider, baking soda or a shampoo/soap bar to clean your hair. If you don’t believe me just check this experiment from a cosmetic chemist and polymer scientist and this one on soap bars by the International Journal of Trichology.
Luckily for me, my hair regimen included a sulphate free and a clarifying shampoo which kept my hair clean and allowed moisture in but, unfortunately, it was not enough. My clarifying shampoo schedule wasn’t enough to keep up with all the buildup left from the oils and butter which ended up compromising my hair elasticity (yes, lack of moisture affects elasticity, it’s all about achieving a balance in the cortex). How do I know this?! Well, it’s easy! Science and the fact that once I stopped using my concoctions my hair elasticity improved significantly.
My point is, I see a lot of mistakes being made with DIY in natural hair care. People believe it is the solution to their hair issues and so they are unable to make the connection that DIY can actually BE or add to the problem.
So think about this, if you loooove some DIY and you’re experiencing dryness, scalp itchiness or dryness, breakage, frizzy hair and/or inability to accomplish successful hairstyles you may wanna rethink your approach to DIY in your hair regimen.
Plus, I get the feeling that many of you out there are doing DIY because it’s the thing to do but you don’t enjoy the messiness, the smells, the time it adds to a long 15-step wash day and the fact you get that little bit of banana or avocado puree stuck on your hair after rinsing endlessly.
So why do you do this to yourselves?! Consider your lifestyle and the effectiveness of your hair regimen. If you don’t have time don’t add stress to your life!
Mind you, I still do some DIY. I like my coconut oil pre-poo, which has been proven to be effective in preventing protein loss in hair but I always clean my hair properly. Also, occasionally, when I don’t have any gel I do my flaxseed gel which doesn’t add build up to my hair. Plus, I have a good hair cleansing schedule now.
I don’t know about you but I enjoy my 1-1 1/2 hour wash days, with no greasy hair feeling or concoctions and having moisturised hair and hairstyles that last.