Over the period of 30 years I have gone through so many fads and recommendations for the best way to manage my Afro hair. I was told to wash my hair infrequently (once a month – max), to grease my scalp to keep my hair moisturised, to put cling film on my hair and sit under the steamer and to apply various treatments to my hair which take hours to administer. I did all of this to eventually end up in the inevitable place – with my hair breaking or my edges falling out, which is a condition called Traction Alopecia, click here to find out more. Sometimes my hair would grow, sometimes it wouldn’t but one thing remained the same – my hair would always fall out or break in the end. I found it so heart breaking when I applied a new relaxer to my hair only to loose it all the following week as my hair came out in clumps as I washed it. I would find it traumatic when large parts of my hair would fall out leaving me with bald patches over my scalp. Edges falling out was the norm. I finally decided that enough was enough! Hair breakage, edges falling out and bald patches should not be the ‘new normal’ for me. (If you are suffering from bald patches, this could possibly have been caused by applying moisturisers directly to the scalp, triggering a condition called Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia, click here to find out more).
Reflecting on my ‘hair history’ I realised that nothing I was advised to do in the past had worked long term. Why was this, I thought? Then it dawned on me, maybe my hair falls out or doesn’t grow very quickly because I don’t actually know the science behind Afro hair. If I educate myself about the scientific mechanics of Afro hair, then I can learn to care for my hair the right way and get the results I want – long, beautiful hair that doesn’t break. So, I thought I would share one of the gems I discovered whilst researching the science of our Afro hair.
Afro hair is naturally dry and fine which has caused a preoccupation with keeping our hair moisturised through the application of ‘grease’ - heavy, oily hair products. People of African descent were also taught that we need to moisturise our scalp with oils and creams to ‘feed’ and nourish our hair to make it grow and prevent it from being dry. We are not used to the natural, ‘grease’ free feel of our hair because we have been plying our hair with heavy, oily hair products since birth. We have become used to our hair feeling ‘greasy’ and when it is not ‘greasy’ we think it is dry, so we apply more ‘grease’. The vicious cycle continues as we laden our delicate and fragile hair with excessive hair products, consequently restricting hair growth and contributing to inevitable breakage.
Your Body Produces Natural Oils for Your Hair
The truth is that just beneath your scalp natural oils are being created and applied to your scalp and hair through the sebaceous gland, see diagram below. Sebaceous glands create sebum which is a natural, oily lubricant for the scalp and hair. Sebum coats the hair as it shoots up from the hair bulb through the scalp. Sebum lubricates the scalp and hair follicle, providing the hair with vital oils, making hair healthy and shiny. Sebum is a mixture of fats, wax, cholesterol, keratin and cellular debris produced by the body. Sebum creates a thin film of lubricant over hair cells which helps to prevent the excessive loss of H2O from hair which also assists in keeping the hair hydrated. So, your hair naturally has the moisture that it needs to stay lubricated, hydrated and healthy without the need for ‘grease’ on the scalp.
The Functions of the Sebaceous Gland and Sebum
Because sebum is released through the same pore through which hair grows, heavy creams, oils, gels and grease should not be applied to the scalp because to do so blocks the sebaceous glands. When the sebaceous gland becomes blocked it prevents release of sebum, which is the natural lubricant for the hair. This ultimately hinders hair health and vitality, restricting hair growth, perpetuating hair loss and baldness. ProTress Energising Lotion has a purifying, energising and stimulating affect on the scalp, enabling the sebaceous gland to produce a balanced amount of sebum (not too little, causing dry scalp and not too much, which will make hair excessively oily and limp), which means there is no need for the scalp to be ‘greased’.
The sebaceous gland produces an acid mantle that protects the scalp from bacterial invasion. This is why it is vital that we do not block the sebaceous glands with heavy moisturisers and oils.
Washing Your Hair Frequently
To maintain healthy afro hair, it is also important that you wash your hair frequently. Find out why here.
Should I ‘Grease’ My Scalp Whilst Using the ProTress Energising Shampoo and Lotion?
No. The Energising Lotion is applied to the scalp after washing hair with the Energising Shampoo. The Energising Lotion re-balances, purifies and energises the scalp, enabling the appropriate amount of sebum to be produced to lubricate the hair and scalp. Applying oils and grease to the scalp whilst using the ProTress 12 Week Treatment pack is counter productive because it destabilises the scalps balances which had been re-balanced and purified by the Energised Lotion. Applying grease or oils to the scalp blocks the sebaceous gland which can cause dry scalp and hair breakage.