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Hair Basics for Beginners by Sauda Musa

September 28, 2012

All hair types are made up of protein and are essentially dead things. That’s why it doesn’t hurt when you cut it off! What is different about black hair? Why do we need to take care of our hair in a different way from others? Our hair is simply structured differently. The ‘kinkiness’ of our hair makes it physically more difficult for the natural oil our hair secretes from our scalp to travel along the length of the hair shaft. Apart from the difference in appearance, the components of our hair that make up our hair shaft make it more likely to be dry and/or to break. Because of this difference, black hair needs are different from the needs of other types of hair. 

When I say “black hair” I mean the black race generally which includes mixed races, essentially anybody that has black blood. Now, there is a broad spectrum of black hair even on one head!! You may have straight hair in front, thick hair in the middle and curly hair at the back. Black hair varies like that!!  As Africans, one thing is for sure, we have the kinkiest if the kinky and the driest of the dry! So we need to take care of our hair even more than the African – Americans (because most of them have mixed somewhere down the line).

Because our hair appears thick and coarse, you might think that it is tougher than other types of hair and it can survive more abuse. Quite the opposite! Our hair is the most fragile. It breaks more easily than any other hair types because of the reasons I mentioned. It simply lacks the elasticity that caucasian or other types of hair have so we have to ‘create’ it.  The question is how?? I will focus on chemically treated (relaxed) hair because that is what most of us have and that’s what I have experience with.

Our hair needs a balance between two ‘powerful forces’: moisture and protein. Protein adds strength and moisture gives elasticity. When your hair breaks, it is as a result of imbalance of moisture and protein. Therefore, too much of any is bad, and lack of any is catastrophic! There has got to be that balance.  You can analogize it with hormonal imbalance or when your body does not produce a particular hormone, it practically disrupts your system. 

How to achieve balance? You have to come up with a hair regimen that includes moisture and protein treatments periodically.  I say ‘come up’ instead of ‘follow strictly’ because what works for me may not necessarily work for you. For example, I do strong protein treatment once a month and mild ones every two weeks (I will explain, don’t worry!) because after experimenting, I have realized that is what works for me. So what I will provide to you will be a guide that WILL work to a large extent and based on the way your hair responds, u will know if you need more or less of something.  Got it?? Lol!

In between these moisture and protein treatments there is still A LOT that needs to be done daily! I will be unleashing them week after week so you don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged. Taking care of your hair takes patience and dedication so you have to make up your mind to do it and be consistent. This week we will focus on protein treatments but before we go there I need you to do a small ‘exercise’. Bring out all the hair products you own. Everything! Shampoos, conditioners, leave-in conditioners, oils, serum etc.   Look at the back of each of them where it reads ingredients or contents. If any of them contain mineral oil or petrolatum or lanolin (petroleum-based products) throw them in the bin!! Yes, I said so!!  Why? Because those products will do NOTHING for your hair. These are basically cheap fillings that manufacturers use. They seal the moisture out of your hair by coating your hair shaft and giving it the illusion of moisture. In other words, they prevent moisture from entering into your hair. Dangerous! Run away!! Unfortunately, most of our hair products especially in Africa, contain these things so it’s very important to watch out for them.

Now that we are all clear, we can move on from all that boring stuff!!


Protein is very important to your hair because it gives your hair strength. Your hair needs to be strong, otherwise it will break. But if it is too strong, it will also break.

When and how often should we do protein treatments? If you have chemically treated hair, right after you relax your hair and every month thereafter. Why? Because the relaxer damages the protein structure of your hair by breaking the protein bonds and depending on the type and strength of the relaxer, and level of bond breakage you incur, you will need more or less protein than others.

Just to give you a sense of my routine, I do a strong-moderate protein treatment right after I do a root touch-up/relax my hair, followed by moisture treatment the week after and then very mild protein the following week, then moisture again for the next two weeks, then strong-moderate protein again. So strong-moderate protein every month and a mild one in between. Ignore the moisture treatments for now.

What do I mean by strong, moderate and mild protein?  Simply different hair products. Some proteins are stronger than others. The protein content of a hair product could make up 0.4 percent or 40 percent of the product; it really depends on what your hair needs. You will have to play around with different products to know how strong they are on your hair.  However, we have to use protein with caution. It is very very easy to over-use protein. Daily or even weekly use of the mildest protein can cause an imbalance between the protein and moisture levels of your hair. I must say that most hair products contain one form of protein or the other in them, which can make it really tricky.  As a beginner, I will only do protein treatment once a month. I only added the mild protein in between because I realized that my hair needed it. That may not be the case for you.

How to do it.

Wash your hair with a good protein shampoo. First, wet your hair then apply a generous amount of shampoo starting from the ends and work your way up to the scalp. Massage into the scalp gently in small circular motions so as to avoid tangling the hair. You may also wash like you are combing through with your scalp and hair with fingers. Rinse off shampoo. You should shampoo your hair just once except you feel your hair is still dirty. If you just relaxed your hair, this should be the last wash.

Condition your hair with a protein conditioner. You can either use any good protein conditioner out there (there are tons) or you can simply add an egg to your moisturizing conditioner (if you can stand the smell).  Apply a generous amount on the hair and scalp, concentrate on the ends/tips.  Follow the instructions on the bottle strictly; don’t exceed the time limit because protein can make your hair too hard if you stay too long. You can either stay under a steamer or just cover with a plastic cap and sit for the stipulated amount of time (usually not more than 30 minutes). Rinse thoroughly. Follow up with a moisturizing conditioner, especially if you are using some of the stronger protein treatments. This is to achieve that balance. One thing to keep in mind is our hair always always needs moisture so you have to keep rehydrating (I know it is a lot of work). You can either deep condition (that way you’re done with deep conditioning for the week!) or just do the regular follow-up conditioning if you don’t have much time. Again, you should make sure your ends/tips get special attention because it’s the most important part of your hair to moisturize.

Comb through with a wide tooth comb, starting from the ends and gradually working your way up to the roots. This way, you are detangling gradually thereby avoiding breakage. Rinse thoroughly. Dry your hair with a 100 percent cotton t-shirt (u can steal your brother’s or husband’s lol). Pat your hair with it to soak up the excess water. You can also slide it over your hair.   Towels are ok too if you just blot the hair to soak up the water. DO NOT scrub your hair with a towel. That scrubbing will break your hair. This is one reason out of a thousand reasons why I’ve reduced visits to the salon – less control. Lol!

Apply a leave in conditioner or moisturizer. It can be liquid or creamy, as long as it has good stuff in it. The good ones are water-based and no not contain mineral oil, lanolin or petrolatum. When moisturizing, start from the tips and work your way up to the roots/scalp. Always, always make sure you spoo your tips because that’s what breaks off and causes split ends. You can section your hair into two or four before you moisturize for even distribution. It is very important that you don’t overload your hair with products (I used to be very guilty of this) Just as a guide, use a table spoon full of creamy leave in conditioner or moisturizer for your whole hair. This is because you will be moisturizing daily and too much just weighs your hair down. It is unnecessary to coat your scalp with moisturizer, just massage a little bit into your scalp. It’s the massaging effect that will help to stimulate hair growth, the moisturizer is just to make it easy to glide through your hair while massaging. The left-over moisturizer on your fingertips will definitely suffice. Note that a lot of leave-in conditioners or moisturizers contain protein. You want to avoid daily use of such moisturizers. Always read the label of what you are buying. 

Seal the moisture in with an oil of your choice. Oils do not moisturize, they are seal the moisture into the hair. If you do not seal the moisture in, the hair becomes dry again in no time. Whether its olive, coconut, argan, jojoba or carrot oil, use a little to seal: less than a teaspoon. Use the same method; seal the tips first and work your way up to the roots. I will talk more about moisturizing and sealing next week, God willing.

PHewwww! It is finally time to style. If you are going to use any form of heat make sure you use a heat protector/serum. It is best to air dry. I will do a whole segment on how to air dry without compromising on style in the nearest future.  

 Repeat the moisturizing and sealing every night. Tie a satin or silk scarf to bed.

 Product recommendations.

Protein shampoos: Aubrey Organics GPB shampoo, Aphogee shampoo, Mane and Tail Original Shampoo, Carols Daughter monoi repairing shampoo.

Protein conditioners: Aubrey Organics GPB conditioner (strong), ORS (Organic Root Stimulator) Hair Mayonnaise/Replenishing Pak (moderate), Aphogee two step protein treatment for damaged hair or Aphogee two minute reconstructor (strong), Mane and Tail conditioner(moderate), Carols daughter monoi repairing conditioner/hairmask (mild-moderate).

Leave in conditioners/moisturizer: Carols daughter Black Vanilla Leave in Conditioner, S-curl no drip activator/moisturizer, herbal essence long term relationship leave-in split end protector for long hair, neutrogena triple moisture silk touch leave-in conditioner.

Oils: Any 100 percent natural oil: coconut oil, jojoba oil, extra –virgin olive oil, argan oil, etc.

Ok! I think this is a good place to stop for the week. I will let you guys digest this first and then next week we will be blogging about moisturizing your hair in all of it different forms. It is the most important part of your hair care regimen so make sure you check it out!! Have a great weekend girls!! Please share the link to encourage me!! Lol!!


From → Hair Discussions

  1. samiah permalink

    Ok!!!! And there I was thinking a moderate protein treatment (with ORS hair mayonnaise+egg) once a month sufficed!

    We learn everyday…..or week! Lol!

    Good job Sauda!

  2. Shattu permalink

    Hmm, for someone like me that hardly does anything to her hair-except in the salon- its gonna be a HUGE task. But I’m willing to change. I’ll start by checking the very few products I have now….. Thanks !!!!

  3. Zuwee permalink

    Girl….u should open up a consultancy of ur own ! Don’t waste away d talent in u with just this medium . Way to go dear!

  4. Excellent work Sauda. One can’t begin to imagine the amount of work and research that goes into this. We await the next installment eagerly

  5. Shattu permalink

    You won’t believe the only 3 hair products on my dresser(yeah, I’m a disappointment to women I know!) all contain the petrolatum , lanolin e.t.c. Na wa o! New shopping list all together (eyes rolling)

  6. ummi kassim permalink

    Sauda!!! Fantastic work,very useful information,thanx a lot for doin dis!

  7. aisha musa permalink

    I luv dis sauda, interestin read! From now on I pity my hubby’s tee shirts! Loll! Can’t wait for part 3

  8. Rahinatu Mohammed permalink

    Good Job sis, you know ur sttuff wella.. I ought 2 take better care of my hair. Its practically all gone. Thanks for the tips.

  9. Aysha permalink

    Wow! Thumbs up sauda. I always thouhgt that having african hair made us helpless and we have to ‘just live with it’. Is there a short cut for those of us on really tight scedules? Anything that involves going to the salon more than once a month sounds scary.

    • Hi aysha. Thats why its better for you to do your hair at home and go to the salon ocassionally. That way you can do your hair and do other things at the same time. You are in charge!!!! I will be giving more and more tips!!

  10. zaynab permalink

    Masha Allah saude. Saude does that mean no more hair creams becos they all contain Petroleum.

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