14 June 2013

Tips: Moisture Vs. Buildup

Following my previous post where I mentioned steaming my locs and returning to coconut oil, I'd like to throw a few lessons or quick tips about oil, water, moisture and buildup out there for anyone who might need them.

I've learnt that;

  1. Products need not be used on a daily basis as is popular with a lot of us.
  2. Loc'd, braided or plaited hair holds products between the intertwined hair strands very easily. Have you ever removed cornrows or braids after 6 weeks and found that all sorts of debris was trapped too?
  3. Only water moisturises our hair. It's makeup (hydrogen, oxygen and some natural minerals) is able to seep into open cuticles in the hair shaft. Heated water and steam are the most common ways to open the cuticles.
  4. Virtually all products can seal in moisture by lying over the cuticles of damp hair just like a sealant would over a crack. But like a sealant they also seal out moisture. Thicker products like leave-in conditioners, waxes, pomades and some gels, will also seal out oxygen. When these products are reapplied daily it leads to buildup and eventually weakened hair. Once the buildup is there it's removability is entirely dependent on the type and quantity of the products used and how mature your locs are.
  5. When we find a product that really works, it should work for more than a day. Applying products once a week or once a fortnight will decrease the chances of buildup.
  6. At different times throughout the year your hair will need more moisture but not necessarily more oil (or product). Increasing usage of a spritz solution to get more moisture increases the risk of buildup by reapplication of product without shampooing. If you try using oil and water separately you can control how much of each is going onto your hair.
  7. Sometimes the scalp becomes dry and some oils are known to help treat it. If oil and water is used separately you can apply oils exclusively to the scalp without over saturating your hair and risking buildup. In reverse, you can apply oil to damp hair without creating a greasy scalp. Harder to do when the two are sprayed together.
  8. Other ways to retain moisture include, covering hair with satin or silk and avoiding contact with other fabrics, protecting hair from extreme temperatures, using shampoos with lower amounts of sulphate (choosing specifically "moisturising" shampoos should help), minimising "clarifying" shampoos to once or twice a year (incl. apple cider vinegar and lemon juice), and drinking as much water as possible everyday.

£3.99 from DolphinFitness.co.uk

In my experience:

Going from starter locs through to my first year, my views on the popular oil and water spritz combinations and moisture vs. buildup have changed and developed. You can never really know exactly what your locs are going to do in your climate until you go through all the seasons and experience it for yourselves.

For me I'm finding I get better results when I use oil and water separately rather than together. At first it felt like the spritz idea was working great but throughout the previous winter it just didn't help at all. I became frustrated with having to spray my hair three or more times a day just to make it feel soft. It felt like my hair was either dry or constantly damp.

I've come to the conclusion that as oil and water don't mix (even when agitated) it's not possible to get an even spritz of oil and water every time I use it. In reality some locs will get more oil or water than others if any at all. So unlike commercial solutions it's a little hit and miss. When I apply coconut oil on already damp hair with my hands it reacts differently. I find that the distribution is more even and the effects last longer. I use less and I don't get buildup or a greasy feeling.

Even if they aren't visible, oils will stay in your hair until they're washed out with shampoo (sulphates are known for stripping oil). Since my shampoo is specifically moisturising (lower on sulphate too) my method is: oil or shampoo, not both. If I've rinsed without shampoo I will use oil. If I've washed with shampoo I won't use oil. Obviously if it were a standard shampoo or a clarifying shampoo like Head & shoulders, Dr. Bonner's or Suave, the oils would be necessary.


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13 June 2013

Update: Progress

Just a quick one....

I've recently started using coconut oil again having finally replaced last year's purchase with a different brand that is 100% raw and unrefined. The scent has really grown on me and now that I'm comfortable with the shampoo I'm using (always diluted), I feel confident using the oil without fear of buildup, though I use it sparingly as I've become accustom to how light and clear my locs feel.

Link to quick tips regarding oils, water, moisturising, and buildup in my next post.

Today I returned to the steam room and sauna I visited last year and decided to steam my hair using the coconut oil and a shower cap. I steamed for about 3hrs before putting on the oil and cap. After another hour I rinsed thoroughly, first in warm water then cold water before towel drying. Tonight my locs feel baby soft and smell lovely. To read last year's entry click here.

My locs are coming along. The ends are starting to seal and their density is increasing. I'm not sure why it is exactly but I can tell my locs are changing. In the last week or so they're beginning, just beginning to behave a little better. The back half doesn't stick up as brutally as before and it appears more 'styled' in the mornings. For the past few days I feel like I can just about get up and go.

I'm washing my hair a few times a week to keep them fresh between workouts but of course this year they hold their own with ease. The only thing is I think the frequent moisture is preventing the inch towards the roots from loc'ing up but I'm not fighting with it this time just as long as they keep growing. They'll pick up eventually.

That's all for now.


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3 June 2013

Month 14

Hello to all of you old and new. I've been on this journey to loc'dom for fourteen months today. Though the changes are subtle from month to month I think my locs are maturing at a steady pace these days. They're still unruly and shrinkage is still with us but my hair has been considerably more managable recently.

Research into loc extensions has firmly drawn to a close. I found it to be an expensive affair wherever I turned. Buying the hair for a DIY job is pricey and seemingly hard to find and salons (or even at home hair enthusiasts) charge hundreds if not a £1000 or more for installation! Although a worth while investment for some, I had to ask myself; (as I do with most purchases being on student budget) what is the value of true contentment...?
...And so I wait for length. The locs in the back are surpassing those in the front in growth and maturity but developments are happening all over. My locs feel different every month. Now they feel firmer than before, less spongy somehow. They're certainly a long way from the hollow coils I started out with and the compact density really makes them look like locs.

shrinkage and bed head

I used to get a lot of straggly loose hair at the tips when
I washed them but I palm-rub it back in often

On occasion I catch myself toying with thoughts of what I'd do if my hair were loose but it still doesn't really appeal to me. To be honest I don't know if my locs really appeal to me at this stage either but I'm growing with them and I do see potential.
I've seen a good many loc wearers in and around my home town recently (probably due to the warmer weather) and it's really opened my eyes to how popular this style is in the UK. But no matter how many loc'ers I see, somehow dreads still achieve that individual look. I've observed moderate uniformity and trends that various loc wearers prefer but they're all worn in very different ways. Now that I think about it, it's the years of growth and maturity that make them appear so individual and I'm sure baring through without extensions will be just as rewarding. Even when they're groomed and moulded consistently they grow naturally according to who that person is.

I like that.


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