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Drum roll PLEASE! Here’s my much-anticipated (!?) next blog on oils for natural hair.

Firstly, I’m so sorry it’s been such a long time since my last blog – I’ve been very distracted lately with the natural hair forum!

Anyway, here’s some more info about oils you can use to seal or nourish black hair. Just use this as a guide to supplement your own research – you may agree or disagree with what I’m saying but hopefully you’ll find the following information helpful.

If you haven’t read my first instalment on hair oils for natural hair, you can read that here.

I’m still in love with my natural oils and ingredients and honestly, my hair’s much thicker and has a healthy sheen since I started using them regularly.

I use natural oils for sealing, hot oil treatments, pre-pooing, scalp massage…there are lots of ways that they can benefit your hair.

Castor Oil

Castor oil…so much to say about castor oil…

This vegetable oil is a favourite with lots of curlies. It is said to be good for hair growth, dandruff, imparting shine and hair loss.

The oil comes the castor oil plant, also known as the castor bean plant, which is said to have originated in eastern Africa and India. Its Latin name is Ricinus communis – which is useful to know when you’re scanning your ingredients.

Like so many other oils, castor has been used for its healing properties for centuries, including as a laxative, for yeast infections, gastrointestinal problems and sunburn.

This viscous oil (meaning it’s not quite a liquid or a solid) is also used in industry. In fact, if you’re familiar with Castrol, the lubricants firm, guess where the company name came from?

And here’s another interesting fact: the seeds of the castor plant can be deadly if ingested, so if you’re going to take it orally, do your research first!

But enough of that – let’s get on to hair!

As with other oils, unrefined castor oil is preferable to refined types because it contains more nutrients and healing properties. Unrefined oils are made in a different way to preserve all the goodness.

You’ll often hear curlies talking about Jamaican Black Castor oil – this is simply an unrefined castor oil. It, and other unrefined castor oils, is probably the best kind of castor oil on the market.

So what’s the deal with castor oil for black hair? For me, it’s simple – a bit like Marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it!

On paper, castor oil is a fantastic oil for hair. It is full of vitamins, protein and nutrients, including the natural humectant vitamin E (meaning that it draws in extra moisture from the environment).

It is rich in triglyceride fatty acids, which is to do with its chemical structure. Basically, triglycerides comprise a molecular structure of three different fatty acids and glycerol.

In simple terms, if I’ve understood it correctly, triglycerides carry large amounts of energy through the body and it’s this quality that helps it penetrate the hair.

These fatty acids; namely ricinoleic acid, oleic and linoleic acids, are said to help regulate moisture loss and create greater elasticity (so it’s able to withstand combing and manipulation).

Oleic acid is said to help hair grow thicker and stronger. Linoleic acids are linked to hydration, and Ricinoleic acid has antifungal and anti-bacterial properties that are useful for dry, itchy scalp conditions.

What’s more, castor oil is a polar oil. Again, I’d best not go in to it – I’m not so good at explaining things and I’d probably just get all tangled up!

Suffice to say: polar oils interact differently with water compared to other oils and they also tend to penetrate into the hair shaft due to their molecular structure.

In other words, they create a temporary seal but do not totally exclude moisture. Because they penetrate as well, they are able to distribute nutrients deep inside the hair, eliminating brittleness.

Temporary sealing of moisture in your hair is preferable to sealing your hair with non-polar oils such as mineral oil, which just coats the hair and prevents extra moisture from entering without imparting any goodness into the actual strand.

The castor oil plant comes in many shapes and sizes

As for my experience with castor oil; if I’m honest, I’m still not a big fan – despite the reputed benefits.This oil is incredibly gooey. To me, it just feels like some kid’s come along and stuck a lollipop in my hair!

On its own, this oil is really not for me – but I know that lots of people mix it with other oils with good results. I think the key is to use only a little and only apply to the scalp or the very ends of your hair for sealing.

I certainly haven’t given up on castor oil yet but I tend to be very cautious when applying it to my hair.

To sum up: castor oil is believed to help condition the scalp, reduce split ends, stimulate hair growth, alleviate scalp infections, moisturise and prevent thinning.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is pretty much an all-rounder. It not only seals the hair but also protects it from breakage, penetrates the hair strand and keeps your curls soft.

This oil is packed with minerals, vitamins, proteins and loads of lovely nutrients and goodies that make your hair smile – metaphorically speaking, obviously!

I can’t even list all the properties here, but coconut oil contains minerals such as magnesium, calcium and iron; vitamin E; and fatty acids like oleic acid and lauric acid, which work to strengthen and hydrate the hair.

The high level of lauric acid in coconut oil gives it excellent antibacterial properties – so it’s a great healing oil for scalp infections and dry scalp conditions. It also helps strengthen the hair strand so that your hair is more resilient against environmental factors and sun damage.

The oleic acid helps to promote thick, healthy hair, while vitamin E is a natural humectant so it helps to moisturise your hair by drawing in moisture from the air.

Coconut oil is another polar oil just like castor oil (although I happen to think that this is a far superior oil) – which means that it not only seals the hair effectively but also penetrates deep inside the hair strand, rebuilding the structure of your hair internally. It is attracted to proteins within the natural hair fibre, so it builds up the hair structure from within.

As for the minerals contained in coconut oil; these are essential for hair to reach its full potential. Take iron, for example. Iron supports hair growth by helping to transport oxygen to the scalp and stimulating the follicles.

A healthy balance of magnesium and calcium will help make hair strong and healthy. Of course you need calcium for strong hair, but too much can adversely affect hair growth and even lead to hair loss by restricting nutrients to the follicles. That’s where magnesium comes in. It can help to break up calcium deposits in the hair follicle.

Coconut oil is one of my favourite oils for hair

All in all, coconut oil is one of my favourite oils and it makes wash day a lot easier. I use it for pre-pooing once a month and I also mix either coconut oil or olive oil into my shampoo to help protect my hair during the shampooing process.The only thing I don’t do is use is to seal in moisture. Lots of naturalistas use this oil for sealing but I find that it weighs my fine hair down too much.

In short, I’d say that this is one of the best oils for actually imparting nutrients deep into the hair and helping to repair it from within (in my humble opinion).

To round up, coconut oil is known for its moisturising and softening properties, and can reinforce the hair structure to add strength to yourhair. It also helps to condition the hair.

Phew, feel like I’ve run a marathon! There’s a lot to say about these two oils – personally, I think that these are probably two of the most important oils you can use for black hair.

Remember, work with your hair – no matter what anybody (including me) tells you. You know what works best for your tresses!

So that’s all for now, curlistas…thanks for reading!

All the information I’ve given here is the result of thorough research but there’s still a lot of research on-going into the application of natural oils for your hair, so if you have a conflicting opinion or a different experience of these oils, then please leave your comments.

What oils do you use for your hair? Do you use castor oil or coconut oil? How do you use these oils? Let me know how you get on with these oils – your input is very welcome!

For the next instalment, more about natural oils then we’ll get on to some essential oils and other useful ingredients from your kitchen cupboard.

In the meantime, why not join the Natural Hair Care Forum UK? Join our growing community and support others in their quest for healthy curls…or sign up for the Castor Oil Hair Growth Challenge. Go to www.blackbeautyhaircareforum.org.uk to participate!

Join the UK hair forum built by and for naturalistas, and start posting for a chance to win a prize (for a limited time only)! www.blackbeautyhaircareforum.org.uk.

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