Natural African-American hair care: moisture to the rescue

Mareshia is 28, a full-time graduate student and a part-time procrastinator living near Boston.  She starts her weeks with mimosas, not Mondays.  Her current pet project?  An online Black Hair Care Compendium for the Greater Boston Area.  When she’s not obsessing about natural African American hair, she’s attempting to blind the world with SCIENCE!

My hair has taken on many incarnations in life: curly, straight, kinky and outright wild. Throughout my hair adventures there’s one problem I’ve faced consistently – breakage. All my African American lady friends seem to sing the same lament. We’ve developed clever ways to braid, twist, lengthen, straighten, fry, dye, slick down, do?up and otherwise coif, yet, the breakage problem persists. My dearly departed dyed in the wool old?school?lye relaxer?hot?comb wielding aunt said “It’s oil, you don’t use enough oil in your hair.” Tried that, didn’t work. My nouveau soul he?beautician said “Protein. The hair breaks because it’s weak. You should use protein products.” Tried that, even more breaking than before. I then took matters into my own hands. I did something completely out of character for myself and most African American women I know, I embraced water as a styling tool.

Yes, water. And no it wasn’t a holistic “Drink this water that thine hair should not break,” approach. I put it in a spray bottle with a little leave in conditioner, honey— as a humectant, and almond oil…it seemed intuitive. Then? Voila! Hello, moisturized, happy, elastic, springy hair. Goodbye excess breakage. Now, I’m not suggesting that you go to the extreme, buy a spray bottle from a hardware store and concoct your own version of ‘manna from hair?ven’. Since I faced that hard time, I’ve found there are actual products that work at least as well and often better than my primitive approach…and lucky you, I’ve done the footwork. Brace yourselves for a list of my current hair crushes. All of the products work for both natural and processed (relaxed/colored) hair, and work wonders for my ‘fro.


I usually go without shampoo (as recommended in Curly Girl) but when I need the suds I
use these:

Motions Lavish Hair Conditioning Shampoo

Créme of Nature Detangling Conditioning Shampoo

Aussie Miracle Moist Shampoo


For the most part, I try to use products with as many natural ingredients as possible.

Hair Rules Quench Deep Conditioner – Hair Rules, how I love thee!! These products are designed for EVERYONE. Do you hear me? Dickey uses terms like ‘cross textural.’ I use Quench every time I wash my hair. It smells like cotton candy and leaves my hair soft and dandy. Also, the First Lady Elect, Michelle Obama, uses Hair Rules. Mentioned on the Today Show, they’re offering free shipping through 11/30/08 on orders of $50 or more.

TRESemme Deep Quench Conditioning Treatment – Doesn’t smell like cotton candy but works in a budget pinch.

Motions Moisture Plus After?Shampoo Conditioner – Uses silicone for smoothing effect but it does the job.

Styling/ Finishing

Michael Stone’s Natural Island Hair, Scalp and Skin Nutrient—This is a true two-fer. A magic man in North Carolina makes this stuff. So simple: Jojoba oil, coconut oil, aloe, vitamin E, grapefruit extract, beeswax and carrot oil. Hair Oil/Body Oil. Love the ingredients. Love the minimalist concept. Love the product.

Hair Rules Hydrating Finishing Cream – A great pick me up for a stale style on a lazy day.

Hair Rules Kinky Curling Cream – Hello, did you say Wash?n?Go? Now, you and your new happy hair deserve to be acquainted. Grab a wide toothed comb and get on with it.

  1. ashley.

    November 11, 2008 at 8:39 am

    That’s best thing I’ve ever read: “Manna from hair-ven.”

    So clever! :)

  2. Pookahs

    November 11, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Awesome post! I have thick, coarse, wavy, frizzy hair, and although I don’t have african-american hair, per se, the super hydrating products work best for my hair. All those “Ultra-Moisture” shampoos and conditioners in most salons and stores hardly touch my dry hair. I must try the Hair Rules products! Thank you!

  3. Jamie Johnson

    November 11, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    I love Hair Rules. That is all.

  4. angie

    November 17, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Mareisha? Water, really? I thought that was the death knoll to our hair! My hair genius–really that’s what she is–has saved my and my daughters’ hair from breakage by prescribing that we don’t wash it very often. In fact, she’s the only one washing my and my oldest daughter’s hair, and it’s growing for the first time ever.

  5. Mareshia

    November 17, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Angie, it’s not water that’s the enemy, it’s the detergent you use in the washing. Hot water in particular strips the hair of its natural oils. Too much shampooing with harsh detergents cand damage the cuticle and can render the hair dry and brittle.
    Conditioning with a product that will add oils that will penetrate the hair, while not clogging the follicle, is very important and in general, the less you fuss with your natural hair, the more opportunity you give it to grow, so it makes sense that your daughter’s hair would grow more with less to-do. Each turn of a coily curl is a point of tension, each point of tension is an opportunity for breakage.

    That’s my long winded way of saying it works for me and the girlfriends who’ve tried it. You never know, you might like it.

  6. Mareshia

    November 17, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I should also mention that while I’ve had relaxed hair in the past, my hair is not currently chemically processed, colored or relaxed. I won’t go on my rant about what I know about relaxers as a scientist but I will say that chemically processing hair contributes to brittle hair as well. Water, almond oil and honey might be too much for chemically processed hair but a product like Hair Rules Hydrating Finishing Cream might prove useful.

  7. Djiata

    December 22, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Mixed Chicks deep conditioner is great for moisture and it will stop breakage.

  8. Jessica

    January 9, 2009 at 2:30 am

    I went to the ‘Hair Rules.’ website and I’M IN LOVE!!! I can’t wait to try his products. The only thing I hate is that I ever got a relaxer. Where was this like 8 years ago?! lol. I used to look at my hair when it was wet and say, “If only I could get it to look this way dry…” Now I can! I’m sooo going back natural. Thank you so much!!!

  9. Sharon

    January 24, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Thank you for this enformation. I am looking for things to moisturize my hair. I’m so glead that I stumbled upon this web site. I am going to deffinently try some of the things that you mentioned.

  10. shayla

    January 30, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I have found water to be an ideal moisturizer for my hair. I usually mix it with QP Elasta H Two leave-in and glycerin, followd by coconut oil or olive oil to seal the moisture.

    My hair is growing and now very soft.

    thank you for the extra info.

  11. Camille Howard

    April 6, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Hi Ladies,
    I am currently transitioning from relaxed hair to natural AfAm hair. I tries Hair Rules but I still find that my hair is super dry. Has anyone tried Ms. Jesse’s?

  12. Mareshia

    April 6, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I’ve tried Miss Jesse’s and I keep going back to hair rules. The curly pudding works well but I find it to be heavy. I like the products they make for children but Hair Rules is still my go to…which reminds me…I need to stock up on more.

  13. Mike Thomas

    April 22, 2009 at 7:42 am

    ohkay!!!! I am looking into this whole Hare rules thing and it seems too good to be true!!! lol! I’m ordering now but question…for the people that are in the gym all the time, how do you keep your hair up to par when it comes to sweat? Just wanted to see if anybody knew how to keep your hair in tact while on the eliptical and tredmill? lol…any takers?

  14. Mareshia

    April 22, 2009 at 7:54 am

    This is going to sound like so much snake oil but since hair rules I have no problems with gym hair. I have a one hour bike commute and I swim. After working out I use cleansing cream to wash my hair then quench for deep conditioning. I leave the quench in until I get home from the gym if I’m working out in the evening. I leave it in for a few minutes while sitting in the sauna otherwise. I then rinse and hit my hair with kinky curling cream and hydrating finishing cream. Then I go. No waiting for it to dry or anything. I brush the edges and finger comb the rest. My natural doesn’t shrink up and I’m fine for the rest of the day.

  15. Mike Thomas

    April 22, 2009 at 8:16 am

    WHAT!!!!!!! Mareshia are you serious? If I knew you I would lay a big wet one on you!!! I think you have just changed my life! I have really thick hair and usually twist it but I am really tryig to avoid the breakage from blowing it out and than twisting so i never thought it would be possible for me to use these products and just wear my hair in it’s natural state without the shrinkage!!! I am usually very skeptical with some products because most of the time when they say your hair can look like this it usually means “your hair can look like this if you really have wavy hair or a no-ly relaxer or a team of stylists!” So thank you, i definitley will try HairRules and take your advice! Thank you once again!!! Whew!!!