Castor Oil and Low Porosity

A few weeks back a reader told me she had success using Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-in/Detangler, but after she sealed it with castor oil her hair turned frizzy and shrunken. She then asked me whether castor oil worked on low porosity hair. As always on my blog, I’m a strong advocate in saying what works for one person might not work for everyone. However, I hypothesize that castor oil is not beneficial for many lo-pos and that it might even work against retaining moisture in lo-po hair.

Castor oil or Ricinus oil has been praised for its beauty benefits. Many people boast that it helps them in thickening their hair and combating thinning hair. It has both antifungal and antibacterial properties and is a humectant for the hair and skin. When I read about these wonderful properties, my first reaction was to run out and buy a bottle of cold pressed castor oil. I started using it to seal my hair and like many things that haven’t worked on my low porosity hair, I continued to use it until I achieved the results I expected. That never happened, so I had to back away from the bottle.

Why didn’t castor oil work for me? Well for one, I think it is a heavy oil and way too thick to use for my hair type. It weighed my hair down and blocked out moisture. This happened even when I used a small amount or mixed it with a lighter oil. I noticed I had constant buildup on my hair and scalp when I used castor oil. In fact, I’ve read that overtime castor oil can build-up in the hair. As castor oil dries it tends to form a hard film. This is probably great for high porosity hair, but a recipe for disaster for low porosity hair. Additionally, the film is not water-soluble, which means it is necessary to use a shampoo to remove it. It can also attract dirt and oil to the hair, creating an even thicker layer of film around your strands.

Do I recommend using castor oil on low porosity hair? I wouldn’t recommend it, but if it works for you that’s great. However, I think there are other light to medium oils out there that can benefit lo-po hair. If you have a large bottle of castor oil lying around and don’t want it to go to waste, maybe try mixing it with a lighter oil and using it on area of the skin that are prone to dryness. On a side note, the properties of castor oil, could have a lot to do with your environment. I live in a dry arid conditions. If you live in a humid and hot environment, perhaps you will experiences different results with castor oil. In any case, I tend to stock 2 – 3 oils in my medicine cabinet. These are oils that are light enough to moisturize my face (e.g. jojoba or sweet almond) or medium and moisturizing enough to moisturize my body (e.g. olive oil, apricot, avocado). Since my hair doesn’t need a lot of oil it’s not what I concentrate on when finding products that work for my hair. I tend to focus more on leave-ins, cleansers and moisturizing conditioners.

Do you use castor oil? Has it worked for you? If so, how do you apply it?

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Moisturizing Tips

So your hair has been freshly washed, deep conditioned and now you’re ready to moisturize! Moisture is essential, my hair craves it and well moisturized hair means healthy hair. For low porosity hair this can be a challenge.

Here are a few tips to help you moisturize your hair:

Apply your leave-in to damp instead of soaking wet hair.

After you’ve washed and conditioned your hair, either let it air dry until it’s damp or wrap it in a cotton t-shirt for 3-5 minutes. Applying your leave-in to damp hair will allow your hair to absorb the moisture. When hair is soaking wet and full of water, it’s a lot more difficult for your hair to accept extra moisture.

Water

Make sure your leave-in has water as the first ingredient. My leave-in, Kinky Curly Knot Today doesn’t have water, so I dilute it with water.

Use light heat (optional)

I sometimes partly dry my hair on low heat, I find it helps my hair absorb the leave-in, especially, when I style my hair in twists.

Stretch

When possible, try to allow hair to dry in a stretched style like twists. After I moisturize, I usually twist my hair. When I release my hair from the twists, it’s supple and soft.

Remoisturize

Water is the key here. During the week if your hair starts to feel dry. Dilute some leave-in with water and apply it to your hair.

Note:

I didn’t mention oil, because it doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes, I seal my ends with oil and sometimes I seal my hair with a very light oil. However, sealing with oil isn’t an essential part of my regimen, so I often skip applying oil. Also, moisture always start with water. So, sealing your hair is a personal choice.

What are your key steps to moisturized hair?

LoPo’s Frenemies: Kimmaytube Leave-In, cold water/vinegar rinses and heavy oils

Before I discovered my hair was low porosity, I was all about closing my cuticles with low Ph products or cold water and locking in moisture with heavy oils such as shea butter and coconut oil. Coconut oil has many health benefits and I really wanted my hair to enjoy being coated in it, but it just did nothing for my hair but exacerbate its dryness. Just imagine low porosity hair as a spong covered in cling wrap, if I proceed to cover the cling wrap in oils, the moisture is just not going to reach my hair, no matter how hard I try. After I realized this, I made some major adjustments to my regimen.

1. I stopped using Kimmaytube leave-in. The original recipe, which comes from famed Youtube personality Kim Love, contains:2 tablespoons of Kinky Curly Knot Today + 2 tablespoons of  aloe vera juice + 2 teaspoons of castor oil +2 teaspoons of jojoba oil. 

This leave-in left me with frizz, white residue and dry hair. My hair felt coated and tacky. Once I removed the oils and the aloe from the mixture, essentially leaving me with just leave-in, I saw an immediate improvement. Again, I’ve tried to make my hair love aloe, because it’s such a wonderful natural hair product, however, my hair just despises it!

2. I stopped doing vinegar rinses/cold water rinses. Again, great all natural products and techniques to enhance shine and seal the cuticle. For my low porosity hair not so great. My story would start like this, I’d wash and condition. After my conditioner, my hair would feel nice and detangled and soft. I’d then pour my vinegar rinse or freezing cold water over my head and my hair would instantly shrink up and frizz up. I’d then spend the next hour trying to apply creams and serums to regain the moisture.

3. After my cold water/vinegar rinses, I’d follow by sealing with shea butter or coconut oil. My hair would shine like a new penny for the first day. The second day it was both dry and oily. It was like I was suffocating my hair, any hope of moisture was ruled out by the fortress of oil I’d applied. It took me a long time to accept that my hair doesn’t always need oil. It was only until one day when I spent hours trying to wash out layers and layers of shea butter– not fun! I know that coconut oil is one of few select oils that can penetrate the hair shaft. That’s fine and dandy, but my hair just wasn’t having it.

Eliminating these three stages, has not only saved me a lot on time, but also money. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what works best. Now I know my hair:

  • doesn’t mind some light oils like jojoba and sweet almond.
  • loves water based creams for leave-ins (if it’s not water based, I add water to it).
  • can handle a small amount of aloe or shea butter on the ends. I think this is because this part of our hair is the oldest and most susceptible to damage.
  • hates to be rinsed in cold water and is not a friend of vinegar.

I attribute eliminating these products from my hair regimen to contributing to fast and healthy growth. Believe me, I’ve had set backs and had to cut and trim here and there, however, after I started figuring out what worked for me, that’s when my hair started to flourish. I’ve included pictures below of my hair, one year after going natural in 2012 and this month, two years after going natural.

Did you use any products or techniques for a long time, only to discover they did more harm than help your hair?

LoPo’s Frenemy I: Aloe Vera

I hope everyone has a lovely Valentine’s Day with your loved ones and not your frenemies. Speaking of frenemy, aloe vera has been one of mine.

It does have many beauty and hair benefits. It has slightly acidic Ph, ranging between 4.4 – 4.7. It works great on skin that’s been exposed to too much sun and harsh, dry winds. Many people use aloe vera as a gel. Or they use the juice from the plant as a leave-in or sealer.

When I heard about aloe’s healing properties for the hair, I immediately jumped on the bandwagon and started using it. The results were not at all good, but I couldn’t understand why. My hair would frizz up at the moment I applied aloe vera and when I mixed it with my leave-in conditioners, the product build-up was horrible. I kept using it, because I was convinced it was supposed do something for my hair.

One day, I ran out of my aloe juice and went a few weeks without using it. I noticed my hair had less frizz and less buildup than before. Sometime passed and I restocked my fridge with a bottle of aloe juice and went back to using it. That’s when a light bulb went off and I realized my “good hair weeks” had suddenly come to an end. I didn’t understand why my hair didn’t respond well to aloe until I figured out my hair was low porosity.

In essence, applying aloe to my hair, after cleansing with conditioner (i.e. cowashing) and rinsing with cold water (which, will be discussed in later posts), was not efficient for my already compact cuticles. This probably caused them to be more compact and lock out moisture. Imagine a set of shingles on a roof (low porosity hair), covered in plastic tarp (aloe juice)– yep, that rain is just going to roll off the roof of the house! Remember water has a neutral Ph of 7 and aloe vera a Ph of 4.4 – 4.7, thus it can’t lift the cuticle, as it has a Ph less than 7.

Now, just because aloe didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it’s a horrible beauty product and it can’t work for me. My problem, was that I was just doing it all wrong. I still love using aloe on my face, it’s a very refreshing moisturizer! I don’t use it often on my hair, however, here are some helpful tips I do use, to make it work for my low-porosity hair:

  • Use aloe only as a sealer for the ends. If the ends of your hair are often dry and split. Simply mix a small amount of aloe into your leave-in or apply it directly in its pure form to the ends of your hair.
  • After an alkaline hair wash, in my case, baking soda wash, apply aloe as sealer on top of your leave-in. You could just put some in a spray bottle and spritz it lightly on your hair.
  • Add some to rhassoul clay mixture (will be discussed in later posts), for an ultra moisturizing deep conditioner.

Voila, those are ways I make aloe vera work for with my hair and not against it. I never apply it to hair as a deep conditioner. I try to mainly use it on my ends, unless I’ve washed my hair with a high Ph product/ingredient. I add it to my rhassoul clay mixture, which works quite nicely with aloe. I would not suggest mixing aloe into baking soda wash.

Again, I don’t use it often and my hair seems to be doing really well retaining moisture. It’s never had this amount of shine, beside when it was really short (twa).

Do you use aloe vera juice or gel on your hair? How do you use it?