Friday, 30 October 2009

Hair Lessons: Dry Flaky Scalp

A while back I was trawling through a blog by 'Joyful' (unfortunately I didn't save the link - silly me), when I noticed she had asked a question about dealing with dry scalp. This seems to be an issue raised by many newbies, and I think that is because the SL method advocates 'no oil or grease' on your hair... which for many translates into 'no oil or grease on your scalp' too.

In my humble opinion, IF you are going to have Sisterlocks and NOT use a mild shampoo (like the Sisterlocks starter shampoo) or an SLS free shampoo in your hair, you may (MAY) be contributing to a dry scalp condition which requires a little light oil to rectify. Emphasis on LITTLE and LIGHT!  Bear with me...

Many of our popular shampoos are lovely and sudsy, producing thick, luxurious lathers that have traditionally made us feel like royalty. I mean - you gotta admit that there is something 'uber scrumptious' about rubbing that creamy lather through your precious tresses - I'd even bet some of you have had a 'Herbal Essence' moment or two *grin*! It just feels so good!

However, the flip side of that lather is that the SLS in most of those shampoos (in combination with some of the other ingredients) is actually stripping your hair of all the gunk and environmental 'stuff', product build-up and everyday pollutants that get attracted to and stuck in our hair - along with all your hair and scalp's natural oils.  Hence the need to use moisturising shampoos (or shampoos for dry/damaged hair) coupled with the need for moisturising conditioners or deep conditioning treatments i.e. you need to 'put back' into your hair what the shampoo has stripped out.  Think about it - when did your hair (relaxed or natural) feel better? After you just shampooed and dried or after the shampoo AND conditioner?

It stands to reason therefore, that if you are not using a whole heap of products on your hair, then you also do not need to be stripping your hair to remove product build-up.

I have a friend, young woman with beautiful natural hair which she rocks curly or straight depending on her mood. She hasn't shampooed in years - why? because she is co-washing instead. Now this struck me as odd at first but once you open your mind and think it through - why not? And I can not say that her hair is dirty or smelly or gunky.... quite the opposite; it's light and healthy and I really like it.

For those who don't know - co-washing is a method of washing your hair with conditioner (diluted or in small amounts) instead of shampoo.  Conditioners actually contain a small amount of detergent and so will clean your hair just as well as a shampoo - just less harshly.

For more information about co-washing read these articles:
IMPORTANT - I wouldn't recommend that SLers co-wash their hair unless their locks are fully mature - as you run the risk of softening your hair and causing associated slippage an unravelling.

Sisterlocks Starter Shampoo
I know that quite a few SLers complain that they "don't like the Sisterlocks Starter shampoo" and to be honest I wonder why. I know that most say 'their hair doesn't FEEL clean' after they have used it and I have to wonder (at the risk of being berated online) whether the clean feeling they are expecting is that 'stripped' feeling they have grown accustomed to by using stronger shampoos.  Of course, some may not like it because they just don't like it and I will admit that it is not the best for lifting flakes from the hair  - but if you do have a dry scalp problem and use it with a pre-shampoo like the Stimulating Herbal Cleanser by Taliah Waajid (which is SLS free), it does its job!

So what is my routine now? Well, most days I use the Sisterlocks Shampoo. I have one patch of dry scalp at the front of my head. If I find I have a couple of flakes I will prewash with the Herbal Cleanser first.  If I feel like a bit of a change or want to add some sort of fragrance to my hair - I use one of two shampoo bars I have that were recommended to me by my old consultant, Michelle (girl, you are missed!).

Shampoo Bars?
The shampoo bars are also SLS free and look like regular bars of soap. I bought them from Anita Grant, a small business owner here in the UK who specialises in "all natural hand made Babassu Shampoo Bars" (as well as a number of other products for curly hair like oils and pomades; and whipped butters for the body).  I have one Peppermint bar and one 'Organic Kelp & Ylang' which has a more perfumed smell (on account of the Ylang Ylang). Look out for my review :)

So I've dealt with the washing, which I do every 3-5 days in Summer and every 5-7 days in Winter (although I've been told this may be too frequent for baby locks, so just remember to braid and band ... or braid... before you wash and don't blame me if your hair unravels!)  I've found that if you only have flakes in one spot, you can always just wash that one spot VERY CAREFULLY, thus minimising any disturbance to the rest of your hair. I will say however, that someone else told me that water is GOOD for locking hair, and encourages it to coil and intertwine and therefore lock faster. So it's really up to you...

What next? It's time to feed your scalp. I didn't say oil down your hair.... I said "feed your scalp".
Repeat after me: Light oil.... LIGHT oil!
No petroleum or mineral oil ladies - no matter what!  They will clog your sebaceous glands, coat the shafts of your hair and weigh your hair down. Choose a light oil like jojoba, coconut (old favourite in the Caribbean), castor oil (although I find that a lil bit heavy and not too pleasant a fragrance). You can also explore the essential oils like peppermint, tea tree, lavendar, lemon, rosemary and sage each of which are reported to be beneficial in the treatment of dandruff. Since EOs are quite potent, I'd suggest diluting them in a water or vegetable oil base before applying them to your scalp!

The best way to apply your oil is to dab some on your fingers, and then press gently onto the dry spot. Obviously this'll take a couple of dabs depending on the size of your spot(s). Take care not to DRENCH the scalp in whatever oil you have chosen because it will just work its way down the shaft of your hair and create BUILD UP (and then you'll need a strong or clarifying shampoo to get it out of your locks!). Once applied, lightly massage the area with the tips of your fingers and you're good to go.

This takes me about 25 mins from start to finish but I'm one of those people that tend to daydream in the shower (which always leaves me feeling guilty about wasting water, but I do turn the shower off!) Oh, and for me this 25-30 mins includes undo your braids, although you may need to allow extra time to dry your hair as normal (air, towel or dryer).

So in a nutshell:
  • wash your hair with a mild shampoo or co-wash. (pre-wash with a cleanser or your prescribed medicated shampoo if flakes are in your hair or very visible at your scalp). Those with SLs and other baby locks will need to braid and band their hair before washing.
  • squeeze excess water from your hair; blot dry (if you use towels on your hair).
  • apply LIGHT oil to your fingertips, dab onto the affected areas and lightly massage.
  • finish drying your hair/style as normal.
You can trust me on this, with this routine I hardly ever see any flakes these days and I've never had to do an Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) rinse! Of course, you should also do the obvious - eat a balanced diet, get plenty of fresh air and exercise and drink plenty of water. Also, bear in mind that one man's meat is another man's poison so what worked for me may not work for you - but I don't think it could hurt to try. Let me know how you get on if you do.

By the way, this is the hair oil I use on my scalp (Doo Gro Anti itch Growth Oil) and below is copied the comments I left on Joyful's blog.
"Hi Joyful, I feel your 'pain' with the flakes at the base of your locks. I had a similar issue when I first started out - through trial and error I managed to sort it by

  • Washing my hair more frequently, so for e.g. I was washing maybe once every 15 days and I increased it to once every 3-5 days (now I'm back to maybe 5-7 days). 
  • Being careful NOT to use any clarifying shampoos because although they are great for removing build up, they were drying out my scalp way too much and basically making the problem worse. (I could raise my eyebrows after a wash and literally see my scalp crack and flake up!)
  • I started to use a very light hair oil on my scalp, (mostly jojoba) just at the places where I found the flakes seemed most prevalent. Just a few dabs every couple of days was sufficient (I am not saying to go and oil down yuh head hahaha), and only apply to the scalp. 

 This helped sort my head out one time! I hope you find it helpful too. Oh and a small word of caution, one of my consultants had said that frequent washing can lead to 'frizzy' locks so you'll need to decide whether you want to take that chance or not :) Good luck!"


Michelle said...

Thanks for the info about the shampoo bars. I'll be checking those out for sure!
I use a moisturising shampoo, but wash less often than you - mostly because it's a chore drying my hair!

Since my SLs are mature now(>2 yrs old), I use the Jamaican Mango and Lime Maximum Relief Medicated No More Itch Grow spray on my scalp. I aim for every 2 days with that to prevent the itch/dry scalp.

Bajan Lily said...

Michelle - I have a bottle here that I picked up in Bim (love Barbados bad uh tell yuh!) - but I've been scared to use it since it contains some mineral oil and I didn't want any build-up on my scalp.

Have you had any issues with that or can I stop being so fraidy fraidy?

Michelle said...

JML is so light, and since you wash your hair so often, I don't think you'll have a problem with build up.

It really seems to calm to the savage beast called dry scalp b/c I've seen good results with delicate hair like yours (ergo - slippage) with severe dry scalp.

Dawn-Chere said...

My locks are 3 yrs old and I'm using a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner by Organic Root Salon and every 3 weeks I use a deep hair treatment that a hairdresser recommended for me since I coloured my hair this summer. I wash every 2-3 weeks since my hair takes a while to air dry.

I've only just figured out how to overcome the same dry scalp problem by using Jamaican Mango & Lime Lock Gro and so far it's been working.

Most of the time I use Soft & Beautiful Botanicals 3-in-1 Oil mixed with Jojoba oil for the rest of my hair and recently I've been using Taliah Waajid's Protective Mist Bodifier (it's almost like a cream and I love it) on the days when my hair looks like it could use a little more TLC.

Bajan Lily said...

@Dawn - how are you using the JML Lock Gro? The protective mist bodifier sounds v. intriguing... gonna look that up (for when my hair is more mature).

@Michelle - I love the smell of the JML range, I might try a few squirts - see what happens lol! I'll write a review when I do :)

Dawn-Chere said...

I'm using the JML to "grease" my scalp after I wash it. So that's about once every 3 wks.

Michelle said...

Go for it - live a little!

The scent of products is very important to me. I don't believe that because you're wearing locs that they should smell like old coconut oil.

I spray the JML on the locs as well as the scalp. The medicated spray leaves your scalp feeling tingly as well :).

I'm going to check out the protective mist bodifier too - intriguing.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating - Co washing? Really!

Surely this can not be a preferred method if you work out? You need to wash your scalp because the salt residue from your sweat dehydrates the scalp and causes it to be dry and flaky.

Please advise?.

Bajan Lily said...

Co-washing works !!!! especially if you want to wash your hair EVERYDAY.

Why? Simply because most conditioners also contain detergent (which is what is in shampoo) just a smaller amount - so it'll do the job, just in a more gentle way. Plus the water in your shower when you drench your hair will also rinse away most of your sweat etc, the lather from the conditioner will help lift the rest away.
Amazing innit?

GiGi said...

co-washing cleans the scalp, just without drying it out like regular shampoo.

I run/gym every other day and only use shampoo once a month to get rid of product buildup etc. haven't had dry scalp since I went natural and since saying bye to shampooing.

Gigglz said...

This is the best motto to go by "LESS IS BEST". I don't use products although I'm only 7 months in and I don't have issues with build up or itchy/dry scalp! If I get the overwhelming feeling to use anything I spritz with water. Less is best is definitely working for me and my locks.

anthia-ofo said...

Excellent post. I used to co-wash my traditional locs regularly. I just made sure to use condish that contained no'cones'.I wrote a bit about shampoos and co-washing here:!?cr=2&linkvar=000044
(my Ooold website,from back then)
I tried it with sls,but I had too much unraveling.
So where d'you all get the Taliah Waajid products from? Online?
I so agree with Michelle about the scent of products. I bought some Jason's shampoo and hate the smell so much I'm using it to clean the toilet. I try to smell everything before I buy LOL.

Bajan Lily said...

@anthia-ofo: LOL re: cleaning the toilet! My word.. scent is an amazing thing eh?

I picked up some TW products when I was in Barbados earlier this year but I've seen a couple in the local as well.

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