Showing posts sorted by relevance for query scalp. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query scalp. Sort by date Show all posts

Nov 16, 2012

Fighting Flakes This Winter (Part I)

Earlier this Summer, I wrote a well-received* article for Black Girl with Long Hair about scalp psoriasis and remedies. The information I wrote still very much holds true, but Winter weather adds a whooooole new dimension to skin and hair care. We all know that Winter cold can be drying to hair and skin, which is why we cozy up with thick butters and protective styles around November. But for those of us with skin/scalp issues like Psoriasis, Eczema and Dandruff (or just general dry scalp), cold air combined with decreased sunlight has the potential to stir up a recipe for disaster.

When it comes to dealing with skin issues like Psoriasis, there are two modes of attack -- internal and external. In this article, we will explore the external counter-offensive that will help ward off and ease the presence of patchy and flaky scalp as the temperature drops and the sun strays away. In Part II, we will get internal (which I'm sure some of ya'll won't like). I won't re-hash all the information about what Psoriasis is, what it does, and such. If you're interested in the background story, click here.

Flake Fighter #1: Clean Scalp
I know, when you're dealing with constant flaking and tightness on the scalp, keeping it clear sounds like one of those statements you roll your eyes at. Well duh Christina, if I had a clear scalp I wouldn't have scalp issues in the first place! What I mean by clean scalp is clarifying. Since the air is dryer in Winter months, we tend to get heavy-handed with oils and butters, and justifiably so. Even though the moisture and sealing is necessary, it accumulates more rapidly, and combined with your body's own sebum, gym sweat, flakes, beanie lint and everything else, you're bound to suffocate your scalp. To counter this, you may need to kick up your clarifying routine a notch between November and February. I highly recommend staying away from abrasive chemicals to clarify (I'm looking at you, sulfates), and lean more toward Apple Cider Vinegar and Aztec Healing Clay. Not only are they effective and natural, but they both have healing and impurity-removing qualities that can help combat and reduce flaking. Added bonus: Apple Cider Vinegar also helps balance your hair and scalp pH, which can lend itself to Psoriasis relief. I will discuss this further in Part II!

Flake Fighter #2: Maintain Moisture
I know this seems to directly contradict #1. But equally as important as keeping the scalp clean and clear is providing a moisture barrier from the cold air (just don't let it build up for weeks at a time). Some of the best oils to use are those that pack a one-two (or three) punch: not only do they moisturize/hold in moisture, but they possess anti-bacterial/anti-fungal, or even skin healing properties. For moisture retention and fungus/bacteria fighting, I recommend Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil and Cold-Pressed Castor Oil. For moisture retention and healing, the above oils can also be used, in addition to Jojoba, Sweet Almond, and Vitamin E. As an added bonus, you can always add a few drops of Tea Tree Oil to kick the fungus fighting up a notch.

Flake Fighter #3: A Double Helping of Henna
I know there are some bloggers out there that henna on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I salute you. Not only is that too much mess to make every 7 days, but it's a lot for my transitioning strands to endure. Remember, henna strengthens and thickens hair by binding to the keratin on the strands. But just like most treatments we love, you can have too much of a good thing. Since henna builds up on the strands, I have a fear of overtaxing my hair at the line of demarcation and causing premature and avoidable breakage. However, after weighing out the benefits of my monthly henna  on my hair and scalp, I decided that twice a month isn't too much to help combat flakes. Like I said in the last article, I still don't fully understand why or how henna has cleared my scalp -- I just know that it does. During the winter months, I double my doses of henna -- doing a full treatment on all my hair at the beginning of the month, then following up mid-month with a scalp and new-growth only treatment.

Flake Fighter #4: Avoid Irritants
When it comes to Psoriasis and other skin/scalp conditions, going the extra mile to avoid irritants in drier months is necessary. Since we're talking natural hair here, I'm going to assume you know relaxers are out of the question. Hair color is sketchy, at best. If you're really serious about color in the winter, I suggest ombre, frosting, or another style of coloring that avoids coming close to the scalp. Also on the list of things to avoid is heat -- namely the blow dryer. I know this may hurt a little, but find another way to stretch your strands. Blow dryers work by sucking out moisture, and that is the exact opposite of what you need for your scalp. Lastly, do a run-through on your favorite products -- conditioners included. Make sure there are no ingredients that are known irritants to skin, such as various surfectants, added color, and fragrance. You may find yourself having to switch to more natural products, at least temporarily. And who knows, you might end up liking those natural products more.

What are some of your favorite flake-fighting methods for the Winter?

Jul 16, 2012

Scalp Challenges: Psoriasis

This was my most recent article for Black Girl Long Hair. Enjoy!

Scalp challenges go far beyond dandruff and excess oil. There are some scalp conditions that require medical attention and regular treatments and if left uncared for, can result in hair loss and damage. Not to mention, they can be unsightly, embarrassing, and carry self-esteem crushing social stigmas. Three of the most common scalp conditions are psoriasis, eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis. I suffer from psoriasis. 
Psoriasis is a non-contagious, auto-immune condition characterized by skin redness and irritation .With psoriasis, the skin growth/regeneration process is accelerated, causing scaly plaques of skin to surface rapidly. Psoriasis can be aggravated by stress, fragrant lotions/sprays/body washes, alcohol consumption, dry skin, and injuries to the skin. There is no cure for psoriasis, only various medications and treatments to help those with it cope.

During my 10th grade year in high school, my dermatologist diagnosed me with psoriasis. I remember being frustrated, confused, sad, and ashamed, among other things. Being in high school was hard enough --  but now I've got to walk around with red flaky scales all over my body, and in my hair, like some kind of contagious freak. Even as an adult, dealing with flaky scalp (Black shirt? No thank you!) and skin scales has been difficult and at times, embarrassing. But as time ticked along, I began to accept my psoriasis and learned how to effectively cope with it on my skin. Wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants was inconvenient, but simple. The challenge? Trying to camouflage scalp scales, or even better -- get them to go away.

Over the past twelve years that I've dealt with psoriasis, I have tried a number of remedies that didn’t work at all, worked but wrecked my hair, or worked well but required regular upkeep. Having psoriasis presents a particular set of challenges to sufferers:
  • Frequent flaking makes wearing scalp-showing styles embarrassing (no cornrows or braids).
  • Scales surface quickly (every 3-4 days), requiring frequent washing/lifting from scalp, which leads to high manipulation, and drying of hair.
  • Scales are itchy, and frequent scratching lends itself to damaging skin, making sufferers more prone to infections (and hair loss at site of infection).
  • Frequent scale removal increases hair loss (because strands of hair become caught in the flaking skin).
  • Straightened styles (i.e. flat iron or blowout) last no more than a week, because of flaking.
  • Psoriasis adapts to treatments quickly, which requires a rotation of products to maintain effectiveness.
 There are a lot of products out there that claim to provide relief from psoriasis. Let's explore them -- breaking down the good, the bad, and the overall effectiveness.
Solution 1: Coal Tar & Salicylic Acid Shampoos
Needless to say, Head & Shoulders isn't going to do the trick. Coal tar and salicylic acid are two additives to shampoos like Neutrogena T-Gel and T-Sal that are believed to help psoriasis sufferers. Coal tar extract is dark brown in color, and is a byproduct of the coal carbonization process. Coal tar works topically, slowing the growth of skin cells and helping to reduce inflammation. Salicylic acid (yes, the same product in acne/blackhead face washes) also works topically, helping to remove the thick layers of dead skin from psoriatic plaques, which allows other medications and treatments to penetrate the skin more effectively. Both coal tar and salicylic acid are effective, but have long-term implications. Frequent use renders them less effective. In fact, it is recommended that psoriasis sufferers alternate between the two shampoos. Unfortunately, all coal tar and salicylic acid shampoos contain sulfates, which are drying to the hair and can lead to breakage. Also, frequent washing (which is necessary for sufferers) leads to increased (and sometimes premature) hair loss.

Solution 2: Clobetasol Propionate Foam (Clobex, Rx Only)
Clobetasol Propionate is a corticosteroid available in an array of forms (ointment, gel, etc.) but for the scalp, most doctors prescribe it in foam form. It is a very strong steroid, and is not recommended for use beyond two weeks. It is effective in reducing plaques and inflammation, but has a laundry list of potential side effects. Not only is the foam solution in alcohol (yes, the drying kind that we run away from), but it can cause allergic contact dermatitis, burning, cracking, dryness, folliculitis, hair loss, hyperpigmentation, itching, finger numbness, skin atrophy, and more. I would stay away from this, unless you are desperate for relief and are all out of options. My dermatologist prescribed this to me at the beginning of the year, and I have yet to touch the stuff.
Solution 3: Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree Oil is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal natural oil believed to help psoriasis sufferers. In truth, it is excellent for keeping the scalp clear and preventing infection (from frequent scratching/itching), but does nothing to relieve the psoriasis itself. Shampoos containing tea tree oil are often ineffective, have nominal amounts of tea tree oil (they mislead you by adding peppermint oil or menthol for scent/that tingly feeling), and can contain sulfates. Tea tree oil is most effective purchased in pure 100% concentration, and a few drops can go a long way. It is best used in a mixture with coconut oil, and applied directly to the scalp.

Solution 4: Shea Moisture African Black Soap Shampoo
This shampoo has been a godsend. It is all natural and sulfate free. The black soap and plantain enzymes definitely provide relief in terms of reducing itching and inflammation, much like coal tar. The willow bark extract has the same exfoliating effect as salicylic acid, and the tea tree oil provides that necessary anti-bacterial/anti-fungal layer of protection. It is an excellent all-natural alternative to the sulfated shampoos. It does not dry out or irritate the scalp, but does have a clarifying effect on the hair. It performs best in conjunction with the accompanying African Black Soap Purifying Masque. However, much like any psoriasis treatment, it requires regular use and rotation. It will not make psoriasis disappear, but will provide noticeable relief.

Solution 5: Henna
Oh lawsonia inermis, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Back in January, I began a quest to strengthen and thicken my hair and discovered henna. My hair was thinner than normal, and weak/brittle from frequent manipulation due to psoriasis. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about relief from psoriasis – but rather a solution to make my hair more resilient. I sauntered down to Whole Foods and purchased my first of many boxes of Light Mountain Red Henna (I know it’s not the fancy online herbal mystic brand, but it IS 100% lawsonia inermis and that is good enough for me).  I did a four hour treatment of henna, water, and coconut oil, and was in for the surprise of my life. After washing out the henna with the Shea Moisture African Black Soap Shampoo, I discovered my scalp was completely clear. Like, I could part my hair clear. I figured it was an anomaly, and that the shampoo was just working really well that day. Weeks later, my scalp was still clear. After about a month, I experienced some slight itching towards the nape, and felt a few small flakes. So I henna’d again, and it went away. Twice is nice, but the 3rd time is the charm. After my March henna treatment, I realized that this plant was providing something I hadn’t had in YEARS – a clean scalp. There isn’t a lot of research on henna, nor a solid explanation for why (beyond it carrying anti-bacterial/anti-fungal properties, and that is irrelevant for psoriasis) – but for me, the proof is in the pudding. Henna smells awful (although creating a henna mix with a yummy smelling conditioner does help), and is incredibly messy, but I am committed to monthly treatments at the beginning of every month. I am on month 7 of henna treatments, and I will continue them until it becomes ineffective.

 Hopefully, this helps provide some relief and sheds some light on alternative treatments for psoriasis. It is difficult to deal with, and a definite hurdle in the race for healthy hair. Over 6 million people in the US suffer with it, and every little bit of information helps. Pass this on to someone you know.

Sep 19, 2013

Reader E-Mail: Dandruff, Dry Ends, and Thin Edges

Told ya'll, I'm catching up! Hope this helps someone out there :)


Hi my name is K, I found you online searching product reviews for dawah African Shea. I'm trying to bring my curls back to life and moisturize my dry scalp and ends. My hair is 3c I would compare it to Tracie Ellis Ross but tighter curls. I stop perming approx 12-13yrs ago and it was my best move. I'm older and trying to embrace my curls and long length inside of covering it. I have very dry scalp always have my mother had cornflake dandruff she made me scratch lol. My usual style when I don't wear a weave is my classic curly ball, I pack my edges with gel the rest with grease and water. I'm a you tube junkie but usually for makeup or natural skin care. I have all these products not sure what to do with them other than take photos and make a collage for Instagram lol. Please help! I love my twist with my natural hair that's my staple style. I use Pantene moisturizer,water and some curl and motions curl pudding. I would like to have free flowing bouncy curls and take a break from the twist. My edges are very thin from my years of braids/weaves, am I too old for them to grow back thicker? I'm 41 by the way :-) I did see black castor oil at dawah but I wasn't sure of its purpose. All tips would be appreciated.

Thank you in advance for your help,

Hi K!

Thanks so much for e-mailing me. I'm SO sorry it took me SO long to respond. I'm really trying to get better at this -- and I'm going through my inbox to make sure I didn't miss anything. Hopefully, I can break things down into a few key areas that may help.

Scalp Issues
For scalp issues, I would ask how many times do you cleanse your hair and scalp, and what products are you using? Whatever shampoo or cleanser you are using could be drying out and irritating your scalp, and if you are washing your hair too frequently (almost daily) or too infrequently (going weeks at a time), that contributes to dandruff as well. Also, the grease you mentioned -- does that go on your scalp as well? If so, it can be clogging the follicles also causing dandruff. To clarify your scalp, I would definitely suggest some more natural products, like essential tea tree oil (diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut, olive, jojoba, etc.), apple cider vinegar (diluted with water), asprin (crushed and mixed with whatever shampoo/cowash you are using), or sea breeze astringent (poured on scalp, allowed to sit, then rinsed out followed by conditioning). Also, be sure to clean your combs, brushes, and other hair tools regularly. Sea Breeze astringent can be used for that as well.

Dry Ends & Curl Definition
Your grease and styling products could be the culprit here. I'm assuming by grease, you mean a petroleum or mineral oil based product. In addition, the Motions Curly Pudding Water is based in water, mineral oil, and silicones. Both products lock moisture out of the hair, and have the potential to be irritants to the scalp (also triggering dandruff). To moisturize your hair and ends while getting great curl definition, there are TONS of more natural products, with good for your hair ingredients. As far as store brands are concerned, you really can't go wrong with anything from Shea Moisture, Camille Rose Naturals (both available at Target) or Eden BodyWorks (Sally's, Wal Mart). If you have a little more time and are interested in supporting small business, check out these brands, and these. Lastly, check the status of your ends. Are they dry, brittle, and/or split? You may need to trim them a little, just to get your hair back on the right track.

Thin Edges
You are absolutely NOT too old to grow your edges back!!! The first order of business is to stay away from any styles that cause tension and pulling at your edges -- meaning weaves, tight ponytails, buns, etc. Second order of business is to begin regular massages with products and ingredients known to stimulate growth. Rosemary Essential and Peppermint Essential Oils are great and affordable ingredients to mix into a carrier oil (such as Jamaican Black Castor Oil, regular castor oil, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.) that stimulate scalp circulation and growth. You can also try growth oils and serums from Komaza Care ( and Hydratherma Naturals (

I hope these help! Again, my apologies for taking so long to respond. Be sure to let me know if you have any other questions!!!
Do you have a transitioning or natural hair question? E-mail me at!

Sep 26, 2013

All About Shampoo Bars: Gentle, Effective Cleansing for Natural Hair

Lavender shampoo bar

Article also featured on Black Girl with Long Hair!

As I explore more and more small business brands, I began to notice a growing trend in product offerings: shampoo bars. The notion intrigued me for several reasons - but mainly because my memories of bar soap on my skin were not the fondest. Using bar soap, my skin always felt dry and a little itchy. Would those same results occur with the myriad of shampoo bars on the market today? And furthermore, are shampoo bars a viable alternative to regular shampoos for natural and transitioning hair? Let's explore.

Shampoo bars are gaining popularity within the natural community for 3 main reasons:

1. They are cost-effective. Most shampoo bars cost under $10 (with the majority hovering in the $5 - $7 area), and last 2-3 months or longer. They can be safely stored in Ziploc bags or travel soap dishes (about $1 at Target) between uses.

2. They are great for travel. How many times have you heard about (or personally experienced) having TSA discard your beloved hair products because the containers were too big? Or even worse, having liquid-y product burst and spill in your luggage? Shampoo bars are the perfect cleansing travel companion.

3. They are gentle on hair and sulfate-free. That's right, shampoo bars don't contain any sort of sulfates whatsoever. They are oil-based, and therefore not drying (we'll talk about formulating shampoo bars in a second). Some of the most popular oil-bases for shampoo bars are coconut, palm, olive, safflower, and castor.

Shampoo Bars: The 411
So why exactly are shampoo bars so amazing, and what makes them ideal for natural and transitioning hair? To get the scoop on the sudsy bars, I consulted with Obia Ewah, Founder of Obia Natural Hair Care. According to Obia, shampoo bars are less stripping than tranditional shampoos because they are normally formulated with oils that are saponified.  Unlike traditional shampoo, they do not contain sulfates or detergents.  Because harsh detergents are not used, they are a less stripping and gentler than traditional shampoo.

So umm, what does "saponified" mean again? Obia further broke it down - explaining that saponification is the name of the reaction that occurs between the oils and lye used to make the shampoo bar.  Saponification is also known as the reaction between fats (oils) and a base (sodium hydroxide a.k.a. lye).

Oh, so there's lye in shampoo bars? I thought we left that behind with our relaxer kits? Don't be alarmed. Obia is a trained chemist, and if there's anybody's word I trust, it is hers. As she explains, the truth is that shampoo bars do not contain lye.  Although lye is used in the beginning of the soapmaking proess, there is no lye in the finished shampoo bar due to saponification.  When lye is evaporated from the soap, the soap is now "cured". In fact, the byproduct of oils and lye is soap and...glycerin! Yes, the same moisture-attracting humectant that many naturals and transitioners know and love.

Just to sum things up, oils + lye (a super small concentration at that) = soap + glycerin. Are you okay with that formula? I am. And the proof is in the results: cleans, soft, detangled, moisturized, shiny hair, and a clear scalp. There is no curl loosening, relaxing, or anything that occurs as a result of using shampoo bars. I repeat, nothing is going to happen to your curls, kinks, and coils. In fact, I'd argue that your hair and scalp are better off with regular use of shampoo bars, because your hair and scalp are adequately cleansed without being stripped, buildup is removed, and shampoo bars often contain ingredients that are AMAZING for hair and scalp health. Not to mention, you never have to worry about things like silicones, parabens, and propylene glycol popping up in your poo bar. Most ingredient lists are short and straight to the point.

So, are you convinced that shampoo bars are worth a try? I hope so. Even if you have a sensitive scalp or suffer from a condition such as dandruff or psoriasis (like me), shampoo bars are excellent at cleansing the scalp without drying, and some even contain ingredients that help soothe and relieve the itchy flakes. Here are some of my top picks for poo bars:

If you're tired of using traditional shampoo to clarify your hair and scalp, give these bars a try:
  • AfroVeda Carrot Seed Clarifying Shampoo Bar ($6.75) - This shampoo bar has TONS of slip, making detangling super easy while clarifying scalp and strands. Leaves hair feeling super clean without drying it out. Packed with beta carotene and Ayurvedic herbs, this bar also stimulates the scalp and promotes growth. 
  • Hairitage Hydration Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo Bar ($8) - They had me at Apple Cider Vinegar. This apple orchard smelling shampoo bar is super slippy, but packs a powerful clarifying punch without the dryness that can come from apple cider vinegar rinses. Formulated with Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar, honey, and soy bean protein, this shampoo bar cleanses, moisturizes, and strengthens.
Gentle Cleansing
Looking to mix up your regular washing routine? Try one of these:
  • Obia Natural Hair Care Coconut Shea Shampoo Bar ($10) - The first poo bar I fell head over heels in love with. Super slippy, great lather, but leaves hair feeling ultra moisturized. Also contains rosemary essential oil for stimulating the scalp, and soy bean protein for strength.
  • Soultanicals "Honey I Shrunk the Frizz!" Strand-Poo Bar ($5) - Super sweet and gentle cleanser with a nice amount of slip, lather and moisture. Contains honey for extra moisturizing, and soy bean protein for strengthening.
  • Senica Naturals Senk Shampoo Bar ($12) - Creamy lathering bar with great slip that leaves hair super soft. Packed with rosemary extract, geranium oil, bay rum oil, carrot seed oil, and more to nourish and stimulate the scalp.
  •  Purgasm Shop Cocoa Yogurt Poo Bar ($7) - I almost took a bite of this shampoo bar. Creamy chocolate-smelling goodness combined with super moisture and shine make this bar a winner in my book. Boosted with argan oil, honey, and silk aminos, this shampoo bar nourishes both hair and scalp.
  • Hydratherma Naturals Buttery Shampoo Bar ($9) - Smooth and creamy bar with tons of lather and moisture. Leaves hair soft and shiny. Calendula and St. John's Wort extracts give this bar a boost in the conditioning and growth stimulating department!

Clay-Infused & Detoxifying
Admittedly, I'm on a clay kick right now. I love the super gentle detoxifying qualities of clays like Bentonite and Rhassoul that make curls, kinks, and coils come to life. Get a taste of amazing clays with these two:
  • Brown Butter Beauty Rhassoul Herbal Tea Shampoo Bar ($8) - Super slippery, gentle cleansing bar that leaves hair extra soft and makes detangling a breeze. This bar made my curls pop, thanks to Rhassoul , and packed my hair with nutrients while soothing my scalp thanks to burdock, neem, nettle, chamomile, and more.
  • Ynobe Shop Silky Shea & Clay Shampoo Bar ($5.75) - Packed with both Rhassoul and Kaolin clays, this shampoo bar is guaranteed to gently detoxify strands while nourishing them with minerals and oils.
That's right -- conditioners can even come in bar form! If you want the bar experience without the shampoo, check this out:
  • Tree Naturals Green Tea & Coconut Conditioner Bar ($13) - When I found out this bar was actually conditioner, I got excited. What could be better than a cowash with a bar? This fresh conditioner bar is super creamy and formulated with natural hair loving fatty alcohols, shea butter, cocoa seed butter, green tea, and more. It leaves hair super soft and shiny.

Lastly, to get the most out of your shampoo bars, make sure you pat them dry with a paper towel after each use. Store them in a cool dry place, in a container or bag that can be closed/sealed to preserve it for as long as possible. Nothing fancy needed here - just a Ziploc bag or Target travel soap dish (around $1) will do. Alternatively, you can cut your shampoo bars into smaller squares, storing unused portions in a Ziploc bag until you're ready to use them. This way, only a small part of your bar gets used at a time!

So, are you convinced to try shampoo bars? Why or why not? If you have already, what are some of your favorites?

Mar 1, 2013

Regulating Scalp Issues From the Inside Out....

As you all (might) know, in addition to being a transitioner, blogger, awesome girlfriend (haha), and wellness enthusiast, I am also a psoriasis  sufferer. Gosh, that sounds worse than it actually is. But anyway, I make mention of that because there are several challenges that confront those of us who have psoriasis, especially on our scalps. Because of frequent flaking and scaling, scalp-revealing styles are embarrassing. Long-term protective styling is impractical (read: braids, weaves, even bunning in some cases), because scales surface every 2-4 days and require frequent lifting/washing from the scalp. This leads to high manipulation, increased likelihood of breakage. Because the scales itch, there is a greater chance that sufferers will scratch plaque sites -- causing potential damage to the skin/scalp, and making the site of the skin break more prone to infection and hair loss. On top of those concerns and many, many, more, psoriasis sufferers must be on their toes treatment-wise. Because it adapts quickly, treatments and solutions have to be rotated regularly to maintain effectiveness.

In a previous article, we discussed the effectiveness of oils, solutions, shampoos, and treatments on scalp psoriasis. While there are dozens of over-the-counter, prescription strength, and natural treatments that can be applied to the scalp, there is a growing body of research that suggests that when it comes to psoriasis (and many other conditions), what we do to, and put in our bodies is just as important as how we treat the scalp issues topically.

Let's dive head first into some internal factors that can help or hurt those suffering from psoriasis. Sidebar: non-sufferers can benefit too!

Please note that I am not a doctor, or other health professional. I have dealt with psoriasis for nearly 12 years, and the information I present comes from my own journey and experiences. As with anything related to natural hair, you must do what works for you. What helps me may not help you, and vice versa. This is all about sharing information :-)


Consuming Fish & Omega 3s: Whether you love grilled salmon, mix flax seeds in your oatmeal, or chuck a capsule, getting Omega 3s in your system is essential. Because psoriasis is an autoimmune condition and manifests itself as skin inflammation, consuming foods and supplements with anti-inflammatory properties can help counter it. Bonus: the essential fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) is believed to support cardiac health. I don't eat a lot of fish, and the only flax seeds I have are for making gel (hehe). So to get my Omega 3 fix, I like to take Garden of Life Oceans 3 Beyond Omega-3.

Get Your A&D: Vitamins, that is...not the ointment. Vitamin A and D are crucial to skin health. Vitamin A is necessary for skin maintenance and repair. It will help prevent acne, dry skin, and support healing (if you're a scalp scratcher like me). Vitamin D shows promise in helping to regulate auto-immune responses within the body -- a direct link to slowing down psoriasis. The good thing about these two is that you don't need to run out to Vitamin Shoppe to get them. Have some eggs, carrots, tomato, watermelon or mango to get your A Vitamins, and soak up 10-15 minutes of sun to activate the Vitamin D stored in your body. I like to get my Vitamin A fix from my multivitamins. My Vitamin D source is the gorgeous California sunshine (I love tanning in the Spring/Summer...don't judge me). If you're in a climate that isn't conducive to chillin' in the sun, you can always speak with a dermatologist about UV light treatments. Just be careful not to get sunburn like I did.

Apple Cider Vinegar: We naturals looooove us some ACV, don't we? We use it to clarify our scalps, do rinses to seal cuticles, and much more. Apple Cider Vinegar is effective in pH balancing hair and scalp, and is definitely beneficial for sufferers and non-sufferers alike. However, when looking for alternative treatments for scalp and body psoriasis, ingesting ACV internally comes in to play. Just as pH balancing is important for healthy hair, it goes the same for a healthy body. As you can tell from the surge in marketing and availability of uber-expensive Alkalized Water (don't buy it!!!), to crazy alkaline diets, it is widely believed that our bodies perform best when pH balanced. In fact, a number of theories suggest that the root of many ailments, diseases, and auto-immune conditions is an acidic pH imbalance. To bring your body back to balance, consume 1 tablespoon of ACV mixed with 8oz of water 1-3 times a day, every day for two weeks. It may take up to two weeks or a month to show some improvement. Bonus: If you want to get really scientific, test your pH before (with urine or saliva), then test it again in two weeks!

Work It Out: Yes, yes, yes. Exercise. Sometimes, I feel like physical activity is a cure-all...and it just might be. Not only is exercise great for your hair (hello, blood circulation and growth), it is great for reducing risk factors for hypertension, diabetes, cancer, bad credit, and more. For psoriasis sufferers, exercise and physical activity are proven stress-busters, and can also help reduce inflammation in the body. You will see a little later why that is important. But really, do you need another reason to get up and move?


Dairy & Fatty Red Meats: Sorry folks, this means cutting back on your beloved double cheesy burger and chocolate shake. According to several studies and sources, dairy and fatty red meats contain a sugar molecule (Neu5Gc, for those that care) that humans cannot synthesize. As a result, our cells absorb it, and the body produces antibodies against it. After a few years of ingesting dairy and fatty red meat, the antibody production may trigger a mild but continuous inflammatory immune response. What is psoriasis again? Exactly. I'm not suggesting that you swear off steaks and mac & cheese forever, but significant reduction in consumption may help. I personally stopped eating beef and drinking cow milk once I started buying my own groceries. Not for any reasons related to psoriasis or health, I just always felt they both tasted funny. But as the years have passed, I noticed that my scalp and skin psoriasis is increasingly less severe.

Stress: This one is a personal toughie. Our bodies stress responses are triggered by so many things -- the self-consciousness that comes along with psoriasis, terrible traffic, work deadlines, screaming children, arguing with your significant other, financial woes, and the list goes on. It is practically impossible to live a stress free life. If you've somehow found the path to stress-free living, take your ticket and prepare for immediate ascent into heaven. Meanwhile back on Earth, the rest of us are tasked to reducing our daily stressors, and finding effective coping mechanisms. When our bodies are stressed, cortisol production raises, and alters our immune system. No coincidence here that stress can cause our bodies to retain/gain weight, and make us more susceptible to colds and other illness! Not to mention, stress can trigger hair loss...but that's another post.  Regardless of the reason for our stress, we psoriasis sufferers have to learn to get a handle on it before it harms our hair and bodies. Seeking support groups, exercise, simplifying commitments, yoga, and learning stress-management skills are all ways to help keep this beast from rearing its ugly head too often.

Blame it on the A-a-a-a-a-alcohol: My apologies once again. The life of a psoriasis sufferer seems so un-fun now, huh? It's really not so bad. The truth about alcohol (in addition to killing brain cells, causing kidney and liver damage) is that it dehydrates you. It dries your skin out. This is of paramount concern to a psoriasis sufferer because dry skin is the enemy. Not only can it create a breeding ground for more scales and plaques on the scalp/skin, it dries out the already existing ones, making them more prone to cracking, damage, and infection. I gave up regular drinking a few years ago, to help support my personal health goals. I still have a glass of wine or a pomegranate margarita on occasion (once every 5-6 months or so), but the every weekend clubbing or drinking with friends at gatherings or restaurants is gone. My body, scalp, skin, and wallet all thank me for it.

Cigarette Smoking: Go ahead and make psoriasis condition number 845,475,981 linked to cigarette smoking. On top of cancers, lung issues, heart, and circulation problems, cigarettes have been proven to have a definite link to psoriasis severity. For those that smoke a pack or more of cigarettes per day, the risk of increased psoriasis severity doubles. For those that smoke 10 cigarettes per day or less, the risk is 30%. But for women, those that smoke or have only recently quit have a 72% likelihood of increased psoriasis severity versus nonsmokers. No time like the present to kick that habit....

What other internal checks do you use to help keep your scalp happy and healthy?

Jan 22, 2015

Curl Care 101: Clean Hair + Clean Scalp = Growth


Welcome back, Curlfriends!

I'm so glad that you all are sticking with me through the Curl Care 101 series and finding it helpful. The feedback and love you've given me is super informative -- thank you!!! This week, we're going to dive right in to the heart and soul of wash day: cleaning the hair and scalp. Ready? Let's go!

Shampoo? Co-Wash? Or Both?
In the natural hair community, we all want to claim sets (I'm from LA, just roll with the gang analogy here) -- #TeamTwistOut versus #TeamBraidOut, #TeamFingerDetangle beefs with rival set #TeamCombsandBrushes, and of course, my #WashnGo set stays having drama with #TeamWashnNo. I exaggerate a little, but dichotomy most certainly exists, which has a tendency to pressure new or lesser experienced naturals into choosing one method or approach over another. In this particular article, we're talking shampooers versus co-washers. Let some Curly Girl Method loyalist tell it, you never ever need another bottle of shampoo in your life. Let some stylists tell it, washing your hair with conditioner is akin to using fabric softener to clean your clothes. Yes, a stylist on Instagram really said that (and I vehemently disagree...but we'll get to that later). So who's right? What should you be using to clean your hair?

The answer boils down to what it always does -- you. Some naturalistas can't shake the sudsy stuff, and lather up every week or two. Others, take Lorraine Massey's Curly Girl Handbook (and Deva Curl products) as gospel, and never come within 10 feet of shampoo. I'm never one to preach exclusivity, and I do think there is a place in your regimen for cleansing with shampoo and co-washing. I personally use both in my regimen, and I'll share how a little later.

I don't know who this is, but her curls are giving me life.
In order to have healthy, growing hair, you need a clean scalp and clean hair. Follicles clogged with dirt, oils, product buildup, and flakes can prevent the hair from growing and even lead to it falling out. Having the hair itself be clean is important too, because hair riddled with build-up is more difficult to hydrate -- and dehydrated is weaker, breaks easily, and splits. Buildup can easily do a one-two knockout on your growth and length retention efforts, but that doesn't have to be so:

The Case for the Co-Wash
The premise of co-washing is relatively simple -- you load gobs of conditioner (or tiny palmfuls if you're fancy and have restraint) into your hair. massage it into your scalp and along the hair shaft, and rinse it out, just like you would a shampoo. The only difference being that your co-wash doesn't lather. How the heck does this clean the hair? All conditioners contain incredibly mild surfactants that can remove up to approximately 90% of dirt and oil from the hair -- which is pretty darn clean. Don't believe me? Check this microscope test. 

The benefits of co-washing include:
  • minimizing the number of products used on wash day (you can detangle, cleanse, and even condition with the same product if you choose to)
  • increased moisture retention, hydration, softness, smoothness, and shine in hair (moisturized hair is less prone to breakage and splitting, thereby aiding in length retention)
  • less frizz and improved curl definition (if you care about those things)
But of course, co-washing has its limitations. That remaining 10% of dirt and oil that gets left behind on the hair can lead to buildup, dryness, limp and greasy looking hair, and clogged follicles (which can impede hair growth). That's why I also make...

The Case for Shampoo
I've written before about why your regimen needs shampoo, and how the shampoos of today are not nearly as frightening as those of yesteryear. The shampoos used prior to the new natural revolution contained all sorts of trifilin' sulfates, and were essentially glorified dish soap. Many of the sudsy cleansers on the market today are what I like to call shampoo 2.0 -- they do not contain harsh detergents, are loaded with natural extracts, and contain conditioning agents. These sulfate free-shampoos:
  • gently cleanse the hair and scalp while removing product and follicle-clogging build-up
  • optimize hair growth by removing oil, dirt, and debris -- thereby allowing follicles to function healthily
  • make your deep conditioner work better by allowing your DC (which has a positive charge) to adsorb/stick to your hair (which has a negative charge)
Much like co-washing, shampooing does come with a particular set of drawbacks. For some naturals, even the most gentle of shampoos can be drying to the hair and scalp. Shampoo also happens to give zero cares about your curl pattern (with the exception of like one), and will almost always cause some level of frizzing that you must rely on a deep conditioner to correct.

With that being said, how can you incorporate both into a happy, healthy, hair regimen? I'm glad you asked! My advice largely applies to ladies who wash their hair weekly (or twice a week), but can be adapted for those that go for 2 weeks or more: use co-washing and shampooing at a 3:1 ratio. That means, after 3 weeks of co-washing, use a shampoo. In my experience, this allows ample time for you to build moisture stores within your hair that will cause the shampoo to not be as drying, and not completely resign your curls to frizz.

For 3 weeks out of the month, my wash day looks something like this:


And on that 4th week:


I mean clearly, my products are subject to change (hair flip), but you get the idea.

Now, let's chat a bit about a few tips to effectively co-wash and shampoo the hair. I'm just gonna assume that you're already up on pre-poo game:

Co-Washing How-To & Tips
  1.   Allow all of the hair to get saturated with warm/very warm water for 1-2 minutes. Warm water helps loosen product and debris, while the constant stream of water helps to begin (re)moving shed hairs.
  2. Apply conditioner or co-washing products to all hair (even if it is sectioned off, just rub it on your twists or braids). This will allow the co-wash to marinate and work through the hair easier as you work on other sections
  3. One section at a time, massage the co-wash through your hair from root to end. If you need to detangle, do that too. After your section has been cleansed and detangled, twist or braid it back up.
  4. To cleanse the scalp and avoid re-tangling, gently pinch your clean twist between your thumb and index finger about an inch away from your scalp. Take your other hand and use the pads of your fingers to vigorously rub your scalp in that section to loosen dirt, debris, oils, and flakes. 
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for all sections
  6. One by one, release sections and rinse.
Shampooing How-To & Tips
  1. Make sure that your hair is detangled prior to shampooing. me on this one.
  2.   Allow all of the hair to get saturated with warm/very warm water for 1-2 minutes. Warm water helps loosen product and debris, while the constant stream of water helps to begin (re)moving shed hairs.
  3. One section at a time (with your hair still in the twist or braid), apply a dime to quarter (if you're heavy handed) sized amount of shampoo directly to your scalp. Gently pinch your twist between your thumb and index finger about an inch away from your scalp. Take your other hand and use the pads of your fingers to vigorously rub your scalp in that section to loosen dirt, debris, oils, and flakes.
  4. As the shampoo lathers, allow it to travel down the length of your hair. If it doesn't make it all the way, feel free to add more shampoo.
  5.  If your shampoo says to leave it on for a few, repeat steps 3 and 4 on the other sections prior to rinsing. There's no harm in doing this anyway, but you can also feel free to immediately rinse. Just make sure that right after rinsing each section, you apply a regular or deep conditioner so the hair doesn't begin to dry out.
So, how often?
That is probably the most common question associated with wash day. How often should you be washing your hair? How do you straddle that line between over-manipulation and total neglect? It largely depends on your lifestyle. First and foremost, I will never advocate that you wash daily. In an extreme emergency (a terrible style turnout and you have to go somewhere important), I understand. On the frequent end, if you are very active (and sweat a lot), have a scalp condition, or have fine hair prone to buildup, cleansing every 3-4 days is fine. On the infrequent end, I recommend washing every 2 weeks. My nice, somewhat mid-ground is weekly. I try to wash my hair every 6 or 7 days (when I can), but I will also wash my hair on day 3 or 4 if necessary. I don't confine myself to one time frame or another, because that leaves zero leeway for like, life.

Warning: this next sentence is my own personal opinion and is based on nothing but that -- feel free to agree/disagree at your own risk! I will never advocate that someone wash their hair only once a month. Shampoo once a month and co-wash the other weeks, yes. But for your hair to only come into contact with a cleansing agent one time a month leaves the door open for too many issues.


Now, what would this article be if I didn't make some solid product recommendations? In case you missed it, here are my favorite shampoos and cleansers from 2014. My favorite shampoos are unchanged (as of yet), but I will say that as far as co-washing goes, Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner has stepped up in a MAJOR way. You can also check out these shampoo bars, which are great for ladies that are nervous about making the full shampoo plunge. I'm also a fan of Alaffia's Black Soap, which is a great quite literally, from head to toe. 

More: Shampoo & Cleanser Product Reviews

I hope you found this week's installment helpful! Click here if you need to catch up on the whole Curl Care 101 series. Be sure to leave any questions and feedback below!

See you next week --we'll be chatting about deep conditioning! Busting down myths, sharing effective techniques, ingredients to look for, and more!

Oct 12, 2013

Sulfur for Hair Growth and Scalp Relief

Article also featured on Black Girl with Long Hair!

What is Sulfur?
Sulfur is a naturally occurring mineral, and the third most abundant in the human body behind calcium and phosphorus. In the body, it is a necessity for proper synthesis of proteins and enzyme, vitamin conversions, joint health, metabolizing amino acids, hair, nail, and skin health, and more.

What Does Sulfur Do for Hair?
Sulfur is often referred to as one of the building blocks of hair, with good reason. Our hair is comprised of a durable protein called keratin, which is high in sulfur content. Sulfur is required for proteins (like keratin) to maintain their shape, which contributes directly to the overall health, strength, and elasticity of hair. More exciting is that there are studies indicating that sulfur has positive effects on hair growth. The life cycle of your hair consists of 3 phases: growing, resting, and shedding. Sulfur has been proven to lengthen the growing phase of your hair. A longer growing phase (before resting and shedding) means longer hair. Lastly, sulfur also has been linked to treating, relieving, and decreasing the occurrences of psoriasis, dandruff, eczema, and folliculitis. I personally find the growth benefits and scalp relief  to be pretty amazing. I've been taking MSM regularly since I began transitioning, and I attribute it to supporting and encouraging healthy hair growth. You can check out my growth and progress pictures out at or on Instagram @maneobjective. I recently began using two products from The Pomade Shop (which you'll see later) on my scalp, and both have definitely helped relieve some of the scaling and flakes I get with my scalp psoriasis.

How Do I Get the Benefits of Sulfur?
There are a couple of different ways to get the amazing growth benefits of sulfur, inside and out. If you're interested in increasing your sulfur intake internally, chow down on these foods:
  • fish
  • high quality beef and poultry (grass-fed is recommended)
  • eggs
  • brussel sprouts
  • asparagus
  • legumes
  • garlic
  • kale
  • onion
  • wheat germ
Or, you could always take MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), which can be found at any health food store, and even Trader Joe's.

To boost the benefits of sulfur in terms of stimulating your scalp or relieving conditions, there are tons of products and DIY recipes to follow. Here are some of the best sulfur-containing products to help you in your healthy hair goals:
If you're more of a DIY kind of person, you can purchase sulfur online (through websites like, and create a sulfur mix with some of your favorite carrier and essential oils. Here is a popular recipe for use on the scalp that can be found online as NJoy's Sulfur Mix:
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Sublimed Sulfur Powder
  • 4oz Jojoba Oil
  • 2oz Jamaican Black Castor Oil (JBCO)
  • 2oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 4-5 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
  • 4-5 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
This recipe works best when mixed and applied using an applicator bottle.

Tips & Recommendations
If you are going to roll with the DIY sulfur recipe listed above, be mindful that sulfur does not dissolve in oil. You will need to shake up the applicator bottle before each use. Most importantly, some people report allergic reactions to using sulfur on their skin, especially at higher concentrations. Do not use more than the amount recommended above. Before applying to your entire scalp, do a patch test in an inconspicuous area to test for sensitivity. You can always take the cautious approach and start off with half of the sulfur required for the recipe or less, and gradually increase the amount.

Happy growing!

Have you ever used sulfur, or products containing sulfur to grow your hair? Share any favorite recipes as well!

Jul 26, 2012

You're Kidding, Right? Odd, Awkward & Down Right Nasty Hair Growth Tips

My latest BGLH feature!

I'm sure that at one time or another, you have googled "hair growth tips" or something similar, in search of different ways to bolster your hair growth progress. In those searches, I'm pretty sure you've come across some common, and viable advice -- including moisturizing and sealing, protective styling, scalp massages, vitamins, exercise, etc. And then, I'm sure you've seen the obscure. The asenine. The gross. Just in case you haven't, here are four of the strangest hair growth tips, tricks, and treatments that are circulating around the interwebs.

You're Kidding, Right? Bull Sperm Treatments
Coming to a Beauty Supply near you.
Did your stomach just churn at the thought of massaging bull sperm into your locks? Mine did. However, across the pond in London, Aberdeen Organic Bull Semen Treatments are all the rage. An intense shot of protein (pun intended), the treatment is designed to leave hair strong and thick (hehe...sorry). Although it seems gross, at a particular salon in London, business is booming. Customers are allured to the repairative and restorative qualities of the treatment, and find solace in its colorless and odorless appearance. For more information about bull sperm treatments, click here.
Is this treatment just a bunch of bull? Most likely. In order for protein treatments to be beneficial to your hair (i.e. have restorative and restructuring impact), they have to be hydrolyzed (broken down into smaller sections). Proteins like eggs, bull sperm, and oat flour are on a molecular level, too large to have any significant impact. Maybe in the future, a hydrolyzed bull sperm.... HydroBull, anyone? For more information on protein treatments, click here.

You're Kidding, Right? Monistat
Yes, Miconazole nitrate aka yeast infection cream. All over the interwebs, men and women alike are singing the praises of the taboo tube. Many bloggers and youtubers have claimed to achieve amazing growth with the product -- to the tune of two or more inches in a month. Users apply either a mildly diluted formulation, or the product straight from the tube to the scalp.
Could there be valid science behind the unbelievable claims made by its users? Possibly. At the end of the day, Monistat is an anti-fungal cream -- helpful for eliminating fungus (if they are even present) from your scalp that inhibit growth, and create an optimal environment for your hair to grow. But Tea Tree oil can serve that same function. Although there have been no extensive studies on the effects of Monistat on hair growth, some doctors speculate that Monistat may interfere with the follicular bonding of receptors that cause hair loss -- spurring an increase in hair growth. But be warned, there are some side effects: headaches, burning/irritation at the site of application (scalp), ringing in the ears, and most concerning, extreme shedding/hair loss once use of the product ceases. Is it worth all that? You be the judge.

You're Kidding, Right? Tobasco/Hot Sauce
Right out the gate, I'm going to suggest using extreme caution with this one... it could be game over if it gets in your eyes. But on to the strangeness. Many naturals prescribe to the belief that by rubbing hot sauce or cayenne on your scalp, you will stimulate circulation and therefore stimulate hair growth.
Is this treatment a hot tip, or just a hot mess? Scientifically speaking, the active ingredient in peppers (capsaisin) has been proven to stimulate hair growth in one study. Don't go grabbing a bottle of Red Rooster just yet, though. In the study referenced above, the capsaisin used was administered by injection in mice, and orally ingested by humans. The only evidence to suggest that hot sauce/peppers work topically is anecdotal, at best. So yes, there is some proof out there that capsaisin works...just not in the way we want to believe it does.

You're Kidding, Right? Onion Juice
This remedy might make you want to cry. Of all the strange treatments, this one is probably the smelliest (but certainly a far cry from grossest...thank you, bull semen). According to several blogs and websites, onion juice's high sulfur content and antibacterial properties lend itself to ridding your scalp of bacteria that can inhibit growth, as well as stimulate hair follicle health. The process of extraction can be cumbersome, if you don't have a blender or food processor handy. For those who prefer hands-on, you can grate the onion and use a sieve or some sort of straining mechanism to press out the juice into a carrier oil of your choice. Otherwise, you can blend the entire onion (sans skin) and slap the paste on your scalp.
The treatment stinks, but the truth behind it doesn't entirely. According to a study done in 2002, onion juice proved to be an effective treatment for alopecia areata, a rare condition in which the body's own immune system attacks hair follicles to remove them from the scalp. After four weeks of treating the scalp twice daily, about 74% of trial participants saw hair growth returning. After six weeks, growth was observed in nearly 87% of patients. If the treatment is effective against an immune condition, there could be some benefit for those suffering from other forms of alopecia and hair loss.

What are some of the most odd hair growth treatments you have tried?

Dec 8, 2013

Hey Naturals & Transitioners: Shampoo Isn't All Bad!

Over the course of the re-evolution of natural hair, shampoo by and large has gotten a bad reputation. It has been written off as harsh, drying, trifiling, scalp irritating, and more. Trust me, I've had some less than savory experiences myself. But fortunately, as time moves along and the concern for kinky and coily hair rises among product manufacturers and small businesses, more shampoo options that are SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and/or sulfate-free become available.

You don't have to dramatically shift your regimen to incorporate shampoo. If you are a fan of regular cowashing or natural alternatives like ACV or Clay, you can definitely still utilize those for the bulk of your cleansing. However, if you are beginning to feel like they just aren't getting the job done, or you feel like you may have misjudged shampoo, now is the perfect time to switch it up. In fact, there are some substantial benefits to the occasional (or regular) shampoo:

Buildup Removal from Hair
To quote Jc of The Natural Haven, "In the grand scheme of things, shampoo will remove more oil and dirt than conditioner, conditioner will remove more oil and dirt than using plain water." Translation: working shampoo into your regimen (at whatever frequency you feel comfortable with) will catch all of the product, dirt, and oil buildup that cowashing can leave behind on your hair.

Clean Scalp
Healthy hair grows out of a healthy scalp. In order to optimize healthy hair growth, the scalp needs to be free of clogged follicles that can occur as a result of sebum production (which is good) combined with product buildup, environmental dirt, and oils applied to the hair/scalp (which is bad). When follicles are clogged, it can cause flaking of the scalp, and even stall hair growth. Conditioner can remove *some* of this buildup, but not as effectively as a shampoo that is designed to do so.

Conditioners & Deep Conditioners Work Better
Without getting too scientific, the general rule is that hair carries a slightly negative charge that is enhanced by use of a shampoo with a negative charge (anionic surfactant). Conditioner has a positive charge (cationic), and of course, opposites attract. The ingredients in your regular and deep conditioners are designed to stick to the hair (adsorb), smooth the cuticle, fill in chipped areas (if there is protein), and can do so better when exposed to completely clean hair and scalp.

If you're looking to dive into shampooing again, here are a list of more gentle cleansing ingredients to look for that are likely to not strip your hair as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
  • SLES (Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate)
  • Cocamidopropylbetaine
  • C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Castile Soap
  • Decyl Glucoside
  • Sponified Oils (click here for more info on shampoo bars)
To make things a little easier, here are some high-quality, gentle shampoos that won't break the bank:

TGIN (Thank God I'm Natural) Moisture Rich Sulfate-Free Shampoo

I can personally vouch for this one. This shampoo has quickly become one of my favorites, and for good reason. It leaves my hair feeling clean, yet super moisturized and not stripped in the slightest. It has tons of slip, making it really easy to work through wet hair. Many naturals sing its praises - and they're absolutely telling the truth.

L'Oreal EverSleek Intense Smoothing Shampoo
Everyday Shea Vanilla Mint Shampoo by Allafia
I especially recommend this for transitioners. Both are incredibly gentle and mild, and won't strip the hair. Both of these shampoos got me through the first year of my transition. They are both affordable, and accessible - and the 32oz Allafia bottle will last you a lifetime.

Koils By Nature Refreshing Anti-Dandruff Tea Tree Mint Cleanser

Another personal favorite of mine. Koils By Nature is known for knockout products, and this shampoo does not disappoint. It has great slip, and cleanses but doesn't strip the hair. The tea tree and peppermint essential oils are a bonus, especially for those with itchy scalp.

Qhemet Biologics Egyptial Wheatgrass Cleansing Tea

The Cleansing Tea is especially mild, but still very effective. It does not have as much slip as some of the others mentioned here, but it is still a great contender - especially if you like the Qhemet Biologics line. A small amount of the Cleansing Tea goes a long way, so an 8oz bottle will last for months.

Camille Rose Naturals Clean Rinse

Camille Rose Naturals is another really great natural product line to consider. Although I have not personally tried this product, the ingredient list looks stellar. Gentle surfactants, humectants (honey and glycerin), essential and carrier oils.  If you have tried it, let me know! I'm on the hunt for some.

Final Tips
If you're still a little hesitant to try shampoo head-on, here are a few tips that will help you ease into the suds:
  • Pre-poo your hair with oil, conditioner, or a mixture of both. Using oils like Coconut Oil will help prevent protein loss, and conditioner can help prevent your hair from becoming more stripped than it would be without it.
  • Always detangle your hair prior to shampooing. Always.
  • If full strength shampoo is still too much for you, dilute it in an applicator bottle with a slanted nozzle. That way, you can concentrate on your scalp more than your hair.
Will you begin shampooing your hair? How frequently?

Jul 18, 2012

Mane Objective Reader E-Mails: Help for Psoriasis Sufferers

Thank you all for your amazing feedback on my BGLH article. Below is an e-mail inquiry from a reader, in response to my writing on Psoriasis. I hope this helps someone!



THANK YOU SO MUCH for shedding light on this issue.  I haven't searched out natural's with this issue, but this is the first time I saw a post about it.  Before, I thought, I must be the only natural experiencing this issue.  Although I think my case my be more on the severe side (literally needing to wash to relieve itch and remove scaling every other day), just hearing someone else can relate is a bit soothing.

Right now I use Giovanni Triple Tea Tree Threat shampoo, and with good results.  Problem is, after a couple days, my scalp has scales/patches again, and itches like crazy.

Right now I only wash once a week, out of just being too busy. So by wash day, the scales are out of control, and itching like crazy. So I pre-poo w/ olive oil and peppermint oil on my scalp for no less than 20 minutes to help lift the scales.  Before I wash, I lift the scales w/ a fine tooth comb, but not comb them all the way out, just lift them, and with vigorous washing with my finger tips most of it comes out.  Only to reappear in a couple days :(

So, my question is, how severe is yours?  With no maintenance or treatment, how long can you go between washes?

Also, with the treatment of henna, how often now can you go in between washes?

What is your wash routine (start to finish)? I would like to experiment with henna and the African black soap to see if this helps my condition.  And do you apply the henna only to scalp or hair and scalp?

I know this is asking a lot, but I am desperate, and again thank you for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Christina Says:

Hi Sherise,

Thank you for contacting me, and re-affirming why I chose to do the article. I was a bit nervous at first, unsure if people would be able to relate to my challenges. On top of that, I feel like psoriasis is so misunderstood, and at it's worst, grosses people out (I saw that in some of the comments on the picture from the article on BGLH).

I totally feel your challenges -- I have been dealing with psoriasis over my whole body since I was in 10th grade. During the summer months, I am able to keep the psoriasis on my skin at bay, thanks to increased sunlight and warmer weather. But since my scalp doesn't get sun, psoriasis never went away there.  at the height of my psoriasis severity, I found myself resorting to everyday wash and go's because I couldn't deal with the constant scaling and flaking. I would soak  my head in coconut and tea tree oil almost nightly, and do a w-n-g because I didn't want to walk around the next day with stringy, oily hair. My scalp was constantly flaking -- I couldn't wear dark colors, and I was always concerned with trying to hide the scaling around my ears and hairline. When I did straighten my hair, I could only wear it for 2 days before flakes began to return with full force.

All of my psoriasis drama began to go away after I began using henna. Henna has truly been my saving grace, for some reason.I can't understand why, but the re sults are all I need to know that the mess of henna-ing is worth it. Henna has made me feel normal again -- to the point where I can rock straightened hair until I'm tired of it, and I only wash my hair on wash days to remove product buildup (and a few small flakey scales that surface near the back of my head). I actually only shampoo my hair like once a month now, and it feels great. My boyfriend is also happy that I can lay on his couch and not leave flakes behind, lol.

My regimen looks something like this:

  • Detangle with Kinky Curly Knot Today and water -- I honestly only pre-poo my hair when it feels really dry
  • Section co-wash with Wen, Aussie Moist, or some random new conditioner I'm trying out, and making sure i gently rake my scalp with my fingertips to get out any product buildup. I work out 4-5 days a week, so I have to get all the sweat out!
  • Moisturize with a leave-in (right now I like to just take some conditioner, and mix it with water to make a spray -- it's very cost effective!)
  • Seal with Aloe Vera Juice or Gel (I just started experimenting with that this week, and I love the lightweight feel it gives me)
  • I protectively style my hair during the week (mostly buns), and wear it out on the weekends (after co-washing)
  • Detangle
  • Section wash with SM African Black Soap Clarifying Shampoo
  • Henna with Light Mountain Red Henna (It is sold at Whole Foods and Sprouts [if that exists in your area]) -- I leave it on for at least 3 hours. If I do it late at night, I will leave it on overnight. Henna can be drying, so I make a mix with henna, Aussie Moist, coconut oil, and water. I make sure to get the henna on my scalp especially. But be careful around the hairline -- it can and will stain :-) Also, make sure that when you henna, you avoid using shampoos and conditioners with protein. It can overload/harden/dry the hair.
  • Wash out the henna with a little SM shampoo or Aussie Moist conditioner
  • Deep Condition with SM African Black Soap Purification Masque, or the Anti-Breakage Masque.
  • Air dry//style
Please let me know if you have any questions about the regimen!!! I hope you can find some relief. Thank you for contacting me!

Do you have questions? E-mail The Mane Objective at!

Dec 5, 2013

African Black Soap and Activated Charcoal for Psoriasis, Eczema, and Seborrehic Dermatitis

As the winter months close in on us, I am reminded that November through February are some of the most difficult months for me in terms of skin and hair. Not because my hair dries out or my skin gets ashy (they do, but not nearly as extreme), but because my psoriasis swings into full gear. At this time of year, the cold air and lack of sun (not for lack of sunny days in LA, but because the weather is too cold to wear clothes that would expose my skin to sun) contribute to psoriasis flare-ups on my skin and scalp - making it difficult to enjoy natural hair and transitioner luxuries such as protective styling and extended time between washing.

Previously on Black Girl with Long Hair and The Mane Objective, I've written articles on products to help with psoriasis, as well as how to regulate scalp conditions from the inside out. In the first article, I mentioned Shea Moisture's African Black Soap Shampoo and Purification Masque, but didn't delve into too much detail about how and why they may work. This time around I'd like to get more specific, and throw another potential natural solution into the ring: activated charcoal. There are plenty of medications out there that can help ease and clear up conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis - but unfortunately many of them have side effects that run counter to natural hair, health, and wellness goals (like hair loss and lowered immune function). Before I get too much further, let's define what these three common conditions are:

Psoriasis: A chronic auto-immune disease that is believed to be caused by an overreaction of the immune system. This overreaction causes skin cells to reproduce rapidly, resulting in inflamed patches (plaques) of scaly and thick red, silvery, and/or white skin that flake off. Psoriasis is not contagious, and is believed to be hereditary.

Eczema: A blanket diagnosis for any type of itchy skin or rash, including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis. Atopic is the most chronic, and most commonly diagnosed. It typically affects the inside of elbows, back of knees, and the face, but can be present anywhere on the body. Contact dermatitis is the skin inflammation result of coming into contact with skin irritants (some of which are present in cosmetic and hair products - beware!) such as detergents, artificial colors, and some fragrances.

Seborrheic Dermatitis: A form of eczema characterized by red, scaly, itchy rashes in various locations of the body. The scalp, sides of the nose, eyebrows, eyelids, skin behind the ears and middle of the chest are the most common areas affected. Dandruff (because seborrehic dermatitis is caused by a fungal infection) appears as scaling on the scalp without redness.

Now that we have a better understanding of these three common conditions that are a little bit (okay, a lotta bit) stronger than dandruff, we can move on to understanding how african black soap and activated charcoal may be able to help.

African Black Soap
What it is: African Black Soap in it's purest form contains plantain skin, cocoa pod, palm, palm kernel, and/or coconut oil. Some recipes may include palm ash, honey, shea butter, essential oils, and more. But the foundation of the soap is definitely the roasted plantain skin. Pure African Black Soap (regardless of brand) should never contain synthetic fragrance or dye.

How it can help: Plantain skin is high in vitamins A and E, both of which are excellent for skin regeneration, elasticity, and repair. The oils, butters and natural humectants (like honey and glycerin) are great for attracting and helping to retain moisture in the skin. They also contribute to being able to effectively cleanse skin, face, and scalp without causing irritation. After doing a significant amount of research, I realized that there may be some confusion (and I was confused, too!) about the efficacy of plantain in healing skin conditions. In African Black Soap, plantain skin (which is understood to possess enzymes that soothe and help ease itching and irritation) is at the heart of the product. This plantain skin is largely different from the plantain plant, the broadleaf plantain which has been proven to promote healing in skin, fight infection, and stimulate cellular growth and tissue regeneration. It is unclear which version of the plantain extract is used in products like Shea Moisture's African Black Soap Shampoo and Purification Masque. Nonetheless, the aforementioned Shea Moisture products are great at gently cleansing the hair, helping to remove scales and flakes, and reduce itching.

Product Recommendations: Dudu Osun African Black Soap is a great all-natural brand of soap, imported from Nigeria that can be used on hair, face, and body. Shea Moisture's African Black Soap Shampoo and Purification Masque are great for helping ease the itch, and can even assist in relieving the scalp conditions. Allafia Fair Trade African Black Soap is another great multi-use option. The liquid soap can be used on face, body, and as a shampoo.

Activated Charcoal
What it is: :::puts science cap on::: Activated Charcoal is essentially carbon that has been treated with oxygen to create a highly porous charcoal. Because the surface area of the charcoal is so large and full of tiny holes, it can adsorb many times its own weight in bacteria, toxins, impurities, and contaminants.

How it can help: When applied topically, activated charcoal can help draw out dirt, impurities, bacteria, and more from the body, skin, and scalp. When ingested internally via supplements, charcoal binds to the same toxins and impurities that could trigger bodily inflammation (and lead to certain skin conditions), and eliminates them through the bowels. There are also a few small studies that indicate activated charcoal can be effective in treating auto-immune diseases that impact cell divison/replication (such as psoriasis).

Product Recommendations: Lia Naturals Handmade Charcoal Soap is an especially great soap for problem skin, as it does not contain artificial colorants, and is fragrance free. Giovanni also has a D TOX line of skin and haircare products that contain activated charcoal as well. To try your hand at internal ingestion, Vitamin Shoppe has tons of different brands of activated charcoal supplements.

As with any natural remedy or treatment for skin and scalp conditions, individual results may vary. Before seeking out natural or over the counter solutions for skin conditions, get a professional medical opinion and diagnosis. And of course, never, ever, substitute online information for that of a medical professional.

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