Three Cheers for Aloe!!!

If you troll any of the natural hair blogs, you've probably noticed the widespread circulation of Hey Fran Hey's video on her moisturizing and sealing routine. I read the article twice, and watched the video three times. Don't judge me. Her information made me reconsider my previous experience with Aloe Vera.

A few months ago, I was in search of an alternative to EcoStyler gel, something a bit more natural. I wasn't about that life enough to make flaxseed gel, so I read somewhere that Aloe Vera Gel was a great substitute. So, I sauntered my happy behind down to Vitamin Shoppe and bought a big ole' bottle of Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gel for about $9. I tried it on my hair one day, instead of EcoStyler gel and was sorely disappointed. I hated how my hair looked and felt. Not to be outdone, I took my happy behind back to Vitamin Shoppe and graciously returned their product to them (love their return policy).  I couldn't understand why so many naturals raved on and on about how awesome the stuff was. I felt misled.

Fast forward to this week. Fran's video helped me realize that Aloe Vera is not a styling tool, and that I had gone about using it all wrong. Friday, I went to Vitamin Shoppe committed to giving the Aloe another go. I'm not gonna lie to you, it was probably the best thing I have done for my hair to date. Here is the routine I followed:
  • Pre-wash detangle with water in a spray bottle and Kinky Curly Knot Today
  • Cleanse hair in sections with Shea Moisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo
  • Deep Condition with Shea Moisture African Black Soap Purification Masque for 30  minutes
  • Finish with an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse (3 teaspoons of ACV to 1 cup of water)
After my hair was effectively detangled, cleansed and conditioned, I grabbed my leave-in (TreSemme Moisture Rich conditioner + water) in a spray bottle, and my Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gel. While my hair was still wet (and if it air dried, I re-wet it), I sprayed my leave-in on, followed by a thorough coating of Aloe Vera gel. I flat twisted each section, bantu knotted the ends, and slept on my satin pillowcase (to allow my hair to air dry).

This entire weekend has been a walk on sunshine for my hair. While my hair very much loves coconut oil and Curl Enhancing Smoothie, I couldn't help but notice the new life this lighter sealing method has given my hair. I will most likely stick to oils and the Smoothie for my protective style bunning during the week, but Aloe Vera Gel has been a Godsend for this weekend, and letting my hair come out to play. My hair was light, but not dried out (felt smooth to the touch!), fluffy, and full of body.

Although the proof was in the pudding, I couldn't help but wonder if Aloe Vera is indeed as effective of a sealant as an oil. So I got to researching. Here are my findings:
  1. As a plant, Aloe Vera utilizes its own sealing properties. Once the outer leaves are harvested (i.e. cut off), the plant utilizes it's own sap contents to seal off the cut portion to prevent water loss. It is believed that those same ingredients are active when Aloe Vera is used as a sealant on hair.
  2. Aloe Vera contains polysaccharides (carbohydrate molecules), which leave behind a natural protective film when applied on skin (and therefore hair). Polysaccharides are also humectants, drawing moisture from the air. Quality Aloe Vera products contain 20-40% polysaccharides.
As an aside, I also found some interesting information about Aloe and hair regrowth at the cellular level. Within every hair follicle are fibroblasts, the structural framework for cell generation and growth. In studies, Aloe Vera has been shown to stimulate/generate fibroblasts -- to the tune of replicating cells at three to four times the normal rate. This is the same function that allows Aloe Vera to heal wounds to the skin. What does this mean for you and me? Aloe Vera gel could help regenerate hair growth at sites of balding (traction alopecia, etc.), and even accelerate hair growth. Because hair is essentially dead cells, increasing the replication of cells (and therefore the life cycle of those cells) can mean increased hair growth.

I'm excited about Aloe Vera's potential. Are you?

Next morning hair. NO OIL!
A close-up. Shiny & weightless!