In my previous post, you saw what dry air did to my hair. Yes, horrifying. And I am determined not to let that happen ever again. Just thinking about it makes me wince.
On the very last day of the heat wave, I scrunched in several rounds of aloe vera gel (I used Trader Joe's brand, but aloe vera gel with only preservatives would also be fine). My hair curled within minutes. Minutes! I also got some frizz but that would happen no matter what I applied to dry hair.
I thought immediately of something Lorraine Massey said in her book, Curly Girl, about the ingredients to look for in a conditioner. I'll quote that list here:
Emollients soften and smooth skin and reduce frizz in hair by smoothing the cuticle. There are hundreds of emollients. [She lists shea butter, vegetable oils, wheat germ/olive/walnut oils.]
Proteins coat the hair shaft and protect it. Look for plant proteins such as what, wheat germ, or soy protein ...
Humectants absorb water and hold in moisture. They are absolutely crucial in a conditioner for curly hair. Panthenol, vegetable glycerine, and sorbitol are just a few humectants to look for on the label.
Moisturizers add softness and control to curly hair. Amino acids and aloe vera are two great moisturizers.
(In case you were thinking -- like me -- that amino acids are proteins, let me share what Wikipedia says: "Amino acids combine in a condensation reaction that releases water and the new "amino acid residue" that is held together by a peptide bond. Proteins are defined by their unique sequence of amino acid residues; this sequence is the primary structure of the protein. Just as the letters of the alphabet can be combined to form an almost endless variety of words, amino acids can be linked in varying sequences to form a vast variety of proteins.")
So, moisturizers are among the four essential ingredients a conditioner should have. I looked through my stash and discovered that although many had a slew of humectants, few had moisturizers. (Or the moisturizing ingredients were sporting names I didn't recognize...) It's no wonder that my hair got dry -- and that squishing aloe vera gel into it made it feel and look quenched.
This realization inspired me to do a little testing. I used aloe vera gel several days this week, always on wet hair. And every day, my hair was not dry at the end of the day. Now, granted, our weather here is no longer as arid as it was two weeks ago, but neither has the air been super-soaked with moisture. Today the dew point is 55 so I didn't use the aloe vera gel, but for the past four days, I have used it in some capacity.
And I'm now convinced that it is the key to making my hair curl.
But here's the caveat. Using it when the weather is not dry will result in frizz. I'm really starting to see that hair responds to weather, products, and the combination of the two. In dry weather, hair needs moisture (aloe vera) applied to it and something to seal it in (oil or protein). In humid weather, hair needs a way to attract moisture and hold it (oil or protein).
If your hair is feeling dry, I strongly encourage you to try aloe vera gel. Good brands include Trader Joe's, Lily of the Desert, and Fruit of the Earth. I have not used completely natural aloe vera (the kind you can get at health food stores that needs to be refrigerated), but I would think that would be even better.