Every few generations the great continent of Africa and self-empowerment tends to come into focus for black folk. Marcus Garvey spearheaded the Back-To-Africa movement, the1960s gave rise to Black Power, and during the 1980s many hip young adults started wearing Kente cloth, leather Africa pendants, and thus ushered in the era of naming your baby something vaguely African sounding.
You may have wondered why there are so many Kwame, Jamals, and Nias floating around between the ages of 25-35. Those are the easy names; some parents got more intense… ahemNNEKAYahem.
Being Black and conscious also means being healthy, so with the rise of these various movements came a spike in alternative eating. The Free Breakfast for Children Program was created by the Black Panthers to not only feed hungry children before school, but also to provide them with the proper nutrition they wouldn’t normally get. There have been an incredibly large amount of folk involved in these uplifting movements who are quietly vegetarian such as Corretta Scott King, Bob Marley, Erykah Badu, and Alice Walker.
Eating healthy requires the right food sources and it’s practically impossible to find chia seeds and egg substitute at your local supermarket.
So my parents, along with various dreadlocked naturals huffed it on down to the nearest health food store. In the San Francisco Bay Area, a giant health mecca exists called the Berkeley Bowl. I have fond memories of sitting in a cart gnawing on a stick of dried papaya as my mother calmly wandered up and down the aisles looking for the perfect item to combine health and taste.
It was here we ran into a man wearing a red leather jacket -- to which I promptly lost my shit and started screaming “MIKEY JACKSAND MIKEY JACKSAND!!!” until my mother finally let me say a shy droolie hello. My mom always ends the story with “He looked nothing like Michael Jackson."
What better a way to celebrate my black natural roots than by raiding Berkeley Bowl and making some healthy DIY leave-in hair products? I’ve been natural for close to 15 years, but for some reason my hair has never reached past my shoulder. This is problematic since my goal is AT LEAST nipple level.
Turns out I was treating my hair TERRIBLY. I was using damaging products, flat iron torture traps, and neglecting my night hair routine.
My gentle little baby hairs couldn’t handle it and would crumble at the ends. I noticed a lot of my hair’s dryness came from the products I would use. If you look at the majority of everyday hair products they contain parabens and sulfates. In a nutshell, these are preservatives that allow your products to have a longer shelf life. There are arguments about whether they cause cancer or not, but one thing I’ve noticed is how much these ingredients prevent moisture from penetrating the hair shaft. It’s not sexy when your hair crunches like dry leaves.
There have been an increase in hair products without these items, but usually they cost stupid amounts of money and if you are like me, money is better spent on booze and shoes. The majority of the ingredients I use for my products are cheap, last forever, completely natural, and they’re pretty easy to find.
After shampoo and conditioner, I only use these two DIY products -- CRAZY I know! Less is more ladies -- I used to clump at least 5 different products onto my hair and I wondered why my hair wasn’t growing. I can honestly say my hair is now happily hydrated, shiny, and slowly growing past my shoulders.
Tea Tree Aloe Spray
Tools: Spray bottle, Water, Aloe Vera Juice, Tea Tree Oil
Hair Length: ANY
Hair Type: ANY
I use the Tea Tree Aloe Vera Spray, when I want to detangle my hair or wet it for a style. Tea Tree oil is a natural antibacterial that will keep your pores fresh while smelling great. Tea Tree Oil can also get rid of yeast infections, but we’ll save that for Nnekay’s Odds and Ends of Hippy Weird Shit That Works. Aloe Vera Juice is an adventure into moisture land. Some people drink this, but I haven’t ventured into that territory.
DISCLAIMER: Only get the pure juice form of Aloe Vera. The stuff you slather on your body after you’ve burned to a crisp has so many chemicals it should be called Cooling Goop. Just make sure it says 100% Aloe Vera Juice and you should be good to go!
Clean your spray bottle -- no brainer, but I sometimes forget.
Put about 3-4 drops of Tea Tree oil per 8 oz container. So if you have a 16 oz spray bottle use 6-8 drops. Don’t overdo the oil, a lot goes a long way. If you have ever put Tea Tree Oil on your vagina due to a yeast infection, you know what I’m talking about, ladieeeees.
Fill 1/3 of your spray bottle with Aloe Vera Juice
Fill to the top with water, I know boring, but water is actually one of the best moisturizers around. Sometimes I wet my hair with water, slap on a plastic shower cap (or jerry rig a plastic bag) and let my hair sauna it up. Highly suggest this for all my dry curlies out there.
Shake, Shake, Shake and now you are done! Spritz away!
Coco Shea Hair Butter
Tools: Tupperware container, bowl, hand blender or a heavy spoon, Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, vitamin E oil, and castor oil
Hair Length: Any
Hair type: Dry and coarse hair, unless you are using this as a pomade for your sexy pompadours.
When you moisturize your hair, generally you want a product that will lock said moisture. The Tea Tree Aloe Spray moisturizes while the Coco Shea Hair Butter seals moisture by closes the hair cuticle. I usually pair these two products together or when I need a little more shine in my hair poof I use the Coco Shea Butter alone. I was able to find all of these items at my health food store, but you can also find them at your local African Spice Shop, drug store, or pharmacy.
Add one cup shea butter and a ½ cup coconut oil to a bowl. To soften up your coconut oil, you can place the container in a bowl of hot water for a minute or two.
Pour one tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of jojoba oil, and ½ tablespoon for the rest of your oils. I’ve been using Castor Oil and Vitamin E- but I’ve seen recipes that use Carrot and Almond oil. So get crazy… but I would limit it to 4 oils tops.
Now mash away with your heavy spoon! If you would rather use a hand mixer go right ahead, but with a heavy spoon you can take out all those aggressions you’ve built up from work, traffic, and jerk people.
Make sure it’s nice and smooth, and now you’re ready to use it! Enjoy!
Hair and activist icon, Angela Davis. Photo from Anarchy, Protest, & Rebellion by Fred McDarrah.
What are some of your favorite natural products?