Friday, 6 February 2015

Back to Basics - Cleansing 101

Hi, welcome to another installment of the back to basics series. This series is mainly aimed at people who have just started to take charge of their day to day hair care who need pointers on what to do. However, those who already have been caring for their own hair may find this series useful as a refresher class. Alrighty then, let's get into the nitty gritty.

Cleansing is a very important part of any hair regimen, whether relaxed, natural, transitioning or loc'ed. A clean scalp is a healthy scalp, and a healthy scalp in turn produces beautiful lush hair without embarrassing white flakes. Cleansing your scalp clears up any build up from the hair products you use, and creates the best hair growth environment. If you were told that a dirty scalp makes hair grow faster, well, that is a big, fat lie. A dirty scalp actually encourages fungi (eeeew) to grow on your scalp, and slows down hair growth since your follicles are clogged.

How often should one cleanse their scalp? Well it all depends on the individual, what their scalp can take and their schedule. Most people range from washing once a week, once a fortnight or once a month. A few wash more frequently, other wash less frequently. But if you are beginning a regimen, you are encouraged to wash at least once a week so that your scalp is in optimum condition. After that, as you know what your hair likes and dislikes, you can then adjust your regimen to suit your schedule and your hair's demands.

Types of Cleansers

Sulfate Shampoos
ORS Creamy Aloe Shampoo, a sulfate shampoo that also chelates
These are the most common cleansers available. They contain sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate or ammonium laureth sulfate in the first 5 ingredients on the label. These are quite effective, and are considered to be very harsh. However, most people with curly or kinky hair prefer to use them once a month to clarify and remove any build up from hair and scalp. If you want to use them more frequently, my suggestion would be to dilute your shampoo with water (1 part shampoo to 3 or more parts water, depending on your hair's preferences). That would be suitable for weekly usage, and may save you some $$$$ too.

Sulfate free Shampoos
Best Sulfate Free Cruelty Free Shampoos and Conditioners
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These shampoos are getting really popular, as many people abandon the harsher sulfate shampoos. The main cleansing agent in them maybe cocamide betaine, which is considered to be gentler than the chemicals I listed in the sulfate shampoos section. These can be used frequently, as they do not dry out the hair or scalp. But one should use a sulfate shampoo once a month to clarify any build up that the sulfate free shampoo cannot get. These shampoos are generally much more pricier than the sulfate shampoos, especially in countries like Zimbabwe where they are hard to find.

Shampoo bars
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This a new alternative that is lately gaining ground in the healthy hair care world. Shampoo bars are basically soap bars that are formulated specifically to clean the scalp and hair. They are less alkaline than the regular bathing soap. Shampoo bars are gentle on the scalp and hair, and most are made of natural, organic ingredients, which is a big plus for those who are avoiding all chemicals. A good example of a potential shampoo bar is African Black Soap. Brands like Dudu Osun have all natural ingredients and are simple to use. Quick warning though, some people have found AFrican Black Soap to be drying to the scalp and hair, so just be careful if you try to use them.

Co-washing Conditioners
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Another method used in healthy hair care to cleanse the scalp and hair is co-washing. Co-washing simply means ''conditioner washing''. What it entails is just taking a cheap instant conditioner, or a conditioner especially formulated for co-washing and use that to cleanse your scalp and hair. This method became popular when people started adopting the Curly Girl method. Co-washing cleanses your hair and scalp gently and leaves hair feeling moisturised. However, as with using sulfate free shampoos, using a clarifying shampoo once a month or so is advisable, especially if you co-wash using a conditioner with an ingredient like dimethicone. This ensures that all build up is cleared up, so your hair strands can absorb whatever goodness you put on them.

Clay washes
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I actually recently found out about this method to cleanse hair and scalp when I first heard about the Maximum Hydration Method. Clay washing is simply mixing up some clay and slathering it on your hair (like conditioner). Clay washes are known as a great method of detoxifying hair, conditioning it and even encouraging hair to clump into curls. The types of clay best to use (you can't just use mud from your garden) are bentonite clay, rhassoul clay and kaolin. You may need to deep condition after using the clay, so listen to your hair!!!

Kitchen Mixes

I am not much of a mixtress, but I do know people use the following to cleanse their hair and scalp. Most of those who use it say it works pretty well, but my advice to you is to research, research and research some more before mixing up your own cleansers. I am just listing what I have heard people say they use (on forums). I have never used any of these to cleanse my hair so don't say ''Yvette messed up my hair by suggesting I use baking soda.. blah blah blah''. Okay?

- Baking soda
- Apple cider vinegar
- ayurvedic cleansing mixes

My final advice on cleansing is:

a. have a schedule of when you will cleanse and stick to it

b. if you find a cleanser that works for you, stick to it. Don't jump onto any ole bandwagon trying to fix what's not broke

c. really research and ensure that the cleanser you end up picking works with your hair texture, porosity, hair type and scalp conditions.

Have a great weekend!!!


  1. Great post, thumbs up. Only methods I haven't tried are baking soda and shampoo bars. Do you think shampoo bars can be used for face and body too? If they can I'll get one in a heartbeat

  2. I love the bentonite clay wash. I did a post on it with my friend's hair. totally getting some clay for me to try it on my relaxed hair.

    @sandra you can use black soap on your face.