Ethnic Hair Care

This week on GH, I will be covering the world of ethnic hair care. Here is an article I wrote earlier this year for SheKnows about the alarming dangers lurking in many ethnic hair care products.  And on Wednesday I will be introducing an ethnic hair care line that doesn’t dabble with chemical nasties.  

Now let’s get started with some ethnic hair care 101:

Traditional ethnic hair care products contain a myriad of highly toxic chemicals.  I’m sure you’ve seen “no lye” written on many ethnic hair care products.  As consumers became more aware of the dangers that can reside with the use of lye, the industry started to provide no lye options.  Lye is essentially sodium hydroxide.  It causes chemical burns, receding hair lines, irritation, and can cause lung damage. It definitely is some toxic stuff. To give you some history, what we know as lye relaxer was accidentally invented in 1910.  The formula was intended for use on sewing machine needles to prevent fabric scorching!  Lye is also used to unclog drains.  Like I said, really toxic stuff. “No lye” relaxers contain potassium hydroxide, which isn’t necessarily the lesser of the two evils.

What else can lurk in traditional ethnic hair care? Animal placenta and estrogen.  Sheep placenta is used to strengthen hair with its proteins.  Besides the shuddering upset of placenta used as an ingredient, placenta synthesizes estrogen.  Being exposed to increased levels of estrogen increases cancer risks and triggers the onset of early puberty.  Young African American girls have been found to start puberty earlier than other ethnic groups.

African American women’s bodies have been found to have higher levels of phthalates in comparison to other groups.  Phthalates are commonly found in added fragrance and have the stealth activity of mimicking your hormones.  Added hormones makes for some unfavorable outcomes…think steroid users.

Thankfully, there is a shift in consumer awareness and healthy ethnic hair care products are starting to become available, but it needs to move faster.

How to care for ethnic hair naturally?

Daily apply natural oils as a restorative drink to hair and scalp. Jojoba, coconut, and pomegranate oil are great conditioners. Pomegranate oil provides brilliant sheen. Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer.  Hair should not be shampooed everyday because it needs oil.  Definitely stay away from petroleum and mineral oil products because they dry hair, clog follicles, and hinder normal hair growth.

What’s your favorite hair oil?  Share in the comments below!

Photo: Samuel Zakuto

Model: Jay @ Re:Quest Model Management


  1. Nell Shaw says:

    Mine is coconut— it smells heavenly and isn’t to heavy for my ringlet hair!