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African American hair has thick shafts and large scales, making it thick, curly – and often very dry. Expensive, up-to-the-second salon products can help, but the best hair care secrets come from yesterday. Olive oil treatments are an inexpensive and pure way to moisturize untreated ethnic hair without chemicals, perfumes, additives or expensive packaging.
All hair is made up of microscopic mermaid scales. These scales overlap each other like the pattern on a pine cone around the central hair shaft. When the hair gets dry, these scales open and give your tense tresses that coarse and frizzy look. Olive Oil adds moisture to the hair, and its weight makes the scales lie down flat against the shaft so the hair appears shiny and smooth.
Shampoo your hair in the shower or just wet your hair thoroughly. Massage a palmful of olive oil through your wet hair. Work it in from the scalp to the ends, and comb tangles and snarls out with your fingers as you go. Rinse the olive oil out with very warm water. Continue on with your normal routine, and you should have shinier, softer hair when it dries.
Massage a handful of olive oil through your hair just before bed. Use a wide-toothed comb to coax out any snarls. Twist up and pin any long hair, then cover your hair with a scarf or turban and let the oil sit overnight. Olive oil rinses out easily, and will not leave your hair smelling at all like last night’s salad.
The Bad News
Hair is basically dead tissue, so most of what you do to it is treating the surface only. Deep moisturizers and most other conditioners contain heavy oils as well as humectants, which are chemicals that draw moisture out of the air. Olive oil isn’t a natural humectant, so all you are doing is coating your hair the same way you put clear polish on your nails. It has pretty much the same effect -- a temporary shine and a little flexibility.
The Good News
Olive oil contains no harsh chemicals, perfumes, dyes or other additives. It can be a little expensive, but it does double-duty. Buy a big bottle for the kitchen, and transfer some to a plastic bottle for the bath. Olive oil can be warmed, saving you some cents on hot oil treatments. It should be safe to use on your young ones, but it is always best to check with a health care pro before trying anything new on kids.