The composition of the hair of African-Americans is basically the same as that of any other human being. All human hair is chemically the same in terms of keratin content. However, African-American hair distributes oils throughout the hair shaft differently from other races’ hair. This happens because African-American hair has a thicker cuticle or outer layer (up to twice the thickness of other races’ cuticle). In effect, the oils secreted by the scalp travel more slowly towards the ends of the hair, making the hair prone to dryness. Dry hair, by the way, is prone to breakage, especially if it has been stripped of oily coats that keep the moisture in. The thicker cuticle also gives African-American hair its coarse or dense appearance, as well as its curly, kinky, or spiraled shape. This very shape is one reason why African-American hair tends to break easily when brushed or combed—the curls get tangled easily, and needless to say, pulling out such tangles can easily break dry hair.
For this reason, if you have African-American hair, you need to oil your scalp regularly. Oiling your scalp is actually helping your hair from becoming too dry. Put another way, oiling your scalp is one way to make your comb or brush your friend instead of your enemy.
Before you go rushing for that jar of hair oil, there are some things you need to know first. One is that you should avoid hair care products containing petrolatum, mineral oil, or petroleum derivatives. Such products have been reported to irritate the African-American scalp. Worse, they have been reported to cause dandruff, itching, and other scalp irritations. More than that, hair does not easily absorb petroleum-based oils; thus, they not only clog pores but also stay longer on your hair, making your hair a very effective dust magnet.
Most hair care specialists recommend natural oils like pomegranate seed oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, and shea butter. These can come in the form of liquid oils, or as pomades or creams.
To apply oil to your African-American scalp, you need to part your hair into sections of about a couple of centimeters apart. Your target is the scalp. Using your forefinger, dip into the oil jar or squeeze some oil cream onto your pointer finger, and gently rub the oil along the area where the scalp shows. Do this systematically and repeatedly from one side of the head until you reach the other side. Remember also to oil the head’s edges. Complete the procedure by brushing your hair. Doing so will spread the oil on your scalp to your hair and to the head’s edges.
Do this regularly. For some people, it needs to be done everyday. For others, every few days. Some do it once or twice a week. The frequency will depend on your hair thickness.
Avoid over-oiling your hair, though. Too much oil in your hair can make the hair rebellious towards your brush or comb. Moderation is the key - neither too much nor too little.
Knowing how to oil your African-American scalp - and why – is important so that you can give your hair the proper care that it needs to stay healthy.