When it comes to the natural hair realm and products we use, there are two super categories people are typically placed under: product junky or mixtress. Generally, a product junky is someone who prefers store-bought products for their haircare routine while a mixtress prefers to concoct their products my hand. Both terms have their harsher connotations, but take these explanations as the simplest way of defining the two names. These labels for where naturals source their products from can be more of a spectrum; one may have store brand conditioners and shampoos, but may choose a DIY flaxseed gel to make their styles really pop.
I, myself, lean more toward the artisan side, not having ventured into newer store brands since I learned to make my own shampoo. Being a mixtress does have its perks, I must say. Some may argue that it’ll be cheaper in the long run, while some say otherwise. However, what I consider the biggest pro to being an artisan natural is learning how universal certain ingredients are. Wouldn’t it be great to have conditioners that could also be used like lotions or scalp scrubs that can be used to achieve smoother skin for the summer? Fortunately, there are some ingredients that are this universal. Allow me to list my personal favorites.
1: Shea Butter
Perhaps you could’ve guessed that I’d say either coconut oil or Shea butter, and I would plead guilty to both. But as a stand-alone, Shea butter would have to be my go-to. While it is a thicker ingredient and can be considered a little too heavy for some hair types, anyone can reap its plentiful benefits when used correctly. Derived from the Karite Tree nut, African Shea Butter has been used for eras and is contemporarily known for its smoothness. Shea butter is not quite as thin as olive oil or as thick as cocoa butter, but rather is somewhere in the middle. When cool, it holds its thicker shape but melts down and smooths into the skin when heated or warmed by our natural body temperature.
For hair, Shea butter is best used as a sealant when used in its natural state because it is so thick, especially for those with more porous hair whose cuticles need a little help keeping water in. An important thing to note when using Shea butter is that a little goes a long way. I don’t mean to be repetitive, but the thickness of Shea butter makes a lot of room for product build up, especially without proper cleansing. An increasingly popular way to soften up Shea butter so that it’s more pliable from a container can be by whipping it with a manual or automatic mixer. Not only will it become frothy and manageable, but this opens the door for use versatility, as aforementioned. I can easily recall many times using Shea butter in place of lotions, especially on warmer days where your typical lotion may feel icky after a while, or begin to dry and require reapplication. Shea butter not only repelled “ashy skin”, but kept it soft and a lot less icky. Another bonus is the natural SPF that can be found in some batches of Shea butter, ranging up to 6.
2: Jamacain Black Castor Oil
This next one has a little controversy floating around its typing, but all forms are good forms – I just have my preferences. Jamaican Black Castor Oil has been one of my staples since my hair reversion. It saved my edges, it strengthened my strands, it blessed my finances for two days, and I can rave about it until my lungs burn out. Before I do, however, let’s discuss the controversy: what’s the difference?
The ricinus communis (commonly, castor-oil plant or castor beans) plant originates from parts of Asia and northeast Africa. When castor beans are harvested and pressed for their oils, their purest color is more of a light or clear yellow. This traditional castor oil is arguably the cheaper, more familiar option to some. Jamaican Black Castor Oil is often recognized for its darker color, due to the fact it is not cold-pressed. In Jamaica, the castor beans are first roasted and the ashes may be added to the oil afterward; this gives the oil its darker color. There have been claims that the ashes play a role in the effectiveness of the oil, but these are often unsupported by fact or research. All in all, the biggest difference to note between the two is that JBCO uses heat, while traditional castor oil is cold-pressed.
Because I have Jamaican heritage, you could guess which I chose. JBCO was floating around my house once upon a time ago and I decided to put it to use and I have not looked back since. Like Shea butter, castor oil has anti-inflammatory properties that have been keeping my scalp relaxed for all of my natural life. It is also a considerably thicker oil which makes it ideal for cooler weather, and retaining moisture in both your hair and skin. Recall that Shea butter can be whipped? Why not add in a little castor oil and spoil yourself?
3: Tea Tree Essential Oil
The last ingredient I’ll mention is an essential oil, Tea Tree Oil. Any avid DIY artisan like myself knows that essential oils must be diluted because of how concentrated they are, so you’re probably wondering how it could be a stand-alone product. Let me explain.
Simply put, tea tree oil comes from steaming the leaves of the Melaleuca (mel-uh-LOO-kuh) Alternifolia tree, commonly known as the dryland tea tree, of Australia. Tea tree oil is best known for its antifungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. While the other two mentioned ingredients are often used for hair, this oil is used medicinally for topical treatment. Because it has antimicrobial properties, however, tea tree oil makes a great mild preservative for your DIYs, something that I make use of very often. Like any essential oil, tea tree oil must be diluted. This simply means it should be mixed with water or a carrier oil, to lessen the intensity the essential oil may have on its own. While essential oils may have amazing qualities, diluting them is really important because some may be sensitive to the intensity of the oil on its own. Any who intend to use it is advised to do a spot-test to check for any irritants, allergens, or potential hazards before broad usage. Additionally, it is not to be ingested or swallowed.
By now, I’m sure I’ve made tea tree oil sound fatal just by looking at its container, but I promise I am not a ghostwriter. Just make sure to spot-test if needed and properly dilute the oil. Once you have done so, you can explore the many ways tea tree oil can be used and benefited from. For hair, tea tree oil can fight bacterial and fungal growth, as well as stimulate hair growth and fight dandruff. As I mentioned, tea tree can function as a light preservative, so why not add a few drops into your whipped Shea and JBCO mix? Now, you have a delicious body butter that you can use for your skincare routine: fade those dark spots, smooth that skin, and make it glow!
My favorite thing about tea tree oil is one of its secret benefits that save my life during the summer. Did you know that it can also function as an insecticide? I have used tea tree oil to keep pests out of my room ever since I started using it and have seen such a difference. In the warmer months, I have a specific spray bottle that I fill with 1/3rd tea tree oil and 2/3rd water to allow the essential oil to be as potent as possible; mixing it with an oil may reduce its effectiveness. After giving the bottle a good shake, I simply spray anywhere I know little pests like to congregate. Not only does the minty scent leave my room smelling nice, it keeps ants away and my mind at peace.
Links & References
- 13 Miraculous Benefits of Tea Tree Essential Oil
- Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia)
- Natural Oil Sunscreens
- 3 Differences Between Castor Oil and Jamaican Black Castor Oil
- Is Jamaican Black Castor Oil Better Than Pure Castor Oil?
- Invasive Plants of California’s Wildland
*Written by a °Yeka team contributor – killerCatZiller™*