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Facts: No Oils No Butters

Facts: No Oils No Butters

There’s an ongoing debate wether raw oils and butters are good for naturally curly hair. Do we really have to use them on a consistent basis in order to have soft and breakage free hair? Is it the cure for longer, luscious and healthy hair? At first, I was really hesitant to dive into the discussions. But here I am…

If I had to answer that, I would say I’m not really sure and it depends on what and how you’re using it. But that’s a topic for a different post. Let’s discuss what it is about and where it’s coming from first.

What is it about?

It’s literally what the name suggests. We shouldn’t use raw oils and butters for our hair care routine. It’s preventing us from getting hydrated hair. Oils and water don’t mix! Ok, chille… Wow, that really sounds hard! Let’s break it down more.

Oils and butters are staples in the natural hair community and even beyond. It is culture and tradition. The scalp needs to be oiled regularly to get the strands pushed out of the scalp. If the hair strands aren’t coated with oils and butters, they will simply break off. Kinky, curly, coils, afro textured hair – you can call it whatever you want – especially type 4 hair needs to be treated with oils and butters. It’s the key to prevent dry and rough feeling hair. But is it really the case?

If we coat the hair strands with oils and butters, we’re consistently building a barrier around each individual hair strand similar to silicones. Now pair it with infrequent hair washes: This makes it almost impossible for water to get through. Water will just sit on top of the hair being damp instead of wet.

I think we all know how long it takes to get an oily pan clean. And usually, water alone won’t get the job done. Water will only sit on top of the fatty layer. And here’s another example. If we pure oil in a bowl of water, it will create an oily film on top of the water. The oil drops would never sink.

So how does pure oil and butter work on the hair. When hair strands are hydrated, the oil/butter will create an outer layer, so that moisture can’t evaporate too fast from the hair. But at the same time less water will be allowed inside the strands. The oils and butters will create a barrier. Now doing this regularly, it may dehydrate our hair strands. Doesn’t it sound a little bit plausible?

Why do oils/butters/fats not mix with water?

It has something to do with the molecular structure. Water has positive and negative charges. They’re consistently attracted to each other. But oil is non polar. Its charge is evenly balanced and that’s why it is attracted to its own molecules. In order to force them to mix emulsifiers are added, which creates an even out spread of the molecules. So this is basically how conditioners, masks and moisturisers are created for hair care.

No oils and butters – Is it something new?

It’s NOT something new, there are threads in longhhaircareforum.com from dating back in early 2000s where it was discussed. So way back than I even did my first big chop in 2010. Here are discussions on no oils but serums, no product routine, no oils routine: avoiding it in the first 5 ingredients and avoiding oils.

BUT it has definitely not caught anybody’s attention until 2015, when the co-founders of Black Girls Curls made articles and tweets on why it’s better to avoid the use of raw butters and oils. They are also the creators of the trending 30 Day Detox, which more and more naturals are trying out. Their book is named ‘Wash Your Damn Hair‘. The title might scare or offend others.

Because it could imply that all the natural type 4 ladies don’t wash their hair AND have been missing basic hair hygiene and common sense for entire decades until the arrival of the 30 Day Hair Detox…

But I think it’s an excellent idea and polarization attracts the mass. I haven’t bought and read it yet, but it’s definitely on my wish list.

(UPDATE 2023:

After having observed the trends, various discussions on social media & researching myself (along others) for 2 years, I see the 30 Day Hair Detox with very critical eyes. Some say it kind of gives wicked cult tastes, some say it’s their saviour. There’s nothing wrong with capitalising knowledge for your own business and making yourself a name in this highly profitable hair & beauty space. But at least acknowledge where things started and where many findings came from with trial and error of the natural hair community. Natural Hair Professionals with the love of defining tight curls have been felt left out for years, because they couldn’t figure out how to clump & set the tightest curl structures. With the aim to keep their clients happy & forever in their seats.

For many, the Anthony Dickey’s Method of using more & more products on afro textured hair to naturally set it curly didn’t sound profitable, but more work. The Curly Girl Method guides by Lorraine Massey was misinterpreted for years and many didn’t bother reading the books or getting trained in Deva Cut Salons. That’s why maybe focussing on for example sulfate free shampoos to cleanse (and not just botanical conditioners), then condition, leaving a bit of Botanical Conditioner in (for curl types that can handle it) or simply using a bit of leave-ins or not AND then styling with gels to form a cast and setting the curls to dry properly with a diffuser attachment or hooded dryer to speed up the drying wasn’t something that was thought to be achievable for afro cottony hair textures.

I find it truly strange that you can find the roots of the 30 Day Hair Detox in Long Hair Care Forum, which was partly copied from a Natural Hair Yahoo Group and the original mentioning of Botanical Gels in the Maximum Hydration Method blogs (which is just another spinoff of the Curly Girl Method for the tightest cottony curl types aka 4c hair) and internet articles. Yahoo is definitely not the space where licensed professionals discuss hair care, but maybe I’m wrong.

Unfortunately or to the joy of others: Yahoo! Groups were shut down in 2020 because of lack of consumer preferences, so we will never know what was discussed there. I found out about the 30 Day Hair Detox in summer 2021. So I was at least a year too late to read about these Yahoo! Natural Hair Groups. But I’m happy some bits were left in Long Hair Care Forum. Yet, you see licensed hairstylists or Curl Specialist or Tight Curl Specialists acting like their findings came out of the blue, the wisdom came from the moon by trial & error, the rest was taught in American cosmetology schools and mocking social media like everyone is dumb and doesn’t know how to cleanse, condition & defining their natural curls.

Also, isn’t it irritating when you watch old school natural hair YouTubers from a decade ago and earlier talking about curl clumping, hydrated hair, frequent hair washes, texturism, hair cuts, gel casts, clarifying regularly and product buildup? Same topics we now see in the professional curl community but with a lot of shade on the internet communities? Here’s more about the 30 Day Hair Detox including more critical thoughts.)

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