What Does That Mean?

You know how it feels like you stepped into a Biology or Chemistry class when you start this natural hair journey (if you had chem) or start doing things other than braiding and blowdrying (if you have been natural all along)? There are all these names you can’t understand: sijui pre-poo, deep conditioning, MHM (Maximum Hydration Method), protein treatment, moisturizing treatment, co-washing, etc etc? Sensory overload becomes your reality overnight. It’s like you have stepped into that one high school or campus class where this teacher or lecturer makes you feel like you don’t know anything in the world? I’m sure that feeling is universal in those early stages. One trick I have learnt is to take everything a day at a time; whether generally in life or for your hair.

So, we’ll have a miniseries on terminologies: what they mean and what they are good for. After all, pole pole ndio mwendo (slowly slowly is the journey 😀 ), mwenda pole hajikwai (who goes slowly does not injure his/ her foot). Donge?

Let’s start from the basics, the beginning, the bare minimum you could possibly do – washing your hair.

I remember there was I time when I used to wash my hair once every two or three months. I can hear you gasping over the internet. Before you cringe and start judging me, you should know that there was logic behind it. I was in boarding school and we had cold showers. I dreaded those showers. I definitely was not going to brave the cold water for an extra ten to twenty minutes just to clean my hair. Plus, I would have to add shampoo to my back-to-school shopping list. So basically one more thing to panic over because I forgot it at home? No, thank you!

After high school, I’d braid my hair so I didn’t have to think about it. I have never been to Kenyatta Market, so I do not know what braiding in under eight hours looks or feels like. So, why on this green earth would I stay in the salon from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., pay the hairdresser a little fortune then undo my hair in less than two months? Maximizing utility is a concept I seemed to have learnt at an early age. I’d wear those braids for as long as humanly possible. So I couldn’t swim or wash my hair. That would have reduced the style’s shelf life and I wasn’t about that life. So, you see, there was logic…..

Oh the folly of youth!!!

Head in Hands

Granted, now I know better and I can’t go a week (maximum two) without washing my hair.

When it comes to washing your hair, regardless of the interval, you need to know three things: shampooing, pre-pooing and co-washing. Let’s decode them one at a time.

  • Shampooing

I think it is safe to assume that we all know what shampooing is. If we have ever seen the inside of a salon, we definitely know. Shampoos are like soap but for your hair. They help to clean your scalp and hair from product buildup. Unfortunately, some shampoos, specifically those that have sulfates, also strip our hair of its natural oils. You know that feeling of super clean hair? When it has no oil whatsoever mpaka it’s almost pararad? Like it is steel wire after you’ve dipped it in water? That’s your hair stripped of all the oil by shampoo…..and contrary to what we grew up believing, it is NOT a good thing. That’s why it is recommended that you use a sulfate-free shampoo. They don’t strip the hair like their sulfate counterparts. I actually have not used a sulfate-free shampoo yet. I am not entirely sure why. Maybe my brain convinced me that they are expensive even before I bothered to look for one. Anyhuuu… there are a couple of shampoos (actually just one) that work for my hair just fine. I use from Head to Shoulders (I haven’t actually had one for the past six months – long story) because it caters to dandruff-prone and itchy scalps.

  • Pre-Pooing

Pre-pooing is closely related to shampooing. By definition, it is what you do to your hair before you shampoo it. Some people use conditioner, store-bought treatments or various oils. Honestly, I have never understood the concept of using conditioner before shampoo, unless it is for the sole purpose of detangling my hair. I avoid cheap conditioners like the plague and I cannot imagine using a relatively expensive conditioner only to wash it all off plus its benefits immediately after, then use more after I have shampooed my hair and rinsed it. I feel like that’s showering, rolling in the mud then showering again. Si I just roll in the mud first then shower mara one? But that’s not a scientific opinion, just my own. Ideally, the benefits of pre-pooing include:

  • Reducing hydral fatigue, that is, the rapid expansion and contraction as your hair absorbs and loses the water/ moisture. Hydral fatigue could lead to breakage, aka, nywele kukatika
  • Preventing the shampoo from completely stripping your hair of the necessary/ natural/ essential oils that it needs
  • Helping to make detangling easier

Seeing that I have not used store-bought pre-poo treatments and do not get the conditioner option, I use oil for my pre-poo. I use coconut or olive oil and they work perfectly. I hear avocado oil is a good one as well since these oils easily penetrate your strands.

All you have to do is apply a generous amount of the preferred oil to your hair (roots to ends) a few hours to a day before shampooing. If you want to, you can wear a shower cap to generate some heat so that most of the oil is absorbed into your hair strands.

  • Co-Washing

This is basically washing your hair but with a conditioner as opposed to a shampoo. The idea is that conditioner is not as harsh as shampoo on your hair. It does not strip the hair of its natural oils and so is better suited for cleaning your hair. Now, now, now….. Let me not get into my current thoughts about this practice because you will need a comfortable seat and popcorn if I start on this right now. To summarize, *cue Lecrae ft KB’s ‘I Used to do it Too’*

musical notes

“I used to do it too,

I used to do it too,

I used to do it, used to do it, used to do it too,

But I’m changed!….”

musical notes

Kama kawaida that is a story for another day.

So before I make this post longer than it already is, let me end it unceremoniously. Here’s to hoping that some things have been demystified; even just a little. Let me know if this gibberish made sense, if you have something you’d like to understand better or if this is plain old news. I promise I will not catch feelings. Hehehe. Comments, additions, subtractions and all other mathematical signs are welcome.


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