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Reader Q&A: CurlyNikki's Top 10 Tools for Going Natural

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Calling all naturalistas: Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by tweeting them to @EssenceMag with the hashtag #AskCurlyNikki.

Check out the newest installment in CurlyNikki's reader Q&A series:

READER QUESTION: What are the products and tools I will need to start my natural hair journey?

CURLYNIKKI's RESPONSE: Your foray into natural hair can be as involved or as simple as you choose to make it. Some folks (like myself) go HAM and indulge their inner product junky, buying up all the latest potions and notions, while others keep it simple, choosing to purchase the staples and nothing more. Below, I’ll give you a list of what I consider to be the necessities… no matter the route you choose.

1. Wide Tooth Comb- Secure a wide tooth comb, preferably seamless, for detangling your natural curls and coils. My favorite of the moment is the Ouidad Double Detangler. When your fingers can’t stand up to the job, your wide tooth comb should be your tool of choice.

2. Satin scarf and/or pillow case - Our hair is naturally dry and tossing and turning on a cotton pillow case for 8 hours will leech the little moisture you have right out. To prevent morning tangles and dryness, invest in a satin pillow case, or better yet, a scarf or bonnet… or both! My hair is in much better condition now that I consistently wrap it up every night.

3. Booby pins, satin scrunchies and Goody Ouchless bands- Whatever your length, make sure your accessories and styling tools won’t do more harm than good. I love the Goody Ouchless line.

4. Shampoo- Every natural hair routine needs a good, effective shampoo. You can 'poo as often as you deem necessary. Divas that use heavier products, stylers and butters may shampoo as often as once a week or prior to every styling session, while the minimalists (folks that use lighter products) may shampoo once a month or bi-weekly. I shampoo when my hair feels gunky, usually twice a month.

No matter how often you shampoo, moisture retention should be a top priority. Even with the milder options, pre-poos (moisturizing treatments applied prior to shampoo'ing) or deep treatments (moisturizing treatments applied following shampooing) are essential! I love Elucence Moisture Benefits Shampoo and Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat. Both effectively cleanse the hair with the mild surfactant Cocamidopropyl betaine, but don’t leave me with that haystack feeling.

5. Instant Conditioner- After you rinse your shampoo or cleansing cream, you need something to re-moisturize as well as aid in detangling process. I opt for instant conditioners that have tons of slip (that smooth, seaweedy feeling) to make detangling a breeze. My favorite instant conditioners rinse clean but leave my hair soft and tangle free. Currently, I have Aussie Moist and TIGI’s Curl Boost in rotation.

6. Deep Conditioner- Curly hair is naturally very dry and deep treatments (applying a moisturizing conditioner with a heat source) help to retain moisture and health, and thus length. For more information on deep conditioners and ingredients to look for, check out my previous posts. I currently use Davines’ MoMo conditioner, Redken’s Smooth Down Butter Treat, MyHoneyChild’s OliveYou or Jessicurl’s Weekly Deep Treatment.

7. Plastic caps- I use them to protect my twist-outs from the steam of the shower, as well as to aid in the deep conditioning or henna process.

8. Leave-in conditioner- Some folks leave in a bit of their instant conditioner while others choose to thoroughly rinse and apply a leave-in conditioner. Leave-ins not only moisturize, they keep your cuticle smooth, your strands detangled and make the styling process easier. My favorite at the moment (after a few successful tries) is AG Fast Food.

9. Moisturizer - Dry hair is not your friend! Keeping natural hair moisturized will be key in creating a healthy hair journey.  I recommend using a water-based moisturizer (a conditioner or cream that has water as its first ingredient) underneath an oil which brings me to my next must-have item...

10. Oils-
Sealing the hair (especially the ends) is a key step in any natural hair routine. For sealing to be effective, you must first use a water-based moisturizer , and then seal with a butter or oil. The molecules in most butters/oils are too large to pass into the hair, so they stick to the outside of the shaft, trapping in the rich goodness of the moisturizer and/or leave-in conditioner.

Nikki "CurlyNikki" Walton is a successful psychotherapist and creator of one of the most credible online sources about natural hair care, maintenance, and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. Visit her at her blog CurlyNikki or follow her on Twitter @CurlyNikki.

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