Ask CurlyNikki: How Do I Make My Hair Shine?

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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 emailing them to BeautyEditors@essence.com.

READER QUESTION: I'm a newly natural girl who cut my hair into a TWA. So far I'm happy with my look. I'm have 4A and coily curl texture and with just a little bit of water and coconut or jojoba oil my hair is very soft and manageable. The only thing that's lacking is shine, which my friends say just isn't possible especially with very light brown hair like mine. Is this true? Is there any product for very soft hair that will give me a little shine?

CURLYNIKKI'S RESPONSE: Unlike straight hair which reflects light, our highly textured strands with their glorious bends and turns, refracts light, giving it a somewhat dull appearance. So, similar to those pesky single strand knots and shrinkage, it kinda comes with the territory.  Also, to your point on brown hair, there was some anecdotal evidence shared by other sandy brown divas on CurlyNikki.com, about the lack of shine you speak of as well as a proneness to dryness.  Check it out and weigh in!

While our highly textured tresses are not naturally shiny, we can turn to natural and commercial products to enhance what we do have and add a healthy sheen. Below, you'll find some of the community's best practices.

Aloe Vera Gel: Chemist, Tonya Mckay shares: "Aloe vera gel has both emollient and moisturizing properties, meaning that it smoothes the cuticle surface and also attracts and seals in moisture. Despite having a relatively low amount of active ingredients on a molecular or weight basis (less than 1.0%), the specific combination and type of ingredients enable it to pack a significant punch. It imparts detangling and conditioning by forming a polymer film on the surface of the hair, thereby smoothing the cuticle. This film can also provide mild hold."

Aloe vera gel's ability to smooth the cuticle and seal in moisture may impart the healthy shine you seek.  This means that curlies should look for aloe vera in their products (especially their styling products), or even consider investing in a high quality, pure aloe vera gel to experiment with in their future leave-in conditioner and gel recipes.  

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV): Many naturals swear by ACV, touting it as nature's miracle rinse, using it to smooth the hair by tightening up and laying down a raised cuticle. Remember, a smooth cuticle yields shinier results. Others use it to remove build up from shampoo, conditioners and stylers, revealing their natural sheen.  Most folks start with two tablespoons of ACV in one cup of water and adjust from there.  

Cold Water Rinsing: Like the above, many naturals turn down the heat and employ a chilly final rinse on wash day, to seal the cuticle for shinier, smoother results.

Juices and Berries: Natural oils such as coconut, olive and jojoba enhance your hair's natural radiance. Many natural divas turn to these oils to seal in moisture from wash day and to finish a style.  I also employ them throughout the week to keep my ends lubricated and breakage free!

Air dry: When possible, skip the diffuser, and opt to air dry your styles.  Even indirect heat such as a bonnet dryer, has the potential to rob your hair of moisture leaving it dull and drab.  

Cassia Treatments: Cassia is similar to henna... although it's a different plant altogether, it has some of the same conditioning effects, sans the red color. Like henna, cassia strengthens the hair shaft, improves overall health, and adds lots of shine. See here for more info on cassia. 

Serums- I've had personal success from several commercial oils and serums for shine without the build-up, greasiness or weight I get from some natural oils.  Notables are Soft-Sheen Carson's Miracle Oil, Ouidad's Mongongo Oil and Mizani's Supreme Oil. I use these less for nourishment and more to add some serious shine to dull wash&gos and twist-outs.

What are you dolls using to add shine to your situation? Leave your comments below!

Nikki Walton, founder of CurlyNikki.com, is a successful psychotherapist and creator of the most credible online source about natural hair care, maintenance and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. She's the author of the book Better Than Good Hair.