Coconut oil is out, cocoa butter and even shea butter are old news too because aloe vera is thee magic ingredient my type 4 natural hair absolutely loves.
When I did my big chop in 2015, the three ingredients that all the OG naturalistas swore by were cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil. And I tried for yeeears to try to make these products work for me. I tried different methods and products that contained these ingredients, but, I struggled to get the results that I wanted which was soft, moisturized and defined hair.
But those days are behind me, once I re-discovered my hair’s soulmate, aloe vera. It’s natural, inexpensive and has so many benefits and uses for the entire body.
Aloe vera is nature’s wonder plant and I am sharing with you why I love it so much and how I incorporate it into my natural hair routine.
What is aloe vera
Aloe vera is a medicinal plant with over 500 different species, many of which are found naturally growing in North Africa. The part of the plant that is cultivated for use is the gel found within its leaves. This gel has so many uses and can be found in food, cosmetics, beauty and hair products.
What are the benefits of aloe vera
The benefits of aloe vera are endless and extend far beyond hair and skin to include regulation of digestive issues like constipation and IBS, it’s an antioxidant, has antimicrobial properties and has even been shown effective for teeth and gums. I don’t have enough time to list them all so you can learn more about the medicinal uses of aloe vera here.
As a Jamaican, I was most familiar with its ability to help the digestive system and so spoonful of raw Sinkle Bible (as it’s called in Jamaica) was often taken to cure tummy troubles. Thankfully my parents never subjected me to eating the ooey gooey gel. But I am happy to use it in my hair instead.
Benefits of aloe vera for type 4 natural hair
I have tightly coiled type 4 hair that knots up easily. This makes detangling my hair the most hated part of wash day. A careful and gentle detangling process is important to prevent hair from breakage, so the first rule is never to detangle hair dry and the second rule is to use a product that has tons of slip to aid in the careful separation of the hair strands.
Aloe vera has a tremendous amount of slip naturally, no other ingredient needs to be added. The raw gel is more than enough to get the job done.
Aloe Vera also treats the scalp by relieving dandruff and itching. “Aloe vera contains something called proteolytic enzymes which repairs dead skin cells on the scalp. It also acts as a great conditioner and leaves your hair all smooth and shiny. It promotes hair growth, prevents itching on the scalp, reduces dandruff and conditions your hair. Diane Gage, author of Aloe Vera: Nature’s Soothing Healer says, “Keratin, the primary protein of hair, consists of amino acids, oxygen, carbon, and small amounts of hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulphur. Aloe vera has a chemical make up similar to that of keratin and it rejuvenates the hair with its own nutrients, giving it more elasticity and preventing breakage.”
Does aloe vera help hair grow
Everyone’s hair grows. The only exceptions are medical conditions or certain medications that block hair growth or make the strands fragile and prone to breakage. If none of those conditions exist, the best way to grow long hair is to prevent breakage because you can’t make your hair grow faster but you can strengthen it to retain the length.
The slippery texture and scalp loving enzymes contained in aloe vera, nourish the hair and scalp, prevent hair breakage and shedding to retain the length needed to grow longer and healthier hair.
How I use aloe vera
I have given up the dream of being a DIY natural who cooks up hair masks in the kitchen using 10 different ingredients. But aloe is a lazy and frugal natural girl’s dream. One aloe vera leaf can be purchased at many grocery stores for just a couple dollars. If you’re really fancy you can easily grow an aloe vera plant at home. It’s one of those hard to kill plants that even a brown thumb like me can keep alive.
I primarily use aloe vera as a detangler before I shampoo at times when my hair needs some extra love, like after a protective style or if it’s been more than a week since my last wash day.
The process to prep the lead for use takes only a few minutes.
Aloe vera preparation:
- Take the aloe leaf and cut off a 2.5 inch piece
- The edges can be very sharp so be careful to protect your hands and wash the leaf thoroughly with soap and water then pat it dry
- Use a sharp knife and cut off the sharp edges on both sides
- Use the same knife to cut through the gel of the leaf, splitting the leaf into two pieces
Now that the gel is exposed you’re ready to go.
The aloe vera is now prepped and you’re ready to detangle.
- I take a small section of hair and then take one half of the aloe leaf and rub the gel through my hair from root to ends saturating the strands. Once the section is fully saturated, finger detangling is a breeze.
- I then take my fingers and run it through the section to free it from all knots.
- I repeat this same process for my entire head.
I can detangle my entire head with just that small piece because the gel is so plentiful. As soon as the piece starts to get dry, to regenerate the gel, all you need to do is scratch off that top layer with your fingers to reveal more gooey gel underneath.
How long should you leave aloe in hair
There is no rush to rinse out aloe vera from your hair. It is very safe and can be left in the hair for as long as needed, even overnight for a deeper treatment. But, I do have three things that you should keep in mind.
- Aloe vera gel will harden your hair much like a traditional gel.
- Raw aloe smells a bit funky, it’s not a strong smell but to me it smells like stinky armpits.
- Chunks of aloe can get stuck in the hair strands so it’s important to shampoo and rinse your hair thoroughly to remove it.
Other products that contain aloe vera
Raw aloe vera is so accessible and easy to use but still there is an even easier way that requires zero prep. Aloe vera can be found as a main ingredient in a variety of store bought hair products that will give you some of the same benefits.
Uncle Funky’s Daughter Curly Magic Curl Stimulator is a product I stumbled upon that my hair fell in love with. At $15.99 it’s not as cheap as the raw leaf, but I assure you it’s worth it because a little bit goes a very long way, giving you fantastic results.
Uncle Funky’s Daughter Curl Stimulator
I have the softest, most defined curls when I use it for my wash-n-go. I use it as my styler after I shampoo, condition and apply my leave-ins. I pump about a quarter size amount into my hands for a small section of hair and rake it through my strands. As I do that, I watch my hair just bounce with coily life.
I am left with soft and bouncy coils that are impossible to get with a traditional gel. And it lasts until my next wash day. So, I highly recommend this product.
I hope by now you agree that adding aloe vera into your natural hair arsenal is a no brainer. With the tremendous benefits, the accessibility and low cost, variety of uses for the entire body, every household should have it as a staple in their home. In fact, let me head to my local nursery, I think I just convinced myself again and now I want to grow my own plant.
Have you used aloe vera before? How do you incorporate it into your life?