Glycerine, a natural emollient and humectant, can make Afro hair soft and shiny. Refined glycerine is commonly found in hair and skin products. Although it is nontoxic and hypoallergenic, some hair treated with glycerine gets frizzy in dry climates and cold weather. Kinky curls are best maintained with styling creams, butters and oils, and several alternatives to glycerine are available.
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Oils work well in hair that is wet because they trap moisture. Oils, including avocado, sunflower, jojoba and olive, can be applied in small amounts to dry hair or used as leave-in conditioners. Cocoa, mango and shea butters, among others gleaned from trees or seeds and available in firm chunks, also work well. They must be softened by handling, then worked into the hair with fingers.
Waxes, including beeswax, are used in many kinds of personal care products, such as ointments, salves and lip balm. They often are listed as an ingredient in natural hair care products, but they can be used on their own. Waxes not only make the hair more manageable, they also act as a sculpting agent, give definition to the curls and add a protective coating. Lanolin, derived from sheep's wool, works in a similar way.
Aloe vera diluted with water is a popular application for Afro hair because it makes it shiny, but not oily. Treasured Locks, a website geared toward people with curly hair, recommends sorbitol, a crystalline alcohol that can be produced synthetically. Sorbitol is a humectant, moisturising agent and lubricant, one that is similar to glycerine but is more compatible to hair. Vegan Wolf, a website listing animal-free ingredients for a variety of uses, reports that derivatives of seaweed and petroleum can also be used in place of glycerine.
Products specifically formulated to help define and tame kinky curls abound in stores and online. Check ingredient lists to avoid products that contain glycerine, as well as glycerine and glycerol. Different types of Afro hair and might react differently to the same ingredients, so it's wise to try a few before settling on an alternative.
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