Monday, 6 January 2014

Mombasa Diaries: Day 6: The Effect of Salt Water on Natural Hair

Boxing Day is a bust. The only boxing going on is in my head. Damn you sweet, sweet, wine. 

Over the last two days, I've managed to avoid getting my hair in the pool, so I was expecting it to feel much softer than it does. Granted, the scarfless night meant that cotton pillowcase did a number on it but still. It's one night. And my hair was still held up so not too much of it had pillow contact. It really shouldn't have broken the moisture bank. ESPECIALLY considering that I have been spritzing daily land sealing liberally with Kakena's Hair Milk DAILY!  

So I sit down to do some research on the effect of salt on our hair. Because here's the thing. ALL the water where I'm staying, is salty.
The council water in the taps at the house is brackish. I discovered this a year back when I tried to boil The (then) Baby's bottles and teats to sterilize them and they came out covered in a fine white layer. Of salt. The water in the pool is salty too. It's well water and we're right by the ocean so it's very high in salt content. The water in the showers by the pool is from the same well. The ocean..nuff said. The only water I have access too that isn't salty is the bottled drinking water. And although I love my hair, even I have to draw the line somewhere. 

So although I have (mostly) followed the rules to minimize the effects of chlorine on hair, namely, saturating my hair with tap water beforehand and rinsing at straight after, all I have been doing is adding salt, salt and more salt to my hair.

Most of the stuff I read on the internet is written by Caucasians for, presumably, Caucasian hair. It talks about hair feeling soft, smooth and shiny from the effects of salt water. Moving on swiftly.

One interesting point that was raised though was that salt strips hair of natural oils meaning less washes for people with straight hair. Which, when translated for my kinky hair, means whatever little oil was in their in the first place is being leached out. Another article is much more damning about the effects of salt. It not only draws out water, leaving your hair feeling dry but also rubs off the cuticle and keratin coating on your hair, causing excessive moisture loss and breakage. 

A few blogs and forums on natural hair mention that salt water makes curls pop.  I can attest to this as my daughter's curly hair got even curlier. They became spirals and were really soft and shiny and she got lots of compliments. So. Fantastic news if you're a curly but for kinks like me..not so much. 

It seems there really is no definitive, scientific research on salt water and natural hair but what I do know is that after less than a week of daily exposure, my hair feels drier than it has in a long time. I have tried numerous conditioning and moisture retention tactics: adding glycerine to my spritz, daily co-washing, prepooing/oil treatment with ghee, daily LOCing with my spritz, butter and jojoba and protective styling, all with no lasting effect. The only counter measure offered by naturalista bloggers has been to deep condition, which I am yet to do, but I suspect this would only be a temporary solution in this case. I believe that if I remained at the coast on a long term basis the only answer to this problem for me personally would be to use an alternative source of water to wash my hair. If not bottled or distilled water then perhaps find a way to desalinate water. 

All I can say to those who live in Mombasa is hats off! 

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