Some of the best kept secrets for luscious locks are only a click away. Yetunde Ogunbiyi surfs the net for hair growth formulas
These days a new breed of hair growth concoctions are emerging - and these ones actually work. You won't find them in your local shop alongside the weaves and wigs, and they aren't made in high-tech laboratories, but they are breaking the boundaries of hair growth for black women.
The shift towards a new generation of haircare started a few years back, when it was discovered that MTG (Mane- Tail-Groom) (£6.95/6oz, www.shinyshowhorse.co.uk), a growth aid used for horses and to treat equine skin infections, was found to be equally effective in human use, increasing hair growth by up to an extra inch per month. My hair hadn't grown in years, so I decided to try it. Applying it to my scalp every night, the strong scent of bacon made it quickly clear that this was not a sustainable option! Yet it undeniably works and my new growth was very apparent.
For many unable to contend with the overpowering odour, Boundless Tresses (£10/8oz, www.growthspecifics.com) which made its name as the 'odourless MTG' is another popular growth aid emerging from the USA. Also containing the sulphur identified as key to hair growth, but without the mineral oil, the ingredients are all natural and there are no harsh preservatives. I convinced a friend to try it out (I needed to give my own scalp a chance to recover) and received an excited email back from her: 'It only took me a week and a half to see noticeable results and I can't believe I have a full hairline again! I am so happy. My hair is softer and less coarse!'
Claudie's Hair Revitalizer (www.claudieshairrevitalizer.com) from across the Atlantic first caught my attention when an internet discussion forum dedicated to all things hair and beauty was filled with rave reviews for her products. One member of the forum, LovelyTee, said she had tried so many products but gave up the search the day she started using Claudie's Gro Elixir (£7/8oz). 'I can't believe how my hair is growing and just getting thicker,' she said. 'My hair always grew but it was slow as a snail. I love this Elixir, it's the best. I'm still on my first bottle and I only planned on using it for six months just to see what it would do, but I'm going to keep on using it because it really does something good for my hair.'
The woman behind this apparent miracle, Claudie, turned dissatisfaction into passion and then success by developing her own range of products. 'I was frustrated at the products that were offered at the time,' she explained. 'I started to formulate products that I first used exclusively for my friends and family. Starting in 2007, after becoming a member of various hair boards, I read and listened to ladies throughout the USA, and other countries, about their annoyance in not being able to obtain quality products, and I decided to formulate products, so that women would have a chance to have another choice.'
Naturally, I was sceptical that anything straight out of an ordinary kitchen would do wonders for me. However, I now look forward to measuring my new growth at the end of every month. Though her products are still very much homemade, Claudie has expanded to provide a whole range, from the best-selling Elixir to Satin Moisturiser (£3.50/8oz) and Edge Growth Balm (£3/2oz). Selling to customers in 16 countries worldwide, Claudie is welcoming more and more women (and men) who are abandoning the grease and reaping benefits from more natural formulas that stimulate hair growth.
Denise Hayes of De Louise Naturals (www.mydelouisenaturals.com) introduced me to the use of Indian herbs for black haircare. Revealing the best kept secret for black hair, Denise explained that the ancient Indian system of holistic healthcare and wellbeing can help to revitalise the health of hair and scalp, reducing hair loss, treating dry, itchy scalp, strengthening and intensifying the hair's vibrancy.
Denise is no stranger to the market of products for afro hair, having tested hundreds over five years in research while also dispelling some of the common myths among black women. Tired of throwing money down the drain, she embarked on making her own natural cosmetics combining Indian herbs with coconut, olive and almond oils and it was only a matter of months before she achieved her dream of having long, healthy hair.
The heavenly scented Ayurveda Growth Elixir (£5.10/100ml) is a best seller, and Denise is happy that black women in the UK are starting to believe that longer hair is a real possibility. 'The Americans are so far ahead of us, so I hope I can bring a desperately needed new dimension to afro hair care in the UK.'
For most black women, to have waist-length hair is just a dream. One look at Cherie Calvin, the mastermind behind Cherie Naturals Hair Products (www.myspace.com/naturalhair secrets) and you'd be forgiven for thinking that she is simply blessed with the long-hair gene. But her journey from dry and damaged to long and luscious will convince even the most sceptical that it is a reality for all women.
'I tried absolutely everything: vitamins, low maintenance styling, frequent washing... the list really does go on, but in my heart, I had always loved the idea of utilising natural ingredients that are the blessings from the earth.'
After creating hair masks from fruits, honey and eggs, Cherie saw her hair grow to mid-back length, and started to share her recipes with family and friends. 'I started an entrepreneurial journey into finding out what butters, oils and hydrants would suit natural, relaxed and coloured hair. During this time, I also began to learn the amazing benefits of Ayurveda - Indian health care - and the masses of oils, powders and butters the Indian culture had enjoyed for thousands of years.'
Since establishing the company in 2007, Cherie Naturals has sold natural, preservative-free hair products for the black woman to more than 500 customers worldwide. She has also written a book, Cherie Ayurveda - Volume 1, which has been an instant success, featuring growth tips that actually work, principles of washing and combing the hair, and tips on Indian hair growth techniques, with a free sample of her popular Growth Tonic. Avo'Coco Crme (£4.50/235ml) which has a distinctly buttery texture and is an international bestseller, leaving hair feeling moisturised and manageable. With a shelf life of two years, this is one to stock up on!
Searching for the ultimate hair growth miracle in the desire for long, flowing, thick hair has generated some more rather unconventional suggestions. Miconazole Nitrate is an ingredient found in antifungal and yeast infection creams but this ingredient has been shown to help promote hair growth by an extra inch per month and now many women opt to use it as a growth aid.
A popular mixture is a tube of MN and a 1/4 jar of Sulfur 8 pomade (£2.99/100ml) which can be found in any ethnic hair care store. MN is the active ingredient in Daktarin Cream (£3.89/30g). Obviously it's up to you what you tell the assistant when she asks what it's for!
With so many new solutions, there are no excuses for not having the hair of your dreams, after all it's achievable.