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Natural curls are back in fashion, but not every woman with natural hair knows how to care for it properly. Of course, every head of hair is different, so if what you’re doing is working for you, then that’s great! However, if your routine feels like it’s missing something, here are a few ideas to fill in the blanks.

A standard head of curly- or kinky-textured hair needs the following steps during each wash day:

A gentle, sulfate-free cleanser

Curls become dry easily and don’t need to be washed often. A gentle shampoo is all you need. Look for one without sulfates to prevent excess dryness.

Rich, slippery conditioner for detangling

Next, you’ll need a conditioner with a lot of “slip” to work out all those tangles and restore the moisture to your hair. Some people like to do this step first, before cleansing their hair, since freshly detangled hair is easier to work with throughout the rest of the routine.

Moisturizing leave-in conditioner

It’s safe to say that pretty much every woman with natural hair needs a great leave-in moisturizer. Your hair needs a strong foundation of moisture to last throughout the day, let alone the week.

To cut costs and time, you can also use your detangling conditioner as a leave-in—many products are designed to accomplish both tasks. Ideally, you want your hair to be moisturized, but not weighed down.

Oil or butter

This step is one that many people skip unknowingly. Simply adding moisture to your hair isn’t quite enough. You also need to “seal” the moisture in by using an oil or butter, like jojoba oil, coconut oil or shea butter. This is especially important on the ends of your hair.

Cream

Next, you’ll want to add a cream on top of the oil. This product should be much thicker than your leave-in. It adds a finishing touch of moisture, fights frizz and holds your hair in place. You can add a little or a lot, depending on your hair type.

If your hair struggles to absorb moisture, you’ll want to apply cream before sealing with an oil rather than after.

Gel or edge control

A lot of people are intimidated by using hair gel because gel is associated with the crunchy, flaky hairstyles of yesteryear. However, it’s the only product that will reliably define your curls and hold the style for days.

Plenty of gels now maintain the softness and flexibility of your hair while offering a firm hold. If you like a super-natural, loose look, try making your own flaxseed gel. For a more polished look, use a strong gel along with an edge control.

A protective style

All of the above products are important, but they’re useless if you don’t protect your hair after wash day. Make sure to wrap your hair or sleep on a satin pillow to avoid losing moisture and definition. For extra protection, braid or twist your hair as it dries or overnight.

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5 Essential Oils Your Beauty Routine is Missing

Ah, essential oils. They’re like the beauty store of the plant kingdom. For almost any skin issues, from aging skin to acne breakouts, there’s an essential oil for that. They last a long time, they’re easy to use, and they often smell divine. Best of all, they’re completely natural.

If you’re new to essential oils, though, they can be a little overwhelming. There are dozens and dozens of essential oils, so which ones should you buy? How much do you use? What if you have a bad reaction?

This article lists 5 of the most common essential oils for skin and their uses. Start here and soon you’ll have a whole home apothecary! Below you’ll also find a couple quick tips for using EOs.

Tea Tree

Tea tree oil is a must for every girl’s bathroom cabinet. It’s useful for both beauty and first aid, since it’s an antibacterial and antifungal agent.

As an astringent, tea tree oil is particularly good for controlling breakouts, regulating oil production, and reducing acne-causing bacteria.

Lavender

Lavender is great for simply adding to baths, lotions and other beauty items, since it’s ultra-relaxing — and relaxation is an essential part of any beauty routine! It also helps reduce skin irritation. Because it encourages skin cells to regenerate more quickly, it’s great for fading scars and sun spots.

Geranium

Geranium oil is awesome for a wide variety of purposes. Firstly, it’s good for the breakout-prone, since it regulates oil production and controls acne. Secondly, it’s helpful for aging or mature skin because it improves skin elasticity and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. And lastly, it promotes blood circulation, which can help in a range of scenarios, including when you need those bruises to heal.

Frankincense

Frankincense is another awesome addition to your routine. It has a ton of benefits: it’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, and it evens the skin tone out, decreases the appearance of pores, soothes dry skin, tightens skin, reduces fine lines and fades scars. Whew! That’s a lot of power from one plant.

Ylang Ylang

Ylang ylang’s first selling point is that it smells amazing, like a tropical paradise. It’s also good for your skin, though. It controls oil production and minimizes breakouts, and for mature skin, it improves elasticity and reduces fine lines. It also helps regenerate skin cells more quickly, keeping your skin looking fresh.

As a general rule of thumb, you should follow these precautions when using essential oils:

  1. Use just a couple drops, diluted in a carrier oil such as jojoba oil. NEVER use essential oils directly on your skin unless you’ve researched that specific oil. Lavender oil, for example, is safe to use directly, but many people will have a bad reaction to undiluted tea tree oil.
  2. Test it on a small, non-visible part of your skin first. Most essential oils are perfectly safe when diluted, but it’s always good to have some extra peace of mind since everyone’s skin is different.

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