All kinds of hair. . .
In any given Dominican household, it is no surprise to find straight hair, loose ringlets, and tight, cloudlike curls on the heads of different family members. Some will be natural, some relaxed. With the average Dominican household numbering 5.5 persons (that compares with about 2.4 in the UK), the shower would be getting a little crowded if each family member with a different hair type needed to use a different set of product – especially since Dominicans tend to use both a deep conditioner and a rinseout conditioner each time they wash their hair.
This diversity is why so many Dominican products, formulated for the tightly-curled, heavily-textured hair of most Dominicans also work so well on straight, less textured hair types, too.
Formulators in the DR know how much naturally curly hair needs moisture – whether relaxed or in its natural form, so their products are extra concentrated with emollient ingredients to lock in moisture. This is more important than ever under the hot rays of a powerful Caribbean sun.
While in other countries, greasiness is commonly associated with conventional products designed for tightly-curled hair; the dryness that curls are prone to can often be masked with oil. In contrast, while they are big on moisture, the Dominican aesthetic has little room for greasy, flat hair; it needs to be able to move and bounce, looking full and feeling good to touch.
To serve the complex demands of their market, Dominican formulators had to figure out a way to deliver maximum moisture and emolliency without the use of overly unctuous ingredients. Hence why the penetres – deep treatments – that Dominicans are famous for are designed to be rich and thick when you apply, delivering the high level of hydration, lubrication and seaweedy slip the hair requires. They are also designed to rinse off ultra-clean, leaving the hair silky and hydrated, but unweighed down and without a product-y feel.
Being able to pull off that tricky balance makes Dominican products pretty universal. Not only do they work on hair that is thick, curly, or both, they can also be used on fine-textured and straight hair types, without fear of the hair being weighed down and oily. Perfect for a country with the DR's diversity – and very useful for families outside the island who also have multiple textures of hair under one roof, or all on one head.
Dial up, dial down
Several of the best Dominican products are formulated to be applied on a sliding scale, with the amount used increasing by thickness (from fine, to medium to coarse), type (e.g., curly to straight), density (how many individual hair are on your head) and length.
This is exactly the method used in Dominican salons, both in the DR and overseas, to cater to a range of contrasting textures among clients more efficiently.
It proves just as useful in solving the multiple product dilemma for families in the UK with a variety of textures living under one roof. For example, a straight-haired mum and a curly daughter could both use the same atrActiva conditioner or treatment.
On straight hair, you simply dial down the amount applied to a pea size. For curlier hair, you dial it up; on finer curly hair anywhere from a 50p to a teaspoon size should suffice for the whole head. Thicker hair will, of course, require more.
Exceptions that prove the rule. . .
That said, there are exceptions to note when shopping for a one-size fits-all product for a multitextured head of hair, or multiple textures within a family.
For example, Capilo's Aplanadora line is specially designed for hair that is naturally tightly curled and highly textured, and works better on natural hair than on relaxed, due to the extra weight it uses to smooth curls straight. On the other hand, their Suela & Canela line works for all hair types.
Sometimes, there is variation within a range, too. BPT Wheatgerm Shampoo is great for all hair types but its ultraconcentrated conditioning treatment works best on natural – specifically tightly-curled and highly textured, virgin and transitioning – hair types.
On the whole, however, most high quality Dominican conditioners will work for all hair types, as long as you apply the amount best suited to the type of hair you're working with. And, like any Dominican stylist worth her salt will advise, remember to rinse well once your conditioning time is up, for maximum movement and smoothness.
Dave Bezaire and Susi Havens-Bezaire
Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose
DHA Hair Care Experts
Dominican Hair Alliance