So here are my essentials:
1) A good shampoo
This should be sulphate free if possible. Most people are used to having a squeaky clean, stripped feeling after they shampoo, but your hair shouldn't feel like this. Look for a shampoo that lathers easily (if you like lather), doesn't leave residue on your scalp and hair, but is gentle enough to use regularly. Your hair shouldn't feel dry afer using it, or brittle, but should be shiny and clean. My favourite is Dr Bronner's Castille soap. I've also used Anita Grant's Babassu Shampoo Bar (www.anitagrant.com), and suprisingly, a 85 p bar of natural soap called Olivia (from Holland and Barret). I rate them Dr Bronners 5/5, Anita Grant's 4/5, and Olivia 3/5.
2) Regular / Co washing Conditioner
Natural hair needs moisture, moisture, moisture! I think it's good to have a regular conditioner that you can use on damp hair to help you detangle, or for when you want to do a quick co -wash (washing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo). A good regular conditioner should be fairly light (in comparison to your deep conditioner), and have a lot of slip (slip is when it makes your hair feel..well..slippy, so you can detangle easily).
Good ones are VO5 Moisture Milks. (99p from the 99p store :-)), or maybe something like Herbal Essences Hello Hydration (although I haven't tried it myself).
3) Deep Conditioner
To some, this might be added extra, but the biggest struggle (for me) with natural hair has been getting the moisture level right. Deep Conditoners should be thicker (generally) than your regular leave in, they also might be a bit more expensive. (A regular conditoner you'll want to use enough that you're not washing 5 quid out of your hair every few days, a deep conditioner is a once a week/ every couple weeks kinda thang...).
I also think Deep Conditioners should have mor enatural/ safer ingredients, just because you're leaving it on your headlonger.
Mmy favourite is Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose. I've also used Superdrug Coconut and Sweet Almond Deep Conditioner, and it was really good, as well as easy on the pocket!
4) Moisturising leave in...
This is almost the most important. This is what everyone searches high and low to find - the prefect leave in. Can't say I've found it yet, but i have found some good ones.
Your leave in should lave your hair feeling moisturised, but not greasy. Your hair should feel soft, look shiny (or have a sheen), and not have lots of residue. A good leave in is great if it can be used under hair gel or other styling products, and not make your hair look waxy, or have flaky residue.
Good leave ins I've tried: Beemine Deja's Hair Milk, Anita Grant's Creamy Cafe Latte.
This is some kind of oil/ butter that will 'seal in' the moisture.Water and water based leave in's moisturise, oils and heavy butters seal in the moisture so that it doesn't escape the hair shaft.
Depending on your hair type or texture, you might want a heavy or ligter sealant. I have thick , coarse strands, so I use Castor oil. Shea butter is also good.
Someone with finer, lighter strands will find Coconut Oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil work well for them
After spritzing hair with water or using, a leave in, use an oil or butter to seal in the moisture. I never use oils on dry hair, it just ends up feeling oily but not moisturised.
Peace, Love, and Hair Grease folks!