August 03, 2016 5:00 pm
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Ethnic hair shops are some of the best places on Earth, in my opinion. I think I love them so much because I love cluttered beauty products. It’s actually probably because I just love having a store full of products that work for my hair.

I first started dreading my hair at the tender age of 11, and it didn’t take me long after that to realize that dreadlocked hair isn’t exactly a targeted demographic in the beauty industry. For years, I shopped out of the depressingly small ethnic section of Walmart or tried to get Herbal Essences or Bedhead to work for me, which it absolutely didn’t.

I’ll admit I was jealous and frustrated. As much as I loved my dreads, I couldn’t help but wish sometimes I had straight hair. My friends had aisles of products to pick and choose from—shampoos, sprays, conditioners, gels—and magazines full of hairstyles they would discuss and try replicate. And all I had was Dr. Bronners, a green bottle of olive oil, and a sometimes-managed ponytail or bun, which obviously wasn’t the cool look I was going for.

Enter the ethnic hair shop, or as I like to call it, Urban Sally’s. Ethnic hair shops are little hole-in-the-wall stores, usually found in sketchy shopping centers. If you see posters of weaves and relaxers in the windows, you’ve probably found it. And if you still can’t, ask that aunt in your family who does everyone’s hair—she’ll know.

These shops are basically heaven for people who weren’t born with straight hair. Aisle after aisle of overflowing shelves can be a bit overwhelming, though, after years of a three-product rotation, so let me help you out.

Doo Gro Oils

The #1 product you use with dreadlocks is oil. Oil, oil, oil, oil. Every day, multiple times a day. So finding a good one is key.

Some oils are smelly, and some oils are so oily they’ll leave grease stains wherever you lay your head. Ew, I know. Besides making your own oil, Doo Gro is the next best thing.

I can’t speak on whether it stimulates hair growth because it’s not like I’m measuring my locks or anything. But I will say it’s good for your scalp and strengthens your roots, which, in turn, stops breakage, making it easier for your hair to grow faster.

Taliah Waajid Total Body Black Earth Shampoo

First off, I have to establish that people with dreadlocks do wash their hair because, yes, people really do think we don’t. Now moving on.

With dreadlocks, you have to be really careful about the shampoo you use. Most commercial shampoos are thick and won’t wash completely out of your hair. This will cause a white residue to be left behind on your tips which, frankly, is gross and annoying to try and get out.

Taliah Waajid’s is the best shampoo that I could recommend you try. Fair warning though, it comes out in a black goo, so don’t be scared. But it smells really good, and actually leaves your hair as though you conditioned it.

Jamaican Mango & Lime

I have yet to find a single product from this brand that doesn’t smell good. But there are two standouts: The first is the Mango & Shea Butter Lotion. The biggest problem with my hair is my dreads being too dry, and this makes them so, so wonderfully soft. So soft in fact, that I would say if you’re still trying to lock your hair, don’t use this.

This brings me to the their Locking Creme Wax. I usually avoid waxes, but because this is a cream, it isn’t sticky. It’s perfect for people just starting their dreads, but also works great for styling your hair to get it to hold in lieu of a spray.

Africa’s Best

Africa’s Best is a staple brand and can actually be found in retail chains like Walmart, and some drug and grocery stores. When it comes to conditioners, I’m usually wary because of the whole buildup thing, but these are some I do occasionally use.

Both the Triple Repair and Super Gro are great for when you feel your hair becoming damaged. They make your hair feel thicker and help stop your dreads from thinning at the roots, because those poor babies will fall out. And just for a bonus their Herbal Oil is great, too.

Of course, there are a ton of products—these are only a few—not to mention all the DIY hair stuff people make for themselves, which is surprisingly easy to do. What do you like to use?

This article originally appeared on xoJane by Maya Dodd.