When I was a little girl, my curls got so knotted and matted that my mom nicknamed me Thing 1. (Remember Thing 1 and Thing 2, the mischievous twins from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat? They had identical nests of wild blue hair that stood straight up in the air, and they ran around doing cute, naughty things like flying kites in the house and knocking over furniture. You must Google if you’re unfamiliar.) I was tender-headed, so much so that even her gentle attempts at brushing through my thicket of tangles made me shriek at a pitch that made my mom worry about the neighbors and made us chronically late for school (and in her case, late for work). At one point my mom actually did my hair right there in the classroom, trying to avoid tardiness.
At her wits’ end, my mom remembered a remedy she’d grown up with in Jamaica: She got a bottle of pure castor oil from the health food store and worked a few sticky drops into my hair before tackling it with a brush.
Instant miracle! The brush eased through, smoothing every burr and snarl it encountered in a single painless pass. Instead of shrieking, squirming, and kvetching, I even began to look forward to sitting down to get my hair brushed and braided.
I’m still a fiend for castor oil, and this light one from Kreyol Essence is an order-of-magnitude improvement over the stuff I grew up with. How many times a week you use it depends on how dry your hair is; mine guzzles moisture like desert soil. I smooth half a dropperful through my curls every night before bed and wake up with silky, deeply moisturized, springy, more-defined waves. It prevents tangles from ever forming, and it’s brilliantly multipurpose—hair moisturizer, hair styler, and nourishing skin care for face and body all in one—for traveling (can’t wait for that to be a thing again).
Castor oil is beloved for its rejuvenating, skin-soothing benefits in Haiti and other Caribbean islands, and this one is smoother and more absorbent than the greasy stuff of my childhood, so it’s better suited to work on all hair types, from coarse curls like mine to fine, straight hair. At the same time, it’s still full of hair- and scalp-nourishing goodness—antioxidants, omegas, vitamin E, and protein.
I also love that the founder, Yve-Car Momperousse (like Yves Saint-Laurent, she jokes), is a gorgeous Black woman who employs a 90 percent female staff in her native Haiti, where the company farms its ingredients; has planted roughly 100,000 castor trees, which helps reduce deforestation and soil erosion; and has helped lower gender-based violence and high unemployment. I’m happy I’m supporting a conscientious brand—and happy that no one will call me Thing 1 ever again.