Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The picture above is an image of a squeegee I purchased for my shower a little while back. You see I have glass shower doors. One of the huge frustrations I've had to deal with is the constant build-up of soap scum clouding up the glass.

I thought to myself, "if I get this little item, I'll be able to have clear shower door." Boy was I wrong. Little did I know that the cause of the pain and heart ache associated with my cloudy doors had everything to do with the hardness of my water. If you take a good look at the object, you will see that it is practically covered in a layer of white, chalky residue. The layer was so thick that I was able to scrape out some of it with my finger nails. The picture does not do it justice, the residue is thick and extremely obvious. Just to give you an idea of how thick the coating is, that same squeegee you see before you was once clear and see-thru when I purchased it. The squeegee became this way because I let it hang in my shower where it was in contact with hard water on a regular basis

The reason why my once, clear shower doors are now coated and have become opaque is because the water that pours forth from my shower is laden with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, bicarbonates, sulfates, etc. Not only did my hair have to contend with these potential harmful additives, it also had to deal with being exposed to chlorine week after week. It's a miracle, to me, that my hair made it to the lengths it has having been exposed to the same evil water that did this to my shower squeegee.

So what exactly does hard water do to the hair and skin?

The biggest culprit to healthy hair when you have hard water is the unwanted after effect of dryness. It's said that the minerals in hard water raises the cuticle layer leaving the hair feeling rough, dry and prone to tangling. If you guys remember the post on my relaxer stretch, tangles have been my achilles heel for the longest. Another negative side effect of hard water I experienced was the gradual fading of my natural hair color. Over time my hair slowly started to become light brown, slightly rusty color. I've even gone as far as to ask for a black rinse a couple of years ago at the salon to help combat this unwanted look.

Mineral build-up on my hair also had a lot to do with my constant searching for effective hair products. If the water was leaving a layer of residue on my strands, it's only fair to say that some of the conditioners weren't as effective as they could have been had they not have to deal with the hard water. I would clarify constantly but sometimes I felt I had to work twice as hard to get the moisture back in. Let me also mention that hard water is the enemy of the scalp. Because of the layer of residue left behind, the scalp becomes dry and itchy. Existing scalp problems like eczema and dandruff are made worse when your water is hard. I couldn't even tell you how annoying it was to have to deal with dry hands and feet after the simple act of showering. Now imagine what my poor scalp had to deal with. Hard water is no joke.

If you take a look below, you will see a color-coded map of the U.S. This map details the states with relatively hard or soft water.

The parts of the map colored light blue, white and red are considered to be areas of hard water. As you review the map, I also ask that you not only rely on this information but that you also try to validate for yourself if you water is harder than you think. I Googled a hard water may for my state, according to the map, my general area should have softer water than the rest of the state. That notion is complete hogwash when you look at the white coating on my poor squeegee.

Long story short, I have finally come to a place where I have found a solution to this hard water problem. Ladies, let me introduce you to the Water Stick. The Water Stick is unlike any other filter on the market. What you will find as you browse through the wide variety of shower filters online is that 99% of them only remove the chlorine. The shower stick, however, will not only remove the chlorine, it actually filters out all of the minerals leaving the water as soft as a new born kitten. I've always wanted a whole house water filter but didn't feel like making the monetary investment required of such a purchase. This Water Stick, to me, was like a prayer answered.

The water filter was under $200 which is a fraction of the price of a whole house filter. I was also comforted by the fact that the filter will last between 15-20 years. The only maintenance required would be the recharging of the filter which basically means adding salt water to it when necessary. Ladies, the very first time I used this filter I could tell the difference. Soft water is unlike any other water my skin has experienced before. The water felt slippery and delicate. I was in heaven. I feel so much more confident now when I wash my hair that it is experiencing the full effect of the products I use. My skin also feels much less itchy and irritated now. I don't have to use as much lotion and skin moisturizers as in times past. Oh, and by the way, the Water Stick also has a chlorine filter attachment as part of the overall package.

For those of you who aren't ready to make a $200 investment, there are other ways to combat the hard water dilemma. A rinse with apple cider vinegar helps to remove mineral build up. Shampoos with EDTA are another option but for those of us who are moving away from stripping shampoos to moisturizing cleansers, this option is not as desirable. I've even used distilled water as an alternative to mineral laden water that flows from my faucets. Instead of having to worry about which shampoo to use, or having to lug gallons of distilled water into the shower on a regular basis, I decided to go ahead and rid myself of this hard water dilemma once and for all.

This is my way of educating those of you who are constantly struggling with dry brittle hair at the hands of the very ingredient that should be brining moisture to the hair....water. As you look online at water filter options, please be aware that all filters are not created equal. What you need to be certain of is the assurance that the filter you want to purchase is capable of removing minerals, not just the chlorine.

For further reading, here is a thread on longhaircareforum where a member discusses her experience with the water stick.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I am more than excited to introduce to you the next installment in the incredible Silicon Mix line. My love affair with Silicon Mix began way back when with their first deep conditioner. I fell in love with the slip and softness I experienced with this product. It became a staple from the very first use. Some time later, Silicon Mix expanded their line by creating the Protein de Perla conditioner. You guys know from my review of the product that the Pearl Protein conditioner soon surpassed the original on my list of favorite conditioners.

What I appreciate most about the Pearl Protein is the impact it has on my hair. For some reason, this conditioner leaves my hair light and silky which is a huge plus for someone like me who roller sets and wears her hair out during the week. After being matched up with this conditioner, I thought I reached the pinnacle of Silicon Mix enlightenment. That is, until I stumbled upon this wonderful specimen.

Silicon Mix Bambu carries on the torch with regards to the product line's quality. Unlike the Pearl conditioner, this one has a much more palatable scent. I think I actually compared the pearl conditioner's smell to a scented cleaning solution in my review post. Bambu, on the other hand, is so much more pleasing to the senses. This conditioner is quickly becoming my favorites because along with the great scent, bambu contains some make or break qualities which are essential to great conditioners.

Thick & Rich
There's nothing I hate more than the experience of watching deep conditioner run-off flow down the drain right after application. When I put deep conditioner on damp hair, my expectation is that every ounce remain on the strand where it can handle it's business. Silicon Mix Bambu is nice and thick, but no so thick that it hinders application. For instance, I sometimes have to dilute my Cholesterol conditioner with oil or a watery counterpart just so I can apply evenly to the hair. Because of bambu's ease of use I found no need to create a conditioner blend. I was extremely content just using this product on it's own. I actually enjoyed the application process with this conditioner. If I had to use one word to describe this conditioner, that word would be nourishing.

Unique Ingredient
Sure, you probably have a conditioner or two which already contain whey protein but what about one with bamboo extract? Did you know bamboo extract is the riches source of silica at over 70%. Bamboo extract is also said to be rich in minerals and proteins. Those of you who are familiar with the plant know that one of the reasons Bamboo is widely used has to do with it's amazing strength. According to Wikipedia, Bamboo was used in China to hold up simple suspension bridges. Silicon Mix bambu conditioner also contains biotin, panthenol a slew of vitamins, and horse chestnut extract as a supporting cast to the feature ingredient.

Softness and strength
My hair is extremely sensitive to protein. Lately I find myself seeking out alternative strengtheners to traditional protein products so I can avoid that dreaded stiffness associated with too much protein. That's part of the reason I mix my conditioners every wash. I have to balance moisture and strength with each deep conditioner application. I feel like when I use Silicon Mix bambu, I don't have the desire to mix with other conditioners. When used on it's own, my hair felt strengthened. As I washed it out, my hair felt incredibly soft. To be honest with you, the conditioner softened my hair more than I expected.

So, you probably have already figured out by now that this product has instantly gained staple status in my routine. I have short term plans to repurchase a larger quantity so I can use more liberally when I condition. The Silicon Mix brand has done it again. Three great conditioners each offering their own unique benefit. I definitely recommend this product to anyone on the hunt for a nourishing conditioner. If your hair is at all familiar with the Silicon Mix product line then, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Warm weather is finally here and, to be honest with you, I'm really excited about the season change. I'm a summer baby so I tend to shy away from cooler temps. The unusually cold weather this past winter was exceptionaly harsh on my hair and I couldn't wait for the humid air to come in. My excitement soon wained, however, when I found out about the dangers of UV rays on the health and vitality of the hair.

Basically, UV radiation has the potential to penetrate (and cause damage to) the very core of the hair shaft, the cortex. If the sun's rays have the ability to damage the cortex, you know it's doing wrong to the cuticle layer. That's some serious stuff. Not only do I have to worry about repairing damage from the chemical process, I also have to think about protecting my hair when I'm out and about. Ultra Violet rays are also said to have the ability to negatively impact the lipids in the hair which are crucial for creating manageability and shine in the hair strand. Now you know why some people who spend lots of time in the sun seem to have drier looking hair. When most of us think about using sun protection, our thoughts focus on long days at the beach or sun bathing in the back yard. Although those examples are the most extreme cases of where you would need ample sun protection, the truth is, we're exposing our skin and hair to harmful UV rays even during our morning drive to work or if we happen to be sitting near a window.

The thought of losing much needed protein just by the simple act of going outside freaks me out. It's also motivated me enough to become more proactive in this area of my hair care. At first I pondered the idea of becoming a hermit but that didn't last too long before I had to figure out some more realistic solutions. Since I'm in the car alot I've decided to keep a silk scarf handy to wear during my drives to and from my destination. Even if I'm wearing a curly style, I can still place the scarf over my hair without necessarily tying it down. Although a silk scarf isn't considered a bona-fide sun UV protective clothing, it will still offer up more UV protection than if I just went commando with no covering to the hair at all. I did find comfort when I read that silk contains tryptophan and tyrosine which are both said to have the ability to absorb ultraviolet radiation

Next, my thoughts went to some other natural alternatives that could also help in the fight against the sun. I remember reading once about UV protection listed as one of the added benefits of some natural oils. I went hunting on the internet and found this list from
  • Hemp seed oil-SPF 6
  • Shea Butter-SPF 6
  • Macadamia oil-SPF 6
  • Sesame Seed Oil-SPF 4
  • Jojoba Oil-SPF 4
  • Coconut Oil-SPF 2
It's good to know that we can always rely on our trusty natural oils to come in and help save the day. I know you may be thinking, "a 6 SPF doesn't seem like strong enough protection." That logic seems to make sense when we compare to the high SPF levels of skin protectors. The truth is, however, once you venture into the hair care world of sun protection, most products you'll find will contain an SPF of 10 or lower. So an SFP of 6 is somewhat comparable to some of the commercial products on the market.

I will tell you that I was at the Aveeda store the other day and found myself drawn to their display of hair products made especially for sun care. If you decide to seek out a protective product, look for ingredients such as Octyl Methyosycinnamate. You can also use a little leave in conditioner if you know you'll be in direct sun for a few hours. If you do opt for a product aimed at providing sun protection, look for finishing products like leave-ins and moisturizers. Using an SPF conditioner may not provide the right amount of protection once the conditioner is rinsed out.

Lastly, we can take some comfort in the fact that darker hair has a little more natural protection than lighter colored hair because of the melanin but, if we take into account the fact that our hair has been compromised during the chemical process, we ought to think smart and protect our hair the best we can. If any of you are dealing with dry hair, you can not afford to let the sun rob you of the hard work of your conditioners. Why work so hard to avoid heat damage from styling tools only to loose ground from damaging UV radiation? Extend your sun protection to the next level, think of your hair next time you are in the sun.

This has been a public service announcement from the good folks at relaxedhairhealth.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Combing is just one of those things we all have to do on a regular basis for grooming purposes and managing tangles. This is why I have to share with you some interesting facts I read about as a result of a study conducted in 1995. In the study presented at the Annual meeting of Cosmetic Scientists. Researchers sought to isolate and measure the amount of protein the hair strand loses during the simple acts of shampooing and combing. Their hypothesis was that hair fragments from the cuticle layer are chipped away gradually causing eventual deterioration of the hair strand.

As part of the study, the researchers combed strands of hair for 10 strokes, measured protein loss, then combed again for another 10 strokes, measure, and continue with the same process for up to 100 strokes. As you would imagine, they found that the amount of protein loss increased directly in correlation with the number of combing strokes each strand received. The next phase of the study involved shampooing the strands of hair. Following the shampoo, the strands were combed to see how much protein would be lost as a result the process. In this particular study, they tested the effectiveness of two separate shampoos. "Brand B" was found to offer better protection against cuticle chipping protein loss than "Brand A". Not only that, they also noticed that the strand shampooed with Brand B did not increase the protein loss amount as they continued to increase the number of combing strokes. So in other words, "B's" protection of the strand remained consistent no matter how many times the hair was combed during that session. I tried desperately to determine what ingredient(s) were unique to Brand B that set it apart from "A". No clue was given in the study other than the fact that "shampoo B [allowed the hair to] comb significantly more easily than shampoo A."

Overall, the researchers found that protein loss was the highest in non-conditioning shampoos.
Although most of the study was conducted on virgin hair, those involved in the research took it to the next level by testing chemically altered hair (permed/bleached). Obviously, hair that was chemically treated saw the highest amount of protein loss during manipulation. This is due to the changes to the hair shaft after the chemicial treatment. The cuticle layers are more prone to open up as a result of the process. This makes it easier to experience chipping during manipulation.

One of the conclusions made after testing both virgin and processed hair is that the same conditioners which helped to provide some cuticle protection to virgin hair, offered little to no protection when used on the same type of hair after a chemical process. Remember when I posted a link to Royale3086's regimen video? If you recall, Royale said she opts for products made for damaged/dry hair even if her hair looks and feels strong. I have always followed the same reasoning. Don't go by how healthy your hair seems. If you have udergone any chemical process, always reach for extra moisturizing/strengthening products made specifically for chemically treated hair. Your tresses will respond much better to these types of products, and they'll to protect your even after the product has been washed out.

I should also mention that the method researchers used to collect the lost "protein" for measurement was simply by shaking the hair strand in a container of water. The loosened hair fragments would be extracted from the water for assessment. When I read this, I thought about how much protein we could be loosing just from the simple of act regular washing. This study was quite interesting, for me, so I thought I'd list some key tips that we can learn from to protect our hair from this dreaded protein loss.

  • Protein loss in the hair strand increased with the number of comb/brush strokes. Knowing this, we should always make sure that when ever we comb, we lubricate the hair with our most effect moisturizer and or natural oil. This will help to create that "ease of combing" which reduces protein loss. Ease of combing=fewer strokes.
  • If you are not pre-pooing, shame on you! By pre-pooing, you are providing extra cuticle layer protection prior to the manipulation that will occur during your wash. Even if you aren't scrubbing the hair clean, there will be some friction during the process. Protect your hair, do...not....skip.....the.....pre.....poo.....step.
  • Add some coconut oil to the pre-poo. Coconut oil, in a different study, was found to help penetrate the follicle bringing it's nourishing properties all the way down to where the hair needs it most.
  • Always go for products designed for weak damaged hair. Even if your hair feels strong at the moment. Remember, the chipping away is gradual. If you aren't always providing your hair that protection, you might find yourself reacting to damage later on instead of protecting your hair from further damage today.
  • Use detangling combs to help with ease of combing. Remember, the fewer strokes you use, the better.
  • Of course, remember, to use the most extreme care you can whenever handling wet hair.
  • Do not stop searching until you find the perfect conditioning shampoo. The more slip/softness the shampoo provides, the more protected your cuticle layer from excessive chipping.
  • Stock up on ceramide containing products. Remember, ceramides are the quintessential glue that helps keep the cuticle layer intact. The more ceramide your strand contains, the better chance it has at withstanding damage due to manipulation.
I don't know about you, but I can certainly say that I benefited from learning from the findings that resulted from the study. Going forward, I'll be thinking about the tiny little cuticle chips that I may stand to lose anytime I get lazy, or heavy handed with my hair (especially during the wash).

Hope this helped you. I know it will make a big difference in how I approach my wash going forward.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The other day, while standing in line at a local dine in restaurant, I noticed a customer already ahead of me waiting in line. What caught my eye specifically was her lovely waist-length dark hair. In days past, I would glance only momentarily at such a head of hair before moving on to my next thought. Recently, however, I find myself gazing longingly at low mid-back/waist-length hair. More and more, I am beginning to covet every waist length head of hair that enters my line of sight. I take this as a sign that it's now time to update my hair length goals. Up until now, I rarely focused on reaching specified lengths. I merely focused my energy on discovering ways to impact the health of the hair. While I have gained length along the way, I can honestly say that I haven't focused much on gaining inches as a major priority.

So now I'm in a place where I have to think realistically about how I intend to reach these new lengths. First off, I am not under any impression that obtaining waist length will be easy. On the contrary, I believe that "what got me here won't get me there" with regards to my habits and hair practices. At the moment, I'm at my current length because the consistent actions I've taken up until now create the head of hair I have today. Sure, I may be doing all the right things with regards to washing, conditioning and such, but I'm probably also doing (or not doing) things that keep me at a certain length as time passes.

I'm not making these statements to knock any of my progress thus far. In fact, I'm really happy with all of the progress and learning I've experienced up to this moment. At the same time, I completely understand that with wanting to get to the next level more will be required of me. So now I'm at a place where I am looking critically at all of the patterns and behaviors I carry out related to my hair routines. Without much thought I can easily identify that which holds me back. For the sake of being totally transparent, I'll list some of them below:
  • I can't (for the like of me) seem to keep a bun in for longer than 48 hours straight. The thought of wearing a bun for 3-4 weeks (or longer) just pains me.
  • Every 10-15 minutes. I fondle my hair. There's no way around it. In fact, I will take various opportunities while writing this post to touch my hair.
  • Co-washing between washes feels like somewhat of a burden. Rarely do I wash more than once every 4-6 days.
Mind you, these habits aren't the end of the world, but you can see how I can easily graduate to the next level if only I could overcome the negative repercussions of my naughty hair habits. So now my thoughts are buzzing with the question "can I reach low mid-back/waist length hair if I continue to do what I do today?" If I could honestly answer this question by saying "yes", then I'm in a good place. If, on the other hand, my honest assessment is that I likely won't get to waist length. Then the next question I have to answer is "what's it gonna take?"

Before I answer the "what's it gonna take" question, I first have to identify the negative repercussions of continuing the actions that currently hold me back.

As I review the list above, I come to the following conclusions:
  • Lack of consistent protective styling exposes my ends to the drying effects of air. Hair that battles with dryness is likely to be prone to breakage. Breakage is the great hinderer of retention and by stifling my retention rate, I assume the risk of not reaching my length goal.
  • Frequent manipulation of my hair can also encourage breakage.
So now I come to a place where I must decide if the repercussions of the negative habits are severe enough to influence a change in my actions so I can experience the results I desire. At this point in time, I'm remain stubborn on not being willing to drastically change those habits. I am motivated, however, to identify and instill some additional strategies that will help minimize the impact of the negative results. This means finding out other ways to fortify the hair to withstand some of the unwanted side effects of frequent manipulation and excessive exposure to air.

.....this will be my area of focus over the next several months......

I don't yet have the solution, but I have implemented a few ideas that have already shown some considerable promise. Some of my other ideas, however, have produced disappointing outcomes. Either way, my focus remains steadfast as I move slowly towards the finish line. The finish line, which seems incredibly far away considering the few unhealthy habits that serve as a handicap. Even though low mid-back may take a bit longer than someone else in the same scenario who hides and doesn't constantly fondle their hair, it is not an impossible task. If courageous individuals born without natural limbs can win foot races, a fondling non-protective styler like me can have long hair.

So what about you?

What hair goals are you striving for at the moment? Do you have any hindering habits that keep you from moving forward? Are those habits worth holding on to despite their obvious repercussions?

You want to take it to the next level....What's it gonna take?

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