Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Begin with the ends in mind: How to keep the ends of your hair strong and healthy

At the start of the year, one of my intentions was to promote thickness to all areas of my hair. Last year around this time, one side of my hair was suffering miserably at the hands of damage. The damage was there long enough to cause sporadic thinning in certain sections. Today, I'm happy to say that overall, my goal of regaining my thickness back has almost been completely realized.

So now I look ahead. Over the past few months I've taken some specific action to address the concerns I've had regarding the health of my scalp, massive tangling, and consistent breakage. All though I'm not completely out of the woods yet, I'm confident that I'll soon get there. Now my focus turns to the place where my attention is needed most, my ends.

You all are well aware of the importance of healthy ends in the fight for retention. Healthy ends are critical for anyone who really is serious about this hair journey thing. Strong, healthy ends has been especially elusive for me as a person who doesn't protective style. Not only are my ends exposed most of the time, what's worse is I've got this horrendous habit of constantly keeping my hands in my hair. Even more horrifying is how I'm constantly manipulating my ends for no reason whatsoever. I cringe when I think about it.

I have a small dog who take out to use the restroom every morning. He's a creature of habit who tends to use the same small area each time he goes. I soon realized that even though he's a lightweight with tiny little paws, his behavior of using the same area day after day is wearing out my lawn. I also noticed that I'm doing the same thing to my ends. Day after day, I casually play with the same parts of my hair. How can I not expect the same type of results my lawn is exhibiting from being trampled by my dog?

Now that I know, I've got to do something about it. That something has to be powerful enough to create visible change months from now. Since I don't intend on hiding my hair 'till summer, I've got to lay some other ground rules that, hopefully will be just as effective. I'll continue to flush out ideas as time passes but I'll share with you what I have so far. When I think about the keys to healthy ends, I reflect back to the wise words of Wanakee which will forever be seared into my brain. Wanakee stressed that hair consistently exposed to air would suffer. She gave us the perfect illustration of the silk on the cob of corn. The silk exposed to the outside was all dried and crinkly while the silk protected under the husk was soft, moisturized and healthy.

I've decided to try to incorporate two of the most effective benefits of protective styling and try to replicate them on hair exposed to the elements. Protective styling gives your hair two key benefits: moisture retention and low manipulation. Those two combined are the bread and butter of healthy thick hair. Let's talk about how I intend on incorporating these two benefits without hiding my hair.

1.) Like I said earlier, my worst habit is my consistent need to manipulate the older (weakest) part of my hair. Since my hair is down a lot, I play with my ends a lot. After some careful consideration, I think I've come up with a solution that protects the very ends of my hair without having to bun.

I think back to the post I did where I interviewed a fabulously-haired stranger and my friend's house. One of the tips she shared with me was that she used flexi-rods on her ends every night. I realize now that every time I "bump" the ends with either flexi-rods or satin covered sponge rollers, I rarely ever play with the ends of my hair for fear of destroying the style. Thus my new method of preserving the thickness of my ends will be to keep my ends protected (from me) by tucking them under with the use of curls. Another thing I try to do when I wear curly styles is create tight curls. That way my hair isn't brushing against my shoulders or back. If this becomes a consistent style for me, my desire to manipulate will shrink drastically.

2.) Another key step to creating full healthy ends will come from my ability to keep them well moisturized/lubricated so they can better respond when I do manipulate them. Years ago, I was going through this phase were every 4 hours, I would re-apply a light oil to the length end ends of my hair. I tell you, it was during those times I would receive the most compliments on how healthy my hair looked. Not only did my hair look great to those on the outside looking in, it felt amazing. So I've decided to re-institute an old habit of carrying around a tiny bottle of filled with my favorite oils so I can retouch consistently throughout the day. Think about how often we have to reapply lotion or lip gloss because of the drying effects to air exposure. I know our hair can also need a little freshening up throughout the day. Why wait till the end of the day to re-moisturize? I prefer to try keeping my moisture levels consistent as much as possible.

I also had another idea. You know how some brands have come out with combs and brushes "infused" with natural oils in the fiber. I actually bought one of those brushes once and was sorely disappointed. I think I even ended up throwing it away after a while. Even though the execution of the idea was lackluster, I still think they were on to something with that idea. A lubricated comb or brush might make a difference in the amount of hair lost during the styling process. That's why I've decided to make a bootleg version of their idea with the use of my best detangling/wide tooth combs and some oil sheen.

Profectiv makes a couple of different oil sheen products. What I like about the ingredients are how natural they are. No mineral oil or silicone. Just ingredients like olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, silk amino acids, avocado oil, castor oil, etc. Although I haven't used spray oil sheen to finish off a style in years, I still find value in these these products as comb lubricators. That's right. I've used my oil sheen to help my comb turn into a true "oil infused" product. Because Profectiv uses real natural oil in their product, the result can sometimes be too heavy for day to day usage. So instead, I'm thinking I use this to spray my combs during my detangling sessions on weekly wash days.

Maintaining Strength

One last thing I have to make sure to do is really protect the length of my hair from over-processing when I touch up. I didn't even think about how relaxer run-off could impact the previously relaxed hair until fairly recently. For the very ends of the hair, this could mean the 10th or 20th time they've come in contact with a relaxer. So it's really important that we coat the hair with natural oils, Porosity Control, vaseline, neutralizing shampoo, or something. The point is not to let them go naked into such a traumatic process. Another cardinal rule of thumb I live by is "never use any electrical heated hair styling tool to create curls." There are just too many alternatives out there for me to use such a harmful styling method for curling.

I'll continue to think of more creative ways of reducing manipulation, promoting moisture, maintaining strength to all of my hair, especially my ends. If I place those key points as a focus. I have complete confidence that my ends will have no choice but to thrive. I'm still looking for other ideas I can incorporate. How do you keep your ends thick and healthy?

  1. Some great tips to keep in mind. Thanx.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate
    Tiffany

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  2. I am focusing on my ends right now as well, trying to gear up for winter. I plan to baggy my ends at night at least a couple of times per week to increase moisture retention. Lubricating the comb on wash days is a great idea, thanks for the tip!

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  3. Many people often fail to realize the real impact of relaxer-run off. I remember stretching my relaxers for 12 weeks at a time, and getting trims every 8 weeks. My ends were always fabulous until I got that next relaxer. My edges too. I always felt like I was starting over at every re-touch...

    It took me about 6 months to realize what was happening--and the fact that when I self-relaxed at home years ago, I didn't have this issue because I slathered my ends in vaseline prior to the retouch. But in the salon, they never protected them, or didn't understand why it would even be an issue.

    I made the personal decision to just stop relaxing, as I felt my hair potential could not be achieved while using relaxers, but I applaud you for accepting the challenge and fighting to keep you hair healthy and maintained. Very inspirational to other relaxed ladies to take more time to make this a mental journey and not just letting their hair stay at a mediocre level because it's always been that way.

    Wow I'm rambling. I'll stop now :)

    Take care!

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  4. oh wow. I absolutely love this posting. I've been battling my ends, they are incredibly unhealthy and this season I am totally focused on getting my ends to be super healthy. Thanks for all your ideas.. I will def be trying them out! Good luck with your hair! I will def be back to see how you are progressing!

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  5. i love the idea of spritzing/oiling your combs and/or brushes...that would probably help a ton with detangling NG as well as protecting your ends. i just thought i'd throw this out there for avid protective stylers like myself: try soaking hair elastics in oil for awhile before using them to make your buns. prevents hair from being pulled out and helps coat the ends in oil throughout the day!

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  6. This was a fabulous post - thank you!

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  7. I am really impressed with your comments, I will try the suggested ideas. I hope things work out for the both of us.:)

    Camille'

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  8. I really enjoyed reading your advice. I will definitely try the steps you mentioned. I wish us both the best of luck...

    Camille

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