Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I live in the state of Florida and, as you know, one of the things I have to deal with for the better part of the year is how hot and sweltering it can get in the summertime. Currently, the weather is beginning to change and many of us are breaking out our jackets and sweaters. One of the last things we think about when the weather starts to shift is the amount of water we are taking in on a regular basis.

Last year, while having a conversation with my supervisor. I looked down at the palms of my hands and noticed something peculiar. My palms were white with dryness and I had tiny little areas of where my skin began to peel. I quickly picked those areas of skin out of embarrassment hoping the problem would soon go away. Days later, the entire palms of my hands were flacking and peeling. I'd never experienced anything like it. I thought I'd been infected with some type of skin eating bacteria. The more I peeled the loose skin, the worse it became.

My peeling palms were very embarrassing but the most disturbing part was I couldn't figure out how to stop it. So finally, after days of throwing around ideas and inquiring to myself about what could have caused this, I got the notion of increasing my water intake. The amount of water I was drinking at the time was very minimal. Like now, the weather was cooler and the desire to drink water was not that strong. I figured that since I wasn't thirsty, I didn't really need to drink much water.

So for the next couple of days, I faithfully filled my water bottle and proceeded to drink water at every opportunity. I think my goal was to drink at least 2 liters a day. I promise you that 3-5 days later, the peeling stopped and by the next week, my hands we back to normal. That experience was huge for me because it really taught me the power of drinking water and, more importantly, the consequences of being dehydrated.

That whole experience got me thinking. Could the reduction of water intake during the winter months also have a negative impact on the health of my hair? Let's think about what our hair experiences during summer:
  • Circulation is improved, growth is increased.
  • Shedding is minimal
  • The hair thrives overall
In the winter, I normally experience the opposite: super dry scalp, increased shedding, and slower growth rate. I used to think these results were just a normal part of winter but the whole palm peeling incident has really made me think. "Is it possible that some of my hair's winter symptoms have to do with my water lower intake?" When the body's water supply is insufficient, it uses whatever little water it has for critical functions such as making sure the brain and other organs are operating at proper levels. This leaves very little water for our extremities which leads to such things as dry hands, feet, lips, etc. We can see and experience dry hands and feet. But instead of moisturizing our bodies with water, we slather on lotions, butters, and lip balm to cover the problem.

The last thing I was thinking about, when my palms were peeling, was the possible impact of my dehydration on the scalp and my hair follicles. It's important to reiterate the hair strand is 25% water. Not only is the strand made up of water, it also relies on water to carry to the strand nutrients, vitamins, and proteins. If the palms of my hand were suffering at the hands of dehydration, what was going on with my hair?

Looking back at my old posts from last fall/winter, one reoccurring message in my posts was about my constant shedding. Because of this, I'll make an un-proven assumption that the amount of water I drank had something to do with my dry, itchy scalp, massive shedding, and dry brittle hair.

Once I remember being stranded on the side of a highway and, while waiting for the emergency assistance guy to bring me fuel, I read through an entire thread on Longhaircareforum on drinking a gallon of water day challenge. Those who managed to stick to the challenge faithfully boasted of experiencing more moisturized hair along with other desirable benefits. More specifically, they noted that their hair was more able to retain moisture overall. One member provided her opinion on whether increasing water intake actually could affect the already existing hair, not just the new growth. I took the liberty of posting her comment below for your reference:

Originally Posted by locabouthair View Post
One thing to remember is that the water will ony affect the hair the new growth not the hair that is already on your head.So if your hair still feels dry after drinking lots of water, dont get discouraged, you have to give it time for the new growth to come in.
"This is not true. It's a common misconception.

The hair strand is continuous, and though hair is dead, it has layers that are continuous and feed right from the bulb. What you give to your body is not only apparent in the new growth, it is also spread throughout the core of the hair- (again because the entire strand is one continuous length and it feeds out from the bulb). Since there is no disconnect between the bulb and the rest of the hair, what is available to the hair at the root, will eventually spread out to the tips/ends of the strand. You may notice it first at the new growth, but it will also make a difference in the hair that has already grown out (though this may take longer).

You can see between the root (bulb and papilla) and the rest of the strand, there is no division or block to the spread of nutrients and minerals to the rest of the shaft. This is one of the main reasons doctor can take tell whether you have ingested certain drugs by studying your hair strands (whether the roots are in tact or not!) "

This year, I'm not taking any chances. I have a new mindset when it comes to what my hair will experience this winter. It's inspiring to know there's something I can do to help manage my dry scalp and the health of my follicles. Along with the help of ultra-moisturizing hair products, I must focus on drinking enough water to make a difference this winter. Now, my water drinking will have a purpose. This purpose is motivating enough to encourage me to drink water even when I'm not thirsty. Hopefully, you too have been inspired to really make a commitment to yourself regarding how much water you drink on a daily basis. I know for some drinking water isn't the easiest thing to do in the world. Heck, I only drink water and even I struggled to keep myself hydrated in the winter months. So now comes the time when we talk about some practical ways to turn our water drinking habits from a desire to reality.

One tip that I'll never forget is to start the day off with a large glass of water. At night our bodies are diligently working away to collect toxins. By drinking water first thing in the morning we jump start our digestive system and promote the removal of the toxins collected overnight. Once you've consumed your morning water, fill a couple of water bottles to take with you for drinking during your workday. When you return home to refill your bottle and sip until you've drunk close to half your body weight in ounces. Before getting into bed, refill another bottle so you've got water waiting for you for when you first awake in the morning. It's a process so don't get down on yourself if you don't drink as much water as you like one day. Just raise the amount even a little bit the next day.

So don't let the cooler weather rob your hair of the vital moisture it needs to thrive. We already have to deal with harsh external factors such as winter winds and lower humidity, the worst thing we can do is deprive the strands of water from the inside. Make the commitment today to combat winter dryness with plenty of water.

Your hair will thank you.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thickness. For the past year or so, thick lush hair has been a goal of mine. Too many visits to the Dominican salon, along with excessive shedding due to an ailing scalp, and my incessent need to over-manipulate my hair for absolutely no reason, have all combined to create a thinner head of hair than I would have wanted. That's when I decided that I would shift the focus my hair journey to taking actions that promote thickness rather than length.

Well I'm happy to report that today, my hair is so much thicker and fuller than a year ago. This, of course, was no accident. I took some really intentional steps geared specifically so I could produce this result. If you don't mind, I'd like to share some of these with you today. So here we go...........

It all goes back to some time ago when I was strolling down the shimmering walkways of one of my favorite malls. I got there early and was waiting in front of the closed doors of Sephora waiting for the clerk to open for the day. As I waited, I looked around at the storefronts of some of the other businesses when something immediately caught my eye. It was an image of a woman of color modeling the latest fashions for passers by. I couldn't even tell you what she had on because my eyes were fixated on her hair. She had these full, lush, healthy loose curls. Her hair flowed effortlessly in every direction, probably with the help of a wind machine on set. It felt like I levitated towards that image and landed just inches away from the poster. I got as close to it as possible without actually putting my nose to the glass. The more I stared at it, the more I began to realize something that would change my life forever. The reason why her hair was so healthy was because each individual strand of hair on her head was healthy. Each strand of hair on her head was healthy.

For me, this was huge! Why? Because, at the time, I had sections of hair that thrived, and I had sections of hair suffering from breakage and/or thinning. Brining health to each strand was my key to thicker fuller hair. Not long after I received this epiphany, I stumbled upon this website and watched their amazing intro. Notice the amount of care and purpose he put into treating the woman's hair. I watched that intro play over and over again and was inspired to make some subtle changes to my routine because of it. On that day, I decided that I'd no longer just be doing a pre-poo, I was now creating my "strand ceremony." The strand ceremony would be my opportunity to impact the health of my hair on a micro level. My focus would be to apply conditioner with the intention of reaching each strand of hair with my nourishing products.

Before my strand ceremony was enacted, I'd apply product to large sections of my hair for compliance, just to say I did it. Suffice it to say, there were probably tens of thousands of hairs that probably didn't even come in direct contact with the product. Those hairs are then left vulnerable to the harshness of daily styling and manipulation. Those are the hairs that probably don't make it. Without them, I can not create a head of thick, full hair. So I literally, invested hours of time parting my hair into the smallest sections I could, then proceeded to spread that tiny section open so I could feel each strand of hair individually. It was then I would apply product, only after I could feel the strands. This process went on week after week, month after month, and still continues today. Yes, it's highly labor-intensive, but let me tell you, it's made a huge difference in the overall strength of my hair. You see, as each strand began to receive the benefits of the products, it could now stand on it's own. The strand had it's own strength that allowed it to withstand my crazy manipulation habits much better than previously. I should also mention that I prefer to do the strand ceremony on dry hair during the pre-poo step vs. on wet or damp hair after shampooing. Dry hair gives me more freedom to part in small sections without the concern for extra breakage caused by over-manipulating wet hair.

Along with the strand ceremony, I have also opted to use a mild relaxer vs. super strength. I've done this for a couple of reasons. For one, I feel that my texture has shifted slightly ever since I've adopted healthier eating habits. Super foods have really made a difference in the quality of my hair. I also believe that using a mild formula over super is like having your pasta al dente vs limp, lifeless pasta. This is definitely a secret weapon in my battle for thicker strands. Finally, I really had to address the issue of shedding I once had. I've written about this topic in several other posts so I won't bore you with the details. Long story short, I once accepted my shedding as "normal" until I decided to look into the possible cause which turned out to be my dry, flaky scalp. The moment I saw close-up pictures of the damaged scalp of people experiencing thinning hair, I knew I had to do something.

There was one last thing I did to help promote thicker hair. This one is kinda silly but I'll share any way. Every day when I was in the mirror or while I conducted my strand ceremony, I said to myself, "I have thick, healthy, full, luscious hair!" "I have thick, healthy, full, luscious hair!" I said this even when my hair wasn't anywhere near what I said it was in the affirmation. But I kept saying it anyway. This really helped me to remain consistent with what I was doing. The affirmation also motivated me to keep searching for solutions beyond just the strand ceremony. I invite you to try that sometime. It's much more inspiring than if I were to look at my hair day after day saying, "I hate the way my hair looks" or "My hair looks so thin and lifeless." That type of thinking gets me nowhere.

My journey to thick hair hasn't ended but I'm so pleased with the progress made thus far. As I mentioned in my last post, my ends have now become the focus. I'll continue to be open to the possibility of creating "amazingly thick full, strong ends." I can't wait to come back and report the details.

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