Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is shedding an issue? Maybe a cold shower can help




In my last entry, I shared with you all the valuable lessons from my most recent stretch. I also took some time to discuss some of the crazy struggles I faced with regards to excessive shedding and massive tangles. The blame for the uncontrollable tangles lay mostly with my actions (or inaction). While I understand that some of the accountability is mine, I also know that the shedding didn't make it any easier for me. So now, I'm taking the proactive road by seeking out solutions to this seasonal shedding issue.

You guys may remember my post on cold showers and healthier hair. If you recall, I talked about how cold showers can help not only with smoother follicles but also increased blood stimulation. I know you're probably thinking to yourself, "doesn't blood flow restrict when temperatures drop?" Yes, but only for a short period of time. You see, when the body's temperature begins to decline, a life saving defense mechanism kicks in. Blood begins to rush to the internal organs. Soon thereafter, the body temp rises as blood is rushed to where it's needed most. I've experienced it first hand after feeling the icy cold water cover my body in the shower. One minute your face to face with the shock of how cold the water feels. A few moments later, you're standing there thinking "this isn't so bad, the water is not as cold as it was a couple of moments ago."

Well now my search for a solution to my shedding has led me back to cold showers. I don't know how I got there but while searching online, I found several testimonies of others who've experienced less shedding after taking cold showers. Their rational behind it was the constriction of the pores around the hair follicles. Warm temperatures tend to create an expanding effect while cold water tends to constrict. That's why it's best to use heat to deep condition so the cuticle layers open for deeper penetration. You always hear about how cold rinses to close the cuticle layer back up. The same thing holds true for the skin. When we get a facial, warm steam is used to open the pores. Cold water closes them back up making them appear smaller. Well the same theory is said to hold true for the follicles. Supposedly, when we allow the cold water to touch the scalp, the pores around the follicles close up which in turn works to discourage excessive shedding.

I haven't yet tested this theory for myself but I am excited about implementing this practice once again into my routine. I have to admit that I've been a bit of a punk as of late when it comes to cold showers. But all of the sudden I feel a renewed sense of motivation about reintroducing this practice back into my routine. When I was doing the cold shower thing consistently shedding wasn't a concern so I don't really have a reference point about the effectiveness of this action specifically as it relates to shedding. Either way, I'm reaffirming my commitment to incorporating cold showers again for the greater good of my hair. I think for my experiment, I'll have to do the cold shower thing every day so I can make sure I'm setting myself up for success.

One thing I can say about cold showers and when I did them consistently is that my skin glowed. Not only that, I seemed to walk around with this amazing sense of accomplishment about having defeated my desire to jump out of the shower the moment the first icy drop touched my skin. Not only was I working to create healthier hair, I was also developing a strong sense of mental toughness. It was so invigorating. More to come. In the mean time, I challenge you to consider implementing this practice somewhere in your routine, even if it's a quick cold water blast rinse at the very end of your shower.

Are you willing to give it a shot?

***Edited to Add****

Since posting this info on cold showers and shedding, I've taken my first cold shower specifically with the intention of having impact my shedding issues. So I boldly stepped into the shower with the intention of making sure my scalp was fully exposed to the cold water. Sure, I've washed my hair in cold water before, this time however, I made the point of parting my hair in multiple places to allow the cold water to hit where it's needed the most. Once I made sure most of my scalp was exposed to the cold water, I stepped out and continued with the rest of my wash routine. I must say that I didn't notice much of a difference in the amount of shedding during my rollerset. I was a little disappointed at first. This week however, I must say that I've noticed a huge reduction in the amount of shedding I've experienced lately. This method is definitely a keeper for me! If this method really works, that means less shedding, which means less tangles, which means less knots, which means less breakage, which means thicker hair!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lessons Learned from my last Relaxer Stretch

I'm so excited. I officially accomplished a personal goal of stretching a full 16 weeks. For me, that was the longest relaxer stretch ever! Four months ago, I visited a Dominican salon for a touch up. I walked in there with three months worth of summer new growth growth, I walked out with freshly relaxed bone straight hair and about 3 inches of hair cut off. No, I didn't ask my stylist to cut my hair but, for some reason, she had a strong desire to do a major trim. Looking back, I know exactly why she did it.

I'll get back to that later but the real reason for this post is because I want to discuss all the good and not so good, I experienced over the past four months. I'd like to be as detailed as possible for my own edification. I'm going to use this post as I would an entry in my hair journal, as a way of sealing in the learning from the last four months so I can replicate the successes and course correct in the areas where I struggled.

So let me start by discussing the state of my hair as it is today. The goals I set out four months ago were to eliminate/reduce breakage, increase moisture levels, strengthen strands overall, and last but not least, thicken the look of the my hair overall. Four months later, my hair feels much stronger, is more elastic, and has retained length and thickened. I'm not exactly where I want to be but I'm more than half way there. Now let's get into what I did the past four months.

Nutrition
I tried my best to remain as consistent as possible with vitamin support for my hair. If you remember, the last stretch was when I was introduced to Noridic Naturals purified omega 3 fish oils. I must say that I'm pretty proud of myself on how consistent I've been with these fish oils. I've already gone through my first bottle and and now working through my second (larger size) Nordic Naturals Omega 3. We're partners for life now. Other supplements that I've tried to remain consistent with are my chlorella green tablets. I also take biotin, a vitamin B supplement, and a multi from time to time. One other supplement I started taking fairly consistently was Cell Food. I'm not sure what the benefits to the hair are, if any. I really just take it for overall nutritional support. My main goal when taking the supplements was not growth, I take supplements more for support. My theory is that the hair has to be a strong as possible coming out of the scalp so it can be more resilient when it undergoes the relaxer process. Not sure how much truth there is to my theory but it makes sense on the most basic level so I'm stickin' with it. Oh, and I should also mentioned that I reintroduced carrot juice back into the line up late into my stretch. I went to the grocery store one day and found Bolthouse farm juice in new larger sizes. The minute I saw it, I knew I had to get a piece of that action. One area that we struggle most with when taking our vitamins is consistency. What I tried to do was not get down on myself if I missed a day here and there. I just started right where I left off and kept it moving.

Routines
As you may already know, I don't hide my hair like I "should". I know of the incredible benefits of protective styling so I gave in a little this last stretch. I didn't bun more than normal last stretch, what I did do was tie my hair up with my scarf more often. So instead of laying on my couch watching a movie, I'd lay on the couch with my hair tied up while watching a movie. I should also take a moment to say that I love my silk scarf much more than my satin (polyester) ones. This year, I'll be beefing up silk scarf collection. I think my husband is tired of seeing me in the same leopard print design day after day. I have no problem tying my hair up because I think of it as a way of recharging my hair. As my hair is exposed all day, it's kinda like having your cell phone off the charger. Sure you can use it all day but sooner or later, you'll have to charge it to get maximum benefit. You best believe that I'll be continuing this habit over the next 3-4 months.

Another technique I implemented over the past three months was using a plastic cap in the morning's as a way of enhancing moisture. What I tried to do was use the plastic cap to simulate humidity and create a slightly damp feel on the hair. Once the hair felt slightly damp (after about 5-10 minutes), I'd remove the plastic cap, add some Gleau oil and tie the hair down with a silk scarf to seal. This technique really helped with me with dryness issues, especially during the winter months when the air is drier than normal. I hope this technique continues to impact my hair positively going forward. Another routine I implemented was trimming according to the lunar cycle. I don't know if that attributed to more growth but I will say that I trimmed more last stretch than I've done in a while. At one point during my stretch, I trimmed just for the heck of it only to find out that the lunar calendar trim was only a few weeks away. I trimmed anyway and I still retained length overall.

I think the area where I made my biggest progress overall was in my weekly wash routine. Over the past four months, I've been nursing one side of my hair which seemed to struggle more than the other side. With the introduction of my facial steamer to my routine. I was able to dedicate a little more effort to the pre-poo step. This extra attention was absolutely critical to the progress I made this last stretch. Week after week, I spent a large amount of time paying attention to the areas of my hair that needed the most attention. Four months later....progress. I'm not right where I want to be yet, but I am much closer to seeing the light than ever before. I treat my wash routine unlike anything else in my life. There are certain other practices that I'd like to remain consistent on but I have to admit, it sometimes still is a struggle for me. Not with my wash routine. There is never (ever) even the hint of deviation from my routine. My mind never debates whether I should carry out the extended pre-poo step or whether I should skip it this one time. Never! Now if only I can transfer that level of dedication to some of the other areas of my life.

Products
Over the past four months, I used pretty much the same staples. The only new products I used were the Asience conditioner, and I also purchased Burt's Bees Hair Repair Shea and Grapefruit deep conditioner. I didn't do an official review post on this product because I don't really use it for it's intended purposes. It's supposed to be a 2 minute treatment but I've been using it consistently in my pre-poos. The ingredients are more in line with a moisturizing conditioner than a 2 minute treatment. Since it contained practically no proteins, I put it to use for other purposes. So far so good. Overall, my routine has been a moisture routine with a little protein mixed in. Since my hair doesn't appreciate protein like it should, I sneak the protein into it's food as one would a stubborn child who won't take it's medicine. This method works really well for me so far, but as always, if there's a better way, I'll find it and I'll chuck this routine without even batting an eye.

Struggles
I'd like to talk a little about where I struggled and what I'll do going forward to avoid or minimize the issues I experienced. This stretch just happened to land right in the middle of shedding season. Every year, around fall, my hair begins it's shedding ritual. The crazy amount of shedding pretty much created the worse bout of tangles I've ever experienced in my life. Even after I relaxed, I had beaucoup tangles to contend with. I take 100% accountability for what I had to go through when I spent pretty much all day babying tangles out of my hair. That's the reason why the lady at the Dominican salon cut my hair last relaxer, they neither had the time nor the patience to deal with my hair's issues. When I stretch, I have the tendency to detangle the length of the hair, while overlooking the roots. What I do is allow the roots to remain in it's compacted position without doing my due diligence in detangling. Meanwhile, my shed coils are getting even more deeply intertwined with it's neighbors. I can't let this happen ever again, so I'll have to do a major detangle at least once a week during my pre-poo so I can release all the hair that's been shed throughout the week. If I find that once a week ain't cuttin' it, I'll increase the frequency. Not only will I play defense by detangling on a regular basis, I'll also have to play some offense and implement strategies that slow the amount shedding.

So here I stand ready to begin another long stretch. I've got a lot to look forward to. I hope to learn even more about my hair this go around. And with the focus on uber-healthy ingredients like ceramides and such, only good things will come about I'm sure. If I had to attribute anything to the success of the past stretch, I would say it was consistency. One thing I could certainly say about my last stretch is that I maintained a laser like focus pretty much the entire time. I knew the day would come when I would enjoy the wonderful fruits of my labor in the form of healthier hair. Today, I look back and smile proudly at what I was able to accomplish. Again, I'm not talking so much about the results as I am the focus and dedication level. As long as these remain, the results will follow. Thanks you all for being in it with me for the long haul. Now enough talking about the past, I'm ready to focus on what's next for my hair.

Thanks for listening.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stronger Cuticle Layer with Ceramides

Here at relaxed hair health, we're all about the quest to achieve hair perfection. What we strive to here is understand the hair, it's wants, it's needs, it's desires. The more we learn of our precious hair, the better we are equipped to nurture it. There's still much more to learn but what we do know is that the basic framework of the hair consists of several layers covered by a series of scales called the cuticle layer.

The cuticle layer, my friends, is the first line of defense against hair breakage and damage. More importantly, this layer helps to provide the hair strand with the qualities we desire most-strength, shine, and elasticity. If the cuticle layer is damaged, then everything else starts to go downhill. The bad news is that the cuticle layer is not that thick. Even worse than this is the fact that our precious cuticle layer is eroded by even the most basic grooming functions such as combing the hair or even shampooing.

So now I'm thinking of ways to help protect or even repair the cuticle layer (if that's even possible). Well I'm here to tell you all that I've officially crawled out from under the rock I was under and finally came across the wonderful benefits of ceramides. We've probably all heard of ceramides before in passing. It was when I actually found out about what they actually do that I got all excited.

According to hair-science.com, ceramides play a major role in keeping the cuticle layer in place. In fact, the researchers went on to examine strands of damaged hair only to find that these stands were lacking in ceramides. When ceramide stores are depleted, the hair is prone to dryness, brittleness, and breakage. Ceramides are also crucial because of the role they play in providing a protective barrier that helps keep moisture levels where they should be. I'm also excited about the impact of ceramides in increasing elasticity of the hair. Think about it, without the ceramide "glue" helping to keep the cuticle layers in place, the risk for breakage only increases. Studies show that hair which has been treated with ceramide containing conditioners, showed in increase in tensile strength along with protection of the hair against both UV damage and chemical processes. By the way, ceramines are lipids, not proteins. Which means ceramides still provide the hair with strength and elasticity without the hardness side effect of some proteins. For some of us, that's fantastic news!

So enough talking, let's get our hands on some of this stuff shall we. Phase two of my learning about ceramides is locating this ingredient so I can incorporate (as quickly as possible) into my routine. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that some ceramides occur naturally in plant oils such as wheat germ oil and barley malt oil. Hemp oil is also said to contain ceramides as well.

There are also several product lines like Biolage and L'Oreal which boast of ceramide rich products. There are a myriad of other product lines fortified with ceramides but I've had some great success with Biolage in the past so I'm thinking that I'm making a trip down to my local Ulta store for some Cera Repair-4. I also need more of the Utlra Hydrating Balm and the Leave In tonic. I sure hope Ulta is having one of the by two get one free deals on Matrix.

Stay tuned for the review!
Tuesday, January 5, 2010

This is what happens when I don't listen to my own advice




I've got a serious confession to make. I went against my own sound advice on the afternoon of January 3rd, 2010. You might remember my last post on what you can do to take your deep conditioning even deeper. In that post I gave out clear and specific instructions.


And I quote:
"you are not required to add each one of these boosters, at the same time, to your deep conditioner every wash. In fact, I'm gonna recommend that you experiment with these boosters one at a time so you can better assess how your hair reacts to these ingredients individually. That way you know which of these powerful hair strengtheners to turn to depending on your hair's specific need."

At the end of that post, I stated that I was off to experiment. And experiment I did.....
You see, instead of taking my own quasi-professional advice, I opted to do the exact opposite. I prepared for my wash as I normally do, with my pre-poo. Nothing unusual. It was when I began contemplating how I could add some pizzaz to my conditioner that things started to go awry. I had a choice, I could add a little honey or I can use several vitamin E capsules. Maybe I should fortify with a tiny bit of my liquid B vitamin complex. Should I opt for an egg instead for strengthening? What about my coconut oil?

By then, my mind was all messed up. How could I choose between all of these fabulous ingredients? I couldn't. So I did what any reasonable person would do in the exact same scenario. I threw them all into a bowl and started mixing. The pressure was too much to bear. I had no other choice. So there I am mixing the honey, egg, coconut oil, vitamin e, liquid b in with my moisturizing conditioners. Everything was pretty much going smoothly except for the fact that the coconut oil kept trying to go back to solid form the whole time (it's unusually cold right now in Florida). I got over that dilemma by pointing the nozzle of my facial steamer towards my mixing bowl.


The only products from my list I didn't include were the Porosity Control (because I forgot) and my silk amino acids. I included a tiny bit of SAA, to my spray bottle which contained distilled water, at the leave-in step. Fast forward to the rinse and I could already tell something was different. My hair felt stronger ( a little stiff, but stronger). To be honest, I was a little concerned about my hair's reaction to the protein since I used a jumbo size egg. Took out the rollers and I found myself with some amazing looking (and feeling hair). The strength levels were kicked up an notch but the most notable of my results was the increase elasticity. Yes! Elasticity! That's on my list of hair results I want to achieve this year. Could it be that I've stumbled upon a method to achieve that result only one month into the year?

Ladies, I am more than excited about the results. My hair is strong, yet soft at the same time. If I can consistently reproduce what I did on that day, then I'm headed in the right direction. I felt it was only fair to fess up and be honest with what I did. The only thing I ask is that you forgive me. Oh, one more thing, I also ask that you have fun in implementing these ingredients into your routine and enjoy the bountiful results.
Friday, January 1, 2010

Six ways to take your deep conditioning even deeper!

I should be ashamed of myself. How could I wrap up a Maximum Moisture series without creating a post on special boosters you can add to your routine to take your deep conditioning even deeper. Some of you might remember my post on the five healthy boosters for a better leave in experience. I figured that now would be a good time to talk about deep conditioning and taking that step to the next level as well.

Before we get started, I should mention that you are not required to add each one of these boosters, at the same time, to your deep conditioner every wash. In fact, I'm gonna recommend that you experiment with these boosters one at a time so you can better assess how your hair reacts to these ingredients individually. That way you know which of these powerful hair strengtheners to turn to depending on your hair's specific need.

Natural Oils

Take your pick. There are a plethora of plant oils to choose from each with it's own redeeming quality. Plant oils provide shine and nourishment to the hair. When added to your favorite conditioner, oils give your hair that little extra bit of oomph. Adding a little oil will take the deep conditioner even deeper by giving the hair that extra layer of protection once the conditioner is washed off. There's no better feeling than having a freshly washed head of hair that's been blessed with both conditioner and nourishing oil.

Silk Amino Acids

This ingredient is perfect for blending in with your current products. It's clear and odorless. Just like water. But don't let it's appearance fool you, this is some powerful stuff. For those of you who aren't familiar with the wonderful benefits of silk amino acids, let me refresh your memory.

"After silk protein on the hair dries, it becomes a transparent crystalline protective film. This film can directly prevent the hair being damaged by alkaline materials in hair products. This protective film can increase the hair elasticity and increase the hair’s natural shine. It has a very special protective function in hair products." I've added this to my leave-in the past and have just only begun to venture into the world of silk amino and deep conditioning. I must say that my first stint has produced some fabulous results. I'll definitely be going back for more. One thing I must mention is that you only need to use a very small amount of this product to work effectively so a little goes a long way.



Food
Fortify your conditioner with food! Mashing up avocados, adding a little mayo, or even dropping an egg to your conditioner helps beef up the strengthening power of your conditioner. When you include food to your conditioner, you add natural proteins that are readily absorbable by the hair. As always, you want to be mindful of protein overload whenever using protein heavy products. Make sure you sandwich your protein in between two slices of moisture (i.e, make sure you include your favorite moisturizing conditioners in the mix). Get your hair strong and healthy by feeding it healthy hair foods.




Honey
I decided to separate honey from the food list because it's benefit to the hair is unique to other foods. Is your hair looking for additional moisture and shine? Then you've come to the right place honey! Added softness, suppleness, and shine are some of the wonder results of honey-kissed hair. Long praised as one of the most powerful humectants for the hair, honey is the perfect addition to your conditioners. As a humectant, it actually works to help water molecules remain in the hair. When we're talking about maximum moisture, honey should always be included in the conversation.

Porosity Control
There's just something about Porosity Control that helps to add a kick to your conditioner. It probably has something to do with the low pH value that PC boasts of on the front of it's package. Remember that pH is important to the hair because if the pH range is too low or too high, the hair reacts adversely. What we want to do is get the hair to the "sweet spot" range of about 5.5. Porosity control helps to balance the pH balance if your conditioner can't do it alone. I use it in my conditioner mix as sort of an insurance policy just in case my blend lands at a higher pH than desired. It works every time!


Vitamins
I learned something myself while researching for this post. We all know about the magnanimous benefits of taking vitamins internally for the strength of the hair. But have you ever thought about using vitamins topically? I know, that sounds crazy but stay with me while I make my point. I'm not talking about grinding up you biotin pills and throwing them into your conditioner (yet). What I'm talking about is using vitamins that can benefit the hair directly when used topically such as vitamin E. The tiny vitamin E capsules are chock full of hair nourishing goodness. It's such a thick and nourishing oil that works to add major softness to the skin and hair.
Another vitamin that you might want to consider implementing in your conditioning step is vitamin B5. Also known as pantothenic acid, this ingredient is widely used in various conditioners already. Product with added B5 boast of being fortified with "pro-vitamins." Probably because B5 is said to improve the condition of damaged hair . According to internatural.com, B5 increases luster by aiding in moisture retention, and increasing elasticity. So yes you should be taking your vitamins regularly internally but, at the same time, you can also benefit by taking the most direct route. I read somewhere that someone said their stylist actually uses a liquid b5 pill in their deep conditioner like one would use a liquid e. I haven't tried that myself but you can certainly bet that I will.

"Sigh". I feel so much better now.

Ladies I've now equipped you with the tools to take your deep conditioning even deeper. Now, if you don't mind, I'm off to wash and experiment.
 

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