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?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Protective Stylers rejoice! The Scünci Evolution creates healthier ponytails.

Some of the things we have to be aware of along our hair journey are the little opportunities to make seemingly small improvements that make a big impact on the health of our hair. Today I'm here to talk about one of those "small improvements."

Specifically, instead of a product or technique, I want to rave about my newest hair accessory. Ladies, let me introduce you to the newest technology in the area of hair elastics. Remember the old days where ponytail holders were secured together with the help of a metal fastener. Back then, some of these elastics were even rigged in their design. Some of you who've experienced these types of accessories know the ridges and metal fastener are breakage opportunities waiting to happen.



Then the makers of these accessories began to get smart about their design. The next level of greatness in the world of hair bands came in the form of the Ouchless band. I can still remember the day I first laid my eyes on the Ouchless bands. They were smooth all the way around without even so much as a hint of any damaging metal or snag-attracting ridges. As soon as I seen them, I knew they'd be a perfect addition to my hair product and accessory stash.
These newer bands worked really well for a while but I noticed that as time passed, the band would begin to stretch with overuse, and this would begin to happen.
The elastic could become exposed creating yet another opportunity for hair snagging to occur. Another flaw in the design of this band was the cloth-like material. Whether I realized it or not, every time I put my hair up in a ponytail using one of these hand bands, it would be absorbing the Gleau I applied little by little. Could the continuous absorption of product from the same area on a consistent basis be the culprit to the longer broken hairs I experienced from time to time?

This and other worries are no more because on my trip to Target the other day, I stumbled upon the latest technology in elastic hair bands. Ladies, meet the Scünci Evolution.

The Evelotion is the solution to all the minor inconveniences to modern day ponytail holders. This baby is made up of a 100% gel like material with no breaks in the design for potential snags. Best of all, the gel material is completely smooth all the way around and won't absorb any product away from my hair. The new design also seems to be made up of a more durable material that won't lose it's shape even after consistent usage. You protective stylers will love this. I picked these up for around $3.50. This has now become an item that I'm strongly recommending to you as a part of the continuous improvements to your hair journey. When I think of the possibilities of this upgrade long-term, I see healthier pony tails and less breakage over time. I'm currently on a temporary assignment that will last for several weeks. During this assignment, I have to wear my hair in away from my face on a daily basis. I can breathe a sigh of relief now that these bands have come into my possession. So why not look for these on your next trip to Target or Walgreens. You'll be glad you did.
Thursday, October 14, 2010

Open letter to my readers: How do I create healthy hair while living overseas?



One of the most amazing aspects of producing content on the internet is the connection I get to make with people all over the world. Most recently, I received a question from via a youtube viewer from Germany. This person, who I'll refer to as "Katie" seemed to be in a place where she really truly wanted to create a healthy head of hair. She's right around ear length and wanted to achieve healthy bra-strap length hair. The only thing holding her back, she thought, were the lack of available quality products we here in the states are so lucky to get a hold of.




Instead of responding via private message, I thought I'd share some tips to creating healthy hair even if quality hair products are not readily available here for everyone to see. Prior to writing this post, I aked myself, "if I couldn't just whip out my debit card and purchase pre-poo treatments, intensive deep conditioners, or nourishing oils any time I wished, what would I do?



TECHNIQUE


My first thought was that if I couldn't rely on products to save the day, I'd focus on my technique and on mastering the basics. Although I didn't ask her about her relaxing routine. My very first piece of advice would be to try to stretch out the time between relaxers. Start small by waiting just a few weeks longer than normal each time you relax. Once you get the hang of it, try to extend your stretch a little longer the next time. This will result in less over-processing which will help promote retention long-term.



The next thing I'd incorporate into my regimen a scalp massage on a regular basis. There's nothing like a good scalp massage to create a relaxing night not to mention the insanely huge benefits your hair and scalp will receive. I can tell you, Katie, from personal experience that scalp massages absolutely effect the rate of hair growth. There are parts of my hair that I routine massage even without thinking. What I realized is those areas always create thicker, longer, new growth than the rest of my hair. Just the practice of massaging alone, even without any hair products whatsover, will positively impact your hair.


Although protective styling ain't my thing, if I were on a mission to create lengthy hair without the help of amazing products, I'd bun, braid, etc 95% of the time. Even before I knew what protective styling was, I knew that everytime I'd wear sinthetic braids, my hair would seem to "grow" faster than normal. Truth is, my hair didn't grow faster, I just experienced less breakage while my hair was protected under the braids. By the way, I wasn't one of those people who wore braids for months at a time. Because of my hands in hair disease, the longest I would allow braids to remain in my hair was 6-7 weeks tops. If I could benefit from wearing braids for such a short amount of time, why not try this or other protective styles and see how your hair progresses?



Next on the list of techniques would be tools I used for grooming and styling. You should seek out the biggest/widest tooth comb you can find and only use this comb when styling. No small tooth combs allowed......ever. If your hair isn't fortunate enough to experience high quality products, it may not be strong enough to withstand the stress of using a small toothed comb. I also want you to go in your bathroom drawer, locate your curling iron (if you have one) and throw it away. If you don't want to let it go just yet, I want you to let a friend or relative store the iron for you until a later time. Until you start seeing some significant progress, you are not allowed to use any sort of heat styling tool on your hair. Excessive heat equals dryness and breakage. It's not something your hair needs right now. Trust me.



Instead of heat, I want you to consider other means of curling your ends. Check out videos of the pin-curl method of creating curls. It works pretty well.



All though Germany may not have many beauty supply stores around, my guess is that you probably can get a hold of supplements that support the health of your hair. Make sure to look for nutrional superfoods that give both you and your hair a ton of benefits. First see if you can find some hair, skin and nails vitamins. If not, go for a multi-vitamin in liquid form. Liquid vitamins are superb because they go right to the blood stream and begin feeding the body instantly. Therefore, your body absorbs more nutrients per dose. This is one of those things where you won't see immediate results. It's important to stay consistent 'cause that's when good things start to happen.



Now let's talk about products. Although pickins are slim in your area, you should try to avoid or replace any unproductive products from your regimen. Specifically, I'm talking about hair grease. See if you can replace commercial hair grease (loaded with petroleum or mineral oil) with oils like coconut oil jojoba oil etc. See if you can locate a natural food store in your area and stock up on any natural oils they carry. If you absolutely can't find natural oils locally, do a search online and pay a little extra for shipping if you have to. Once you have those oils in your possession, you can take the other steps in your routine to the next level. Now you have a healthy hair ingredient you can add to your deep conditioners and your pre-p00. You can also use the oil as part of your night-time treatment and dap on a little during the day as your hair needs it. Even without commercial grade hair products, you can still seek out natural ingredients you can incorporate into your hair routine. Eggs, honey, coconut milk are just a few of the readily available ingredients you can mix with your current conditioners to make them even more powerful. Simple things like popping vitamin e capsules into your conditioner can make a big difference.

Lastly, my friend, I leave you with these three important phrases to remember as you travel in your hair journey: be patient, stay consistent, and always improve.
Saturday, October 9, 2010

Finally, my chance to try WEN Cleansing Conditioner is here!

Ever since the early days of this blog, I've sang the wonderful praises of Hair One Conditioning cleanser. For those of you who aren't in the know, Hair One is a cleanser that doesn't lather and strip the hair like conventional shampoos. I've received emails from some of you asking about how to increase moisture levels in the hair. For me, Hair One was a huge addition to my overall moisture regimen. Once I started using a conditioning cleanser, I was finally able to sync every step in my routine to focus on creating/maintaining moisture.

Even though I'm head over heels in love with the results I get with Hair One, I still can't help but consider if I'd get an even better experience by using WEN products. You guys may have seen the informercials featuring various women with lustrous hair thanks to the help of WEN Hair Care System. I've put it off for long enough and I feel I have to finally give in to my curiosities and give WEN a shot just to say I did. Not to mention the fact that my hair could benefit if WEN is indeed a superior product.

So one of the pluses of Hair One is the accessibility and, of course, the price. Any local Sally's store stocks up to four varieties of the conditioning cleanser. And at around $11.00/bottle, Hair One has a huge cost advantage over WEN. Amazon or QVC are pretty much your main source for WEN products. A 30-day supply kit will run you around $30.00. Not knowing if WEN was superior enough to Hair One to justify the price, I never took the plunge. That is until now......

I seem to have stumbled upon a really amazing offer to purchase the same 30-day supply which includes the cleansing conditioner, styling creme, and Intenstive Remoist Hair Repair Mask for just $5.99! Yes, you heard me right, I said $5.99 (plus $5.99 shipping and handling). You should also know that this is considered an introductory offer which automatically enrolls you to receive the 90 day supply shipped to your home every three months for $29. 95 a month. Of course, if you are not happy with your product, you can contact their customer support line and let them know you would not like to continue with the 90 day enrollment program.

I don't know about you guys but this offer, to me, just seems to good to refuse. Finally, I get a chance to try WEN for myself so I can really see if Hair One really is the one. Of course you guys know this experiment will lead to a "Battle of the Cleansing Conditioners" post at a later time.

UPDATED:  You can check out my "Battle of the Cleansing Conditioners" post here!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Your hair is what you eat. The connection between healthy foods and fabulous hair.


Lately in my hair journey, I noticed a shift in my focus from supplementing my routine with traditional vitamins to supporting my hair with powerful nutrient-rich foods. Eating is one of those things where the act itself has many purposes. We eat for pleasure, we eat for survival, we eat to maintain or create our weight. I like to also think of eating as a way to promote optimal health, beauty and vitality.

Don't get me wrong, you'll still see me from time to time, munching on a bag of Miss Vickies Jalepeno chips, some Chik fil-A waffle fries, or enjoying something that pacifies my sweet tooth. That still doesn't mean that there aren't ample opportunities to fit in some ultra-nutritious foods into my lifestyle. I know there are countless overall benefits to injecting super-foods into our daily eating. For the sake of this discussion, let's just focus on the impact to our hair.

I have an unproven theory I'd like to share with you. I like to believe that when we eat foods comprised of the normal American diet, our bodies don't necessarily receive what it needs for operating optimally. If our diet is lacking in value, we only provide enough fuel for our body to survive, not to thrive. Let's look at it another way, think of the nutrient amount in your foods like a paycheck. If someone is making close to minimum wage, there's only enough money to pay for the most basic of essentials, living expenses, food, and other absolute needs. A person making a six figure income, however, can cover basic needs and allow for an extraordinary life full of luxuries beyond the bare minimum. Most often, it's easy to see the difference between someone making six figures and the person making minimum wage. I like to make the same comparison with our eating to the health of of hair. If we are consuming a "minimum wage" type diet, our body will function. Adding super foods to our diet is like adding pay bonuses to our check. The more we do it, the more increase we have available to create new possibilities. Just like the person earning more money, nutritional abundance in our diet will allow our bodies to go beyond the minimum needed to just keep us alive but to create beautiful skin and ultra healthy hair.

Eating a diet made up of 100% healthy foods is not only challenging, but somewhat unreasonable with our fast-paced lifestyles. So what I've decided to do instead, is supplement my diet with super foods so I know I'm getting what I need to thrive every day. When I speak of super-foods, I'm referring to food that provides an extreme level of nutrition even when consumed in small amounts. I'll give you some examples of these foods from my diet:
Obviously, there are many other super foods out there available to us. This is what makes it fun. With all the options available, you can take your pick based on taste and preference. I like to incorporate these foods into my already existing diet. For example, I'll add a spoonful of flax seeds, wheat germ, and/or brewer's yeast into a cup of yogurt and suddenly my snack turns into a nutritional powerhouse. Even a bowl of your favorite cereal can transform to an excellent source of omega-3 power with the help of a little chia and flax.

Some of these foods may sound a little foreign and uninteresting to you. That's alright. I started my journey here by first selecting healthy snacks. For example, instead of a sweet mid-day snack, I'd munch on some sliced almonds. Little by little, I'd add healthy foods here and there. The more my mind was open to the possibilities, the more I'd find foods that offered higher potential to my overall health. So how has all of this affected my hair? One of the most obvious, for me, is the quality of my new growth. Prior to including powerful foods, I touched up every 8 weeks. Not because my hair was growing so fast, honestly, it just seemed like my hair was wiry and untamable. Now, I stretch twice that long because my new growth is supple and healthy. My hair feels more like it's flourishing rather than just growing. It's the difference between living on $8.00/hour versus $150,000 a year.

Prior to incorporating super-foods, I toted around a myriad of vitamins pills. If I missed a day or two here and there, I'd beat myself up mentally about missing my promise to take my supplements. With nutritional foods, I just mix a spoonful with what I'm eating at the time. Best of all, I'm taking in foods that support my entire body versus scoping out supplements specifically and solely for hair for growth. This has opened up a whole new world for me. If maintained the mindset of only seeking out hair pills, I may have missed out the the amazing benefits of chia seeds, macca root, or whatever else is out there I haven't discovered yet. So, in all honesty, I wanted to share my experience with powerful foods because I'm sure there's benefit to each one of you. Do any of you have any recommendations of your favorite healthy foods? I'd love to try something new.
 

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