Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I get really excited when I hear from readers of the blog who say that my random hair rantings have helped them out on their journey. So you can imagine my elation when LHCF member Nix08 sent me an email pictures of the incredible progress she made in just 9 short months! I was so inspired by her success that I asked her to share her regimen with me so I can share you! She was gracious enough to talk in detail about how she was able to quickly achieve her results. So without further adieu......
When did you begin your hair journey and what inspired you to get serious about your hair care?
"I began my hair journey June 17 2010. Earlier that year I started following ‘Jenna’s Victoria Beckham blog’ after doing a fashion overhaul. Her blog lead me to ‘The Girl in a Cashmere Daze’ which lead me to your blog, You inspired me to get serious about hair care. For a few months I'd drop by and read the current postings. Then you posted about the girl at the party you went to who's hair you were in amazement with. From that post it dawned on me that you felt that anyone could grow their hair. It wasn't based solely on DNA or being mixed etc – how was I to know any different. I then went back, printed and probably read every one of your posts, with a highlighter! Your blog became my guide. I had recently relaxed my hair so I went and got a journal for my hair and a trim.

Again on your recommendation I picked up a Sedu, Biolage Cera repair, Biolage daily leave in tonic and a satin cap and a few other items I'm sure. After my first Pre poo/DC with the cera repair, blow dry and flat iron with the sedu I went outside and my neighbour commented on my hair! I'm an excitable person as is but I was downright giddy...so much so that I emailed you to say thanks!! You were gracious enough to entertain my madness and gave me further advice...of which I printed off and put in my journal. You said that the key was to focus on the basics (moisture, strength and stimulation). At the time I wasn't about protective styling so you did warn that things would likely go slower as a result...I'm not a very patient person so within days/weeks I started wearing a low manipulation style...front puff with the back up in a claw clip. I joined LHCF and hairlista and continued to read any and everything I could find on hair care, including re-reading your posts now with even more understanding.

Looking back what was the biggest change in your routine from before to now?
The biggest change would be that there was now an actual routine. I would dread wash day!! I now pre poo which I never did, DC which I never did, moisturize and seal and gently handle my hair both of which I never did.

What are you doing daily/weekly to retain length?
Daily - I focus on maintaining moisture with nightly M&S (moisturizing and sealing), also mid day if my hair is out. I keep my hands out of my hair and wear low manipulation styles majority of the time (that won't be the case for too much longer. But I do plan on investing in some silk blouses – is that taking it too far – I think NOT … hehe ). Also taking my multivitamin for health but as you indicated it also benefits hair.

Weekly - I ensure a balance of moisture and protein, stimulate my scalp, maintain a neutral PH level and handle my hair like fine silk

What do you think is the greatest contributor to the health of your hair?
The greatest contributor to the health of my hair would probably be an understanding of the science behind healthy hair. I've read so much and I’ve been so bewildered as to how ignorant I was about hair that now everything that I do to my hair and every product that I use has a reason behind it: moisturize, strengthen or stimulate.

What advice would you give to someone new to their hair journey?

Think of your hair journey as a course - it takes about a semester to understand the science, the what's and why's of it all, to get your products in order and your routine down. Patience is key with a hair journey but knowledge is fundamental. Read, read and read some more. Some things you will have to experience to fully understand, for example; the moisture/protein balance...I had to get moisture overload to understand what 'mushy' felt like, I had to get protein overload to know when I'd used too much... when I finally got the balance I understood the result of a wet strand test. If you pull and your hair breaks that is dryness or too much protein. If you pull and your hair stretches like chewed gum, that's too much moisture. However, if you pull and your hair springs back like a rubber band, that's Balance!
I think educating yourself on the science helps prevent setbacks....anyone starting their journey now has tons of information at their fingertips and lots of testimonials of people that they can learn from to achieve maximum success and to learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to make too many of your own.

I’m often tweaking as I do love product and playing with my hair but I do have the fundamentals down. I think I probably do a lot to my hair and it likely all isn't necessary however, hair care was once a chore and now it brings me an unbelievable calm and joy so like you will hear often regarding hair do what works for you - this works for me, my hair and my mental health

Moisturize with Beauty without Cruelty leave in conditioner
Seal with Gleau!!
Scalp massage (I often forget this step nowadays)
Wrap hair with a satin scarf and sleep on a satin pillowcase

(I don't have the time to co wash now so I don't but for a while I did mid week with Elucence moisture Balance Conditioner then condition with Silicon Mix (for ceramides and protein)

Detangle – wide tooth/pick like comb

Pre Poo/Dry DC (Again due to time it’s also my dry DC (I don't DC with heat because although I try and use organic/natural products not all of them are and I don't want to open my pores to more chemicals)).

I layer these products in my hair in this order:
Aloe vera juice or gel (stimulates the scalp and helps neutralize the PH levels of the other products)
Reconstructor - mild protein weekly (I don't do any strong protein treatments)
biolage Cera repair (the week after a perm and every couple months) - ceramides are important
Conditioner(s) of choice - moisturizing with some protein
Wheat germ oil, Avocado oil and olive oil ( ceramides, shine, moisture and additonal stimulating benefits of these oils)
I cover with a couple plastic caps and leave on for a minimum of 30 minutes to several hours - never overnight as my hair seems to get more fragile if I do that.

Rinse - keeping my hair hanging down - never piled on top of my head and being careful not to tangle

First lather with diluted elucence clarifying shampoo or Giovanni Triple Treat shampoo put in a squeeze bottle and applied to my roots, I part my hair with my hands and use the pads of my fingers to rub my scalp


Second lather with elucence moisture shampoo applied to my hair - just smoothing over my hair again keeping my hair down and straight being careful not to tangle.

Conditioner – Govanni Triple treat/Elucence Moisture Balance or Silicone Mix

Rinse – using the water to detangle (its usually still pretty detangled from my detangling before the pre poo

Final rinse, diluted Apple Cider Vinegar with cold water (I do not rinse it out)

Leave In - Spritz of water with Silk Amino Acids and Lavendar oil (SAA is a moisturizing protein, Lavender oil is stimulating), Nioxin Bliss, Beauty Without Cruelty leave in conditioner and Gleau!

Airdry with a headband smoothing my hair down as it dries. Next day I may flat iron if I am over 7 weeks post.

I'm still trying to figure out how long to stretch my relaxer I've gone 15 weeks the first to relaxers after starting my journey then 11. I start to get breakage after 7 weeks and if I really leave my hair alone I can stretch longer but as it grows I want to enjoy it more so I think 8-10 weeks will be it for me.
I’ve had one trim mid journey but I won’t be getting anymore until I reach my secondary goal of BSL or my ends start to show a lot of splits.
My ultimate goal is MBL mid 2012!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So as a follow up to my last post where I talked about the reprecussions of humidity to the hair, I thought I'd brainstorm some possible solutions to this pesky situation. Like I mentioned before, most (if not all) online suggestions directed me to find silicone containing products to tame frizz. While I do believe that silicones will provide a barrier on the strand that helps the moisture in the air from penetrating, I also can see a dark side to this option.

As women with textured hair, one of the greatest battles we face is that of dryness. We can all agree that air can be a huge culprit in the dryness factor of our hair. If the air is too dry, it sucks the moisture out of our strands leaving it dry and brittle. If the air is too moist, it over penetrates our hair creating an environment of dry and brittleness as the water molecules in our oversaturated hair strands begin to evaporate. As I shared in my last post, the oversaturated strand expands excessively to the point where the cuticle layer is lifted. This is really undesirable because any type of friction can lead to cracks on the hair follicle, spit ends, and breakage. So while I believe silicone can be useful in helping to create a barrier against the humidity, I also think there’s an undesirable side effect to blocking all moisture from entering the strand. For one, the layer of “protection” can turn into buildup if day after day; you are constantly applying silicone products to you hair. This may be a non-issue if you maintain a regular cleansing schedule and can clarify effectively on wash days. But let’s talk about some other options shall we?

For most of last year, I went without an umbrella. I had one previously but decided not to replace it right away once it went missing. Anyway, because of this, I found myself making mad dashes to my car on occasions when I was caught in the rain. Soon the mad dashes turned into calm walks to my vehicle once I realized that getting my hair wet in the rain wasn’t such a bad thing. Why? Because pretty much every time my hair received the moisture from the moderate rain, it felt softer and more moisturized for the rest of the day. For this reason, I’m not too adverse to the moisture in the air, I just think that we have to control it so we can receive the good from it and minimize the undesirable effects.

Rule # 1: You're in control
Whenever I find myself in an environment with lots of moisture in the air, my very first instinct is to reach for my satin or silk scarf. This, to me, provides a very temporary barrier against extreme humid conditions in the air. I’m sure a little moisture will likely penetrate the hair under the scarf but not nearly at the same levels as when my hair is exposed. Having a scarf on hand is much easier now that I’ve created my healthy hair on the go kit. Whenever the need strikes me, I grab the scarf and I’m good. The scarf also keeps the hair secured against the head which helps provide structure for the hair to dry naturally without a negative effect. Remember how I said earlier in the post that the air could be both good and bad. It could deposit moisture into the strands (good) then turn right around and create a vulnerable environment for the hair to become rough if the cuticle layer becomes raised (bad). If you allow a controlled amount of moisture to come in contact with your hair, and then tie down with a silk scarf, you allow your hair to experience the good and reduce impact of the drying after effects.

Another action I made sure I took whenever my hair began to get damp was to seal the hair right away with my nourishing oil blend. Since I always have a little bit on me at all times, I’d just simply seal the natural moisture in, tie down with a scarf and allow the combination to work its magic. In fact, I think it was this technique that afforded me the opportunity of going without purchasing a moisturizer for so long. I remember using a technique last summer (when the humidity was the highest) where I would cover my head with a clear plastic cap for 5 minutes or so to help generate moisture. Once my hair became somewhat damp, I would remove the cap, seal with Gleau Nourishing oil, and then smooth the hair with a silk scarf. That method worked pretty well for me. The moral of the story if you want to avoid dry frizzies and brittleness, never let damp hair dry unsecured….ever.

Remember learning about the terms hydrophilic and hydrophobic in 6th grad escience class? If not, let me refresh your memory. Hydrophilic means “water loving” while hydrophobic, on the other hand, translates to something that doesn’t love water. As a general rule, if you want to minimize the effects of extreme humidity, try laying off the heavy humectants. Humectants usually draw moisture from the air and attract to the hair. This is a great thing in the winter but when the air is already laden with moisture you may be promoting frizz. So for example, when I use my steam setter, I generally don’t have to use moisturizer because the steam roller will be transferring the water particles directly to the strands. If I apply extra moisturizer, the hair remains too saturated and the curl doesn’t hold or it comes out our frizzy and puffy. On the other hand, if I just use a little oil to seal, I experience different results. If your hair is already drawing a ton of moisture from the air, you should think about whether your regimen requires less hydrophilic products (humectants) and more hydrophobic products such as natural oils. The cool thing about natural oils is that even though oil & water generally don’t mix, they compliment each other perfectly when it comes to your hair regimen. Do oils provide the same layer of protection against moisture as silicone containing products? My guess is no. But I actually appreciate the fact that oils will allow for some moisture penetration while still helping keep frizz at bay. After all, moisture isn’t entirely a bad thing.

When it comes to dealing with your hair in a high humidity environment, low manipulation is critical. In the study I mentioned in my first post, there were images of the hair samples used during the experimentation. All of the hair samples had one thing in common, they we allowed to dry loose and unrestricted. This is a recipe for disaster for textured hair. If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that I’m not one for protective styling. It’s just not my thing. Now with that said, I still know better than to walk out of the house with my hair loose when the humidity is in full effect. If a silk scarf isn’t handy, I’ll put my hair in a single braid, a bun, or put my hair in an upsweep. The only way I take my hair down is when I’m inside in an environment where I know my hair will be safe. Again, sometimes I allow some absorption of the moisture, then apply some light oil, tie down for further penetration then remove the scarf when I arrive at my intended destination. Sometimes just a few minutes under a silk scarf is enough to make a difference.

Rule # 2: Seal the deal
For some reason, when the weather warms I suddenly have the urge to break out my cute summer dresses while sporting braid out styles. Within a few short hours my once defined waves turn into a puffy mess. While I appreciate the thickness I experience as my hair succumbs to the humidity, I hate the fact that my hair looses definition as the hydrogen bonds are broken. I think back to the days when I frequented the Dominican salons. All that blow drying really helped seal my cuticles which helped preserve my style. In fact, one visit to the salon would equal bone straight hair for up to two weeks no matter how humid it was outside. From this experience, I conclude that using heat to seal the cuticles is another option. I’m not talking about the indirect heat from sitting under the dryer while roller setting, I’m referring to the direct heat of a flat iron or blow dryer. Like silicone, excessive use of either of these techniques tend to hinder your hair’s moisture levels in the long run so make sure you work smart when ever using direct heat. This means using quality heating tools that are less harmful to the hair. Just make sure you get enough moisture in the hair from your deep conditioning process before you seal. Whenever you decided to use direct heat, you’ve got to take extra precautions to make sure your hair isn’t harmed by the whole experience. Try to get as much moisture into the strand as possible beforehand. You also really got to make sure you step up and use quality heat protecting products. Lately I've been hearing a lot of good things about Nioxin Bliss Thermal Protector. I just picked up a bottle last week. High on the list of ingredients is wheat protein and amino acids (it also contains one silicone ingredient) I really hope it lives up to my expectations.

Which leads me into another point, one important note I also remember from my reading of the study was how porous hair absorbed more water molecules than virgin hair. Again, let’s assume for the sake of argument that those of us who relax have porous hair. So to me this means I have to make sure I’m giving my hair exactly what it needs in terms of protein and ceramides. Protein will strengthen the strand and fill in the cracks, ceramides will help seal the cuticle layer. Together they work together to create hair that’s less porous and therefore less likely to attract all that excess moisture. Think back to the "healthy hair experiment" that requires you to place a strand of hair in a bowl of water. Damaged, porous hair absorbs the water and soon begins to sink to the bottom of the bowl. Healthy hair floated on the water's surface as it was able to protect itself from absorbing all of the water around it. If you haven't done that test in a while, maybe now is a good time to revisit.

And of course after every wash I want to make sure I use a little apple cider vinegar during my final rinse to lower the pH level of the hair and scalp. And let’s not forget that during the summer months is the perfect time to make sure we use cold water when rinsing out product. Both of these actions help create that sealed cuticle layer which is so critical in fighting humidity. O.k so I went a little longer in this post than I usually do. That’s because I wanted to offer up some options on how we can leverage all the “free moisture” that’s available to us in the form of humidity while still keeping frizz at bay. I understand there will be times that our hair has to look perfect and using a silicone product is the answer, but I also think there are other (healthier) options available to us as well.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 20th is officially the first day of spring this year. Since I live in a warmer climate, thoughts of spring and summer weather have been on my mind for several weeks. One question in particular has plagued me since last summer and today I decided to do my research to see what I could uncover. The question is this, "does high humidity weather have adverse effects on my hair?" Where I live, I'm subjected to 100% humidity day after day in the summer time. Even though we're still in the month of March, the humidity levels in my city today is expected to reach 80%. For years it's been more of a nuisance to me than anything else but recently I've asked myself, "could there be more to this humidity thing?'

Not too long ago I received an email question from a reader of this blog. In it she mentioned how her hair seems to do better when flat ironed weekly that if she wore braid outs etc. My response to her was that it likely had to do with the "sealing" that occurred when she flat ironed which kept the cuticle layer down and frizz at bay. Little did I know, at that time, how detrimental frizz actually is to the hair.

From my search I learned that the hair strand tends to quickly absorb the water particles from the air in a high humidity environment. Logic would tell you that's a good thing but that's far from the truth. In actuality, a study done in 2007 determined that the more water content inside the hair (from a high humidity environment) the less hydrogen bonding occurs and the hair becomes less elastic. In the study, they also found that bleached hair absorbed more water than virgin hair. For all intents and purposes, let's also classify relaxed hair in the same category as highly porous hair and likely to absorb moisture at greater levels.

So wouldn't the ability to absorb moisture at higher levels be a good thing? Not necessarily. Porous hair can take in so much water that the hair follicle actually becomes swollen. According to the study published in the cosmetic Journal of Cosmetic Science, the absorbed water molecules break and replace hydrogen bonds inside the hair. Since, these hydrogen bonds are responsible for 50% of the hair elasticity, more absorbed water means less elastic hair which could mean more breakage. That's why they say "wet hair is more susceptible to breakage." Oh, by the way, this intense swelling could also raise the cuticle layer which is why the hair feels so rough in high humidity conditions. Rough, brittle and porous hair is the perfect recipe for breakage so now we have to create a plan to combat the effects of humidity before the summer gets here.

When I checked online for possible solutions, over and over again I was told to reach for silicone based products. While I do agree that silicones offer a beneficial barrier against moisture, I wonder if there could be a better way. So my next step in this process is to look at some alternative actions I can do help minimize the the adverse effects of humidity. I'll discuss more in detail on a follow up post. Stay tuned........

Thursday, March 10, 2011

So I'm sitting at home the other day minding my own business when all of the sudden a hear a knock at the door. You can imagine my surprise when I was told there was a package for me. I was being a good girl lately and hadn't bought any products off the internet so I'm wondering what this could be. Little did I know that the package was from good folks at Creme of Nature. They gracioulsy sent over two of their products so I can get whiff of their newest creation.

When I first took a look at the bottles, I didn't really see what was new. The packaging was the same and these specific products I received weren't new to the CON line. Then I realized that the package boasted of a newer, refreshing scent! According to the Creme of Nature official press release, their new fragrance is preferred by 9 out of 10 users. I knew I had to find out for myself so I immediately twisted open the cap and breathed in deeply. I absolutely love the new scent. It's ultra light and really pleasant. The new fragrance is available in many of the CON shampoo, conditioners, and treatments. I can't wait to try to see if the scent lingers. I would love that! Just the other day, I was thinking about how much I wanted a hair product that left a wonderful scent on my hair from wash to wash. Maybe this is my answer.....

These two new heavenly smelling products are in stores now so next time you happen to be near a "new & improved" version of these Creme of Nature bottle, why not twist the cap and take a whiff?

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