Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm always super excited whenever I learn something new in the world of healthy hair. Right now I'm just smitten about results of a study conducted by the University of Technology in Thailand in 2005. This study was on the effects of eucalyptus extract on the properties of the hair and scalp.

In the study, a lotion solution containing 3% eucalyptus extract was used twice a day, on the scalp, of test subjects, for several months. This was done to test the effects of consistent use of eucalyptus extract both on the hair and scalp. The study concluded that, with 3 months of consistent use, the amount of ceramide in the scalp increased. The skin on the scalp of the test subjects also improved form the use of the lotion. This was observed by increased moisture retention levels on the scalp.

But here's where the good stuff comes! By applying the eucalyptus lotion on the scalp consistently, the test subjects experienced noticeably healthier hair. The scientists measured this by first having beauticians analyze the subjects for visible signs of health such as gloss, luster, bounce, etc. Almost all of the women in the study were observed to have visibly healthier looking hair.

The hair was then measured for elasticity. After measuring elasticity levels, they determined that with consistent use of eucalyptus, elasticity and luster improved. Here's the kicker, the same amazing results did not occur when the lotion was applied to the length of the hair . Their theory is that since noticeable changes didn't occur when the solution was used on the hair, the change must be taking place in the composition of the hair (i.e when the hair is being formed). So they measured the new growth of the study participants to find that the ceramide levels in the hair increased by 120%. Lemme repeat this one more time.....after 3 months of use, the test subjects increased ceramide levels by 120%! The article concluded that "the eucalyptus extract drastically affected the hair fiber properties, improving bending elasticity and luster by a change in the hair metabolism." Hence, the "improvements in the hair properties by the eucalyptus extract were the results of some change in the hair formation process." So essentially, by adding eucalyptus extract to the scalp, you are literally impacting how healthy your hair grows in. How exciting is that?!

Last year was when I first discovered ceramides. For those of us who aren't familiar with ceramides allow me to help shed some light. Ceramides pretty much act like the "sealer" that helps keep the cuticle layer in tact. The cuticle layer is what protects our hair from potential damage. I can almost guarantee you that if you were to look at various strands damaged hair under a microscope, one thing they'd all have in common is the degradation of the cuticle. The cuticle layer protects and the cuticle layer helps preserve moisture. Without it, our hair is vulnerable.

So let's wrap this up by stating the obvious. First off, ceramides are essential and, secondly, we negatively impact ceramide levels if/when we use relaxers. I have this (unproven) theory that if we start off with the healthiest hair imaginable prior to relaxing, then give our hair a bit of an advantage to preserving the health once the process is completed. The test subjects in the study were Japanese so their natural hair already contained adequate amounts ceramides. With that said, they were still able to take it to the next level by doubling their natural ceramide amounts. My guess is that hair with twice as much ceramide protection may fare better during the touch-up process.

What does this all mean for you? I say, go quickly out into the world and pick up some eucalyptus oil--stat! Please note that the test subjects used a lotion with only 3% solution to be effective so I don't want you guys using this stuff straight on so you can avoid any possible scalp irritation. Learning about these results further supports my method of using $2.00 spray bottles for applying essential solution to the scalp. Those of you who are consistent scalp massagers, adding a little eucalyptus to your carrier oil kicks it up a notch!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to mist my scalp with some eucalyptus.

Check out the details of the full study here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lately there have been some random thoughts and ideas running through my mind that I thought I'd jot down on e-paper. This blog has become as powerful to my journey as my good ole' fashioned hair journal so please be patient with me as this post may not be as structured as what you may be used to but will serve more as a sounding board than blog post.

As I'm always thinking and pondering on what I can do to make my hair routine better, one word comes to mind-"co-washing." This is the process of "washing" the hair with conditioner only. In recent past I've failed miserably in several attempts at air drying. Proper air drying techniques, in my opinion, is the peanut butter to the co-wash's jelly. The two just go hand in hand. I can't imagine washing, detangling, and roller setting 3 or 4 times a week after a co-washing. It just doesn't make good business sense. So because of this, I became content with washing every weekend and making the most of it.

Well lately, my work schedule has become so hectic that I have to now utilize my weekends to take care of random stuff that I would during the week if I wasn't coming home from work long after sunset. Since less time is available to me on the weekends, I've now adapted my wash routine to a bi-weekly schedule. I've only done this 2 or 3 times now but I've discovered some pros and cons to washing less frequently. Some of the pros include, more time to other stuff on the weekend and less hair lost from roller set manipulation since I'm cutting down the frequency. Cons so far include, increase risk of damage if the moisture and strength levels in the hair aren't replenished in a timely manner. Along with that are the scalp issues that can occur if with less frequent washings.

So I'm weighing the two sides and considering my options. This past week my mind was working overtime to figure out a way to receive the benefits of co-washing especially when I don't have the time. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. What I needed was to get the benefits of co-washing (moisture retention, less breakage, etc) without going through the entire process. The solution I tried this week involved a small spray bottle with an excellent mist, some spring water, and a cheapie moisturizing conditioner. Without measuring I combined the water and conditioner (probably twice as much water as product) into my spray bottle. By combining the two into one bottle, I'm incorporating two of the main ingredients in a co-wash (water and conditioner) into one. Because I'm not undergoing the process in the shower with all the manipulation that goes along with it, I get to enjoy the benefits without experiencing the possible setback that comes with not air drying properly. So this week I bunned daily and all I did was refresh my hair with my co-wash mix then tie a silk scarf to allow the product to do it's thing. Each time I did this step my hair was softer to the touch and my bun felt more moisturized. I like to this of this as a "dry" co-wash because it doesn't require the full emersion into water. Now that I know this technique is a viable alternative for me to co-washing, I'll tweak and adjust it until it's near perfect.

I learned a valuable lesson throughout this process. Before, I wouldn't even consider co-washing because time constraints and such. But at the same time, I was giving up the good that came with co-washing. So now I will question myself as to whether healthy hair techniques that work well for others and, didn't work so well for me in the past, could be modified to meet my needs. A whole new world has opened up to me with regards to what is possible with my regimen and learning from others. Nothing is off limits!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

The last few days have been really hot in my area. Because of this, my thoughts are now focused on how to stay as hydrated as possible as spring and summer begins to roll in. I feel like I have a hard enough time taking in adequate amounts of fluid on a daily basis. Now I've got to take my fluid intake to the next level.

Instead of lugging around tons of water with me, I've decided to consider "working smart" in the area of hydration. Along with drinking an adequate amount water, I've also included another super-drink to my routine. This beverage is the newest craze in healthy drinking although it's been around for centuries. The drink I'm speaking of is none other is coconut water.

In recent times, we've seen an increase of healthy available beverages such as pomegranate and acai juice. These juices offer us lots of good stuff like wonderful antioxidants but I'd also like to tell you all about the exciting and pretty amazing benefits of coconut water. When I did my research online I learned that coconut water is a "super hydrator" and contains minerals and electrolytes similar to that which is already present in the human blood. This means you can quickly replenish the nutrients lost from strenous activity or simply from sweating. Coconut water is so powerful that it's been used introvenously in emergency situations. And unlike some sports drinks out there, coconut water is an all natural solution to avoiding dehydration.

Although water is the ultimate drink of choice some folks are simply not into water all that much. So instead they opt for unhealthy alternatives such as juice, coffee or soda. If drinking a ton of water isn't your thing, I'd like to invite you to consider drinking coconut water as a second option. I've heard it called the purest liquid second only to water. The coconut has tons of wonderful properties such as being antibacterial and anti fungal. When you drink the clear fluid you benefit. Some say this refreshing beverage is beneficial for those who suffer urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and various other types of ailments.

Because of its nutritious properties, some companies have repackaged this age old drink and turned it into the latest craze in super-nutrition. In fact, celebrities like Madonna, Demi Moore and Matthew McConaughey have all invested in Vita Coco, a company that's bringing coconut water into the mainstream. Vita Coco is a little rich for my taste. Instead, I just reach for coconut water in cans at my local ethnic grocery store or at Walmart. I've decided to leverage this ultra healthy drink help me in my hair journey. One main reason is because coconut water contains more potassium than a banana, but without the high sugar levels. Our hair can suffer if we're not getting enough potassium. High salt diets can contribute to excess sodium to build up around the hair follicle. When this happens, beneficial nutrients aren't absorbed properly which could lead to hair loss. I'm also challenging myself to remain hydrated to help manage dandruff and other issues related to not taking in enough fluids.

Another thing I really like about coconut water is how well it masks the gritty taste and texture of the silica gel I've been taking. I just add a tablespoon to my glass of coconut water and I'm good to go! Next time you're out and an about, why not pick up a few cans of coco water as an alternative. At around $0.99 cents a can, it's really affordable for all the benefits you'll receive.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

As of this moment, over a month has passed since I first began taking silica. As I mentioned in my previous post, I felt like I began experiencing positive results very quickly after I began taking the supplements. So now more than 30 days have gone by and I'd like to share an update of the benefits I've received from fully incorporating silica into my regimen.

Immediately after introducing silica into my routine, I paused my juicing practice. So for the past 30 days, I haven't juiced once for fear of not being able to identify where my results were coming from. This way I could be confident that any benefit I received was directly attributed to silica. 

 When I made my first silica purchase, I picked it up in pill form because that was all I could get my hands on. Shortly afterward I placed an order online for silica gel so I could take this whole silica thing to the next level. Once the gel was in my clutches, it became my main focus. I used the pills whenever consuming the gel wasn't convenient like when I was traveling or on days when I simply forgot to take the gel. On a few occasions, I would even "double up" and take a pill and the gel in the same day.

So now, a month later, I'm ready to talk about my experience. As I mentioned in my first post, I immediately experienced a benefit to my skin. My highly acne-prone skin shifted suddenly the moment I introduced silica to my system. Since then I've had to deal with only 1 pimple. Not one pimple. Incidentally, that pimple came only after I introduced a new moisturizer into my regimen. Once I stopped using that product, I suffered no additional breakouts. So to me, even if I experience no benefits to my hair, I will still use silica to promote clear, healthy skin. 

Not only has my skin improved greatly. I am also happy to announce that I am now the proud owner of a new set of fingernails. What I mean to say is that silica has truly made an impact on my nails. Normally, I don't do anything special to care for my nails so they grow at their own rate and break pretty frequently. In the past, you'd rarely see me sporting lengthy nails on all of my fingers. Nowadays, I'm filing them down to keep them at a manageable length. Although I'm excited about this, I'm also a little bummed that I now have to include nail care into my maintenance routine. Before this, my nails stayed short and didn't require any attention. Now I have to keep them filed, even, and neat. It's a great problem to have.

So now let's get to the meat of our conversation. How has silica impacted my hair? My last touch-up was mid-February (not long after my first take of silica). Currently, I have a nice new crop of growth coming in. That's all good and well but I can't say for certain that my hair is growing any faster (although I do feel like I have quite a bit of new growth). What I will say is how pleased I am with the quality of growth. My virgin growth isn't as tightly coiled as before. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I can brush my edges with a brush (without product) and they actually listen. They actually listen. If things keep going as they are, I should be able to add at least a couple of weeks to my stretch (if not longer).

Again, this is just a mini-update to acknowledge the good I've received from giving my body this most essential mineral. At this point, I'll be re-instituting juicing back in my daily grind and further reap the benefits. If I were to compare my experience taking silica versus when I was taking high doses of biotin regularly, I'd say that both supplements impact my new growth rate. Both have the ability to grow my fingernails. If I remember correctly, biotin makes my nails a bit stiffer, stronger. Biotin gave me longer lashes. I'm not experiencing this as much as with silica. Biotin also grew hair all over my body. 

Growing a "stache" and toe knuckle hair is not a good thing (sorry for the visual). Silica impacts the tone and clarity of my skin. There's just something about it that my skin likes. Overall, I'm pleased with the results and I'm really looking forward to seeing where I am 6 months with regards to the overall quality of my skin. So all in all, I would call silica a great overall beauty supplement. It's a must-have. 
Update: Since writing this article, I've incorporated bamboo tea into my regimen since the price of silica gel has gone up tremendously. Another reason why I went with bamboo is because it's plant-based.    Bamboo also has the highest source of silica you can find anywhere.   When I don't have time to brew tea, I add a little bamboo extract powder to my iced coffee or matcha latte.  Because tea is a liquid, I suspected that the nutrients found in bamboo tea would be readily available to be absorbed by the body.   Drinking the tea daily gave me incredibly strong nails, a healthier texture, reduced my hair shedding, and overall positively affected my hair growth.  It's definitely a must-have in any beauty regimen. 

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