Saturday, December 31, 2011

What a year 2011 was! I really enjoy writing posts for this blog but I must say that my favorite post (other than the features) is the end of the year wrap up post where I recap some of my learning and areas of focus throughout the year. I have to admit that I sometimes forget some of the little gems I tend to find during the course of the year. So let's take a walk down memory lane and take a look back over the highs and lows of 2011.

Who could forget the commencement of a great year with my stumble upon silica in February. I can't believe we're nearing two years since silica my first post on the benefits of silica. I plunged in with both feet when I learned of the benefits of silica to my hair, skin and nails. First I started taking silica supplements, then I graduated to Hubner's silica gel which was said to be very effective and easily assimilated into the body. The benefits I received were almost instant. My skin and nails were singing the praises of silica. This stuff instantly became part of my beauty rituals. The Law of Attraction states that we attract the things we think about the most. Is there any question as to why I was able to attract silica in the form bamboo tea in my life last year? Bamboo tea is pretty amazing. It's light, delicious and contains up to 350 mg of silica per 8 ounce cup. Luckily for us, the vendor graciously offered to partner with the blog to offer bamboo tea at a great price and many of you have taken advantage. My intention is to continue to offer the bamboo tea into 2012 since many of you have requested that "I never stop selling the tea."

A huge focus back in 2010 was on my scalp health. Plagued with shedding like you wouldn't believe, I decided that the only way to address this issue was by dealing with the root scalp. In 2010 I began to discover some solutions to what seemed like an impossible situation. In 2011, I also had some pretty powerful breakthroughs when I discussed the types of carrier oils that work best with our favorite essential oils. Possibly my favorite post of 2011 was a candid look at a 72 year old man's hair regimen and what we could learn from good 'ole Mr. Sanford. I still use his technique to this day.

In 2011 I was inspired by the beautiful ladies featured on the blog. It all started with our conversation with Ms. NJOY who reminded us that the use of our minds powerful is just as powerful to our hair journey as a healthy regimen. Pretty much all of our features were a hit but I think the most popular features to date has got to be of Pink Pearls who introduced us to the world of Kerastase. After interviewing her, one thing led to another and I was able have the wonderful MircoMist experience. Next year I hope to really capture the hair journeys of many more beautiful heads of hair because I am just as much of a hair porn fiend as you are.

Looking ahead to 2012, I am more than excited about what lays ahead. Just this week, I made available the first in a series of topic specific hair guides as resources with detailed information on how to address hair related issues such as moisture, strength, dealing with setbacks, etc. I should also mention that I'm considering evolving the blog which may include a name and design change. There's so much I want to share on the blog but I sometimes feel is if I'm a bit limited to discussing only hair related subjects. I received lots of positive comments on the posts I made on daily habits and personal growth and I feel like there's so much more to share on various other topics. Also, I do have it as a goal of mine to finally create and release a moisturizer compliment to Gleau Argan Oil Blend. What's kept me from doing so all this time is a fear that if this thing isn't absolutely flawless, I will not allow it to see the light of day. The dream of this product I've created in my mind is so perfect that I don't know if such a product could actually exist in real life.....I know that I must let my desire for perfectionism go and bring this product into existence so you guys can give me the feedback I need to make the product even better.

As far as my hair is concerned, my primary focus in 2012 will be on the health and strength of my ends. It's been a while now since I started using Affirm Fiberguard (mild) which has inadvertently led to a transition from fully relaxed hair to texlaxed. My ends are still fully relaxed straight which makes them a little thinner than I'd like them to be. This year is all about thick, healthy, ends.

New Years is my absolute favorite time of year because, with it comes the infinite number of possibilities for our lives. The are millions of paths our lives can take this year and we get to be a part of the creation process by putting intention to what we want with our written goals. So that's what I'll do today...Today I'm writing down the new and amazing experiences I would like to bring into my life in 2012.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I'm in the midst of a stretch that I hope will make it until six months. There are two main reasons why this stretch may prove to be successful. First because my new growth seems to be the most tamed it's been in a long while. I've got to go back into the archives to see what I've been doing differently over the past 3-4 months. It's working whatever it is. Secondly, I think my winter growth cycle is yielding less new growth than the summertime. I read an article abstract where hair growth was measured in caucasian males. Researchers discovered that peak growth rates in the warmer months were up to 60% higher than at winter levels.

I believe this has something to do with the decline of overall blood circulation that occurs in our bodies when the weather cools down. You see, as the temperature drops, our body's natural protective responses encourage increased circulation and blood flow to our internal organs. As a result, our extremities are left feeling a bit deprived. Notice how your fingers and toes are the first parts of your body to get really cold? That's partly 'cause the warming blood flow is not as prevalent in your fingertips as it is in other parts of your body. Remember that our scalp is also considered somewhat of an extremity. I suspect the amount of nutrient rich blood to the hair follicle is at below optimum levels in winter months. A picture speaks louder than words. Check out this chart below taken from a study done on hair growth cycles throughout the year.

Since we have a hair journey to attend to, we can't have something as simple as cold weather slow us down. We've got to keep moving! Oh, and by the way, you know that seasonal shedding we always seem to get? I have a hunch that poor circulation to the roots may have something to do with it also. So then let's discuss some methods of promoting much needed circulation even during the winter months.

I did a video on this subject a while ago. It's a habit that I had almost forgotten about until recently. I watched the video again and was reminded of the feeling I would get when I finished a bottle of room temperature water early in the morning. It was as if I could feel the liquid traveling all throughout my body. I felt alive! Even now, whenever I feel sleepy during a mid-day meeting, I instantly swig some water and, moments later, I'm alert and my mood has changed. Water is one of the best methods of promoting internal circulation. Because our bodies are made of water, the liquid flows easily and instantly throughout our bodies. I put water first on this list simply because it's foundational to our health. You can be doing all the other stuff on the list below but if you aren't using water as your leverage, you may be fighting a loosing battle. Let's face it, as the temperature drops, drinking adequate water just isn't a priority for us. Let's get healthier by shifting our focus. So make sure you're drinking plenty of water this winter and start this habit first thing in the morning.

Next on our list is heat. I'm not talking about flat iron/curling iron type of heat. I'm thinking more of the heat that comes from our environment. In the summer time, we have a heat source warming our skin for most of our waking day. I think when heat is exposed to a certain part of our body, it responds with increased blood flow to that area. I was watching a movie once, there was a scene where a little girl removed her cast she wore after breaking her arm. Under the cast she kept wanting to scratch with her pencil and, when the cast finally came off, her arm hair was long and thick like a primate. Long after the scene change I racked my brain about the cause of the wonderful and awkward hair growth. What was it about the cast that created this result? The only answer I could come up with was the heat (and humidity) generated by the cast. The best way I could think of to create heat-promoting circulation is to visit a steam room. In a steam room, you get both heat and humidity to your entire body. If you don't have access to a steam room at your local gym or spa, make sure you are using your steamer (or hooded dryer) while deep conditioning. Another way to help promote heat is through exercise. I know that most of us want to stay all bundled up in the fetal position when it's cold out, but doing that will only promote the results we don't want. Exercise gets the heart beating which guarantees blood flow and increased circulation all over. Physical activity usually requires us to breathe more deeply which fills our body with oxygen which helps feed the hair follicle. Plus if you start exercising now, you are avoiding the dreaded winter fat storage syndrome so you will be ready for shorts and dresses in spring.
One of my circulation powerhouses is the use of cayenne pepper. I've used cayenne in my drink and I also sometimes take supplements orally. Years ago I tried using cayenne on my scalp but I accidentally got some in my eye and I decided that I would never do that again. Nothing like the feeling of getting maced your own shower. Cayenne is such a powerful circulation aid that it's said to have the ability to stop a heart attack in it's tracks. I read online that no other herb moves blood faster than cayenne. Using it can make your other supplements more effective as it helps other nutrients travel in the body faster. Cayenne is an acquired taste so you gotta work up your resistance to it a little slowly.
Finally, the mother of all circulation boosters for healthier hair growth is scalp massage. I've written post, after post, after post on scalp massage so I don't think I need to ramble, but what scalp massage does more than the other circulation-boosters I listed above is have the ability to bring blood flow directly to the hair follicles. There's no guessing if your hair will benefit from scalp massage, you know that your efforts will directly bring extra attention to your roots. And nothing but good can come out of that. Scalp massage is one of those things, like everything else I mentioned above, that must be done consistently as a habit in order to produce desired results for you. So have fun and take control of your hair growth this winter!

Be sure to stop by for my next post when I recap all the learning and focus of 2011.....see you soon!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It was over a year ago when I posted a quick blurb on the Facebook page about some flexi rods I purchased at my local Target store. I remember standing in the aisle, staring at the package, wondering if these rods were worth the over $12.00 asking price. For years I've paid around $4.00-$5.00 for flexi rods and not a penny more. The only issue I was having was that every so often, I was purchasing a new pair set of flexi rods. One thing I hate, is having to purchase the same item over and over again, because it no longer maintains it's effectiveness. So this time I decided to do something different and take the plunge.

Boy am I glad I did. Fourteen months later and these bad boys are still as firm and bendable as the day I got them! I can't tell you the number of times I've been disappointed by my results in the past when I've used faulty flexi rods that couldn't create or hold a curl. Currently, I'm in the midst of purging my clutter and unnecessary items as I move into the new year and one of the items on the chopping block are my old, worthless, flexi-rods that no longer serve their purpose. So I'm dedicating this post to my new flexi curlers because they never seem to fail me. Take a gander at this look I created today on dry hair with the help of my curlers, leave-in, and some Gleau oil. I slept overnight in the curlers, took them out this morning and voila!

The look I was going for was volume. On my side is four months of new growth plus the fact that I wore by hair in a high bun for the last couple of days. When I took my bun down, my hair was much more voluminous than if I had been wearing my hair down. I used that to my advantage.

The flexi rods have pretty much been my hair's best friend ever since the humidity died down. They help me create wearable looks without (potentially damaging) heat. They're so wonderful.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Maybe it's a bit instinctual but it seems like every winter I get this strange desire to start consistently taking omega 3 fish oils. Even though I live in the south where I can pretty much wear a light jacket for most of the winter months, I still think about arctic climates where all of the animals are filling up on cold water fish loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.

In previous posts, I've discussed using quality fish oil and even krill oil capsules in my regimen to support my omega 3 dietary requirements. Recently though, I've decided to take it up a notch and go "all liquid" with my omega 3 intake. In the past, I attempted to create a habit of consuming liquid fish oil for at least 30 days. While I was successful at this 30 day challenge, it did translate into a long-term habit. Looking back, I think I set myself up for failure in the long run.

I say this because I purchased a lower quality liquid fish oil from a super-retailer. The cod liver oil was a thick "creamy" liquid opaque in color with a harsh lemon flavor covering the even harsher fish taste. It was not pleasant. This time, I've decided to change my strategy so I can ensure my success in this new daily habit creation attempt. For one, I've decided to upgrade the quality of my liquid cod liver oil. Since I was already taking in Nordic Naturals supplements I was aware of their high quality. The supplements don't give you that fishy burping side effect one may find with lower quality oils. I've heard that fishy burps maybe due to consuming rancid fish oil.

So off I went to Vitamin Shoppe in hopes of coming back with a liquid cod liver oil supplement that I could actually consume on a daily basis (long-term). I picked up a bottle of Nordic Naturals and was on my way. Fast forward two and a half weeks later and I must say that I'm pretty proud of how consistent I've been in taking a spoon full of the lightly flavored lemon fish oil each morning. I attribute my success to how wonderfully light and palatable this stuff is. Sure, in the end, I'm still taking in a spoonful of oil but let me tell you, I can see myself taking this on a regular basis much more consistently than in the past.

In the past, I felt like I was setting myself up for failure before because I wasn't really enjoying the experience. This time around I'm shifting my mindset around the whole "liquid fish oil" thing by creating it as a pleasant experience in my mind vs. a negative one. So now, just prior to consuming the oil, I take a brief moment to reflect on the benefits I'll receive from taking this action and I might silently say to myself "I have flawless, glowing, skin and healthy, shiny hair." Then, right after I've taken the oil, instead of gagging and making faces of disgust, I smile, look in the mirror, and reaffirm the benefits I am receiving. This changes the entire experience to a pleasant one that I don't mind repeating on a daily basis. I've even purchased a second bottle, though I still have half a bottle left, so I can ensure I continue this practice without the possibility of using that fact that I've run out as an excuse to break my routine.

So what's in it for me? One of my intentions is to promote a healthy scalp. More specifically, I'm hoping the omega 3 nourish and lubricate my hair follicles by impacting my dry, itchy scalp. Usually by now, my scalp is a dry, flaky mess but I must say that I've seen some improvement as of late. The amount of shedding I experience is much less than I would normally get this time of year. I know that the full extent of fish oil benefits will only multiply when I continue this habit long-term. Of course I'd like to create hair that is more resistant to breakage due to the increase (or adequate) levels of lipids in the strand. My battle against dry hair is always first priority for me and this habit sets the foundation for battling dry tresses.

For those of you who know you've been slacking a little in supplementing your diet with omega 3s, this is your opportunity to get it right this time with a quality fish oil. Commence this habit today and 3 months from now you will be glad you did. Here's to starting the new year off with beautiful skin and healthier hair!

For those of you who are information nerds, like me, here are a couple of vids describing Nordic Natural's high standards in creating the cod live oil.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I've been through many fads and phases during this wonderful hair journey of mine. Over the years I've amassed numerous products and techniques. Some have stayed with me, some a long gone. Although it seems like I've tried just about everything, there are some things I admit I've never tried.

The Long Term Stretch is a powerful pathway to healthier hair for those of us who relax. If you didn't know already, stretching helps preserve health and thickness by reducing the amount of time we have to touch up a year. By minimizing the number of times were are relaxing, we are promoting the integrity of the strands and reducing breakage in the long run. Those who are successful at the long term stretch reap bountiful benefits of gloriously thick hair. Sounds wonderful right? So why haven't I stretched for 6 months or longer? Well in order to stretch successfully, one must overcome the hidden dangers along the way. It's kinda like playing a video game with multiple levels where the "bad guys" get stronger at each level. The "bad guys" of long term stretching include tangles, shedding, and breakage cause by the battling textures. In a couple of weeks, I'll be four months into my stretch. Based on my past experience, four months tends to be my limit. I desperately want to last to six months because I know that once I've done it once or twice, it could become the norm for me. I just have to make sure the reward is greater than the risks. Thanks to the increase moisture levels I've been experiencing from my new deep conditioner, I finally feel as if a six month stretch could actually be possible.

I'm almost ashamed to say that I've never experimented with henna on my hair. This is partially because I heard that quality henna makes all the difference in the results and some women with relaxed hair experienced dryness following application. I remember having dry hair after a tea rinse some time ago. Once that happened, I gave up tea rinses just as quickly as I started. My hair is always searching for moisture so henna was not all that appealing for me to look into much further. Since I first heard of henna, many pioneers have worked to improve the process and end results by adding oils and other goodies to the mix. Now that I have steamers and more powerful moisture creating/promoting products, I can let my henna guard down and actually try it. Of course I'll post a review once I get to experimenting.

I'll never forget the day, several years ago, when a Dominican stylist recommended a keratin treatment to me as I was getting my hair done. After doing a quick search online, I learned that this process would add much needed keratin to my chemically processed hair. Overcome with excitement I posted about my desire to have this process done asap. Then someone posted a comment about the potential dangers of this process because of the use of formaldehyde. After further research I learned of the possible cancer risks associate with this ingredient. Since then, there have been advances in formulation and there are now brands on the market that claim to be formaldehyde free. Luckily for us, the whole keratin treatment phase has created a whole new genre of keratin containing, over the counter, products. It's a 10 Keratin Miracle Leave-In plus Keratin is one of my faves. I've also fallen in love with Coppola Keratin product as well. So ultimately, I haven't felt the need to have this service done. If I ever feel the need to infuse strength into my strands with a heat source, I think I will purchase the Fibre Architecte from Kerastase.

I have to confess and let you know that I had weave sewed in when I was like 19. Back then "wet and wavy" hair was the shiznit. A friend of mine knew this girl who was a "professional dancer" and could install a full head of hair in no time. If memory serves me right, she braided the hair but glued in the tracks versus sewing it in. Peer pressure got the best of me so I caved. Soon I was walking around with a pack & a half of wet and wavy. Let me tell you that I felt like my whole life had changed when I had my new hair. Guys were hollerin' and I got so many compliments from girls on how great "my hair" looked. All was right with the world....that is until it was time to remove it. I don't remember all the details, but what I do remember was having cutting out a partial braid in order to remove the track that was glued to my cornrow instead of my scalp. You should have seen the look on my face when I saw my own braid in my hand. I was mortified. From that day on, I've sworn off all forms of extensions with the exception of synthetic braided hair.

It's kind of sad that I've had this aversion to weaves ever since this once incident because proper use of weaves/wigs can really help protect the hair. How many women have made huge progress on their hair journey from the use of weaves in their protective styling? Nowadays I've seen weaves that look amazing. Girls are even able to pull their extensions into ponytails. It's incredible how natural looking some of these installs look. Honestly, I would love to get a professional (not street professional) install especially in the summer time when humidity and my hair go into all out war against each other.

What I'd like to do is become more open minded to these four things that I've avoided for so long. Or at the very least, I'd like to find alternatives that provide similar benefits without the negative side effects.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

So you all know by now that Kerastase products are all I can think about at the moment. After my first review post, I was contacted by miss EbonyPrincess asking whether the version of Kerastase products available at Sally's were any good. I didn't even know that Sally's carried a Kerastase alternative. Come to find they do have a line out created by Naturelle called Kera Pro!

I figured that now is a good to see if I could find another product that could work as effectively as my darling Nutri-Thermique at a fraction of the price. So of course I made a trip to my local Sally's to see if I could get my hands on the product. I thought to myself "even if the Kera Pro isn't exactly like the Nutri-Thermique, as long as it's 75% as effective, I can at least use it to help stretch my Kerastase". I must have paced the store 5 or 6 times before I found the Kera Pro. For some reason I thought it would be packaged like the traditional black and white bottles containing "generic versions" of professional products. Finally I summoned the help of an employee who helped me identify the product once I gave her the name. Within moments I had the product in hand. I glanced at the price and realized that for the price of one 6.8 oz jar of Kerastase was equal in price to about five jars of the Kera Pro.

As part of my review, I'd like to compare the ingredients. "But what had happened was" that Kerastase doesn't actually list the ingredients on the jar but on on the product box the Thermique comes in. Unfortunately, I threw away the Kerastase box shortly after I ripped it open to reveal the contents. Luckily for me, the ingredients were available online. One thing I notice immediately when comparing the two is that Kera Pro actually contain some natural ingredients. Coconut and safflower seed oil to be exact. Kera Pro also has both Hydrolyzed Keratin and Hydrolyzed rice protein. Kerastase contains only Wheat Protein.

What I can say for sure is that the products vary greatly in appearance. The Kera Pro is a solid white conditioner, while the Nutri-Thermique has sort of a beige buttery hue. Another thing that jumps out at me as I check out both products is that the Nutri-Thermque has a glisteny look to it. The Kera Pro looks much more matte than its counterpart. When I pick up both jars and tilt them on their side. The Nutri-Thermique starts to "run" to one side of the jar. The Kera Pro remains completely still. I interpret this as the Nutri-Thermique has a more of a watery texture than the Pro. When I scoop both products with my fingers. The Nutri-Thermique is obviously more creamy. As I rub my fingers together, I feel like the Kera Pro feels like a dry, heavy, lotion more so than a conditioner (the consistency is similar to a body butter). I dunno, it just doesn't scream "moisturizing" when I touch it.

(when I did a finger test, the Kerastase began to slowly travel down my fingers, the Kera Pro remained in place)

The real test, however, comes when the rubber meets the road and the product is applied to my hair. Believe it or not, even though the Kera Pro doesn't look or feel as moisturizing as the Nutri-Thermique, when I massage into my dry hair, it feels almost as moisturizing as the Nutri-Thermique. How can that be? Honestly, I don't know how to explain it. I just don't. Because of its heavier texture, the Kera Pro does take a little more work to massage it into the strand. The Thermique seems to settle into the hair much easier. But once in, I can barely notice the difference between the two, with the exception that Kera Pro is a bit heavier and can leave a white residue if not worked in all the way. But as far as how moisturizing the product feels on the strand, Kera Pro holds its own.

Since our first conversation, EbonyPrincess sent me an email sharing her experience after purchasing the KeraPro shampoo and elixir. Her experience with the products gave her "amazing results." Ebony was gracious enough to give us a detailed account of her experience.

Shampoo - I normally am a die-hard fan for sulfate free shampoos and cleansers, and although I bought the Kerapro shampoo for dry to very dry hair I was skeptical. However, it did feel moisturizing but clean. And if I adopt the Kerapro regimen completely I do think sulfates are necessary because the serum contains a fair amount of cones. One wash got my hair very clean and I do think it is gentle enough to use weekly.

Conditioner - The directions say to apply for five minutes, no mention of using heat. To do a fair review, I tried it with heat, without heat, for five minutes and for longer. It definitely is effective in as little as five to ten minutes but should be used with heat to gain full benefits. Without heat it felt like it coated the hair whereas when I conditioned with my heating cap it felt like it penetrated the strands and made my hair feel soft and moisturized long after it dried.

Elixir - Slightly superior to the other serums I've used, gives the same smooth coating effect but is not as heavy as some of the other -cone laden serums.

All of the products contain both protein (hydrolyzed keratin & rice protein) and ceramides in the way of safflower oil. I lost very little hair while rollersetting and despite them being a little heavy on the protein side, my hair felt VERY soft and moisturized which still has me a little perplexed. However, my results have been amazing and I can't wait to try the conditioner with my new steamer which is on its way (another item I literally couldn't wait to get because of your reviews!).

So there you have it! Ebony sounds like she's one happy camper. My final assessment of the product is that it's definitely worth trying since KeraPro is modeled after such a superior line. I will continue to purchase Kerastase products since I now have a taste for it that will never subside...but I am also elated that there's an alternative for times when I run out and can't afford to drop $60.00 plus on a conditioner (it sounds worse when I see it in writing). I'm grateful that KeraPro is available to us and I'm thankful that Ebony was proactive in giving good feedback so we could try it for ourselves.

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