Monday, February 27, 2012

Your girl is at it again. Another random trip to the Vitamin Shoppe store to replace my liquid cod liver oil and, next thing you know, I'm walking to the counter with a handful of items that just know will change my life forever. One such item is my liquid MSM. Liquid MSM, in essence, is basically just MSM that has been dissolved in water for easy use. It's a long story but I actually did not initially purchase this product strictly for hair related reasons. But now that it's found a new home with me, I plan on using this amazing product to the fullest and I'd like to share my intentions with you. So here we go.....

"I'm using it as an eye treatment"
Yes, the real reason why I decided to even buy the liquid MSM was to use as an all natural eye drop solution. It all started when I was seeking out a natural treatment for my dry, red eyes. For a while now, I've been dealing with the issue of eye strain stemming from years of staring at a computer screen. My Google search eventually led me to two options. One was a lemon water bath and the other liquid MSM drops. At first, I was really turned off at the idea of intentionally putting lemon water in my eye but then I remembered an incident, only two days prior, where I received a direct squirt in the eye while attempting to cut through a lemon. Believe it or not, having a lemon squirt me directly in the eye only caused mild discomfort and not the burning/stinging one might think would happen. For this reason, I was open to idea of adding a couple of drops of lemon diluted in water as an eye bath.

MSM eye drops are an actual product available online. According to what I read online, MSM water has the ability to "soften the membranes, allowing fluid to pass through the outer layer of the tissues. MSM softens leathery tissue, equalizes pressures, repairs damaged membranes, clears up red spots and broken vessels, helps remove blemishes and other tissue particles. MSM eyedrops provide cellular nutrition necessary to make the outer tissues soft and permeable." So when I got home, I grabbed one of my empty travel size spray bottles, added some MSM liquid and additional (spring) water to further dilute the solution. Then I added 2-3 drops of lemon and "voila!"

It's been only a couple of days since I've used the solution and so far so good! First of all, I still have the ability to see which is a good thing. Secondly, I felt an immediate improvement in the comfort level of my eyes from the first use. Having never used traditional eye drops before I have nothing to compare it to. In all honesty, I feel way more comfortable using MSM drops vs. a traditional over the counter product. Hopefully this MSM water will create huge benefits for my eyes long term. I would really like to see healthier looking eyes overall. Oh, and perhaps I could experience an added side benefit of healthier lashes, longer lashes....we'll see.

"I'm going to drink it!"
Honestly, I didn't think of consuming this liquid but then I thought, "why not!" I mean, MSM is a sulfur after all and since sulfur is the fourth most abundant nutrient in our bodies. I'm sure taking a swig or two of this liquid MSM can only help. In fact, this MSM liquid may be better than taking MSM supplements because, as we all know, supplements in liquid form are absorbed in the body for more readily than traditional pills. Plus, anything we absorb in liquid form does not have to go through our digestive system which can alter the full effects of the nutrient. So I think I may add some MSM water to my morning hair tonic or perhaps my chilled bamboo tea! As we learned in my juicing video, sulfur is a beauty nutrient which can create healthy hair, skin and nails. After conducting a taste test, I determined that the taste isn't strong enough to disturb anything I may mix this with. So basically, this can be mixed with pretty much any drink.

"I'm spaying it in my hair!"
As I sat staring at my new bottle of MSM water, I kept asking myself, "what else I can use this for?" Then suddenly, the answer popped into my braid. Then I ran into the back room and grabbed my trusty spray bottle (the one I showed you in this post). Immediately I poured some into my mix and shook it up for good measure. Feeling pretty good about myself, I put my mister away for future use. Later on that evening I had to create a style using flexi-rods with short notice so I decide to mist my hair lightly so the style would set nicely. Instead of using the bottle where I added a little MSM water to my current mix, I decided to use my "eye wash" mister which contained only MSM water and lemon drops, diluted in spring water. The results? My hair felt so incredibly soft as I styled it. I give all the props of my softer hair to the MSM water mix because hours earlier I was silently complaining to myself about how dry my hair felt even though I just washed it a day prior. So from now own, MSM water will definitely be a staple in my spray bottle. I wonder if the MSM water has the ability to affect areas of concern like thinning edges......

"I'm using it as a facial mist!"
After finding three ways to use this liquid MSM, I felt like I was on a roll. So I decided to keep riding the wave and mist my face with the MSM/lemon water mix. Reason being is because the sulfur can have a positive impact on my skin and acne. I've seen Evian facial misters at Sephora and have always wanted one. So I thought "why not use this product to hydrate and nourish my skin since there are several MSM mists (mixed with Rosewater) on the market". I could mist with MSM water post workout, or if my skin feels dry after cleansing, or to hydrate skin when there's low humidity in the air. I can also see this being very useful after a long flight. I've already mist my face several times and so far I feel like my skin has a nice subtle glow to it. Every time I hydrate my eyes, I finish up by misting my face and allow to air dry. Not only is it a refreshing experience but it's beneficial for my skin as well. I can already tell that this facial mist will get loads of use in the days and months to come.

"I'm mixing it into my hair conditioner!"
And of course, I will have to somehow find a way to incorporate this wonderful product into my hair care regimen. You guys may remember this post on mixing nutrients with my conditioners. If the diluted MSM has helped create softer hair, how much more can I benefit from mixing in with my conditioning hair products. Since the MSM water is a bit too watery to mix in with conditioners (it may dilute the thickness of the product), I've decided to purchase some MSM powder that I can mix in with my fave conditioners. I can't wait to see if there are any immediate benefits from adding MSM as a booster. If I experience great benefits, I may incorporate MSM as one of the ingredients in the Gleau moisturizer mix.

I don't think I've bought a product with so many uses in a long while. I would say that my $10.00 was money well spent.

*p.s. I've also purchased some MSM lotion and bath soap so I can have smooth, healthy skin all over*

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Several weeks ago I started really looking into the idea of managing my carb intake. I thought this would help me address the stubborn belly fat I've been dealing with. A co-worker of mine curbed her intake of rice, pasta and the like and experienced some dramatic benefits. I was really excited about embarking on this new journey until another co-worker shared his low carb horror story. Apparently he was in some "Biggest Loser" type contest. Full of excitement about this contest, he went all in and lost a large amount of weight in a short period of time. Unfortunately, he also started losing his hair in the process. Apparently, his hair was coming out in clumps. You can imagine my dismay when I heard of the side effects he experienced.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I find myself sitting at a table eavesdropping on a conversation where a guy is discussing his low carb eating in preparation of a Cross Fit competition. After finding my way into the conversation, I learned that he wasn't just going low carb but was actually following the Paleo diet. That's when he started sharing more about the Paleo way of eating and how it included avoiding rice and grains, not because of the carbs, but because these types of foods weren't part of the natural diet of early man. He went on to tell me that wheat wasn't really good for us to consume.

(my typical breakfast-veggie omelette, avocado, organic leafy greens)

After our conversation, I sought out to learn more. The things I learned, in the days that followed, stunned me. Instead of focusing on a low carb diet, my search lead me to gluten and how I might possibly have gluten sensitivities. Let me first start out by saying that I haven't taken any tests nor have I been diagnosed with gluten intolerances. This is something I'm playing around with in my head based on what I've learned so far. Allow me to list out why I feel that gluten has been a negative influence in my life.

Seborrheic dermatitis
If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I've suffered from seborrheic dermatitis for many years. SB is essentially a skin condition the causes excessive flacking dry itchy scalp. These symptoms can also appear on the face, in the ears and behind the ears of those who suffer from the condition. Thanks to using apple cider vinegar daily as a toner, I've been able to manage the peeling on my face (thank God). My poor scalp has been through so much peeling and flaking. What concerns me most about the SB is that when it gets out of control, it impacts hair growth (especially in my edges). When I treat areas that have major flaking, it never fails, that the hair in that area has thinned out big time. Thinned out edges are "not the business." So of course I'm highly interested in finding something that can actually address the root cause of my dermatitis. Then I stumbled across this article which states as plainly as day, that "the main foods to watch out for in the case of seborrheic dermatitis are wheat (gluten) and dairy. I eat dairy so rarely that I'm almost positive that it's not the main culprit in my case. Wheat, on the other hand, is something I take in on the regular.

Not long ago, I stood in front of the mirror and thought to myself "seriously, I still have acne even though I'm well past my teens and 20's!" How much longer will I have to suffer through these random, embarrassing breakouts? Well I think I may have found my answer. It took no time at all to find resources online that link acne to food intolerances such to wheat, dairy and the like. I think it was this video that sealed the deal for me after watching another video where this woman shared her acne journey and having resolved it after learning that food allergies were the source of her heartache. Additional research only solidified my theory that perhaps my acne is linked to the food I've been eating. I tend to eat dairy with my wheat (on sandwiches) so if dairy is also a root cause eliminating gluten may take care of the dairy issue as well.

Abdominal distention
Do you guys remember my post with pics of Melyssa Ford getting her workout on? In it I mentioned my "lady gut." For as long as I can remember, I've always had this small gut even during the times when I considered my self fit and in shape. Now I'm wondering if my round little belly is a form of abdominal distention which is basically swelling and bloating linked to food intolerances. After reading several accounts of people who were able to have a flat stomach again after removing gluten from their diets, I was more than hopeful about (possibly) looking like Melyssa Ford by summer time. Oh and of course, a diet with minimal to no gluten can also contribute to weight loss overall.

Grey Hair & Hair Growth
I have a few grey hairs. I figured that since most of my other woes could be linked to gluten, could the few greys I've seen popping up also be triggered by my food intolerance? A Google search was conducted on whim and wouldn't you know it, this thread came up where some folks claimed to have their hair color reversed after taking on a gluten free diet. That alone got me excited but what really wet my whistle was finding a couple of other threads where folks were signing the praises of their new found hair growth after removing gluten from their diets. This is attributed to better absorption of nutrients by the body. Folks who are gluten sensitive have difficulties absorbing the nutrients from the food digested because the small intestines are not functioning at 100%. So what about my friend who lost a lot of hair while on Atkins? One theory I read was that because Atkins followers tend to consume extremely low amounts of carbs (around 20 grams per day) which can lead to the person avoiding consuming certain fruits and veggies which provide essential nutrients needed for healthy hair.

I'm not 100% certain if I'll notice any difference in the symptoms above after removing gluten from my diet, but with everything I learned so far, I feel like I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I'm going all in with great optimism because I would be elated if I experienced improvements in my energy levels, my hair, scalp, skin and body. Although my symptoms aren't severe, I would love to see noticeable improvements in each of these areas. I'll keep you all posted as time goes on.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I've been asked this question several times from those who've reached out to me. This scenario is near and dear to my heart because I have found myself in a crossroads where I've had to make decisions on whether to cut my damaged sections and start all over or go the opposite route and try to somehow nurse my hair back to health.

I want to first start off by saying there is no wrong answer to this question. To some, cutting the hair and starting over seems like the most logical of the two options. And I would agree with this approach to some extent. There have many big and small chops throughout my hair journey. There were also times when I opted to take another route and forced myself to work though the situation by nursing my hair back to health. Which is my preferred method? "I'll take nursing back my hair to health for 200 Alex!"

Yes, my preference whenever I have a damaged section is to choose option 2 and I'll tell you why. Long ago, I would big chop (or a stylist would do it for me) and guess what, sometime later I would find myself with the same signs of damage creeping back up again. This happened because I hadn't addressed the root cause issue creating the damage. It's like putting a bandage on a wound without first stitching up the gaping hole which is the source of the bleeding. When I decided that I would no longer use a major trim as a way out, I caused me to become more thoughtful about what I was doing (or wasn't doing) to my hair.

For instance, once upon a time, my right side was thick and healthy from root to tip, meanwhile, my left side was thin and weak to the touch. Turns out that on wash days I treated the right side of my hair like royalty and the left side like a red-headed step child. Basically, my hands would get tired by the time I reached the left side after spending all the time and effort applying conditioner in teeny sections on my right side. Another thing I realized was that I would play with the left side of my hair as I drove home from work. All this extra manipulation, along with the lack of care on wash days, were essentially the root cause of the damage. I addressed this situation by starting the conditioner application on my left hand side first. Fast forward several months and now this side appears to thrive even more than my right. If I simply cut my healthy side to accommodate the weak areas, I wouldn't have learned from the situation. Now I balance things out by rotating which side I start with first.

Since adopting the "nurse it back to health" philosophy, I've been able to address damage areas in my nape and crown. Now, whenever a section of my hair starts actin' up, I treat it like a crying child who is trying to communicate the only way it can. Simply cutting off the hair without addressing the concerns is like putting a pacifier in the baby's mouth without trying to figure out if she's hungry, thirsty, needs a diaper change, or whatever. What is your hair trying to tell you?

I'm not saying that a big (or mini) chop isn't the right thing to do. In fact, in some cases, it's probably the best to "stop the bleeding." But I wouldn't place all of my faith in a big chop as the "end all be all" to resolve the issue that created the areas of damage in the first place.

So if you are in a place where you are considering your options here are some tips that I think may help:

  • If the damage is widespread and affects most of your hair, a big/mini chop is the best solution. But this option is a temporary one if your regimen still doesn't address the root cause.
  • If the damage is concentrated in certain areas, consider the option of nursing back to health ONLY after you've spent some quality time assessing what contributed to the damage and what you can do to address it.
  • Try to think of at least three factors that may have contributed to damage. In case your first answer doesn't lead to the root cause.
  • If you are concerned about aesthetics (meaning you don't want to walk around with one side of you hair looking healthy and the other looking a chewed up mess) consider wearing protective styles while you nurse.
  • If you choose to nurse, pay VERY close attention the results of your actions to make sure you are making progress. Don't choose the option to nurse your hair if you won't make certain that you are adjusting your actions for the better. Failure to do so can lead to even more damage.
  • If after choosing to nurse your hair, you see the situation is becoming worse, proceed to cut then start over with healthy hair practices and observe your actions going forward to make sure they aren't contributing to the damage reappearing in the future.
  • A major trim(to address damage) is not the same thing as a regular trim (for maintenance and aesthetics). You should still schedule in maintenance trims even if you chose to "nurse it back to health".
Hope this post was helpful to those of you in a place where you feel like you have to make a big cut but you don't want to. Trust me, this isn't the only option you have. As long as you are willing to put in a little bit of work, you may be able to avoid the major trim after all.

Monday, February 13, 2012

One of struggles I've battled with in the past was that I seemed to be repeating the same old patterns over and over again. With my words, I would say that I wanted to change a habit but, no matter how hard I tried, my actions would always repeat themselves. As you would imagine, this re-enacting of the same scenarios got old but it seemed like there was no getting off the ferris wheel.

Then one day things changed. I was listening to one of my favorite books, Psycho-cybernetics, on my Ipod when the author briefly mentioned a line from a book called "Do one thing different." Instantly, I paused the book and began searching online to learn more. The basic premise of this book is that by shifting our actions, environment, or reactions even slightly, we set ourselves up to get different results.

Within my modest DVD collection is the 2004 movie "The Butterfly Effect." Played by Ashton Kutcher, the movie takes us through a series of scenarios in the lives of several young adults. Ashton has this ability to return back to a moment in time that can significantly alter the course of their futures. Each time Ashton chooses to do something different, the outcome of their future lives shift dramatically. I really was intrigued by the idea of creating a whole new world of possibilities simply by shifting one action in the present moment. That is why I was so interested in learning more about this book. Remember that every action creates a multitude of results. We talked about this in a previous Monday Motivation post. Without waiting to have this book in hand, I've decided to put the ideas into practice. I took some time to think about the most ineffective patterns that I tend repeat the most (actions that produce the least desired outcomes for me) and do something different. I saw immediate application of this principle in conversations with my husband that seemed to repeat themselves over and over again.

Looking at how I spend my week, I realize that some patterns I play out do not align with the vision of the future that I see for myself. So I've decided to create alternative actions that will produce new results for me. What I appreciate about the idea of doing one thing different is that it's about stopping an action, it's about implementing a new kind of action. A year or so ago, I decided to take a small action that I was inconsistent at doing, and complete it every day for a week. The end in mind was to build some discipline in my life. That action was flossing. I'm sorry to say it but flossing was not something I did regularly (hope my dentist isn't reading this). For a week I flossed religiously and, much to my surprise, out of that one action came several unexpected results. All of the sudden, I became neater and I started becoming more thoughtful on what clothes I would be wearing for the day. It seemed like suddenly all of these new actions were happening all because I decided to begin flossing.

One Action creates => An immediate result & Long-Term Results

I've applied this technique to my hair care journey several times. Whenever I see too much hair loss, breakage, etc, I try to shift something in what I'm doing. Sometimes the shift is small, but it's always significant and it always produces new results for me. Think about it, what new results could you produce if you adjusted your actions in the one area of your hair routine that you seem to struggle with most?

What I'm excited about is this principle can work in any scenario. Every time I produce less than desired results, I'll ask myself, "what can I do differently?" For those of you who are interested in learning more about the book, there is a free PDF download available here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

One confession I have to make is that I'm pretty boring when it comes to hair styling. I can probably count on one hand the various styles I tend to rock over and over again. Now that I'm seeing some progress in length and thickness, I decided to open up my hair options to include new possibilities. At first, I thought about the down sides of taking on new styles. Particularly because sticking to similar, low manipulation styles was one way of protecting my hair. But I've shifted my thinking a bit. I now realize that my desire to experiment will only serve to reinforce my healthy hair habits.

Since I'll be manipulating a little more, I vow to take on even greater precautions against breakage and elevate my hair care techniques to the next level. So here's the first hair style I'd like to share with you. My inspiration came from browsing online on a lazy Saturday when all of the sudden I saw this amazing picture. Without even thinking about it, I started plotting on how I could replicate.

Since my hair wasn't freshly washed, my first thought was to load my hair with moisture. That's when I grabbed my spray bottle which contains a mix of ingredients. If memory serves me correctly, my mister blend includes spring water (no hard water minerals), some apple cider vinegar (to seal in cuticle layer), Biolage daily leave in tonic (conditioning & moisturizing) and maybe a little bit of coconut oil (protein). I may have even added some Cera Repair or another oil to the mix. There's no secret formula to this, I just add ingredients that serve a purpose in creating the results I'm looking for.

While the ingredients are pretty hair healthy, my favorite aspect of this is the actual spray bottle itself. I purchased from Sally's, I think, and only paid a couple of dollars for it. But this bottle is invaluable to me. Prior to this one, I've purchased and tossed beaucoup bottles because their spray mist wasn't fine enough to meet my expectations. A fine mist is a non-negotiable for me because I need the product to spread evenly over the area and moisturize without over saturating. This allows me to mist prior to manipulation and create softness and flexibility without too much moisture. If the hair is too wet, the likelihood of breakage while styling is high. If the hair's dampness is just right, your hair moves and bends at your beckoning without fear of harm or excessive damage.

What I did to create this style was pretty simple. After misting the hair and applying a bit of oil, I started to move my hair to one side using my hands. I did this until all the length of my hair was on the left side of my face. Once I was satisfied with the framework, I began braiding in one loose side braid. It took a couple of tries in order to get the look just right.

This style lasted around 3 days without rebraiding so I'll grant it the status a protective style. For those three days, my hair was not manipulated. The only thing I did was add a little Gleau to the length of the braid from time to time. At night, I pinned the braid back and tied with a silk scarf. By the way, when the braid was tied back, the style looked just as good. This means that the overall look is still cute even if there isn't a long braid cascading down your shoulders. while I wished that my braid was just a tad bit longer and thicker, this style can pretty much work for any length hair. If my hair was shorter, I'd pin the braid back and rock some fabulous earrings for extra glamour. After sharing this look on Facebook recently and many of you commented on how this would make a great summer look. I completely agree and I'll definitely be rocking this look come summer. Hopefully by then my braid will be longer....

Friday, February 3, 2012

I love the emails I receive from readers sharing their progress, asking questions, or from folks reaching out just to say hello. In one email in particular, the reader had several great questions. I thought to myself that maybe someone else could also get value from the responses so I've decided to share them with you today in the form of a blog post.

What are the symptoms of dry hair?
To me dry hair is simply hair that looks and feels brittle to the touch. Dry hair may also appear frizzy. Dry hair will generally not feel as soft and will not have much elasticity. Compare a tree branch on the ground with one still on the tree. The one on the ground has dried out and will snap easier if you tried breaking it in two. The branch on the tree will take a little more effort before you can break it. Hair that snaps too easily can signify a protein issue but it could also mean the hair is suffering from extreme dryness.

How should I change my regimen if it's dry or greasy?
When my hair is too dry, I amp up my deep conditioning to level 10. I take no short cuts. Instead of letting the conditioner stay in my hair for an hour, I may deep condition overnight. I also take my time applying the conditioner so every strand is coated. This has helped me tremendously. Every product I use on wash days, from my shampoo to conditioner, to leave-in is working is one magnificent team to create moisture for my hair.

Is there a way to wrap the hair incorrectly and if so, what is the right way to wrap my hair?
Honestly, I was never that efficient at wrapping my hair. The process created a little too much over-manipulation for my taste. Wrapping is one of those techniques that, when done right, creates beautiful results. If I were a person that wrapped my hair regularly, I would invest in quality brushes/combs that are extra gentle on the hair since the brushes/combs are the main component of proper wrapping. Prepare the hair for the wrapping process by making sure the hair is properly conditioned and moisturized. Never wrap hair that is feeling too dry or fragile and breaking. Another piece of advice I would give you is to switch up from wrapping to other techniques from time to time. Too much wrapping in one direction can lead to thinning. It's kinda like if someone walks on the same path in the grass, eventually, that area will no be as healthy as the other areas.

How do you know if you have 4B or 4C or both?
Chances are you might have more than 1 texture. So you can be 4B & 4C or you could have 4B and 4A hair (or all three). I don't expand much about texture because my philosophy is more about giving the hair what it needs based on what it's telling you (not necessarily the texture). Meaning I look for signs of dryness, breakage, shedding, dullness, etc and address those issues one by one. This is the reason why people of different textures are able to receive value from the blog.

How do you properly detangle the hair?
I start with proper tools. Then I make sure I have enough time so I'm not tempted to rush during the process. This weekend, I filed and painted my nails before detangling. The I began removing the tangles while standing in front of a mirror. I'm not sure why but doing this made me present during the process and I believe I was more careful overall and took more care not to loose as much hair. Start detangling from the bottom of the hair up. I also hold on to sections within sections while I'm detangling. Meaning, if I'm detangling the ends, I hold the section with one hand (exposing the ends), and detangle with the other hand, this allows me to minimize the tension along the length of the strand from the combing process.
(see pic below)

What kind of flat iron should I be getting?
I wrote a post on flat irons a while back. The good news is that flat irons are getting better in regards to quality and the protection offered to the hair from excessive damage. My tip would be to save up and invest in a quality iron, especially if you plan on using it at least monthly. Also, look for quality heat protectants. If you can find a quality heat protectant that can give you superior results, go for it. The little bit of extra money you spend on heat protectancts will help keep you from having to spend the money later on fighting the heat damage.

Do you know of very simple recipe for Deep Conditioning?
I like to mix my deep conditioners for greater results. You'll often find me mixing oils like olive oil or coconut oil into the mix. I've also added honey, and even powdered nutrients to make my deep conditioners even more effective. The sky is the limit. Check out this post on how to take your deep conditioner even deeper.

What was the hardest part of your hair journey? What keeps you motivated?
My journey has been a long, difficult one. I don't protective style much so retaining length has been an uphill battle. Plus I've suffered from extreme shedding caused by my seborrhic dermatitis, I could never find a moisturizer I liked so I battled dryness until Gleau came into my life. The worse part of my journey has been the setbacks cause by my own behaviors. For the last couple of years, I've been nursing damaged areas back to health slowly and surely. I've learned so much from that experience. I don't write these posts because I have perfect hair, I do it to learn on how I can improve my hair. I'm still battling even now but I see some progress and I've never been happier. I've come to learn that what I do today will create results for me tomorrow so I keep going even when I do see results right away, I keep going.

What keeps me motivated is the fact that my hair keeps growing no matter what. It's doing it's job. My job is now to help it remain healthy and adapt my behaviors accordingly. If I see even just a little bit of progess, I get excited. Progress isn't just about length for me, it's about less dryness or less breakage or less of anything that negatively impacts my hair. If I focus on tiny improvements on a consistent basis, I know it'll add up to greater progress in the long run.

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