Thursday, May 31, 2012

A few posts ago, I hinted a little bit about my new-found gem.  This new addition to my hair product arsenal is a really big deal.  I am beyond excited!   It all started with a recent visit to my local alkaline water supplier.  For those of you who aren't familiar, alkaline water is said to be a healthier alternative to most of the water we drink which tends to land at a neutral pH  level.

This matters because our bodies are said to be at a healthier state when it has a slightly alkaline pH.  When our internal bodies are alkaline, the likelihood of ideal health is much more attainable.  Unfortunately, the foods we commonly eat and the stressful environment we live in, promotes an acidic internal environment.  For this reason, many have looked to alkaline water as a suitable aid to achieving a healthier ecosystem.  I've been drinking alkaline water on and off for a while now but there was a time when I hardly drank it because my nearest supplier shut down early last year.  Since then I've located another specialty water shop and now I'm back on track to bringing nourishing water into my life.

Alkaline water is great and all but what I'm really amped up about is alkaline's evil twin "acidic water."
O.k, I'm being a little dramatic when I say "evil twin" because acidic water isn't evil at all.  As a matter of fact, acidic  (or beauty) water can highly beneficial to us.  As I stated before, our internal environment thrives at a slightly alkaline pH. Our external bodies do well when it's more acidic.  This means our skin, eyes, and (yes) hair.  

Some of you old timers to this blog may have remember this post on the proper pH balance for hair.  In it I described how the cuticle layer of our hair responds directly to the pH of the environment.  At an alkaline pH,  (like when we touch up our hair) the cuticle layers open, creating a rough surface.  When the environment is acidic, the cuticle layers will constrict which creates smoother, softer hair.  

At a cost less than a gallon of milk, this acidic water is a steal when you think about the benefits I will receive overall.  When I first brought my gallon home, I immediately began using the water to wash my face.  As some of you many know, I'm on a skin care journey that will ultimately lead me to having glorious skin.  Eliminating gluten and receiving a couple of professional facials have been a great help for my skin.  Adding the acidic water is like the icing on the cake.  In the pics below, I have on no makeup.  In the past, I would rarely take bare faced pics without attempting to camouflage the dark spots and acne. 

One big difference in my skin since using the acid water, is smoothness.  My skin looked brighter and healthier after my just first experience.   Of course my skin isn't perfect but I'm just estatic about that I'm seeing so far. For years I've been applying ACV on a cotton ball to help treat the dermatitis that was appearing on my skin. I know that this acid water will work perfectly with what I'm currently doing to compliment my skin and scalp care regimen. 

I've had one experience using acidic water on wash day which was four days prior to these pics being taken.  I did everything as I normally do except I conducted my final rinse using the acidic water.  Instead of just pouring the water over my head and allowing it to flow down the drain, I added the water, in small amounts at a time, and massaged it into my strands as much as possible. 

The biggest difference I noticed overall was softness and moisture.  I wouldn't say that this water sealed my strands perfectly.  That's probably because, according to the guy I brought it from, the pH level of this water is somewhere between 5.5 and 6.0.  If I could have my way, I would have liked the water to be slightly more acidic.  But hey, beggars can't be choosers in this hair game.  I will say this, since using this water, my moisture levels have been off the chain!  So much that I think I'll incorporate some protein next wash day to balance everything out.  I'm approaching 4 months post and prior to the acidic water, I was contemplating touching up a little before I hit 5 months.  Now I think the possibility of stretching to even six months could actually happen (fingers crossed).

There are a myriad of uses for this "beauty water."  From now on, only acidic water goes into my steamer when I do facials, steam set my hair or when I'm steaming in my deep conditioner.  The look you see in the pics is after I set my hair on steam rollers using the acidic beauty water.  Normally, my hair would be set in a few short minutes. But because I was using a different type of water, the hair took longer to dry than normal.  Overwhelmed with excitement about how it would turn out, I took the rollers out a bit early (hence the frizz you see in the pics).  But oh well,  I learned from the experience and when I do it again, I'll leave the rollers in a till my hair dries completely.  
This acidic water excites me like none other because I believe it will be the foundation to many other wonderful things to come.  Perhaps my hair products will work better now that my hair is closer to being pH balanced.  I'm exploring the uses for this but I see much more possibilities such as a final rinse when I touch up.  Or I may use this water when I dilute my leave-in conditioner.

Hair and beauty aside, this wonderful water can also be used to rinse my veggies prior to juicing.  The water can also be used to sterilize surfaces after cleaning. The uses are endless.  I'm so glad I stumbled upon such a great find! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's been way too long since we've shared a giveaway.   Now's as good time as any to give this pretty amazing product from Mizani. For those of you who aren't familiar with Mizani's Supreme oil, here's the scoop.  Supreme oil is a "hair treatment" formulated with 99% pure oils. This product contains no silicones or mineral oil. Some of the yummy oils contained in this blend include: jojoba, sunflower seed, apricot oil, sesame seed, argan oil and more.  I like how light this oil feels.

Enough of my rambling, let's talk about how you can get Supreme Oil in your hands!

This giveaway is open to all who are living in the U.S.  Simply follow the blog, like us on Facebook and send an email to [email protected] with the title "Supreme Oil" to enter.  It's that simple.  I will randomly select a winner on Sunday June 10th and reach out to that lucky person via email.

Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Let's continue on in the conversation about heat usage and healthy hair shall we?  As you recall from my last post, I brought up the subject of heat usage in an effort to understand if we can incorporate heat into our regimens in a powerful way.  Using heat (for good and not evil) isn't an easy task.  We all know those who have fallen as casualties to the destructive powers of heat.  We don't want to be one of them so let's take a moment to identify some of the factors that cause/create heat damage.
  • Styling tool used
  • Frequency of heat usage
  • Ineffective protection of the hair from heat 
  • Lack of replenishment (rebuilding of) the hair before/after heat usage
  • Improper use of heat
Now here's the good part where we dissect each of these factors one by one.

Styling tool used
 I've invested a couple of hundred dollars on flat irons even though I use heat only a few times a year.  Why?  Because:
  1.  I can not afford to have a sub-par flat iron ruin my hair because I tried to save a few dollars. 
  2. Flat irons are evolving into less damaging tools (and I want to take advantage of the newest technology).
When I use my Sedu ceramic iron, my hair feels smoother & silkier than with my old flat iron.  Does this mean that my hair is healthier when I use my Sedu?  Possibly. But what's really more important is that because my hair feels better when I use this quality iron, I tend to avoid using it again because the need isn't as great.  Even though I love my Sedu, I still  purchased a titanium flat iron because (allegedly) titanium is said to be smoother (when viewed under a microscope) than ceramic.  My search for the perfect flat iron plates may continue, but for now, I won't blindly close my eyes to the dangers of heat and use it inappropriately just because they claim to be healthier for the hair.

***side note:  Those of us who visit salons may notice that our hair feels  really healthy after getting it straightened.  One thing to note is that it's very likely that your stylist uses a quality flat iron on your hair which can create a smoother, silkier result. Quality does matter. ***

Healthy Heat Usage Tip #1:  Go for the best tools you can afford

Frequency of Heat Usage
If you break out your flat/curing iron more than once every week, you are asking, no begging, for heat ravaged hair.  It's inevitable.  Let's think about this for one minute.  Hot metal plates, which can easily burn our skin is applied (with pressure) to our hair strand.  This initial use of heat may have the ability to seal the top layer of the cuticle layer down.  Steam rises as the moisture in our hair evaporates.  Then.....three days put your hair through the same process again.  Your hair is probably already straightened from the first instance, now you're doing it again to "freshen up" the style.  That is a huge risk to your hair.  I remember the days when girls would break out their flat iron to bump their ends every morning.  No wonder everyone was walking around with perpetual neck length hair.  All the ladies I talked to with (healthy hair) used heat every week or every two weeks.  Breaking out the flat iron between wash days was a no-no!  Honestly, I don't think using heat every week is a good idea but some people are able to do it.  Like Phoenix mentioned in the comments in part 1 of this post.  Those of us who relax our hair shouldn't have the need to use direct heat for at least the first 2 or so months post relaxer.  Any heat usage before that may be considered overkill.

Healthy Heat Usage Tip# 2:  The flat/curling iron is a SEALING TOOL, not a styling tool.  Use it as a styling aid and heat damage will become your new best friend.

Lack of Replenishment before/after heat usage
Let's say you're someone who visits the salon every week or two weeks for your wash and style.  Chances are, you are getting a deep condition (under a hooded dryer) with every visit.  If you're like our friend Toni, you may even be receiving steam treatments when you deep condition.  When I was introduced to the Mircromist steamer, my hair faired beautifully after my blow dry and flat iron session.  In fact,  Marie promised me that if I visited her regularly, she could have my hair at a healthy waist length in no time.  Why?  Because she would take the time to nurture my hair with each session prior to the heat styling.  The heat styling would then become a method of sealing all of the high quality products into my strands.  For those of us who don't put in the work of fortifying the strands ahead of time, using heat on the hair can will be highly destructive. 

Healthy Heat Usage Tip #3:  Only use heat following a deep replenishment process (deep conditioning or steam treatment).

Improper use of heat
I've mention several times that our heat irons should be used as sealing tools.  But I don't want you to get all excited about  what I like to call "reckless sealing."  The iron shouldn't be doing all of the work.  You've got to do all you can to seal your hair prior, during and after, so your iron doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting. There are a myriad of ways to help your iron do it's a job.  Rinsing with cold water, apple cider vinegar, and even acid water will help seal the cuticles before the drying process.  When using the iron, opt for additional tension (the chase method as seen in this video) and more pressure versus turning the temperature dial higher.  Also realize that bone straight hair can be achieved with the help of the iron and other techniques like wrapping the hair, or tying it under a scarf to manage bulk.  So basically, don't look to your sealing tool to do all of the work. 

**p.s. I know some of y'all are wondering about this "acid water" I mentioned earlier. Acid water is the newest addition to my hair regimen (as of this afternoon).  Once I've had a chance to play with it for a few days, I'll post my thoughts.**

Healthy Heat Usage Tip #4:  Seal your hair prior to flat ironing and leverage tension so less heat is required to achieve desired results.

Ineffective protection from heat
Investing in quality "sealing tools" is one thing, but getting the best in heat protectants is the holy grail of effective heat usage.  Heat protectants have two main purposes including "protecting the hair from heat" and helping to promote that smooth, silky feeling.  I'm here to challenge our way of thinking about heat protectants which I will now refer to as heat-activated strengtheners.  If the product you are using isn't a heat activated strengthener.....toss it.  For the longest, I used Gleau whenever I flat ironed.  Was it the best choice, who knows? But I used it because I knew that whatever product I utilized would be seared into the hair strand through the use of heat.  The heat protectors in my arsenal were not heat-activated strengtheners so I chose to go without.   It wasn't until my salon visit with Marie that I finally found a heat activated strengthener that, I thought, was worth using. 

Ladies can I introduce you to my homie, Kerastase Fibre Architecte?

Seriously, my hair never felt as silky and soft and when I left Marie's chair when she first introduced Fibre Architecte to me.  Then I learned that this product contained a Pro-Keratin complex, wheat protein, and ceramides (the holy trinity of healthy hair).  I didn't even bat an eye at the $40.00 price point.  The cost meant absolutely nothing to me because this product manifested itself as a perfect heat-activated strengthener.  Each time I used heat, my hair would be receiving reinforcement beyond what occurred during the wash and condition. Along with the Fibre Architecte, I also snatched up the Ciment Thermique Heat Activated Reconstructor Milk.  This product feels like a thick moisturizer. You can apply to wet/damp hair before using a blow dryer for added strengthening.  Since I don't normally blow dry, I use it as a moisturizer when I notice some breakage.  I also use it on my hair before apply the Fibre-Architecte so I have two layers of heat-activated strengthening.  For now, these are my strengtheners of choice.  If I find something more powerful, I will certainly let you all know.    

 Healthy Heat Usage Tip #5:  Your hair deserves the best, use quality heat-activated strengtheners!

When we visit salons regularly for heat styling, they tend to use quality products to replenish the hair and they may even do a decent job of protecting the hair from heat.  What I think they miss is when it comes to improper use of heat.  Sometimes the tension used is excessive along with a high temperature setting.  Hence the long term damage and thinning one experiences.  With these tips mentioned perhaps you can incorporate the good while eliminating the destructive parts of heat usage.  I'm hoping to give you some things to consider if you choose to use heat from time to time as a part of your regimen.  To be honest, some people do o.k. with heat as long as the rules are being followed.  And of course, you can also give your hair a break from heat as necessary. If your hair does better when the strands are sealed, consider these healthy heat usage tips as a part of the road map on your amazing hair journey.

Safe travels.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Probably the most infamous enemy of healthy hair is excessive heat usage from styling tools. We all know that. We all believe it. Some of us have even sworn away our flat irons for good in an effort to create thriving hair.  With all that said,  the question I have is this:  "how can all of these women pictured below use heat on a regular basis and still maintain thick luxurious hair?" And, most importantly," how can we learn to do the same?"

In order to properly answer this most important question, one must first look at these women and seek out some commonalities.  From these common practices, we will grow and get better. But before we get fully into this post, I must make an important disclosure:
***The information below is meant to serve as a guide on how to use heat responsibly, it is not a license to use heat tools in an ineffective way. My heart just can't take looking at another head of heat damaged hair. I do not want to be responsible for the creation of such.***

Years ago, I visited this stylist who did a pretty decent job of creating the look of healthy hair.  My friend recommended her and I was eager to try her out for myself.  I sat in her chair as she shared her strategy of how she would do my hair that day.  My only input to the conversation was when I asked that she roller set my hair instead of blow drying.  Immediately, she declined my request stating that if my hair dried under the hooded dryer, my strands would not be fully sealed which could allow for breakage and other non-desirables.  That conversation never left me. 

I eventually left her when I found Dominican salons that would both roller set and blow dry.  It never failed, every time after a blow out my hair, bone straight, would virtually stop breaking and decrease shedding considerably for up to two weeks.  Even when Marie did my hair, I rocked the straight style for at least 2.5 weeks with limited shedding and breakage compared to when I normally do my own hair.  It seemed like each time I went to the salon for a straightening, my hair (temporarily) stopped showing visible signs of damage (breakage/shedding).  What's the connection here?

To understand this deeper, we must contemplate what occurs when we use a straightening tool.  Please keep in mind that most of what I will say is my interpretation of what I think takes place.  None of this is fact.  When one uses a flat iron, three forces come into play--heat, pressure, and tension.  These three factors when combined together, have an extraordinary ability to help seal the strand while creating the look of straight hair.  Sealing the strand can provide some great benefits when done right.

Potential Benefits
  •  The feeling of silkiness which reduces friction caused by manipulation.  From this, actions such as combing, detangling, and styling become easier because there is less resistance in the strand, which could lead to less tangles and breakage.
  • A sealed strand can better resist external factors such as humidity.  The hair strand expands when it comes in contact is excessive moisture.  As the strand expands, the cuticle layer is raises which creates a rough texture. The hair follicle, then is more susceptible for breakage. 
  • Sealing can also provide us the opportunity to reinforce the strand with nourishers that can strengthen the hair.
You might be thinking to yourself "that stuff you listed actually sounds pretty good for the hair."  So why am I hearing all the time that heat isn't good for the hair, and why does my hair feel damaged from my heat usage?

Those are great questions, my friend.  My response to you is this:  Heat is like a wild, ferocious animal that must be tamed and trained for domesticated use.  If not properly trained, the animal can turn on the owner at any moment, attacking unexpectedly, and viciously devouring him.  Knowing this, the animal owner must use extreme intention, focus, and caution whenever interacting with the animal because the consequences of failing to do so is just too great.

In the same way, careless, frequent use of heat tools on textured (chemically treated) hair is like someone frolicking in the cage of a hungry beast, expecting to come out unscathed. It's just not realistic.  On the other hand, if you study the routines of the lovely ladies mentioned above, you will find that they have some common practices to combat the harmful effects of heat.
  • Most, if not all of them, restricted heat usage to once or twice a week.  I remember the days, back in high school, when a curling iron was just as commonly used in daily styling as a comb.  This behavior equivalent to having a meaty steak in hand, and back turned, in the presence of a hungry beast.  It just can not happen!
  • The heat usage usually occurred in combination with the weekly wash routine.
  • They are intentional with the products they used whenever heat was involved.    
My theory is this.  When heat is used after the wash day process, you may be in a place where you can experience the potential benefits I described above. The hair is freshly washed, and conditioned to a desirable state. This makes for the perfect opportunity to properly manage the use of the a flat iron.   Then there's those of us who aren't as disciplined in the use of heat styling tools.  When we choose break out the flat iron after the initial wash day, we start to experience a certain level of diminishing return.  The idea of diminishing return is that the level of effectiveness (or benefit) will decline with continued use of the flat iron (especially if the use occurs between washes). 

I believe the beginning of mastery, with regards to regular use of heat, can occur once we start to shift our view of the intended use of the styling tool.  As a matter of fact, from this point on, I will no longer refer to a flat or curling iron as a styling tool.  Instead, let's call it a sealing tool.  If that's the case, we must think a bit deeper about this sealing process and how to do it effectively.  This topic requires it's own post which will be part II on the topic of effective use of heat.  Talk to you soon!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Just another random trip to Target, I thought. I had one item to pick up then I'd be on my merry way. Since I was out of town and unfamiliar with this Target's layout, I wandered around a bit before I found what I was looking for. Just as I was walking by the beauty section, I noticed someone pass me. What immediately grabbed my attention was her healthy ponytail that swung slightly from side to side as she walked by. My first thought was to casually walk over to the hair product aisle, where she was standing, to see which items she'd pick up and ask her a few questions about her regimen, and how she keeps her hair looking so healthy. Best of all, she would think this was some random conversation and she'd have no idea that I was this crazy hair blogger that followed people to the hair product aisle just to get a closer look at her hair.

 There was no time to rehearse what I would say as I walked up to her, I would simply have to freestyle it. Turns out that this young lady was happy to share her routine. I must say that I truly enjoyed our conversation and her sharing reminded me of several healthy hair tips that we can all learn from.

 Ladies, meet Toni!

 Toni has been natural for several years. Although she does wear her hair curly from time to time, lately she has been maintaining straight hair. Every two weeks, Toni, visit her stylist where she receives a steam deep conditioning treatment to hydrate her hair before straightening session.

****side note**** Remember my post on Healthy Hair lessons we can learn from Naturals? One thing I neglected to mention was that natural haired ladies love to quench their curls with steam treatments. Thanks Toni for helping to remind me of that.

Toni once had color treated hair which she recently trimmed. Part of the reason why I stopped her was because of how thick and even her ends appeared to be. The thoughts from my last post were still fresh in my mind so I decided to ask her a little more about her trim.

Toni and her stylist negotiated about how much to take off and finally settled their agreement on around 2 inches. Her color treated ends were prone to split and they appeared less healthy than the rest of her hair. Since the trim, Toni says that she experiences way less breakage and reduced shedding (which will mean greater retention in the long run). Plus she has the added comfort of knowing that, as her hair continues to grow, it'll have a thicker, healthier appearance overall. Toni's hair was in a ponytail when I met her. When I made the small simple request of asking her to turn around so some random stranger could take a picture of the back of her head and post it on the internet, she gladly obliged. Without a moment's thought she took down her hair and prepared for her shot.

 I helped her prepare for the shot by finger combing her tresses. Her hair was soft and smooth to the touch with no snagging or tangles what so ever (no shed hairs either). To keep her hair feeling nourished between salon visits, miss Toni rubs a little virgin coconut oil into her fabulous mane every couple of days. I could have gone on and on with my discussion with her. Toni was amazingly pleasant to talk to and I could have stared at her hair all day. But alas, we both had to continue on with our Target excursions. But before I go, let me share with you Toni's advice to those of us who are also on our hair journey.

 Toni reminds us to keep our hair well moisturized, love the hair you have, and be patient with your hair in your journey. She's been on her natural journey for over 5 years. My thanks to her for allowing us a glimpse into her world for our learning. While writing this post, what came to mind was how many women, I've talked to, with beautiful hair use heat regularly and can still maintain overall health. I think that's I topic I'll be exploring a little deeper in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 7, 2012

There's something that I've been pondering on deeply over the past few weeks.  I travel almost weekly and, lately, I've been taking advantage of the idle airport time by doing something constructive.  So instead to catching up on emails, or making follow up calls, I've decided to stare at the various heads of hair as they walk by.  What I've been looking for, as I stare at these random strangers, are commonalities that can give me clues into achieving healthier hair.

I'm happy to report that all of my intense observations has revealed a commonality so obvious, that I'd be a fool to ignore.  You see, in my purposeful people watching, my objective to was see what people with thick, healthy hair seem to have in common.  The secret to their thick, healthy hair, from my observation, seemed to be connected to well trimmed ends.  As a matter of fact, the more blunt of a cut a person had, the more thick and lush, their hair would appear.

I began to wonder.  Did these beautiful haired women just receive a fresh cut prior to going on their trip or was receiving a trim a regular part of their routine?  So then I also observed strangers in regular, every day environments and what I say in the real world version was not different than in the airport.  Without having interviewed these women, I had no other choice then to come to the conclusion that maintaining trimmed ends, is correlated to thick hair that appeared to be healthy.

I have to admit that this really isn't earth shattering news. But what's new for me isn't the fact that we have to trim our ends. We all should know that by now.  I bet that if I had stopped some of these random women and asked them about who often they trim, it would be quite frequent.  Some of us might be thinking "they trim all the time because their hair grows so fast."  Sure, that may be true. But it may also be an excuse we create for our selves so we don't have to trim as often.  That's kinda like saying "of course Kelly Rowland does 200 situps every night, look how flat her stomach is."  So to that statement, I respond, "does she even need to do sit ups because she has a flat stomach or does she have a flat stomach because she's consistent with her situps?" I also observed people who's hair didn't appear as thick and healthy.  These folks were more likely to have less than desirable ends.  So I have no choice but to think that well maintained ends are directly linked to perfect hair in some way.

So then I started to think about my own hair journey and realized that this was one area that I've paid little attention to.  Sure, I have invested in obtaining a quality pair of trimming scissors made to fit comfortably in my left hand.  But, to be honest with you, I haven't used these scissors to their maximum potential.  So now I'm ready to try something different.  I figure I have nothing to lose since I'm familiar with the results I get from what I've already been doing.  For the next year or so, I would like to maintain my ends by trimming several times a year.  I'm thinking every 3 months or so.  My end in mind is to keep the look of well trimmed ends.  This means that I'll be trimming my hair as a proactive strategy to maintain healthy hair versus a reactive way to deal with thin, breaking ends.  This may mean trimming more frequently than 3 months, who knows.

Some might be wondering, "won't this mess with my length and retention?"  I also thought the same thing. I will counteract this with a focus on growth during this time (with healthy eating, scalp massages, silica, etc) while I am maintaining well trimmed ends.  For someone like me, who is always manipulating and doesn't do much protective styling, having well maintained ends should be a huge plus.  I suspect that if I do this for at least a year, I'll receive more benefits than drawbacks.  My desire is for this to become a new lifestyle change for me rather than to be a gimmick or flavor of the month that will lead to my hair goals. I'm hoping by doing this one thing different, I will experience different results long-term. Perhaps I'll go back to using the full moon phases as my trimming guide.  For those of your who are interested, here are the dates for 2012 according to the Morrocco Method website.

Best Days for Beneficial Haircutting in 2012:

March 20-21 - Spring Equinox — are the best dates to cut for spring and the ultimate dates for shaving one's head.
June 20-21
 — Summer Solstice — are the best dates to cut for summer.
September 23-24
 — Fall Equinox — are the best dates to cut for fall.
December 19-20-21-22 
— Winter Solstice — are the best dates to cut for winter.

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