Friday, August 30, 2013

I'm super excited about today's guest post.  Last year I had an encounter when I ran into a girl who had the most incredible head of hair I've ever had the pleasure of laying my eyes on.  She told me that her hair was chemically straightened using a Japanese straightening process that left her hair "healthier" than when she relaxed.  I was very intrigued after meeting her but I never took the time to thoroughly research Japanese straightening.  Lucky for us, a young lady by the name of Yahya over at Pocahontas_Secrets,  has come to save the day.  Although she is not a professional, she seems to have a lot info + personal experience with Japanese straightening.  She volunteered to teach us everything she knows.

So let us all learn from her and marvel at her amazing hair.  Oh, I should mention that this will be a two part series because I'm dying to know her full regimen.

Tell us about the Japanese straightening process. What is it?

Japanese straightening has many names: thermal reconditioning, thio relaxing, etc. The process is very long, ranging from 3-6 hours. In my experience doing touch ups, it took 3 hours when I went to a pretty renown salon (Hairs Talent from Connecticut) and 6 hours when I tried straightening my hair with a home kit. The process can slightly vary depending on the stylist, but here is a basic outline. Your hair has to start off clean, so the process begins with a wash, usually a clarifying shampoo. The hair is then detangled, the straightening solution is applied on your virgin roots and a protection cream might be applied to your previously chemically treated hair. Usually there will be four hands applying the solution, you need four if your hair is thick. A protection cream is a must if your hair is colored.  The virgin hair is stretched and smoothed with a solution, processing time ranges from 20-50 minutes.  

 The hair is than thoroughly rinsed for about 5-10 minutes. Some stylists will do a deep conditioning after the rinsing, others won't because it can make the hair revert a little. Now here is where it becomes very different from a traditional relaxer. The hair has to be blow dried 80% and than flat ironed in a 90 degree angle. A neutralizing solution saturates the hair and should sit for about 15 minutes. The hair must again be rinsed for about 10 minutes . Again, you can use a conditioner but using it can hinder the results. It really depends on whether you want the promised wash n go, dead straight results, or you just want a texturizer. after drying, the hair is usually lightly flat ironed again. at this point your hair is still absorbing oxygen, so you have to avoid water and humid environments for three days. you also have to keep your hair down and be careful how you sleep. unlike a traditional relaxer, this can revert.  If something does happen, you can lightly flat iron the misshapen area. There are several videos on Youtube previewing the process being done on afro textured hair by Hairs Talent. 

What are the major differences between this method and relaxing?

Despite the constant flat ironing of Japanese straightening, the chemical process is healthier on your hair. the reasons being because it uses a milder chemical and doesn't permanently break the disulfide bonds. traditional relaxers use sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide, which have a ph of 14 and 11. Japanese straightening uses ammonium thioglycolate, the same chemical used in curly perms, which has a ph of 8-9. When using ammonium thioglycolate, whether in a curly perm or Japanese straightening, the disulfide bonds are temporarily broken and than reattached. With traditional relaxers the disulfide bonds are turned into lanthionine bonds, stripping a part of the inner structure of the hair. This is why natural hair has a health advantage when compared to relaxed hair. I write more about the inner structure with a visual chart here. Also unlike lye and no-lye relaxers, there is no frizz.  The curl is literally straightened rather than relaxed.  If you straightened your hair bone straight, you'll never have to use a flat iron on your treated hair again.  Lastly, there's less "fixing."  Fully Japanese straightened hair requires less maintenance and treatment than natural and relaxed hair. 

 Can you select various levels of straightening (like choosing between mild, normal, super strength relaxers)?

Yes, just like traditional relaxers there are different strengths. When choosing a strength, your hair curl, cuticle size, and density should be considered. The more or larger these factors are, the stronger the straightening solution will have to be. Most brands came with a mild, regular, or extra strength choice. On top of that, some brands are stronger than others, the best thing to do some online research to find the one best for you.  here is a list of recommendable Japanese straightening kits, which I tried to list from weakest brand to strongest: One n Only, Matrix Opti-Smooth, Bio Ionic Retex, Loreal X-Tenso, and Yuko or Liscio (the two originals that most salons use). Note, a solution that is better at straightening doesn't necessarily mean it's more damaging to the hair.

 How do you care for your hair between treatments?
My hair is about 25 inches long but only 6 inches of my hair is Japanese straightened. I'm transitioning from relaxed to Japanese straightened, so I still take care of my hair like a relaxed head. The parts of my hair that is Japanese straightened requires less product though. When my hair is fully Japanese straightened, deep conditioning is probably going to be extended to once a month.

 Can it be done at home? Where can we find it?
Yes, there are home kits you can get. Some can be found at Sally's Beauty Supply, like One n Only Thermal Ionic Straightening Solution and Quantum Thermal Straightener. You can also buy Matrix Opt-Smooth, Bio Ionic Retex, and Loreal X-Tenso online on Amazon. All of these are home kits. Japanese straightening at home takes good technique and understanding the process. If you're not use to self relaxing don't expect perfect results the first time if you're looking for dead straight results. The curlier your hair is, the better your technique has to be. Japanese straightening 4c hair and getting bone straight results is possible though.   

What are the long term effects on the hair?
Japanese straightening is permanent. The hair will tend to be it's smoothest the first month and than soften a little after. Just like lye and no lye relaxers, you will need to touch up your roots. With Japanese straightening however, it's advised to have at least 3 inches of growth before re-touching. There are really no other long term affects. This solution is also much easier on your scalp, well, skin in general. It does not have the burning of sodium hydroxide relaxers or even no lye relaxers and can be applied without gloves.
  Why did you choose to transition to this method vs. relaxing?
The main reason was because it's a much healthier process than relaxing. The second reason was because I wanted less volume in my hair. My hair is thick and medium-coarse, with it getting longer detangling time was increasing. I'm very hair lazy when it comes to taking to detangling, I hate combing for long periods of time. I like to have my hair combed in less than 5 minutes. Any longer should be on wash days. Like mentioned before, Japanese straightening gives smoother results. The last reason I choose Japanese straightening is because, when done properly, there is a stronger line of demarcation. I didn't start getting breakage from stretching until I had an inch and a half of new growth, and then it was still minimal.

What is the average cost of this type of treatment?
Japanese straightening is usually very expensive at salons, especially if your straightening natural hair for the first time. The cost ranges from $300-500, and you'll usually do it once to three times a year since you need 3 inches of growth. I found a salon in NY called Organics Hair IB that has a standard price of $170 though, and like Hairs Talent they work on afro textured and relaxed hair. I plan on going to them next time to touch up my roots. Home kits are radically cheaper, they tend to cost around $30.
Can you wear successfully textured styles once the hair has been straigthened (like braidouts, bantu knots, etc) or does the hair have a hard time holding in curl patterns once straightened?

If you straighten your hair bone straight you will have a harder time holding a curl. It will be harder than doing a braid out on relaxed hair, because remember, relaxing is like relaxing the curl where the hair still has the personality of curly hair. This  on the other hand, is like having the personality of permanently flat-ironed hair. If you want to do a successful braid out you'll have to use styling products and do it while your hair is damp. If you use Japanese straightening just to loosen your curl, that's a different story and you won't have problems with curling your hair. Another thing I should mention is that if you ever get sick of having pin straight hair, you can do a curly perm over your Japanese straightened hair since they both shape the hair in the same way and use the same chemical.

Would you recommend someone interested in this technique start with a salon treatment or can newbie start their first treatment at home?

It depends. If you're natural and you've never self relaxed before and want specific results, like you want it pin straight, you should go to a salon. If you're natural and you've never self relaxed before but don't mind if you end up with waves or a loose curl, you just want to loosen your curl, than I say go for it. If you've successfully self relaxed before, you'll more likely get the results you're looking for. But then the kinkier your hair is, the harder it is to get straighter results. If you want pin straight hair you'll need a strong brand and very good technique. Just remember, do a patch test your first time.  If your relaxed you HAVE to go to a salon that knows what they're doing first. When it's time for a touch up you can try home kits if your cautious and done your research. Remember to buy a strong protection cream and to lift your relaxed length while rinsing out the straightening solution so there's no overlapping. So again, it really all depends on many factors.

Are there any risks associates with this method?
 If your Japanese straightening your whole head and have a lot of split ends, it may make your ends look fried. It's best to be prepared to trim an inch your first time Japanese straightening. This does not happen with touch ups though. There are no other known risks that I came across of in my research of the process. If you use lye or no lye relaxers, Japanese straightening is definitely safer. Japanese straightening is often not recommended on afro textured hair, this is a misconception however. The reason doing this on afro textured hair is not recommended is because the creators of the straightening system (the creators of Yuko and Liscio) were concerned that kinkier hair textures will not get the dead straight results. Japanese straightening creator's held the promise of dead straight, wash and go hair. As mentioned before, the kinkier your hair is, the more likely your hair will not come out perfectly straight. You have to have very good technique. 

Another reason is because stretching your hair until you have 3 inches is harder with kinkier hair and does not look as cosmetically pleasing. It's not wash and go if you have to stretch you new growth. This is why the advised not doing it on afro textured hair. I find this so stupid though! Did they not realize that sodium hydroxide relaxers is the only permanent solution given to women with afro textured hair and Japanese straightening is a great improvement? Even if Japanese straightening can only act as a texturizer on afro textured hair, it's still a healthier alternate. The creators were Japanese, so I guess not. People always make this claim that it can't be done on afro hair but don't know why, they could have doubled their money if they didn't make this restriction.

Would you recommend others to try this method? Why?

Yes! I would definitely recommend it, especially to natural girls that want to go back to relaxing. I would not, however, recommend this to girls that are already relaxed. This is because they are different processes that break the hair's disulfide bonds in different ways. Overlapping the two can be deadly. I would only recommend it if you go to an expert hair salon like Hairs Talent. The reason I home Japanesed straightened was because I had 3 inches to my roots from separate the sodium relaxed hair.  I also bought a heavy duty protection cream meant for bleached hair. This method was created around 1993 ad I'm surprised that it hasn't been put out there, it really needs to be spread around as it's a real healthier alternate to relaxers. I guess it's because it took a while for it to come here and now it's recommended to not do it on afro textured hair for no good reason.

Stay tuned for part II of this series where Yahya shares with us the full regimen that created her perfect tresses. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

For the past week I've been on a manhunt for the perfect eyeliner to use in my every day look.  My objective was to find an intense long lasting product that would exceed all of my expectations.

What makes this mission difficult is the fact that I have a couple of issues working against me.  First and foremost, I have hooded lids which make it extremely difficult to create the same look as others even when I use the same technique.  Because my eyelid droops, the longevity of my liner is at stake as the skin constantly rubs against it. Plus the fact that my eyelids tend to get oily only makes my situation even more dire.

 If that weren't bad enough, I also have naturally dark lids which lessen the intensity of the color.  No matter how black the liner is, it still doesn't appear as bold on me as it would on others.  Determined that I would find my answer I sought out and purchased 3 products.  The first was from L'Oreal Paris (Lineur Intense).  It was good, but not good enough.  Then I visited my MAC store and pick up their liquid liner.  Again, I liked it but I had this nagging feeling, deep down, that something even better awaited me.

Finally, I walked into Sephora and asked some of the ladies for some help.  "I need high intensity and long lasting" I said, looking directly into the woman's eyes.  Immediately she nodded then quickly made her way through the shoppers as she went to fulfill my request.  Moments later, she returned with a small black/white box in hand.  "This is from the new Marc Jacobs collection" she stated. "It's the first ever gel pencil liner.  It's waterproof and the color payoff is insane!"

  She took out the pencil and drew a line on my hand.  I liked the creamy texture and the boldness of the black color. The best part came when I tried wipe it off with my finger.  It wouldn't budge.  As a matter of fact, the swatch stayed in place until I walked to the bathroom later and proceeded to scrub my hand using soap, water and elbow grease. After I got home, I drew three little black lines on my hand using each of the three liners and tried rubbing them off with my fingertips.  The L'Oreal Instense came off so easily, it wasn't even funny. The MAC liner stayed on but was smudged to the point where the line was distorted.  My beloved Marc Jacobs Highliner gel-pencil stood firm.

(after hours of wear, smudging the liner with my finger tip and washing a small load of dishes)

This gel-pencil twists to expose more product.  Unlike other pencils with the twisty motion, it goes both ways.  Meaning I can twist counter clockwise to retract the pencil tip if necessary. Plus it also comes with this nifty little sharpener I can use to create a sharper point.  If I had to give this gel-pencil a "con" it would have to do with the size of the tip.  I really wish I could get as fine as a point as I do with my liquid liners.  But honestly, I'm not trippin' because this liner is so good that I'm just grateful to have it.  I later found out that Marc does have a liquid version in Blaquer which I will be picking up on my next trip to Sephora.

The first day after my purchase I experimented with my winged liner look and was so pleased with the results.  I stopped by the post office to ask a question and my mail carrier was like, "wow, you look different, I like it!"  I told him that I was experimenting with my makeup and thanked him for the compliment.  I've been having lots of fun experimenting ever since.

This liner is a bit pricey but I fully align with the saying that you get what you pay for.  To me this liner is definitely worth it's weight in gold and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to step their game up.  It seems like I'm not the only one loving this gel-pencil. You can check out other reviews here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Today I'd like to discuss something that I have been focusing on a lot lately.   A key component to  reality creation & goal setting is the ability to generate feelings that draw our desired intention closer to us.

You might remember them telling us in the Law of Attraction Movie, the Secret, to "feel the feelings of having experienced what you want." The problem with this suggestion is that it's genuinely difficult to feel like you've achieved something, especially if the current situation is the exact opposite of what you want to create.  Our minds are devious creatures. It constantly spews out  limiting thoughts behind the scenes during our waking hours.  We're judging, we're expressing our fears, concerns, and worry silently to ourselves all of the time.  All the time.  The worst part of this is that the voice sounds exactly like us so we don't confront those thoughts as untrue.  We just accept and then we believe.

All of this negative thinking feeling happens without our intervention so in order to make a change, we have to cause it to happen.  This means that we have to work at it.  If we aren't working at it, nothing changes. Nothing. There are multiple ways to impact our feelings.  You know yourself better than I do so you have to look inside for what works for you. I will simply give you suggestions to practice so you find what has the most impact on you.

Whenever I find myself headed in the wrong direction with regards to my thoughts and feelings.  The very first step I take is to restate what I want!  Normally, If we find ourselves in a situation that we don't like, we talk about, think about it, focus on it, dwell on it, on and on.  Suddenly all of our energy is flowing in the direction of the undesirable outcome.  So tip #1 is to kill off the oxygen of the negative experience by taking your focus from it.  Sometimes that means ignoring it, other times it means taking action quickly to change the situation. But in every case you will have to restate your intention of what you want.  AND, you will have to do it over and over again.  AND, you will have to express gratitude and joy over having received it (even if it's not here yet).  

When you "kill the oxygen" by shifting your mind's focus, it doesn't mean that things change right away.  Imagine that you are on a sail boat in the middle of the sea.  You want to change the direction of the sail boat and head back to shore.  Think of your positive thoughts/feelings as the wind which will bring the sail boat to shore.  One gust of wind, no matter how powerful will not generate enough energy to reach your destination.  The wind must be consistent and powerful.  In the same way, you must think of your positive thoughts/feelings as the power behind your intention.  The wind must flow at a high level throughout the entire journey back to shore.  

So for example, if your intention is to create a toned, fit body.  Sure you might get a burst of motivation and head to the gym.  That's great to get things moving but it won't take you to your fitness destination.  Every moment you get, you must focus on the intention for a beautiful body.  AND you must do it with INTENSITY.  It can't be something that you'd like to do, it must be something that you WANT. It's the difference between 50 MPH winds and a light breeze.  

I've began to set aside time to purposely generate thoughts of intention with high energy.  The act of visualization creates this.  The act of sharing what you wan't to create with others creates this. The act of expressing gratitude for everything you receive (big or small) creates this.  The act of acknowledging milestones you experience creates this.  The act doing things that make you feel good creates this.  I have been very purposeful in creating a life where I feel good for as much of my day as I can.  This of course, takes practice and there are times when I've fallen far from this intention.  But the moment I notice where I am, I immediately realign myself and start moving in the right direction. 

This is a constant process. I heard once that when a plane flies from one destination to another, it is constantly getting off course (for as much as 95% of the time). Throughout the entire flight the pilots are always course correcting to get back on track. This is exactly what happens to us.  Even if we're on track now, it's certain that things will change.  Since we know this, there's no reason to get upset when we're off course.  It's just about getting back on track and doing it an unlimited number of times with the use of intentions that focus us back on what we want.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

There I was, minding my own business at Neiman Marcus when my eyes happen to fall upon some products I hadn't seen there before.  The moment I saw them I was filled with excitement.  I'm not sure where, but I'd heard of Glam Glow products before and the reviews were phenomenal.  I picked up the two boxes (one black one white) and immediately began reading to learn more of the benefits and ingredients.

I have to start by saying that I already have quite a few clay-based masks in my possession. Queen Helene Mint Julep, Aztec Clay, and my Fresh Umbrian Clay Bar.  So why would I buy two more?

Based on what I read on those boxes these masks seemed far superior to my current line up.  Why?  Because they seemed to preform multiple roles.  It's almost like a BB Creme of clay masks.  For example, the Youth Mud Tinglexfoliate Treatment (black jar) boasts of the following ingredients:

- GreenTea Leaves {Brightens complexion+ Balances oil+Protects against free radicals+Hydrates}
-Volcanic Pumic Rock {Multi Level micro exfoliation that you control}
-French Sea Clay {Absorbs impurities & toxic substances}
-Volcanic Minerals {Detoxifies +Awakens skin with increase in circulation}
-Ivy {Tightens & lifts with extended benefits}
-Cucumber {Anti inflammatory + Helps heal + Soothes and calms skin}
-Comfrey Herb {Creates younger looking  complexion +Speeds cell regeneration}
-Lavendar {Helps heal breakouts + Natural anti bacterial + Anti inflammatory}
-Chamomile & Marigold Flower {Fights skin issues + Antimicrobal}

How in the world does someone put a product back on the shelves with such wonderful properties?  I could not resist.  It's designed to be a "10 minute anti-aging facial in a jar" used behind the scenes in Hollywood for immediate camera ready skin.  That is what really sealed the deal for me.  I wanted a mask I could use in "emergency situations" like social events, or if my skin was misbehaving.

Then I checked out what the Super Mud Clearing Treatment had to offer.

It has Acnecidic-6 which is a 4.4% blend of six acids including Alpha Hydroxy & Beta Hydroxy acids perfectly pH balanced to deal with damaged skin, declog and minimize pores, pigmentation, scarring, and breakouts.  There's also activated charcoal which is a high absorption carbon, attracting toxic substances into it's mass up to 500 times it's volume.  It also has other yummy ingredients like mandelic & glycolic acid to help fade scars, salicylic acid to help treat active breakouts, eucalyptus leaves, aloe and so much more.

I had a decision to make. Which one should I buy?  Of course you all know how the story ends.  I have absolutely zero regrets over my indecisiveness. Both of them are like children. They're different but I love them both equally.  The biggest difference between the two, that I noticed, is the Youth Mud is highly textured. There are actual leaves in the mix and you can feel the small pieces of pumice. It takes your skin through a beautifying roller coaster.  First you notice the raw ingredients as you apply, then ,as the mask dries, you begin to feel a light/mild tingle.  Finally, as you rinse off, you realize how gritty and exfoliating it is for the skin.  When you're all done, you are left with a beautiful glow from the entire experience.  The Super Mud has one job that it does really well...enter pores and detoxify.

It's been a couple of days and I've used both once or twice.  I'm not ashamed to say that I'm in love.  One thing I'll also mention is that I also picked up new Clarisonic brushes in the "deep pore cleaning" instead of the acne brush head which is more sensitive.  The combination of the firmer brush and these amazing masks has officially blown my mind.  My pores are way less visible and the minor breakouts I had shrunk up and went on their merry little way.   These masks are pricey (putting it mildly) but I found them on Amazon for much, much less than retail.

My ultimate goal is to create perfectly flawless skin and these babies bring me one step closer. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I guess you can call this part 2 in a series of posts where I share the "beauty secrets" I learned on Instagram.  If you haven't already, make sure you check out the original post that started it all.

Instagramer @sophithemua mainly posts pics of the makeup looks she creates on her clients.  Lucky for us, she gave us a brief glimpse of what she uses on her self to create her ultra-perfect skin.
In her post, she proclaims:
 "I am so in love with this skincare product. Glam Glow Exfoliating mud mask is UH-MAZING!!!  It deep cleans, adds radiance, removes black heads.  Overall great mask, a little pricey but soooo worth it." 
@_dawnixx is a stylist/weavologist who looks fabulous whether she's rocking dark or blonde hair.
Most of her page is flooded with selfies and photos showcasing her work.  But, in one post in particular, she shared:
 "ok, so you guys know I never really post products & if I do, they're deleted within a week....but I tried moisture recovery from Joico recently and I am IN LOVE.   I've been a crack fiend for Joico products for about two years now & [lately] my hair has been dryer than normal due to weather.  It's extremely moisturizing, you can feel the tangles fall right out.  Also this Perfect 10 Plus leave-in was concocted by baby Jesus himself.  My hair is super soft & super hydrated."   

@xxlivluvbeautyxx had only three words to say about Benefits They're Real:
"Love this Mascara."  

What Instagram beauty post would be complete without adding Mrs. June Ambrose (@juneambrose) to the mix?

Although this woman is in her 40s, she has the face of youth.  Here she posts a pic wearing a white mask and shares:
"Sour Cream Mask! Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons across a clean face & neck (avoiding the lips and eyes).  Remove with a wet washcloth after 7-10 minutes then splash!  The alpha-hyrdroxy acid helps speed cell turnover, brightening dull complexions."
The ladies over @tazangelsbootcamp love to keep us motivated with fitness posts and healthy eating tips.  
Here's what they shared as a caption to this pic:
"Bought this jug at the supermarket.  I try to drink 2.2 liters of water daily.  I can [see] the results right away when I've been drinking the daily amount of water.  My face starts glowing and it helps treat dark circles under my eyes.  I HATE wearing makeup in the daytime so drinking water daily is a very important part of tazangelsbootcamp.  I prefer my water filtered, room temperature and [with] a half freshly squeezed lemon.  DRINK UP & get it in!!!"

Those of you who are creating the ritual of drinking your water daily already knew this.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lately I've been looking back at the troublesome period in my hair journey. I started to wonder about some of the mistakes I made along the way and seeing how I can learn from them.  One "mistake" in my case was trying to incorporate air drying into my regimen again. Let me clarify that I'm only calling air drying a mistake because it just doesn't sit well with my hair.  Ever since I started textlaxing, my hair began to prefer other methods of drying.

The fact that my hair no longer responded well to air drying really bummed me out.  It's supposed to be one of the healthiest ways of styling the hair after a wash. Isn't it?  That's what I thought until I read some interesting information
that may give me some insight as to why air drying wasn't working for me.

The study, published in 2011, looked at the changes in the hair structure and moisture content of the hair strand after air drying and blow drying at various temperatures.  Then the hair shaft was examined to determine if damage was sustained and what type of damage occurred (if any).

Using differing temperatures, they took freshly washed hair samples and proceeded dry it using a dryer.  With each sample they utilized a different temperatures and held the dryer at various lengths.

Here's a breakdown of what they did:
Sample 01. Received no treatment {controlled group}
Sample 02: Shampooed and air dried (68 degrees F)
Sample 03: Shampooed and blow dried for 60 seconds while holding the dryer 6 inches from hair at  116.6 degrees F (cool air)
Sample 04: Shampooed and blow dried for 30 seconds while holding the dryer 4 inches from hair at 142 degrees F
Sample 05: Shampooed an blow dried for 15 seconds while holding the dryer 2 inches from hair at 203 degrees F

What were the results?  After drying all the samples, they looked closely at the hair using various measuring devises to determine the impact of their actions on the hair.  Here's what they found out:

Hair Surface Damage : There was no hair surface damage on the samples that were air dried.  In the blow dried group, surface damage was evident. Cracks on the cuticle were observed in Sample 03 "but more obvious lifting and cracks were" seen in Sample 04 and the most damage was evident in the sample dried at the highest temperature and shortest distance.

Hair Cuticle & Cortex:  The study showed no changed to the cuticle & cortex of the hair that was air dried and Sample 02 dried using cool air.  But more severe damage to the cuticle was observed in Sample 05.The good news was that no damage to the cortex (the inner structure of the hair) could be seen in any of the samples.

Cell Membrane Complex (CMC): Here's where it get's interesting.  Only the air dried group exhibited damage to the CMC layer of the hair.  In all of the blow dried groups, "the CMC was well preserved with no signs of damage."  I'm sure you're wondering what this CMC layer is and why is it important.  Basically, it's the lipid layer that acts like a glue, holding the cuticle layer to the shaft. Sound familiar?  The folks leading the study seem to believe that air drying may impact our precious CMC layer because of the pro-longed exposure to "wet stage".  We know that water expands the size of the follicle, perhaps it's not a good thing to keep the hair in that expanded state for an extended period of time.

The Lesser of Two Evils?
Blow drying can damage the cuticle, air drying can damage the CMC layer. What's a girl to do?  The folks did suggest that using a blow dryer at 6 inches from hair at lower temperatures may cause less damage structurally than air drying.  Based on what I read, I began to play around with ideas on how to minimize damage to the air no matter which method I use.  If I air dried, I would use ceramide rich products to aid in the air drying process.  Perhaps I might even blow dry some of the moisture off (cool temperatures) to lessen the drying time.  If I blow dried, I'd always use the cool setting whenever possible. And if higher temperatures are required, I'd extend the distance of the dryer so it's not directly on the strand.

And of course there would be ample heat protectant usage throughout the entire process.  I'm a little snobby when it comes to heat protectants. I like the ones that also offer up healthy hair qualities and well as heat protecting power.  Kerastase Ciment Thermique is a water based creamy leave-in that protects the hair from heat while rebuilding and strengthening the hair fiber with the power of ceramides.

I also got my hands on two products from the Inphenom line that may be able to deal with both issues.  One is Cuticle Coat, to protect the cuticle layer damage that may occur from blow drying. The other is Cuticle CMC (Cement-CMC) for those air drying woes.  I bought these babies a while back after learning about Japanese straightening from this unicorn.  Inphenom is a Japanese hair product line that developed treatments that deal with damaged hair after color, straightening or other chemical services.  After reading about the results of this study, these Inphenom products have been reintroduced to my rotation.

I should also mention that, for the study, they used virgin hair and they repeated the wash and blow dry step once a day for 30 days.  Hopefully none of us are blow drying our hair daily.  But I still want you to be always diligent whenever you dry your hair.  No matter how you do it.

Check out the full study here. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I'm making it a mission to involve myself in activities that cause me to sweat as part of a daily ritual.  In the past, I would have told you that I absolutely hated sweating.  First of all it's uncomfortable, secondly you feel icky, and third you smell unpleasant.

That was then.  Now my perspective has completely changed.  If I could have my way, I'd make it a point to sweat every day.  In fact, the desire to sweat is motivating me to work out even more so than the desire for a toned body.  Why?  Because I'm one of those people who seeks immediate benefits.  Every time I sweat during a workout, I receive real time benefits that keep me coming back for more.

 {increased circulation}
There is nothing like the look of my skin if I engage in regular sweating sessions.  As the sweat comes to the surface of the skin, so comes with it traces of impurities and toxins.  Because our body temp rises, our pores are open which allow for a deeper "cleansing" than what we normally do at the surface level.  I notice a distinct difference when I take a shower on a normal day versus after a workout session.  There's more dirt and other impurities removed after I've been sweating.  Does the act of sweating make us dirtier? No.  But I feel like it helps loosen the dirt, dead cells, etc that are on our skin's surface and makes it much easier for us to remove (especially if you have a great exfoliation routine).  My skin is softer and brighter than it's ever been thanks to my commitment to sweat on a regular basis.

(fresh faced selfie taken in car after workout/sauna session @ gym)

{heart pumping/deeper breathing}
Words aren't able to describe the feeling of invigoration and aliveness one experiences after a hard earned work out.  Long ago, when I exercised, my goal was to do as much as possible without breaking a sweat.  When the work out was over, I continued on with my day feeling like I didn't accomplish anything.  Now, I look forward to the sweat.  I'm sure this has to do with the higher levels of oxygen in my blood from engaging in strenuous exercise.  Another thing I noticed about myself is that I experience even more energy after a vigorous workout (not the opposite).  I leverage that energy to accomplish more throughout my day that I would normally do otherwise.

 {greater calorie burning}
And of course, the greatest side effects of sweating every day are the changes to our bodies.  I had it all wrong.  Before I would exercise for the purpose of sculpting my body.  When that happened, I stopped after I felt like I reached my goal.  Now I think differently, my goal is to sweat as frequently as possible. The toned, healthy body is just an amazing side effect that I'll enjoy as long as I maintain this ritual.

When I talk about sweating every day, I'm not speaking of the passive sweating  that happens in the summer time if you stand too long in the sun.  No, my friend, I'm referring to active sweating created by you when you are in motion or when you visit the sauna.  If you want to get adventurous, you might even take a hot yoga class.  No matter what you do, make it goal of yours to sweat every day.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I'm gonna try something a little different this summer.  Instead of my daily bun,  I'll be rocking curly hair.  I've weighed all the pros and cons and, it seems, that pros may outweigh the cons for me.

My inspiration came from a post I did a while back on healthy hair lessons we can learn from naturals.  Last week, while walking around H&M I observed some of the shoppers who had naturally curly hair (of all hair types). Although I am relaxed (texlaxed), there's enough texture remaining to create voluminous curls (through styling) but not enough to wear a curly wash & go.   I asked myself, if I styled my hair in big curls regularly, could my hair benefit  in the long run?  The answer is yes!  Let me tell you why.

(instagram @lorinohlen)

REASON 01:  I'd keep my hands out of it {low manipulation}
Whenever I wear my hair curly or in a braid out, the very last thing I want to do is disturb the delicate curls. It's pretty much the only style with that kind of power of me.  When I wear my hair straight, my hands are always in it.  When I rock a bun, I take it down and mess with it.  With curls, it's not a problem.  The need to have defined curls overcomes the carnal desire to molest my hair. 

REASON 02: I'd moisturize it more frequently {section by section}
I think one of my greatest mistakes, when I was bunning regularly, was one of the most damaging things one can do to their hair.....What I'm speaking of is NEGLECT.  Looking back, I know there are things I could have done differently.  Most of the time, I didn't take my bun down at night to re-moisturize.  With these curls, I have no choice.  Every night, I apply some moisturizer & oil in preparation for the next day. And, best of all, this happens section by section.  Even when I did moisturize after wearing a bun, I still didn't invest the time to do it in small sections.  With this look, I have no choice.  Not only that, I also moisturize my hair again first thing in the morning while styling to make sure the curls are moisturized and shiny. 

REASON 03: I'd be giving myself regular scalp massages
Since my hands aren't playing in my curls, I keep them busy with scalp massages as an alternative.  With scalp massages, my urges are satisfied while my hair follicles benefit.  It's a win-win.  When my hair is in a bun, I don't have as much access to my scalp as I do when my hair is not confined.  This is a huge pro because scalp massages have a direct correlation to healthy growth. 

REASON 04:  I'd be using less heat
Thanks to the aid of my wonderful flexirods, I can easily set my hair every night without the use of curling wands.  On top of that, I also can break out my old trusty steam rollers if necessary.  Either way, I'm pretty much covered.

REASON 05: More Frequent Washings
When I'm wearing a bun all the time, I could afford to skip a wash day here and there without anyone noticing.  Over time, this reduces the number of deep conditioning sessions.  Less deep conditioning leads to hair that isn't as healthy as it could be.   When I style my hair in curls, it's much less forgiving if I don't wash at least once a week.  It'll force me to remain consistent with my regimen and I like that. 

REASON 06:  It's cute.
To be completely honest with you, I carry around a different type of energy with me when I wear my hair in a curly style vs. the bun.  It makes me want to accessorize and touch up my make up.  All of the sudden, I want to wear my funky earrings.  And I get a chance to highlight on of my best assets, my hair.

Reason 01: Tangles
My biggest concern with wearing my hair like this are the tangles.  As my hair sheds, it'll travel down a curl pattern which will increase the likelihood of it getting stuck mid-stream.  To keep this from being a hinderance, I'll engage in detangling sessions at least twice a week (or more) to keep things moving along.  Seriously, if I can deal with the pesky tangles, all will be well with the world.

Reason 02: Hair exposed to elements
No matter how many pros I compile on my list, there is always that overwhelming fear of what happens when my hair is exposed to the elements all the time.  More specifically, having my ends brushing against my clothing (friction) and the constant exposure to air.  To minimize the damage, I will be put some safeguards in place.  For one, I'll have to replenish my hair at least once or twice throughout the day (if needed) to keep it from drying out.  I've already set a reminder on my phone in case I forget my promise.  Regarding the friction, I haven't come up with "the answer" yet.  But I'm sure retouching my ends with oil will help.  So far it adores the Omega 3 blend I created.  Another technique I'll try is layering my curls so they aren't all rubbing on my clothing.

What about the workouts?
This isn't really a con per se but it is something to consider.  Normally, I try to get my workouts in the morning.  In the past, working out was a hindrance because I didn't want want to go to the gym with the rollers in my hair.  Or there was a concern that my hair would get all messed up from the sweat and all my time spent preparing the night before would be in vain.  The solution came to me after I silently asked myself the question "how could I wear my hair curly and still work out regularly?"  A day later, out of no where, my mind tells me "just work out at night."  Of course! Why didn't I think of this sooner? In the morning, I can do a light workout at home then head to the gym in the evening for a full sweat session and visit to sauna.

I'm excited about taking on this challenge and actually making it work for me.  The end game is to increase retention, build strength, and elevate moisture.  Don't get me wrong, I'll still bun from time to time but, ultimately, I think my hair will do better with this new daily style.  Don't take this as  a prescription for what to do with your hair but rather a guideline of a process of highlighting pros & cons you can use to find out what works best for you. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Now that I'm back in good graces with my hair.  I decided to go all out this past wash day.  I was inspired after learning about a product called Neal Yard's Beauty oil.   Their Beauty Oil is a blend of carrier oils that are rich in Omega 3 & Omega 6 Super Power! The original intent of this product was that it's taken internally which will ultimately create healthier skin and nails. 

Of course my mind started running rampant with ideas about how my hair would respond to topical application of an omega 3 oil fusion.  Could my hair benefit from using these oils as a pre-poo treatment and even a deep conditioner booster?  My immediate response was "sure, why not."  We add all kinds of to our hair topically to receive benefits. From eggs and mayo to avocados, apple cider vinegar, relaxers, and even nutrients.  Our hair definitely responds to what we put on it.  If we see changes in our hair from consistently taking omega rich oils internally, why wouldn't it  also respond well to omega 3 as an oil treatment?

Once I found a list of ingredients, it was on.  I immediately went about the business of amassing the necessary oils.

-Avocado oil? Check!
-Flax Seed oil? Check!
-Hemp Seed oil? Check!
-Evening Primrose oil? Check!
-Pumpkin Seed oil? Check!

What I love about this list is that most (if not all) of them are not part of my normal regimen.  In fact, many of those oils (with the exception of avocado + hemp) have never even touched my hair before.  I love the diversity of this concoction.   And, of course, I had to take it up a notch by adding a little vitamin E to to the mix.  I did no measuring whatsoever, I just poured a little of each into a bowl and stirred using my Sprush.  The mix was actually kinda thick. It saturated my hair weighing the strands down as I applied it.  If I had to use one word to describe my mix, it would be nourishing.  It felt so decadent like a high end salon treatment.

(due to the dark colors of the Flax, Pumpkin & Hemp oils, my blend turned out dark green)

After an acceptable amount of time passed, I jumped in the shower and washed the mix out of my hair (with ease).  Then I poured some of my leftover oil mix into my deep conditioner. Finally I added a half a cap full of Pure Protein and blended everything together.  After my final rinse I roller set my hair.  When the rollers came out, I was all smiles.  I'm four months post so, normally, I'd be battling with my hair right now.  Instead, it feels so moisturized and healthy. I dipped a couple of fingers into my mix and rubbed a little more on my ends for good measure.  In my mind I was thinking "this would be a great night time treatment."

The only thing I could do to make this blend even better would be to add the all mighty Omega 9 by way of macadamia nut oil.  Then my fusion would be complete with Omega 3, 6, and 9! Should I also mention that hemp seed oil also contains the wonderful ceramides that protect our precious cuticle layer.  If this wasn't amazing enough, I should also share that I picked up most of these oils in food grade quality so I can "double dip" by adding them to my smoothies for internal hair/skin  benefits as well (I'm a freakin' genius!). 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

If there is one area that I've got to do better it's with regards to my shoe game.  I take enjoyment in buying accessories, and such, but shoes have been more out of necessity than from enjoyment.  "It's time to change all of that", I thought to myself as I drove down to my local Norstrom's Rack in search of something exciting.

I scored two pairs of heels which I absolutely love.  The first were a pair of Calvin Klein's that immediately caught my eye. 

I love the mix of textures, part suede, part leather.  So far I took them out for a spin once and let me say, they've immediately become my favorite pair of heels.   I can't tell you how comfortable they are.  After an entire day of shopping, I still felt as good as when I first slipped them on.  The added inches  in height gave me a boost of confidence that I normally don't experience in flats.  Oh, and one person even asked me where I got them after giving me a compliment.  They're so perfect. 

The second pair I picked up on the trip were these beige strapped sandals from Steve Madden.  They were available in black but I opted for the neutral instead. Although not as comfortable as my black heels, they make up for it with style points. 

I'm not done yet, but hey, at least it's a good start.  Next on my list are a (comfy) pair of pointy toed heels.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I've decided to pull myself back on the bandwagon from which I have fallen off (hard).  Back in the day, I was so regimented about my supplement intake.  Now, I randomly take my vitamins here and there, whenever I remember.

My strategy for putting everything back in order was to pick up some super foods  so I'd be  motivated to remain consistent. 

One of the first purchases was beef liver pills.  Yes.  You heard correctly.  They actually sell beef liver in pill form.  I picked this baby up because, beef liver is considered a supper food. Why?  Because of it's high concentration of nutrition pound for pound.  Back, when I used to eat meat, I actually liked eating liver.   I contemplated bringing liver back in my diet but I haven't made the leap yet.  Then I heard about the pills and made a beeline directly to my local health food store. 

Beef liver supplement is actually considered a food.  And it's one of the most nutrient dense foods around.  Most of the time when we talk about super foods, we're normally talking about some leafy vegetable or exotic berry.  Just take a look at all the nutritional benefits of beef liver and you'll see why it's classified as a super food.

Beef Liver Contains:
High in {natural} Vitamin A
Vitamin D
Vitamin C
Trace Minerals
Vitamin B 12 {beef liver contains all of the B vitamins and is high in B 12}
Vitamin K
CoQ10 {Anti aging}
Folate {the natural version of folic acid which has hair skin & nails benefits}
Purines {Natural substances found in our cells.  Provides chemical structure for our genes}

After researching some info online, I notice that many people consume raw beef liver to preserve the nutritional content.  Believe it or not, some even juice raw liver and drink it in a shake (which I can't even fathom).  I'll just stick to the pills for now.  When I feel adventerous enough, I may even freeze raw liver and place them in capsules using this technique

I also stocked up on some nutrient rich chlorella.  Years ago, chlorella was a part of my regimen.  What attracted me to this supplement was that is was considered a food (like the beef liver).  Think of  "supplements" as man made and "super foods" as naturally derived.  When nutrition is naturally derived, our bodies are more likely to ingest and process it without concern of toxicity or low absorption.

This go around I opted for both the pill and powder form.  The fine green powder is a perfect addition to my morning smoothies.  I take the pills when I'm on the go.  Chlorella is a green algae which a high source of protein, B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.   It helps our body excrete toxins from our tissue like heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides, etc. This is exceptionally helpful for me because of my silver fillings an I often eat seafood which could contain mercury.  Our digestion and pH levels also improve when taking chlorella.  Chlorella's beneficial factors are locked inside its cell wall which is indigestible in humans. For this reason, it's so important that we take in broken cell wall form so our bodies have access to it's detoxifying and nutritional properties. 

Next on my list is getting my hands on more spirulina which I've talked about in the past.  I heard that both chlorella and spirulina work synergistically together to further elevate their benefits.  I've been back on "green nutrition" for a few days and already noticed an increase in energy.  After re-reading my old post on spirulina, I was reminded of the benefits to my hair when taking this consistently.  Can't wait to experience that again.

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