The Pink Elephant Lady
Nerding out about Hair Science
I've become a hair science nerd of sorts, and I've been reading all the books I can get my hands on.
There are shelves and shelves full of this and that hair care product - protein treatments, moisturizers, pomades, mists, sprays, serums, styling products - and theories. Lots of theories and lots of opinions and lots of anecdotal evidence. No-poo, low-poo, co-washing, washing hair with a bar of soap (natural products are great, but I'm not sure I can get behind washing with pure soap - both residue and stripping are concerns!), dry shampoos - it can get confusing. And some 'information' is just marketing hype. I mean, the commercials on TV show women in the shower with their sudsy locks piled high on top of their heads, and it turns out that's not the right way to wash your hair at all!
As for me, I've been kind of ignoring my hair…for kind of a long time. Every once in a while, I wash it. And in the morning, it goes into a ponytail or bun. Not because I particularly like that style, but because 1) I'm lazy; 2) I don't have time to do anything else with it; 3) I don't care. (Not sure which one of these it is, or all of them, so I'll go with #2 because that sounds best.) Since I never wear my hair down, I haven't really noticed how long it is. Haven't had a trim in…oh, I don't know, somewhere between 2 and 3 years. Yikes. Apparently it's nearly down to my waist! And looking a bit raggedy. But not too bad - the advantage of not doing much to your hair is that you avoid damaging it further!
I'll get around to getting my trim at some point, but I probably won't go short. When I was in grade school, my hair was just as long as it is now (but healthier, because it was little kid hair!), and my sister and I got head lice that we just couldn't seem to get rid of. My mom had my aunt cut all our hair off (well, not ALL of it - but that's sure what it felt like). We had 'pixie' hair cuts, I guess. I hated it. A lot. Anywhooo…..
I've come up with a list of hair tips I've encountered over and over again in my reading. I've been practicing these steps, and I'm definitely seeing improvement! I'll get into more details on these tips in later blog posts - I'll keep it light for now! Bottom line is that there's no such thing as 'good' or 'bad' hair - hair responds differently to hair care regimens based on hair type, porosity level, and damage level. Learning more about hair science can go a long way towards choosing the right hair care products and regimens, and being more comfortable with your own tresses!
1) Treat your hair as you would a delicate fabric. You wouldn't put your silk pajamas in the dryer, or wash them in a spin cycle, right? So don't drag a plastic-bristled brush through dry, tangled locks, or excessively heat style. Which leads us to the next point….
2) Save heat appliances for special occasions, not everyday styling.
3) Many times, hair that 'just won't grow' is actually breaking. (I learned that the medical term for hair breakage is 'Trichorrhexis nodosa'!) Hair breakage is a common reason for hair not "growing".
4) Tie your hair up before going to bed to avoid tangling and messing up your 'do during the tossing and turning of sleep.
5) It may be helpful to detangle your hair BEFORE you wash it. But don't be rough - detangling the hair is when a lot of hair breakage occurs. Use a detangling product or your favorite hair oil before beginning to work out tangles - use your hands and fingers as much as possible before using the brush, as your hands are much more gentle on the hair. You may have to detangle again AFTER shampooing and conditioning as well.
6) You've heard this one before, of course, but it bears repeating - make sure you're drinking enough water! A healthy diet goes a long way towards healthy hair and skin. Usually the first places poor diet and dehydration show up is the hair and skin.
7) Use a cool-to-cold water rinse after your last hair care step in the shower - if you're using a conditioner, use cool water to rinse the hair. This seals the cuticle and promotes shine.
8) It is nearly impossible to 'repair' severely damaged hair, no matter what the label on that bottle of expensive product is telling you. Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to part ways with damaged hair and start over! (There IS, however, a product that supposedly fixes damaged hair - Olaplex claims to 'reconnect broken disulfide sulfur bonds in the hair', and people have certainly had amazing results. Learn more here: http://www.labmuffin.com/how-does-olaplex-hair-treatment-work/
9) Scalp problems? Many scalp problems get lumped into the 'dandruff' or 'eczema' categories, but there are actually many types of scalp issues, and certain scalp problems may not respond at all to treatment if that treatment is for an entirely different condition! For example, tinea capititis is caused by a fungus, and cannot be moisturized away. Seborrheic dermatitis (usually referred to as 'dandruff') typically responds well to zinc pyrithione. And in very rare cases, scalp problems can be associated with an underlying medical condition. If your scalp issues just don't seem to be going away, you may want to do some homework to find out what the specific issue is affecting your scalp, or see your doctor. If the idea of a prescription makes you nervous, you can always see the doctor for an accurate diagnosis, and use the prescription as a last resort if treating the condition yourself doesn't work.
10) Hair loss? There are different types of hair loss, and hair loss is caused by many factors. Traction alopecia, central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, androgenetic alopecia, and alopecia areata are just a few of the types of hair loss. Hair loss can be caused by hormonal issues, stress, chemical hair treatments, hair styling techniques, autoimmune disorders, and other factors. If your hair loss is worsening and/or you are not sure of the cause, you may want to see a dermatologist that specializes in hair loss or an endocrinologist. Some helpful sources of accurate information are The American Hair Loss Association (http://www.americanhairloss.org/Types_of_Hair_Loss/introduction.asp) and The Skin of Color Society (http://skinofcolorsociety.org/)
11) Do you have hard water? If you have a hard time getting a good lather, if your hair 'needs everything but responds to nothing', you my have hard water. You may need a chelating shampoo to remove mineral deposits that have built up over time in your hair. More on hard water later!
12) Get a good 'consumer textbook' that explains the science of hair. This can go a long way in helping you decide what products you really need for your hair type (plus, it's fascinating!) An educated consumer is less likely to fall for a bad product. Many of these books can be easy to understand and provide hype-free, science-based hair solutions. Two stand-outs in this regard are 'Hair Structure and Chemistry Simplified' by John Halal and 'The Science of Black Hair' by Audry Davis-Sivasothy. Learn more by clicking the pictures in this blog post; you can click on the images below for more information about the books. Happy reading!