Posts tagged ‘natural hair’

It’s Not A Bad Dream….It’s The Braid Shop!

  Talk of  the braid shop simultaneously strikes joy and fear into the heart of many, especially naturals. We excitedly relish the thought of our new funky- fresh ultra fly hairstyle, combined with the added benefit of “protective styling” for our beloved tresses, and then the glorious fact that we don’t have to do much to maintain this beautiful all be it temporary look.  All of the pros of hair braiding seem to dreamily dance around our minds overshadowing the potentially hair and health hazardous cons.  One of the main cons being the braid shop itself.   I have personally had nothing but negative experiences every time I have gone to a braid shop.  Now once or twice sure, everyone has an off day and things don’t always run smoothly that is just a part of life; but every time?   Repeated and consistent negative experiences means there is a problem!

Now don’t get me wrong African Hair Braiding is a beautiful art form that takes skill (even talent) and has a impressive and long standing history.  I’m not talking about decades, but centuries.  The oldest known images of hair braiding are found in artifacts found in 2630 B.C.

815 B.C. Artifact housed at the Birmingham Museum of Art

Hair braiding has been one of the most enduring and long-standing  traditions in the African  and now the African-American culture.   “Cornrows or Canerows” for example have their roots (pun intended) in the early agricultural responsibilities of African slaves.    African slaves were forced to work the fields as farmers, and the Africans took the techniques they applied to the fields of their owners and applied these to their hair. They used “tools” or combs to make parts in the hair symbolic of the soil, and then fertilized their crop by oiling the scalp, and then trimmed and shaped the crop they had worked to cultivate.   This beautiful practice has been reduced, at least in my personal experiences, to “The Braid Shop”.  A place where dirty surroundings, unprofessional attitudes, and shady fluctuating  prices (literal by the minute) seem to be the norm.  And if you have “natural” hair you are often met with complaints, told your hair is too thick to deal with, charged more money, given an attitude of exasperation by your hair braider, or even told straight out ” to get a relaxer”.

Why Braid

Well style preference aside, hair braiding can help in retaining the length or the growth achieved during the period of having the braided  in the hair.  This protective style means less manipulation like brushing, combing, or heat styling and since less stress is put on our strands they have less chance to breaking.  Minimizing damage to the hair means maximizing length retention!  When hair is added to braid styles, the extra hair can act as a protectant for the hair shielding it, and when the hair is gathered together, grouping the strands, this gives them added strength and resilience.

A common misconception is that braided hair requires no care, untrue!  Hair and scalp should be kept clean and moisturized.  This will optimize the benefits of this brief vacation for your hair and from your hair.

Dangers For You and Your Hair

A common side effect of tight braids is traction alopecia,  a hair loss condition caused by damage to the dermal papilla and hair follicle by constant pulling or tension over a long period. It often occurs in persons who wears tight braids, especially “cornrows” that lead to high tension, pulling and breakage of hair.  Traction alopecia at the nape or hairline aka “edges” is usually reversible, however when this condition occurs in the center area of the scalp it is usually not.

Hair that has been damaged, newly chemically processed, or weak and brittle is not  recommended for braiding. We often braid hair to hide damage strands, but the added tension and stress on hair that is already in a weakened condition can do more harm than good.

If unclean hair combs, clips, etc. are used on your scalp there is risk of infection.  This risk is even greater if the skin on the scalp becomes compromised or damaged during the braiding process. Infection occurring in the skin could lead scarring of the scalp and permanent hair loss!  We opt for tighter braids to longer preserve our hairstyle and stretch our dollar, but the discomfort and damage tight braids can cause is not worth the extra week or two you get to keep your style.

Back To The Braid Shop

My latest trip to the braid shop was unfortunately no different from the ones before.  I called ahead and was very specific as to the style I wanted, and asked the time frame which it would take.  When I asked her how much it would cost to have my hair braided her response was, ” How much do you usually pay?”.  I kid you not, and this should have been my red flag to call a different shop.  I told her I had not had this style done before, to which she said  “ok” and then quoted me their price, I scheduled my appointment.  I showed up the next morning, 15 hours after I made the appointment, and as I walked in the shop and sat down I was told it was going to cost more money.  When I asked why I was told that she misunderstood what I wanted when we spoke over the phone, and the price she quoted me was for a style that would take 20 min, the style I wanted was going to take an hour.  I then reminded her that when I asked her for the time frame to braid the style I inquired about over the phone she told me it would take an hour, but if the price was now going  up I was not longer interested in getting my hair braided.  I was then told that she would make an exception because I was a new customer and I could pay the price originally quoted to me over the phone.  As the hair braider began to work she asked me to change the style I asked for ( I asked for 5 fat cornrows, one in the center and two on each side), she asked me to do 6 rows 3 on each side.  I politely declined, and she said, “no problem” and began braiding.  After my hair was half completed I was informed that she would have to do 6 rows instead of 5 because my hair was thick.  I said no, and asked her if what I asked for was impossible to do, her reply ” no, but it’s more work, and it’s the same thing”, I said it is not the same thing it changes the style I want and the placement of my part- not a fan of center parts- the hair braider then begrudgingly took down a portion of my hair to re-braid my hair in the style I originally asked her for.  After she was done my braids were uneven in size, not uniform in direction, and did not look like the work of a professional African hair braider.  I realize I could have had her take it all down and redo it, but 1) if she did such a poor job the first time, why would the second time be any better and 2) my “tender-head” could not have taken another session.  So in short me making her repeat her work would have hurt me more than it would have hurt her…and therefore was not an option.

My “professional” braids

As you can see, my braids are not done very well, I could have done this myself…and I can’t braid.  In expressing my frustrations to others I have learned, and sadly so, that my string of bad experiences with braid shops is common.  I have not been to every braid shop on the planet so I cannot say they are  all bad, not only is that unfair but I’m sure untrue.  A braid shop with consistent prices,   clean environment, professional attitude, and cares about the health of your hair as much as their bottom dollar- MUST exist! At the very least,  I can dream…

xoxo hippiechicchick

References:

Me:)

History of Hair Braiding

Traction Alopecia, Emedicine.com, Basil M Hantash, MD, PhD, Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH, Updated February 2005

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Is Your Diet Limiting Your Hair Growth?

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When many of us natural think about hair care we often obsess over products, regimens, protective styling, as well as many other external factors- but we often over look a very basic, but very important component…our diet.  Now you may say ” I hate drinking water, live on Cheetos and Taco Bell and consume 3 litters of soda a day, and I have GORGEOUS hair long strong and down to my ankles!” Well great for you! But the fact of the matter is that this is the exception, not the rule.  The majority of us are subject to the principle of  what we put into our bodies being just as important as what we put on it.

Here’s why…

“Hair is a barometer of your overall health,” says David H. Kingsley, Ph.D., a hair and scalp expert of the British Science Corporation in New York City.  Hair growth is stimulated mainly by nutrients supplied through the blood stream.  Now although we feel our hair is crucial….your body begs to differ. In fact to your body your hair is nonessential tissue; which means when your body is dolling out the nutrients it’s given, first in line are the key organs like your heart and brain.  Your hungry hair follicles will be last in line, if they get a place in the line at all!

Healthy Scalp

Now we know that the hair on our heads is dead lifeless protein, but  the follicles on our scalp are very much alive!

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The follicles are what is growing the hair under the scalp, and they are nourished (or NOT), by the protein, essential fatty acids (help to hydrate the follicles), vitamins like biotin and B vitamins 6 and 12 (help to strengthen the cuticle), and whole grains that we consume.  “Iron is also essential because it stimulates hair turnover and replenishment,” says Neil Sadick, M.D., a New Yorkbased dermatologist. Now understand that if you were born with fine, thin hair, you’ll never have rope-thick tresses — no matter what you eat, and be wary of those who claim differently. But a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of growth-promoting protein and iron can make a difference.

The Pantry

  • Eat foods loaded with loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats can be found flax seeds(one of the greatest natural wonders on earth in my humble opinion).  You can add flax oil to smoothies, or ground flax seeds to many of the foods you eat.  This plant-based omega-3 fat is ideal for vegetarians or vegans (like myself). For you carnivores, salmon is your friend! Full of omega-3 fatty acids,this high-quality protein source is also filled with vitamin B-12 and iron.
  •  Dark green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and Swiss chard, are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, which your body needs to produce sebum. The oily substance, secreted by your hair follicles, is the body’s natural hair conditioner. Broccoli actually packs more vitamin C than oranges! Dark green vegetables also provide iron and calcium.
  • Beans are indeed the magical fruit!  The more you eat, the more your hair grows!  Not only do they provide plentiful protein to promote hair growth, but ample iron, zinc, and biotin. While rare, biotin deficiencies can result in brittle hair.
  • Your scalp will go nuts for nuts!  Brazil nuts are one of nature’s best sources of selenium, an important mineral for the health of your scalp.  Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help condition your hair. They are also a terrific source of zinc, as are cashews, pecans, and almonds. A zinc deficiency can lead to hair shedding, so make sure nuts are a regular on your healthy hair menu.
  • Sink your teeth into hearty whole grains, including whole-wheat bread and fortified whole-grain cereals, for a hair-healthy dose of zinc, iron, and B vitamins ( many cereals for vegans are fortified with B6 and B 12 which is essential to the health of your hair and body).

Lost Pounds Could Equal Lost Hair

If you’re tempted to drop pounds fast it could leave you with less-than-healthy hair. Low-calorie diets are often low in some of the most important nutrients for healthy hair, including omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin A. In addition to stunting hair growth and leading to dullness, super-low calorie plans may even cause hair loss.

“Crash diets can affect the hair cycle. Losing a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time can affect that normal hair rhythm. Two to three months later, you might notice a significant increase in shedding. This is a temporary problem that you recover from with a well-rounded diet.” Paradi Mirmirani, M.D

Treat your body well and your hair will definitely flourish! Oh and the rest of you will feel and look great too!

Big Hair Don’t Care… At Least Not Anymore (An Apology Letter)

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Part of transitioning from my sleek straight chemically relaxed hair to my kinky coily spirals was embracing BIG HAIR. Let me just start by saying that I never liked big hair. I spent countless hours and dollars trying to tame my hair into submission, and although the Texas humidity was against me, I usually won. I relished the short Texas winters when my hair was well behaved without much effort; and when I moved to New York my hair and I both embraced the lower humidity levels and breathed a sigh of relief.

Then four years ago I decided to transition to my natural hair texture. At first there wasn’t much difference as I was having my new growth pressed to match my straight relaxed hair. My hair was a little fuller, but not big, it just had more volume. After transitioning for a year and a half I finally had my relaxed ends cut off, but continued to get my hair pressed. When I finally started wearing my hair not straight it was always in a flexi rod set, which enabled me to sport these sleek, 3b ringlets, which were full- but not really big. It was not until my second big chop in march of this year (due to heat damage, that sleekness comes at a price) that I started sporting my own coils and curls heat free. And you guessed it, I had BIG hair! I mean gravity defying, up and out, OMG what am I gonna do BIG HAIR. I am not embarrassed to admit (because I know I’m not alone) I didn’t leave my house for two weeks. I made up every excuse in the world to not go out…let’s just say I was very “ill” for awhile. My despair not only came from the sheer height and girth of my hair, but from my complete lack of knowledge of what to do with it. The chemically relaxed hair I had spent the better part of my life mastering was now gone, and what was left was this mass of unfamiliar cottony coils that seemed to have a mind of their own; and like to express themselves in a BIG way.

Initially I wore my hair in slick backed pony tails (as slick as I could manage) after months of this I began to slowly venture into twist outs and bantu knot out, then into curly fro- hawks, then into curly fros. The more I learned, the more I wanted to experiment. The more I experimented the bolder I got. The bolder I got, guess what, the bigger I wanted my hair! I began to realize that the accepting my hair for what it is (kinks, coils, curls and all) also meant accepting that natural hair is naturally BIG. When I first began my hair journey I focused on the transition of my hair, but unexpectedly my mind followed. As I began to accept my hair, this delightful acceptance extended to myself, the size of my hair (big or small) was an extension of me- and was therefore perfect as is, just because it was mine. Now I don’t mind big hair at all, in fact I rather love my big hair!

Naturals embrace your big hair, and don’t care what anyone other than you thinks about it!

 

Xoxo hippiechicchick

 

Petroleum and Mineral Oil…Are Your Hair Products Increasing Your Risk For Cancer?

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Loads of the cosmetic and hair products on the market contain mineral oil, as do many creams and lotions. Mineral oil may sound harmless, but… it’s not. This concept is especially hard to grasp for those of us who have used it for so long. From baby oil to hair grease to lip gloss- this product has surrounded us daily for most of our lives…so how can it be bad?

Mineral oil is actually a derivative of petroleum, that’s right, the same stuff you put in your car’s engine! Because it’s very viscous (slippery), and very inexpensive many products use mineral oil as the main ingredient. This despite the fact that it’s a known carcinogen!

It acts as a sealant which means it blocks your pores and does not allow your skin to breath, a natural respiration process your skin very much needs. Blocked pores can lead to acne. And, because mineral oil can create an impenetrable film on your skin, and hair it may also block the absorption of any beneficial ingredients you may apply. It can also cause the hair to become dry and brittle and prone to breakage if it is not thoroughly cleansed to ensure the chemical barrier is completely removed.

“A study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, found that commonly used moisturizing creams containing mineral oil are tumorigenic when applied topically to UVB-pretreated high-risk mice. What this means is that these creams and lotions can increase the rate at which skin tumors form. The study tested four common skin lotions:

  • Dermabase
  • Dermovan
  • Eucerin Original Moisturizing Cream
  • Vanicream

What these creams have in common is that they all contain mineral oil. Mice that were at high risk of developing skin cancer received a topical application of 100 mg of one of the creams once a day, five days a week for 17 weeks. The researchers concluded that the rate of tumor formation significantly increased, as did the tumor size per mouse. In fact, the number of histologically characterized tumors increased by a whopping 69 percent!” Dr. Joseph Mercola.

If 100mg per day sounds like a lot, it’s not, 100 mg is equivalent to 20 tsp. When we add up the total sum of all the products we use daily (makeup, lip stick, lip balm, lotion (most of us re apply), shampoo, conditioner, leave in, hair gel, curl cream, hair polisher, makeup remover, sun screen, soap, shower gel…the list can go on; with all of that if -we only use 20 tsp we’re fortunate.

Mineral oil has countless different names, but the same effect.

Alternate names include:

  • Adepsine oil
  • Albolene
  • Baby oil
  • Drakeol
  • Lignite oil
  • Liquid paraffin / paraffin oil
  • Mineral seal oil
  • Petrolatum
  • White oil

Safer Choices

One of the easiest ways to ensure that you’re not being exposed to potentially hazardous agents is to simply make your own personal care products, when possible, and if not read labels CAREFULLY. Some great natural moisturizers are EVOO and EVCO, these can be used for face and body. ( I personally LOVE my coconut oil) Coconut oil also is also a potent source of the beneficial fat lauric acid.

You can also find many organic skin oils and lotions these days. Just be sure to read labels and check products out before buying them to make sure you’re not being fooled by less-than-honest claims ( This not an area you want to be trusting about). A fantastic web site by the Environmental Working Group can aid you- http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ it is an excellent resource for finding and evaluating healthful personal care products, and weeding out the bad ones.

Resources:

Dr. Joseph Mercola

http://www.mercola.com/

The Journal Of Investigative Dermatology
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2630214/?tool=pubmed
Green Med Info
http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/commonly-used-moisturizing-creams-containing-mineral-oil-are-tumorigenic-when-applied

Lavender Oil and Hair Growth


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Lavender oil has many wonderful benefits both for mind and body.  Many naturals mix their own hair tonics and various concoctions, present company included, and often include lavender oil.  Lavender oil is so popular not only because of it’s amazing sent, but because of its regenerative properties; one of which is aiding in hair growth, or even in some cases stopping hair loss.

Research

The Department of Dermatology at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary studied the effect of essential oils on  patients who suffered from hair loss caused by alopecia areata. This study was conducted in 1999 by  Scottish dermatologist Dr. Isabelle C. Hay and a team of researchers from the department of dermatology at Aberdeen.

Researchers divided the patient participants into two groups, one group was the active group the other the control group.  The study was controlled and double-blind taking place over a seven month active period and included follow ups at three months and seven months post treatment.  The treatment was broken down as follows:

  • Active Group:  massage the essential oil recipe they were given onto their scalps daily for two minutes.
  • Control Group: massage the carrier oils jojoba and grapeseed onto their scalps daily for two minutes.

Findings

At the completion of the study 19 of the 43 patient participants in the active group showed significant improvement in hair growth, with one gentleman reportedly growing a full head of hair after being bald.  In the control group 6 of the 41 patient participants showed a little improvement, but nothing significant. This study reveals that 44% of the group using the essential oils significantly improved.  The average area of hair regrowth with the essential oils was 104 square centimeters, compared with nearly zero for those using the placebo.

The Aberdeen Royal Infirmary Study Recipe

  • atlas cedarwood essential oil – 2 drops
  • thyme essential oil – 2 drops
  • rosemary essential oil – 3 drops
  • lavender essential oil – 3 drops
  • jojoba carrier oil – ½ teaspoon
  • grapeseed carrier oil – 4 teaspoons

**At the beginning of the study, and again after three and seven months, professional photographs were taken of each patient’s scalp. Changes as seen in the photographs served as the primary outcome measure.  Mapping and measuring of the bald patches was also done to determine results.

Reference:

Hay, Isabelle C., et al. Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy – Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata.  Archives of Dermatology 1998;134:1349-135

Beer…For Your Hair?

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So the absolute saddest moment in my post gluten life was when I had the full realization that I would no longer be able to have beer.  Yes I know there are a variety of gluten-free beers about, but any beer connoisseur will tell you, “It’s just not the same.”  So while this delicious blend of malt and hops can no longer bring joy to my pallet, it can make my hair soft, shiny, and bouncy.   I have not used anything else that makes my curls and coils spring to life so rapidly! If you feel like your curls are falling a little flat, want to quickly revert hair back to curly if you’ve straightened it, or just want another option for a protein treatment- Beer is your friend!

How it Works

When you soak, rinse, or spritz your hair with beer, its natural ingredients coat each strand and lend hair-nourishing benefits. In addition to B vitamins, the proteins found in malt and hops are said to repair damaged hair and boost overall body. Meanwhile, the maltose and sucrose sugars in beer tighten the hair’s cuticles for enhanced shine.

Although it is debatable whether the corn, rice, or wheat protein in beer can actually deposit on your hair to form a strengthening film, there is no question that it makes hair seem thicker. This effect may be attributed to the proteins left on the hair fiber, though beer also seems to slightly swell the hair shaft.

You can use a beer with low or no alcohol. It’s probably better to use traditional brewed beer made from hops to maximize nutrients and minimize chemicals (since most commercial beers are loaded with stuff you probably shouldn’t be putting in your body, let alone your hair). But I use plain old O’Douls.

Highlighted Benefits:

  •  can add bounce and shine to your hair.
  •  softens the hair.
  •  can increase the elasticity of your hair.
  •  tightens hair cuticles and brings limp  hair to life.

My Recipe

1 bottle of O’Douls non-alcoholic beer

1/4 cup evoo

Allow beer to flatten over time, or heat till warm. And mix in evoo (you can add other oils if you like or leave out oil altogether) I prefer to use a warm mixture with added oil, this works well for my low porosity hair.  After application gently massage in mixture from root to tip, and allow to sit on your hair for aprox 5 min. Then rinse thoroughly with warm water.  DUE TO MY GLUTEN ALLERGY I DO NOT LET MIXTURE SIT ON MY HAIR AND SCALP, BUT RINSE IMMEDIATELY. I still see wonderful benefits without any unwanted side effects (like itchy scalp).

This treatment can be done once a month, or as needed (your hair will let you know)

Parabens, What Are They And What Are The Risk?

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What Is Paraben?

 

 

Parabens are a group of preservatives that are added to most cosmetic products and or some foods. Parabens are a low-cost and effective method of preserving items for relatively long periods of time. Although the chemicals known as parabens were once thought to be safe, there is some controversy over their use.

 

Function and Labeling

These preservatives are used in cosmetics and other products to protect the item against the growth of microorganisms.
It is important to be aware that the use of parabens in our personal products on a regular basis could be a risk your health.

Check product labels for: ethyl, butyl, isobutyl propyl, isopropyl and/or methylparaben.

Risk

Parabens  are also present in some foods, but these act very differently than those applied in personal care products.  First of all, in a food, other compounds are present in nature’s perfect balance. We’re talking antioxidants and enzymes that work together to create an overall healthful effect on the body.  Second, when parabens enter the body through foods, they have a much better chance to be metabolized because they’re going through the digestive system.  Stomach acids and other enzymes help to break them down to metabolites that are easily flushed out of the body.  Third, parabens behave much differently when applied to skin than when ingested in a food.

Recent Study found that parabens, when applied to skin, react with an enzyme called SULT.  In simplified terms, SULT is the enzyme that helps the body flush out estrogen.  So, when SULT enzymes are deactivated, estrogen levels increase.  Parabens were found to deactivate these important enzymes.  The study states “…these results suggest chronic topical application of parabens may lead to prolonged estrogenic effects in skin as a result of inhibition of estrogen sulfotransferase activity.”  Supporters of parabens are always talking about how little parabens are absorbed and how weak their estrogenic activity is–but with this study in mind, absorption and estrogen receptor activity really are moot points.  It’s a reaction with parabens in the skin that increases overall estrogen levels in the body.  Many reproductive cancers are estrogen-dependent and tumor growth is fueled by an excess of estrogen.  Uterine fibroids, endometriosis, adenomyosis, irregular menstruation–all of these reproductive problems are caused by an excess of estrogen.  So why would you want to apply these compounds to your skin!? 

Another pro-paraben argument that you’ll hear is that the skin metabolizes parabens quickly and they’re flushed out of the body.  Not so!  This Study found that after a month of applying methylparaben to skin cells, it “remained unmetabolized and persisted slightly” in the stateum corneum. Additionally, it was found to affect DNA expression in the skin cells, inhibiting collagen production, and possibly leading to early aging of cells.

How To Avoid

The David Suzuki foundation reports that 75 to 90 percent of cosmetics will contain parabens.  This includes shampoo, conditioners, skin creams, lotions, nail polish, moisturizers, make-up, shaving foam, deodorant, tanning lotions and toothpaste.  There are more and more paraben-free products available on the market, so that consumers can make a choice to limit their exposure to this chemical.

Refrences:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Parabens
Parabens inhibit human skin estrogen sulfotransferase activity: possible link to paraben estrogenic effects.
Prusakiewicz JJHarville HMZhang YAckermann CVoorman RL. Source Department of Pharmacokinetics, Dynamics, and Metabolism, Pfizer Global Research and Development, 2800 Plymouth Rd., 20/342S-D, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA. Jeff.Prusakiewicz@pfizer.com
Effects of methyl paraben on skin keratinocytes.
Ishiwatari SSuzuki THitomi TYoshino TMatsukuma STsuji T. Source Fancl Corporation, 12-13 Kamishinano, Yokohama 244-0806, Japan. shiishiwata@fancl.co.jp

Stephanie Greenwood from Chemical Of The Day

David Suzuki Foundation: Parabens

 

 

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