When it comes to caring for our hair, ignorance is the most powerful enemy we battle. Because of our lack of proper knowledge, we cause many of our own hair problems! Educating yourself in this area should be the number one step in caring for your hair.
We often unintentionally abuse our hair because we do not appreciate or understand how to properly care for it. Listed below are helpful tips, facts and important information to help you in your hair-care education.
Purchasing Hair Care Products
- Be sure to check the ingredients on your hair products. The ingredients that you should avoid are: sulfate, alcohol, mineral oil and petroleum. If your hair products contain any of these, you should stop using it IMMEDIATELY!
- Petroleum and mineral oil clog your pores. They also cause dryness on the scalp, making it unable to absorb moisture and your hair will be prone to additional damage. If your moisturizer contains mineral oil or petroleum, switch to one without these ingredients. The moisture must get to the cortex, the source of dry hair. Mineral oil and petroleum only lie on the surface of the hair and prevent moisture from penetrating. Avoid moisturizers containing protein, which can cause excessive dryness.
- When choosing a shampoo, do NOT choose a conditioning shampoo. When conditioners are added to the shampoo, the conditioner can interfere with the shampoo’s ability to adequately clean the hair. The dirt you are attempting to remove may be left on the hair as a result.
- Do NOT invest in hair care products containing vitamins. The external application of vitamin products to your hair is of no value, because hair is dead. The papilla located at the roots inside the head controls hair growth. Any vitamins that are applied to the hair shaft instead of the roots – where growth is controlled – are a waste of time and money. However, daily doses of vitamins and minerals help to maintain healthy hair. They are essential for beautiful hair growth. Including nutritional supplements in your diet is certainly one way to assure yourself that you are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs for growing longer, healthier hair.
- If you are interested in using a hair polish to add gloss to your hair, make sure it contains the following ingredients: Dimethecone and Cyclomerhicone. These two ingredients smooth the cuticle and add a non-greasy sheen to the hair. Keep in mind that the hair polish doesn’t have the same benefit as a moisturizer (it does NOT moisturize the hair!).
- Aphogee Protein Treatment should only be used if you have SEVERE breakage. After the treatment is used, be sure to follow up with a good moisturizer. Aphogee offers a moisturizer, but it is not the best for dry hair. We need oils to lubricate our hair – especially after a protein treatment, and Aphogee moisturizer does not provide us with the necessary oils.
- If you have a dry itchy scalp, select a shampoo that does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate or its relative, sodium laureth sulfate; both are known irritants to the skin and found in most shampoo products.
- Trimming your ends does NOT produce growth. Hair grows from the scalp, not the ends. The ends are what you need to keep attached to your hair in order to obtain length. Instead keep your ends conditioned and moisturize them every day.
- Research shows that air drying dry hair is the best drying method for hair because the moisture just added to it by washing and deep conditioning will not be immediately depleted by intense heat.
- Dry hair needs intensive conditioning. You must deep condition your hair with a good conditioner to keep the hair you have, and to encourage more hair to grow.
- Co-washing is when you wash your hair with conditioner ONLY. Co-washing does NOT wash your hair! Would you put lotion all over your body in the shower instead of soap? Frequent cleaning of dry hair is necessary, because we must use hair products daily to help replace lost moisture. Also, keep in mind that over conditioning can make your hair limp and unable to style.
- A deep conditioner should be washed out of your hair. Leaving it in all day could dry out your hair. Protein causes the hair to harden and should not be left on the hair continually. Use the conditioner with heat to provide the BEST benefit for the hair.
- Dry hair needs to be washed about every three days, or at least once a week. When starting this hair care program it is important to deep condition the hair each time you shampoo to help get it in the best condition possible.
- The signs of damaged hair are: a lack of shine, split or frizzy ends, dryness and excessive breakage. A good conditioner can help correct these problems.
- Organic products don’t automatically mean better products. Organic products contain chemicals. Using something labeled organic or natural doesn’t mean allergic reactions or other problems are eliminated.
- There are no cosmetic products developed to date that will permanently change hair thickness. However, there are products that will help improve hair texture temporarily and many products offer appropriate and effective solutions under many circumstances.
- Each hair strand has a life cycle of two to seven years. Hair falls out to make room for new hair and the cycle starts again.
- Using rubber bands to pull hair back can tear or rip hair. However, covered or fabric bands and most plastic clips and barrettes are harmless to hair when used properly. It’s the pulling of hair that is most damaging, not the use of products like these.
- 80% of the African American population has dry hair.
- Studies show that 35% of African Americans are now wearing their hair chemical-free and that number is rapidly increasing.
De-bunking the Myths
MYTH: Certain hair products will make hair thicker.
Not True! Do NOT be fooled by products that say they can make your hair thicker. The only ingredient that can possibly thicken the hair by bonding to it is protein.
MYTH: Wearing braids makes your hair grow.
Wearing braids has nothing to do with your hair growing. Your hair is ALWAYS growing. Hair grows about 6 inches per year (on average).
MYTH: Your hair can split all the way up the hair shaft.
Hair splitting all the way up the hair shaft is a “myth” created by the hair industry. It is not possible for every hair to do such a thing. Hair can split ANYWHERE along the hair shaft. Remember split ends are caused by things you do. STOP doing damaging things to your hair and you will avoid most splitting hair problems.
MYTH: Stress causes permanent hair loss.
Although it’s true that stress can be a factor in temporary thinning of hair, it has no lasting effect on the condition of the hair. Once stress is treated, thinning no longer occurs as a symptom of that condition.
MYTH: A head massage will increase circulation and stimulant growth.
Increasing circulation in the scalp certainly can’t hurt, but it will NOT stimulate hair growth.
MYTH: Pull out one gray hair and two will grow.
The action of pulling out a hair can rupture the follicle, and the replacement hair, which will eventually grow, takes longer to regenerate. During this time, another gray (or mostly gray) hair may be beginning to grow next to it. When the hair that you initially pulled out re-grows, you could have two gray hairs, but the second gray hair has nothing to do with the first hair.
MYTH: Brush your hair at least 100 strokes daily.
Do NOT over brush hair; despite the common myth that 100 strokes a day are good for the hair and scalp, this leads to breakage!!
Preventing Damage to Your Hair
- Lye or no lye, the results are the same. If you look at the ingredients on the relaxer box, and you see “sodium hydroxide” this is lye. The main ingredient on the “no lye” relaxer box is either: calcium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. Do not be fooled! Under any of those names it is still lye. It just contains lower pH levels and supposedly relaxes more slowly, so you do not have to hurry to get it on before the hair starts straightening or the scalp starts burning.
- Do NOT use heating appliances daily such as curling irons/flat irons. This kind of abuse can be very damaging to our dry hair. The maximum frequency this heat should be applied to your hair is once a week.
- Do NOT grease your scalp. Greasing the scalp has nothing to do with hair growth. It is not recommended because sebum, the hair’s natural oil, functions in that area on the scalp. The oils in your conditioner actually go where it is needed most, which is on the dry hair shaft to help lock in the moisture and lubricate the hair.
- Do NOT use the pressing comb on chemically processed hair. Pressing combs were not intended for chemically processed hair. Instead use a flat iron, because the heat is not intense as the pressing comb.
- Never relax brittle, dyed or bleached hair. If so, this can worsen your condition and you can expect to have severe breakage.
- Do NOT be fooled by “kiddie” relaxers. They contain the same ingredients as the adult relaxer. This is a common misconception. Next time you go shopping for a relaxer compare the two.
About Breaking and Shedding Hair
Do you know the difference between breaking and shedding? They are each caused by different triggers.
- Shedding is part of your hair’s natural life cycle. The old root is pushed out to make way for a new one (look for a little white bulb on the end of the hair).
- Breaking is a result of dryness and damage to the hair, usually near the ends. It occurs when the hair falls off at a weak point in the hair shaft. You can normally find these little hairs on your back, in your comb, on the sink and your bathroom floor. If you are experiencing this problem, it is important to work quickly to address and stop the problem! When the ends drop off excessively, length cannot be accomplished. If your hair is healthy and properly maintained, breakage will not be excessive and there are no barriers to growing it as long as you desire!!!
To my ladies who wear braids: This is NOT a good choice if you are trying to care for your hair and let it grow. If you choose to blend artificial hair (including human hair) with your natural hair for braid styles, you are going to experience breakage. The fake hair that is braided in with your own hair does not allow your hair to get the maintenance and treatments it needs, because fake hair functions as a buffer. Maintenance products must reach the hair to improve it; weaves absorb these products and rob your hair of the treatments.
In addition to the above, braids are very damaging because they are continually pulling your hair by the roots and often times pull too tightly. When it is continually pulled, the hair cell will eventually die. If the hair cells have been gone for about a year, the hair cells are probably dead. Once they’re dead, nothing can revive them.
Braids worn too tightly can cause traction alopecia, which is the leading cause of hair loss amongst African American women!
About Hair Loss
Milay’s Standard Textbook of Cosmetology defined the 5 Types of hair loss:
- Androgenetic Alopecia – is defined as the most common type of hair loss type; it starts during teen years and is hereditary. It is affected by hormones and age. In men, it is most commonly referred to as male pattern baldness. However, women are subject to this condition as well.
- Alopecia Areta - is defined as sudden hair loss and is most often attributed to stress. Characteristics include round or irregular patches of hair loss.
- Telogen Effluvium – is defined as hair that sheds prematurely for various reasons, including childbirth, birth control pills, crash diets, fever, shock or drug intake.
- Traction or Traumatic Alopecia – is defined s a traumatic condition caused by repetitive pulling of the hair (braids) and has been attributed to excessive chemical applications or excessive pressing comb use.
- Postpartum Alopecia – is defined as a temporary hair loss condition after pregnancy and is affected by hormone levels in the body.
- Many of the reasons for hair loss cannot be helped while others are very preventable. For Black women, much of our thinning hair issues can be resolved by the elimination of chemicals on our hair. A chemical relaxer is not always needed to achieve straight hair. The industry wants us to believe that we need a chemical to make our hair straight, because this is what helps them to sell the product which allows them to continue to get rich through our ignorance.
According to Andre Walker, who has won numerous Emmys for his work on the Oprah show, has worked out a curly hair types system, which helps explain different types of hair.
What is your hair type?
- Type 4: Kinky Hair
If your hair falls into the Type 4 category, then it is kinky, or very tightly curled. Generally, Type 4 hair is very wiry, very tightly coiled and very fragile. Similar to Type 3 hair, Type 4 hair appears to be coarse, but it is actually quite fine, with lots and lots of these strands densely packed together. Type 4 hair that is healthy won’t shine, but it will have sheen. It will be soft to the touch and will pass the strand test with ease. It will feel silkier than it will look shiny. Type 4 hairs looks tough and durable, but looks can be deceiving. If you have Type 4 hair, you already know that it is the most fragile hair around. There are two subtypes of Type 4 hair: Type 4A, tightly coiled hair that, when stretched, has an S pattern, much like curly hair; and Type 4B, which has a Z pattern, less of a defined curl pattern (instead of curling or coiling, the hair bends in sharp angles like the letter Z). Type 4A tends to have more moisture than Type 4B, which will have a wiry texture.
- Type 3: Curly Hair
When this type of hair is wet, it appears to be pretty straight. As it dries, the hair goes back to its curly state. When curly hair is wet it usually straightens out. As it dries, it absorbs the water and contracts to its curliest state. Humidity tends to make this type of curly hair even curlier, or even frizzier. Type 3 hair has a lot of body and is easily styled in its natural state, or it can be easily straightened with a blow-dryer into a smoother style. Healthy Type 3 hair is shiny, with soft, smooth curls and strong elasticity. The curls are well-defined and springy. Andre defines two subtypes of curly hair. First, there is type 3A hair which is very loosely curled and usually very shiny with big curls. The shorter the hair is, the straighter it gets. The longer the hair is the more defined the curl. Then, there is type 3B hair which has a medium amount of curl to tight corkscrews. It’s not unusual to see a mixture of these types existing on the same head. Curly hair usually consists of a combination of textures, with the crown being the curliest part. Lastly there is a type 3C, is hair type that is not in Andre Walker’s book, but many people suggest that it should be. This type of hair can be described as tight curls in corkscrews. The curls can be either kinky, or very tightly curled, with lots and lots of strands densely packed together.
- Type 2: Wavy Hair
A relatively unusual type, wavy hair tends to be coarse, with a definite S pattern to it. There are three Type 2 subtypes: A- Fine /thin, B -medium-textured, and C – thick and coarse. Type 2A is very easy to handle, blowing out into a straighter style or taking on curlier looks with relative ease. Types 2B and 2C are a little more resistant to styling and have a tendency to frizz.
- Type 1: Straight Hair
Using Relaxers on Your Child’s Hair
In spite of manufacturers’ promises and claims, many experts still maintain that chemical relaxers not only damage children’s hair and scalps, but all hair regardless of the person’s age. Many hair specialists also believe that using hair relaxers on a young girl’s hair can result in serious damage to her hair.
Hair relaxers require maintenance and reapplication every 6 to 8 weeks, and if applied inappropriately, the hair and scalp can burn and become damaged. Chemical relaxers break down the interior structure of the hair strands and deplete the strands of moisture, resulting in weakened strands and breakage.
Some experts agree that women should never use chemical relaxers on their or their daughters’ hair, and some believe that a certain age should determine when relaxers should be safe to use.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Miller, a dermatologist at Pennsylvania State University’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, “The majority of relaxers are done without any major problems.” Miller recommends that consumers avoid home relaxer kits, and instead seek the professional help of a certified beautician to perform the service on a regular basis, in addition to keeping the hair moisturized and conditioned regularly.
Michael Bernstein is a Beverly Hills trichologist and he opposes the use of relaxers, especially on children’s hair. Bernstein stresses the risk of permanent hair loss and allergic reactions and even impairment of vision if the relaxer chemical gets into the eyes. According to the Illinois-based Alverto-Culver Company, who produces the Just For Me, a top-selling relaxer kit, their chemical relaxer product for children as young as 6 years old.
Ingredients found in Hair Care Products
The following items are typically found in hair care products. We at Rapunzel suggest you educate yourself in order to get the most effective and healthy products for your hair care dollars.
- Isobutane is another form of alcohol. It is used as a propellant in cosmetic sprays. If you find this ingredient on the back of your hair products please disregard use. Alcohol tends to dry out our dry hair even more! There are other products that contain another form of alcohol called Cetearyl alcohol and Cetyl alcohol. Cetearyl alcohol is not drying to the skin and hair. Cetyl alcohol resembles a component of the body’s natural oil Sebum. Both of the alcohols are used as an emulsifier and emollient.
- Isopropyl Alcohol: Dries and Breaks African American or Ethnic hair. It is found in color rinses, anti-freeze.
- Mineral Oil/ Petrolatum: It used as a moisturizer in African American or Ethnic hair care products; however, it coats African American or Ethnic hair, actually preventing moisture from getting into the thirsty hair. It is a derivative of crude oil and a cheap industrial grease component. It also prevents the release of toxins from African American or Ethnic hair and alters the skin respiration by preventing oxygen release.
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG): Propylene Glycol (PG): An active component in many African American or Ethnic hair care products, make up, lotions, mouthwashes, and deodorant, PG is the active component of anti-freeze and actually deteriorates the protein and cellular structure of African American or Ethnic hair. Protein is what your hair needs to thrive. Workers actually use gloves and goggles when dealing with this substance due to its chemical side effects and toxicity. It strips African American or Ethnic hair of critical moisture.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)/ Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): A cheap foaming and thickening agent that strips African American or Ethnic hair of moisture and causes skin and scalp irritation. 95% of all hair shampoos contain this ingredient or a derivative. Avoid it completely; TEA lauryl is just as bad, if not worse. Do not be fooled by the use of the word TEA. Shampooing African American or Ethnic hair with a product that contains these can lead to the absorption of excessive nitrates.
- Diethanolamine (DEA), Momoethnanolamine (MEA), and Triethanolamine (TEA): Usually listed as an ingredient containing a neutralizing compound, i.e. as Cocamide DEA or Lauramide DEA, repeated skin applications of DEA-based detergents are known to form cancer causing nitrates
- After conditioning your hair, DO NOT allow your hair to dry without applying a moisturizer. Protein is very drying to the hair when it is not moisturized, but remember it is also a key requirement for having longer, healthier and beautiful hair.