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 lye on the surface of the hair and prevent moisture from penetrating. Avoid moisturizers containing protein, which can cause excessive dryness.
- When shopping for a shampoo, avoid conditioning shampoos, as the additives contained in conditioners will prevent the shampoo from doing its work of properly cleaning your hair.
- Vitamins included in hair products are nothing more than a marketing ploy designed to convince you to purchase. Dollars spent on hair care products containing vitamins is literally money down the drain. Externally applied vitamins and minerals generally have no affect on the hair, because hair has no life or ability to absorb vitamins and minerals. Remember, nutrients (vitamins & minerals) work best when taking internally. 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.
- According to Aphogee.com, Aphogee Protein Treatment is recommended only for hair that is intensely damaged with some noticeable breakage. Using such a potent mixture on mildly damaged hair is not advised because too much protein can actually make the hair follicles become too rigid causing them to break off when any stress (styling, combing) is applied.
- Harsh ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate are known to strip the hair of valuable moisture, leaving the scalp dry and itchy. Select a sulfate-free shampoo with no added conditioning ingredients.
- Trimming your hair frequently doesn’t affect the follicles in your scalp, because hair grows from the scalp and not the ends. However, trims are known to give the hair a neater appearance. Keeping your ends moisturized daily will lead to less breakage and your need for a trim will be minimized.
- The healthiest way to dry hair is by air-drying. Intense heat from the blow dryer and flat iron can trigger moisture-deficiency in the hair. These two hair appliances deplete moisture from the hair and prevent the entry of moisture into the hair strands, often causing excessive dryness, which can lead to brittleness and breakage.
- Intensive conditioning is extremely important to dry hair, because of its dry nature. To promote hair growth, you must deep condition your hair to stop the breakage.
- Co-washing is an attempt to wash the hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. This practice was adopted by the natural hair community to replace shampoos that contained harsh detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate. Co-washing does not cleanse the hair properly. Dry hair needs frequent cleaning to remove product buildup. Use a sulfate-free shampoo, such as Rapunzel’s Hydrating & Detangling Shampoo at least once a week.
- A protein deep conditioner should never be left on the hair for extended hours. The protein in the conditioner can dry out the hair and leave the hair feeling hard.
- Dry hair should be washed and deep conditioned about once or twice a week. To help get your hair in the best condition possible it’s important to follow the Rapunzel regimen, which is attached to your product.
- The signs of damaged hair are: a lack of shine, split or frizzy ends, dryness and excessive breakage. Rapunzel’s Protein Deep 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.
- The average life cycle of a single hair strand is between two to seven years and the average growth rate is 6 inches per year.
- 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.
- 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.
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 by giving the hair volume, which is an illusion of thicker hair. The only ingredient that can possibly thicken the hair by bonding to it is protein.
MYTH: Wearing braids makes your hair grow.
Hair grows at an average rate of about 6 inches per year regardless of whether braids are worn or not. Braids are often used as a temporary protective style to give the hair a rest from the stresses of daily styling.
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!!
MYTH: Prenatal Vitamins are the cause of hair growth.
Pregnancy hormones make your hair stay in the Anagen phase (hair growing phase) during the course of the pregnancy, which is why most women experience thicker longer hair. However, not much of your hair is shedding at this stage, so you do not experience the shedding that usually happens daily. After giving birth, estrogen levels decrease and all of the lovely hair that didn’t shed during the pregnancy will shed all at once. Taking prenatal vitamins will NOT help much, because your hormones are at a normal level and the vitamins do not affect your hormone levels.
Preventing Damage to Your Hair
- Lye or No-Lye: According to Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, an author of The Science of Black Hair, Lye relaxers are the preferred chemical relaxer formula of the salon industry. Sodium Hydroxide-based relaxers are stronger than no-lye relaxers and are generally formulated at a much higher pH. Lye relaxers can easily approach the 13 and 14 pH range. The lye relaxers are said to be easier on the scalp, because they do not leave drying mineral deposits on the hair fiber, and more than likely leave the hair with a softer, silkier result. Lye relaxers’ high pH, can cause considerable scalp irritation and burning if they are used incorrectly.No-Lye relaxers are hydroxide relaxer products that include guanidine hydroxide and other metal hydroxide formulas such as potassium or lithium hydroxide. Guanidine hydroxide relaxers are often found in “box relaxers,” which come in boxed kits. No-lye relaxers are often considered to be extremely drying to our dry hair. In guanidine hydroxide relaxers, the chemical reaction between guanidine carbonate and calcium hydroxide leaves stubborn, dulling calcium deposits on the exterior of the hair shaft. Calcium deposits decrease the hair fiber’s ability to absorb new moisture. No-lye relaxers are considered gentler on the scalp, because they tend to be less irritation than lye relaxers. Remember: Even if the word “lye” is not labeled on the box relaxer, if it is a hair relaxer, the chemicals that are found in lye are still present!
- Do NOT use heating tools such as curling irons/flat irons daily. Excessive use of these tools can result in severe breakage. The maximum frequency of heat that should be applied to your hair is once a week.
- Do NOT grease your scalp. Grease clogs pores, which can inhibit scalp circulation and hair growth. A quality moisturizer such as Rapunzel’s Hair Lotion will provide the moisture your hair needs when used regularly.
- Do NOT relax brittle, dyed or bleached hair. If so, this can worsen your condition and you can expect to have severe breakage.
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!!!
Braids can cause much stress on the hair, as they are usually pulled very tight causing the scalp to swell; with the excessive pulling, it can cause hair loss through forcing the hair follicles well beyond their max stress point. Once the hair cell has been forcefully pulled from the shaft, it stands the chance of not growing back and causing one to have bald spots. Additionally, braiding in synthetic hair with your own hair, can be very damaging. All of your natural oils and daily-added oils, will be transferred to the artificial hair, and in turn will starve your hair of vital nutrients and moisture. If you decide to use braiding as your protective styling choice, be sure not to add artificial hair and make sure you are thoroughly moisturizing your hair on a daily basis.
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.