Natural Inspiration | Skai Jackson

I was idly flicking through TV channels recently when I stumbled across this natural cutie on the Disney Channel. Her name is Skai Jackson and she’s one of the stars of the Disney channel show Jessie. Her beautiful natural hair had me hooked from the get go, but she’s also a very talented actress. I’m all about encouraging the younger generation to love and enjoy their natural hair and this little diva knows how to work it. It’s great to see some inspiration I can show my nieces and cousins and hopefully one-day, daughters.

I finally got a filter for the shower

It looks like June is the month of fulfillment for me. In addition to getting my steam straightener, I’ve also been able to solve my hard water problems. In a previous post, I described the problems hard water was causing my hair and the various solutions available to me. One of these solutions was a shower filter and luckily for me, our shower head broke recently…with absolutely no help whatsoever from me. After much wrangling, I managed to convince the hubby that getting a filter head was the smart choice. He really cares about his skin and when I told him it would make his skin softer and less prone to drying out, he was sold!!

I had originally planned on getting a filter from The Sensitive Skincare Company which fits between the hose and shower head but since we needed to replace the whole shower head; and I didn’t want to cough up twice, I went looking again. I found this lovely all in one Spring Shower Filter Handle from Aquatiere which does exactly what I need.

“This Spring Shower Filter Handle is fitted in seconds and provides naturally healthy, chlorine free water for showering. The Spring Shower filter contains our own ceramic filter media CERAMET which controls bacteria, reduces scale and enhances pH balance for the healthiest most refreshing shower ever and softer skin and hair. Using our unique shower filters is like showering in natural spring water”

Check me out huh, I’m gonna be showering in natural spring water. I’m going to do a full months test before I report back but suffice to say, I’m very excited.

Building a Regimen

I realised recently that I’ve never really done a post on how to build a hair regimen, though I’ve spoken about mine countless times. There’s a good reason why…I forgot. When I first started my hair journey I spent ages online, reading lots of different articles and blogs posts about regimen building before I felt even remotely ready to build my own. Since I don’t want to re-invent the wheel, here are my top 5 regimen building articles/post for both natural and relaxed hair alike (in no particular order).

1. Hair Regimen Building for NewbiesAudrey Sivasothy
2. Building A Solid Healthy Hair Care Regimen From ScratchLong Hair don’t care
3. Hair RegimenKeep It Simple Sister
4. Your hair routine. How to make it work for youRelaxed Hair Health
5. Regimen Building: Go Ayurvedic Part 1 & Part 2 The Moptop Maven

Lush Hair Doctor

I recently came across a product called Hair Doctor from Lush whilst on my never-ending quest for all things scalp related. It is touted as the solution for dry itchy scalps and looks absolutely yummy. I was all set to buy it till I took a closer look at the ingredients list and realised that I had pretty much all of them kicking around somewhere in my house. The ingredients list for Hair Doctor is as follows:

Water (Aqua), Irish Moss Powder (Chondrus crispus), Fullers Earth, Cetearyl Alcohol, Perfume, Irish Moss Decoction (Chondrus crispus), Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (Cocos nucifera), Organic Jojoba Oil (Simmondsia chinensis), Almond Oil (Prunus dulcis), Peppermint Oil (Mentha piperita), Rosemary Absolute (Rosmarinus officinalis), Chamomile Blue Oil (Matricaria chamomilla), Soya Lecithin, Glycerine, Yeast, Red Henna (Lawsonia inermis), Lanolin, Cetrimonium Bromide, Propylene Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate & PEG 100 Stearate, *Eugenol, *Limonene, *Linalool

According to the Lush blurb, the main active ingredients in Hair Doctor are:

“Fuller’s earth, which degreases your hair and scalp, stimulating peppermint and rosemary, and chamomile to soothe sore skin”

Fullers Earth is basically Bentonite Clay which contains a load of essential healing minerals and is very efficient at drawing oils and toxins from the skin/scalp. The Peppermint, Rosemary and Chamomile do exactly what they say on the tin. However, upon taking a closer look I reckon the Irish Moss, Henna extract and Extra Virgin Coconut Oil are probably pretty powerful scalp regulators also. The remaining ingredients mainly help with conditioning and making the hair feel good. The one thing I don’t have is Cetrimonium Bromide which is a cationic quaternary compound capable of being absorbed by the hair cortex and also works as an anti-septic. I’m going to substitute it with Cetrimonium Chloride which is also a cationic quaternary compound and will provide great slip but unfortunately doesn’t have quite the same conditioning kick as the Bromide.

I’m also gonna soup up my version by using an herbal decoction rather than plain water and adding Rhassoul clay which is similar to Bentonite but less clarifying. I’m also going to add Tea Tree Oil to boost the anti-septic properties and Vitamin E just because it’s so good. Lush markets Hair Doctor as a preservative free product and something which would need to be kept in the fridge and used fairly quickly. This is fine with me as I would only ever make up a single use batch so I’m happy to keep mine preservative free also. Lastly, my product will have a thinner and smoother consistency similar to cake batter rather than the paste like consistency of Hair Doctor.

With all these things taken into consideration, my final Ingredients list looks like this:

Herbal Decoction (mint, rosemary, henna, marshmallow, neem powder, nettle, white willow bark, burdock root, coltsfoot, horsetail, blue malva, hibiscus), Irish Moss Decoction, Rhassoul Clay, Bentonite Clay, Glycerin, Almond Oil, Jojoba Oil, Virgin Coconut Oil, Cetrimonium Chloride, Vitamin E, Rosemary Oil, Tea Tree Oil

Tune in tomorrow to see how it turns out!

Moisture-Protein Balance

I’ve spoken briefly about the moisture-protein balance before, which is a really important part of preventing breakage. If you can get this part right then everything else becomes so much easier. Here are few suggestions to help you on the journey to achieving that elusive balance.

  • Firstly, check out ‘The Fine Art of Protein and Moisture Balancing for Black Hair Care’ by Audrey Sivasothy. This article really gave me a good insight into the science behind the principle and was a great starting point in learning how to maintain my balance.
  • Invest in some regular one on one time with your hair as the balance doesn’t remain static and fluctuates frequently. Sometimes on a daily basis so you constantly have to be listening to what your hair is saying. The quicker you become familiar with what your hair feels and looks like at its optimal level, the quicker you’ll be able to identify when things are off.
  • If your hair starts breaking, don’t immediately reach for your strongest protein conditioner. Investigate the breakage and try to identify what’s causing it before you start on a course of treatment. Dry brittle hair that’s snapping off needs more moisture not protein.
  • If you’ve chemically processed your hair in any way, then expect to need more protein than someone with a natural unprocessed head of hair. You have compromised the protein structure of your hair and depending on the strength and type of chemical process involved; you will need to adjust accordingly.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, read the ingredients list on your products. Many ‘moisturising’ conditioners nowadays contain some sort of protein which if your hair is protein sensitive can tip you off balance without you even being aware of it. The most popular are amino acids and hydrolysed vegetable proteins such as wheat and soy. Whilst they are quite light and mostly act on the surface of the hair, regular use can cause a build up effect which could lead to protein related breakage
  • Not all protein conditioners are made equal! There are different types of proteins which have different effects on the hair, check this article out for a breakdown. Use a light to medium protein for regular maintenance and a full on heavy intensive reconstructor for those emergency situations. Mixing up the two can have dire consequences. As a general guide when choosing a protein conditioner, light protein products have their protein ingredients lower down in the ingredients list and usually only use one or two types of protein which often take the form of a Silk Amino Acid or Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein. Stronger protein treatments usually use at least two types of protein which appear very early in the ingredients list (1st, 2nd or 3rd) and there will usually be an animal protein such as Keratin or Collagen kicking about somewhere.

Denman Brushes

I have a friend who is also on a healthy hair journey, whom I shall call Lady C. Lady C has been blogging vicariously through me. I’ll not hear from her for ages and then suddenly she’ll be like T, have you tried whatchyamacallit or heard of thingymybob and I’ll either be like “yawn…I’ve got five of em” or “OMG, I need that right now!” Quite often our interactions result in me finding inspiration for the blog and true to form, Lady C has struck again. Yesterday I received an email from her which basically said “It’s all about Denman brushes, you need to get a Denman brush” and I lazily replied that I had three of them. It got me thinking though, I know about them, she knows about them, but do YOU know about them?

Denman brushes are the shizzle people. I don’t care if you’ve got brillo pad hair or freshly born baby hair, these brushes are amazing. I actually stumbled upon them by accident years ago before I even knew what a deep conditioning treatment was. All I knew was that the brush made wrapping my hair easier and I’ve been using it ever since. It wasn’t until I started skulking around the hair care forums that I discovered how adored and worshiped the brushes actually are. Texlaxed heads love them, relaxed heads love them, natural heads love them, even Caucasian heads love them. They truly are the closest thing to a universal brush you’ll find.

They come in various sizes, colours and serve many functions but easily the most recognisable and widely used is the D3 brush. It’s a medium sized styling brush with 7 rows of nylon pins that glide through hair like a hot knife through butter. Other than smoothing or wrapping hair, these brushes are also great for detangling natural hair. The trick is to saturate the hair in a detangling solution first then start at the ends working your way up the hair shaft section by section. I once used this method on a cousin of mine. She’s 13 and seems to permanently speak at a whiny high pitched frequency. This pitch gets substantially higher when it’s time to detangle her hair and she complains bitterly about it. When I used my Denman brush on her, home girl shut up!! That’s how good this brush is. You can find loads of reviews and tutorials on Youtube and LongHaircareForum extolling the virtues of this brush and if you haven’t got one already, I would strongly suggest you got get it!

Dry Hair vs Wet Hair

Previously, when doing my hot oil treatments, I would first wet my hair then apply the oil. I honestly don’t know why I did it this way but it’s the way I’ve always done a hot oil. When I started ‘educating’ myself on all things hair I encountered many discussions on this issue with everybody having a differing opinion. As you can imagine this was a little confusing so I just carried on doing my own thing.

Recently, I’ve been trying to get a more scientific understanding of hair and haircare so I can really maximise the benefits of my regime. One of the things I came across is the first rule of chemistry which states that ‘like attracts like’. This really helped clear up all the confusion with my hot oil treatments and deep conditioning and I’ll explain why.

Oil is a hydrophobe, which means it hates and repels water and is attracted to other hydrophobic substances. As dry hair is naturally oily due to sebum and product buildup, the oils you apply will be attracted to the oils already on your hair. This makes application and penetration easier. If however, you wet your hair before applying oil to it, the oil and water repel each other making it more difficult for the oils to penetrate and coat the hair shaft. On the flip side, conditioners are mostly made of water so applying it to wet hair helps it penetrate and coat the hair shaft better. Anything which is attracted to water is called a hydrophile (e.g. humectants). I know people who apply their deep conditioners to dry hair but this has never worked for me and now I know why.

To summarise, it is scientifically more beneficial to apply your oils to dry hair and your conditioners to wet hair. However, you should do your own testing to see what works best for you. It’s about your hair and what it prefers.

Why Daily Moisturising is a MUST!!

One of my daily staples and something I’m quite fastidious about is moisturising and sealing my hair daily. A recent conversation with my sister helped me realise that a lot of you might not understand the full importance of this practice and why it’s vital to maintaining healthy hair and retaining growth.
Firstly, a bit of science: hair has two main layers, an external thin layer called the cuticle that protects and an inner shaft known as the cortex. The cortex is made up of protein called keratin and contains approximately 10-14% water, which is easily absorbed and lost. Water is very important as it increases the pliability of hair meaning the hair is less rigid and is able to move/bend easily (this is why dry hair breaks).
The level of moisture in hair depends on one key factor – the humidity of the air. If the air is dry, water can be lost from the hair and if the air is very humid, water will be absorbed. Other factors which affect the hair moisture level include heat treatments which can dry out hair and porosity which increases the rate at which moisture is lost and absorbed.
In short, hair will happily take in water but it cannot hold on to it very well on its own. Hair is always seeking to balance itself with its environment and will get rid of any ‘excess’ water to do so. This is especially a problem in dry, cold environments. This is where oils play a vital role.

Oils slow down water loss from the hair by forming a barrier to prevent water from escaping too quickly. Increased water retention in hair equals increased moisture. The body produces its own natural oil called sebum which does this quite well but is easily removed during washes. Thus oils do not in themselves moisturise the hair but instead act as a protective barrier to allow the hair to retain more of the moisture it absorbs externally.

As relaxed hair tends to be porous so loses moisture quickly, it is especially prone to dryness and greater care must be taken to keep it moisturised. The most natural way to get moisture into the hair would be via washing but as washing the hair every day is fairly impractical, a hair moisturiser is required to prevent dryness between washes.
The best moisturisers are water based obviously and the first ingredient in the list should be water. They should also contain humectants as these ingredients attract water from the atmosphere. Glycerine, Sodium Lactate, Propylene Glycol and Sodium PCA are popular commercial choices. Honey is also an excellent humectant but is more commonly used in conditioners. Moisturisers can contain oils but they tend to appear further down the list as the primary goal is to add moisture. Other popular ingredients include botanical extracts and hydrolysed proteins. Try to avoid moisturisers that contain mineral oil or any other petroleum based product. Mineral oil does nothing but coat the hair leaving it shiny but dry.

The moisturiser should be followed up with a ‘sealing’ oil. Any natural oil can be used but some are more superior as they also penetrate the hair shaft and help strengthen the hair. Coconut, Olive, Castor and Avocado oil are good examples. Coconut oil is especially beneficial as it protects the hair from hygral fatigue.

Moisturisers should be applied daily or as needed and only a small amount is required. I tend to section my hair into 4 parts and apply the moisturiser to each section separately then do the same with the oil. I use Phyto 7 daily hydrating cream as it’s got a fantastic combination of plant extracts and moisturises my hair without the heavy weighed down feeling. I then seal with Vatika Coconut oil or CCB.

Since incorporating this routine into my regime my hair feels moisturised longer and breakage is minimised and that my friends is the key to growing healthy hair!

A Healthy Scalp

The other day whilst washing my hair, I realised that I had neglected to talk about a really important part of my hair regime……my scalp. A clean and healthy scalp is vital for optimal hair growth and quite frankly a sane mind. I first noticed I had scalp problems when I was 16. I had done a drastic big cut and was rocking a cute pixie style but suddenly started experiencing severe dandruff. I would get great big flakes of skin in my hair and on my shoulders and no amount of washing seemed to help. At it’s worst I would wash my hair and after drying, my scalp would be a bed of dry, white skin. I tried everything from tar, sulphur and dandruff shampoos to all sorts of horrible smelling potions but nothing worked. I can tell you this, no matter how amazing your hair looks, if your scalp is jacked up you will always feel awful! For almost 10 years I continued like this with no end in sight. Then one day I decided I’d had enough!

Ignorance is most certainly not bliss people and you will be surprised what a spot of knowledge can do for you. I started researching scalp disorders; the differences between fungal dandruff, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. I learnt that adding oils and pomades to the scalp can actually make the condition worse. I discovered that some conditions are caused by an allergic reaction to certain ingredients in the products we use; for example my sister had severe scalp problems purely due to an allergic reaction to sulphate based detergents. I even read that product build-up caused by improper rinsing can mimic the appearance of dandruff (you should rinse for a solid 10 minutes!). Mostly I learnt that no-one really knows what causes the majority of scalp disorders and a lot of the treatments available are purely trial and error, but most frightening of all is that if left untreated, most scalp disorders can lead to permanent hair-loss.

Armed with a new sense of urgency and considerably more knowledge, I decided to tackle the issue directly. Firstly, I went to see a Trichologist and this really made a difference. He confirmed that I was suffering from a severe case of dandruff and not psoriasis which had been my main worry. This information helped me better decide which products and techniques I would need to use to combat my problems. I immediately increased the frequency of my washes and cut out sulphates and I honestly have to say this probably had the most impact. I introduced some serious anti-fungal ingredients into my regime such as neem oil, coconut oil and tea tree essential oil. I started drinking more water and taking cod liver and omega 3 oil supplements and lastly I stopped applying any mineral oil based products to my scalp.

My scalp has never been this good y’all. Gone are the days where I couldn’t wear black for fear of the white shoulders I’d have at the end of the day. The itchiness has decreased dramatically and I’m not scared to run my fingers through my hair or have people looking down at me from great and lofty heights. However, I can’t ever, even for one moment get tired and stop treating my scalp as there is no cure, merely prevention and management. What gets me the most though is that it took me so long to man-up and tackle the problems head-on. I think it’s because scalp problems are one of those ‘embarrassing’ problems people don’t like to talk about or deal with and to be frank there isn’t a whole lot of help freely available for sufferers. The best advice I can give is to do your research and seek professional help if necessary; you really don’t need to suffer in silence.

The Belgravia centre in Victoria offers a free consultation and for more detailed info on the function of a healthy scalp and some great tips check out this article.