There are many misconceptions about hair and its care. Once one knows the truth, the solution for hair challenges becomes logical, not a hidden secret to be discovered.
The most widely held misconception concerning hair is that is alive, and, therefore, its condition can be ‘permanently’ altered by using some newly discovered commercial potion. The truth is that hair is only living matter at its base below the surface of the scalp. Like the tip of one’s finger nail, hair is dead matter, and can be clipped shorter and discarded. This fact alone brings us to two important conclusions about how one may maintain stronger, healthier looking, shiny hair.
We must be concerned with preventative maintenance by creating a healthy environment below the surface of the scalp, where hair is germinated or born. Since hair in its basic form is 100% keratin (protein), our diets should consist of a good balance of easily digested protein, i.e. – dairy products, poultry and meat. For those of us who are vegans, good protein alternatives are nuts, beans and the old stand-by – peanut butter. I suspect that with the popular emergence of low-carbohydrate/high-protein diets, we in turn will begin to see more heads of hair with less frizzies and easily split ends.
Now, how do we ensure this quality protein gets to the living roots of our hair? Just as we stimulate quality muscle growth through exercising and bringing protein-laden blood to specific body parts, we can do the same for our hair. This is easily achieved by simply massaging your scalp, once a day, while you shampoo and condition your hair. You’ll not only have cleaner and more thoroughly conditioned hair, but you will have stimulated protein-supplying blood to feed the germinating roots of your hair. Be careful to use only the pads of your fingers in small circular motions as you gently massage your scalp. Never use your fingernails for this purpose as you can cause abrasions to your scalp that could lead to infection and possible skin disorders.
Since the hair we visually see above the surface of the scalp is essentially dead matter, how can we repair it from external environmental and/or chemical damage? First, we must realize that any product remedy we might add to our hair is always a temporary fix, no matter how good it is at initially solving certain hair challenges. Any product that is effective at controlling frizzies must be used periodically to continue to be effective. Some haircare products work for longer periods between uses, while others must be used every day to overcome challenges like split-ends.
This brings us to several fallacies concerning the shampoo and conditioning of hair. One of which is that a shampoo alone can increase the overall health of the hair. Shampoo, no matter what exotic or expensive ingredients are added to it, is designed to perform one single task – to cleanse the hair of excessive sebum (natural oils), body sweat and environmental impurities. It is a scientific contradiction that cleansing the hair alone will keep it healthy, once you have stripped it of all of its natural protective properties, like sebum. The longer your hair is, the less the chance is that these natural hair oils will reach the mid-shaft to ends of your hair with daily shampooing. This leaves the older and more vulnerable sections of the hairshaft exposed to further damage from heated styling appliances and chemical processes, such coloring or permanent waving.
Therefore, the mid-shaft to ends of your hair do not need the same intense daily cleansing as the first few inches of hair closest to the scalp. The remedy is very simple – as you gently massage your scalp while shampooing, only apply and focus your shampoo within the first 2 – 3 inches of hair closest to your scalp. When you rinse the shampoo from this base section of the hair it will quickly pass though the mid-shaft to ends of your hair, thus providing these areas with the lighter cleansing they require.
Many people have the misconception that daily conditioning (protection) of their hair will cause flatness or added weight. This challenge is easily resolved by, first, knowing how to physically condition the hair and, second, by understanding the different intended uses of the main 3 types of conditioners, i.e. – rinses, daily and deep conditioners.
Daily conditioning (protecting) any type of hair, from thin & fine to thick & frizzy, is basically the same. It is simply the reverse concept of shampooing hair as discussed above – considering that throughout the course of the day the first 3 inches of hair closest to the scalp will receive an adequate supply of naturally-occurring hair oil (sebum). Therefore, if you condition this area with a crème rinse or daily conditioner it can become over-conditioned, heavy & less manageable. The solution is to apply your conditioner from the mid-shaft (3 inches from scalp) of the hair to the ends. Then using a wide-toothed comb and holding onto the ends of your hair, gently comb the conditioner from mid-shaft to ends for even distribution, detangling and sealing split ends. By the time you finish doing this, the conditioner will have remained within your hair for the appropriate 3 to 5 minutes to be effective in temporarily repairing any damaged or frizzy areas.
The concept for applying deep conditioners is the same as above, however, the time the conditioner is left within the hair must be extended up to 20 minutes to allow penetration into the inner (cortical) layer of the hairshaft – only 10 minutes if your wrap your hair in a moist, hot towel. Deep conditioning should be done sparingly – once per week for most hair types. Deep conditioning the hair more than this is could cause the opposite intended effect. If you over-use a protein-based deep conditioner to strengthen and add body, it could cause the hair to become dry and brittle. If you over-use a moisturizing or oil-based deep conditioner, it could cause your hair to become limp and lifeless.
Notes about detangling hair and hair loss:
Many people are misinformed that it is safer to detangle the hair while it is dry. One must understand that the hair can stretch up to 50% of its length while wet without breakage, however, while dry, hair will break before it stretches 25% of its length. It is best to keep a wide-toothed comb within your shower to detangle & seal split-ends, as described above, while using a low pH (3.5 to 5.5 acidic) crème rinse or daily conditioner.
On the subject of misperceived hair loss – many people turn fearful upon seeing their hairbrush & shower drain filled with an inordinate amount of their hair. I wish to relieve some of this fear by stating the fact that each strand of hair has a lifespan of 2 to 7 years before a new hair begins to grow in its place, pushing it out to end up in one’s brush or shower drain. This means everyone sheds 50 to 80 hairs from their head everyday. If one has longer hair it may give the false appearance that they a shedding more hair daily than the average amount. One should only be concerned if the hair being shed daily is not being replaced by new hair growth, however, this is the subject of a future article.