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Dear Sis ❤️

Love Notes to Textured-Haired Gals Over 40

Vegan Hair Products: Healthy Or Hype?

February 18, 2021

Exciting news! 

Was honored to write this week's article for Shine My Crown, a fabulous digital platform that aims to represent the Black and Brown Girl experience, worldwide! Check it out at shinemycrown.com!

The Truth About 

That Curl Type Chart

February 11, 2021

Many believe the curl type (or hair type) chart should help to make product selections easy. All we have to do is compare our hair’s natural curl pattern to the illustrations, note the corresponding code (4c, 3a, etc.) and then find the shampoos, conditioners and finishing products specifically designed for it. Pretty simple, right?   


Nope. 😑 Decoding your curl type in order to identify which products work best for you can be a confusing, frustrating and expensive process.


What if you have more than one natural curl pattern or if your hair is transitioning out of a relaxer? What if it’s prone to dryness or suffers from breakage? How would you navigate the curl type chart then? 


And how many products did you have to buy, only to find out most didn't work? Raise your hand if you've had a massive collection of useless products underneath your bathroom sink that rivals those at a beauty supply store!  Oh! 🙋🏻‍♀️ Me! 🙋🏽‍♀️ Pick me! 🙋🏾‍♀️


The Hair Typing System (the original name for the curl type chart) was created by the great André Walker, Oprah Winfrey’s former hairstylist, in the 1990’s. It garnered enormous popularity, due to Oprah’s fabulous fame and in this case, her indirect endorsement power. The system remains widely favored today but unfortunately, is held to a scientific standard it was never designed to meet.


The truth is, Mr. Walker designed the system solely to market his own line of curly hair products; nothing more. It will never bring you any closer to completely knowing your hair or knowing which maintenance or treatment products work best because it does not account for varying textures, curl diameter, levels of porosity, varied degrees of strand strength, damage or scalp condition, just to name a few differences. 


Textured hair is extremely nuanced; no two heads of hair are alike. This also explains why two people who seemingly have identical curl patterns can use the same products, but see vastly different results.  In most cases, the system is more trouble than it’s worth. 


Please don't get me wrong, sis.  I do not propose you do away with the curl type chart altogether. In some situations, it might prove helpful when searching for finishing products to add definition and shine, without excess weight. 


For example, in today's hair care market, cosmetics companies will often describe a leave-in conditioner’s intended use by noting the corresponding curl type code/s on its product label.  This might help to eliminate some of the guesswork when trying to figure out if it might be too heavy for your hair.


The chart might also serve well during meaningful and respectful conversations about hair types. We no longer need to defer to antiquated, divisive language like “good”, “bad”, “straight” or “nappy” to describe our crowns. Curl type codes are descriptive, which lends to an inclusion of all natural textures.


My hope is we spend less time subscribing to a hollow theory that incorrectly ranks curl pattern above all else.  Instead, we shift our attention to identifying our hair's specific needs, so we may address them properly. I think our hair deserves that. ❤️


📷: shutterstock

Wait!  You Said Alcohol Was Bad For My Hair!

January 28, 2021

If you’ve struggled with dry or damaged hair, chances are you received a common bit of advice: Avoid products that contain alcohol because they will dehydrate your hair and cause more harm. Yes, girl...I know! 😱


The advice seemed logical because textured hair is inherently prone to dryness.  Its oils can’t coat hair strands easily because the unique crimps and curves that form curl patterns tend to slow down the oil’s travel. The last thing our hair would need was anything that could exacerbate this, so alcohol was out. 


For years, I led the charge on keeping women away from products formulated with alcohol. I vehemently warned my clients, family, friends (just about anyone with a pulse) about the perils...and for years, believed my efforts were successful. I was on a crusade to save my sisters from worldwide alcohol domination...until the day I attended a product development course on cosmetics. And what I learned knocked me clear off of my soap box!


I was shocked to find out alcohol was not the enemy and the claim it wreaks havoc on our tresses isn’t entirely true. In fact, when used properly, some alcohol-based products aren’t harmful at all and others actually benefit the hair. 🤯


There are two general types of alcohols: SHORT CHAIN and FATTY.


SHORT CHAIN alcohols (common names: Ethanol, Alcohol Denat, Isopropyl, Benzyl, Propanol, SD Alcohol and SD) are the culprits for the bad reputation. These are very small alcohols with a tiny carbon content and low molecular weight, so they are used in products that are designed to dry rapidly in the hair (like holding spray and most gels) because they are highly solvent and evaporate quickly.


Short chain alcohols are miscible with water. They ensure the ingredients that are not easily dissolved with water (like polymers and additives) don’t over power a product. They allow product to spread easily and evenly, which eliminates excess weight and build-up on the hair.


For example, when we want to create definition, but maintain movement and bounce in our hair, light-hold hair sprays (most are made with short chain alcohols) will get the job done because short chain alcohols are responsible for making sure the other ingredients don’t make our hair too stiff, sticky or heavy.


We shouldn’t avoid short chain alcohols altogether because under the right circumstances, they serve us well.  Just keep in mind, when they are heavily applied or used too often, they might strip the hair of it’s essential oils, leaving it dry, brittle and frizzy, hence the common belief they were damaging to our hair. So, the key is to use them sparingly. 👍


FATTY or long chain alcohols (common names Cetyl, Cetearyl, Lauryl, Stearyl, and Oleyl) are considered “the good guys” in hair care. They have a high carbon content and are derived from natural resources like coconut and palm oil. This makes them emollient and completely opposite in nature to their fast-drying, short-chain cousins.


Due to their hydrating and lubricious nature, fatty alcohols are protective. They are too big to penetrate the hair, so instead they absorb moisture and trap it to seal damaged cuticles. Hair is left soft, smooth, frizz-free and does not dry out.


Fatty alcohols are used to make creams smooth, lotions thick and foams stable. You know that wonderful “slip” we enjoy when we detangle our hair with conditioner? Thank fatty alcohols! They give our hair that fabulous glide and gloss!


The class was a real eye-opener for me and although it was many years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. I learned alcohols are not public enemy and we shouldn’t feel compelled to worry about destroying our hair when we notice them on product labels. Having a better understanding of how they work will help us to make better choices and that’s most important. ❤️


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go dust off that soap box. Just in case! 😉 


                                                                                                        📸: shutterstock

Sis, Did You Know?

Gray Hair Needs Sunscreen!

January 21, 2021

During childhood (when I was old enough to "ear-hustle" grown folks' conversations), “Black Don’t Crack” was a term I'd hear constantly: "Wow! She looks great for her age, but then again, black don't crack!" LOL


At the time, I didn’t fully understand what it meant, but whenever I'd hear it, I knew it was a good thing; the valiance that would emanate from anyone who'd say it was obvious and endearing! It never went unnoticed.


This was the 1970’s, when despite racism’s fury, black people were becoming more comfortable with the skin they were in. I’d watch them enjoy tunes like James Brown’s “Say It Loud - I’m Black And I’m Proud” and would observe how they'd proudly respond to images of prominent black and brown trail blazers in books, on magazine covers, TV and film. It was then when I learned what melanin was and why it was responsible for black not cracking. It would be decades later when I became a hairdresser and studied Trichology (the science of human hair), when I’d understand melanin’s power in hair care.


Melanin is nature’s sunscreen. It is a protective pigment that helps the skin, eyes and hair appear darker. It also blocks the harmful UV rays and free radicals that damage them.


As we age, the production of melanin slows down. When hair stops producing melanin, it turns gray...and without this protection, gray hair can become weak, dry, brittle, frizzy, wiry, dull and prone to split ends. So, just like our skin and eyes, we need to protect our gray hair from the sun.


Major cosmetics companies like Alterna offer products formulated with sunscreen that provide effective veils of protection for hair that has lost some or all of its melanin. Options are available in light-weight, non-greasy, spray-on formulas that make application easy and help to improve overall hair health. Gray hair becomes soft, smooth and more manageable...a huge win for the silver foxes!


I think a new slogan might be in order! Any suggestions? 😄


                                                                                                                📸:@thetennillelife_​

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