Hair Loss FYI Pt. 1: Telogen Effluvium

First, I’d like to wish all of you a happy fall….into winter. If you’re in Texas, I’ll wish you a happy remainder of summer and winter twice a week! I’ve decided to start an informational blog series on hair loss which is major concern for many people of varying genders, ages and ethnicities. Because there are so many different causes of hair loss, I figured I’d take this little by little so as not to be overwhelming.

Photo courtesy of hairlosstreatment.com

I’ll start with a common hair loss issue, telogen effluvium.

Before I begin, it is extremely important to know that hair shedding is a normal event for all humans and the telogen phase is a normal part of the hair’s life cycle.

Telogen effluvium is when a large number of hair follicles go into the resting phase simultaneously. There are three types of telogen effluvium with the most common being the result of unusual stress that the body has gone through. Telogen effluvium can often be experienced by individuals who have crash dieted, undergone weight loss surgery, or gone through some other event that has caused their body stress like illness. Although not exactly sudden, the individual may notice that their hair is thinning a couple of months after the event while grooming their hair (washing, blow drying, combing, etc).

The good news is that telogen effluvium does not affect the follicles and the condition will eventually reverse itself once the stressor is removed.

Another form of telogen effluvium is when the hair follicles don’t remain in the resting phase but the cyclical growth phase is so short that the individual will see shedding and the hairs that are shed will be shorter than usual (indicating an interrupted growth cycle).

A last form of telogen effluvium occurs more slowly and is characterized by follicles that enter into the resting phase in a standard manner but not re-enter the growth phase for an extended period of time. Therefore, although the individual may not notice constant shedding as in the stress-induced type, but thinning.

Causes

There are several causes of telogen effluvium. Besides the dietary deficiencies I mentioned earlier, life events like delivering a baby (post-partum shedding), trauma, and medications (both oral and intravenous) can cause the hair to go into the telogen phase. One possible offender that some may not realize is exposure to toxic chemicals. Even chronic conditions can trigger this (often disheartening) event.

Cures

I am commonly asked what can be done about this type of telogen effluvium. In general, the way to treat telogen effluvium is to treat the cause. Be patient and allow the body to return to its equilibrium by removing the offending stressor. For example, if crash dieting is the cause, a healthier diet that integrates more iron and other vitamins and minerals will help end telogen effluvium. If you recently gave birth, the hormonal shift will eventually return to its normal status and the hair should start to re-enter the growth phase. If medication is the culprit, get with your healthcare provider to seek options that do not have the same side effects.

If you cannot determine the cause of your hair loss, see a doctor (usually a dermatologist) and see if they can point to a cause. If they can’t, they may be able to prescribe something that can at stimulate hair growth however if the underlying cause is not removed, you’ll likely need to continue with the prescription in order to prevent the problem from recurring.

Next time, I’ll be blogging about anagen effluvium.

Until then, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

 

*Photo courtesy of hairlosstreatment.com

 

What’s Your Motivation?

A couple of weeks ago, I read a blog post in which the writer asserted her opinion that a weave is not a protective style. That article is here. 

At one point, the writer makes a comment about the motives behind regularly wearing weaves as a protective style and it made me think (or rather continue thinking) about why people do the things they do. This blog is going to be very short and could probably be described as non-committal considering the article that sparked this blog. However, the purpose of it is to make people think further about their own stance in reference to their hair.

motivation

People argue back and forth about natural hair, “going natural,” choosing to relax or texturize, protective styling, weaves, wigs, “heat training,” flat ironing,  and everything in between. At the end of the day, I feel that it’s important that everyone ask themselves: “what’s my motivation?”

Why are you returning to your natural hair? Why are are choosing to relax? Why are you “heat training?” Why are you choosing to grow locs? Is it concern for your hair health? Is it beauty? Is it to fit-in? Is it to stop getting grief from one side or the other? Is it to “stick it” to one side or the other? These are rhetorical questions, of course. These are questions to ask yourself as you walk along your hair journey (or really any journey in your life).

I call it “the why behind the why.” I’ve found surface reasons for our choices are rarely our deeper motivations. I’ve moved away from “because I want to” because I’ve realized that’s often only the first part of the sentence. For example, one could argue that the writer of the aforementioned article has a valid point. Why return to natural only to cover it up with things that mimic their former straightened look? After all, there are protective styles that can be done with one’s own hair. On the other hand, there are many valid considerations for using weaves or wigs as protective styles like time, convenience, skill, variety, etc. Everyone is entitled to their own reasons.

All too often, I speak to individuals who are not seeing the hair progress they desire and are upset about it. Once the discussion deepens, it becomes clear that they never really wanted to return to their natural hair in the first place and their problems are a direct result of the fact that they are doing something that they never really wanted to do. It was a novel idea to which they weren’t wholeheartedly ready to commit. Keep in mind, I realize that this does not describe all naturals; not even a portion great enough to generalize.

I think most of us can agree that when we undertake something that we really don’t want to do, we don’t get the best results from it. This is usually because our attitude about it isn’t right and that affects everything we do….or don’t do to reach the goal we never wanted in the first place. Eventually, we either give up or continue in ambivalence but can never really get any joy out of the process even if we reach the goal.

Checking our motivations can also keep us from prematurely giving up on our journeys towards whatever it is we want in life. What you really want to do, you’ll work towards making happen.

So, no matter what you choose to do with your hair, make sure it’s really your choice. Figure out what you want out of your hair journey, set that goal and use what motivates you to commit to that goal every single day.

 

Until next time,…

Protein: Short and Sweet

200908311113035246My hair is protein sensitive. While I occasionally use a protein treatment (about every 12 weeks), I have to be very conscientious about what type it is, how long to leave it on, and immediate aftercare. Many times, people will use protein when they are experiencing serious hair troubles (ie. breakage). When I use protein, I use it because of the stress of my active lifestyle (daily workouts, chlorine exposure, and the styling demands of travel).

Although many people decry the use of any type of protein treatment for natural hair, the truth is that our hair, a protein itself, needs the reinforcement of other proteins. The key is the aftercare of the hair once a protein treatment has been applied.

Protein is a fortifier; that is, it is used to make the hair stronger. On my hair, after a protein treatment, I notice significantly more shrinkage and dryness (in the minutes following the treatment) and combing through it, even with fingers or a wide-tooth comb is not really feasible. The antidote is….MOISTURE! I follow with a moisturizing deep conditioner and use Cute & Kinky Hair Moisturizer for styling.

In order to get positive results from protein treatments, the proper ratio or balance of moisture must be present. After using a stronger protein treatment, you must redeposit moisture into your locks or you will not get the results you want and may even end up with more breakage than you had before the treatment.

Types of Protein

The type of protein you use in your hair depends on what your purpose. Here’s a quick general guideline:

Wheat protein is known for strengthening and helping to retain moisture. I have found that my hair is less crunchy after using a treatment that is based on wheat protein. Although wheat is known for helping to retain moisture, you do not want to neglect moisturizing the hair after using it.

Plant-based proteins (ie. soy) are also known for their moisture-enhancing properties.
The product I have used that includes both of these ingredients (wheat protein and plant polysaccharides) is Elucence Extended Moisture Repair Treatment.

Keratin protein is probably the most popular when it comes to protein hair treatments. It is known for strengthening to the point where some treatments advise its use only by professionals. However, there are plenty of keratin-based protein treatments that one can use at home. I prefer Spiral Solutions Repairing Protein Treatment because it has a mix of both keratin and plant-based proteins that allows me to avoid the dryness and crunchiness that protein treatments that use only keratin temporarily cause me immediately after rinsing.

Silk protein is often used for softening. I have never knowingly used it and cannot attest to the results.

Collagen protein, common in anti-aging skin cosmetics, is known for its ability to increase elasticity.

As a bonus, I recommend that the proteins in your treatment be hydrolyzed. This allows them to better penetrate the hair and therefore more efficiently achieve their purpose.

Moderation Is Key

I started this entry off saying that my hair is protein sensitive and it is. However, this does not mean that my hair cannot benefit from occasional protein treatments. Many times, naturals will use protein-sensitive strands to avoid protein altogether. The problem is that your hair will eventually need protein. A protein treatment every 8-12 weeks, followed by a moisture-infusing regimen, will not hurt you. However, a protein treatment every day or week, I do not recommend.

Final Thoughts

Several blogs back, I talked about diet and getting enough protein in the diet. That affects your hair so if you find that regardless of how solid your regimen is and that even protein treatments/protein conditioners are not helping your hair, you may want to introduce more protein into your diet.

*Photo of protein sequence by Markus Buehler from Massachusetts Institute of Technology found at http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/atomistic-tt1107.html

What’s It All Worth? Price v. Value

The desire to return to natural, like most things, has become big business. Something that, for most of us, has a deep-rooted personal meaning and even philosophical implications is now being marketed and even companies that previously showed no interest in ethnic hair are packaging new brands to claim their share of the market.

Oftentimes, I hear naturals comment on the fact that many of the leading brands of natural hair products are very costly. When going through the testing phase to see what works best for your hair and your hair goals, it may not be feasible to spend $25, $30, and more; especially when many brands are indistinguishable in terms of their ingredient profile and  include the same ineffective ingredients that ethnic hair products have included for decades.

This week’s blog has to do with being a value-conscious consumer while shopping for your hair care needs. To start, I want to make some delineations. Price, has to do with the cost of an item. At a “dollar store”, the price of the items is $1. There are many situations in which price, for any given item, is key for consumers. Value, on the other hand, has to do with the benefits of an item in relation to the price paid. The easiest way to illustrate this is to use a food analogy.

The price of a meal for one at an average fast food place is about $7. The price of the ingredients needed to make a homemade grilled chicken salad is about $20 (chicken breasts, lettuce, tomatoes, low-fat cheese, and any other assortment of vegetables) and could be more. At first glance, the fast food meal is the better option. At only $7, you can eat, get full and it tastes good as well; but it will only feed you once and isn’t the healthiest option. However, the $20+ for the salad ingredients can feed you for several meals, has a stronger vitamin and mineral profile, and won’t leave you with the debilitating “itis,”

While the fast food has a more attractive price point at first glance, the salad offers more value because of the benefits it offers.The nourishment that you receive from the salad is worth the $20+ price point.

So should it be with your choice of hair care products. You must remember that these choices are not just about looking nice in public. This is about the health of your hair and your body overall, as we know that our cosmetic products are penetrative.  It is much more beneficial to take a value-conscious stance when deciding and purchasing what works for you.

“But, Kristen. All I have is $20 to spend on my hair care regimen!” What I suggest is that you get the best products you can get for $20. No matter how much money you have, you don’t have to settle for cheap (in terms of quality) products just because of a limited budget. You can have healthy hair without going broke.

Until next week, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

 

 

 

Don’t Sweat It: How To Maintain Hair Health While Working Out

Exercise is inarguably one of the best things you can do for yourself. As I mentioned in last week’s post, exercise helps transport blood, oxygen and nutrients all over your body. These are all things that you need to live a healthy life…and maintain a healthy head of hair.

However, when we exercise at a certain level, we begin to sweat (which, BTW, is good for us). Have you ever noticed that after a strong sweat session, your hair may feel and look a lifeless or your style just isn’t holding up as well (for me, my twists get fuzzy)? This is likely because sweat leaves a film of salt on our hair and scalp that can clog pores, zaps the hair’s moisture and negatively affect our hair’s health if not attended to properly and regularly.

We realize that the feasibility of shampooing our hair every day is low and this is especially so if you are exercising every day (or even every other day). Further, for us kinky-curly types, a daily shampoo isn’t the best thing for our hair. Therefore, you should, at the least, make an effort to rinse the scalp with lukewarm water while you are in the shower. Doing this helps remove the salt deposits and restore some equilibrium to the hair and scalp. Although this may seem like a chore, I have found that wearing a low maintenance style like twists makes this task easier because it allows me to keep my hair in sections and prevents me from having to do the work of a marathon post-wash detangling session.

After washing, make sure to thoroughly moisturize your hair. Not only does the sweat zap the moisture out of your hair, but after rinsing the scalp, you want to replenish and seal in moisture that may have been lost.

As a general rule, I recommend making sure that hair gets a thorough wash (as opposed to a rinse), each week because even if you are not exercising, your body produces sweat every day all over your body. A Cute & Kinky shampoo is coming but until then, make sure the shampoo you use is strong enough to cleanse, but not so strong that it strips your hair.

Above all, never neglect the gift of movement in favor of stylish locks. As long as you know how to manage your locks while undertaking an exercise regime, you will be a cute and kinky masterpiece at all times.

Until next week, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.