Reinvent Yourself and find your Element

Good day, WordPress friends!

A few things that you might know about me because they are obvious, if you follow me on Instagramdr_vasquez_md, is that I’m not very good with the social part of media, and with the media part of social as well.

It was fun at first but then it became a chore as I started to follow certain guidelines.

I noticed that creating my posts was taking longer time & to be honest I was not in my element, this does not mean I will give up but it does pose the question why was I using Instagram in the 1st place?

I thought Instagram would boost my readership here, but it did not rarely anyone clicks on my link in bio. I tried too hard to get the perfect selfies, the product showcases and ultimately ended up neglecting my blog post content creation, which I enjoy more than taking selfies.

I then stopped using Instagram altogether because it was not fun anymore and I felt that I had no time for that and missed a few good opportunities to do collaborations with people whom I admire.

I returned to a book by Sir Ken Robinson and this book helped me to get back on track with my blogging goals, and the key point of this book is about finding your element, it’s rather difficult to explain briefly but it is good read if you need to refocus.

My Science based Hair blogging goals are to find my element and stay there and produce content there, but also to have fun while doing it.

I share with you now, my 1st attempt at reinventing myself as a blogger of sorts in a visual media format, as an experimental approach to determine what I enjoy of content creation asides from writing long wordy pieces for this WordPress blog.

I hope you like this raw edit, mixing lots of hair shots & nature to reflect the permanence of things while constantly changing at the same time.

Your essence remains the same regardless of looks, in the same way the cherry trees blossom at a specific time in Spring and they stay the same tree the whole year round.

You will blossom when the time is right and it’s never is too late to bloom.

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The Mystery of the curls

Some hair facts and why I think Curly hair specially afro hair needs more research.

Our hair strands are composed as follows:

Cuticle (outer layer)

Cortex

Medulla (innermost)

Source: Google

Let’s talk about the cuticle!

The cuticle is a chemically resistant region and consists of a flap of overlapping scales (keratinocytes) that look pretty much like shingles on the roof.

The shape and orientation of the cuticle cells are responsible for the differential friction effect in the hair,which translate on how likely the hair strands are to break, when in contact woth other surfaces for example brushes or other hair strands.

The cuticle is generally 6‚Äď8 scales thick for Asian hair, slightly less in Caucasian hair and even less in African hair. I was unable to find info on multicultural hair, but we can guess a wide spectrum.

A thinner cuticle layer makes African hair more prone to breakage, another feature unique to African hair are the multiple torsion points (because coils and kinks are smaller in size) that can result in breakage due to even simple Manipulation.

Cuticle, breakage and African hair

The apparent slower speed of growth is a source of frustration for people with African hair but the data is insufficient as to why this happens, a plausible explanation for this could be breakage; because traditionally African hair has been exposed to damaging agents such as relaxers, and physical aggressions such as tight braiding.

Even though the raw data is insufficient, in the clinical practice alopecia due to traction and chemical relaxers (lye or no lye), capillary botox, and Brazilian blowouts is common among individuals with African Hair because this hair is the most delicate of the spectrum. The cuticle protects the medulla of the hair and all these procedures require chemical bonds to break to reach the cortex and if not performed with the utmost care they can even affect the medulla which results in breakage and irreversible damage.

There is still so much to learn about curly hair and I do hope that the interest in embracing naturally curly hair provides us with a deeper understanding of our long overlooked locks from a science point of view. In the meantime I will continue to follow the development of my own multicultural hair following the one tool of the scientific method we all have available: Observation and I encourage you to do the same!

Final comments on Hair science

I started transitioning following mostly what I knew from medicine about hair and to be honest healthy hair is often overlooked. Things are changing and some information can be found in academic journals & dermatology books but mostly about scalp health. Healthy hair information is out there too, just not for people with curly hair since most studies are done on straight hair . We need information for everyone and not just a part of the population. That being said I feel things are looking good and I am very optimistic about the future of the curly hair community.

From brushed out hair for volume in June 2016 to an actual curly fro in August 2017, I think this year in hair has been OK

Draft from July 2016 (Updated September 2017)

PS. This is the last day of my one week daily blogging challenge. Let me know what you think in the comments section! Would you try a challenge like that? I found it difficult, but rewarding because I was able to complete it, despite having so many other things to do. The best tool for me was the post scheduling option, which I think I will continue to use in the future.

Anonymous no more!

Happy Sunday word press!

This draft has been sitting on my notes, for well, more than a year and the final product does not resemble the original post because a lot has changed since.

The original title was “I am not my Job”

It took a lot of encouragement from a friend outside the medical profession to get this blog started and I was adamant on keeping it private, anonymous; because this is not what “doctors do” but I am not just a doctor, I am a person.

I saw the prompt Overcome and decided to finally overcome my fear to post this opinion, that I always shared with my colleagues or classmates but being the youngest in my class by several years (advance class misfit hereūüí™) my age was always a reason to dismiss certain “radical opinions”.

I am still not ready to share my full name but I have slowly transitioned from Anonymous to Hair Lab MD to L.

I am not my job, what inspired this post was a common saying in the Curly Community “I am not my hair” and I was like well I may not be my hair but my interest is hair now, natural curly hair.

I currently have no sponsors for the next medical congress I want to attend, because being in Germany, still on my Journey to validate my medical license, I do not work at a clinic that would sponsor my trip. This congress is exclusive to Hair Research and while my areas of interest and experience are more focused towards facial rejuvenation and anti-aging, my hair Journey has influenced me to want to work from a medical profesional point of view with hair, all hair types but specially curly hair; where from my sometimes frustrating searches of peer reviewed articles, I have noticed a lack of research focused on hair types other than caucasian straight hair and that is why my medical/science blog has been stuck for so long.

Now, cosmetic chemists they are publishing but again the approach is different; still my current inspirations are cosmetic chemists and I fantasize about what would it be like to sit among kids in their late teens doing a BA in Chemistry…the results of these fantasies are always awkward interactions and an absurd generational gap, but I remind myself that age is just a number which I will continue to not reveal because I truly believe age should not matter in the professional world. Qualifications and results matter more than how old or young you are.

My question for you is shall I “crowdfund” my Hair research congress attendance by rushing a side project I started recently and that has a clear long term timeline?

My idea is simple on stage 1: spread positivity using Curly hair tees, create awareness, mix in a little science, then go a bit more academic; is it wise to change plans? My own answer is not, but 15 year old me would have said well duh! Do it what gives…

I have until September 29 to register to attend the International Hair Research Congress, but the congress is not until November, so I would think I have time to sell a few tees instead of asking for “donations” but promoting them in a way that the proceeding would finance this congress attendance fee. It would give it, to me, somehow a feeling of community and a certain emotional value. I find the idea weird, but I also like it. So here are I am asking WordPress bloggers their opinion.

I want to attend and learn from what others who are in the field are doing.

My final goal is to be able to submit an abstract for a future European Hair Research Society Congress or any of it’s sister societies focusing in understanding the biology of multicultural and afro hair and get a grant for such purpose.

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b, yes I am not my hair but rediscovering my hair has also helped me rediscover my love for medicine & research. I have found new ways to love my career through hair.

Happy Saturday WordPress!

Today I decided to wake up “early” (for a Saturday) and just post a simple blog entry.

I always want to have everything perfect so I write drafts of product reviews, science based opinions that are more like educational posts based on facts rather than opinions but nowadays it seems like everyone thinks opinions and facts are the same, so I will call them “opinion pieces” that never make the cut; mostly because I don’t want to offend anybody or cause distress.

What do you think about the above statement?

I have 3 more questions for you today in this rainy Saturday Morning.

First question: Is it the same an opinion “I think this or that” without knowledge on the subject versus a “fact based opinion” i.e. Academic papers, peer reviewed scientific articles?

Second question: How many Drafts do you have pending to publish on your WordPress editor?

Third question: Are marketing claims more important than scientific evidence?

Disclaimer: I won’t judge you, neither attack you for thinking differently. I just wanted to start publishing my drafts and this was one of them and decided to start today. I edited the draft more or less following an idea I got from another blog, but the core content remained the same.

Kindly.

L. Maria aka HairLabMD

Should I fear Parabens?

The quick answer: no

For the long answer: I quote the American Cancer Society and the summary is no too.

“Parabens are chemicals used as preservatives and as food additives. They can be found in many types of make-up (like lipstick, mascara, concealer, and foundation) and skin care products (like lotion, shaving products, and sunscreen). Parabens can be absorbed through the skin.

Intake of parabens is a possible concern because studies have shown that parabens have weak estrogen-like properties. Estrogen is a female hormone known to cause breast cells (both normal and cancerous) to grow and divide…

In 2004, a small study found traces of parabens in some samples of breast cancer tumors…there are some points about the study findings:

They looked only for the presence of parabens in breast cancer samples, it did not show that parabens caused or contributed to breast cancer development in these cases ‚Äď it only showed that they were there. What this meant is not yet clear.

…parabens have weak estrogen-like properties, the estrogens that are made in the body are many times stronger…natural estrogens (or hormone replacement) are much more likely to play a role in breast cancer development.

This study did not contain any information to help find the source of the parabens found in the breast tissue ‚Äď it’s not clear if they might have come from antiperspirants or from some other source.

Most people are exposed to parabens…studies have found some form of parabens in the urine in up to 99% of people in the US…so far, studies have not shown any direct link between parabens and any health problems, including breast cancer…many other compounds in the environment that mimic naturally produced estrogen”

A few Myths & Facts about Parabens

Myth: Parabens cause cancer.

Fact: Parabens have been extensively studied to address this claim and have been deemed safe.

Myth: Parabens are harmful to skin & hair.

Fact: Some people are allergic to parabens & fragances in cosmetics therefore those who are sensitive will have a negative reaction and should avoid them. It is important to visit your doctor if you have any skin concerns, a physician is the most qualified person to help you with your skin concerns.

Myth: Parabens are bad for the environment or “nasty” beauty.

Fact: In a study published in 2015 parabens were found in Marine life, but there seemed to be no negative effects on the study subjects. The significance of this finding is yet to be determined, and probably more studies will be conducted in the future. As of today no environmental damage can be attributed to parabens, partly because what is known about this compound is that it degrades quite fast so it does not seem to accumulate.

What is the use of parabens, anyways?

Parabens are preservatives and preservatives are important to keep our personal care products free of contamination by bacterias or other harmful agents and extend their shelf life, they are not active ingredients but more of an agent necessary to maintain the integrity of a product from it’s manufacturing process until the moment it reaches the consumer and while it is being used by said consumer, basically all of us.

Preservatives are not a bad thing, fear mongering is.

Let me know if you have any questions and if you would like to see more posts like this one in the comments section or find me on IG: The Hair Lab

Untitled too 

Flawed? Ugly? Weird? Eww yuk? Who told you that?

Society, your boss, a friend, an adversary a colleague or yourself looking at the mirror and hating what you see?
What you think becomes what you feel.
Think right feel right. Think right and you can cope, adapt and adjust regardless of the external forces against, or in your favor. Think wrong and you may become ill and you will suffer. This is not hopeful woo, this is science, neuroscience and in the same way as it took years of “hard work” for your brain to wire itself in a way that it will work against you (depression, low self esteem, personality disorders,etc) it will take hard work and professional help from a doctor, a therapist, a nutritionist, or a fitness instructor to help you improve your life and come to terms with how you look and more importantly, who you are.

Change can begin from the inside out, or from the outside in. I obviously like fitness, facial architecture & aesthetics, and now I like hair appearance and I firmly believe that if you want to improve yourself you are free to pursue it, but be mindful of the thought behind the emotion.

There is nothing wrong with using modern medicine to be better, it is not weak to get medical treatment for acne, it is not vain to get “work done”, it not arrogant to be fit and eat well; but the thought behind it, is what defines whether it is good or bad thing for you X or Y physical change.

Genetics & culture do play a role, in the perception of beauty, that is undeniable we might wish it would not be so but it is.  Do not aspire to be beautiful, you already are, aspire to be healthy.

How you look does not define you, but the world we live in judges our “look” and that is also a fact. I can’t disclose patient info but I can tell you that the medical profesion is not devoid of sociocultural biases on apperance. A female, beautiful doctor is still expected to be less competent than her fellow men, but so what? It only means she has to work harder to get respect that is all.

The only way to be happy is to be healthy.

I wish you a 2017 filled with critical thinking & good outcomes

The external circumstances might have been good or bad for you in 2016, but what really matters is how you feel & think about it and what you do with those feelings & thoughts.
Harder to accept & deal with are the outcomes of our personal choices, there are no 100% wrong decisions in this world of infinite #possibilities; only learning experiences. Finally, whether we feel we made a right or wrong choice, we can & should always take action; either to correct the perceived mistake or continue moving forward in the right direction.
Those who have had similar personal circumstances might be able to feel more empathy towards your particular case, so be mindful who you include in your personal support circle.

Do not be too harsh on yourself or others for not understanding X or Y circumstance, yet always keep an open mind to discuss important issues, be respectful and kind but do not stay silent when having factual evidence in contrast to ignorant “play & repeat” opinions. Evidence based statements should be more valuable than ignorantly powerful opinions.
In this post factual era do stick to the facts, but do not insist when the battle is lost, we do live in a post factual era after all and self preservation is key.
High emotional intelligence is a rare trait, if you have it use it positively & wisely; inform yourself to the utmost detail before making a statement on a delicate matter because others will undoubtedly be influenced by you.
Do not fall under the false illusion of transferring your emotions to others and blame the circumstances or others for your current situation of perceived failure. Give yourself credit when you do a good job. Be fair to yourself and others.
No matter what you do or what your limitations & capabilities are, always think critically
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.‚ÄĚ Jedi Master Yoda. The Empire Strikes Back.

Carrie Fisher

I have no words, but I will still make the effort to write something about this remarkable woman and creative mind.
Who is Carrie Fisher? I did not know her personally, but if you follow me on IG you know I do 2 things asides hair, I science and I Star Wars, from my science (neuroscience) point of view she is the prime example of SURVIVAL. Carrie Fisher played princess Leia and General Organa in the Star Wars franchise, but she was much more grand than that.

3 words defined Carrie for me: RESILIENCE, COURAGE & HOPE.

She had a disease called bipolar disorder, which justified her behaviors in her early carreer & she struggled & talked openly about it as an advocate for Mental health and kept working.
People complained about her looks bla bla bla but taking certain medications may affect the way people look & her looks were beside the point anyways.

She made a career later on, after the original trilogy not based on looks but on hard work, harder than most, and she proved that she could be successful despite and because of her disadvantages (gender, mental health,etc) She was great until the last day. I highly recommend watching her interview with Steven Fry (he also has bipolar disorder and made a film about it, I disagree with leaving illness untreated but it was a good film) and also watch the red carpet interviews of the london premiere of The Force Awakens she was THE BEST! She will be missed but never forgotten by so many of us for so many reasons. I will remember her for her Courage to be herself and be a positive role model to anyone with Mood Disorders, the correct term, that you can you should try to live.

A note on Mental Health

The only people qualified to treat Mood Disorders are Doctors.

Not all my patients, had mood disorders but as a Doctor with a Neuroscience background I can treat mood disorders & anxiety on a basic level. I am not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but I collaborated with them my scope of treatment of Mood Disorders is limited to mild to moderate cases of depression, but what all Mood disorders have in common is the sense of guilt and illness shaming.
I know the biology of depression,due to my background as a scientific communicator and physician; it is an illness where you can see in the brain a down regulation of serotonin receptors and many more things just like you can see blood when you cut your finger but the skin can be seen with the Naked eye and the brain can not.

I worked with a team that assessed the safety profile of an antidepressant drug some time ago and as it was obvious that I needed to know everything brain, to be able to communicate more effectively that was what got me hooked on neuroscience and guided my future academic interests.
My point is that having depression or Bipolar disorder nowadays and talking about it  is like saying you have the bubonic pest, but Carrie used her personal experience, influence and courage to talk about it for everyone who could be afraid to loose their family, livelihood or job for suffering from it. I once read on an interview that she hoped she could have romantic relationships, I will need to fact check this but it does sound like her alright and it made me feel a bit sad for her and reflect upon the need to do more to educate society about Mood Disorders in General.

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“Depression bipolar or not is a biological illness, it is an illness of an organ that happens to control the rest of the body” I said that.

Most people decide to call mental illness crazy or laziness. Family and friends sometimes are the most unhelpful, because of their poor¬†attempts to “help” (out of ignorance) they either treat them (the patients) like less or blame them for their illness… and at work? don’t get me started about work place abuse and stigma.

About Mood Disorders in the clinical practice: My experience as a Physician

In¬†my country, as a physician you don’t have to disclose in paper always any¬†diagnosis; but what many employers do (unlawfully) is that they ask their workers to tell them, so I always made sure to educate all my patients to disclose symptoms instead of a diagnosis such as changes in bodily function instead of saying they have depression or anxiety. I usually¬†referred my patients after the initial diagnosis and follow up because I ¬†worked as a visiting physician only for a few months 2-3 and I could not¬†do the long term follow up required for managing the brain biochemical imbalances that psychiatrists could, but I also know that more often than not those referrals were not followed up, by my patients because “if you visit a psichiatist you must be crazy right?” another stigma. One patient once told me that Neuroscience sounded better than psychiatry so he would not go see a crazy doctor and he might have been on to something there. The stigma in the society is a problem.
One Mentor gave me that advice (to protect mental health issues diagnosis from employers) when I was a med student, I enquired if it would not be deliberately lying about a diagnosis and she said “it is not lying, if it is the truth” and more often than not depression comes with visible physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal disorders. I only understood why the secrecy was important until years later while sitting in my office with a mother crying because she was afraid that if she took the meds her boss would find out and fire her.

A powerful Carrie Fisher Quote

“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.
They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.‚ÄĚ
Carrie Fisher

If you need help understanding mental health awareness, do not hesitate to contact me on my IG:Dr_vasquez_MD

May the Force be with you.

Rest in Peace Carrie Fisherimage

Special ingredients! What are they? Should you care?

“New hydrating ultra moisture honey, olive, coconut, argan Madness Shampoo and Conditioner”

Gosh I would love to try a product made out of those 4 ingredients exclusively, if you know about it please let me know.

Shampoos and conditioners have all sorts of chemical components (yes, all natural brands are also created using chemistry) that make or break a product, but what really matters is the base ingredients, how they mix together, the molecule size, how big or small an ingredient is can determine how it will be absorbed in the scalp and hair shaft and off course the pH, a pH balanced shampoo is so much better for the hair than a natural alkaline “cleansing agent”.

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Source: Google Scholar

Special ingredients are what each cosmetic product has as a unique individual characteristic, and also a powerful marketing tool.  They can improve the quality of the product to another level; but they can also increase the price either because they are rare ingredients, they are costly to produce or because it is a hype and it sells well.

How to invest wisely? How to know the difference, quality vs hype? The simple answer is with science.

The base of every product is more or less the same, so once you have found a mix of base ingredients that work for you usually ( for simplicity lets say the first 5 ingredients) you can look for add on special ingredients.

Lets try it with shampoo, because we have this great info-graphic available. If we have a good base of detergent, conditioners, sequestering agents and thickeners we are highly likely to get good results regardless of it having or not the most precious golden oil from a beautiful country, off course if its a good product and has the special additive it will be an even better product.

A good add on special ingredient, with a good base will certainly increase the quality of the product, and is worth the price tag; but a good add on with a bad base means money wasted in developing the product and by the final consumer.

A good base for curly hair in terms of shampoo has only 1 detergent if you see 2 types of deep cleaning agents in a “moisturising shampoo” do not buy it, it will dry the hair out and eventually will make you believe that all shampoo is bad for curly hair when the problem was a bad mix. ¬†Always use pH balanced shampoos, any shampoo with a pH above 5,5 will highly likely irritate and dry out the scalp. I am aware we can not check the pH of products on the hair care aisle but some state it in the label and we have no choice but to believe.

Special ingredients should be high on the list if the product claims to be made exclusively or mainly out of that ingredient, but if the product only states that it contains the ingredient and you like the first ingredients lets say 5-10 and then see a special additive you would like to try that is also fine.

The idea is to shop wisely and to not fall for misconceptions or marketing tactics either in favour or against certain products.

What_Is_Argan_Oil

My favourite Special ingredient: Argan oil  Source: pinterest

 

Prisma, AI for the People

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Photo Credit: The Hair Lab

 

 

Prisma is a russian app created by Russian developer Alexei Moiseyenkov released last month that uses neural networks and artificial intelligence ¬†(as other applications before it) to create “paintings” from your pictures. What makes it different, and maybe the reason for its popularity, is that it mixes well with current social media instant usage because it is remarkably faster than its earlier more customizable counterparts, which I also like very much and will write about soon.

How to use Prisma:

Basically take any of your iPhone pictures, choose your “filter” wait a few seconds and you get you AI customized photo painting. It has a set amount of filters from which your photo will be repainted, not just a filter on top but a new creation. So far the tech community and selfie instausers are equally excited. The app for android will be launched this month.

Some critics say it distances people from art, but I think I gives art to the people with the help of science.