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 6–8 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.

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Relaxing at night unplugged(ish)

Disclaimer: I scheduled this post for 7:00am, it is near 11:00pm now and I figured I do want and need to sleep a little longer, so no early morning workout and no blog post in real time.

Yesterday’s post was full of typos and mistakes that I haven’t fully corrected yet. I was tired when I wrote it upon waking up. I kept it short and shared a photo of products I like and this started a small conversation in the comments section that I enjoyed…all this to say I used a Shampoo because I remembered it and yes I am also very sleepy right now, yikes! 7:30 am update, I was so tired last night that it got scheduled for 1:00am instead of 7:00, surely I must have been very tired indeed.

… 10:36pm

Tonight I kept it simple no Instagram, just a wash night for me with no worries about the outcome.

I found myself enjoying a very relaxing time, I felt all my day tiredness just melt away as I cleansed my hair with no selfie or intastory present in my mind. No prepoo, no deep condition. No extras, minimal effort maximum relaxation.

I added a few drops of essential oils just for fun, inspired by my fave Conditioner, to the Low Shampoo of the Boucleme line I posted yesterday, mixed them in a bowl and diluted with a little water to make washing easier and it felt really nice.

I followed with Giovanni tea tree triple treat rinsed it out and then reapplied as a leave in because it is so light weight that it can be used like that. I followed with Mielle organics gel, it is almost empty and while it’s not the absolute best in performance, however very good, just is the wonderful happy smell that makes me pick it up even if I have “better” choices.

I wanted to air dry, but this rarely works for me. Ended with a flat top and decided to diffuse some and finish drying overnight with my hair on a high bun wrapped in a satin scarf.

I still wanted to document this new wash day and since I needed a blog post for tomorrow I did it today and used the tools that WordPress gives us to make life easier.

These 3 essential oils are always in my aroma diffuser, it was funny to feel myself life a human diffuser when I was using the hair dryer.

Do you like essential oils and if so how do you use them?

Early bird blogging…not so easy

Good morning and I need coffee, normally I would use a vacuum but today it will be the french press. This challenge is exhausting, I won’t workout today, but I blogged or at least tried to.

In the spirit of Product Junkie Club I present you with my favorite gel & conditioner combo of the last few months

Want to know more about these products let me know in the comments section! Or my InstagramThe Hair Lab !

Have a happy and productive day.

Cheers,

Dr. L. aka HairLabMD

Early Morning Challenges are well Challenging

I am trying to get back into the habit of wake up early, do things, workout, be productive.

I am quite tired and I’ve only been at it less than a week.

The challenge includes daily blogging. To be honest it’s just too early for me to write a full blog post, or edit drafts (my original intent) so instead I share a #transformationtuesday photo I posted yesterday on Instagram

Well that’s it, Good Morning Europe and I need coffee…would it be acceptable if I also blogged about coffee here?

Back to curls, I hope this motivates you to believe that your curls are magical and that can come back if you just treat them with love.

Cheers,

Dr. L

The shock prevented me from getting angry.

Picture this a nice restaurant, at dinner time, a full house, a party of 6 having enjoyed a wonderful meal and as we are satisfied with our food we are happily drinking coffee and having a generally nice conversation about Japanese culture, traveling in Asia and sharing pictures of lovely puppies a pair of adorable Chihuahuas.

Then silence ensues, the unthinkable has happened. Someone pulled one of my locks of hair.

I was unaware of the fact at first but a pulling sensation made me turn around and as I do so I see the smiling face of a waitress with a handful of dirty dishes quickly drifting away from our now silent table.

The shock at the realization of what had just happened prevented me from getting angry: sanitary regulations had been broken, a food handler was manipulating aloe vera covered hair! How can this be? This is a restaurant sanitation must be respected! The rules must be observed. Meanwhile my husband was getting very very pale, I never expected he could be paler but he could. He expected rage, indignation or something terrible unleashed towards the waitress. What followed was more silence, and subsequently the half of the table that belong to the healthcare sector, myself included, started to discuss the many levels of disgust at the situation that had just happened. We wondered whether or not and how often she washed her hands and what madness overcame her to do such a thing as to handle hair & food at the same time, trying to divert the real issue. She touched me without my permission and that was incredibly rude.

Meanwhile my husband continued to be silent waiting for the dragon to awake.

Dracarys

dracarys2

I wrote the above story, because I truly did not get angry because of the social situation in which it happened, but it did bother me and I wanted to express my discomfort to the waitress regarding her actions in regards to my hair.

I felt bad about my husband because he might have needed to translate in case I could not communicate my point effectively and he truly expected me to feel bad about what she did because well it was not OK and we have talked about natural hair/ curly hair related issues in other countries.

I wish this was fictional story, but it is not. Ok I am not the mother of dragons or anything else but I did feel my personal space violated and I found it very offensive having my hair touched, this had never happened to me before and now I truly understand all the memes about “Don’t touch my hair”

Here is how I handled the situation

I am a patient person, but I do not tolerate disrespect and I felt disrespected. I had time to process and think. Instead of blasting her or complaining to the manager I kept looking for her to explain to her, personally, what she had just done and why she should never do it again; she had straight hair in a messy bun.

It turned out she did not speak English nor German fluently and from what I understood she is from Hungary and said the word beautiful in German, so maybe her actions did not come from a bad place, but definitively disrespected me and my party and invaded my personal space. She remained quiet and with a neutral stare as I explained the best way I could, in German, why she should not touch my hair an how in doing so she was invading my privacy. I obviously did not go into details about the cleanliness issue, but I highlighted how disrespectful it is to touch another person without their consent and with no previous notice. Once I told her to never ever do something like that again if she encounters another person with curly hair she started looking worried & uncomfortable, maybe she did know german after all, my intent was not to make her as uncomfortable as she had made me and my husband;  but to educate her in the hopes that she does not do this to any other person she encounters that has curls.
This was an unpleasant situation for all of us but we paid our bill in peace and did not allow it to ruin the rest of the evening. I asked the rest of my party their thoughts and everyone agreed that I did the right thing. I felt the need to help least one person Overcome their fear of causing discomfort, and that person was me.

What would you have done? Would you have stayed quiet? Would you have gotten angry?

Has anybody ever touched your curls without your permission?
How would you have responded to this situation?

I am Khaleesi crowned in my curls.

PS. I am a Game of thrones fan as you may have noticed and I used that context to lighten up the mood of this very real issue for people with curly hair.

Cheers,

HairLabMD

The product junkie club Autumn 2017

We decided to have yet another challenge & I write we because I got brainstorming help from one of my curl friends!

A few ideas for the challenge

  1. This is a freestyle challenge so each one of us brings a personal twist to it.
  2. There are no forbidden products, all you need to do is test your old products and if you need help deciding whether to use them or not ask the rest of the group and we might be able to
  3. Organize your products by categories

The old products

  • Garbage bin: those with smells or ingredients that I hate and the very old ones, let’s say older than a year must go in the bin. *If you don’t remember when you bought a product it is best to send in to the bin. I ended up with a huge bag of this kind that will be discarded.
  • The “I like you, but forgot about you” bin: Self explanatory, basically products l liked even holy grails but stopped using in favor of our excessive hair product shopping. Prioritize to finish these ones first.
  • The Swap/gift box: Here I include products that other naturals loved but that somehow did not become a favorite for me; but that have a good quality and/or overall good reviews. This serves 2 purposes: making another curly happy and if you can’t swap give it as a present and help to reduce waste, might be your curl friend just found a Holy grail thanks to you. This can also apply to unopened products that you have failed to use due to whatever reason but you think a fellow curly can love. I have received a few nice things from fellow curlies already and it really did make me very happy.

This challenge is open to everybody, everywhere. It is more like a club of curly friends who shop too much.

Our hasthtag #productjunkieclub

Our Ethos: shop smarter & more consciously

Our Goal: reduce waste and in the process save money or invest our money only on good products suited to our hair type.

A few ideas to get you started to clear out the old to make room for the new

  1. Group products by brand and use them together on the same wash day according to your hair needs & routines (try the same wash day at least 2 times in a row, if you like it continue the same routine until finishing the products or if you need or want a change).
  2. Repurchase of Holy Grails is allowed, so don’t worry you can keep your curls happy.
  3. Have a budget idea: setting up a budget is up to you, but using the base of another challenge I participated in (& failed miserably at) aim for $30, £30, €30 a week or the equivalent in your local currency, or whatever sum you can afford for hair care products. This is just a guideline.
  4. Buying products to complete existing hair lines is ideal. You can also choose to not buy anything so the budget goes from 0-30 depending on your intent. My personal intent is to reduce waste, so it makes sense for me to purchase less items and aim for zero expense, obviously this did not happen but for a few short months; once my holy grails ran out I repurchased mercilessly but lifestyle changes do take time!
  5. Don’t give up!

Shopping (saving) ideas

  1. Take advantage of seasonal sales for your favorite products.
  2. Enter giveaways.
  3. Get a subscription box, recently I joined one for £20 pounds plus shipping & I got at least 5 full sized products in each box to try at an accesible price. I have still yet to try many of them, but the ones I have tried so far have been very good and at a fraction of their retail price.
  4. 2 empties allow you to purchase one completely new product you have not tried before and empty holy grails can always be replaced as they empty so your curls are always on point.
  5. Look for eco friendly packaging when possible to reduce waste too.

If you want more info about these shopping hacks ler me know in the comments section, or on my instagram.

Happy, conscious shopping!

P.S. This is not a competition, but a collective effort to improve our consumer habits as a curly community.

Share your findings positive or negative but always saying something nice, if you follow me on IG The Hair Lab you know I am all about positive vibes so just be kind when sharing the fails, be kind to yourself & others in this curky hair adventure.

Other curly girls who have joined me since the beginning in this effort to shop more responsibly are

Curlymamaxx
Curlysue291

Feel free to follow their accounts for inspo & great tips.

We have had our ups & downs but little by little we are getting there.

May the odds be ever in your favor” The Hunger Product Junkie Games begin.

May the force be with you

Hi my name is Lelia and I am a product junkie.

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 – 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 – 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.” Jedi Master Yoda. The Empire Strikes Back.

Curl Café Buena Gente: Community work

I love coffee, I love hair & I love community work. 

Last summer I tried a little social media experiment: Bring people together with similar interests that also happen to have curly hair via instagram! 

The experiment worked and here is what we did together. 

We first found a common cause that was close to our hearts, most of us did not know each other before the curl café and after that have remained friends and kept sharing our curl tips. Even though it was about drinking coffee, tea, and having curl conversation in the end what really brought us together was wanting to help others even in a small way. 

In total 9 people got together to donate and most went to the coffee shop and a few others due to schedulling issues sent their cash donations via wire transfer in order to purchase the goods for the elderly care home. We even got a spontaneous donation by the coffee shop that hosted us. 

When you have good intentions things do work out! 

The care home sent a list of needs! Here they are plus a card

The curl café team!

Don Vicente Coffee

Hogar Bolivar care home

As I reflect upon 2016 and my complicated relationship with Panama, I realize that my happiest moments there have always been related to volunteer & community work. This community spirit was somehow instilled in me by both my parents, no matter how busy all of us were there was always time to cook for someone or make a special donation or host a free origami workshop, something. 

My volunteering goal for 2017: is find an animal shelter were to work on my free time. Do you have a volunteering goal? Share it with me in the comments! Want to get started? I can help, just let me know. 

Have a happy life!