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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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

Respect to all bloggers out there!

I never imagined I would start a blog, but since I already was working in academic writing content creation and editing I thought why not document my hair journey and add a few sciency ideas along the way.

I am currently editing a botany book and realized academic writing could not be more different from blogging and while both tasks are challenging,  I find blogging harder than academic writing in some aspects specially the topic selection and content creation for blogs.

When presented with a task in academic writing, you can either document your own results, write the results of your group or create a manuscript for a third party. Editing jobs are even better because a raw version of the material is already available and depending on the request you have more or less involvement in the structure of the final product. All these tasks have in common a set of guidelines, a predetermined topic and a structure that should be followed; it might seem like a difficult endeavor to comply with all those requirements but at the end of the day it makes the job clear.

Blogging on the other hand is completely free and unguided, so what do you follow to create content? Creativity is definitively central, but how do you cultivate it?

I have so many questions that I have not been able to write anymore entries to The Hair Lab, it is a Hair blog in theory, but sometimes I feel like writing about other things for instance The floating Piers installation by Christo in Lake Iseo, Italy  because I just don’t know what to write about hair that has not already been covered.

The main questions I would like to find an answer for are:

What makes a blog interesting?

How can a blog be used for educational purposes among a certain group?

Can you have a central topic on a blog and then post unrelated commentary on other subjects, or should the central topic be modified accordingly?

Well that’s it for now, if I manage to find my answers I will definitively continue blogging if not we will see. I am not sure how long I will be able to blog, but I have a great appreciation for everyone capable of creating great content in a regular manner and in such a massive media form as blogging is.

Cheers