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Healing my hair in the New Year

Is a Solution for:
Thinning Hair & Shedding
December 30, 2010 Reviewed by Copley 3 Comments

Hair is one of those universally sensitive subjects. It does not discriminate by gender or even age. Tom Brady reportedly made a recent visit to a hair transplant specialist and is being strong-armed by his supermodel wife to keep growing out his shaggy mop all because of a rumored bald spot. Guess there can only be one genetically perfect person per power couple. Closer to home, my family friend was so panicked his hair was receding (at the ripe old age of 25) that he has been plunking down a fortune on scalp injections. Though it seems to affect men more acutely (probably because there’s less of it on their head), hair loss happens to us all.

I was blessed with what I perceive as good hair - thick, manageable, and a nice shade of blond. Apart from regular “sun kissed” touch-ups, my hair has never required much work beyond my Aveda wooden paddle brush (no other hair brush even comes close). After a shower I usually secure my wet hair in a tight bun with an elastic band and put it up in a ponytail if it gets in the way during the day. Though I can look sufficiently presentable leaving my hair to dry au naturel, blow drying is necessary for a more polished look. Throughout college and the years following, my hair repeatedly submitted to the clutches of a flat iron in pursuit of an even more perfect polish. It is now the day of reckoning.

As it turns out, my seemingly innocent, low-maintenance hair routine over the years has been concealing hair care sins. If Santa were more concerned about appearances, he might even put me on the Naughty List. The consequences of my hair care crimes are materializing in the form of brittle split ends, a slowly retreating hairline, and thinning all over. The closer I get to the next decade, the more hair I surrender. What, you might wonder, have I done to deserve this?

For my entire life pre-TIA, I abused my hair with dirt-cheap drugstore shampoos and conditioners. I’m talking about the kind that costs $.99 (not on sale) and permeates the shower with a cloying artificial perfume. Also the kind that pollutes the environment with parabens and strips the hair shaft and scalp with harsh sulfates. I remember my hair rebelling a few times by flattening to my head and forming a crown of grease (as happened with my Rejuve3 experiment). Outside the shower, I would occasionally rub a styling cream (loaded with some of the worst synthetic ingredients) throughout my hair to tame frizzies, which certainly didn’t do it any long-term favors.

Then, there was the damage I inflicted with styling treatments and tools. Though I have tried to spread out my highlight appointments (every 3 to 4 months), there is no escaping the harm each treatment has done to the health of my hair - a fact of life for any chemical service. Similarly, the consistent blow drying and hair straightening on the highest heat setting has made my hair more vulnerable to breakage. If I had instead kept the blow dryer on a cool setting, my hair would have been spared a daily shock of heat all those years.

Compounding the problems of heat, chemicals, and processing, which weaken the hair shaft, I have further traumatized my hair with my choice of hair accessories. By pulling my hair up in ponytails and tight buns every day, I have potentially wreaked follicular damage. Putting so much stress on the hair can uplift the cuticle scales and even remove an entire cuticle layer, resulting in hair that is weak, porous, and dry. Hair professionals advise against wearing rubber bands in general because they can break hair repeatedly at the same distance from the scalp and cause it to stop growing completely.

Like a textile, hair degrades with age and use. The less that is done to the hair, the healthier it will be. I have turned over a new leaf to reverse the downward trend of my hair’s health. Crappy shampoos and conditioners not even worthy of my dog are long gone. I have moved on to anti-aging products free of harmful sulfates and parabens, such as Cutler Specialist and the Finesse ReVitality lines, which prove that it doesn’t need to be super high-end to be beneficial. Next, I want to give the shampoos and conditioners by Lather and Collective Wellbeing a try. In addition, I am now on the lookout for new products containing amino acids and copper peptides, key actives for growing hair back.

I won’t give up my highlights, but I will dry my hair on the neutral or cool setting, even when I’m desperate for heat during these winter months. I’ll try to repair the damage done by coloring and drying with a weekly deep conditioning treatment, and I might borrow some of Junko’s DIY tips to whip up my own restorative oil concoction. Thanks to the graveyard of stumps around my hairline, I am hyper-aware of the tautness of my elastic bands. Now I only pull back my hair tightly when necessary, such as during a workout. Lounging around home, instead of rubber bands, I use dorky fabric scrunchies and loose-fitting clips, which are less likely to put stress on my hair. It’s a new year, and a chance for new hair.

  • January 6, 2011

    by JustD

    I hope someone will also look into shampoo and conditioners for those of us with more platinum locks that not. I've had to cut washing my hair down to 2-3x a week in order to not deal with the wiry dryness that sometimes sets in. I've been using a deep moisturing cream called Morrocanoil Intense Hydrating Mask and the Oil to help with the dryness after washing. I've used Clairol's and Pantene's shampoo for gray hair, but I'm not sure that they're the best selections to deal with my wavy, wiry tresses. I'd be very interested in hearing from others who have elected to Go Gray and see what products they've been using or hearing good things about. Thanks for all you do, it makes things so much easier for the rest of us!

  • January 4, 2011

    by Susiecuue

    (Sorry about the long post!)

    Hi Copley, Have you ever tried Alterna? I know a late-30s-early-40s hairdresser who indeed commits all the sins you mentioned, except for the wet ponytails, and has raved about it to me (and her hair does look good despite her everyday GHDing!)

    It has lots of amino acids - interestingly, the pricey but nice Philip B Russian Amber shampoo does, too - and other interesting ingredients, and the line is free of most nasties, the exception being a silicone or two in conditioners. The Alterna TEN line and the Caviar (anti aging) line also have peptides, and the TEN line has hyaluronic acid... I don't know if this is even any good for hair, but it sounds interesting for keeping moisture in.

    That slightly messy, "au naturel" look sans blow drying will do something else as you continue through your 30s and 40s: make you look younger, so long as you can keep it in decent condition. That casualness can keep you looking younger for ages. Most women in their 30s/40s with impeccably groomed hair, makeup and clothes here in Newcastle, Australia tend to succeed in looking *older*.
    (Is it more of a thing in America to try to look more natural...?)

    As for me I'm in my early 30s and I love to wear my almost shoulder length hair in 'pigtails' ie two ponytails side by side, and I know it hurts my hair, but it's such a cute and flattering look for me, and suits my hot-Australian-summer uniform of shorts and cami top so well, that I keep doing it. *sigh*

  • December 30, 2010

    by VickyL

    Copely,
    Thanks for the tip on the Aveda wooden paddle brush. So I have a tip for you - Just Natural skincare.com (which has an amazing array of hair care products).
    A little background - I have committed many of the same hair sins but unlike you, I wasn't blessed with "good hair". Mine has always been fine and thin, oily at the scalp and brittle at the ends.
    So I started my quest to find better hair products long ago. I got rid of the drug store chemicals and went to the health food store for Aubrey Organics and the like back in the 70's. I still find Aubrey products to be excellent, especially for the price. Thanks to TIA I have discovered my "hair mate" products - Yarok. They work for me the way ybf Correct works for my eyes (and they are expensive too).

    But back to Just Natural...during the winter I need some heavy duty conditioning for the ends and flyaways. I use their Grow thicker hair conditioner on the hair that's past my scalp to the ends. It's very rich and creamy without totally weighing the hair down.
    Another of their products that I think everyone could use is - Grow New Hair Vinegar Nutritive Rinse Cleanser. Billed to use twice a month, this does for your hair and scalp what exfoliation does for your skin. The hair follicles are cleaned out and the hair shaft is prepared for the conditioner that you will need to apply directly after rinsing this cleanser out. I only need about half my usual amount of conditioner after I use this cleanser. My hair is so soft, shiny, bouncy it's as if I had the "good hair". I have colored, highlighted hair and this does not strip any color out of my hair.

    Even if you don't buy their products, the Just Natural site has so much info it's worth a read. They have products and suggestions for all types of hair (including African American) and all types of hair problems. Some interesting, informative reviews too.

    Conditioner Ingredients:
    Purified Spring Water, Aloe Vera, Macadamia Nut Oil, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Birch Extract, Rice Protein, Ginseng Root Extract, Carrot Root Oil, Marshmallow Extract, Jojoba Oil, Silk Protein, Hibiscus Flower Extract, Clary Sage Extract, Essential Oils of Sweet Cypress, Vegetable Emulsifier, Comfrey Extract, Lactoperoxidase Natural Preservative, Rose Flower Oil, Yarrow Extract, Vitamin E

    Vinegar Rinse Cleanser:
    Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Aloe Vera
    Juice, Purified Spring Water, Organic Nettle
    Root Extract, Organic Horsetail Extract,
    Organic Rosemary Extract, Organic Burdock
    Root Extract, Organic Sage Extract, Honeysuckle Flower Extract, Sweet Orange Blossom Essential Oil, Organic Lemon Essential Oil, Natural Gum.

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