Jada, Alopecia and Getting Slapped

Growing up in Chicago, I was a typical kid. Being a typical kid meant that you made fun of others. We called it tripping. One day, tripping on someone got me a slap and landed me in the snow. I felt the slap. Then I felt my friends waking me up. The person was more than half a block away, and I was still in shock.

That must be how Chris Rock felt. He went a little too far and got what he deserved. I feel the urge to defend Will Smith, because, yes, Chris Rock really did cross the line.

Why? Demi Moore cut her hair for G.I. Jane. Where’s the huge insult in calling Jada Pinkett-Smith G.I. Jane 2? Well, it’s like this.

Leave the hair out of it

Chris Rock has done a little tripping on Jada before, but not about her hair. Hair is a touchy subject with black women, and when she rolled her eyes about that joke, well, we know the rest. But why did she get angry, when she’d been on Instagram explaining why she cut her hair due to alopecia?

Because even though she tried to de-sensitize the issue, it’s still very sensitive and personal. I think we’ve all seen black women over 50, black women over 40, 30, 20 and even over 10 lose their hair. Everyone has a neighbor, a friend, or someone in the family or at school who has super-thin hair or bald spots. So we take note and say we won’t do what they did, but the reality is that most people do it, anyway.

“Fried, dyed and laid to the side!” Ever heard that? Hair loss is at the end of that saying, and as a result of styling practices, it’s almost inevitable. I don’t mean for Demi.

Our hair follicles are not straight

Those who have straight hair also have straight hair follicles. This type of hair can be manipulated into many different styles without causing too much stress to the hair follicles underneath. For people who have naturally curly hair, their hair follicles are curved.

For people with coily hair, though, the hair follicles are curved even more, and this helps produce the little springs that make up black women’s hair, the majority that is. This curvature also makes many styling practices detrimental for our hair and scalp, and maybe not even in ways that you think.

“Fried, Dyed…

When our hair is straightened with heat or chemicals, the coils that make up our hair are pulled all the way out. You can imagine the damage this causes to the hair. The chemicals or heat also fries our scalps, which have hardly any sebum to protect them. This makes for weak hair follicles. Hair coloring makes hair more porous, so hair that was already dry from a lack of sebum becomes brittle and breaks.

…And Laid to the Side.”

This is an issue that causes hair loss but isn’t often considered. Like everyone else, our hair grows in a swirl from the center. But when we style it, we tend to go against that swirl by creating updos, ponytails and the like. This causes thinning in everyone, regardless of curl structure.

But what about when the hair follicles are curved? The hair is issuing at a curve, to the side, and then being swept against its natural growth pattern. This puts major pressure on the hair follicles.

And…

What happens when the hair is pulled tightly? Inflammation in the scalp which leads to different forms of scarring alopecia.

Plus…

What happens when you start losing your hair and reach for extensions? The weight of the extensions causes more inflammation and accelerates the alopecia.

So what does all this mean?

Hair loss in black women is all too common, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. It’s a constant struggle to fit in with societal norms, express your own individuality and keep your hair healthy. So if I see a black woman with pink extensions piled on top, that’s her business, not mine. Everyone has a struggle.

Hair loss is an issue we don’t usually laugh about or even talk about. But I have one for Chris, who is wearing some sort of texturizer to get those curls on top. “What goes around comes around!” Slap me later.

If you’re losing your hair and are ready to get it back, check out this article:

Grow Your Hair From Thinning to Thick

Why are pH balancing shampoos important for your hair and scalp?

A big thanks to Emily Beyda at Vegamour for quoting me on the importance of using a pH balanced shampoo: “pH makes a big difference when it comes to closing the hair cuticle. Heat from a warm water shampoo is going to open the cuticle, but you need it closed to minimize frizz and keep the hair moisturized.” She quoted me as part of my work with The Right Hairstyles.

What non-pH balanced shampoo can do to hair cuticles

There are a few other reasons why pH is important when it comes to shampoo formulas and hair products in general, so I wanted to elaborate on that and show more ways shampoo pH can affect the hair. Research published in the International Journal of Trichology talks about how alkaline shampoos increase friction between hair fibers and how these electrostatic charges could lead to cuticle damage, tangling and hair breakage. Frizz is only the immediate concern that shows up when using high-alkaline shampoos for cleansing. But what high pH shampoo can lead to is actually something more serious: damaged hair.

The study goes on to say that less than 40% of shampoos in the consumer market are considered pH-balanced shampoos. That’s downright frightening. Of the shampoos you might find in a hair salon, 70% fall into the ideal range of ph level for hair, between 4.5 and 5.5.

Hair conditioner and harsh shampoos

Using hair conditioner after shampooing with an alkaline solution can decrease some of the electrical charge on the hair fiber surface. A leave-in conditioner works even better in this scenario because presumably it has more time to do its job. But who wants to sort out a matted mane after the hair washing routine in the conditioner phase? Many of us have come to expect a great deal of hard tangles after shampooing, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

An active ingredient that can make alkaline shampoos less irritating

Cationic ingredients added to the shampoo can also help make the alkaline solution less damaging, the Journal says. This is why many shampoos that are made for curly hair contain cationic agents like behentrimonium methosulfate, behentrimonium chloride and cetrimonium chloride. Curly and afro hair have twists and turns, so their tangles are not the same as straight hair tangles. Cationic actives ease the friction from the electrostatic charges between the hair strands that’s caused by the alkalinity of the shampoo. This way the hair detangles easier and isn’t as matted by the time you reach for a conditioner.

Alkaline shampoos and scalp disorders

Photo by Cottonbro via Pexels

pH balancing can help protect the scalp from fungal infections like seborrheic dermatitis, more commonly called dandruff. Shampoo that has a pH above 5.5 can cause scalp irritations and an imbalancing of the scalp. This is part of the reason why so many women with straight hair also have excessively oily hair. Maybe it’s also the reason why those with curly, afro hair have dry scalps. Who knows. 

Alkaline chemical treatments and pH levels

Extremely alkaline products, apart from shampoo, also play a role here. It probably won’t matter much if your shampoo has a pH of 6 if your hair pH level (thehairroutine.com) looks like this:

  • bleached hair (pH 10-11)
  • color-treated hair (pH 7-10.5) relaxed hair (pH 11-13)
  • permed hair (pH 8-9)
  • hair to which you’ve applied baking soda (pH 8)  

A shampoo with a low pH of 4 might help chemically-processed hair, though… a little.

Examples of pH-balancing shampoos

pH balancing shampoos hydrate hair strands by trapping moisture inside the hair shaft. They therefore encourage healthy hair growth by discouraging breakage due to brittleness. Most product labels do not reveal the pH, but the company is required to list it on their material safety data sheets. Camelia Smith at Salon Worthy Hair did an extensive amount of research into what shampoos have pH balancing. Here are some of the popular brand shampoos that feature themselves on her list by virtue of caring about hair health and pH levels in their formulas.

  • AG
  • Acure
  • Alterna
  • Davines
  • Fekkai
  • Joico
  • Olaplex
  • Paul Mitchell
  • GK Hair pH+

Naturally, the list isn’t exhaustive because there are thousands of shampoo brands. Every product produced by these companies isn’t ph-balanced or low pH, only most. Olaplex, in particular is used to help prevent damage from chemical processing like bleaching, so it isn’t surprising that the brand is pH balanced.

How a volumizing shampoo works on the hair shaft

There are times when a high pH or alkaline solution works well as a hair-volumizing shampoo. That’s for those whose tresses are fine and limp. For them, alkaline shampoos cause the hair cuticle to lift so they can have more volume. Still it’s a less than ideal situation for the hair cuticle to be opened by alkaline ingredients. For all hair types, alkaline shampoos can result in poor results with continued use. 

Should you trash your non pH-balanced shampoo?

There are a few things you can try if you want to use the last of an alkaline shampoo and not waste money. If you must use alkaline products, don’t try detangling immediately after using one. Instead, apply hair conditioner and let it sit before detangling with the product in your hair. This will help, but if your hair already has stiff tangles, there will probably still be breakage.

An acidic solution can neutralize the effect of an alkaline shampoo

Probably the best way to neutralize the alkaline level of your shampoo is with an acid like apple cider vinegar. An apple cider vinegar rinse, when used in a solution of 1:3, is an excellent detangler and can also help keep the scalp healthy. It’s cleansing and clarifying, removes excess sebum and can be used as a natural shampoo substitute. Pour it through your tresses and leave it in for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Then use conditioner and detangle with the product still in your hair.

Lemon juice is very drying, so unless you have oily hair, it isn’t ideal to use after shampooing. Coffee has an acidic pH level and the caffeine in it is great for hair growth, but it’s better when restricted to scalp use because coffee residue can also cause friction between the hair fibers, even though it’s an acidic solution.

Basically, ditch the alkaline shampoo as soon as you can and find a low pH or pH-balanced shampoo. Pass this article along, if you can, because the more people that understand ph levels in shampoo, the more the haircare industry is likely to cater to our needs.

Weave or Wig? Let’s Be for Real.

Due to visible texture differences, I’d say the bottom of her hair is a halo extension.

I work in the beauty industry and I’m gonna tell you, I see new hair companies cropping up all the time. I don’t mean hair product companies, I mean hair companies that sell hair.

It’s a huge business. In the scheme of things, the growth of human hair companies is right after that of hair loss companies. Is there a reason for this?

Well, yes and no, sorry, yes. 

Are hair extensions bad for your hair? To be frank, hair extensions rip folks’ hair out, so I would say, “Yes”. Wigs are a little better, but if they are worn constantly, they don’t allow the scalp to get sufficient air which can cause hair growth problems. And if you’re wearing the same one over and over, it breeds bacteria.

But all this is addictive, right? There’s nothing quite like getting the hair of your dreams in a one day process. Long, strong and straight… 

Wait. Did I say this was somebody else’s hair?

Where Hair is Produced

That lace front you’re wearing is likely made from the hair of hundreds, if not thousands, of women who sold their hair to make it through the week or had it forcefully taken from them.

The hair industry is largely unregulated. Hair companies only know that maybe 20% comes from Hindu temples in India where the hair is donated for religious reasons. What about the other 80%? No one really knows. Rather I should say no one really wants to know.

Those tape extensions look really nice, don’t they?

How to Tell if Someone Is Wearing Someone Else’s Hair

Sounds stolen, doesn’t it?

Well, anyway, let’s break from the ethics for a minute and get straight to practicalities.

Black women. Most have hair that in its natural state is thick and short. When straightened, it becomes thin – more so over 30 years of age. There are exceptions, of course.

White women. Hair grows longer but tends to get really thin around 30 years of age and over. Naturally, there are exceptions.

So all these people over 30 – black or white – who are sporting bouncy, voluminous locks are probably wearing somebody else’s hair.

But before we say, “Do your thing, girl,” let’s look at the consequences.

Bald spots.

The consequences are baldness, baldness, and more baldness. I hope I’m being clear. Anything that weighs on and pulls in your hair follicles is going to eventually pull out your natural hair from the root.

Constant pulling also causes inflammation inside the scalp. Inflammation fosters permanent hair loss because the hair follicles die under its pressure.

From Weave to Wig

So now it’s permanent wig time to hide the bald spots. 

Unless you have a Hollywood supply of decent human hair wigs – please, really, no synthetic hair – you’ll be wearing the same two or three choices. Considering the way wigs are woven, there is really no way to get them thoroughly disinfected without ruining them. So you’re looking at breeding bacteria, fungus and more complicated alopecias. 

Just say bye-bye to healthy hair period.

Is anyone listening?

Here’s How to Grow Back Your Hair Naturally After Pandemic-Related Hair Loss

Make products? Here’s a writing sample that conveys important information without sounding like an encyclopedia.*
Male androgenic alopecia… but honestly it all goes pretty much the same in the follicle death process. Keep reading. Photo via Univ. of Melbourne Dept. of Medicine

People start losing hair for many reasons, but these days there’s a lot of talk these days about people having hair loss from stress. Yes, Pure D. Stress. Sometimes there’s a background cause like medication, an autoimmune disorder, covid-19, hormonal changes, or Stress’s ugly cousin named Trauma. All of these things can cause premature aging, but who wants to lose hair on top of that?

Stress Hair Loss From the Follicles

Whatever type of hair loss you’re enduring, your scalp went through pretty much the same process to get there. It concerns the little pore-like structures on your head that hold your hair in place – the hair follicles. You might be dealing with traction alopecia or are getting little bald spots from playing with one or two spots in your hair. So here, your hair follicles met Pure D. Stress because of your yanking on them, loudly proclaimed they weren’t going to take it anymore and went to sleep.

The only problem is that while your follicles are in this sleep state, your hair falls out. It’s actually normal that about a hundred hair follicles go into the inactive sleep, or telogen, phase and eventually shed hair. What’s not normal is for two or three hundred to go into telogen at the same time and cause more hair loss than usual. That’s not mechanical stress like when you’re pulling on your hair follicles. Hair loss all over is usually emotional stress – what a lot of us have been dealing with this past year sitting at home alone, or with kids that use you as their entertainment, or with a loved one you can’t stand.

This kind of diffuse hair loss can also be related to trauma from losing family members – not because your follicles dropped strands from pulling your edges back too tight. 

Hair Loss Cycles

Whatever the reason, we need to get your hair follicles kicking again. Get ’em out of bed and doing jumping jacks, or whatever it takes, to produce hair again.

Hair follicles work in cycles. So a follicle will grow new hair, hold on to it for a time, go to sleep and shed it. If you are losing hair, they are holding on to it for a shorter time and going to bed early.

Unfortunately, if they sleep for too long, they can die and can never grow hair again.

Harsh Styling Means Hair Loss, and Sometimes Follicle Death

There are clinical names for hair follicles going from sleeping to dead, like androgenetic alopecia, frontal fibrosing alopecia and central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia. Those last three are forms of hair loss that disproportionately affect women due to strenuous styling practices like:

  1. Repeated tight pulling of the hairline or crown with extensions or weave, and
  2. Years of hair relaxers, perms or hair dyes depositing corrosive chemicals into the hair follicles, and
  3. Extreme heat on the scalp from flat irons and blow dryers.

Some of us engage in all three practices at once… right?

As a warning sign the scalp sheds hair to let you know that what you’re doing is just too much. If you don’t put a stop to it, the hair follicles of the scalp can become inflamed. You won’t see the inflammation, but it keeps the hair from growing at a normal pace, sheds what is there and eventually scars – after which no hair will grow. Yes. Disaster!

Hair Loss Is (Usually Pretty) Gradual

The good news is that, like most other forms of alopecia, the process is pretty gradual – unless your hair is literally coming out in clumps because of chemo or a traumatic episode. Because most types of alopecia boil down to the same problem, inactive hair follicles, the solution is also pretty much the same, too: putting and keeping as many hair follicles as possible in the growth phase. So let’s get to the good news.

How Hair Growth Products Work

I don’t want you going out shopping for minoxidil, but it works. Luckily, there are natural oils that do pretty much what minoxidil does: increase the blood flow to the scalp to keep the hair follicles from going to sleep. There are other oils that work like the hair growth drug finasteride and wake up dormant hair follicles.

I linked some scientific studies below so you know natural stuff is legit, too, and can do pretty much the same things as minoxidil and finasteride. They also don’t have any side effects, are multipurpose and are cost effective. If you’re into natural hair care already, you probably have some of these in your home already. In case you don’t, I restricted the list of oils to what’s readily available.

Growing Your Hair Again

“Wake up!” It’s time for hair follicle jumping jacks.

  • Castor oil or Jamaican black castor oil – mimics the body’s natural hair growth stimulator PGE2.
  • Pumpkin seed oil – even when taken orally, it can increase hair density up to 40% for men suffering from genetic alopecia.
  • Rosemary essential oil – compares well to Minoxidil regarding the rate of growth after six months
  • Peppermint essential oil – works quickly to put more hair follicles into the growth phase.

Natural Substances That Help More Hair to Grow

Your hair follicles need certain building blocks to build hair and help it grow faster. Keratin, which makes up 96% of the hair shaft, can help – that’s if your follicles have more if it available.

Natural Hair Growth Extenders

Sounds kind of like we’re adding extensions here. We’re not! I’m talking about keeping your existing hair in for longer. Our hair follicles hold on to hair for two to six years, normally. The longer it stays, the longer your hair grows. If you’re losing hair, it’s not even lasting for the two year minimum, but falling out before that time. So we need to try to extend the time the hair remains in it’s follicles, and keep the hair follicles from falling asleep prematurely.

US Hair Growth Products

Pumpkin Hair Serum– contains pumpkin seed oil and peppermint @NatHairQueen 

Groganics Head Full of Hair Creme Hair Dress – contains castor oil and peppermint, but the star of Groganics products is pea sprout extract. Pea sprout increases the number of hairs on your head that are in the growth phase. @My_Groganics

UK Hair Growth Products

Creamy Cafe Latte Leave-In Detangle Conditioner – a rich cream that contains castor oil and coffee for to keep your follicles wide awake and functioning like they should @anitagrantllc

TLC Naturals Grow It Caffeine Stimulating Shamoo – it contains caffeine, DHT blockers adn salicylic acid, to combat inflammation.  @tlcnaturals

By Aaron Wallace product line with black seed oil @byaaronwallace

There are so many more. If you make products from some of the ingredients listed here and I missed you, just drop me a line: hairandbeautywriter@gmail.com

And whether you whip up your own or choose something that’s pre-made, I wish you a full head of hair… and less stress in your life!

*Now for my pitch: The above is a sample of my hair care research and writing. It’s written in my own personal voice, but hey, I can mimic yours if I see a sample of your writing. Let someone write for you, because you really don’t have to do Ever-Thing yourself. Need someone to take care of your blog? Drop me a line here: hairandbeautywriter@gmail.com