Let your hair down

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I was planning on getting my locks trimmed to get rid of those ghastly dry ends. Set me thinking a little more about what caused them in the first place…

Understanding your HAIR

Imagine the scales on a fish, or the shingles on a roof. These overlapping layers, called the cuticle, make up the outer surface of a strand of hair. When these scales are raised due to extreme pH environments or other forms of damage, they stand, making the hair rough and dull (light can’t reflect off rough surfaces as well). This rough texture also causes hair shafts to stick together, creating tangles and a bad hair day!

A little note on hairloss… Everyone loses about a 100 strands of hair a day, due to the normal hair cycle. Run your hand through your hair once. If you see more than 10 strands left on your hand, you’re dropping too much! Start to worry!

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my rough hair =[ look at the ends! probably due to years of chemical treatments and hot&humid weather 

Acid or Alkaline?

FYI : pH is a scale of 0-14, with 7 being neutral, < 7 acidic, > 7 alkaline.

Research shows that Alkaline solutions raise these cuticle, resulting in rough hair. Most shampoos are therefore made slightly acidic, to keep the cuticle smooth and lying flat on the hair shaft. Ingredients like citric acid are added to acidify the product.

As the shampoo mixes with water in the shower, or with dirt on the hair, it can become less acidic because tap water (in Sg, pH 6.5-9.5 according to PUB) or dirt may both be alkaline. A buffer (eg. sodium citrate) is always added to maintain the exact pH desired.

The common term “pH balanced” actually refers to a balance between our hair’s natural pH and that of the shampoo, NOT a balance between acid&alkali. Therefore it actually means the product is slightly acidic, pH < 7.

Experiments of soaking hair in different solutions reveals the best pH for hair is about 6:

  • pH 2.0: hard; smooth; not resilient; breaks easily
  • pH 6.0: not as hard; smooth; very resilient; resists breaking 
  • pH 10.0: rough; not very resilient; tends to break easily
  • pH 12.0: very rough; not resilient; tends to break very easily

To Dye or Not to Dye

Creative hairstyle with smooth long female hair

Everyone knows skin colour is determined by the amount of melanin pigment. But not everyone knows that our EYE colour and HAIR colour are too! The absence/low levels of melanin produces blue/green/grey eyes and white/gray hair.

There are 2 kinds of melanin:

Eumelanin – most common and responsible for brown & black

Pheomelanin – responsible for pink to red hues (also colours our lips!)

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Before any permanent colour can be deposited into the hair shaft, the cuticle (yes, this bugger once again) must be opened – AAAHH the horror!

Chemical ingredients such as Hydrogen peroxide (developer or oxidizing agent) helps initiate the colour-forming process and creates longer-lasting colour. The more of this, the greater the amount of sulfur (a natural component of hair) is removed, which causes hair to harden and lose weight. Ammonia acts as a catalyst when the permanent hair color comes together with peroxide. Low and behold, Ammonia is alkaline! Hence ammonia separates/opens the cuticle and allows the colour/dye to penetrate into the hair. *are you picturing this like i am?* Many alcohols are also present which may dry out the hair.

So chemical hair dye is obviously damaging. What about those “natural” dyes like henna? Given that they are ammonia-free, there is nothing to open up the cuticle scales, therefore these natural/temporary dyes only coat the outer surface of the hair shaft. At best some smaller pigment molecules may slip into the hair shaft. These deliver inconsistent results and are not meant to last, as shampooing will eventually dislodge the dye pigments.

Pharmacist moment: NATURAL is NOT always safe. Some people may be allergic to these natural dyes, so always practice skin testing! G6PD-deficient people (which there are plenty of), please stay away from henna!

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Only good thing about having rough hair? way easier to braid.

my virgin youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WzSW-orXrE

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