Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Moisture: An Oldie But Goodie

Here is a repost from July 26, 2009!!  Just in time for the Fall.

What causes these dry ends?

Sebum is the hair and scalp's natural conditioner. In straight hair, this oily substance can generally move down the shaft to the ends fairly easily because of the direct path. The hair's close proximity to the scalp as well as continual brushing and combing also aid in the transport process. As for textured hair? That is another story.

The coilier your hair, the harder it is for sebum to travel down to the ends. Here's my analogy: Imagine oil running along a straight road versus a path full of turns and twists. In the latter case, the oil may slow down or even get caught at each curve. By the time it reaches its destination, only a fraction of the oil will remain. There is also the possibility that it may never reach its destination. This process is basically what curly, coily, and kinky hairs experience. Additionally, factor in a minimal brushing/combing routine and the reality that some natural hair works against gravity (i.e., stands up and out away from the scalp). We ultimately have a case in which sebum just barely reaches the ends of our hair, if at all.

Now the explanation above is just one of many causes of dry ends. Other reasons are listed in this post on moisture and length retention.

How do you stop dry ends (due to inadequate sebum)?
Since sebum may barely, if at all, reach the ends of textured hair, it is necessary to quench and condition those ends. Here are some methods that work for me and may hopefully work for others:

*Discard harsh regular shampoos
Shampoos with SLS and other strong ingredients strip my hair (including my ends) of their natural oils. The shampoo I use on a regular basis contains more gentle substances. Other options to explore are conditioner washing or using homemade natural cleansers instead of a shampoo. Some people also do a treatment with oil at a warm or room temperature prior to washing to minimize sebum loss from their strands. (Click here for hot oil treatments.)

*Lather once when you shampoo
Minimal lathering equals minimal loss of whatever sebum is on my ends.

*No direct shampoo on the ends
I rarely expose my ends to direct shampoo. I just focus on the scalp and let the water and lather run down the rest of my hair.

*Saturate the ends with moisture and conditioner
Pay the most attention to your ends while conditioning and moisturizing.

*Invest in good products
Each individual head of hair is different, but this post may be a place to start in terms of what sealants, moisturizers, and conditioners to try.

*Eat foods containing omega-3 and vitamin A
Few people realize that foods, such as salmon, cantaloupe, and flaxseeds contribute to sebum production. For the omega-3 post, click here. For the vitamin A post, click here.

*Airdry the hair in a protective style
Protective styling isn't reserved for the protection of the ends. It has the added benefit, in my case, of helping my ends absorb and retain moisture post a washing session.

*Sleep with a silk scarf/pillowcase
The same added benefit applies here too.

How do you stop dry ends (due to porosity)?

I believe that another major contributor to dry ends in black hair is high porosity. What causes high porosity? Well, a number of things including gradual wear and tear of the hair. I really encourage anyone who believes they might have this issue to read this extremely informative article: Part 1 . For solutions to the porosity issues, do check out Part 2 as well: Part 2 .


SOURCES & MORE READS:

SEBUM
SEBUM & TEXTURED HAIR 1
SEBUM & TEXTURED HAIR 2: Randy Schueller, Perry Romanowski. "Conditioning agents for hair and skin".
SEALING (OILS & MOISTURE RETENTION)

2 comments:

  1. HHB says: "Here's my analogy: Imagine oil running along a straight road versus a path full of turns and twists. In the latter case, the oil may slow down or even get caught at each curve. By the time it reaches its destination, only a fraction of the oil will remain. There is also the possibility that it may never reach its destination."

    I can't agree with this because I have met black folks with "good" hair (gosh, I hate that I said that) that have tightly coiled corkscrew curls. Meaning that they have Type 4 hair because of the shape of the curl, but not the typically dry kind. Sebum I would think is DNA based, and those with drier hair do not produce as much sebum as those with "good" hair. Which means you must add oil to your dry Type 4 hair, whereas those with more oiler Type 4 hair do not have to add anything but probably should wash with a mud wash.

    Again, Type 4 and Type 3 (and the other types) are about the curl pattern or lack of it, not the amount of sebum, though Type 4 curl pattern seems to most often be coupled with low sebum production. But again I have met or seen a couple of people with oily Type 4 hair so much so that if their scalp didn't naturally produce enough sebum their hair would look like mine, which is a dry 4B. I have never read Andre Walker's book which is where the Hair Typing system was created, but I hope he stressed the difference between curl pattern and sebum production and porosity. These are all very different things. A Type 1 person could have low sebum production AND low or high porosity. But this is probably rare. Type 1's usu. have good sebum production and mid-porosity. Peace.

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  2. @Jami: Scientific research has shown that African Americans produce the same/more sebum than our counterparts.

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