Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Q&A - Natural and long, but too thin!

 Dora writes:

Q.  I am completely natural and have been for about 7 years now. I have bra length, fine soft hair. My hair does not like to be twisted. When I did wear twists, I did not like them because you could see my scalp. When I wear a ponytail I have to make sure I brush my hair a certain way, so that my scalp won't show. Is there anything that I can use or do to thicken my hair up. I henna once a month or every 3 weeks and sometimes it depends on how fast the grays decide to show up. I thought by being natural my hair would become thicker on its own.

A.  As a natural for 7 years, your hair has gone through all the phases of growth, probably several times. Let's just review:

Anagen - active growth - new hair is pushing out the old fiber and the follicle is growing deep for nourishment
Catagen - the transitional phase. Hair detaches from the blood supply and the hair follicle shrinks
Telogen - Resting. Hair fibre easily pulls out
And there is one more phase, mesanagen -- a returning to growth.

A full cycle can last anywhere from 2 to 5 years per follicle. And sometimes hair or patches of hair can get stuck in the resting, or telogen phase.

Everything you put into your body eventually comes out in your hair, usually within three to six months. . Hair grows from living follicles in the skin of the scalp. At the shaft, or root of the hair, all of your major systems are at work, including your circulatory, endocrine and central nervous system.

Other factors for thin hair and ways to improve hair health:

Age - as women age our hormone levels decrease, and hormone levels affect almost every part of the body, including hair. My hair became thin during perimenopause and menopause when my hormonal levels hit the floor. I have been on prescribed bio-identical hormones (that don't affect the liver) and this has helped hair, memory, alertness, sexual desire, and more.

Dry hair - Dry hair is simply dehydrated hair. Investing in more moisture in your hair and scalp is also a good way to stimulate growth and enhance the health of your existing strands. This is easy to correct both internally and externally. Check your water intake to make sure you are getting enough, a good guideline is 1 oz for half of your body weight. Example -- a women weighing 150 lbs drinks 75 oz of water. That's a lot more than the standard 8 glasses of day. Also water and condition your hair more frequently. If you shampoo every time you cleanse, try cleansing your hair with conditioner and shampoo less often. Get a good leave in conditioner and a natural butter or butter product. Both help lock in moisture. 

Illness - Illness unbalances the body. If you are recovering from even a cold or the flu, make sure your food intake is really nutritious, take a vitamin supplement and a probiotic.

Genetics - Sometimes we have to thank our ancestors for that thin hair. If you have siblings with thick hair and yours is thin, there may be other factors at work. I've observed that overweight can also result in thinning hair.  It's as if the body is taking nourishment from areas it considers non-critical, like hair, to maintain the body..

Medications - Just like illness, the medications we take to bring us back to health and relieve symptoms can also unbalance our bodies. Not just hair but good bacterial in the digestive system gets kill by may antibiotics.  A daily probiotic goes is effective to help your digestive tract get back in balance.

Diet - Nutritional deficiencies affect hair, especially Iron, Vitamin A and vitamin D, water, fruits and veggies, protein. Eat well!

Exercise - Heat up your body daily to increase your metabolism. Increase blood flow to the scalp with exercise, scalp massage, inverted yoga poses.

Stress -  Sometimes this alone can help the hair's condition.  Get enough sleep! Examine your emotional health and how you express and process emotions. Healthy expression of anger and other "uncomfortable" emotions goes a long way to restoring emotional balance and relieving stress.

Chemical sensitivities - In general, as Black women who have straightened their hair most of their life, we tend to have a lower awareness of the effect of the chemicals we use. How else could we have used sodium hydroxide and high heat for years and years and smothered our fragile locks with mineral oil laden products?  Get in the habit of examining ingredients.  Check out cosmetic databases for toxicity levels of products. Use natural carrier oils, and non-volatile, non-irritating essential oils.

Styling - No matter how well we treat ourselves, some hair can be thin all around, especially the fine soft stuff like yours.  My fine strands tends to thinness as well, and for that reason I do not twist my hair from wet because it does tend to emphasize my scalp rather than my hair. Instead, I wear a wash and go for a few days, then dry twist right over that. I will section my hair with my fingers and dry twist - about 11-14 twists.  I water spritz just a little to soften, not even dampen the hair, and use a little product.  In the morning I untwist and divide each twist.  Both the wash and go and large dry twist outs maximize my volume. I get comments in my Fotki about how much hair I have, and I just snicker 'cause I know the truth.

If your hair is thin in certain places and not others, brushing it back and pulling it into a ponytail may not be the best thing for it. That may be part of why it's thinning.  The strain from this can thin it out in some places, and that is called traction alopecia.

Coloring with Henna - you're using Body art quality Henna, right? If you are not please switch to it.  Many products marketed as "henna" contain harmful chemicals.  Body art quality henna is pure henna and is said to strengthen the hair as well as impart natural color.

- Many naturals swear by ayurvedic herbs. I don't know much about them, but I'm a firm fan of neem, a plant that's extremely high in anti-oxidants. Other herbs and substances said to decrease hair loss and/or enhance growth: algae extract, ginkgo biloba, green tea (camellia sinensis), nettle, garlic, hemp seed, wheat germ, burdock root, rosemary, horsetail, and aloe are some.

Oils and butters: Many women cannot say enough about natural oils such as castor, jojoba, coconut, extra virgin olive oil, baobab oil.  An oil rinse after cleansing and before conditioning gives you an instant hydration boost.  Just make sure to rinse it all out and thoroughly condition after, or you may be a greasy mess all day.  Shea, avocado and other butters are wonderful for helping hair retain moisture.

Congratulations on your bra length natural tresses and I hope the next 7 years enhance your crowning glory.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the detailed advise! It's all pertinent to me and just makes grest sense.