You Can Have AMAZING Hair!! (aka Rapunzel’s Secret)
Shiny, youthful hair is not just for the young or follicle-ly blessed. With the right products, such as an awesome apple cider vinegar rinse, you can manage your hair easily. If you color or bleach your hair or use a blow dryer regularly, you’re going to be familiar with dry and frizzy locks. Hair exposed to the elements can also become dry and hard to deal with. Even your favorite shampoo and conditioner combo can be hurting your hair!
When your hair gets dull, dry and frizzy, ever wonder why it feels like straw? There’s a simple scientific explanation for that. What about coloring? Have you had dye jobs wash out quicker than expected? Or maybe one treatment lasted but the next one didn’t—even though you did it exactly the same both times?
Those issues, and the solution, is what we’re going to discuss in this blog. And keep in mind, this information and advice applies not just to women’s hair, but to men’s hair and beards too. If you want shinier, easier to manage and style hair, all you need to do is keep reading.
THE LOWDOWN ON CUTICLES (aka, The ‘Cutest’ Thing)
The science behind general hair health is governed by two basic things:
- the oil production and distribution within your hair (oil produced in your skin is called sebum)
- the condition of your hair cuticles
Let’s look at cuticles first. What’s a cuticle? Isn’t that a part of your finger and toenails? True…your nails do have cuticles but they differ quite a bit from hair cuticles. Nail cuticles are a single flap of dead skin cells that acts as a cover/barrier to prevent infection under the skin at the base of your nail. Hair cuticles are also dead skin cells but they line and encircle every strand of hair you have as a protective sheath (under a microscope, they resemble scales).
The hair cuticles can open and close—exposing the more delicate middle layer of a hair strand in the process. Your hair cuticles (just ‘cuticle’ from here on out) are arranged like overlapping plates of armor. When they open, your hair strand resembles a skinny pine cone. Keeping with the tree metaphor, the anatomy of a hair strand is very similar to a tree trunk and the cuticle functions as bark would for the tree. Dry, open and/or damaged cuticles expose the more delicate inner surface (the Medulla) of the strand. When this happens (especially if not treated), your hair will exhibit symptoms such as being: dull, frizzy, wavy, kinked, dry, brittle, fast to lose color, and even a rough texture.
The second aspect of general hair health is sebum—the oil that secretes from the root of each hair follicle when everything is functioning properly. Sebum helps maintain the balance of good bacteria to bad on your scalp and can help protect against bacterial and fungal infections of the skin (known and suspected to be causal factors of problems like dandruff, psoriasis and eczema). Sebum also works itself out along the hair shafts and, when it does so correctly, keeps the cuticles moistened and shut—providing shine and durability to hair. Changes in body chemistry or sebum production can adversely affect your hair’s natural ability to keep itself healthy. Some extreme issues may require medical help but there is still much you can do to take steps to remedy the situation on your own!
WELCOME TO HAIR CHEM 101 (aka, What Should Have Been Taught in Chemistry Class)
With today’s hair care products and styling possibilities, the number one culprit for hair difficulty and damage is improper pH balance. Everything in our bodies has a pH balance and not all parts of the body have the same requirements.
You are probably familiar with the terms “acidic” and “alkaline.” Food is often categorized this way in certain diets. For instance, tomatoes are acidic while seaweed (kelp) is alkaline. The letters in “pH” mean ‘power of hydrogen’ or ‘potential of hydrogen’ and is an actual measure of how many hydrogen ions (atoms with charge) are concentrated in a solution. Oil has no pH because it has no free hydrogen ions. They are all bonded with other atoms. Your skin’s sebum has a slightly acidic pH of between 4.5 and 5.5. Your scalp’s pH is about the same as your sebum. Your actual hair strands, on the other hand, are more acidic at 3.6.
If your hair’s pH rises, it can prevent natural sebum from wicking to the outer ends of your hair strands. How, though, can hair pH be altered? Shampoos and conditioners are often too alkaline for scalp and hair, and with frequent use, can mess with the pH balance. Dyeing, bleaching, heat-treating and lots of sun can also upset the pH balance of your hair. A good start for managing a healthy hair pH is to use shampoos and conditioners that are pH-balanced. Coloring hair can also leave hair with too high a pH. Bleaching can raise pH so much that cuticles can break off the hair strands and damage hair to a point where it just has to grow itself out to be ‘fixed.’
Let’s dig in a little bit more to what is going on with hair at various pH levels.
MANIPULATING THE CUTICLES (aka, Electric Avenue)
Manipulating hair cuticles is the main science behind coloring and stripping hair. The hair’s cuticle covers and protects the middle layer of your hair strand where the colored and pigmented cells are. When closed, the see-through cuticles actually waterproof your hair while letting the natural or dye color through. Incidentally, closed cuticles help a dye job last longer since it’s harder to wash out the color pigment that’s effectively trapped inside the hair strand. The pH of the surface of hair changes the position of the cuticles. When a hair strand is alkaline, the cuticles open up, exposing the middle layer. When hair strands are acidic, the cuticle cells contract and fit back down, knitting tightly together.
The measure of pH can also be expressed in millivolts (shocking, right?). To put it simply, acidic pH means a substance ‘steals’ power from what it surrounds. Alkaline pH means the substance ‘offers up’ power into what it surrounds. So how can dead cells change their position? Things like electricity, pH and magnetism are all related. As the chemical balance of hair changes, its pH alters and that means it changes electrically, too. Since electricity can generate a magnetic effect of attracting and repelling, it is likely that this is the cause of the cuticle movement: by causing cuticles to either open or close based on whether they are attracting or repelling each other. And you thought this was complicated. (See box—Did You Know?)
As you can likely imagine, rougher surfaces don’t reflect light well, while smooth surfaces do. Think about the difference between a piece of glass and a piece of leather. When your cuticles are open, they create a rougher surface on each strand of hair. This scatters light and gives your hair a dull appearance. You can also feel it when running fingers through your hair. If it feels like straw, your cuticles are open. However, when the cuticles are closed, the surface of the hair becomes much smoother and reflects light directly–which causes shine. And, of course, you can also feel the difference.
Coloring hair requires using an alkaline product (like ammonia) to first open up the cuticles so the dye can enter down into the strands and affect the pigmented cells. Most times, the dye itself is alkaline.
The next step is to use an acidic material (like lemon juice) to close the cuticles back up. This step isn’t always done and is a good habit to get into after coloring hair. If you dye your own hair, or when you get back from the salon, rinse your hair with an acidic rinse. One with a pH around 4-5. The way to keep color lasting the longest is also the best way to protect your hair—and that’s to get its pH to the proper level.
BEST CARE PRACTICES (aka, Try Sweet On You® Products)
Didn’t expect to take a science course did you, lol? At Sweet On You®, we not only want to provide the most natural, clean beauty products on the market, we also want to help readers and customers get the best out of those products. The “Sweet & Sassy” Hair Treatment Pack comes with our formulated ACV hair rinse and a specially formulated scalp scrub designed to remove debris and stimulate follicle production of strong and healthy hair.
The Herbal Bliss Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse contains organic apple cider vinegar combined with other proportional ingredients designed to return your hair to its proper pH with a pleasant herbal scent.
The exciting science is still emerging on one of our Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse ingredients. A botanical product newer to the scene is embryonic plant stem cells. They do what you’d expect stem cells to do but since they are derived from plants, there is absolutely no controversy. These plant stem cells are known for coping with free radicals and oxidants, which are, in part, responsible for hair loss and greying.To support cellular turnover in the follicle, these cellular plant extracts may just be the future of hair and skin cells. We will be writing a future blog on this one ingredient alone since it’s so exciting!
The essential oil blend used in the Herbal Bliss Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse accomplishes two things. The combination of scents helps to mask the remaining pungency of the ACV. We’ve designed a blend that compliments all the natural fragrances together. This essential oil blend also imparts its own health benefits to your scalp and hair.
If you’ve never tried a general ACV rinse for hair before, we assure you—try it once and you’ll be a fan. Try it twice and you’ll be hooked! The feel, the shine—there’s nothing quite like it. There are many well-established benefits of using an apple cider vinegar rinse for your hair.
- May help reduce hair loss by strengthening hair, prevent breakage
- Smooths frizz, like magic
- Detangles, also like magic
- Helps preserve hair color by locking color molecules into the hair strand
- Helps reduce dandruff by keeping the pH of the scalp at the proper level
HOW TO USE (aka, How to Use)
Practically speaking, Sweet On You® recommends using the following hair treatment protocols for standard care and for coloring hair.
Standard Hair/Beard Care Routine
- Weekly, use Herbal Bliss Scalp Scrub to remove buildup of dead skin and product
- After working over scalp, leave scalp scrub in for 3-4 minutes and rinse out
- Shampoo and rinse
- Apply Herbal Bliss Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse and massage through hair and onto scalp
- Leave Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse rinse in for 4-5 minutes
- This next step has multiple options:
- Leave Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse in hair and use a shower cap overnight; rinse in morning
- Rinse w/cold water
- Rinse w/hot water*
*Rinsing with cold water will help close the cuticles tight. Hot water is fine but you may not get the best benefit of the rinse.
Hair Coloring Treatment Protocol
- 48 hours before coloring, shampoo and wash your hair or beard. Don’t use a conditioner because you need your hair’s natural oil (sebum) to permeate your hair. If possible, even use a boar bristle brush a few times after washing to help spread the oil out. (for vegans, use a sisal brush)
- After the color treatment, wash/shampoo hair according to the dye or salon instructions. Don’t use a conditioner
- After shampooing, use Herbal Bliss Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse to close the cuticles and coat your hair strands. If possible, and for best results, rinse with cold water
- If you style your hair often with heat, use Herbal Bliss Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse more often (heat tends to open up the cuticles a bit, so close them back up w/proper pH and cold water)