Category Archives: Natural Hair Basics

Trimming Natural Hair and Length Retention

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I straightened my hair about two weeks ago (see that post here). Although I “search and destroy” regularly, my ends were desperately in need of a trim as it had been 10 months since my last professional one. So, the Monday morning after straightening my hair, I reached out to my stylist Tameeka (aka Jaded Tresses) to see if she would be in her NJ location that night. I was hoping that she might be able to slip me in between her other appointments.

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Well, it turned out that it was her son’s birthday and she wasn’t working that night. I was totally bummed, but understood. However, later that day, Tameeka texted me that she was going to Sam’s Club in Edison and couldn’t come to NJ in good conscious without trying to hook me up.  So, she asked if I could meet her at the salon later! Y’all … I was on YouTube trying to figure out how to self-trim when I got the text (and, she suspected that is what I would do)!! LOL!! I was ecstatic that I wouldn’t have to take on that task myself!!

So, I met Tameeka at the salon in South Orange, NJ, where she usually works Monday nights. And, in like 5 minutes flat, she cleaned up my ends and made me a very happy lady.

Left: Prior to trim; Right: After trim

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My hair felt sooooo much better after that trim!!  The thing that I love about Tameeka is that she really listens, understands, and respects my length goals and that when I say that all I want is a small trim, that is what she does. I’m sure other stylist would have tried to chop several inches off of my hair due to the thinner perimeter and would claim that my ends are not healthy, but that has NEVER been an issue with Tameeka. She never says, “Oh, you should take more off” or “your ends are unhealthy” or “It would look better like … .” No, she respects that I know MY hair and really evaluates the condition, and not just the aesthetics, of hair to determine what it needs. And, she has never taken off more than an inch when I have requested a trim only. A non-scissor happy stylist? That’s priceless for me y’all.

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TRIMMING NATURAL HAIR

Anywho, since we’re talking about trimming, I figured I’d take this opportunity to discuss my thoughts on a couple of questions that I’ve seen related to trimming natural hair and trimming in general.

1.  Do naturals need a blunt perimeter/even cut/ends?

In my opinion, if you wear your hair in a curly state the majority of the time, no. I don’t trim, cut my hair to keep my ends even. I trim to eliminate damaged ends that are excessively weathered, knotted and/or split. I do this with regular search and destroy (S&D) missions (usually on wash day) and a professional trim every 6-12 months. I trim in this way because, if I don’t, the damaged ends will inevitably cause collateral damage (i.e. more splits, knots, and weathering), because the “bad” hair snags on healthy adjacent strands and causes friction to the cuticle.

Another reason I don’t worry about a totally blunt/even perimeter is because hair tends to grow at different rates. The front and lower back half of my hair grow a lot faster than my crown. So, I accept that my hair does not grow out evenly or into a blunt shape. What I do try to do is keep the longest layer not too much longer than my shorter crown. When I get trims, I ask Tameeka to trim more off of the longest layer and less off of the shorter layers, to gradually thicken my perimeter. Since I wear my hair in updos and twist or braid and curls the vast majority of the time, my irregular curl pattern and length differences are disguised.

2.  Does trimming the hair stunt or encourage growth?

It does neither. Hair grows from the scalp and is dead the minute it “sprouts” from the scalp. Trimming eliminates weathered, thinned, split and knotted ends. It makes the hair appear healthier, neater, and more aesthetically pleasing to some. It helps reduce and prevent the continuous cycle of splits and breakage. However, it doesn’t encourage growth. Some may call it semantics. However, I want to state for the record that what trimming actually does is help prevent continued breakage, which impacts length retention and can make it seem like the hair is not growing. By trimming damaged ends, the hair will be better able to retain the length that grows, which some see as “encouraging growth.”

That being said, if you constantly trim and hair grows at an average of 1/2 an inch a month, you may trim off all or most of the growth, which will make it seem as if your hair isn’t growing. For example, if your hairs grows an average of a 1/2″ a month, and you get a 1″ trim every 3 months, you are only retaining a 1/2″ of growth instead of 1-1/2″. If your ends are healthy and well-maintained, that is totally unnecessary. This is why some may think that trimming stunts growth. But again, it’s not the growth, it’s the retention that is being impacted by trimming.

So, in conclusion, trimming (or not trimming) impacts length retention, not growth, depending on how it is used. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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How do you trim? How often do you trim?

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Growing Long Hair: Diet, Exercise and Vitamins

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I have been asked about the whether diet, exercise, and/or vitamins help hair grow a few times and have seen it posted in some form or the other a lot lately. So, I figured I’d share my thoughts on the subject. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but these are my observations based on the things I’ve learned about hair through reading lots of hair blogs, watching lots of videos, and/or observing through my own experiences.

A good diet, adequate nutrients, hydration, and exercise are foundations for healthy hair and growth. But, many mistake lack of length retention for lack of growth. Unless there is some underlying condition, hair is always growing. If hair is growing elsewhere on your body, it’s growing. And it’s pretty easy to know your growth rate if you relaxed/relax or color/colored your hair. However much new growth you had 4-8 weeks post relaxer/color will tell you your growth rate. The problem often is that the growth is lost to breakage (i.e. the hair is not retaining length).

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So, the assumption is that the hair isn’t growing when, in fact, it is. So, the focus needs to change from growth to retention. All that being said, hair is dead once the strand “erupts” from the scalp. So retention is about preserving dead cells. Eating a healthy, well-rounded diet and exercising helps build stronger hair IN the scalp. Stronger and healthier live cells inside mean stronger and healthier dead cells outside. And the latter will be better able to retain length with the right protective/retention practices for you.

And those are my thoughts in a nutshell!! Yes, a good diet, exercise, and adequate nutrients play a part in growing healthy hair, but if that hair isn’t retained, you won’t see longer tresses. So, you have to make certain to take care of both ends, literally ;), to see results if long hair is your goal. To learn more about what I do to “grow” my hair long, check out my post, How I Retain Length.

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What have you found helps you grow healthy, strong hair that retains length?

PSA: Saving Your Strands

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ponytail2(I know some of you want my T-shirt ;). Sorry, it was a limited edition!)
#CalvinandHobbesForever!!

Hey guys! Just popping on here really quickly to share a little length retention tip that may seem like “duhhhhh” to some. But, was something that really just hit me a couple of years ago.

Okay, so … what had happened was … I had my hair secured with two Goody Ouchless ponytail elastics for, like, a week. I had not done anything with my hair all week, except put some gel on the edges to make it look presentable. So, when I was finally taking out the elastics to pre-poo, this happened …

tangledwebNo bueno!

Now, my first instinct was to pull and tug on the hair to try to free it. But, after a minute, I realized that was not working too well. Then, I thought, “I’m going to have to cut my hair off of this!” But, then, I immediately thought, “STOP!!! Are you stupid?!? Doesn’t it make so much more sense to cut the ELASTIC?!?” I mean, really!! Lose 50 cents instead of losing months of growth? #soundslikeaplantome

After I cut the elastic, I was able to slide it out of my hair and then detangle the knotted hair. Funny thing is, a similar thing happened to me a couple of years ago. My hair got wrapped around a neck button at the back of my shirt and I couldn’t get it free. Someone was helping me free it and finally gave up saying, “I think we have to cut your hair.” I was like, “Uh, no. Cut the button off the thread. The button can be sewn back on, my hair can’t!”

#usingmynoggin

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What “common sense” hair strategies have you learned to use to protect your strands?

Dry TnC with Small Perm Rods

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I was going to call this, “Curly ‘Fro: Take Two” (see “take one” here). However, this time it reeeeeally looked nothing like a ‘fro and turned out very similar to my old Twist n’ Curl (TnC) … so, yeah.

Anywho, as you know, last week I attended the CurlyNikki Curl Power Event. I decided that I wanted to try a hybrid of the MahoganyCurls and PGneiicey methods of creating a curly ‘fro.

I hit Sally’s on Tuesday night for more perm rods. My intent originally was to get more grey rods as I thought that I might not have enough. Instead, when I got to Sally’s, I saw the slightly larger pink ones and decided to get those as I wanted bigger hair than I achieved the last time. And, get this, the perm rods were on sale 2 for $3!!!!

CF_permrodsThe rods on the right are shorter, although the labeling is no different.
I got the shorter ones for my front as they only had 3 bags of the longer rods.

Once I got home, I got to work:

  • Started with dry hair that had been in twists for a day and a twist-out for a day.
  • Finger detangled dry hair in about 10 sections with my coconut oil whip. Y’all … this part took FOREVER, mostly because of my nape area which has been knotting and tangling badly :(. Once I detangled each section, I twisted it.
  • Starting from the back and moving forward, I applied a dab of Shea Moisture Raw Shea Restorative Conditioner and a dab of Eco Styler Olive Oil Gel to a small sections.

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  • Then, I twisted to about halfway down the length of my hair and set the whole length on a perm rod wrapped in end paper (the end paper prevents my hair from snagging and tearing out when the rods are removed).

All set and concerned ... "Please don't let me look like Soul Glo!!!"CF7CF10

  • I used a total of 28 rods, so only 2 1/3 bags of rods, to set my hair and it took THREE HOURS!! Ughhhh!!

As y’all know, as I was applying the product, my hair was looking soooo stringy. I had a flashback on CurlyNikki’s WnG experience with it. Remember that? If not, see here. F’reals … I was definitely afraid that I would end up looking like Randy Watson!!

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Fortunately, all was right with the world when I removed the rollers and released the twists the next day :). So, here is the tale in pics and the final results.

(Click pics to enlarge and read full captions.)

So, I was very pleased, even though my hair didn’t end up being as big as I would have liked. I was really surprised at how soft of a set the Eco Styler Olive Oil gel provided!! I’ll be trying this again, but on damp hair with the smaller grey rods. But I won’t be doing that for a minute as my hair really needs a break from being worn down. The cold winter and all this friction from rubbing against my coat and clothes has been doing a number on my nape and I ain’t got time for all of that.

Oh, and as to day 2 hair? Well, I twisted it into four big twists on Wednesday night, so those Shirley Temple like curls didn’t last long. I had bigger waves … but, you know, I was feeling it!!

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Do you use Eco Styler Gel for styling? Which one is your favorite? How do you use them?

Hairscapades in Better Than Good Hair!

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2/2/13: Okay ladies! This is it!! I got a personal text from Nik asking me to get the word out! Please buy your copy (or two or three or four … I got 3) of Curly Nikki’s Better Than Good Hair BY 5 PM TODAY!!! In the publishing world, you have one week to make it in the top 20 and BTGH is so close!! So, if you can buy another copy AND/OR get family and friends to do so, TODAY IS THE DAY!!

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It’s here!!! It’s here!! Okay, my copy isn’t here. But Hairscapades follower Myeisha got her copy of Curly Nikki’s Better Than Good Hair yesterday and shared pictures of my Exercise and Natural Hair article on the Hairscapades Facebook page!!

BTGH1Woot! Woot!

OH!!! And get this!!!! Though they don’t mention any of the contributors by name, Huffington Post had this to say:

via HuffingtonPost.com

“We especially love the sections on how to maintain gorgeous hair while exercising (since that’s proving to present some major health risks) …”

That’s me!!! That’s me!!! LOL!!

Anywho, hopefully I’ll get my copy today! If you haven’t ordered yours, now is a great time to get it!! Because, you can get a $10 Shea Moisture coupon when you do the following:

  1. Buy a print copy of the book between January 29th and February 2nd on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or at your local bookstore.
  2. Register at Shea Moisture Events Giveaway HERE.

How easy is that? And shoot, if you get the coupon, it’s like getting the book for free!! Buuuuut, you have to order and register fast as this offer is only good while supplies last!! (Full details of offer here.)

(Hmmm, I think I may need to pick up a couple more copies for the family myself! Given my PJ ways, you know that I want some Shea Moisture coupons ;).)

Hair Care Rehab and a Giveaway! *CLOSED*

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Does Your Hair Need an Intervention?
Tips for an Easy 5-Step Rehab

Between blow-drying, teasing, flat-ironing, highlighting and lowlighting— there are many ways to change what Mother Nature gave us. But whether you’re regularly straightening curls, lightening darker hair or vice/versa, there may be a price to pay for rebelling.

But most women don’t think twice about the hair habits they’ve had for years and years, says longtime hair-care advocate and health scientist Audrey Davis-Sivasothy.

“Lackluster, frazzled, overworked hair—that’s the price we pay for handling our hair like a pair of jeans. Hair is a fragile fiber that needs to be handled more like a silk blouse,” says Davis-Sivasothy, author of “Hair Care Rehab,” (www.haircarerehab.com). “Oftentimes, the style we feel the most comfortable with reinforces our bad habits. It’s a problem with all the earmarks of an addiction.”

Substances of choice include:

  • Toxic chemicals (perms, relaxers & colors)
  • Hair OCD (excessive combing, brushing & heat use)
  • Environmental lifestyle (too much exposure to sun, surf, bad air and water)
  • Nutritional/dietary (fad diets, smoking, low water consumption)

As with a drug addiction, once you’ve kicked your habit, you’ll liberate your bad hair, unlocking new dimensions of hair potential, says Davis-Sivasothy, who has also authored the popular “The Science of Black Hair” (www.blackhairscience.com).

She offers a five-step rehab for damaged hair:

  1. Chelating: Products containing oils, conditioners, serums and pomades (or minerals), which make you feel better in the short term, can build up and actually prevent your hair’s ability to hydrate. That’s why the first step in detoxing hair is the use of chelating shampoo, which is typically clear and lifts stubborn buildup from products and hard water. While many chelating shampoos are sulfate-based, there are more sulfate-free products entering the market to accommodate sensitive scalps and hair. Clarifying shampoos are a good substitute when chelating shampoos cannot be found. Moisturizing shampoo should be used for general use after detoxing is complete.
  2. Deep conditioning: After chelating, deep condition for 10 to 15 minutes. This should be done every seven to 10 days using moisturizing conditioners such as instant and cream-rinse, deep conditioners, protein treatments or leave-in conditioners. To go the extra mile, consider an apple cider vinegar rinse to close the cuticle and enhance your hair’s shine.
  3. Moisturizing: This step adds a layer of leave-on protection. You can use either leave-in conditioner or a dedicated moisturizing product, or both. For thick, dry or curly hair, this step hydrates and adds “slip.” For fine or oily hair, these products should detangle strands while encouraging volume.
  4. Sealing: This is the last major step in your hair intervention. Sealing with an oil or butter product locks in moisture and solidifies the gains of rehab. It smoothes out the cuticle and keeps hair moisturized for a longer period. Always use sealant on slightly dampened or misted hair, or pair the product with a water-based moisturizer to maximize the benefits. If you have naturally oily hair, you can skip this step.
  5. Styling protectively: Imagine wearing a favorite sweater every day; washing, drying and ironing it several times a week – it would look pretty worn out after a few years! This is exactly what happens to hair that is bleached, colored, blown dry with artificial heat, ironed, weaved and on and on. Don’t do this anymore! There are several measures you can take to preserve the health of your hair, including wearing it up more often, cleansing it cautiously, detangling strands with a large-tooth comb, protectively using blow-dryer heat, reducing chemical use and not coloring your hair more than three shades lighter or darker than your natural color. In general, be gentle. Do not pull to hard or rapidly when styling it, too; be slow and steady.

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About Audrey Davis-Sivasothy
Audrey Davis-Sivasothy is a Houston-based freelance writer, publisher and longtime, healthy hair care advocate and enthusiast. Sivasothy holds a degree in health science and has written extensively on the science of caring for hair at home.

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GIVEAWAY

Now the author behind The Science of Black Hair is back with her newest book, Hair Care Rehab: The Ultimate Hair Repair and Reconditioning Manual!

And, guess what? Yes! That’s what!! I’m giving away a copy!!! LOL!!

To enter for your chance to win your very own copy of Hair Care Rehab, simply tell us why your hair needs an intervention in the comments below!

Deadline for entry: Tuesday, December 18th. 

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*No purchase necessary. A winner will be selected at random the week following the close of the giveaway. In accepting the prize, the winner acknowledges that Hairscapades.com may not be held liable for any loss, damages or injury associated with accepting or using this prize. This contest is subject to all federal, provincial and municipal laws. Contest open to Continental U.S. residents only. One entry per person. Claiming of prizes requires an e-mail response to hairscapades@gmail.com from the winner within 5 days of being notified of winning. Failure to respond shall mean that the winner forfeits the prize and an alternate winner will be selected.

SKILLS NOTES: Product Ingredients

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So, I was thinking about how overwhelming it can be when you first discover the online natural hair web-iverse. There is sooooo much information out there and some of it is very technical, while other is anecdotal. And, while the education can be enlightening, it can also cause more issues than remaining ignorant!! Been there …  done that. LOL!! However, I do believe there is a “sweet spot.”  You know … that point where you’ve read enough, watched enough and tried enough to make informed decisions about what products, techniques and regimens will work for you and also know enough to figure out on which ones you should take a pass? *Singing* “Walk on byyyyyyyy.”

Well, all that being said, it may take some time to reach your very own personal “sweet spot.” Shoot, it took me a year plus! LOL! But, I thought that I might be able to help some reach their spot more quickly and navigate some of the ins and outs of natural hair by providing some fundamentals in a simple format, as well as links to additional information for those desiring more details. And thus, the idea for Skills Notes was born ;). (Yup, Skills Notes. Hairscapades was too long and Skills has been my nickname since college. ;))

So, with that, welcome to the first installment of SKILLS NOTES!

PRODUCT INGREDIENTS

SULFATES: Cleansing agents found in many shampoos. Traditional sulfates can be harsh and strip hair of necessary moisture and oils. However, there are now many cleansers on the market that are sulfate-free and/or formulated with mild sulfates. WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who are following the Curly Girl (CG) method, the Tightly Curly Method (TCM) and/or those with dryness issues. WHY: These individuals should avoid harsh sulfates and seek sulfate-free or mild sulfate alternatives.

For more information on sulfates and the alternatives, check out these articles:
Naturallycurly.com: Which Sulfates Are Safer Than the Others?
CurlyNikki.com: What’s in Your Shampoo

SILICONES: Conditioning agents used in shampoos, conditioners, stylers, serums and glosssers that provide slip and shine. Most ingredients ending in “cone,” “col,” “conol” or “zane” are silicones. There are four basic categories of silicones: water-soluble, slightly water-soluble, non water-soluble but repels build-up, non water-soluble and build-up prone. Non water-soluble silicones can eventually prevent the hair from absorbing sufficient water/moisture to remain hydrated, which can cause dry hair.

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who are following the CG Method or the TCM and/or conditioner only regimens. WHY: These individuals should either avoid non-water soluble silicones, use mild sulfate or sulfate-free shampoos that remove silicones or incorporate a “clarifying” sulfate shampoo into their regimen as needed. 

Want to learn more? Check out these articles:
NaturallyCurly.com: The Real Scoop on Silicones (silicones explained)
NaturallyCurly.com: What’s the Scoop on Silicones (chart with recommended cleansing agents by cone)

PROTEINS: Protein is used in many conditioners to reinforce and strengthen the hair structure, especially when hair is damaged or weakened by chemicals (i.e. permanent colors and/or chemical relaxers and perms). Protein treatments should be followed by moisturizing conditioners to restore elasticity or the hair may become brittle and feel dry. “Protein sensitivity” is a term used for hair that responds negatively to protein, either because the hair has sufficient protein or becomes brittle despite post-treatment moisturizing conditioners.

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Everyone ;). WHY: Ensuring that hair is strong and moisturized aids in appearance and reduces breakage that can impede length retention goals.

For a listing of proteins as well as tons of other useful information, check out this link:
CurlyNikki.com: Curls 101 FAQs

GLYCERIN: Humectant found in many products that is used to attract water into the hair shaft.

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those with porous and frizz-prone hair, those with low porosity hair and those with dry hair. WHY: In humid climates (i.e. high dew points), glycerin can cause high porosity hair to frizz and tangle. For those with dry or low porosity hair that is hard to moisturize, glycerin can help draw water from the environment into the hair and help reduce/eliminate dryness. Many curl activators contain glycerin in order to aid hair in moisture retention and some naturals/curlies have found success with these type of products.

For a list of common humectants, see the CurlyNikki.com: Curls 101 FAQs link above.

ALCOHOLS: There are two basic categories of alcohols used in hair products: short chain drying alcohols (bad) and long chain “fatty” alcohols (good). Short chain drying alcohols evaporate quickly, so they are used in products to decrease the time it takes hair to dry. In contrast, long chain “fatty” alcohols are lubricating, moisturizing and “film-forming” in order to lock in moisture.

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Everyone. WHY: Short-chain drying alcohols should be avoided whereas long-chain fatty alcohols are fine and can be sought out for their moisturizing properties.

Drying alcohols: SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, Alcohol denatured, Propanol, Propyl alcohol, Isopropyl alcohol

Fatty alcohols: Behenyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol, Cetyl alcohol, Isocetyl alcohol, Isostearyl alcohol, Lauryl alcohol, Myristyl alcohol, Stearyl alcohol, C30-50 Alcohols, Lanolin alcohol

MINERAL OIL: Mineral oil is used in products as an emollient, to seal in moisture, block humidity and enhance clumping/curl formation. It is non-water soluble. Mineral oil does not penetrate into the hair shaft to moisturize on its own. It simply aids in sealing in water/moisture. Mineral oil has gotten a bad rap, because it is often used in products with other ingredients (like petrolatum and lanolin), which are sticky and/or greasy. These combination of ingredients can cause build-up on the hair and scalp, as well as attract dust, dirt and lint from the environment. Some naturals avoid mineral oil at all costs, but it does have benefits. Cosmetic grade mineral oil can be light and non-sticky.

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who follow co-wash only/shampoo free regimens and those with scalp issues. WHY: Products with mineral oil combined with petrolatum, lanolin and some vegetable oils can be sticky, greasy and build-up on the hair and clog the pores of the scalp. Therefore, they require a cleansing agents to remove.  

Want to learn more about mineral oil and how it stacks up against coconut oil? Find more information here:
NaturallyCurly.com: Using Mineral Oil for Hair
NaturallyCurly.com: Mineral Oil vs. Coconut Oil – Which is Better?

PETROLATUM: Petrolatum is used in products to seal in water, provide a barrier against heat and chemicals and add sheen to the hair. It is non-water soluble. Petrolatum is sticky, which can attract dust, dirt and lint from the environment. It can cause build-up on the hair and clog the pores of the scalp. Petrolatum is found in many traditional hair “greases.”

WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who follow co-wash only/shampoo free regimens and those with scalp issues. WHY: Products with petrolatum, lanolin and some vegetable oils can be sticky, greasy and build-up on the hair and clog the pores of the scalp. Therefore, it requires a cleansing agent to remove.

PARABENS: Preservatives used to extend the shelf life of products by protecting against a wide range of microorganisms. The most common parabens found in cosmetic products are methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. WHO NEEDS TO KNOW: Those who want to use all-natural and/or organic products exclusively. Those who want to avoid this preservative due to concerns about toxicity and studies that indicated that parabens disrupts hormones and were detected in breast tumors. WHY: Self-explanatory ;).

For more information about the FDA’s position on parabens and the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) assessment and recommendations, check out these articles:
FDA.gov/Product and Ingredients Safety: Parabens
EWG.com: Parabens and Skin Deep Database
SafeProducts.org: Parabens

And that’s it for the first edition of SKILLS NOTES, Product Ingredients!

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So, how’d I do?? What ingredients would you add to the list of basics?