Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dry, Fried, Overly Dyed Hair? Here's the 411 for some 911!

We have all been there.  At least the majority of us have been.  Those who color our hair, who blow dry constantly, who use a flat iron more than we do our clothing iron--we know we've gone down this path a time or two. And there are many other ways we can get there.  Double processing (two different chemical processes on the same head of hair), bleaching, and chemical hair straightening  or curling products all lead us to the point of dry, lifeless, frizzy, hard, or breaking strands.

There are also some of us who have naturally dry hair, mainly curly girls and guys.  And the tighter the curl pattern, the drier the hair tends to be.  We all have natural oils that are produced on the scalp, just like on the skin.  And those of us who know simple geometry know that it is quicker and easier to get from point A to point B when you're travelling in a straight line.  Well think of the oil as the traveller, and the hair strand the line.  Oil flows much more easily down from the root (point A) to the ends (point B) on straight hair.  However, the more "windey" and twisted the strand is, the more difficult it is for that oil to travel to it's destination. 

Those with wavy and large curls may suffer from a bit of dryness from time to time.  Those with corkscrew curls have more of an issue with dryness.  And those with tight curls, especially those of us like the Diva with some afro heritage, know that we always have the tendency to have dry hair and that we need to add moisture to keep it healthy.

Here are some deep conditioning treatments I like for overprocessed hair of any texture. Remember that the curlier the hair, the more product your hair can tolerate.

For moisturizing treatments: Straight,wavy, and large curls--use sparingly once or twice per month as directed.  Corkscrew curly, use more product as needed up to once per week.  Coily, kinky, and Afro relaxed hair, use more as needed up to twice a week.

Moisture for quenching parched strands( dry, frizzy strands):

Queen Helene Cholesterol Conditioning Cream-$3.50 at drug stores
It's A Ten Miracle Hair Mask--$18 at Beauty Supply Stores (BSS) or select salons
Kerastate Nutritive Masquintense Hair Mask- $44 at BSS or select salons

For protein treatments: Every type should use as dierected.  Some may find it useful to follow up with a regular rinse out conditioner, because protein can make hair feel hard.

Protein for strength (brittle or breaking strands):

Nutress Hair Protein Pak- $3.99 for a 4 oz. tube at BSS
Nexxus Emergencee--$10 at Rite Aid or at BSS
Sebastian Penetraitt Deep Strengthening Treatment--starting at $15 at BSS

 FYI for my "Non Bronzed Readers" ;-) About 80% of black American women today (way less than in the '90's) regularly undergo a chemical process called relaxing to break the bond of the coil pattern and make it straight.  The rest are naturally kinky, coily, curly, wavy, and a small percentage are even completely naturally straight--as we all have degrees of mixed ethnicity and a wide range of hair textures. And of course, some ladies use heat to flatten the coils out, or wear hair pieces and weaves.  If you are a reader who is not too familiar with black American hair types, just know that if the hair is always worn straight, it is likely to be chemically treated.  And if you hear a black lady talk about "going natural", she means stopping the relaxer treatments, cutting off the processed hair and rocking her God-given texture of  hair, whatever that might be! 

We'll chat again soon. Next time, I'll give you some natural, and home made conditoners!!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Learning from Yolanda-- the lady that taught me a lot about hair and also about life

Hello Beautiful People,

I have been wanting to take some time to talk about hair care.  Now I am not a licensed professional hairstylist; in fact, estheticians are licensed only to remove hair in addition to skin treatments...BUT, I know a thing or two about what healthy hair should look and feel like.  Before I do so, I would like to tell you a story about how my knowledge of hair care went from fair to fabulous!  And about a lady who had a lot to do with it.

For about a year, I worked at a salon called Le Salon De Beaute in Pikesville, Maryland. I was fresh out of Von Lee School of Esthetics, a top-notch school for facialists, and I had gotten word that a woman I knew from high school was looking to expand her new hair salon to include skin care.  That salon owner, after giving me one of the toughest interviews I've had, became my boss.  And she was a bonafide hair diva.  Yolanda Carr was a young women who despite her youth ran her business the way she ran her life, very regimented and with precision. I had known her and her sister growing up at Franklin Middle and Franklin High School, but I was a quiet, shy and conservative girl, while I always remembered Yolanda as being fun-loving, rebellious, and outgoing.  So naturally we never crossed paths much as kids.  Now thrust into the world of professional esthetics in a new salon that never before offered skin care services, I knew I had a lot of knowledge and raw talent.  But I sometimes doubted how good I really was; however, Yolanda never did.  We wouldn't always agree on how things should be done, but she respected my knowledge and enthusiastically encouraged her hair clients to see me for skin care treatments.  And I respected the way she ran her business and how she could cut, color, and style any texture of hair like magic, no matter the race or ethnicity of the client.

Not having established a "book" of clients on my own yet, I spent many hours around the salon watching Yolanda interact with her clients.  She always greeted them with a lovely smile and engaged them in many interesting conversations.  I watched as she tousled her client's wet hair during the cutting process, to see how the style would "hang".  I watched her color and highlight hair, doing full highlights as quickly as she did a "zipper"(highlighting only the top of the crown and sectioning it to have the effect of a zipper).  I observed her as she wielded her blow dryer, creating fluffy blowouts that I have learned to copy, but not nearly as well.   I also watched her mentor others, including the talented young stylist Jenah who grew by leaps and bounds as a stylist within the time I was there.  I learned about various hair products, techniques, and even how to highlight my own hair by copying what she and Jenah did. Yolanda used to say that the brand of shampoo wasn't nearly as important as the conditioner and other styling products, because "they are all suds in a bottle".  Above all I learned that you have to work hard to become an expert if you want people to listen and to trust you.  Her diligence paid off indeed, as she and the salon were soon featured in Baltimore Magazine as one of the top salons in the area,

I left the salon in the early summer of 2008 to pursue a job with a medi-spa.  I was impatient, not wanting to wait to build up my book as I was working on commission.  I was lured away by the better-than-decent hourly wage and the chance to work in a clinical setting alongside medical professionals.  I had made many friends at Le Salon De Beaute, and hated leaving them.  But the hardest thing I had to do was personally resign to my boss.  I waited around in my car after my shift was over until the shop closed, the last client walked out the door followed by the staff.  With a knot in my throat, I hurried across the lot and up the steps to the door.  Yolanda was straightening up after a long day.  I gave her my two weeks notice and explained my reasons for wishing to move on.   I didn't think she would be all that concerned, as hair was the main business there and other estheticians would come.  She was graceful, but she did say " I believed in you, and I wish I had known you needed more money, because I would have worked with you".  It was then I realized I shouldn't have doubted my worth, because Yolanda could see a diamond in the rough better than anyone could.

I told her that I respected her and applauded her success in such a short period of time as a salon owner.  After my two weeks were over, I left Le Salon De Beaute behind and pursued my medi-spa job.  Although I stayed there much longer and made much more money, I learned that the "clinical setting" I'd hoped for was more of a money-grabbing operation where dishonesty and pressure sales was encouraged and my knowledge, talent, and compassion for clients took a back seat to the act of removing thousands of dollars from people's pocketbooks by sweet looking but deceptive twenty-somethings promising results that often did not come. Yes, the grass always looks greener, but many times it is not.

One night in March last year, a friend from high school called to tell me if I'd heard the news.  There had been a freak accident behind the salon after work.  Yolanda Carr was gone.  Just like that, she had left behind a husband, two boys, loving family, and a multitude of friends and clients.  The show still goes on, as her family and friends keep Le Salon open.  But I will not forget Yolanda nor the lessons I learned by observing how she handled hair, and juggled her business, family, and her life.

The Bronzediva

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Men and Skin Care Products--Do Men REALLY Need Their Own Stuff?

I don't think my husband minds me saying that he doesn't care much about skin care products and regimens.  He rinses his face with water during his shower and shaves every now and then, and he is good to go.  And he has clear and basically flawless skin.  I am a bit jealous of this fact. I wonder why I have to struggle to keep my face clear of blemishes and shine-free, while he doesn't have a routine and his skin is great.  I am the esthectician in the family, and still I struggle. Yes, it has alot to do with genes/ hormones.  On my mother's side of the family, most have clear and youthful looking skin.  On my dad's it's a mixed bag, but I think I inherited the oily, acne prone skin from him.

Not all men are as lucky as my man is, but whether they have stellar skin or less-than-perfect skin, many men prefer their own products to place on their side of the bathroom sink.  They prefer the more woodsy fragrance which permeates many skin  and hair care products marketed to men.  And of course, there is the shaving lubricant.  Back in the day, my dad and grandfather used Barbisol or Colgate shaving cream out of the can.  I liked to watch the foamy "clouds" puff up as they were released from the can, and wished that I could eat them.  Nowadays, however, there are so many options available to help ease the shaving process, be they creams, gels, lotions, or foams.

Some men prefer their own body wash.  Instead of the entire family using the same bottle of Dove, they prefer using their own products with a distinct "manly" scent.  And now, there are shampoos and conditioners marketed for men.  I guess to help them feel more like a "stud" when they are in the check out line at Wal Mart.  A friend I know even resorted to "re-labeling" her bottle of Pantene to "Mantene" with a sharpie, just so her hubby would tolerate it.

Let's look at one of the most popular higher end facial care lines devoted to men--Clinique Skin Supplies For Men.  Clinique Skin Supplies for Men goes WAY beyond the garden variety men's cleanser and after shave, including products such as Age Defense Eye Cream.  All of the products are usually highly rated on skin care sites, yet Clinque's main line (women's) scores much lower.  Why is this?  Does Clinique add better ingredients to the men's line?  No, that's not it.  In fact, many of the ingredients are the same in both the main line and the men's line. The reason is because in general, male skin is thicker and slightly oiler than females', due to hormonal differences.  So most men can handle a stronger astringent with some SD-alcohol in it, and it usually benefits from the drying, mattifying ingredients that Clinique is famous for.  IMHO, the main Clinique skin care line is just too drying for anybody (male or female) who doesn't have oily or combination-oily skin types. ESPECIALLY the toners!  But since many men are thicker skinned and oily, these products work fairly well for them.  And the Skin Supplies for Men bottles are a dark steel grey, and the products smell way less girlie.

As far as I am concerned, men and women can use the same basic skin care.  It is more about the marketing, the packaging, and the scent.  If a women is using Olay Regenerist (which I like as a drug store line), her man might balk at the notion of having to share.  It's a pride thing.  But really men and women have the same basic skin care needs (with the exception of major makeup wearers like the Diva):

Cleansing/Removal of Dirt and Environmental Toxins (yes, this can be done with a clean washcloth and plain water on normal skin.)

Moisturizing-  For a lot of men, using a lubricating lotion shave aid like Alba Botanica, serves to prep the hair for a closer shave as well as leave a moisture barrier on the skin after a light rinse.

Sun Protection- Yes, men of color should be using this too.  The sun's rays age skin rapidly and can lead to skin cancer.   Neutrogena has some very nice products that everyone in the family should use.

So, basically, men do not have to use products specifically "made" for men.  Just as women don't need to use products called "Bliss" or  "Jurlique".  As long as the basic needs are being met, it doesn't really matter what color of the jar is or which font or writing style is on the label!

So what about problems with razor bumps and burn?  Well, next time we will look at products and tips that will help men deal with shaving and how to deal with folliculitis, ect.  Hope you'll stay tuned!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bruises, Bumps, Bugs, and More Part TWO!!!

Finally I have gotten around to writing Part TWO of Bruises, Bumps, Bugs and More.  Hope these tips are worth the wait. I'll bet they will come in handy.

Bee Stings:  The sight of bees and wasps has always brought my kids running indoors.  Their stings hurt and can be life threatening to some. We can't prevent the occasional bee sting, but the pain can be relieved with essential oils such as LAVENDER and THYME. Essential oils are not your average oil like vegetable and canola.  They can be very expensive and some of these oils aren’t easy to find.   Instead of having you spend the extra money mixing extracts, I suggest trying Burt's Bees Outdoor Bug Bite Relief ($5 in the natural care aisle).  It contains these ingredients and more in a lip balm sized treatment.  If you want to try something you may have in your pantry, soothe that sting with plain HONEY.  It seems ironic that the natural sweetener produced by those pesky bees can also help to heal them.   HONEY is a natural astringent and it helps draw toxins from the skin.  Also, if you happen to have one on hand (as many Caribbean natives do), a PAPAYA can provide relief as well.  An unripe one has the highest enzyme concentration and provides the most sting relief, but a ripe one is okay to try too. Before you attempt any remedy, please make sure that make sure that neither you nor your “patient” is not allergic or any ingredients.  Perform a patch test BEFORE a problem occurs, so that you are prepared if and when you need it.*  Also, if applicable, make sure the stinger is carefully removed before any application.

Repelling Mosquitoes and More: NEEM is the word!  NEEM oil is pressed from a mahogany tree native to India and has many uses.  One use is as a bug repellent.  You can buy pure neem oil online or from a local Indian grocer, or use a ready-made spray like NeemAura Naturals ($9 online).  Or keep a bowl of the oil on your picnic table to keep those buggers at bay.  Did you know--NEEM is used in many Natural Insecticide Products for plants?

Cold Sores, Athlete's Foot, and Ringworm:  Cold sores can come at any time.  Although winter is often thought of as “cold sore season”, this is not necessarily so.   It can be a spring/summer issue, due to the sun’s rays causing the virus that causes them to “act up”.  Early intervention is the key to maximum relief. LEMON BALM is great for healing cold sores when caught early.  It is an anti fungal cousin to mint.  Try LEMON BALM salve as soon as you feel the tingle of a sore beginning.  Use early and often!  Wiseways Herbal Lemon Balm salve( Whole Foods $6-$8) is also good for curing Athlete’s Foot and Ringworm.  Keep the small jar in your gym bag and apply to the feet after drying them from a shower to keep the flares away.

Important--I want to stress that while these natural cures can be effective, by no means should you hesitate to call your health care practitioner if you feel it is warranted. 

*Also, perform a patch test before using products, especially if you are prone to food allergies.  Apply a small amount to a nondescript area where it won’t wash off.  The best place is behind the ear.  Cover the area with a bandage strip and wait about 24 hours.  If irritation develops, rinse off immediately.  If you can’t use it, you can bless a friend or family member and pass the product along if you used it in a sanitary mannerJ



Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bumps, Bruises, Bugs, and More: Natural Remedies--PART ONE

Springtime is here! And summer is around the corner!  Beautiful days ahead.  Days when we spend more time outside--gardening, grilling, exercising, and enjoying our lunch breaks in the fresh open air. And when kids look forward to staying outdoors all day, often until the last of the sunshine finally slips away.  And with the warmer weather and outdoor play, also comes the not-so-fun events, like falls, scrapes, bruises, and stings.  Fortunately there are some natural remedies for the stings and bruises, as well as for some other pesky skin problems.

ALERT: We can possibly have an allergy to any product, even natural ones. I would do a patch test before an incident occurs and of course, DO NOT USE if you have a known allergy to an ingredient.

Minor Abrasions:  After assessing the cut or scrape to ensure that the damage to the tissues does not necessitate a trip to the hospital or medical clinic, the next step when one receives a cut or scrape is to stop bleeding with pressure, clean the area by flushing with water, and treat to prevent infections.  My favorite natural antiseptic is TEA TREE OIL.  It is one of the few essential oils that can be used straight from the bottle without a carrier oil (like almond oil or coconut oil), and it is now easily purchased at the local drug store.  Apply tea tree oil to the abrasion with a clean cotton pad (or pour into a small sterile spray bottle and spray the wound) to kill germs and prevent infection from setting in.  And it does sting a bit, so be prepared to apply a sterile ointment afterward, like the great salve I will talk about next time OR if you are not going "all-natural" a triple antibiotic cream with pain relief such as Neosporin.  The cream is not greasy, so bandages may stick better as long as you apply only to the wound.

TEA TREE OIL is a natural extract of the Australian tea tree (Melaleuca) leaf, and is also an effective anti fungal.  I have used it successfully to get rid of a fungal infection behind my fingernail that I got from a not-so-sterile manicure.  It needs to be applied to the affected area three times a day until infection clears.  Another trick, add a half of a teaspoon to a quarter cup of shampoo when you wash your hair to dismiss dandruff and to give itchy scalps some relief.

Bruises:  Abate bruises quickly with ARNICA, also called Melissa.  ARNICA comes in gel form as well as in a homeopathic pill form (tiny edible beads).  I like to get the Arnicare combo pack from The Vitamin Shoppe.  When a bruise forms, or even before it forms, apply the gel to the area and take the beads as directed.  You will see the bruise change color and "break up" faster than normal, often within one-three days.  You can also just buy the gel. ARNICA gel has helped many an accident victim get incredible relief from inflammation and bad bruising. And it works great for minor bruises too.

COMING SOON...Treatments for bee stings, a natural bug repellent, and more.