LoPo’s Frenemy I: Aloe Vera

I hope everyone has a lovely Valentine’s Day with your loved ones and not your frenemies. Speaking of frenemy, aloe vera has been one of mine.

It does have many beauty and hair benefits. It has slightly acidic Ph, ranging between 4.4 – 4.7. It works great on skin that’s been exposed to too much sun and harsh, dry winds. Many people use aloe vera as a gel. Or they use the juice from the plant as a leave-in or sealer.

When I heard about aloe’s healing properties for the hair, I immediately jumped on the bandwagon and started using it. The results were not at all good, but I couldn’t understand why. My hair would frizz up at the moment I applied aloe vera and when I mixed it with my leave-in conditioners, the product build-up was horrible. I kept using it, because I was convinced it was supposed do something for my hair.

One day, I ran out of my aloe juice and went a few weeks without using it. I noticed my hair had less frizz and less buildup than before. Sometime passed and I restocked my fridge with a bottle of aloe juice and went back to using it. That’s when a light bulb went off and I realized my “good hair weeks” had suddenly come to an end. I didn’t understand why my hair didn’t respond well to aloe until I figured out my hair was low porosity.

In essence, applying aloe to my hair, after cleansing with conditioner (i.e. cowashing) and rinsing with cold water (which, will be discussed in later posts), was not efficient for my already compact cuticles. This probably caused them to be more compact and lock out moisture. Imagine a set of shingles on a roof (low porosity hair), covered in plastic tarp (aloe juice)– yep, that rain is just going to roll off the roof of the house! Remember water has a neutral Ph of 7 and aloe vera a Ph of 4.4 – 4.7, thus it can’t lift the cuticle, as it has a Ph less than 7.

Now, just because aloe didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it’s a horrible beauty product and it can’t work for me. My problem, was that I was just doing it all wrong. I still love using aloe on my face, it’s a very refreshing moisturizer! I don’t use it often on my hair, however, here are some helpful tips I do use, to make it work for my low-porosity hair:

  • Use aloe only as a sealer for the ends. If the ends of your hair are often dry and split. Simply mix a small amount of aloe into your leave-in or apply it directly in its pure form to the ends of your hair.
  • After an alkaline hair wash, in my case, baking soda wash, apply aloe as sealer on top of your leave-in. You could just put some in a spray bottle and spritz it lightly on your hair.
  • Add some to rhassoul clay mixture (will be discussed in later posts), for an ultra moisturizing deep conditioner.

Voila, those are ways I make aloe vera work for with my hair and not against it. I never apply it to hair as a deep conditioner. I try to mainly use it on my ends, unless I’ve washed my hair with a high Ph product/ingredient. I add it to my rhassoul clay mixture, which works quite nicely with aloe. I would not suggest mixing aloe into baking soda wash.

Again, I don’t use it often and my hair seems to be doing really well retaining moisture. It’s never had this amount of shine, beside when it was really short (twa).

Do you use aloe vera juice or gel on your hair? How do you use it?

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Lo-Po’s BFF I: Baking Soda

On Baking Soda and pH

In my earlier post “A Lo-Po’s BFF and Frenemy”, I discussed products that work brilliantly and terribly on my low porosity hair. To explain how I use these products and the results they yield, I thought I’d write a series discussing the items each week in detail. One item that I discovered recently that is inexpensive and readily available, is baking soda.

Baking soda is a really controversial product in the natural hair sphere. Some people think that it’s harsh, because it lifts the cuticles, which they believe does more harm than good, in the long run. Another controversy surrounding baking soda is its alkaline PH, which ranges from about 8-9. Some claim that it can alter the structure of curly hair and equate it to a straightener/relaxer.

In my opinion, this is highly unlikely, as a relaxer, which has the chemical lye or sodium hydroxide, has a PH of 14. In order for a product to chemically alter the structure and break down the bonds of the hair, it would have to be highly alkaline, as are relaxers. Relaxers are 1,000,000 times more alkaline than water and baking soda is 100 times more alkaline. See this blog for more information on baking soda and its effect on hair. I will list some blogs and sites at the end of this post, so that you find out about some of the arguments for and against baking soda.

Here is a short definition of pH:

PH is a measure of the alkalinity or acidity of a substance. It measures the concentration of Hydrogen ions (H+) measured against the concentration of Hydroxyl ions (OH-). When a substance has more Hydrogen ions than Hydroxyl ions, a substance is considered acidic. When water has more Hydroxyl ions than Hydrogen ions, the water is considered basic or alkaline. When there are an equal amount of Hydrogen ions and Hydroxyl ions (H20), the substance (i.e. water) is considered neutral (pH 7.0) [http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/PH]

Liquids with a PH less than 7 are acidic

Liquids with a PH greater than 7 are alkaline

Water has a  PH of 7 and is neutral.

Why I use Baking Soda 

My hair is prone to build up. I have to be very careful not to be heavy-handed when applying products. I wash my hair once a week to ensure a clean, healthy scalp. Last year I used sulfate-free shampoos to wash my hair. However, these shampoos still left my hair feeling just as dry and stripped as with sulfate shampoos. After sulfate-free shampoos, I tried using the “conditioner only” or “curly girl” method to wash my hair. This left me with loads of build-up. Looking back, this was probably due to the fact that most conditioners are acidic. “Low pH conditioners […] provide the hair with positive charge and thus more hydrogen bonds between the keratin scales, giving the hair a more compact structure (wikipedia.com).”

Because conditioners are more acidic and give the hair a more compact structure, they left my already compact low porosity hair with buildup. For a high porosity hair or even a normal porosity hair, this is great! I need a slightly alkaline product or a method (e.g. warm water) that will help lift my compact cuticles and allow me to let moisture into my hair shaft.

How I use Baking Soda

As a Clarifier

If I notice heavy build-up, flaky or white residue on my scalp, I clarify with baking soda once per month. If you plan on trying baking soda rinse, it’s best to never use more than 65 grams/ app. 4 TBSP of baking soda. I use very little and it’s still really effective.

  1. I place 1 TBSP – 2 TBSP of baking soda in about 2- 4 liters of warm water and mix it well. I pour this mixture over my scalp and hair, being careful to avoid my eyes.
  2. I put on a plastic cap and allow the mixture to sit about 15-20 minutes. Before rinsing, I gently massage my scalp, to break up any debris.
  3. Next, I rinse my hair with warm water thoroughly, being sure to remove all the baking soda.
  4. Finally, I follow this with a deep conditioner, rinse* it out with lukewarm water and style.

* I don’t always completely rinse my conditioner out, sometimes only rinse out 60 – 80 percent. I liken this to a leave-in.

This process leaves my hair clean, but not stripped. After applying my conditioner, my hair is softer and detangling is much easier. Since, my conditioner has an acidic pH, this is what I use to seal my cuticles.

As a Cleansing Deep Conditioner (DC)

If I feel like my hair does not have a significant amount of buildup, but is feeling somewhat dry, I will either replace my monthly baking soda clarifier with a baking soda DC.

  1. Mix 1 -2  TBSP of baking soda in 1 C of conditioner add a few TBSP of your favorite oil.
  2. Gently apply this mixture to wet hair, don’t rub or massage it into your hair, simply coat your hair with it.
  3. Cover your hair with a plastic cap and allow the mixture to sit 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with warm water, apply your conditioner of preference, let it sit  a few minutes or do another deep conditioner, detangle.

I liken this to a cleansing and deep moisturizing conditioner.

There you have it. This is how I use baking soda in my regimen. It leaves me with soft, supple, clean and shiny hair. I would say, I generally use baking soda once per month. I do have other products (e.g. rhassoul clay) that I also use, so I try to switch things up.

In the next post, I’ll discuss my Lo-Po hair frenemy: Aloe vera and Aloe vera gel. As the term frenemy implies, aloe vera can give me nice results, when used correctly, however, when used incorrectly my hair is a disaster. I tend to stay away from this product, but if you like it, I hope to give you some useful tips for making it work for low porosity hair.

Further Info on Baking Soda

For your reading or viewing pleasure:

Pro Arguments

Elle Magazine

Blogger: Chy Curlz

Youtube Vlogger and Blogger: Elle/Denim Pixie

Blogger

The author of this website is very leaning more towards pro, but also presents the arguments against. He also offers an alternative to using baking soda, diluted castile soap, which I haven’t tried.

Anti Arguments

Vlogger  – Kimmay

Naturally curly, takes an anti perspective, then offers a recipe that suggests using a large amount of baking soda– confusing or what?

Website

In my opinion, you have to do you research and see what works best for you. Many vloggers and bloggers probably fall into high or normal porosity category, which is why washing their hair in aloe or diluted vinegar, works wonders.

Have you tried baking soda rinses or DCs? What were your results.

A Lo-Po’s BFF and Frenemy

Here are the top 5 products that work well for my low porosity hair and 5 products that leave me with a frizzy, tangled mess. Each of these methods will be discussed in detail in future blog posts:

(image from Tumblr)

Lo-Po’s BFFs (work wonders by helping me keep my hair moisturized)

1. Clarifying with baking powder diluted in water

2. Warming conditioner

3. Rhassoul Clay

4. Deep conditioning with heat

5. Warm water washes and rinses

Lo-Po’s Frenemy (thought they were good for me, but in the end did nothing for my hair)

1. Aloe vera

2. Kimmaytube leave-in

3. Cold water rinses

4. Diluted vinegar as a hair wash

5. Heavy oils and butters for sealing

What are some products that have worked for your lo-po hair? What products or techniques worked against your lo-po hair?

Introduction to Hair Porosity

Hair porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture (i.e. water). Retaining moisture is the key to healthy hair. In order to properly care for your hair, understanding your hair’s porosity is a pre-requisite.

http://happykinksforever.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/natural-hair-madness.jpg?w=652

There are three types of porosity: low, high and normal. Porosity is determined by the position of the cuticle, which is the outermost part of our hair made up of a layer of overlapping dead cells. It provides the hair with strength by protecting it from harsh elements and by protecting the inner structures of the hair. It also controls the water content.

hair porosity diagram

Normal porosity

If you have normal porosity, consider yourself lucky. Normal porosity hair requires the least amount of maintenance. It easily draws in water, however does not allow too much water to enter the cortex. This type of hair tends to be shiny, hold styles well and is easy to process (e.g. color, highlight, perm). A occassional deep conditioner and light protein benefits this type of hair.

High porosity

Think of your hair as a sponge. It can absorb its weight in water and easily allow all the water to escape. Cuticles of high porosity hair are too open and allow too much water to enter the cortex. However, just as easily as the water enters, it also escapes rapidly, making it a challenge to keep moisture. This type of hair may be damaged, because of chemical processing. High porosity hair benefits from heavy creams, thick oils or emollients and butters, to seal in moisture. It also benefits from routine protein treatments, which may help to fill in some of the gaps in the cuticle. Additionally, cold water rinses, low PH products such as diluted vinegar or aloe vera, help to seal the cuticle.

Low porosity (lo-po)

The focus of this blog will be on low porosity. Despite the plethora of information on the web about porosity, there are not enough sites that thoroughly discuss caring for low porous hair. This type of hair has flat, shingled cuticles. Picture the shingles on the roof of a house, when it rains the water simply glides off the structure. As you can imagine, it’s challenging for water  to enter the hair shaft. This type of hair often takes a while to wet in the shower and it takes forever to dry. Product buildup is a common complaint, as products just seem to sit on top of the hair. Chemical processing is long and difficult.

The trick with low porosity hair is getting the moisture in the hair shaft. Once it’s in, the hair retains moisture quite well and is lustrous and shiny. One of the most helpful methods is deep conditioning with heat or steam to open up the cuticle and help the hair absorb moisture. Additionally, washing and rinsing the hair with warm water helps loosen up debris and open up the cuticles.

If you’re low porosity and looking for some useful tips and advice, well, you’ve come to the right place. This blog will be dedicated to lo-po hair and more methods for caring for lo-po hair will be discussed in detail on this blog. I’ll also include my experimentation with my lo-po hair and what works and does not work for me.

In the meantime, to find out the porosity of your hair. You could take a clean, freshly washed (without products) strand of hair and place it in a cup of water:

If the hair stays afloat for a long time (more than 1 hour), without ever sinking, you’re likely lo-po

If the hair immediately sinks to the bottom of the glass,  you’re likely high porosity

Keep in mind, this is not a glass half empty or half full matter. Whether high, low or normal, the important is figuring out how to properly care for your hair. What’s your hair porosity?