Growing...Growing...Long! by Andrea Lemonds

As a hairstylist, many of my clients are wanting to grow their hair. It is not always an easy journey. I, myself, have ventured through this several times. Going from pixie short to luscious long hair can take a year or two. Fear not! It is do-able, but it takes perseverance, time, patience and sometimes creative styling for the in-between phase. Here is a little run-down on the grow-down.

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Wanted....Dead or Alive by Andrea Lemonds

The question…is hair dead or alive? Which begs another question, does it matter? In a simple answer, yes. When we understand how our hair is we then make better choices for how our hair will be. Many people treat hair with hot tools, products, combs, brushes, masque treatments, all in search of good hair. There are many things we can do to change hair physically (temporary) and chemically (permanent), but hair does have its limits. Being that it is a dead fiber, there is only so much we can do before it falls out, splits, frizzes, or even dissolves (what we in the salon call, “cotton candy” hair). Hopefully the following will shed some light on the life and death of hair.

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The Culture of Hair by Andrea Lemonds

Around the world, societies express themselves even through their hair. Hair represents different things to various peoples. It has its own uniqueness and significance according to the culture and time in history. Sometimes we do not understand a particular culture's hair image. Sometimes we judge, sometimes we rebel, and sometimes we actually take the journey to understanding the mysterious and are never the same again. Hair culture has its generalities and quirks. Both are needed and both create conflicts in hair vision. Learning to love where you are hair-wise is a good first step.

Throughout history, hair has played a role in many aspects of life. From its importance in politics, age, gender and religious beliefs to its reflection of climate, occupation, and economics, it has made its mark. Realizing the hair connections that are throughout the ages is astounding. People have used hair in their own way and for their own purposes. According to Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years, there are four broad categories of hair characters: Fashionable, Eccentric, Individual, and Conservative. At different periods in time, these will flip-flop, as in, what is considered Fashionable in one era would be considered Eccentric in another or what is Conservative in a certain time period would be considered Individual and so on. These different hair characters are all interrelated and intertwined: "the Conservative is a modification of the Fashionable; the Individual is related to the Conservative; the Eccentric is an exaggeration of the Individual; and the line between the Eccentric and the Fashionable may be very thin." We are more connected than we realize sometimes, more relatable to each other if we just look past the surface to see our similarities that may not be present at first glance.

Sometimes culture demands things of hair that are not appropriate for generalizing to every head of hair. Sometimes we follow these hair trends to our detriment or benefit depending on our hair. The ebb and flow, the cycles of hair come and go more times than we know. The past does repeat itself in the present just in a "modern" way. How we view or who we allow to influence our view of beauty often dictates our hair culture. At the end of all this, I have found that nothing is off limits when it comes to our hair, whether influenced by our present culture or the past or a vision of things to come.

Hair Types- Pondering the Basics by Andrea Lemonds

Hair comes in different shapes (straight, wavy, curly) and sizes (diameter of the hair strand- fine, medium, coarse). These combine on a head to produce a head of hair. Every head of hair is unique to each person and has its various ways of needing to be cared for. Every type has its pros and cons, its ups and downs, its good and bad hair days. 

Hair shapes (straight, wavy, curly) each have their own demands. Straight cannot seem to hold a curl. Curly has a hard time being straight. And wavy can go either way rather easily it seems. Straight hair appears consistent and uniform. You always know what you will get...straight hair. Wavy likes to have a tight wave one day, but looser another day depending on the season of the year and what the weather is doing. Curly hair does its own thing and sometimes in a big way when there is humidity present in the air. Moisture is a must for the curls. In the end, I do not look at hair shapes as one being better than the other. They all have different requirements. They are all their own works of art/shape.

Hair sizes, as in the diameter size of the hair strand, also call for diverse hair-care routines. Fine is the smallest size, medium is...well...medium-sized, and coarse has the biggest diameter size. Fine hair can be fragile and lanky. Medium is...well...medium. Coarse can take a long time to dry and tends to be bulky feeling (depending on the density of hair). A positive for fine hair is that it dries quickly. Medium is not too big and not too small, so it is an average of the best and worst of fine and coarse, and it is...well...medium. Coarse hair is very strong and can take on much chemical change (color, straighteners, perms) and heat before it begins to look ragged  because of its dense amount of cuticle. The diameter size of hair does dictate some things, but it does not have to define you or your style.

Ultimately, the best remedy for any head of hair is to know your hair. As Philip Kingsley states in The Hair Bible, "The only way to correctly choose [well for your hair type] is to know your hair and be able to describe it...."

Hot Tools- A Heated Discussion by Andrea Lemonds

Straight, curly, wavy, beachy, volume, sexy, flat, retro, glamour are all words used to describe hair manipulated into shape by hot tools- straightening irons, curling irons, crimpers, etc. These can be very useful devices but are also very harmful to hair when used improperly. As with many things, an understanding of the equipment being used (and the hair itself) can go a long way in keeping hair and hot irons in good condition. I hope that the following will refresh you while on this heated journey.

"The heat required to temporarily realign the shape of hair is considerable," says Philip Kingsley from his book The Hair Bible. Simply meaning that too little heat will not produce the desired hair style you want and too much heat will create the style you want but at a high cost of damage to the hair. Finding the right temperature setting for your hair is a journey of discovery; it's about failure and triumph, both of which are necessary. The appropriate setting is different for every head of hair. Hair follows some key words to look for when in search of a good hot tool: temperature setting (FYI- hair begins to melt at 450 degrees Fahrenheit), ceramic plates, and tourmaline. Some basics have been discussed here, but there is more exploring that can be done regarding quality hot tools.

A good hot tool hair routine requires some knowledge before beginning, the following can give you a good place to start. Audrey Davis-Sivasothy states a good approach in her book Science of Black Hair. 1) Keep the heat application to a minimum. "Hair should not be wrapped around or sandwiched within any heating appliance for longer than three to five seconds at a time. ...do not allow the iron to linger too long in one area, especially near the ends of the hair. The ends of the hair heat more quickly due to their naturally lower moisture profile; therefore, heat use should be minimized as much as possible at the ends."  2) Keep the pressure light. "The flat iron or curling iron should gently clasp your hair.... Do your best to keep the hair well within the plates, even if this means using less hair per pass." As I am finding, less really is more...less heat, less pressure, less damage to hair.

Happy Hot Iron Usage!

To dry or not to dry is not the question...which method is. Part 3: Air Dry by Andrea Lemonds

It's not a matter of IF people will dry their hair, but HOW people will dry their hair. Air Dry, Hood Dry/Diffuse Dry or Blow Dry are some of the common methods. Each has its pros and cons, good or bad consequences. One source, The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, describes one of the methods as a "gentle breeze" and another as a "Category 5 hurricane."  Hopefully the following will help you reach your own drying conclusion.

"The ideal way to dry your hair is to pat it with a towel and then let it dry naturally. This is fine as long as you don't mind...how it looks when dry," says Philip Kingsley from his book The Hair Bible. Air drying does tend to be the healthier hair choice. Where there is less heat, there is less damage to hair itself. Although, if you are wanting  a specific look, this may not be the method for you. Air drying is a more organic, natural method with a "laissez-faire" attitude- letting things take their own course, without interfering. It is highly recommended by Lorraine Massey via her book Curly Girl: The Handbook, which contains different chapters helping curly and wavy haired people understand how to best style their own tresses.

Air drying does have its downside as well. If hair is not properly guided into its style, tangling and breakage can occur, especially with curly hair types. This drying method, along with the others, also needs a hair goal in mind for a finished style. Air drying is a simple, healthy hair choice, but hair guidance is still needed. 

Hair drying comes in several different forms, which is the best for you...I'll let you decide.

To dry or not to dry is not the question...which method is. Part 2: Diffuse/Hood Dry by Andrea Lemonds

It's not a matter of IF people will dry their hair, but HOW people will dry their hair. Air Dry, Hood Dry/Diffuse Dry or Blow Dry are some of the common methods. Each has its pros and cons, good or bad consequences. One source, The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, describes one of the methods as a "gentle breeze" and another as a "Category 5 hurricane."  Hopefully the following will help you reach your own drying conclusion.

Domed heating and diffusers are a couple of names used in this next installment on the drying of hair. Diffuse drying and Hood drying are similar methods because the air is dispersed and not rapidly blown when drying hair. It does tend to be slower, but is considered a safe way of putting heat on hair.  The difference between these two comes in the types of hair they are used to dry. A diffuser is mainly used for drying wavy and curly hair types. As for a hood dryer, it can be used with any hair type (straight, wavy or curly) to create different styles. 

So, what is a diffuser? According to curlynikki.com, it's a "blow dryer attachment that is used to spread the airflow across a large section of hair."  It diffuses out the air so that there is less disruption to the cuticle and less frizz. Some professionals say to do high heat with low air-speed, but doing medium heat with low air-speed works also (high air speed can work, but use at your discretion as it can disturb the cuticle more and has a higher likelihood of causing frizz). When diffusing, it is best to get the hair about 80% dry and then let it air dry. Diffusing is a great method for wavy and curly hair types who need a jump on obtaining dry locks.

Hood drying is a method that has been around for some time. It is mainly used for setting hair for styles that will be worn for several days. It is "one of the safest forms of heat to our hair. Heat is diffused and evenly concentrated over a larger surface area under a hooded dryer," says Audrey Davis-Sivasothy from her book The Science of Black Hair. These hooded dryer styles can last longer than other styles that use different forms of heat. This option can have its down-side though. Hotspots where there is a greater concentration of heat can happen. If so, just rotate your seating for a more even distribution of heat.

The theme for this posting would best be described as "less heat, better hair." Hair does tend to do better and is more healthy when less heat is applied. Diffusers and Hood dryers are good methods for achieving healthier hair when a heat source is needed for drying hair.

To dry or not to dry is not the question...which method is. Part 1: Blow Dry by Andrea Lemonds

It's not a matter of IF people will dry their hair, but HOW people will dry their hair. Air Dry, Hood Dry/Diffuse Dry or Blow Dry are some of the common methods. Each has its pros and cons, good or bad consequences. One source, The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, describes one of the methods as a "gentle breeze" and another as a "Category 5 hurricane."  Hopefully the following will help you reach your own drying conclusion.

I have heard this method referred to as "blow-frying" and likened to a "category 5 hurricane." It is Blow Drying. It works by removing water externally from the hair and then moving internally to evaporate moisture. "Blow drying depletes and removes moisture from the hair strands more violently and rapidly than [other forms of drying]. This drastic moisture loss increases the probability of splitting, cracking or peeling of the cuticle," says Audrey Davis-Sivasothy from her book The Science of Black Hair. But do not fear, there is HOPE! Done well, this method does not have to end in dehydrated hair. 

When undertaking wet hair, try to remove excess moisture using a towel first. The next step is to blow dry hair beginning with high heat/high speed drying mostly the back and sides. As the hair becomes dry, moving to a lower heat setting is best and also a lower speed setting as well. An excerpt from Philip Kingsley's book The Hair Bible reminds us of the caution needed when taking these steps: "Blow drying hair from wet to damp does no damage, but drying from damp to dry can be hazardous. Ideally, the hair should be left damp,..., it is vital to stop blow drying at the right time." In many cases, less is more, even with blow drying.

One other option for blow drying is cold drying. This is as it sounds, using the cool setting to dry hair.  Yes, it does take longer, but can cause less damage due to water leaving the hair at a slower rate. Although, the down side is that it does not make the hair look as sleek. This tends to be a more gentle form of blow drying.

 Blow drying is the method that many utilize when they are in a rush or want a certain look. It is useful, but how often is it really needed? I leave that to you.