The Soul Glo Effect

Remember that scene from “Coming to America,” the one where Darryl’s family is seated on the McDowells’ couch?  And then they get up…

Soul Glo Aftermath
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Yeah… Sigh… I call this the “Soul Glo” effect…

I recently went on vacation to visit a couple of family members. Like any good little natural, I was very conscientious about packing travel-sized bottles and vials of my favorite hair potions and concoctions. And, of course, I brought along my satin bonnet for sleeping. Hand-claps for the girl whose regimen travels well!

So when I arrived at the first stop on my trip, I whipped out my trusty bonnet (which “stays on all night so you wake up right”). The next morning, I was mortified to find that the oil from my hair had stained the pillowcase and a corner of the sheet! GASP! Same thing happened at my second stop…

SMH… Yup. This was now officially a problem.

So what do you do when your soul is glowing all over the sheets and upholstery?

It’s After the Fact… Now What?

Once the damage has been done, the best thing to do is act quickly. As soon as you notice the stain, you should wash the bed linens before the oil has a chance to set into the fabric. It is recommended to apply a heavy-duty detergent or prewash treatment, let it sit on the linen for about 3 minutes, and then rub the spot vigorously before putting it into the washer. You should use bleach (or bleach for non-whites) too.

eHow has a very basic set of instructions for how to do this. Check out their post here.

It is also recommended to repeat the steps until the stain comes out. You don’t want to put the linen into the dryer before the stain has been removed. Otherwise, the heat will set the stain and you will never be able to get it out after that happens.

An Ounce of Prevention…

You can always take steps before the stain happens too.

In addition to covering your head with a bonnet, put a towel over the pillowcase. This way, your hair remains covered, and any oil that seeps through the bonnet will be sucked up by the towel.

Another possibility is to put a layer of plastic between your head and the bonnet.  You can put on a plastic shower cap, or even just use a plastic bag.  You can even wrap your head in cling wrap.

(Vee just suggested that you can also bring your own, stained-up, soul-glo’d pillowcase.  If you’re going to mess it up, it’s yours to mess up.  Good suggestion, Vee!)

Doing any of the above will prevent the necessity to presoak and treat unsightly and embarrassing stains while still allowing you to protect your hair overnight.  You could be all the things you always wanted to be… beautiful… sexy… easy as 1,2,3… Can you hear the 80’s sax music yet?

Oh, and a travel-sized bottle of stain remover never hurts… that, and a gift-wrapped set of sheets…



What is Hair Anyway?

With retention set as my immediate goal, I’m ready to start doing all the right things to keep as much hair as possible on my head and not in the drain of my sink and shower.  But what are the “right” things?  What are the “wrong” things, for that matter?  What does my hair need?

Before we figure that out, let’s ask Professor Google just what the heck hair is anyway…

Hair is basically made up of two (rather complex) components:

The Follicle

Hair Follicle
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A sleeve of tissue covers the hair beneath the skin’s surface.   While it is protected by this sleeve and until it comes up above the surface, the hair is actually alive.  At the base of the follicle is the papilla. Capillaries carry blood and nutrients through the papilla to the hair’s root that help to produce new, healthy hair. Surrounding the follicle are the sebaceous glands. These glands secrete a waxy oil called sebum, which acts as a protective film on the skin’s surface and along the length of the hair, locking in moisture.  If the sebaceous glands become unbalanced as a result of undernourished roots, the glands can either overproduce or underproduce oil, causing permanent hair loss.  Seems that as women age, the sebum’s production diminishes. That’s why gray hair tends to be more brittle.

The Shaft

Hair Shaft
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The shaft is the part of the hair that protrudes from the skin, made up mainly of a protein called keratin. It is the oldest part of the hair. It consists of three layers:

  • The innermost layer, called the medulla, is open and unstructured (whatever that means). I tried to find out what the purpose of the medulla was, but couldn’t find anything. If I had to guess, I would say that it might have something to do with thickness. I did read somewhere that the medulla is often absent from blonde or fine hair. Sounds like I might be right.
  • The middle layer is the cortex. The cortex is what determines the hair’s strength and porosity. This layer contains melanin, which is responsible for colour and texture.
  • The outer layer is the cuticle and is comprised of overlapping shingle-like cells. The cuticle’s job is to protect the two layers underneath. If the cuticle is open, its effectiveness as a protectant is reduced.

Each hair is a bundle of long polypeptide bonds, linked together in chains of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur. These chains are bonded by salt, hydrogen and disulfide. Heat and excessive moisture can cause damage to the salt and hydrogen bonds – aka frizz. The breaking and reforming of disulfide bonds permanently alters the hair’s curl pattern – aka permanent wave/relaxer.  Damage to the hair can manifest itself in its anatomy (i.e., cuticle damage) or in its chemistry (i.e., heat damage).  Some damage is temporary, and some can be permanent.

So What’s the Upshot?

The name of the game is avoiding hair loss from the root.

I’ve already learned that the “live” portion of the hair exists beneath the skin’s surface, so it follows that the nutrients would need to be focused at the root and not so much on the shaft itself.  To maintain the capillary and sebaceous gland activity at a healthy level, I need to feed the hair as much as possible. There are tons of products out there, including shampoos, conditioners, and serums that claim to be uber-nourishing and ultra-super-duper good for hair.  However, it seems that little else is as good as the nutrients ingested from food.  As the saying goes, you are what you eat.  A healthy diet, including protein and water, will show in the hair’s condition… so I hear…

Ok ok… it’s list time… Here’s my To Do (or Not Do) List for improved retention:

  • DO eat a balanced diet
  • DO drink plenty of water
  • DO keep the scalp clean
  • DO keep the hair moisturized and sealed
  • DO be gentle with the hair
  • DO NOT overhandle or overmanipulate the hair
  • DO NOT use excessive heat
  • DO NOT use products containing harsh chemicals
  • DO monitor and distinguish shedding vs. breakage

What other important facts do I need to know about hair?  Anything else I should do, or not do?  What’s your retention advice?

Setting Goals

LSE Sports Day, Malden Sports Ground, c1920s

Jump hurdles, cross the finish line and meet your goal!
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There’s a theory that goal setting means creating a plan for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-targeted (or SMART) results. Doing this affects performance by stimulating focus, effort, persistence, and cognition.

Simply put, setting goals make you concentrate on what’s important, learn, and execute the necessary actions to accomplish something. Knowing what you want gives way to learning what to do to make it happen, which facilitates MAKING IT HAPPEN.

Your commitment to natural hair (or anything else in life) doesn’t have to mean setting things in stone. It’s a good idea to think about what the end of the journey will bring you, to help you target more relevant information and fine-tune your regimen and practices. You’ll set goals today that you will reach and then you will set new goals. Or you may think you want to work toward one thing, and then learn things that will result in re-evaluating and resetting your goals. The journey may never come to an end.

So what’s my goal? What am I trying to accomplish? Good question…

Actually, I have two goals.

First, my goal here in cyberspace is to document what I’m going through, how I feel, what I know, and maybe even what I don’t know about natural hair — and possibly some other stuff from time to time. This is with the hope that I can connect with others out there who might be feeling the same way I have, who might be able to learn from me, or who can help me in my learning.

Second, a goal for my hair itself. My journey ends with longer hair. That’s it, plain and simple. However, I’ve come to realize that while the journey ends there, it will take about a zillion steps to cross that finish line. Long hair as a goal may be a bit too broad. Although I’ve already been a natural for some time, I’m wiping the slate clean today.

So let’s revise:

I need to improve my hair’s overall health. I can really zero in on increasing retention and minimizing breakage as an immediate goal. By adopting appropriate hair care habits, as well as finding products that maintain my hair’s health, I will be leaps and bounds closer to achieving my goal. That takes care of SPECIFIC, ACHIEVABLE, and REALISTIC. My timeline will be three months. TIME-TARGET is now set. At then end of that time, I’ll reevaluate to see how much hair I’ve managed to retain and whether my shedding has decreased. MEASURABLE progress/results… check!

Pretty SMART, if I do say so myself…

What are your natural-hair goals? Have they changed since you started your journey?