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«publishing brains Brains Publishing – New York, Chicago Copyright © 2008 by Brains Publishing All rights reserved. Published in the United States ...»

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Heather, your story is really touching and we’re so sorry for what you’ve gone through. Based on your description, you have a condition known as Traction Alopecia a type of hair loss that is caused by pulling on hair. In some cases this can be caused by wearing your hair in a pony tail, in your case it’s caused by the weight of the extensions. Over a long period of time, this pulling stress can cause the follicle to atrophy and stop producing normal hairs. Depending on the intensity and duration of the stress the follicle may or may not recover.

(You should consult a dermatologist to confirm this is really your problem.) Follicle recovery Hopefully you had the extensions removed in time and your follicles will recover and begin producing thick, strong hairs again. But if your follicles were permanently damaged, there’s not much you can do. Sadly, there is no secret millionaire’s product that can solve your problem; there is no known medical treatment for late-stage Traction Alopecia.

One thing MIGHT help increase hair strength, though is treatment with pure coconut oil. As the Brains have said before, that’s one of the few natural oils that has been shown to penetrate the cortex and provide some strengthening effect to hair. It won’t make your hair grow any thicker, but it might help protect your thinner weaker strands.

We wish you the best of luck write back and let us know how your hair turns out.

–  –  –

Kara’s Question:

Hi, I’m in the market for a high-end straightening iron, and I feel completely overwhelmed by all the product choices out there! The major differences I see for most irons are the types of plates used, which include tourmaline/ceramic mix, ceramic, and metal plates. While I’m presuming it’s the high heat (some heat up to 450F) that helps straighten the hair shaft, how do these different plates benefit the hair? Are these newer kinds of straighteners with the tourmaline and ceramic healthier for your hair? I’m looking for an iron that works well, but doesn’t completely wreck and fry my hair shaft.

The Left Brain’s Answer:

I agree, the number of choices for hair appliances is paralyzing! If it’s any consolation, you don’t have to pay too much attention to all the hype about the different types of ironing plates. While it’s true that more expensive irons can be made from higher quality materials, that really just means that the heating element is more rugged and the plates are built to take wear and tear.

Cheaper flat irons may have inferior plates that can’t handle the heat and may snag your hair.

But whether it’s tourmaline or ceramic, there’s nothing about the composition of the plate material that makes it intrinsically healthier for your hair.

And don’t believe ANY of that crap about ionic straighteners. That’s pure marketing hype without a shred of scientific validation.

The Beauty Brains bottom line You’ll need to pay a bit more for high quality construction but you don’t need to pay extra for bogus scientific claims.

28 - Tips on Caring for Your Hair How To Kill Lice and Not Your Hair

Sandra Scratches Her Head:

I’m having a lice problem, I just wanted to know what’s the most effective way to kill lice and nits and not dry or damage my hair in the process?? Thanx!!

The Left Brain’s Louse-y Reply:

Sorry to hear about your lice infestation problem, Sandra. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty common problem. There are many other parasites that I’d prefer to have! But before I talk about a cure, here’s a bit of background for those of

you who may not be familiar with this problem:

Head lice are tiny crawling insects about the size of a sesame seed or smaller.

They have six clawed legs that they use to crawl over your hair; they cannot hop, jump, or fly. Lice lay eggs, also known as Nits, which they glue to individual hair shafts. Lice live only on humans, not pets, and (here’s the best part) they FEED ON HUMAN BLOOD!

Nit picking The good news is that there several Over-The-Counter drug products that are effective against lice and nits. The bad news is, these products contain isopropyl alcohol which can dry your hair. There are “natural” lice cures but there is little or no data to prove these are effective. The safest and most sure way to get rid of lice and not damage your hair is to use a lice comb, but this is a very extremely tedious process.

Recently, there was a study done by researchers at the University of Utah in which they created a steam cleaning device (a cross between a vacuum cleaner and a hair dryer) to kill lice. This could prove pretty interesting.

Which treatment method is best for you? Rather than recount all the pros and cons of each method here, we’ll point you to Head Lice.org for a very

–  –  –

The Cause Of Smelly Hair Syndrome

Betty’s got a problem:

Hello! I am so GLAD I found you! I have had this problem now for about 3 months. I wash and condition my hair on a daily basis and by the middle of the day my hair has a sweaty, muggy smell. I just can’t describe it, it just smells! Even worse when I’m running late in the morning and I am not able to wash my hair I could smell that sweaty, muggy smell throughout the day. I there anything I can do to stop this?





The Left Brain responds:

Betty, I had never heard of this problem before so I was surprised when I found out that you’re not the only one who suffers from hair malodor. A quick search turned up several discussion boards on smelly hair. There’s even a website that specializes in Smelly Hair.

What Causes Smelly Hair?

They claim the problem is a fungus that grows on oily scalps. That sounds plausible since the odor you describe as sweaty and muggy could be caused by microbial growth. I know that sometimes the towel I used to dry my hair develops a funky smell kind of like the one you describe. That happens when it doesn’t dry out completely, so I assume there’s some mildew or similar organism that responsible. If I don’t notice it right way, that mildew odor transfers from the towel to my hair. Could this be the cause of your problem too?

30 - Tips on Caring for Your Hair What can you do about it?

Smellyscalp.com says use an antimicrobial shampoo. That certainly could help. You can also try changing your towel and your pillow case. If that doesn’t work, you might try shaving your head, like Britney. (Just kidding!) You could also try using a product like the Stila hair refresher, but that will just cover up the odor. It won’t address the source of the problem.

We hope this helps, and if you want more, try some of these the top 10 tips for stopping smelly hair on the next page.

–  –  –

Our good friend at the excellent “Are You A Beauty” blog has a great post about neutralizing hair odors. She gives a couple of great product suggestions, but we thought we’d look at all the ways you can use to stop smelly hair.

1. Wash and condition your hair Yes it’s a lot of work but that’s really the most thorough way to get your hair clean.

2. Use hair wipes Like Are You A Beauty suggests, you can use wipes made especially for hair like Ted Gibson’s.

3. Use a hair fragrance Beauty likes the one from Cleanperfume.com. If you don’t mind spending $39.00. Ouch!

4. Spritz your hair with your own perfume If you can’t find a “real” hair fragrance just improvise with your fave perfume.

Don’t use too much!

5. Use a powder shampoo Pssst anyone? Or maybe Batiste? Just spray ‘em in and brush ‘em out.

6. Use a leave-in conditioner or combing cream A touch of conditioner can mask icky odors.

7. Do a speedy, secret sink wash Wet your hands, take a TINY dab of liquid soap, and run your fingers through your hair. Caution: this doesn’t work on all hairstyles.

8. Wipe your hair with a dryer sheet It’s better than smelling like smoke AND you’ll get rid of embarrassing static cling.

9. Try a little Febreze on your brush At least we THINK this might work. Better check with the manufacturer before you try this one at home!

10. Use an antimicrobial shampoo This can help if you have Smelly Scalp Syndrome which is caused by scalp fungus or bacteria. Yuck!

32 - Tips on Caring for Your Hair Chapter 3 Hair Myths How To Tell If You’re Spending Too Much On Conditioner

Kathy’s question:

I would like to know if spending more money on conditioners is worth it for increasing the strength of your hair. As a science teacher I would like to be able to explain why conditioners increase the strength of hair, and why the more expensive ones should work better!

The Right Brain’s headstrong reply:

Kathy, from one science professional to another, we can tell you that expensive does NOT always mean better when it comes to hair and skin care products But to explain further, we’ll have to fill you in on how conditioners work.

33 - Hair Myths How do conditioners strengthen hair?

The outer layer of the hair consists of overlapping scales called cuticles. These cuticle are like the shingles on the roof of your house – they protect what’s beneath it. As your hair is damaged from washing and drying and combing and brushing and perming and coloring, the cuticle starts to wear away.

When this happens your hair is broken more easily.

Conditioners strengthen hair two ways. The most important thing they do is to smooth the cuticle and help keep it in place. The “strengthening” effect can be shown by measuring combing force. The other effect is internal. Some material, like panthenol, penetrate into the cortex, the middle part of the hair. By interacting with the proteins in the cortex, these conditioners can improve the tensile strength of hair. This type of strength is measured with an instrument that pulls on individual hair fibers (after they’ve been removed from your head, of course!) and measures how much force it takes for the hairto break. If you want to learn more, you can read our post on measuring hair breakage.

Are expensive conditioners better?

So do expensive conditioners strengthen hair better than cheap ones? Not necessarily. The very, very cheap conditioners typically rely on one or two conditioning agents to do the job. And they usually can’t afford to use silicones, which are among the most effective smoothing agents. So, chances are, if you’re only spending a buck or two on your conditioner, you’re not getting the best product.

But once you get up to the $4 or $5 conditioners, the differences in strengthening are less significant. For example, Pantene and Tresemme are among the best conditioners we’ve ever tested and they’re certainly not that expensive. Most mid or high priced conditioners will do a pretty good job of lubricating your hair to prevent breakage.

Hair Myths - 34 Can a conditioner be TOO expensive?

What about the conditioners that are $30 per bottle? They use the same basic types of ingredients as products that are $10 or less. They may cost 3 times more but they certainly don’t strengthen your hair 3 times more! But as we always say, you should buy what you like and what you can afford. If you really like the way Frederic Fekkai’s Overnight Hair Repair makes your hair feel, and you can afford the $195 per bottle then go for it. (Yes that’s right – it’s a $200 conditioner!) But don’t buy it just because you think that it will make your hair stronger than another less expensive brand. It won’t.

The Beauty Brains bottom line Picking the right conditioner is a very personal thing. There are literally thousands of combinations of ingredients out there and it’s tough to know which one is best for you. So talk to your friends who have similar hair types.

Or just experiment until you find something that feels good. But DON’T be tricked into spending more money than you want to.

–  –  –

Meg’s brushing up on dandruff:

I just bought copper-infused hair brush that supposedly gets rid of dandruff.

Will it really work?

The Left Brain’s flaky reply:

Meg is talking about the Goody “Styling Therapy - Reduce Dandruff

- Copper Infused” hairbrush. It claims to be “Infused with copper-plated bristles, this brush kills 88% of the fungus that causes dandruff and dry, flaky scalp; destroys bacteria and fungus associated with common scalp conditions.

Copper is proven to kill the leading cause of dandruff.” I can’t find any credible research to show that a brush made with copper can fight dandruff. But there is a kernel of truth behind their claims. It is well known that metal salts of pyrithione are effective dandruff control agents.

Zinc Pyrithione, for example, is widely used in commercial dandruff shampoos. There have been studies (see Nature and Pubmed) that show copper salts may have some effect, but zinc salts are by far the most effective.

If a copper version worked better, trust me, big companies like P&G would find a way to sell that in a product.

Even if copper ions are effective, it’s highly unlikely that a copper brush could provide enough scalp contact to deliver any sort of anti-fungal effect.

I say you’re much better off using products like Head and Shoulders, Selsin Blue, or Nizoral.

Hair Myths - 36 Why Do Gray Hairs Look And Feel Different

Trisha’s question:

In a previous post you mentioned that gray hair looks gray because it has lost its melanin, which gives hair its pigment. What`s the biology involved with that? What actually causes hair to lose its melanin? And is there anything we can do to slow the process down? And why do my gray hairs seem more kinky and unruly compared to the rest of my hair?

The Left Brain’s Response:



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