«The Beauty Brains Book.indb 1 2/6/2008 12:14:12 PM The Beauty Brains Book.indb 2 2/6/2008 12:14:12 PM Real Scientists Answer Your Beauty Questions ...»
After about nine months, as the stylist was adjusting the clips, I noticed that my hair was coming out along with the extensions! There just was no more hair below the
I cried for months. Now my hair is still growing from my roots, but it’s not getting longer. Is there anything I can do to help strengthen my hair and stop it from breaking? If I were a multi-millionaire, would there be some way? Do movie stars have some way they repair their hair we don’t know about?
The Brains Respond:
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.
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.
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:
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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Left Brain’s Response:
Melanin is a pigment that is naturally produced in the hair follicle and “injected” into the hair fibers as the protein is formed and pushed out of the head. It’s the same kind of melanin that gives your skin its color. There are two basic types of melanin (eumelanin and pheomelanin) that are responsible for every hair color from brown and black to blond and red.
No one knows why hair follicles stop producing melanin. Genetics mostly.
There just gets to be a point where the melanocytes (the melanin producing cells) just stop producing. Thus you get gray hair.
Slowing the process? No one has figured this one out just yet. And the truth is that only the pharmaceutical companies would be looking for the solution anyway. Cosmetic companies focus on things that do not react with your body.
I’m not sure if there will be a solution to this problem anytime soon. (By the way, there are products out there like Reminex that claim to restore melanin production but we’ve seen no data to indicate they really work.) There is no solid data to show that gray hair has a different physical structure that makes it feel more kinky and unruly. In fact, we’ve seen experiments that show if you have people close their eyes they can not feel a difference between gray hair and “normal” hair. Why do people think gray hair is so different? There are probably two reasons: First, we know that as you age, the follicles produce less of their natural lubricating oils. That can make hair feel dry and coarse. Second, gray hairs are just easier to notice because of the color difference. Think about all the hairs on your head that are unruly but they are the same color as the rest of your hair so you don’t notice them.
Diane’s Undaunted By Silicones For Silkier Hair:
The question of silicone’s usefulness has long being a subject of intense debate, speculation and confusion in Long Hair Community. As a consequence, a lot of members in Long Hair Community are wary of using silicone-heavy products, such as Pantene conditioner. Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone and whatnot are allegedly harder to rinse out, therefore build-up occurs faster than a silicone-free hair regimen.
As for me, I love how cones smooth and soften my hair big time - while in shower. Sadly, the miraculous silkiness vanishes as soon as my hair dries. So I use unrefined coconut oil to successfully add shine, softness and protection for my hair. My questions are these: Are ‘cones really harder to rinse out? How do they work on hair? Do they dry hair out? And why does that wonderful silkiness disappear when my hair dries? How do carrier oils like coconut oil, sweet almond oil compare to silicones?
The Right Brain Comments on ‘Cones for Conditioning:
Diane, you raise some very good questions. In general, silicones work by covering hair with a thin hydrophobic (water-proof ) coating. This coating serves several purposes, it helps reduce the porosity of the hair which makes it less likely to absorb humidity; it helps reduce moisture loss from the inside of the hair; and it lubricates the surface of the hair so it feel smoother and combs easier.
Properties of silicones The properties vary depending on which particular silicone is in the formula.
Some silicones do leave a heavy coating on the hair that can be hard to wash off. Others are very water soluble and don’t buildup at all. Dimethicone, (sometimes called simethicone) for example, is the heaviest of all silicones used for hair care. It provides the most smoothing effect but it is also the hardest to wash out. Cyclomethicone on the other hand, gives great slippery feeling while you’re rinsing your hair, but it quickly evaporates leaving
What about carrier oils, as you describe them? Some oils are effective conditioners. Take coconut oil, for example. While it doesn’t provide the same surface smoothing as silicones, it has been shown to penetrate hair and plasticize the cortex, making hair stronger. (This isn’t true of all natural oils however.) So oils are useful ingredients but they’re not direct replacements for silicones.
The Beauty Brains bottom line It’s tough to tell simply from reading the label because there are so many types of silicones and they can be used in combination with each other. You can’t simply say all silicones are bad. Some women will find silicones too heavy for their hair, others will love the soft, conditioned feel they provide.
You’ll have to experiment to find what’s right for you. Good luck!
And The Left Brain responds: