Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hair Food: Nutrition for Growth and Strength

   Recently, I read a wonderful article in Natural Awakenings, written by Judith Fertig in which she discusses nutrition and hair in a very thoughtful and detailed way.  So, here, I will summarize the key points because I think it is very useful for N.I.C.E. readers.  First, it is important to understand that what is good for your body is good for your hair. According to Dr. Michael Reed, a dermatologist from NYU "foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates with a reduced fat content" work for your hair as well, per the Fertig article. So, what kind of diet is great for scalp and hair.  A N.I.C.E. list is found below  (per Judith Fertig):
1. Vitamin A-  How do you get it?  Green Leafy Vegetables such as Spinach and Swiss Chard. Carrots also provide it.  This will be helpful to the production of Sebum, produced by the scalp and hair's natural conditioner.

2. Vitamin B 12: How do you get it?  Organic eggs, cage-free poultry and grass fed red meat are all good sources. If you are vegan or vegetarian, try nutritional yeast (dried yellow flakes or powder with a cheese-like flavor), Vitamin B-12 fortified soy or rice milk, and similarly fortified breakfast cereal.  According to Registered Dietician Reed Mangels, this vitamin is "needed for cell division and blood formation".

3. Iron: How do you get it? Broccoli and Brewer's Yeast. Women in their reproductive years, according to Samantha Heller, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist at NYU, per Fertig's article, may have a deficiency of iron that can lead to anemia and hair loss. 
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids:  How do you get it?  Flaxseed, hemp milk and seeds, walnuts, soy, canola oil and fish.  These are important for total body and skin health, including your scalp according to Samantha Heller, the author of Get Smart: Samantha Heller's Nutrition Prescription for Boosting Brain Power and Optimizing Total Body Health. 

5. Protein: How do you get it? Lentils and kidney beans, iron and bioton per Andrea Giancoli, a Registered Dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Protein helps with cell building, including hair. 
Caring for our natural hair is a wonderful process.  Eating healthy and ensuring that we get the right foods to nurture us is essential. Finding ways to provide nutrition for strength for our natural hair is part of embracing the understanding that N.I.C.E.!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stress Relief for your Natural Do: A N.I.C.E. Coaching Response

I received my first N.I.C.E. natural hair Coaching question today, which I am sharing anonymously, so I will provide ideas for your consideration, feedback and thoughts.  Please feel free to chime in and I hope my response is useful/helpful to others including and beyond the person who asked the question.  My N.I.C.E. response is found below the question.


"my hair is falling out at the crown and around edges making a widow's peak, do you know of any product tht i can use to bring it back? None of my parents or grandparents lost their hair so i think it's got something to do with my locks???"

N.I.C.E. Response:

It is possible that your concern has to do with your hairstyle of choice, namely locs (note that I use the term locs and locks, interchangeably).  As a locked sister myself, concerns that I am aware of are traction alopecia or tension hair loss, which I referred to in a previous blog post, which may result from twisting to tight or braiding or tension on the scalp from long dangling locs.   If you have had your locks for a very long time and they are long, the weight from the locks may cause you to experience some hair losss.  My recommendation is simple and all natural because as you know, Natural Is Cool Enough.  So, the first step would be to eliminate all usage of harsh chemicals on your hair and stick to natural products. You may want to visit your local health food store and find shampoos and conditioners that have generally, natural ingredients.  As a person who frequents Whole Foods, my suggestion is Aubrey Organics. It is also very cost effective to by the products on line.  As one who swims, I use their hair products that are designed for  swimmers but they have others as well. 

The Aubrey Organics conditioner is thick so I try other shampooing and conditioning  products as well, that have all natural ingredients. I put Aubrey Organics in my hair before I swim and then again afterwards, after shampooing.  I use other natural conditioners, which I may keep in my hair all day, for intense conditioning.

Recommendation # 2  is to keep your hair naturally moisturized.  Shea Butter is my recommendation for this (in very small amounts so it does not build up in your locs).  If you can find natural, 100% shea butter, that is the best option. Per the link below, you will find information which includes this detail: "Shea butter has been used for centuries in Africa before its beneficial properties was recognized by other countriesShea butter has many benefits some of which includes relieving dry skin...and restoring lost hair luster. Due to the healing properties of shea butter, it has been incorporated into many personal care products such as lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and soaps."
Shea butter link: http://www.prlog.org/11333844-shea-butter-natural-and-safer-moisturizer.html

My 3rd recommendation is that if you are coloring your hair, use only 100% natural coloring.  My recommendation is Henna pictured to the left.  Henna will also serve to condition and thicken your hair and the color will be beautiful.  If you don't like a red tinge then you may not want to use henna, because that may be the outcome.  The color may change a bit also when you are in the sun (a coppery red tinge may surface).   Again, you can find Henna very inexpensively in health food stores, including Whole Foods. Be sure to read the ingredients carefully because some products with Henna on the label have other added harsh chemical ingredients.

My 4th and last recommendation is to try to reduce tension hair loss by wearing your hair up as much as possible, not allowing your long and perhaps heavy locks to pull the hair from the scalp.  Put your hair into a lovely loose ponytail or wrap it in breathable cloth or hat when you can. You can do this in a very stylish way.  Also avoid twisting tightly to avoid traction alopecia.  Here are some examples of how to achieve this:

The bottom line is to be gentle with your locs at all times, particularly when they are fragile.  Occasionally, I will note that a loc or two will break off.  I don't fret but just let it happen and give that one or two that break off the opportunity to grow back from the root. It may lead to my hair being a bit uneven at times but why must it be even?  Just look at the beauty of plants and flowers that grow naturally...rarely do they do so evenly.  You can cut if you must though to achieve that look.  I rarely cut my locs, but go for it if you feel inclined to do so.

In closing, all of the above is about prevention.  If you have already lost hair, I think the suggestions above will help.  Hopefully new hair will grow where it has been lost and  all will be fine and that's N.I.C.E.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This Summer, Free Your Mind, Free Your Hair: N.I.C.E. Natural Hair Transition Coaching

     We are born into this world with our natural hair...all curly/kinky/nappy (whichever term you prefer) knowing nothing else. We have no understanding or experience of our hair otherwise.  As life progresses, gradually and slowly, some individuals are surrounded by others who embrace their natural hair and get creative with it including twisting, braiding, cornrowing, locking or just letting it be wild and free.  Others immediately see natural hair as a negative to be tamed, controlled, subdued, straightened and managed and consequently the need for taking it through "processes" to keep it "straight" without the natural experience of just being. This takes time, energy and of course money and others benefit financially, and from a power perspective, by ensuring that you succumb to this requirement through the use of images in magazines, television, film and beyond and through models, actresses and etc., all telling you that you are not in fashion or beautiful or that to be in your natural state, in terms of your hair, is unmanageable or unattractive.
     Nevertheless, some decide to "transition" to their natural hair which is an interesting term to use as it is the same word that is used when someone moves on from this life.  The fantastically, intellectually minded Professor Cornel West of Princeton University explains, in a talk that he gave at Harvard University, that for one to be truly educated, transition must take place.  Take a moment to listen to the short but vibrant video, where he breaks this down, per this link: http://www.a.com/watch?v=VFddhyHcKFo
     So ladies, if you are ready to "transition" to natural hair...to regain your natural power, that's nice. If you need help doing so, come to this space for support and coaching.  N.I.C.E. is a supportive space for those who are transitioning to natural hair or who are already there.  Is someone telling you not to where your hair naturally? Are you lacking in courage to do so because you don't know how?   Share your experiences with N.I.C.E. and I, and hopefully other members of N.IC.E., will support you with inspiring, positive words and stories of encouragement. To achieve the goal of something that is really meaningful to us often requires a coach.
Confidently Offering Advice for Courageous Hair....That's N.I.C.E.!  This Summer, Free Your Mind, Free your Hair!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Natural Hair as Economic Savvy: Easing the Pain of High Gas Prices!


      As we know, gas prices are extremely high.  Many, who value their hair, spend a great deal of money to keep it looking good because it is important to them.  Often times, people see their hair as a reflection of  their outward personality. However, given a published unemployment rate of 9.1%, high gas prices and an overall tough economy, many people are cutting back financially as a matter of practicality and in some cases, survival.  So, how does natural hair come into play during these tough financial times?  The answer is, beautifully!  The great thing is that maintaining your hair naturally is cost effective.  There is no need to involve any outside parties in taking care of it, thus eliminating the cost for such services.  You can wash and style your own hair, naturally, and look beautiful as a result. I have not allowed anyone to take care of my hair in 20 years and I'm very proud of that.  I wash it, condition it, twist my own locks and I use natural products, with an eye towards keeping the costs low for products, for every occasion.  Truthfully, there is very little fuss in taking care of  my hair.  I find that 100% shea butter is my favorite moisturizer because it keeps it soft and shiny. My only concern, at this time, is too much growth.  As the summer begins to hit us hard, having long locks is some times a bit heavy, literally, but I wouldn't trade my locks for any other hairstyle as it is a mere matter of choice for me and so when the need arises, I just cut them (although rarely).  Mostly, I just twist them and style them accordingly.
      On that note, recently, I was at the gym at the University where I work, minding my own business and sitting in front of a mirror, twisting my hair, since I washed it, after a vigorous swim. There was blow drying going on all around me, spraying of hair from aerosol cans and all kind of hair primping activity.  A woman who was using a curling iron on her mid-length, blonde hair looked over at me and said "you should be careful with those braids because you can get a form of alopecia (a form of hair loss) from constant braiding."  I was a bit taken aback that she had the audacity to enter my peaceful hair twisting process with unsolicited advice and that she was inappropriately considering my hair as braids instead of locks (although I think braids are beautiful too). Nevertheless, I responded politely with a quasi smile and said, "first of all, these are not braids, but locks, and secondly, I have had them for twenty years and I understand how to handle my hair carefully so that I don't twist too hard."  She then proceeded to walk over to me and look closely at my head, presumably to determine if I had braids or locks.  I looked at her, now indignantly, and then said, "by the way, I think you should pay attention to how much you blow dry and curl your hair with that hot curling iron.  It can be very damaging to the hair and  then to add insult to injury, you follow by using a curling iron and then probably hair spray will follow correct? I wonder what you would do if the electricity went off" I added further.  "Well, I do let it dry naturally sometimes" she said rather defensively.  I smiled and said "O.K." with disbelief in my voice.  She walked away and I went back to my peaceful twisting hoping for no further interruptions.  On my next work out day, I saw her as I walked by in a towel, headed to the shower, with my locks hanging down my back."  She was blow drying her hair and averted her eyes so as not to look at me and I just giggled softly.  I know she heard me.
    I recalled the conversation that I had with her and as I showered I thought about how wearing my hair naturally really does allow me to take care of it with care and a  true understanding of what it can take and cannot take, ensuring that I do not twist too hard or put undue strain on it.  I reflected on how I never have to blow dry or use hot electric appliances on my hair and how I search for inexpensive natural products that are gentle to my hair, or make them myself, from natural items that grow from the earth and that do not have a harsh environmental impact. In these rough economic times, keeping my hair natural helps me to keep the costs associated with caring for my hair extremely low, especially as gas prices (and costs for other necessary commodities) continue to increase and that's N.I.C.E....another reason that I know that Natural Is Cool Enough!