Black Hair Styles and Care Old Questions - 4
Dear Asha:

My hair is short and dull looking. My hair was breaking really badly, probably from a bad relaxing experience I had, so I had to cut it all off and start over. I am looking for some help on how to grow my hair back healthy and how get and maintain length. Thanks for your thoughts or suggestions.

Boston, Massachusetts

Dear Sandra:

I'm sorry to hear about you having to start over, but sometimes it's for the best. 

Lets start with the dull part. Hair appears shiny or dull for one reason, it’s called refraction. This is the way light is reflected off the surface of your hair and back to the viewer (if you look in a mirror this viewer is you). Things like glass are shiny because they are very, very smooth and evenly reflect light well. On the other hand, things that are rough like a stone don’t reflect light well and are dull looking. Although, if you polish that same stone making it’s surface very smooth it will shine as well. Lets see how we can accomplish this for your hair.

Your hair’s surface is probably uneven and not smooth, if this wasn't the case it would appear to be more shiny. Now hair is not unlike our skin and lips. When our skin or lips loose moisture, they become cracked and wrinkled and appear duller. Much the same goes for our hair, and this problem is only made worse when we do our daily styling and use blow-dryers and curling irons on our hair . We have to condition the hair every time we shampoo, we need to use treatments that impart moisture to the hair. Next, if you go to my Personal Question page, the link is at the top of this page, you will see two pictures of hair. One shows a hair in good condition, the other not so good. Notice how the good condition one’s cuticle (outer layer) is smooth and the other not (read dull). The cuticle layer is the hair’s protective shield and  has many tiny overlapping scales, rather like the tiles on a roof. When these scales lie flat and neatly overlap, the hair feels silky soft, looks glossy, and shines, because the flat surface reflects light back evenly. If, however, the cuticle scales have been damaged or broken, the hair will be brittle, prone to tangle easily and appear dull from the light not being reflected back evenly. 

All hair types grow at about the same rate, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch per month. The reason why some people may think their hair has stopped growing is because it has become worn down and breaks at about the same rate it is growing. This is due to many factors, such as combing, pulling, setting, shampooing, blow drying and curling, the sun, over working with styling tools, chemical processing or an improper diet and hair care regimen, things we all do to different extents. To maintain longer hair you have to keep it from splitting and tearing or breaking off and maintain it in good condition. You must have a plan and be consistent in following it. 

1. Find a good qualified hair care professional. or educate yourself by using our Wash and Wear DVD Vol 2
2. Relax your natural curl pattern only to about 80%,  and never take it bone straight. This will take out all your hair’s strength and elasticity.
3. If you find your bone straight hair won't hold a curl when ironing, this is the reason why all the elasticity is gone and roller sets and wrapping is better. 
4. Communicate with your hair care professional about your services, using the knowledge you acquired on our site and DVD.
5. Do wet roller setting more than blow drying and ironing when possible, especially if your hair is in a damaged state.
6. Daily setting can be done before having a shower or do rag sets at night or wear wash and wear more often to keep hair hydrated.
7. Perform a reconstructive treatment, one week before and one week after, any chemical service.
8. Have protein colours 2 to 3 times a year, they add shine and will help strengthen your hair.
9. A light daily moisturizer on dry ends will keep them pliable and help their condition. Shampoo hair every 3- 5 days with a SLS free shampoo, followed by your recommended conditioner.
10. Do not use hairdressings that have petroleum products in them and this includes any mineral oils or beeswax.
11. Have regular trims to stop split ends, you don’t have to take much off at all, just the ends and seal with the kerabond filler.
12. When it's very hot and sunny outside keep you hair covered and protected from the sun, and try to use hair care products that that contain a sun screening agent. Sun burnt hair cannot be repaired.
13. Don’t cover or tie up your hair with porous materials, since they absorb the hair’s natural sebum and moisture, and this leads to breakage, use satin or silk to do this. Also line your hats with a slippery non porous material.
14. Do not use elastic bands or sharp hair ornaments in your hair or put your hair in ponytails. The bands will snag and rip your hair as you put them in or take them out and the ponytails put unneeded stress on the hair and scalp.
15. If you feel you want to wear braids, please make sure that they are not too tight; larger sections and looser is better than fine, small, tighter sections. My opinion is that small, tight sections put too much stress on the hair's follicles, which in over the course of time may cause them to produce poor, weak quality hair. Keep in mind extensions can cause nicks and cracks on the cuticle layer when too much stress is placed while sleeping and moving the extension around. Too tight braids act like braces on one`s teeth.
16. Remember the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"? It's so true! The best way to have healthy hair is not to cause damage to it in the first place. Take responsibility for what you do and use on your hair.
17. There are no instant or quick ways to realize healthy, longer hair, it will take time and planning. With some of the new clients that come to our salon with damaged hair, I tell them that it may take a few years to get their hair back to a healthy state and to the length they want. They have to be patient, but this patience will be rewarded in the end.
18. Revisit our site from time to time and reread all the tips and Q&As’ in order to keep the all right things to do (as well as the wrong things to avoid) with your hair fresh in your mind.

I hope these hair care tips will help you to realize your hair’s potential length. Everyone has a different hair type and natural texture, and therefore may have a different length that they may be able to achieve and maintain. Chemically processed hair is a more difficult challenge to maintain length with. Longer hair is attainable, but you must follow a plan like this and be very consistent in its implementation in order to succeed.  


Dear Asha:

I recently visited a web site where they are promoting a product that they say will fix all hair breakage problems and mend damaged hair immediately, as well as make your hair as good as new and in better condition than ever before. What do you think?

Carson, California

Dear Michelle:

All I know is that life and experience has taught me as my grandmother used to say "if something sounds too good to be true it usually is". I have very little to no faith in instant solutions to almost any problem and that even goes more so when it comes to hair care. My guide for "miracle" products like this is that if one day one of the multinational million or some even billion dollar beauty care companies came to market with a product that does what these so called "miracle" products claim to do, I would be suspicious but give the product  a second look because I realize that they have state of the art research facilities and an almost unlimited research budgets. Moreover, they have degreed cosmetic chemists on staff who are paid six figure salaries to develop and make breakthroughs in hair care and treatment. A product that really did what the product at that web site purports to do would mean millions to a company's bottom line. Hair stylists and salons would be some of the first people to hear about this kind of revolution in hair care. We haven't.

Between you and I, most major companies make many good hair care products and some that are excellent . The only real difference being in the type and textures of hair they choose to specialize in developing products for. The real difference in product performance is the person doing the service and the skills and experience they bring to the table, in not only technique in application but in hair analysis and then choosing absolute right product and strength or in some cases formulation for each individual client's hair needs. After the service these skills also come into play again in choosing and recommending the right products for you to use on your hair at home to keep up the great look and style you received in the salon. I really can't emphasize this enough. The other key factor are the skills and experience of the educators employed by the manufacturer that pass on product use instructions to the stylists learning to use any given company's product line. These are the two main factors I feel that will in almost all cases determine good or bad hair service results. Period.

As a point, with our Kerasoft line we are using a hydroxide based relaxer with some formulation modifications to it, to do our Wash & Wear Relaxer™. Hydroxide base relaxers have been in use many, many years and they still completely dominate the market because nobody has yet to find a better way to safely relax hair. The key word here is safely because there are always new products that come to market that make all kinds of breakthrough claims and what is left in the end in some cases are people with damaged hair. No major company has brought a really new chemical relaxer to market because these products have to work on an extremely consistent basis with any problems with breakage being operator error and not a problem inherent with the relaxer itself to avoid law suites. We did not reinvent the wheel, but for what we are doing with semi natural hair we feel have improved on it.

What the product as this web site seems to be claiming is a reinvention of the wheel, a revolutionary new way to treat and stop breakage and make your hair better than new. Your skepticism antae should go way, way up whenever you hear these kind of claims in any industry. I am not a betting person but I will wager that when the day comes that products like this that truly due work or there if there is a real advance in new technology in the chemical relaxation of hair. It won't be coming from this company or companies like it but from a major company.

If the truth be know, a great amount of research breakthroughs in product performance have always come from the raw chemical suppliers. These are the companies that supply the major manufactures with the raw material goods that go into making any given product you use on your hair. There are less than a few dozen really significant ones in the world market place and there is extreme competition among them to come up with new and improved technology, raw materials, as well as develop product formulations for all beauty product manufacturing companies to use in their final finished products. They continue to research and develop new innovations in the goods they manufacture for their customers and any real breakthrough would soon be known through our industry.

There are companies in the beauty field, the alternative health field is just rife with them, that prey on people that are having a problem or crisis and are looking for a so called "miracle cure". There are none that I am aware of and I believe that is again so in this case. 

There are no fast fixes for damaged hair. Conditioners will help with detangling, the hair's ability to comb when wet and add some luster to your hair. Some reconstructive treatments if formulated with the right ingredients may be able to help with breakage problems to some extent but they truly are only "bandage solutions". The only real way to deal with damaged hair is not to cause damage in the first place. If it's severely damaged the best thing to do, as hard as it may be for some people to come to grips with, is cut it down to the new growth and start again. 

We are all ultimately responsible for our whole body's health and condition and your hair is part of that body. You have to make the most informed choices you can when selecting products for your hair and in choosing the right person to look after your hair. Do your research on both, as you're doing right now. It will be these informed choices or lack thereof that will in the end determine the condition and health of your hair.


Dear Asha:

How is your Wash & Wear Relaxer technique different than getting your hair texturized and isn't it the same as a mild relaxer?

Scarborough, Ontario

Dear Marsha:

The term "texturized" is generally associated with short hair. Our Wash & Wear Relaxer™ is a system we developed to help hair grow to longer and stronger lengths, although it can be used for shorter hair styles as well. Our Wash & Wear Relaxer and “texturizers” are both done without the use of any heat, perm rods or rollers. This is done by using a curl releasing agent to loosen the texture in natural Afro textured and super curly hair to give more manageability to the hair and versatility in style so it's semi natural.

In 1983 when we started developing our Wash & Wear Relaxer method, the word texturized to my knowledge was still being used in the beauty industry to describe a technique used in hair cutting. At that time as well, Jheri curls were the rage. A few years later, men who had been wearing Jheri curls stopped doing so as style trends and fashions changed. Manufacturers in an effort to give men an alternative hair styling option and to replace lost revenues from curly perm sales, came up with "wave kits" or "texturizers" as they were also to become known. Women also started to like the look of short "texturized" hair. As this look became more popular with both sexes, “texturizer” became the common word to describe this style.

In our salon, we were always developing new techniques. We started using a relaxer in a more creative fashion to try to accomplish what people were seeking in a curly perm. We coined the term Wash & Wear Relaxer for our system. The advantage of our system was the elimination of the "greasiness" associated with curly perms, problems with breakage in trying to maintain longer lengths of hair, the long time it took to do a curl service as well as providing a more reasonable price for this new service. 

We are asked all the time “isn’t your relaxer just a mild relaxer and can’t I use any relaxer to do the same thing?” I usually explain the answer the way my husband who helped formulate the line does. If you take a bagel and a doughnut, at a casual glance they look the same and are made from the same ingredients, but the products themselves are really quite different. As I say elsewhere in our web site, for the first eleven years we did use other relaxers before we started to manufacture Kerasoft. The reason we developed our Kerasoft Release™ Conditioning Crème Relaxer was because the other relaxers were lacking key aspects needed to noticeably improve our developing Wash & Wear system.

Let me be clear and mention once again our active ingredient is sodium hydroxide, which is the same ingredient found in the majority of other relaxers on the market. The formulation changes we made with our relaxer makes it different and much better suited to our Wash & Wear Relaxer process.

The challenge for us was to maintain the desired curl pattern of any previous relaxing services without the previously relaxed sections going too straight by removing too much of the natural texture. When too much texture is removed, you end up with poor looking results. The whole hair, from root to end has to end up with the same texture and wave pattern, with no demarcation lines, from service to service. This is crucial because it is at these demarcations lines that friction between different textures takes place and the result may be breakage when this friction occurs. This is the key reason people who have tried to grow their "texturized" hair longer are not using our system find their hair tends to break. After trial and error we developed our application techniques and Kerasoft products to accomplish great results for people who desire semi natural hair and we called it the Wash & Wear Relaxer™. 



Dear Asha:

l am concerned about the state my hair is in. I relax it, blow dry it and flat iron It with marcel curling irons. I oil my scalp with a sulfur and oil hairdressing in the most damaged spots (in the back) and with a super hair grow dressing in the front as well as the ends. My hair is very thick and it has been in many styles starting with a relaxer, a curl, later being pressed, then dyed, and relaxed. It is now relaxed and at it's natural color. 

My problem is the breakage at the neck and split ends in the back. I had the front cut short a few months ago because of a relaxer mishap that took my hair out (could only rinse in cold water) I only had the back trimmed but later from the hair line up about 2 inches fell out and I shaved it off and let it grow again. It hasn't grown right since then and I'm at a loss as to what to do.

Chicago, Illinois
Dear Shirley:

You have all the classic signs that damage has been done to the follicles (the follicle is where the hair itself is produced) of your hair through that one "bad" relaxer by what is known as residual chemical action. It this residual chemical action that also caused the hair breakage problems you had as well.

Let me explain.

The active ingredients in most traditional relaxers is usually a member of the hydroxide family. Typically sodium, calcium, potassium or lithium hydroxide. These chemicals are all deemed to be caustic which means they have a very high level of pH and are corrosive. In order to straighten or relax the hair they work by dissolving the bonds or "glue" that hold cells together. Used properly they are safe effective ingredients in beauty aid products. However, used improperly, even if totally unintentionally, the can have harsh consequences. They can damage the scalp and cause severe breakage to the hair.

What has happened I believe your case is that the cold water used in rinsing the relaxer from your hair was ineffective. Trace amounts of the relaxer were left on your head. They then entered the follicle of some of your hair shafts and also the shafts themselves causing some follicles to become damaged and your hair to become weakened and eventually it broke. These follicles now are producing an improper shaft of hair that has started out already improperly formed or damaged and then breaks. I may be wrong but this is my best opinion without seeing you in person, what your problem is.

There are some things you need to stop doing immediately. No more sulphur and oil or super hair grow dressings, or any other products that contain mineral oils or petrolatum (please see our site again for details). No more ponytails at all. They will only put stress on already over stressed hair follicles.

I believe in time there is a very good chance your hair follicles will heal, but we need to help all we can.

Please start using a natural botanical oils product such as our Kerasoft Primoils as your hair dressing, it contains Evening of Primrose oil as one of the oils it contains. I find this oil to be very healing to the scalp. Stop blow drying your hair and do wet sets only. They are much better when your hair is in a damaged state. Condition every time you shampoo using a moisturizing treatment such as Kerasoft Reflex.

Lastly, buy some natural source vitamin E capsules from a health food store. I want you to take a capsule and puncture it with a pin, then put the pure oil on the problem areas and rub it in. Do this every day for the next 2-3 months and I believe you will find an improvement.