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I’m using a shampoo bar 3-4 times a week to clarify my hair and remove build-up. Do you think this is too much?


I know shampoo bars are all the rage these days and, for natural clarification and removal of product build-up, you can’t beat them—anything is preferable to using harsh sulfates. I do, however, have a few concerns about possible overuse of this product.


Shampoo bars typically range from 8 to 10 on the pH scale, meaning they are quite alkaline. Alkaline substances will open up the hair shaft, allowing the cleansers to penetrate within the hair shaft to remove build-up. That, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing: however, it is important to remember that you are stripping your acid mantle every time you cleanse with these bars.

The acid mantle is the very fine, slightly acidic film on the scalp that acts as a barrier to keep bacteria, viruses and other contaminants or chemicals rom penetrating the scalp. As an example: One of the reasons that you are instructed to color your hair when it is “dirty” instead of freshly washed is not because the

color will take better on the hair shaft—it is so your acid mantle is intact and will prevent the chemical color from penetrating your scalp.


So if you are over-cleansing with shampoo bars, you are interfering with the natural acid mantle function and leaving a very vulnerable part of yourself exposed. Your acid mantle is there for a reason and it needs to remain undisturbed as much as possible so it can do its job to keep you healthy.


Also, with the nature of these bars, you must follow with some type of a vinegar rinse, usually apple cider vinegar (ACV), which can cause its own issues from overuse. See the question below for more information on ACV rinses.


I personally think using shampoo bars is a great idea, but that using them once a month is more than sufficient to keep the hair and scalp clean, healthy and beautiful.


I do an apple cider vinegar rinse two or three times each week and love the way it makes my hair feel. Is there a rule of thumb on how often I can do this without damaging my hair?


You need to bear in mind that apple cider vinegar (ACV) is an acid—over 100 times more acidic than your hair—and it needs to be respected as such. Acids can and will start to degrade your hair shaft with overuse, so you must be cautious and pay strict attention to your hair’s reaction to frequent ACV rinse use.


Depending on your hair texture and porosity, you may be able to support a greater amount/frequency of usage than others can, but you must be careful to judge yours accordingly. If you are doing frequent ACV rinses and are seeing positive results, then your dilution ratio is most likely suited to your hair type.


If, however, you begin to notice degradation in your hair shaft—breakage, frayed ends, dryness, brittleness, or more porous hair—then you need to revisit your proportions and make adjustments accordingly.


What is an acidifying product?


An acidifying product is one that lowers the pH of the hair and brings it back into an appropriately balanced range. Look for citric acid or ascorbic acid on the product label as an indication acidifying product ingredients have been included in the formulation. Conversely, be cautious with products that include TEA (Triethanolamine) or sodium hydroxide, which are both alkalizing agents and will raise the pH of the product.


You can also “balance” your own conditioner by adding a small drop of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice for each tablespoon of conditioner (do not premix, as the solution can go rancid even if the product already contains preservatives). Don’t go overboard—you want to lower the pH of the product to an appropriate range, not make it so acidic that it begins to dry the hair shaft.


I see so many different types of proteins listed on product ingredient labels—what are the differences between them and how will I know when to use what type?


Any protein that is animal-based or that has the prefix “hydrolyzed” in front of it is a stronger protein; those such as natural “wheat” or “soy” are the proteins that are lighter. “Keratin” is the natural protein from which your hair is made.


Your hair’s condition and texture is a great baseline to determine how much protein you need. If you want to add protein simply because you have a fine texture and you need the extra support, a light protein treatment is fine. If, however, you have damage from sun, chlorine or chemical processes, a heavier protein reconstruction will then be necessary for any real effectiveness.


Curly hair often looks dull and doesn’t reflect the light as well as straight hair does; additionally, permanent color doesn’t seem to last as long. Are color glazes helpful in adding shine and preventing permanent color from fading prematurely? And how are they different from permanent color?


I love color glazes and use them often in my own color work. They add a beautiful dimension to permanent color: for example, in the winter, I apply a clear glaze over my dark espresso color which gives my hair enormous depth and shine; in warmer weather, I like to mix a bit of a burgundy cherry color with the clear for a more “summery” look.


Glazes can help to prevent permanent color from fading since they add another level of “defense” on top of the hair shaft and normally last anywhere from six to 12 weeks, depending on the type of glaze used.


Glazes are mainly semi- or demi-permanent color treatments with a clear or tinted result. They are different from permanent color in that they only stain the outside of the cuticle, whereas permanent color actually results in a chemical change inside the cortex.


Are deep treatments necessary for all curly hair types? What about salon steam treatments?


Deep treatments can be a great part of your maintenance routine, depending on your hair’s individual needs. Because I color, I do a deep treatment twice per month—once 24 hours after I color, another at the midway point between colorings (at about three weeks), which helps to keep my hair healthy and in great shape. If you do any kind of a chemical process, a monthly or bi-monthly deep treatment can be a good idea.


People with fine hair, however, should be extremely careful since their hair typically needs more protein, not more moisturizers. I seldom recommend routine deep treatments for any of my fine-haired clients, unless it’s an initial series of treatments because she is severely dehydrated. An “as needed” protein pack is usually far more effective here.


I don’t think there is a point deep treatments are no longer necessary for most people, but I believe there can come a time where they no longer need to be routine. If you don’t chemically process and if your hair is healthy, you can do a deep treatment at arbitrary times just when you feel a little extra moisture is needed—such as if the weather becomes extremely dry, if you’ve been sick, etc.


The jury is still out on those steam treatments; frankly, I’ve yet to see where paying $$$ at a salon is more effective than what you can do for yourself at home. Boil a pot of water, remove it from the heat, lean over the pot and hold a towel over your conditioner-saturated head to capture the steam for 5-10 minutes—you’ll steam your hair and give yourself a great facial at the same time (throw some mint or rosemary leaves in there for a little aromatherapy while you’re at it!).


If a salon brags about how well they do perms—does that imply that they should be good at caring for and cutting naturally wavy or curly hair? Or are the two completely unrelated?


From a cosmetologist standpoint, they are completely unrelated. A stylist can give you a wildly successful perm and still not have the slightest idea of how to cut or care for curly hair.


Do sulfate-free cleansers automatically clarify?


“Sulfate-free” does not necessarily mean “surfactant-free.” For example, many non-sulfate based cleansers contain an ingredient called “cocamidopropyl betaine,” which is a surfactant. However, cocamidopropyl betaine is derived from coconut oil and is therefore not considered harsh like the sulfates; however, it will clarify and remove product build-up because it is still a surfactant.

Clarifying is largely necessary for those who still use non-water soluble silicones in their conditioners and styling products.


I’ve wanted to change a couple of things about my hair recently and my stylist has been resistant to my suggestions. Is it time to look for a different stylist?


The stylist should always do what the client wants in the end, but sometimes, there is a reason for the resistance. Example: Client A comes in and wants shorter layers. Stylist keeps talking her out of it because Stylist truly thinks the shorter layers are not suitable for Client A’s hair/face shape, etc. Client A insists and Stylist finally gives in. Client decides she hates the shorter layers and they make her look awful. So Client A blames Stylist for giving her a “bad haircut.” That happens more often than you can imagine.

If you really like your stylist, then sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with her one last time. Make sure she understands you will not be blaming her if she does indeed give you what you want and you decide you hate it.


You can certainly go and find another stylist, but think about what you’re risking: you’re making big changes with a stylist about whom you know nothing and who doesn’t have any history with you on taking care of your curly locks.


I seem to lose a LOT of hair. What is the normal number of hairs we should lose per day?


For a long time, conventional wisdom said 100 hairs a day was about normal. However, Milady—one of the top cosmetology educational providers and the source on which many state board cosmetology examinations are based—has recently stated that 30-40 hairs per day may be closer to average.


However, bear in mind that people with curly hair often have a lot more hair than those with straighter hair; therefore, it is normal to seem as it we are losing a lot more hair when in reality, we are losing a reasonable amount in conjunction with how much hair we actually have.



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