Continuing with our 5yr Itch series this week, today we tackle texture drama! There are 3 things that can cause texture changes:
- Damage (neglect, excessive heat, or chemical induced)
- Hormone Shifts
What do you do if you have damaged hair?
Everyone believes they have the answer to this question but the true answer depends on the individual. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is your damaged due to neglect, excessive heat, or chemical treatments?
- Where is the damage? At the ends of your hair? At the root? Somewhere in between?
All of these things will inform what choices you have to address the damage. However, we think that your choices are the same as they were when you chose to “go natural”: transition or cut!
So which do you choose? Like many other “naturals” we have always heard that if you get any kind of damage to your natural hair the only solution to fix it is to cut it off and start over.
If you have severe damage throughout your hair the big chop is the best choice. As women, we often feel that our hair defines who we are; more specifically it is a symbol of femininity or womanhood. It can be very difficult to do something drastic. However, we have found that some women look forward to going back to the days when they could do their hair in minutes and be out the door. Think about it! You can get a do over with all that you know now. That is not something that comes often in life! A chance to potentially do things differently so that when you get to your next 5yr mark, you could be making different choices; might be worth it. Furthermore, if retaining length while having strong healthy hair is your goal, take a deep breath, and let it go!
If your damage is very limited or just at the ends of your strands, you can consider a “health cut and transition”. Instead of going for the “big chop” you get a deep trim and a style that removes most of the damaged hair. Ideally this cut will allow you to easily style your hair while you transition or grow out the remaining damaged pieces. It will be very important to get back to the basics of hair care. Doing all the things you did in the beginning to grow out healthy hair, such as: pre-pooing, deep conditioning, and regular health trims. Note that this option should only be made in consultation with a hair care professional specializing in natural textured hair.
What about hormone related texture changes?
There is a reason that nature is referred to as "mother nature" because like the female body it requires balance at all times. Signs of imbalance are easily seen if you know what to look for and for women our hormonal balance is key to our overall health and well-being. Like the rings of a tree, your hair can tell a story. Some physicians can even tell right away whether you have a hormone imbalance by observing changes in your hair. It is often referred to as the "barometer for health"!
What effects can hormone imbalances have on your hair?
- Both male and female hormones affect hair growth. Male hormones known as androgens (i.e. testosterone) stimulate hair growth on the face and body, and create fuller, thicker hair on the head. Women's ovaries naturally produces androgens in small quantities but if the androgen levels are artificially increased you will notice thicker, more brittle hair on your face (commonly the chin area) and head.
- Estrogen, when balanced, can work wonders on your hair. Why do you think pregnant women usually experience faster growth rates and unbelievable shine? It's the boost in estrogen! When that boost is artificially induced it can throw off your body's balance of male and female hormones. These artificial peaks are followed by steep dips in estrogen that lead to excessive hair loss and thinning!
- Irregular insulin levels can lead to androgenic alopecia (pattern baldness). How does this happen? Insulin regulates the blood sugar levels and women with insulin resistance are at higher risk of experiencing excessive thinning and evenutally alopecia.
- Thyroid imbalances can also cause texture changes. More specifically low thyroid leads to weakening of the hair shaft, overall thinning, and excessive hair loss not just on your head but anywhere on your body. Hyperactive thyroid causes the hair on your head can become fine, with thinning hair all over the scalp.
There are really only two solutions: hormone therapy and dietary/lifestyle changes. Have your doctor test your fasting glucose, iron levels and complete blood count (which can determine if you have anemia), as well as thyroid, estrogen and testosterone levels. Change to a whole food diet: no processed foods, decrease intake of carbohydrates (these are converted to sugars in your body), and increase intake of vegetables (especially fibrous dark leafy greens). Think of ways to have a more active lifestyle, such as: take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator or getting off the train one stop early and walk the rest of the way. Check out TIME magazines Deskercise for some fun office exercises!
It will take a few months to regain your hormonal balance and then a few more months to notice the changes in your hair BUT in the end you not only will your hair be healthier but you will feel amazing.
There is one cause of texture changes that can not be "solved"; that's genetics and or aging.
Until we discover the fountain of youth, aging and all that comes along with it is an inevitability. In fact, it largely links back to the discussion above on hormones. As we age all those hormones that keep us wrinkle free in our youth decrease. Particularly during menopause, estrogen dips very low and your hair begins to thin and grow slower. This is also true for men!
As we get older our hair becomes more fragile, brittle, and or dry. This is when crushing on the basics is even more important. Consistent haircare with good quality natural products will slow the "side-effects of aging". Let us know if you want to hear more about caring for aging hair!
 Matilainen, V., et al. Hair loss, insulin resistance, and heredity in middle-aged women. A population-based study. J Cardiovasc Risk. 2003 Jun;10(3):227-31.