The Cardinal Rule of Hair Care You Don't Know About
When it comes to hair care and maintenance, there are a few rules that are so basic and fundamental that even the layperson would agree should never be broken. But there is one rule that perhaps even the hair sophisticate is unaware of - until now.
Thou shalt not overprocess.
A color from time to time is entirely allowed- even a good hit of peroxide- but a double dose of processing such as a color and a perm? No way. As hair colour director at Toronto’s Civello Salon Vanessa Bianchi explains, “I will not perm anybody’s hair if it has been over-lightened or they’ve had a lot of chemical work done to the hair, because then you will have a lot of damage.” A no brainer.
Thou shalt not overuse heat tools.
This rule seems obvious enough yet in this, the age of blow out bars and curling iron addiction, some of us learn only the hard way that the use of heat on the hair should not be overdone. Too frequent use of heat emitting devices such as blow dryers, flat irons or curling irons (ceramic or not) damages hair in a way that is cumulative and difficult to reverse. Keratin di-sulfide bonds become compromised and moisture is drawn out of the hair making strands dry, fragile and sometimes in need of a full hair intervention. Please do heed our warning: the hair can only take so much.
Thou shalt not overwash/underwash.
This is a fairly recent commandment whose truth is increasingly recognized and uncontested. Whereas the conventional belief used to be that hair needed to be washed often and even daily in order to stay healthy, we now know that this not true. Hair follicles naturally produce oils and too frequent washing with harsh detergent/sulfate shampoos strip away natural oils and everything else away, including your color treatment. The hair responds by ramping up oil production to compensate. Conversely, we should also not under wash the hair (once a month people you know who you are). Under washing the hair leads to oil and product buildup can result in yeast overgrowth and a whole host of issues, including follicle plugging and eventual follicle death. Unless you are in solitary confinement (and even then) your hair gets dirty- wash it.
Which leads us to the cardinal rule of haircare you don’t know about…..
Thou shalt not apply any cream based product directly onto the scalp.
“Whaaaat? I’ve been applying a cream conditioner on my scalp forever.” you say. Yes, yes, so have we. But it isn’t a great practice, especially for the follicle-y challenged or those otherwise trying to encourage more robust growth.
Why? Let us explain.
Hair grows out of follicles and when a follicle becomes plugged (as we mentioned) hair will never grow out of that individual follicle again. Buh-bye. Cream based shampoos and conditioners are a case in point. These ‘creams’ are more or less composed of 3 elements: water, oil and wax. As water and oil do not mix, they require an emulsifier, which is the function of the wax. Mix oil and water at a specific temperature and add wax and you get a ‘creamy’ mix of oil and water.
The issue is not that we apply these cream based products on our actual hair. This is not a problem. The issue is when a cream based product is applied directly to the scalp. Let us explain. In a warm/hot shower or bath environment, creamy textured products change consistency to melt slightly and become liquefied. Oil and water are always liquid (in their stable forms) but the wax element changes according to temperature. This means that in the shower the cream product you’ve just applied is thick to start but after a while begins to thin out and melt due to the rise in temperature. The once thicker cream is now liquified including the wax component. When you leave the shower and things cool down, the wax residue that is still on your scalp (as it always is) will harden and solidify. As the waxy residue solidifies on the scalp, the follicles effectively become blocked or ‘plugged’ with wax. But don’t only blame the waxes. Follicle blockers are many and include creams (yes co-washes!!) as well as gels and even hairsprays.
A plugged follicle is not a good situation to find yourself in. Once blocked with dirt or product the follicle basically ceases to work and eventually dies.
The strategy? Keep your cream based conditioners and treatments (shampoos we aren’t so sure about as it’s hard to keep it off the scalp when massaging) but keep the product off your scalp. Use these exclusively on your hair ends and up to the top of your hair but not on the scalp. The scalp is where your virgin hair resides and arguably does not need any ‘treatment’ or otherwise fixing.