CHAPTER 5Keeping Hair Shiny
If you ask people what one quality they most seek in their own hair--or notice first in someone else's--they are likely to say "shine." This makes good intuitive sense to me and is consistent with my convictions about health and beauty. As I said at the beginning of this section, healthy hair is beautiful hair. And beautiful hair is shiny...literally reflecting its state of health.
So in this chapter I want to discuss the getting and keeping of the quality that for many of us defines beautiful hair: shine. We've already been through doing what we can to improve the health of the hair; now I want to talk about enhancing its natural beauty...no matter what sort of problems you may have started with.
Dryness is probably the most common cause of dulled hair... although you should be clear that dry hair may very well not mean dry scalp. (Review the last couple of chapters for distinctions.) You should also determine whether your hair is naturally dry and/or fragile (very fine and curly, for instance, or "older"), or whether you have inflicted the "dry" condition on it...which is much more likely. Use your common sense, or ask your hairdresser.
Some cases of dryness require a real arsenal of moisturizers and conditioners; I will talk about this shortly. When you find yourself with a case of the hair blahs, and need a little brightness pickup without getting involved with the replacement of oils, try this light herbal rinse to give dry hair sheen:
There are people who think they were born with frizzy hair, but "frizz" is really breakage that occurs in curly hair (whether that curl is natural or processed in). It must be cut off to be "cured."
Curly-haired people tend to be very rough on their hair in an attempt to wrestle it into manageability...and the curlier it is, the more they punish it for being so recalcitrant (and perhaps for being a subtle reminder of all the things in our lives that are not susceptible to our will). All this does is break it further...which makes it harder to manage--even to get a comb through...which breaks it further...and on and on.
Split ends are another "drabber" to which no one is immune; in fact, they occur at least as frequently in straight hair (where they are more noticeable) as in curly hair. Again, the only real cure is cutting...and careful attention to avoiding a recurrence.
Split ends are simply the breaking apart--the "splitting"-of the hair sheath from the ends toward the scalp. Most likely to occur because of overbrushing (which causes static electricity) or "tearing" with a comb, especially when the hair is wet, split ends are vulnerable to dryness and damage from sun, heat, and processing. (This is one of the reasons I am so convinced of the benefits of finger-drying, detailed in Chapter 7.)
Paint this glossing formula on those ends before shampooing to bring back the well-nourished gleam:
Hair tends to become less shiny as we age, getting coarser (with the gray), drier (at the scalp), and less abundant. It grows more slowly, and the shafts of hair may come in with a less-than-perfect sheath of cuticles. Some of this can be avoided: too many people pay inadequate attention to nutrition as they age and fail to get enough exercise; this inevitably shows up in the condition of the hair.
There is another source of drabness in more mature hair: older women tend to do more to their hair. They are less likely to wear it in a style that moves freely, to touch it, to run their fingers through it, and to brush it (all habits that stimulate the scalp). And with the hairdos they are more likely to choose, they color and perm more often and stress hair with setting lotions and rollers, hair dryers (usually of the old helmet type), and lacquer-y sprays.
Try this restorative for coarse, dry, "older" hair:
Here is my heavy-duty remedy for hair that is really suffering--that has had just about everything done to it and looks it. The "Hair Drink" will clean, proteinize, and condition dry, processed, abused hair. As good for the scalp itself as for the hair shaft and root, it is made in a blender and will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
There are basically two types of heavy-duty conditioners: those you apply and then wash out after giving them some time to do their work, like the "Hair Drink," and those that require heat and moisture to do their best for you.
Read the directions carefully on any commercial preparation as to which you should do, but for any of my recipes, you can always use the hot-pak method if you have the time and would like to treat yourself and your hair.
At home you need nothing more than a couple of old towels, a basin of very hot water (wear rubber gloves to squeeze out the towels), and some time, Although heating caps are available commercially, I don't recommend them; they produce a dry heat that doesn't do nearly as much for your hair as the steam from the towels you have soaked yourself. (Steam from hot-water-soaked towels softens the outer layers of the hair and encourages maximum penetration of the treatment into the hair shaft. This is much like what you must do to restore leather--first moisturize it and then condition/protect it.)
One of the great side benefits of an herbal hot-pak, again, is the accompanying spirit-lifting aromatherapy-much more intense than is possible with a nonheat remedy application.
Here are the basic steps for a good hot-pak:
Mix ingredients carefully and thoroughly.
Massage preparation well into wet hair and scalp.
Use alternating clean towels, letting one soak in hot water while the other is on your head.
Allow three to five minutes on the head for each towel--after that, it will be too cool to do any good.
Repeat application four to six times.
After towel treatment, put on shower cap and relax for ten minutes, allowing conditioner to set.
Wash out completely with diluted shampoo.
Here is a good, general-purpose hot-pak conditioner to replenish oils and help repair frizzed and split ends:
Don't believe it: one hundred strokes of the brush a night can do a lot more harm than good. Three times a week is plenty...and for delicate hair, even that may well be too much.
The old notion that brushing makes hair glossy undoubtedly came from the beneficial effects of dust removal in long hair that was usually washed only once a week (if that) and in the distribution of natural oils from the scalp in the hair. In this quarter of the twentieth century, however, with shorter, more casual styles and frequent washing, brushing has lost much of the value it once had. Its major benefit--scalp stimulation--is, in fact, better served by massage, which does everything brushing does without the attendant risk of damage.
If--and when--you do brush your hair, don't do it when it's wet. Best to use a wide-toothed comb.
Instead, use a conditioner on your hair (if necessary) and then detangle it with your fingers (another good time to get in a little scalp massage). If your hair tangles badly when it's clean, very likely it's damaged and needs remedial care ... which means a trim, at least.
Avoid brushing your (dry) hair in arid, moisture leaching environments... like the dead of winter in an overheated house or under the noon sun in Palm Springs. The inevitable static electricity can ruin your styling and damage the hair shaft. A good time to brush is after a bath, when your hair has been "moisturized" by the ambient water carried in warm, humid air.
Start with that gentle detangling with fingers, whether your hair is wet or dry. (You might want to do this with your head hung upside down.) Don't "brush out" the knots.
Whether you begin right side up or upside down, brush the underneath layers first, either starting at the back of the neck (upside down) or (right side up) by lifting longer hair from the crown and brushing back and sides separately. Use your massage pattern of working toward the crown and top of the head, remembering that it is most often the sides and lower half of the back of the head that get short shrift. The final thing to do is brush all the way from the forehead to the nape of the neck, gently but firmly.
Because brushing does do most to distribute the oils of the scalp to the hair, people with dry hair should brush longer than those with oily hair, who ought to confine themselves to a good detangling and smoothing. People who also have a dry scalp, however, must be cautious about irritating delicate skin with too vigorous a brushing--which can lead to soreness and even bleeding.
Brushes are of most use in finishing off a hairstyle, and I almost always use one when I blow-dry hair. Round brushes that serve as roller substitutes are especially helpful. If used correctly, they will not damage hair. (See Chapter 7 for blow-dry instructions.)
A regular brush can give body to a last-minute styling effort and should be saved for that. A favorite trick of mine when I do photoshoots is to blow-dry (or set) into the general shape, arrange the hair with my fingers, and then let the "creation" sit for a couple of minutes. I wait to brush until just before the model goes on. Those few minutes of rest do wonders for the final effect.
Natural-bristle brushes are the kind that usually come to mind when you think "brush" and for which you can spend an enormous amount of money. They may be good for the ego (and usually feel best on the scalp) but don't really do that much; they are less versatile than the more specialized brushes you may want to switch to if and when you drop regular brushing from your hair-care regimen in favor of massage.
Don't use a natural-bristle brush for detangling wet hair; for that matter, these brushes can be at least as damaging to dry hair because of the static electricity they generate (which roughs up cuticles). Reserve them for impressing your friends and for finishing touches during styling.
Nylon brushes (such as the Denman brush) are extremely useful for detangling and for serious styling jobs like back-brushing. However, I do recommend treating this kind of brush by immersing it in very hot (not boiling) water. This will soften the ends of the bristles enough so that they will neither scratch your scalp nor break your hair, and that little bit of resilience will give you more control during styling. (This is a good idea for your natural-bristle brush as well. Just before the first use, soak it in hot water and shake it out; it will be kinder to your scalp and hair.)
Round brushes are used for styling with a blow-dryer (they work like rollers) and come in all sizes, from half an inch to four inches in diameter. A professional is likely to have a selection on hand; however, you will want to have only the size(s) you need for your hairstyle. I will explain how to use this kind of brush for styling in a later chapter.