I bet you’ve never seen hair damage like this before

As in, I bet you’ve never seen it magnified under a microscope.

Last week Stephanie, our transitioner who won the Komaza Consultation and Regimen, sent a few samples of her hair to Rene for an up-close-and-personal checking out under the hair microscope. When I saw the resulting images of her relaxed ends beneath the microscope, my jaw dropped.  It was bittersweet to see hair in such amazingly, awesome detail, but also a bummer to see splits, breaks, and knots.  I have never really seen hair this magnified, but what it showed was just how damaging relaxers can be. Here’s a peek at the pix and what Rene had to say about it:

(Note: all images are about 1.5″ up from the end)


Please do not stress when you see the images. This kind of damage is to be expected of your relaxed hair. The stress break (where the hair looks untethered) can be the result of a few things such as wet combing/brushing your relaxed hair, overprocessing, and from styling. This is why your hair didn’t feel smooth. This can also happen with your natural hair if you dry comb/brush, use a bristle brush, and constant tension (like braiding or pulling into a ponytail). 

Split and Break


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Ask the Hair Doctor: Dr. Kari Answers Reader Hair Questions- Submit Yours!

Naturals Night Out Los Angeles was hosted by Mahogany Hair Revolution, a natural hair salon founded by Dr. Kari Williams, one of the country’s leading trichologists (aka. hair and scalp doctor!).

Dr. Kari Williams

I think I can speak on behalf of all in attendance that we were all very impressed with the natural hair knowledge and expertise Dr. Kari brought to the event and I wanted to create a chance for ALL readers to have access to her resources and insights about natural hair care.

Together we’re launching a new series here on Natural Selection called “Ask the Doctor!” in which she will respond to reader questions and I’ll post them publically so that we can ALL learn!

To submit your questions please send an email to cassadie [at] naturalselectionblog [dot] com with the subject line “ASK THE DOCTOR”. We’ll try to get through all questions, so don’t be shy and let us know any and everything you’ve ever wanted to ask an expert!!

New hair test proves that you are what you eat (+ recipe!)

A friend just sent me this article from Wired about how lasers are being used not to remove hair, but to create a super detailed record of what you’ve been eating!  Check out this video:

Ok, so what’s the big take away for YOU? I know, chances are you’re not going to get your hair laser cut to see what you had for breakfast, but I think its important to recognize that everything-EVERYTHING- you put into your body will show up in your hair. Which means that if you want to have healthy hair, you must eat healthily.   If your diet is nutrient deficient, your hair will be too.  Make sure you stock up on lots of healthy veggies, fruits, grains AND water….you never know when someone might want to laser poke your hair now…

One of my favorite foods to incorporate into my diet is KALE.  This big leafy green packs a punch in terms of beta carotenevitamin Kvitamin Cluteinzeaxanthin, and calcium.   The veggie is really versatile and you can eat it alone as a side dish or incorporate it into a pasta, soup, or a salad.  But one of my favorite ways to eat Kale is to make kale chips!  They’re so easy to make and equally delicious.  The perfect way to have a healthy snack!  Here’s how:

Kale! YUM!


  1. Take a bunch of kale and chop off the stems.  Chop the leafy tops into 1-2″ pieces.  You really don’t have to be precise here.
  2. Spread into a thin layer on a cookie sheet.
  3. Drizzle about 2 tsp of olive oil  top and dust with salt.
  4. Use your hands to toss lightly to make sure its all covered
  5. Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes or until crisp
  6. Allow to cool
  7. Eat your heart out!!!



SO FINE: Protein. How a good thing can be too much.

For some of us with fine hair, protein-packed deep conditioners can work MIRACLES.  If you’re like me, protein conditioners clump our coils together, strengthen our strands, and give weight to our otherwise lightweight strands.  However, for others, protein  can wreak havoc their heads by making their strands brittle, stiff, and rough.    If you have experienced either end of this spectrum you’re probably wondering one question: WHAT’S UP WITH PROTEIN?  And why does it have such an awesome/horrific effect on my hair?

Protein’s affect on your hair has everything to do with the porosity of your hair.  To explain this more in full, we’re going to bring back our old friend Mr. Sponge.  In today’s little lesson, we’re going to have the part of protein played by Elmer.  Yes, as in the glue.

This sponge represents hair with low porosity.

This sponge represents hair with high porosity.

In each of these sponges, the holes represent the hair’s cuticle.  (Think of a cuticle like shingles on a roof).

When protein is applied to the lo-po sponge, the holes in the surface of the sponge pull in small amounts of protein relative to the size of the entire sponge.

When you apply protein to this hi-po sponge, the protein seeps into the larger holes on the surface of the sponge.  Because the holes are larger, the sponge has more surface to absorb the protein.  In fact it absorbs TOO much, leaving it stuffed with protein like a Thanksgiving turkey.

As you can see there is a lot more protein intake in the hi-po sponge than the lo-po sponge.
Now applying this logic to actual hair, low porosity fine hair does well with protein because there are not as many cuticle openings.  High porosity hair gets crispy because it takes too much protein in because it has more cuticle openings.

Of course there are exceptions because like glue, proteins come in many different forms and sizes.  Some proteins, such as hydrolysed proteins, can actually benefit high porosity hair by working to fill in the cuticle layer.  So if you have high-po hair, be sure to take a look at the product label and see if this type of protein is on there before judging it too soon.

Lo-po naturals should try using a heat cap, hooded dryer, or steamer with their deep treatments so that you can raise the cuticle layer get maximum protein benefits.

By using the right technique with and type of protein, you can be sure to find the right type of strengthening conditioner for your So Fine strands!  In the next installment of the series, I’ll be going over deep conditioner how to’s and product recommendations.

Pantene’s Little White Lye

A few months ago I read Afrobella’s r-a-v-e review of Pantene’s Curly Hair Series Deep Moisturizing Treatment, but this cheeky little square box proved elusive until I finally found it at a Target yesterday.  The price was under $5, the packaging was cute, but when I flipped the label to check the ingredients and saw SODIUM HYDROXIDE listed, I gasped.  I pulled my mom over to read the label to make sure I wasn’t misreading it, but nope, it was confirmed, sodium hydroxide was on the label and in this product.

What’s the big deal?  Well the big deal is that sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is better known as lye, the same active ingredient in relaxers.  My mind immediately wheeled back to the scene in Good Hair which Chris Rock and his scientist buddy immersed a Coke can into a solution of sodium hydroxide only to have it be eaten away within minutes.  In addition to dimethicone (a silicone, which is the first ingredient listed on the label, meaning that it makes up the highest percentage of this product), there are also four conditioning agents, as well as four preservatives, which negate any of the benefits from the conditioners.

That all said, I am not a chemist and I have a feeling that the NaOH is probably being used to giving slip to the product.   And in general lye is not a dangerous ingredient, after all it is generally included in most soaps. The point of me bringing this all up is to underline the importance of reading product labels and being aware as consumers of what is in the products you are buying.  For me, tis the season to say ‘ho, ho, no thank you!’ to Pantene.   As a natural who seeks to remove chemicals from my daily regimen (and stay as far away from relaxers as possible) I will certainly not be trying this product.    As always, if it works for you and you have done your research, by all means, have at it!

Second Helping: Deoxyribonucleic Acid (aka: D.N.A.)

This was one of my very first posts, written in August 2009 when I was still transitioning.  Honestly, I’m a science nerd and took a few paleoanthropology courses in college, so I thought I’d do some research about why coily, kinky, slinky textured hair actually exists in terms of biology and science.  And let me tell you, from what I found out (and what you’ll read below) these roots run deep (about 500,000 years to be exact)

Bored one day, I decided to wet a few strands of hair that were sticking out of my coif to see what happened (a new and exciting experiment for me as I had spent so much of my life avoiding getting my hair wet). After saturating the strands, the most amazing thing happened: the hair transformed from a frizzy blob to almost perfect spirals resembling the double helix structure of DNA.

This got me thinking.

Not only is DNA the shape my hair resembles, but it is also the reason that it does (those narcissistic amino acids). So I thought I’d find out why curly, kinky, coiled, afro hair exists. After all, no other mammals have fur that resembles anything close to this (ok, fine maybe Alpacas and I think this is a whole other story, even though they can rock dreadlocks).

Alpaca Fur--- see the texture?

Another alpaca...

Australopithecines....our ancestors from 500,000 years ago

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Keeping it Clean: The Lowdown on Sulfates

I came across a very interesting article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune yesterday about controversial, yet mainstream, shampoo ingredients: sufates.  Ok, fine my Nana hipped me to it (gotta give credit where credit is due!), but the article (after the jump) brings up some issues that I think EVERYONE, regardless of hair texture or style, should be aware of.  Sulfates are “surfectants” – or compounds used in cosmetics as cleansers.  Sodium Laureth Sulfate is perhaps the strongest sibling in the sulfate family and has properties that lend itself as a “degreaser.”  Whether its your scalp or clothes or roasting pan, SLS is there to cut through oil and grease leaving whatever it is your washing squeaky clean!  Wait, did I just use hair, clothes, and scalp in the same sentence?  Sure did.  SLS is quite widely used in soaps, detergents, cleansers, and shampoos; the stuff that is used on your hair is the same stuff that you use on a Pyrex baking dish and the reason you wear rubber gloves when washing dished: it dries out your skin!

The truth is that SLS and other sulfates are most likely too harsh for cleansing your hair.  It can strip your hair of moisture and cause your color to fade more quickly.  There is a fine line between cleansing and drying.  The article below discusses how many people are finding that less frequent washing and/or washing with a sulfate-free shampoo can improve the overall condition of your scalp and hair.  Sure, sometimes you might need that heavy dose of cleansers after using a lot of product (no need to leave yourself with build-up!), but in general for daily use, you should cut out or at least minimize your usage of sulfates.  One key thing to remember is that just because it doesn’t lather doesn’t mean its not cleaning.  We’ve been conditioned (pardon the pun) to equate lather with cleanliness, but it’s really not the key to clean.

Some of my favorite sulfate-free shampoos and cleansers are:

  • Poo Bars!  I love these things, not only are they great for travel (no liquids!), I also get a TON of moisture.  My favorites come from Chagrin Valley and Skincare by Feleciai

So that’s it. An easy remedy to dryness (both in hair and skin) is to watch your products for sulfates!

Article after the jump!

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The Brazilian Blowout Blown Up

The country that first planted the going natural seed in my head and the place where an afro is widely referred to as “a black power” is also the namesake of the both famous and [depending on who you talk to] infamous Brazilian Blowout.  I am often asked about my opinion about this hotshot on the straight hair scene, mainly if it in fact does work and would I ever do it.

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Desegregating Hair Products

A few weeks ago, I made a product suggestion to an African-American woman, encouraging her to try out Tresemme Naturals Conditioner.  “But isn’t that for white people???” she responded.  I found myself unsure of how to respond “… well, I’m black and it works for me, but technically speaking I suppose it is typically found in the ‘white section’ of the store”

Recently a couple of white friends with highly textured hair have asked me for product recommendations to help them with dryness and frizz.  One said “I think I should try, you know, some products that are for black people because they always have a lot of moisture.”  And so I made some recommendations of “black products”.

But why do we have this black and white view of the product world and why does it seem so unnatural to break out of it? Continue reading

The Dangers of Blow Drying

This is a picture of my bed.  Remember it as it is a critical part of this post.

Last Friday evening I found myself inspired to blow dry my hair into a massive fro.  After acquiring blow dryer comb attachment I set out to purchase heat protectant, an essential part of any sort of heat-related regimen.  Heat protectant products usually use silicones that bond to the hair strand to protect their fragile make up from any potential damage as well as provide a lot of slip as you comb through the hair.  I was so nervous about hurting my little Lola that I invested in not one but two types of heat protectants: a spray and a serum.

After washing my hair with Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner and applying some of my Bee Mine Hair Milk as a leave in, I thoroughly detangled with my *new* Ouidad Double Detangler Comb (full review to come soon) and let my hair dry part of the way.  The wetter your hair is, the more heat necessary to dry and blow out, and the greater risk of potential damage.  The results: a huge, lush, soft fro.  Who knew that the kind of fro I have always wanted was just 45 minutes of blow drying away!?

Armed with my fierce hair, I set out on bike to meet my friends for the evening.  Now, I love my dear city of San Francisco, but our weather could not be more bizarre.  As soon as I began to pedal to the bar, the fog began to emit mist and small droplets of rain.  Within 45 minutes, my glorious fro had gotten wet enough to revert back to its normal shrunken state.

Fast forward to the middle of the night.   Continue reading

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