There are a lot of things you can do for your hair and with your hair to make it more attractive, and more manageable, but it is important to realize from the beginning that you have to work with what you've got. There is no way to change your genetic inheritance, and it is fruitless to worry about it.
No woman is ever satisfied with her hair. When it is straight, she wants it curly, and when it is wavy, she wants it straight. The color is either too light, too dark, or too drab, and she either has too much or too little of it.
what type are you?
Straight hair is often strong and beautiful hair. It can be lank, in which case you should work it with a `stripping' shampoo which will enlarge the shaft of each hair and make it look fuller. If it is lackluster, go for a conditioner to make the scales of the cuticle lie flat and enable hair shafts to reflect light better. Straight hair is often good blunt cut and worn not too long, or tied up in a twist, a braid, or a chignon.
Curly hair needs to be carefully cut, for this can make all the difference between its looking fantastic and frizzy. It is best not to impose a particular style on your hair, but rather to go with the natural swing of things. If your hair tends to be wiry, you can correct this by using a softening conditioner.
Thin hair must never be allowed to get greasy, for excess of oil on it will only make it look limp and lank. It is usually best to have it cut in a short style, and it is useful to shampoo it often using a shampoo that contains no conditioners, and then use a volumizer - a spray or gel containing polymers which you apply to wet hair before blow-drying. The heat from the dryer swells the polymers that cover the hair shaft, making it look thicker. This will give it bounce and fullness. Blowing it dry helps increase the fullness too.
Fine hair is delicate hair, but it is usually beautiful hair, too, like a baby's. Unlike thin hair, which is caused by a paucity of hair shafts, fine hair is made up of hair shafts of small diameter. You have to be particularly careful about what you do to it, because fine hair is the easiest of all hair types to damage from chemical treatments such as coloring or by using shampoos that are too alkaline, or by exposing it to heat or even the sun. Fine hair does well on protein shampoos and needs to be cut superbly and worn short unless you have a great deal of it. Volumizers are useful here, too.
Thick hair is a blessing, although few women who have it realize this - particularly if their hair is curly. In this case, you should probably not wear it too short, or it can be unmanageable. Thick hair is the easiest to handle and the toughest. It will withstand chemical treatments and coloring far better than any of the other hair types and may not even need a conditioner at all when it is washed. If it is straight and you decide to have it chemically curled then you should expect the waving process to take at least a third as long again as it usually does, because the hair shaft is big and tough to break down. But the effects can last you as much as a year, where anyone else's will have to be renewed in a few months.
Each day, you can expect to lose between 100 and 200 hairs. So you shouldn't be discouraged when you look down at the pillow in the morning to see a few lying there. This only means that new hairs will quickly be growing. That is, provided your hair is not coming out by the handful. Sometimes, as a result of sudden shock, hormonal change, or illness, large numbers of hairs are lost all at once. Even this is nothing to worry about unduly, so long as whatever triggered the loss is either past (as in the case of childbirth) or being corrected with a relaxation technique and dietary supplements for undue stress or illness.
the cut is the thing
A good cut is more important than any other single factor when it comes to the way a head of hair looks. Everyone is an individual, and hairstyling that doesn't take this into account is worse than second-rate. Changing your cut or style every year or two keeps you from getting stuck in a time warp and can lift spirits like nothing else short of falling in love.
There are two types of perms: acid-based which are soft and used to give a subtle lift at the roots to create an illusion of fullness; and the conventional alkaline perms. Acid or `body' perms don't last as long as the rest and need to be redone every three or four months. They are more natural and soft-looking, adding fullness and swing to hair without heavy curls.
caring for processed hair
Provided your hair is healthy and you look after it well after a perm, there is no reason to worry about its condition being spoiled by the waving. A perm will add a lot of body to lank hair and can often improve an over-oily condition as well.
Once your hair is waved, it is more vulnerable to damage than ever before, so there are a few special precautions you need to take in order to preserve its health and sheen. For instance only use acid-balanced shampoos when you wash your hair, and always apply an acid rinse such as lemon juice in water. Protein treatments are particularly good for permed and colored hair. Also, instead of brushing 50 strokes a day, cut it down to 20.
If your hair has been bleached or tinted, it is a good idea only to have an acid wave especially designed for bleached or damaged hair. They don't last so long, but they do ensure that the hair remains in good condition.
Aside from chemical straightening, there are also some short-term but simple ways to straighten hair. It can be done by blow-drying with a brush to smooth it out or by washing your hair and then wrapping it wet around your head in a circle, like a cap, fastening it with clips and letting it dry. Then, when it is dry, you simply comb it out straighter. You can use hair straighteners, and you could always use the old-fashioned and very efficient method for long, curly hair - simply ironing it with an electric iron. Spread the hair out on a board, keep the iron on the lowest setting, and go over it gently from roots to ends. But the same applies as for blow drying and using heated rollers - be careful not to put too much heat on your hair. Burnt hair is irretrievably lost.
a change of color
One of the simplest and most effective ways of changing your appearance is to change the color of your hair. As we get older, the color of hair tends to fade so that a once shimmery golden mane or deep mahogany tresses can become lackluster and dull. Hair coloring these days is effective and reasonably priced and can look even better than most natural hair - provided, of course, it is done correctly.
There are two categories of hair colorants: permanent colorants, which cannot be washed out, and the temporary and semipermanent, which can be used to highlight and intensify your own hair color.
These are the easiest to use. They coat the cuticle of the hair with color that washes away with the next shampoo. You can get temporary highlighting shampoos and color rinses in a great variety of colors and most of them have a shine-promoting pH, too. But what you can do with them is limited, for while they will darken the hair - say from blonde to red or to black - they are really designed for minor color changes only. If you try to go too many shades away from your natural color, they tend to streak and give uneven coverage and also they cannot make your hair lighter.
Like the temporaries, they, too, coat the outside of the hair shaft and so are not good for drastically changing hair color. Nor will they lighten. Some of the semi-permanents are `color baths' which penetrate the hair so that they last up to a dozen shampoos. What they are good for is touching up hair that has just started to go gray, highlighting your own natural coloring, and making gray hair look shinier and more attractive without really changing its shade. If you use one, be sure to use a pH-balanced shampoo and a lemon and water rinse afterwards.
There are three kinds of permanent hair colorants: vegetable dyes such as henna, metallic dyes such as those used to gradually cover gray hair, and the aniline dyes or oxidation tints, which include most of the colorants used professionally in salons.
Henna will give brunette and black hair a lovely reddish glow. The darker your hair the more chestnut is the effect. Lighter hair goes Titian. Henna does not do well on mousy hair, as the resulting tone is usually an unattractive orange. It should never be used over a tint, is no good on gray hair, and can be very drying to any hair, so it is better to avoid it if your hair is already dry. The only color of henna you should use is red which in its natural, powder form, is a pale green.
The standard way of using henna is to add hot water to make a creamy paste and then put this on the hair and leave it for up to one hour. Daniel Galvin, Britain's top colorist, who is an expert in the use of herbal hair colorings, uses a different method and gets beautiful results. He adds hot black coffee to the powder, mixes it into a paste, and then adds the juice of a fresh lemon and the yolk of an egg. The coffee brings out the depth and richness of the hair color, the acid in the lemon accelerates the reddening, and the egg yolk keeps the mixture moist and easy to maneuver through the hair. Sometimes he also adds some 10 per cent peroxide to lighten the whole effect.
Chamomile, another herbal colorant, has a gentle lightening effect on hair and is wonderful for `sun-streaking' blonde and light brown hair. But you must be patient, for it takes several applications and plenty of time to work. It is not useful for brown hair or dark hair, but it will gently lighten red and works beautifully on all shades of natural blonde. The herb also adds shine to the hair.
You can make a chamomile rinse to use after each shampoo (as the last rinse) by taking 2 tablespoons of dried chamomile flowers and tossing them into a pint of boiling water. Simmer for fifteen minutes, strain, cool and use as a final rinse (you can make enough for several rinses and refrigerate it for up to ten days). You leave the rinse in your hair and towel it dry.
These are often called color restorers. They deposit metallic dyes and salts of various metals such as manganese, cobalt, silver, and copper on your hair shaft, which gradually darken the hair. But hair dyed this way does not perm well, nor is its condition very good, as this kind of dye tends to make the hair look a dull, flat color. Metallic dyes have to be removed completely, with the use of a special preparation, several days before waving or tinting with a permanent colorant. Because of their many disadvantages, I think they are best avoided.
THE ANILINE OR OXIDATION COLORANTS
The most permanent (and the most successful), these dyes are included in a number of products for coloring hair such as tinting shampoos, highlighting shampoos, and the single-step and double-step permanent colorants you can buy in packages at the chemist. They are permanent dyes, because the artificial pigment is made to penetrate into the cortex of the hair shaft. There it stays. How this happens is most interesting.
Tiny molecules of colorless dye are mixed with a "developer" such as hydrogen peroxide and then put on the hair. The hydrogen peroxide opens up the imbrications of the cuticle, and the molecules enter through them into the cortex. Once inside, they react with the oxygen from the peroxide (a very unstable substance), which spurs the molecules of the dye to oxidize and combine, forming larger molecules. In the process, these new and larger molecules develop the desired color, but they have now become so large that they can no longer pass through the cuticle, so they get stuck on the inside. There are more than 50,000 aniline dyes, each different in shade, thanks to slight changes in arrangements of their molecules.
They are potent and effective. They are also potential allergens, since about one woman in ten cannot tolerate an aniline dye without reacting adversely to it. This is why it is important, whenever using a permanent colorant on your hair either at home or at the hairdresser, that a patch test be done first. The anilines can even cause blindness, so they should never be used to tint eyelashes or eyebrows. If you have your hair dyed with an aniline dye, you must wait at least a week before having it permanent-waved or straightened, and you must use a pH-balanced shampoo and conditioner every time you wash it. One of the advantages of the anilines is that tinting limp, straight hair can often make it more manageable, since the peroxide in the dye disturbs the cuticle just enough to give the hair some body and eliminate its lankness.
In this category of hair colorant you will find shampoo tints and highlight shampoos, which can be used at home to cover gray if there is too much of it, to lighten hair a couple of shades, to add depth, or to highlight hair that is drab and dull.
You put the products on as you would an ordinary shampoo and then leave them in the hair for a few minutes while the peroxide and dye does its work, and then rinse off. They are simple to use.
The single and double-step tints also fall into this category. They are the dyes most frequently used by hairdressers. If you want to change the color of your hair dramatically, you should have it done professionally. There is quite an art to color mixing and application (I know women who literally fly 5,000 miles to have their color done by someone who is a real master at it). Although there are some excellent products available for home use, if it were my hair, I would still shun them and head for a salon that specializes in color.
The single-step tints are a mixture of aniline dyes, peroxide, and ammonia in an oil base. They are applied carefully to sectioned hair, starting an inch or so away from the roots to the end. The hair is left to sit for a few minutes and then the root area is done. The hair is rested for another half hour or so. These dyes can change the color of your hair to almost any other color, but they are not successful in changing very dark shades to blonde. For that, you need a two-step tint, which bleaches out the existing pigment in the hair shafts in the first step and then adds dye separately in the second. All aniline dyes and bleaching procedures have to be touched up often as the roots grow out, particularly if you change the color drastically from your normal hair shade. They also cause considerable damage to the hair shaft. If you have your hair tinted with them; you must look after it using a pH-balanced shampoo and conditioner and having a protein treatment every couple of weeks.
One of the best and most easily manageable ways of changing your hair color is to have it highlighted or lowlighted. This involves the same procedures as the single-and double-step tinting, but instead of being done all over your head, they are done only on some strands or areas. Highlighting and lowlighting are particularly useful for older hair that has darkened or faded.
Highlights can bring new life to a head of hair by lightening some of the strands, but they create no harsh lines between the tinted and natural hair at the scalp, as total dyeing does. Lowlights add a color slightly darker to some strands. They are done just as highlights are by wrapping strands of hair in foil-covered bunches, letting the color develop and then being washed out. Both highlights and lowlights look natural and as they leave no hard-edged margins at the roots so they only need to be redone three or four times a year. This means that you don't need touchups more frequently than every two or three months. There are an enormous number of techniques used in highlighting. Some of the most interesting involve three or more colors put into the hair to give a remarkably natural look.
SPECIAL CARE FOR BLEACHED OR TINTED HAIR
The golden rule for processed hair is to stay out of the sun. The sun does harm in two ways: It dries out the hair, and it alters the color. Keratin needs water to stay soft and flexible. When too much water is lost as a result of sun or of using heated rollers or of blow-drying too often, then its fibres crack and split and the hair becomes so dry and brittle that it breaks off. It also loses its shine. Sunlight does strange things to hair color by oxidising it. It can turn it greenish or very brassy, or simply make the tint go flat and gray. If you are going into the sun and your hair is bleached or tinted, wear a hat or a towel wrapped around it. Even virgin - that is, untreated - hair needs protection from sunlight. You can use one of the sunscreen products especially made for hair or simply rub in some of the high-protection suntan lotion you use on your body shampooing it out at the end of the day.
WHAT ABOUT CANCER RISKS?
There is some indication that about 1 percent of the chemical hair dyes used on hair will penetrate through the skin and be absorbed into the bloodstream. The question is, what damage will they do? Professor Bruce Ames, at the University of California, has tested 169 hair dyes on bacterial cells to find out if they cause mutations to the cells. Of these, 89 percent were found to be mutagenic. Although all carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) are mutagenic, not all mutagens are carcinogens, nor do we know if the same results will occur on human cells. The people most at risk from exposure to hair tints are those hair colorists in salons who use them daily without wearing gloves (something you should never do). It is unlikely that cancer risks are very great for the average woman who has her hair tinted. If you are uneasy about it, use one of the semipermanents or herbal dyes instead.