Before we get into the psychological pros and cons to the adornment of our hair, we are going to break it down to understand exactly what hair is and why it can only handle so much before it just says, “alright, I’m outta here” and snaps. Literally. Let’s have a look.
First, what is hair? Hair is an appendage of the skin. Hair is composed of protein that grows from cells that originate from the hair follicle. This is where hair begins. Living cells form and begin their way upward toward the scalp beginning a process called keratinization. This is where the cells mature and are filled up with a fibrous protein called keratin. After they are filled with keratin and move upward, they lose their nucleus and die. By the time the hair shaft emerges from the scalp, the cells are completely keratinized and are no longer living. This is why we cannot feel it when we get our hair cut.
If you are wondering about the word keratin and it being relative to all the products on the market, we see that contain keratin, you are on the right path. I will briefly say in my humblest of opinions, it is nice that there is an option for keratin in products, however – if it is not used correctly, it too can cause a myriad of problems. We will discuss this another time when breaking down products and what they are used for.
Man, if my ninth-grade science teacher, Mr. Barton could see me now – talking all science of something! He was my life science teacher and boy, I was a pill box to that guy. Sorry, Mr. Barton!
Carrying on - so now that the hair shaft is out in the open for all the world to see, it is made up of about 90% protein in the form of long chain amino acids.
Why is this important to know?
Well, in the last few decades, hair services; especially hair color, has evolved so much to include the fantasy colors (direct dye pigments). Then add social media and all the content that is created in showing what possibly can be done (discerning what has been filtered, of course) plus trends, plus influencers, the idea of changing our hair with the wind has become something of a desired reality.
But here is what most do not want to hear. IT IS NOT ALWAYS POSSIBLE. Sometimes, you will (and SHOULD) hear the words NO from your stylist. Why?
Let me try to explain:
Let’s say you have a pristine white canvas that is used to paint a picture. Let’s say that the artist creates something beautiful. Colorful. Impactful. Amazing. Then let’s say that you ask the artist to tweak something here and tweak something there, on the same canvas. Is it going to look as vibrant? As amazing? Possibly. But maybe not what you had in mind. Still happy with it, you take it home. Six months go by, and you take the same canvas back to the artist and ask them to tweak it again. Add a slightly different shade in this corner, tweak something in the middle (where it may have been tweaked the during the first ‘change’). It’s somewhat pretty, but the fibers of the canvas are starting to unravel in spots, and the colors aren’t as vibrant. What happened? Why can’t that canvas look as good as it did from the beginning?
Simply, the canvas is wearing out. Colors have compounded and lost any true tone. The unraveling of fibers means that it can’t tolerate any more coloring or brush stroking because it is just too worn out. So, what is the artist to do to create another beautiful work of art from the start?
Get a fresh canvas.
Hairdressers have a certain canvas that they are working with and since we can’t shave off our hair (we could, but I can guarantee that 99% of people would not jump on this bandwagon – enter the psychological pros and cons that we will get to soon, I promise.) and get a fresh canvas off the shelf like we could if we went to Hobby Lobby, we need to take care of the one we have and understand what it can and can’t tolerate and when to say no.
Let me give you an example of this from a hair perspective: if you are someone who has been adorning platinum hair for the last five years and saw thee most gorgeous ginger red hair on Instagram that you could NOT live without and decide to forgo your blonde locks. Then decide within a month that you are bored and want your platinum hair back, what do you think your hair will do? I can tell you it will have a great little gathering with each other in the hair strainer in the sink, looking like overcooked ramen noodles. Chemical cut. Cah-poot.
What about people who don’t do much with their hair chemically but still have issues with the health of their hair?
Enter hot tools. For an 80’s girl who had ZERO clue on what to do with her bushy blond hairdo, hot tools have become a modern-day staple. Sure, we had curling irons – come on, we aren’t that archaic - they were just different. My favorite one was green, and, in the barrel, you put water. Then on the tip was a button you pushed to create steam. Man – I thought I was COOL! We had blow-dryers and brushes too, but nothing like today. Most of us lost a small amount of hearing from the high-pitched levels of noise from the little Conair’s we had. Funny, our moms thought it was from attending too many Def Leppard concerts.
I digress. Where were we? Hot tools.
So, now we have all these choices for hot tools, and they are amazing, however, I think there is a lack of knowledge on how to use them properly.
Remember I mentioned the long chain amino acids earlier in our science lesson on what is hair? Well, those amino acids are held together with bonds. I am not going to go into full detail on this, because it gets deep and very sciency, but those bonds are a part of the equation on what adds to the breakdown of our hair.
If your tool of choice is a flat iron, every time you swipe that heat over your hair, you are breaking down the hydrogen bonds in your hair. With natural, non-chemically treated hair, this isn’t a terrible thing. Over time though, you may see a breakdown and wonder why your hair feels dry or it may frizz a bit more. With chemically treated hair, other bonds are broken down and with the added heat styling and such, it can lead to BummerHairsville.
I mentioned earlier the psychological pros and cons of the adornment of our hair… Let’s chat about that a bit.
First, I am not licensed in psychology (although after two and a half decades of hairdressing, I wouldn’t say no to an honorary degree. I’m kidding. Kind of. ).
So, when our hair does not look or feel right, do we feel right? No. Hence the adornment. It is the crown we never take off. The wrong shade of brown or blonde throws us off, the dry feeling our hair may get after too much processing, or use of hot tools may have us feeling a bit meh with our hair. The wrong cut. That’s another big thing – we’ll discuss that later. It’s understandable. I can relate. Wholeheartedly.
If you’re a fan of the show FRIENDS, you may remember when Jennifer Anniston chopped her hair into a short bob. That was the result of wearing extensions and hair color and so on for so long that her hair couldn’t tolerate anymore. So she chopped it off (probably to her chagrin of not wanting to lose length, but knowing it needed to be done) and voila, a fresh canvas.
Everyone wears a crown they never take off, so if that is the case, why would you ever let it tarnish?
Stay tuned for more blog content with topics to include:
How to choose the right products for your desired look and hair type, quality of products, scalp health and more!