Category Archives: Hair Regimens

2016: A Year in Rear View

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This blog post contains affiliate links (e.g., to Amazon, eBay, etc.),  which means that if you click on one of the product links and place an order, I’ll receive a small commission. This helps support my blog and allows me to continue to create content like this.

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Creative Commons License by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Photo shared by Famartin
Photo Adapted

2016, for me, was a year of setbacks. After more than half of the year was over, I discovered that most of my hair’s lack of hydration was due to the fact that I live in a hard (to very hard) water area. Ever since I purchased a new shower filter, I have noticed an exponential reduction in split ends and single strand knots (SSKs). However, after gaining and retaining an additional three inches in length during the last quarter of the year, I lost it all (and more) due to a foolish decision to put my hair in mini twists. After that, my hair’s health declined dramatically. It’s been an uphill battle ever since to recover from fragile, damaged ends and extensive hair breakage (I lost as much as 5″ in some areas)! I’ve dusted my ends multiple times to try to get back to the status quo for my hair.

When my hair growth continued to stall and I observed that I still had split, scraggly ends, I bit the bullet and chopped off an additional 1″ – 1 ½” (around the beginning of December 2016). Unfortunately, that meant losing more length on top of what I had already lost due to breakage, but I wanted to start fresh in the New Year. Plus, I always choose the health of my hair over the length of my hair. So, I’m not afraid to get scissor-happy when necessary. 😉 Besides, only a month later, it has proven to be the best decision I ever made since my hair grew (and I retained) 0.5″ in the last 30 days (finally)!

As a result, in 2017, I will be focusing predominantly on restoring the health of my hair and length retention. It’s back to basics for me … Moisture! Moisture! Moisture! I will continue to moisturize my hair twice a day (in the morning and at night before I go to bed). I am thinking of reincorporating the GHE method back into my regimen on a more consistent basis. I totally failed to do this last year, which I think only exacerbated my dry hair woes. I also plan to experiment with a few more hair growth aids and styling products to make up for lost time. 😉

So far this winter, the main struggle I’ve noticed is that my natural hair is in this awkward stage where the length of my hair, when down, (i.e., in wash ‘n gos and twist-outs) sometimes brushes up against my clothes, especially after day 4 or 5 when my shrunken freshly washed hair starts to loosen and become more voluminous after repeated stretching from twist-outs or general styling. I think that might have contributed to a lot of breakage as well. So, I hope to twist AND pin my hair up or do more roll ‘n tuck styles. Because my fine strands do not like being in protective styles over extended periods of time, I’m going to try to minimize over-manipulating my hair. In addition, at night, I have been loosely bunning my hair or tucking in my ends and pinning it in place to better protect the oldest part of my hair.

I’m also toying with the idea of ditching shampoo altogether and co-washing exclusively. If that doesn’t work, I may add a pre-poo or oil rinse to my regimen. I haven’t thus far to try to keep my hair wash day as minimal as possible, but I definitely think my current hair regimen needs a revamp, so I will be tweaking it from time to time as I start the journey of finding new products and methods that will work for my hair’s current needs. I’ve already incorporated a mid-week co-wash back into my routine. I used to do this when my hair was relaxed and I was transitioning to natural. So far, my hair seems to like it. Because I exercise an hour a day 6-7 days a week, I think an additional wash may be necessary to better maintain my hair’s moisture and to keep my scalp free from bacteria (i.e., from sweating during workouts) and excessive debris.

Here are the current measurements of my hair. As you can see, I lost 6-8″ in overall length from the continued breakage I experienced from hard water, the damage I suffered from wearing my hair in mini twists, and much-needed trims (to cut away fragile, split, tangled ends).

Current Measurements

FRONT: 14″

SIDES: 11.5″ (LEFT); 12″ (RIGHT)

CROWN 14″

BACK: 11.0″

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Henna: Third Time’s the Charm!

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Third-time Charm

For my third henna treatment, I used a 2:1 ratio of body art quality (BAQ) henna and indigo powder. I mixed 34 grams of (BAQ) henna with just enough steeped peppermint tea to create a paste. I let it sit for 24 hours. Then, the day of application, I mixed 16 grams of indigo powder with enough bottled water to form a paste.  Next, I added the indigo powder paste to the henna mix and stirred the two together until well-blended.

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Indigo Powder + Water Mix

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Henna Mix + Indigo Mix Blended Together

I applied the mixture to all of my strands in sections and saran wrapped my hair. I left the henna/indigo blend in my hair for 60 minutes while sitting under a hooded dryer. Then, I co-washed my hair. It took a lot more effort than when I hennaed my hair and when I used henna and amla powder. I had to co-wash my hair 3 times to remove the mixture from my hair. Then, I deep conditioned my hair for 30 minutes under my hooded hair dryer. Next, I moisturized my hair with my lavender hair spritz, and sealed in the moisture with some whipped shea butter.

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Results achieved after my
first henna treatment.

Results achieved after henna/amla treatment.

Results achieved after my
henna/amla treatment.

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Results achieved after my henna/indigo treatment.

My first henna treatment resulted in a dip-dyed hair effect on my ends where some permanent hair dye remained. The amla powder dialed down the bright, coppery tones from my initial henna treatment. However, this indigo mixture really helped to balance out my overall hair color while imparting really natural reddish brown highlights. It took three tries to get the effect I wanted, but I was finally able to achieve the overall color I desired. So, going forward, future treatments should impart the same effect all over my tresses … and all without harsh chemicals or the fear of damaging my fragile, fine strands! I couldn’t be more pleased.

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Henna: Take 2

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Henna - Take #2 Clapperboard

For my second henna treatment, I used the remainder of the henna mix from my first treatment that I had frozen. I added some amla powder (after mixing it with enough water to create a paste and letting it sit overnight). The amla powder smelled so amazing, I had to fight the temptation to eat it! LOL. After I co-washed the henna/amla mixture out of my hair, I deep conditioned my hair for 30 minutes under my hooded hair dryer. Then, I moisturized my hair with my lavender hair spritz and sealed in the moisture with some whipped shea butter.

IMG_9486

Results achieved after my
first henna treatment.

Results achieved after henna/amla treatment.

Results achieved after my
henna/amla treatment.

Because I still had some remnants of permanent hair dye on the ends of my hair from when I colored my hair two years ago, my first henna treatment resulted in a dip-dyed hair effect. You can see that the amla powder toned down the bright, coppery color the henna left on the ends of my hair. However, I want to try to even out my hair color. So, next time, I think I will create a henna/indigo mix to tone down the leftover dye on the ends of my hair and to balance out my overall hair color.

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My First Henna Treatment!

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Thank you for your support!

 

 

After much research and struggling to maintain a healthy head of hair for the last year, I finally took the plunge to do my first henna treatment. I had researched the benefits of henna over five years ago, but, to be perfectly honest, I was too chicken to ever try it. Truth be told, after losing an entire year’s worth of hair growth (6+ inches) in the last 12 months to hard water, I was pushed to the brink of desperation! So, I decided, “What have I got to lose?”

Here are some pictures of my natural hair (before the henna treatment). You can really see the damage to my hair in the second picture caused by hard water. (Note: I used high flash for the first and third shots to better highlight my hair color and texture pre-henna. It’s still a little hard to see unless I’m in direct sunlight, but the ends of my hair still have some remnants of permanent color from when I dyed and highlighted my hair two years ago.)

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I settled on Zenia’s Henna Powder because it is body art quality (BAQ) henna. This brand of henna is 100% natural, cruelty-free, and vegan. It is important when choosing henna to make sure that it contains no pesticides, metallic salts, or chemicals (i.e., ammonia and peroxide). Make sure that the henna you buy is BAQ henna. This will ensure an easier application (because it will have a finer sift) and will also create an environment for the best results possible (due to the lack of additives and chemicals). After all, the last thing you probably want is to end up with green or damaged hair!

After looking at dozens of recipes for henna hair packs and treatments, I ended up creating my own. Mainly because I have very fine hair, and most recipes I found called for a boatload of henna that I just knew would be way too much for me to use in 1, 2, or even 3 applications. I found this general guideline online, which proved helpful as a starting point but, keep in mind, that hair thickness and density are vital considerations. Those are two factors that most of the resources I found ignored. For example, if you have fine hair, you will likely require less henna. The reverse is true if you have thick hair (i.e., you will likely need more henna than the average person with the same length of hair as you). I have a high-density head of hair (lots of strands), but each of my individual strands are super fine (very small in diameter), so this is the recipe that I came up with for MY hair:

I used a kitchen scale to make life easier and for more precise measuring. I ended up using about 60% of the mixture. (I froze the rest.) Because I wanted to create a henna hair treatment for its conditioning effects (as opposed to a natural hair dye), I placed the henna mixture in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, four hours prior to use, I let the mixture sit out at room temperature before applying it to my hair instead of the usual 8-12 hours recommended. Here’s the process I followed:

  1. Shampoo and condition your hair. Here’s what my my hair looked like after being freshly washed …
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  2. Place a thin layer of Vaseline on your ears and around the perimeter of your head. This will protect it from potential henna staining.
  3. Shingle the henna mixture through each section. I used my hands and, yes, my hands turned orange! Don’t be like me. Buy gloves! FYI, if you happen to forget to buy gloves, like I did, don’t fret! Create a quick mixture of salt and olive oil and rub the affected areas like a maniac as gently as you can. It took 4 applications over 48 hours, but 75% of the staining disappeared. The remainder vanished after another day or two. Whew! My nails? That’s a different story! Sigh.

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  4. Use butterfly clips to section your hair into quadrants if it won’t stay put. Although I had some butterfly clips , I just created a loose bantu knot to hold each section in place to avoid too much bulk. But, if your hair is super thick or long, you may need to clip it into place.
  5. Use a processing cap to prevent drips and keep the henna from drying out. I left the henna in my hair for 30 minutes while sitting under a hooded dryer. The dryer expedited the conditioning process.
  6. Rinse the henna out. I used my Waterpik handheld shower attachment to rinse my hair out without too much fuss. I used two applications of my cheapie VO5 clarifying conditioner to rinse out all the henna. This is what my hair looked like after I rinsed out all the henna … IMG_9486You can see how the henna created a dip-dyed effect at the ends of my hair where the remnants of my permanent hair dye was. Next time, I think I’ll add some amla powder to create a richer, deeper brown. Or, I may just apply the henna directly after mixing it up to avoid the dye release. Although my hair seemed slightly dry, it felt 100% stronger and more conditioned! Seriously, I could hardly stop touching my hair after washing the henna out, and I’m not much of a hair toucher!
  7. Deep condition. I deep conditioned my hair with my fave Lustrasilk Aloe Vera Cholesterol for 20 minutes under my hooded dryer to restore moisture back into my strands. Here’s what my hair looked like with the deep conditioner in it …
    IMG_9504
  8. Air dry and style. I misted my hair with my lavender spritz and followed up with some olive oil. Then, I just coiled the back of my hair into one low french twist and pinned it in place with some Magic-Grip hair pins.
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Overall, I really liked how the henna treatment instantly strengthened my fine, fragile hair. Next time, I will definitely leave it in for a longer period of time. I plan to incorporate henna into my hair regimen at least twice a month. Still confused about how to henna your own hair? This article provides a great read and covers virtually any scenario that might come up while hennaing your hair!

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My New Hard Water Hair Care Routine

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Thank you for your support!

 

[Step #1] L-O-C It Up!

I’ve had several people ask for an update about my hair and hair care. One of the tasks I’ve had to address a few months into the New Year was finding a way to tackle my hard water woes. It has been a challenge that has seemed almost insurmountable at times. I have had to completely revamp my hair care routine. This has included finding a new shampoo and conditioner that would address my hard water issues as well as developing a more intense hair moisturization routine. I now moisturize my hair every morning AND every evening before I go to bed. Before, when my hair was shorter, I could get away with moisturizing my tresses 1x a day and, sometimes, every other day. Not any more! While it has added more time to my hair routine, I have decided that if I want healthy hair, extra moisture is a must. So, I have been using the L-O-C method (2x a day) in the morning and before I go to sleep at night.

[Step #2] Shield & Protect!

My bedtime routine involves a new DIY hair spritz (recipe to come soon … I am still tinkering with the proportions). wink First, I divide my hair into quadrants and moisturize each quadrant with my DIY spritz. Second, I add some whipped shea or mango butter. Third, I’ll finish with a creamy leave-in. After the trifecta of products is applied, I two-strand twist the section and move on to the next quadrant. There should be a total of 4 twists (1 per quadrant). I don a satin bonnet or hair turban, and then head to bed. The next morning, after my daily workout, I lightly mist my hair with my new DIY spritz. Then, I take down the 4 twists and fluff my hair.

NOTE: If my hair needs a little extra moisture, I’ll divide each side of my head into thirds (for a total of 6 twists). However, I never do more than 6.

[Step #3] Backup Plan!

Sometimes, I’ll use my aloe vera cholesterol as my final creamy leave-in (1-2x a week)! This ensures that my hair maintains high levels of moisture for a more extended period of time throughout the week. However, precautions should be taken to avoid hygral fatigue. Thankfully, for me, over-conditioning my hair isn’t too much of a concern because of the humid climate I live in and the fact that I live in a very hard water area. However, if you do not have the same annual high humidity levels and do not have hard water, you should likely skip this extra step.

[Step #4] KISS!

I have been predominantly finger detangling and only using my Denman brush when needed to style and define my hair. My goal has been to try to keep my routine simple. For instance, last week, I wore my hair in corn rows for a week to give my hair a break from daily styling. For me, the key has been to return to the basics of hair care. Sometimes, as our hair gets longer, we get sidetracked along the way. For me, it was the combination of my insane work/school schedule. I was working while enrolled full time in an evening MBA program. Honestly, most days, in between exercising, working, doing homework, going to class, and prepping for projects, there wasn’t much time left to think about my hair. Since I’ve graduated earlier this month, I’ve been more INTENTIONAL about my hair care.

[Step #5] GET TRIM!

Finally, I have been dusting my ends more frequently to get rid of ends damaged by hard water. My focus has been on the HEALTH of my hair rather than on the LENGTH of my hair. You can see my updated regimen here.

 

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5 Ways to Make Your Beauty Routine More Eco-conscious

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Thank you for your support!

Earth Day Memo Board

As a Seattleite who recently moved to Alabama, I was appalled by the lack of appreciation for sustainability. When I first moved here, I immediately noticed how small my recycling bin was. It went from the same size as my trash receptacle to barely the size of a medium moving box! When I called my local waste management to get a run-down of the local recycling procedures, I was taken aback by how little they actually recycled … no glass … no shredded paper … no compost … But, I quickly realized that just because I no longer lived in a green city didn’t mean that I had to abandon my efforts to minimize my negative impact on the environment. And, neither should you!

According to earthday.org, “Every year on April 22, over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day.” All around the world, from Seattle to Shanghai, people act on behalf of Mother Nature to preserve and repair our environment. Some choose to plant trees while others decide to pick up refuse on the side of the road. Whether you choose to organize a cleanup crew in your neighborhood or contact several of your elected officials concerning public policies of interest to you, the best way to achieve a more sustainable future requires that we first begin with ourselves.

So, here are five easy ways you can transform your current hair and skincare routine into one that is less wasteful.

Recycling #1 - RefuseREFUSE = BUY LESS STUFF 

Shopping Cart Info Graphic #2 edited

The best way to prevent waste is not to generate any in the first place! Consciously making the decision to refuse to consume does not mean that you somehow just stop generating trash altogether. It means that you actively choose not to consume certain items. For example, you may feel the need to buy expensive anti-aging creams every time you go to the mall. However, you may find that they just sit on your vanity unused and often go to waste. Knowing this, you may decide to quit purchasing them altogether so that you can prevent the amount of waste these products produce.

There are other practical reasons you can choose to make a conscious effort to refrain from buying certain products. Perhaps some of the products you buy are poorly made, use toxic chemicals, or are sourced from inferior materials. Maybe the item has a short shelf life or comes from a brand with questionable ethics. Whatever your rationale behind refusing to make certain purchases, the result is less trash. 

Sometimes the best way to start a green lifestyle comes from appreciating the value of learning to do without certain unnecessary things and finding a way to make do with what you already have. This is something that I have committed to do this year by using what I already have in my beauty cabinet before I reach to buy something new.

Recycling #2 - ReduceREDUCE = SAY NO TO WASTE

Recycle, Don't Trash

Want to save money and the Earth’s resources at the same time? Then, the solution is simple. Only buy what you need! Buy things that have a long shelf life or that are locally sourced. Or, rent or borrow items that you will only have an occasional use for in the future.

I know a fellow hair enthusiast who has mid-back length hair and doesn’t own a blow dryer or flat iron. Like me, she only straightens her hair two to three times a year, max. When I asked her whether she made the decision to just go to a local hair salon, she said, “No.” So, of course, I was curious how she managed to straighten her long, natural hair without owning a blow dryer, flat iron, or utilizing the services of a professional. Her answer? She said, she just borrows a blow dryer/flat iron from her sister whenever she feels the urge to rock her hair straight. What a great, practical way to reduce waste and still fulfill a personal need/want at the same time!

Don’t have a sister who will loan out her hair appliances? Offer to share the burden of investment with a trusted friend. Offer a friend to buy a blow dryer in exchange for them buying a flat iron of equal value. Then, share! This saves you money and reduces waste at the same time, especially if you only occasionally straighten your hair. The point, here, is that we all create waste. But, when we do, we should try to make it as little as possible.

Instead of spending 20 minutes in the shower with the water running needlessly, do a little prep ahead of time! Prevent wasting water by making and mixing your pre-poo before you hop in the shower. Have all of your necessary products and tools (e.g., shower comb, shampoo, conditioner, etc) handy before you turn the water on. Consciously make decisions to reduce the amount of waste you produce.

Want other practical ways to reduce waste? Say no to excessive packaging. Avoid buying disposable/single-use items, or things that contain hazardous chemicals. Resist the urge to impulse shop or buy unnecessary multiples of an item. Buy reusable or refillable items. Buy in bulk or economy-size instead of several smaller items that will result in more waste. Buy only what you need. Less is more. By consuming less, we can reduce the amount of materials, toxins, and waste sent to landfills.

This is probably the hardest area for me to control. LOL. I tend to be a person who says, “I love this product. So, I should buy 10!” But, one way I’ve been working on reducing my waste is to buy my fave products in their largest size instead of buying multiples of the same product in smaller sizes. For instance, instead of buying several 8 oz. bottles of my beloved Lustrasilk S-Curl No Drip Activator like I used to do in the past, I now just buy one 32 oz. bottle. This is a simple but effective way to reduce personal waste.

Recycling #3 - ReuseREUSE = PASS IT ALONG

Recycle - Donate Items

Ok. So, you purchased an item. You tried it. And, now it’s sitting in the back of your beauty cabinet abandoned. To avoid waste, try to find other uses for your unwanted items. Even if you don’t particularly like a product you might be able to reuse it in a new way. I did this when I first became natural. I was trying to use the same products I had when my hair was relaxed, and it just wasn’t going well! I found a simple way to repurpose my setting lotion in a way that was practical and allowed me to get the most bang for my buck. So, be creative, and find new ways to use old things. You are only limited by your imagination!

Can’t find a way to reuse something? Then, give it to a family member or friend who might have a need for it. This is what I did when a product just could not be incorporated into my skin or haircare regimen however hard I tried. If you no longer have a use for a product, it’s best to give it away to someone who does instead of simply throwing it away.

You can also donate items that are still in good condition (e.g., hair appliances) to your local thrift store. Or, you can repair broken items and resell them so that you can reclaim some of their value. By reusing what you already have or reinventing new uses for them, you can extend an item’s product life. Even perishable items can be reused through compost. The goal is to keep things moving and out of the landfill.

Before rushing out to the store to purchase new things, make the decision to buy as a last recourse. Extend the life of products by reusing them in creative, new ways. If there is absolutely no other use for a product, then you should recycle it.

Recycling #4 - RecycleRECYCLE = SAVE THE VALUE

Recycle Throw Away

If you can’t find ways to reuse an item, then preserve the value of the resource so that waste is minimized. By recycling things like paper, glass, and plastic, raw materials can be reclaimed that would have otherwise been thrown away. While recycling takes added effort compared to simply tossing an item in the trash, it has many benefits.

According to the National Recycling Coalition, every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees. (Every ton of newsprint or mixed paper recycled is the equivalent of 12 trees. Every ton of office paper recycled is the equivalent of 24 trees.) The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle is enough for a light bulb to illume for four hours. And, it takes 70% less energy to recycle plastics than it does to make it from raw materials. These savings promote reduced air and water pollution, and will help conserve natural resources to sustain the environment for future generations.

By taking the time to recycle, we can divert items away from landfills and significantly diminish our negative impact on the environment.

Recycling #5 - RethinkRETHINK = USE THE ENERGY

half earth

Still have leftover waste? Perhaps, it’s time to rethink how you use energy. Consider and question your consumption habits. For many environmental preservationists, there is no such thing as waste, only wasted resources. The tiniest piece of material can contain a huge amount of value. For example, residual garbage that is left over after everything possible has been refused, reduced, reused, and recycled can be used to make energy.

To make a difference, we must make a conscious effort to do so. We must begin by questioning our actions. I constantly try to ask myself some basic questions: Do I really need this product? Will I have more than one use for this item? Can it be recycled? If not, then I weigh heavily the cons of purchasing the item against my need or desire for it.

Read the labels of your hair and skincare products. Is the packaging made from a percentage of recycled materials? Does the ingredient list contain harmful chemicals? Is the company committed to reduced emissions in production or at least willing to incorporate renewable materials into their production? Is the product green certified? As consumers, these are all things we should consider.

By taking the time to invest in understanding our own personal consumption habits, we will become increasingly more self-aware of our effect on the environment. As we make more informed decisions, it will force businesses to be more responsible and provide them with an incentive to produce products that are more environmentally friendly. When we place a larger priority on the purchase of green products, we will be able to promote sustainable practices and prevent unnecessary waste.

While one of my long-term goals is to eventually use only green products, sometimes it’s not practical or feasible. For instance, green products are innately more costly. So, for naturalistas on a tight budget, only buying green may be financially impossible. But, just because you can’t buy every product you own from an eco-certified company doesn’t mean you shouldn’t swap out a few of the products you normally purchase for more sustainable ones. Instead of buying regular nail polish, buy varnish that is “3-free” (nail polish free of formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate, a.k.a. DBP) such as butter LONDON or ZOYA or “5-free” (nail polish free of formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, camphor, and dibutyl phthalate, a.k.a. DBP) such as treat collection or knocked up nails. It can be as simple as that. The goal is to do what you can when you can. Remember, the smallest change can have the greatest impact. 

Happy Earth Day!

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My MSM Migraine

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This blog post contains affiliate links (e.g., to Amazon, eBay, etc.), which means that if you click on one of the product links and place an order, I’ll receive a small commission. This helps support my blog and allows me to continue to create content like this.

Thank you for your support!

MSM (aka Methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally occurring compound found in nature (e.g., fresh fruits and vegetables, and raw fish, meat, and milk). However‚ MSM is a volatile substance that is easily lost when foods are processed/pasteurized, stored, and cooked. As a result, there are some scientists and doctors who believe that our diets supply our bodies with only a marginal amount of MSM on a daily basis. In addition, MSM levels are also thought to decline as we age. Some practitioners even suggest that when the concentration of MSM falls below “minimum levels,” physical and psychological stress can be triggered and result in a reduction (or loss) of normal organ function.

I first encountered this acronym on YouTube and then later on various hair boards. I was intrigued by the numerous claims that it helped to grow hair healthy and long SUPER FAST. Then, I came across several medical articles that touted a litany of other benefits.

Uses

  • To prevent hair loss, poor circulation, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  • To treat chronic pain, joint inflammation, PMS, obesity, parasitic infections, and various medical disorders and diseases.
  • To promote mood elevation and boost the immune system.
  • To minimize scar tissue, stretch marks, and wrinkles.
  • To relieve allergies and control snoring.
  • To accelerate healing of wounds.

Time To Plan

Because MSM maintains healthy connective tissue, it is said to help keep skin‚ hair, and nails healthy by donating sulfur for the production of keratin‚ a fibrous protein. It can be taken orally in pill or tablet form, or applied topically (by creating a lotion or cream with MSM powder). So, after doing some research, I decided to take the plunge. It seemed like the perfect addition to my current vitamin and supplement regimen. I purchased 1500 mg of pure crystalline MSM by Doctor’s BestI figured I would give the supplement 3-4 months to work its magic.

I tried to find a recommended dosage but failed. I found some hair enthusiasts online taking anything from 500 mg daily to 10,000+ mg daily. Most seemed to hover somewhere in the middle. So, I decided to take three 1500 mg pills each day (one before each meal).

Time for Caution

Month one began without a hitch … until I started to experience daily headaches. Month two I started to have problems sleeping. Month 3, I had full-blown insomnia. Unfortunately, it took me a while to realize that the MSM I was taking was causing all of these symptoms. I remember calling my mom and telling her about my inability to fall and stay asleep. She asked me if I had changed my normal routine in any way. Like an idiot, I said, “No!” It wasn’t until I got off the phone with her that I realized everything in my routine was just as it had always been except for the addition of MSM to my vitamins and supplements.

Time To Rethink

I did some additional research and found that some MSM users who experienced side effects had greater success eliminating the evening pill and dividing the same dosage between the breakfast and lunch allotment. So, I switched to taking two 1500 mg pills before breakfast and one 1500 mg pill before lunch (with no pill before dinner). I continued to have insomnia … Then, I thought that maybe 4500 mg of MSM a day was just too much for me, so I reduced my intake to 3,000 mg a day (one pill before breakfast and one pill before lunch) … When my symptoms persisted, I opted to only take one 1500 mg MSM pill a day. Still no luck!

Needless to say, after countless severe headaches and the agony of averaging only 4 hours of sleep a night for 3 months, I stopped taking MSM all-together. Why did it take me so long to give it up? I guess, I really was hoping all the increased hair growth claims were true. Sigh.

The problem is that there isn’t much published scientific research to support the use of MSM or to even provide a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). But, even if the claims of MSM‘s effectiveness need more proof, you might be tempted to take the supplement anyway. You know, just in case it might work for you. 

Safety First

Side Effects & Warnings

MSM MAY BE SAFE for most people when taken orally or topically. However, some studies suggest that consumption should be limited to a maximum of 12 weeks. There is also not enough information available concerning the safety of MSM and its use in nose drops, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding. Possible side effects include:

  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Itching (or worsening of allergy symptoms)

MSM Warning

Also, keep in mind that the quality of MSM can differ dramatically from brand to brand. Depending on the manufacturer, some inferior MSM supplements can contain trace amounts of heavy metals (i.e., lead) or other contaminants (i.e., pesticides).

Even more importantly, there haven’t been any peer-reviewed studies conclusively linking MSM supplements to increased hair growth. The rationale is that (1) MSM regenerates and maintains healthy cells. (2) Hair, skin, and nails are made of cells. (3) So, MSM grows and maintains healthy hair, skin, and nails. While it is true that keratin (the main component of hair) does, indeed, have sulfur in it, most medical doctors who oppose the addition of MSM as a supplement believe that an ordinary diet is likely more than enough to provide all the sulfur our bodies need for hair growth.

Obviously, there’s a huge demand in the hair industry for a hair loss remedy (especially an over-the-counter remedy). Most people without hair (or who have experienced hair loss) want to grow their hair, and most people with hair want to grow more of it. In fact, according to The Washington Post, more than 3.5 billion dollars a year is spent on the treatment of hair loss. Although the American Hair Loss Association (AHLA)  readily acknowledges the emotional distress attached to hair loss, they warn that 99 percent of hair loss treatments, including MSM, DO NOT work.

MSM Cream

Waste Not, Want Not

So, what to do with all my leftover MSM? I made a MSM cream for my mom who has arthritis in all her joints. She experiences pretty severe pain on a daily basis. However, after about 4-6 weeks of using the cream, she noticed a significant reduction in her pain level. In addition, I used some of the MSM cream on a scar every day for a few weeks, and it healed the area so well that I can hardly tell where the scar is anymore.

Final Thoughts

I think MSM works well topically for skin repair and for the relief of chronic pain. Not so much internally (or for hair growth).

The bottom line? If you want to add it to your arsenal of vitamins and supplements, you probably can. Just be sure to consult with your doctor, check the ingredients on the label, and buy from a reputable company. While there is no scientific proof that MSM consumption is harmful, there is also no scientific proof that it specifically helps with hair growth. So, chances are, if you’re taking MSM and “see lots of hair growth,” you’re likely experiencing a placebo effect. Without more research, there’s just no way to know for sure.

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