The Synthesizer

Dear Mopsy,

Um… thoughts on Biotin as a way to grow out my janky hair? Puhleez?

-Catherine the Small-Haired

Dear Small-Haired sister from another mister,

I FEEL you.

In cosmetology school one of my teachers would always refer to me as having frog fur for hair. Wait for it . . . . yes, right . . . . now you get it- frogs don’t have fur. It bred an insecurity that has always made me search endlessly for ways to beef my tresses. I can (sort of, hopefully, try to) help.

In a prior monstrosity of mine, ‘Ode to the Curl,’ I discuss the structure and function of a hair follicle. We’ve learned (don’t eye roll me- if you haven’t read it, go back and do it now) that hair is made of amino acids- assembled into protein, and moisture- or, good ol’ H2O. It grows from a sort of tube, a well, if you will, that has it’s base at the subcutaneous layers of the skin- the deepest layer, which has the most blood flow. This is so nutrients in the blood can feed the root of the well, and hair can grow up and out through the epidermis, or the outer layer of skin.

First, we need to determine that fine is different than thin which is different than thinning. Fine hair refers to the diameter of the hair shaft- the lesser the surface area and the lesser the diameter, the finer the strand. Thin refers to density, or the amount of hairs per square inch on the scalp. You can have fine hair with high density (most blondes), conversely you can have coarse hair with low density (most [natural] redheads). Thinning is when a hair follicle stops producing hair at a rate than is faster than is deemed average. The healthy human will lose between 50-150 hairs a day- um, hi, I don’t know if you’ve ever held 150 hairs in your hand, but it’s so much it’s kind of gross. MOST IMPORTANTLY, fallout is different than breakage! if you don’t see the bulb of the hair on one end, your hair is BREAKING, not falling out. Stay tuned for the protein vs. moisture lecture and the bleach lesson coming to a Dear Mopsy near you very soon.

Generally, when a woman begins to feel that her hair is ‘thinning,’ which is approximately every other day at the very least (don’t chortle, dudes- you worry more than chicks), there is a concentration put towards nourishing the hair, slathering oils and proteins on the ends of the hair, hoping to moisturize and prevent breakage. Wonderful!!!! If your problem is breakage, that is. If the problem isn’t the ends of the hair (of course you also read my dirge about shampooing, so you know all that hair you can see is dead carcass anyway) but literally at the origin at the bulb, the well inside the subcutaneous layer of skin- well, your veganglutenfreeorganicherbexpensive moisture treatments won’t do much now will they?

Above all else, when someone has assessed their loss and determined that they are, in actuality, losing hair from the root at a rate that’s abnormal for them- go to the doctor and request blood work. don’t mess around with baldness, peeps- for the most part, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Your doc will know what to do. It’s usually thyroid and hormones.

Stress, really traumatic, obscene, tragic amounts of stress makes your body emit a chemical that stops hair production, resulting in telogen effluvium- a brief pause in hair growth. Within 2-3 months hair should fall out and then begin regrowing. The body can also trigger alopecia areata, in which the white blood cells attack the hair bulb. Generally, this is in patches. Bottom line- just go see a doctor.

Testosterone changes (decreasing amounts, really) cause most hormonal hair loss. The ‘recession area’ of your head is linked to testosterone- one reason men tend to see receding there and women experience high amounts of fallout after delivering a baby. Blame good ol’ T.

I digress, since thin hair is determined mostly by genetics- the shape of the hair follicle and how much nutrient rich blood gets delivered there to build hair, we are limited in how much we can plump our stringy strands. We can’t change the shape of the follicle- those babies are muy sensitivo- if they’re damaged they die. Rose petals, really. That leaves 2 factors to play with; protein building (by way of amino acid synthesis) and blood flow to the hair bulb to deliver the protein.

When we eat protein, it’s broken down by our bodies and dispersed in the way our brains and nervous systems see fit. Daily energy, rebuilding muscle tone, thinking . . . these are all processes the body has to fuel. Whatever nutrients are leftover from the essential steam engine of ourselves gets used for the important, but not quite AS important bodily structures that protect us- hair, skin, nails.

Want thicker, stronger, maybe more dense hair? Eat a burger. Give your body the tools it needs to build. If you already are eating a high protein diet, let’s look at the delivery of protein to the parts of your body- how can we maximize the efficiency of getting nutrients to the hair follicle?

Biotin for one. A water soluble B vitamin, it’s mainly responsible for metabolizing fats and protein, creating amino acids and fatty acids (wait- what? a light bulb should be overhead by now- hello? what did Mopsy tell you hair was made of? scroll up and review if you weren’t paying attention! Ok, I’ll put the riding crop down now . . . . ). So, first step of the equation is to help the body break down more of what it makes hair out of, faster, of better quality (there is debate about whether increasing production also increases the amount of protein filling out each strand of hair, aka it might make the strand actually a teensy bit thicker) so that it can be distributed to all the vital organs in the body and, viola! more leftover for hair/skin/nails at an increased speed. Of course, all vitamins are necessary for hair growth, but because biotin is like the bugs of the forest but for protein in our bodies, it’s just paramount- IMHO.

The burger is eaten, the protein and fats metabolized, amino acids synthesized- cool, what’s our next challenge? Making sure all that good stuff actually reaches where it’s supposed to. Like the parcel you ordered to be delivered weeks ago by UPS, it’s one thing to place the order- it’s another to have it show up at your door. How does hair feed? By blood flow, right? Blood to the bulb of the hair is the Nile of Mesopotamia. No life without the flow. Not to get all gross and feministy on you, but men- the faster you understand this, the better your scalp and the relationships you have with the women in your life. You’re welcome.

Moving on- let’s get blood (and nutrients!) to the hair bulb- let’s get UPS to actually ring that doorbell. A good many things increase circulation; massage, heat, exercise. You’ll need to do some of those. Massage your scalp with Mopsy’s tea tree oil scalp remedy (sigh. read it.) with the PADS OF YOUR FINGERS. don’t make me smack that scratchy nail hand away from your head. You’ll certainly feel the blood flow increase to your scalp (not to be unladylike, but we all know what blood flow delivered to an area feels like, right? Just want to make sure we can all identify it’s working) and also may experience slight redness on the surface of the skin. that pink tinge is blood. Being delivered to the skin. Where your hair follicle is. There are also products that aim to pull blood as well- one of my favorites is NIoxin’s scalp treatment- it contains nothing that could clog the hair follicles to prevent growth (I sense you panicking- I’ll get to that in a sec) and has an ingredient called L-Argenine that stimulates the scalp. Or get up and go for a quick run. All will work.

Where most fail is keeping up with this regimen. Think about it- we know from previous posts that hair grows between 1/4 of an inch to 1 inch a month. I’ll let you do the math based on how often you see ‘roots,’ but it’ll take at least 6 months to see the benefit of all this work. That’s also if you’re incredibly consistent about it. And if your hormones are in check. Also, anything can throw your body off, so if you all of a sudden start exercising to grow hair, your body might freak out and think that you’re under stress running from lions and start dropping like pygmy goats.

I’m just saying it takes time and persistence and balance. In my experience with myself, my family, my friends, and my clients, those who are consistent see about double the rate of hair growth and tell me their hair feels thicker and stronger. Makes sense to me- if the hair is being assembled inside your body faster, pushed out the well faster, it’s younger by the time it reaches your shoulders, or the middle of your back. Younger hair has taken less abuse by coloring, styling, the environment- so it WILL be stronger and in better condition. Bear in mind, healthy hair and skin is a reflection of a healthy inside. Taking care of your innards shows in your locks.

About this follicle clogging business- if you feel that your hair is actively thinning, keep anything that could clog a pore off your hair. No serums, no oils, no hairspray, and only conditioner on the ends. You can give a really wonderful stimulating head massage (with the pads of your fingers) with shampoo. If a follicle is dormant for an extended period of time, it will stop producing hair. This happens naturally as we age, but if follicles are clogging based on our own sebum, our hormones, a yeast buildup (uh, common in the winter with dandruff. we’ll discuss later), or product, they will stay dormant if the hair follicle can’t break through the crud eventually.

I should also state that it is a natural process of life that our hair becomes both finer and thinner as we age. Hair has three cycles to it’s life- growing, resting, fallout. Only one of those phases is actually moving out of your head. The rest are stagnant or leaving you. So over time, the way those phases overlap leaves less coming in than is on your head or falling out. You can only do so much, and the rest has to come from acceptance and self love.

No matter if you’re a cue ball or have Kardashian locks, I accept you and I love you. Now go eat some vitamins, go for a brisk walk, and talk to me in 6 months.

In Solidarity,


I told you so.

Because I’m the type of person who needs to prove a point if i bother to make one, I decided to show you how my hair looks when the no brush method is used. 

Wait- if this is lost on you, please refer to my last epic essay about curl. Then you’ll see why I feel this is important. Maybe. 

Meet my hair air-dried. No brush method used. Photo is approximately 65% dry. If diffused, it appears much wavier- so the picture on my last post actually gives a great comparison to what happens when you alter what hair naturally wants to do. I’m not saying styling is bad. I’m saying, recognize the power.



In proof,

Mopsy Continue reading

Ode to the Curl



California, you are a gorgeous burst of natural beauty, and you possess a loveliness that I, as your native, have missed. You’re also boring me *just* a little :/

I’ve slept as much as a person should without bordering on depressive behavior. I’m downright rested, ok? I’ve analyzed and charted and excel spreadsheet-ed and pondered every episode and blip in my health until I feel like that’s all I’m reduced to. Dysautonomia, the main reason I’m on the left coast and not in New York, I’ve got my eye on you. I’ve watched Downton Abbey and Sherlock and every other show that I find inspiring from start to finish (ok, and maybe start to finish again), with locked eyes, studying each era’s coif and wondering, if I were blessed with the task of working on set, how one might create and maintain those styles; simultaneously trying to train my ear to the Brittish accent and phrasing of individuals with far more social construct and imagination of insult. I’m adoring you, California, my sweet, but I’m missing things that you can’t give me. I’m missing making a contribution, and as insignificant as this little wave of words seems to you, as least I have something to pen in contribution. It’s what I can do here. And now, I fear, it’s time to write.

I only say fear because it’s been a while, and like my first actual bicycle ride in 20 years, I’m reminded that, well- it’s really NOT like riding a bike at all😉

I decided to jump back into writing after seeing a photo tweeted by stylist Claire Pritchard of the ‘twist and diffuse’ method she uses on the Sherlock set. If I ever thought I didn’t have a love of hairstyling in my heart (my heart loves so many things, sometimes I wonder if something must be pushed out to make room for new loves), seeing this photo made my innards go: ‘ooh! i miss curls! i wanna write about curls!!!’

So I’m gonna.

I have no idea how to give the photographer proper credit on this one. Twitter?

I have no idea how to give the photographer proper credit on this one. Twitter?

Why, why the deviance? Why must waves and curls insist on being so instead of falling (straight) into line? For several reasons. I’ll do my best to not geek out in a science-y way as best I can. I’m interested in this stuff, but it’s seriously deep and convoluted in nature- if you don’t care why, scroll down, for heaven’s sake, and skip all this verbose nonsense.

Hair grows from a hair follicle- sort of like a vertical tube in the skin. Sounds gross, but is also mighty interesting. We push onward. The shape of this tube contributes greatly to the shape of what comes out of it. If the follicle is shaped round and symmetrical, hair formed in it, growing out of it, is often and most likely straight, the shaft round and symmetrical. An oblong, asymmetrical, ovular follicle will more likely produce a hair ranging from wavy to curly, with the shaft being oblong or sort of flattened like Christmas curling ribbon or a piece of pasta. Here’s where shit gets weird, though- this magical tube of hair shaping and growth is not solely responsible for how hair deviates from straight. As we know from earlier posts of mine (um, you took notes, right? There’s a quiz), hair is mostly keratin protein and small amounts of moisture (water) to bind the proteins together and allow hair to bend without snapping. Hair follicles (or magical tubes of wonder) that aren’t circular tend to make keratin proteins clump onto one side of the hair shaft for a period of growth- imagine one side as growing more slowly than the other, creating a spiral banister of short side long side turning. Hormone shifts throughout life can contribute to this protein clumping. This clumping, to my knowledge, may not remain consistent; shifting and clumping about, creating a curve wherever it feels like one belongs. If only we could apply this freedom and creativity to every aspect of our lives.

Can you even begin to understand how intriguing and fresh each head of textured hair is to a hairstylist then? Deviance, shape shifting, each side racing to create a unique spiral that may only exist for a part of your life before your hormones wipe it away to create a new story . . . It’s like a soap opera, really. Not to say straight hair isn’t to be appreciated, as it is far more rare to have straight hair than some kind of bend in the shaft (don’t let your mind wander too much on that one), but this, today, is a love letter to the curl . . . .

How, then, does one care for something that is so fickle? So inconsistent?

Step one- accept your circumstance (well, chemical composition and DNA, really, but enough with the parenthesis!!!). Step two- invest in some proper conditioner and hair product. Please. Don’t make me beg. Step three- learn the proper way to wash and dry. I’ll leave step one up to you. Seek counseling if necessary.

Look, the curlier your hair, odds are the more porous it is- if the hair is bending, one side is stretching and the flaps on the cuticle are more open and the inner cortex of the hair shaft exposed. Like a slinky made into a rainbow in your hand- the inner portion of the bend (which would be the keratin clumping) is tighter than the outside top of the arch. Porous hair absorbs shampoo, so some curly heads wash with only conditioner. If you ask me about that now, you’re a terrible student and you need to revisit my 4,000 word post on the history of shampoo. If the no-poo (I hear you giggling) method creeps you out, fine, cool, it kinda does me too, but I don’t have the kind of porous hair that would benefit from conditioner-only washing. Stay open-minded.

I digress. Look for a conditioner that has a small amount of keratin protein and a good moisture base. The keratin will temporarily fill in the ‘top of the arch’ of your coils, creating a smoother, less frizzy and also stronger appearance and structure. You’ll want the moisture, for SO many reasons, but mostly because it tends to wrap around the outside of the shaft, protecting it and keeping it elastic. Remember that hair with moisture has better capability of bending, creating a better curl.

Look for balms, serums, creams for styling (don’t even TRY to tempt me to get into discussing product right now- I’m keeping it general for your benefit) – steer clear of too much hold. You’re never going to bind something into submission that does not want to be bound (giggling)- why try with curls? Go with it. Aim for frizz control and definition- with that you’ll achieve a very touchable, natural look that will enhance the follicle shape and protein clumps nature gave you.

I would say almost more important than your finishing product you slather on after washing is what you eliminate after washing. Please don’t brush. Comb minimally, only where necessary. I’m backing up, because I can feel you reaching for the small brown bag to breathe into . . .

Before washing, brush hair, gently, and with a brush that has flexible bristles. The goal here is to remove tangles. Work from the bottom up as not to push tangles from the top of the hair down the hair shaft, tightening them as they’re pushed. Think of undoing a braid (or plait as the delightful Brits say), you would start at the bottom and work your way toward the top.

If you have coarse, kinky, damaged, or hair that’s easily broken, skip the pre-shower combing or brushing and wait until the conditioner is on your hair in-shower. The conditioner will provide the maximum amount of slip necessary to detangle, and the physical aspect of combing down through the hair not only pushes the proteins in your conditioner into the gaps in your cuticle (especially the top of that slinky arch), it also smooths out all the shingles along the shaft (don’t let your mind wander. HAIR. We are talking hair on our heads), fighting frizz and sealing in moisture.

Here’s where things get real interesting: rinse. Get out of shower. Gently wrap hair in towel. Take towel off. Put in a little product, squeezing in from ends up. Diffuse or air-dry. Nowhere in that after-shower list is using a brush or comb. Reason? Your hair knows what to do- it knows what shape it wants to be, and it needs the support of the hairs around it to find and take on that shape, and dry that way, frizz free. If you break up the natural clumping that the hair takes on, you are making a series of individual waves that have been dragged out by a brush or comb- some bounce back, other strands don’t, some in between; and overall the look is frizzy and unorganized. If you leave it be, after the hair is dry it’ll break up into defined (but not overly defined) spirals and undulations. It’s not going to stay in its I-have-three-wet-ropes-on-my-head look. Completely dry before broken up, though- you hear? Don’t get antsy.

Traditionalist? Must comb? Fine. Your alternative is the twist and diffuse method that the lovely and talented Claire Pritchard demonstrates. If you comb through your hair wet, post-shower, and destroy the shape your hair naturally wants to make, you must then re-establish shape and organization or suffer the consequences. After combing, when the hair is wet, coil gently (we’re not looking for dreads or rope shapes: remember, we’re just trying to re-discover the curl your hair wants to be) a small section around your finger. Drop. Do this at least along the top and the most frizzy places- the point is to add shape and control. Diffuse or air dry. Plus of this method? If you have a coiled shape at all (a curl that goes around and around– one you could lift your finger up through the center from underneath) this method will absolutely enhance any natural curl you have. You’ll most likely look very curly. Curlier, even, that the leave-your-hair-alone-for-heaven’s-sake method. Downside? If you have an s-shaped wave (more like a squiggle than a coil- a stack of S’s joined top of S to bottom of S; like my own, more beach-y waves) this is not the shape your hair naturally wants to be in, therefore it may pop out of shape, fighting between coiling and S-ing. Um, hi, now you’re back at forcing something and ending up with a frizzy, unorganized mess.

Well, that was a dirge. I have more fond feelings for curls, but my heart is moving on to other interests for now . . . Going to read a little and further my already decently vast knowledge about the golden age of piracy! Because there’s always more to know🙂

Speak soon,




Brushing post shower= broken up, inconsistent, and dragged out waves. Especially on fine hair!

Brushing post shower= broken up, inconsistent, and dragged out waves. Especially on fine hair!


Expedition: Summer, Day One

I pared down to only what I considered California staples.

I pared down to only what I considered California travel staples.

Me, Myself, my Organix sea salt spray, and I all got to the West Coast A-ok. We’re all feeling pretty fantastical so far, though no blood pressure has been taken yet. Wondering if all the stress, sacrifice, longing for my family, and poverty will be worth it. If I don’t have Dysautonomia symptom- free days, at least I’ll have good hair days in this drier climate😉
Stay tuned . . . .

(oh! you can see my NPH Hedwig shirt in the mirror! yay!)




12 Benefits Leave-in Conditioner-

Weleda Rosemary Hair oil-

Living Proof Thickening Cream-

Bumble and Bumble Texture Cream-

Big Sexy Hair Powder Play-

Big Sexy Hair Spray and Play-—Spray-and-Play-Hairspray/Sexy-Hair-Concepts/Styling-Products

Got2Be Powderful-

Tigi Catwalk Rootboost-

Organix Sea Salt Spray-

Phytokeratine Repairing Serum-

L’oreal Professional Volumetry-

North Coast Organics Death by Lavender-

Anthelios 50 Mineral Tinted-

M2 High Potency Skin Refinish 20%- Revitalizing-Treatment-0-5-Ounces/dp/B000US0818-

Benefit It’s Potent Eye Cream-

Cellex-C Sea Silk Oil-Free Moisturizer-

Dr. Jart CC Essence Balm-

If it looks like winter, smells like winter, feels like winter, it’s . . . spring??

Ok cool, since it decided to snow again (in April), I thought it might be a good time to get a great cure for a winter scalp out there. I mean, if it looks like winter, smells like winter, feels like winter, it’s . . . spring??


Flaky, tight, dry scalp? Oily, weird, chunky, flaky buildup? Try this a couple times a week before bed (assuming you’ll wash the hairs in the morning- at least allow this concoction to sit on scalp for a few hours). In this household, somebody who has a bunch of coarse grey hair washes only a couple times a month, so he, I mean- they just keep this stuff in. It won’t hurt you- it’s ORGANIC. And local, and vegan. GMO free.

  • Invest in some kind of travel bottle- I like glass tincture bottles, or I’ve used plastic pump bottles- anything will do, really- you just    need a vessel for mixing up oil.
  • You’ll need 100% pure jojoba oil, 100% pure tea tree oil to start- any other oils you want to add to customize to your scalp needs from there is on you. See below to help . . .
  • For drier, tighter scalps with all over small, dry flakes, mix 3 parts jojoba oil to 1 part tea tree oil in your little travel bottle- after application (instructions for that are coming, sit tight), finish off with a little rub of coconut oil. In the winter, coconut oil tends to live as a solid, so you’ll either have to heat it or emulsify in hands and apply to the scalp as a cream.
  • Oilier scalps, possibly with some more chunkly areas (if this is you, that adjective is a very real word) can use up to half jojoba half tea tree oil, and I’d also recommend some rosemary.
  • To apply, make a loose, rough part, squirt, drop, spray- whatever- get the mixture onto your scalp (this isn’t really for the hair- the point is to treat the scalp) and rub it in with the pads of your fingers (like, 5 seconds, don’t take all day). Part another inch or so off, repeat. continue along the head until the whole scalp is covered- I like to give Mr. Coarse Hairs a little head massage after, just to make sure we got it all on there. The whole application should take like, maybe 5 minutes- and it feels freaking awesome, especially with a little peppermint oil.
  • Rinse and shampoo as normal in the morning, or don’t- whatever floats your boat.

After my last dirge about shampooing, I’m capping my information vomit here, but trust me- I will be back to explain in science words why this works . . . .

Oils to mix in to Jojoba/tea tree base (btw- these two oils are non-negotiable. Keep your socks on until my next post, but for heaven’s sake don’t go all rogue on me, trying some wacky mix of canola and rose hips and report back to me that my recipe is faulty):

  1. Rosemary- stimulates hair follicles, antimicrobial, antibacterial (most essential oils are by nature), astringent properties, so it’s great for oilier heads.
  2. Eucalyptus- antimicrobial/bacterial, dissolves sticky things (sooo . . . oil), has a lovely camphor effect.
  3. Peppermint- ahhhh feels so good and is wonderful for relieving itch. Antimicrobial/bacterial. Good for all heads, but especially dry ones.
  4. Lavender- Antimicrobial/bacterial. Is super calming and soothing, again, great for drier heads, but smells really good on everyone😉
  5. I’ll add more as I think of them- this post is now erring on the side of long and I gotta cap this shiz!

Finally, my disclaimer: I’m not a doc, and everywhere I’ve read warns about using essential oils in high concentrations. I’ve found this recipe works, but if you’re nervous, call your healthcare professional and start out much more diluted.

Signing off for the night,






How to Shampoo- In 4413 words.


Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 4.55.32 PM

When it comes to washing things, anyone in Western culture thinks bubbles. Lather. Soap. Washing dishes- hot water, a sponge, soap. Washing clothes- we don’t feel right unless we see our clothes, swirling like mad, suffocated by the bubbles. We feel gross unless the germs on our New York subway ride hands are removed by antibacterial soap, lathered and lathered and washed down the drain. Don’t think I’m a bubble hater, because no ma’am, no sir, and no everyone in between- I love a bubble. And I think a bubble has real purpose. But like the human spirit, a bubble used without a purpose is a bubble lost.

Why did we even start washing things anyway? Well, to get them clean. What does clean mean? I would argue that clean means free of bacteria and pathogens, free of things that grow on our hair, skin, clothes, food, that could hurt us. Clean doesn’t mean free of oil. We need to establish right away that dirt is different than oil.

Lack of moisture and lack of hydration are two very different things. Lack of moisture is the absence of oil on the surface of skin- hair has no oil glands because like I always say, it’s deader than a doornail and decaying. It is important to know, however, that the sebum our skin produces is meant to moisturize the hair shaft too, and the hair shaft does need it to stay flexible. Oil (sebum is the oil our bodies produce) sits on the outside and protects the cells, also giving them elasticity for movement. Hydration refers to water content, which is mostly (about 70%) inside the cell structure, but can also be between. Hydration can only come from the inside, but efforts can be made to make each cell hold more water or trap the water so it doesn’t evaporate. Both oil/moisture and water/hydration are important.

“Dirt” is actual particles in the air, on the ground, etc- and most of the particles (or aerosols) in the air are not visible to the human eye. As our body produces oil to protect our skin and get it flexible, the particles in the air stick to it. Because it’s sticky. It’s science🙂

When we say our hair is ‘dirty,’ most people mean their hair looks greasy; too much oil has accumulated and traveled from the scalp where is is made by the skin, and down the hair shaft creating a separated and heavy look and slick feel. But most likely, if there’s that much oil accumulation on the actual hair, there is also more ‘dirt.’ More surface area that is sticky= more dirt on said hair. Like the dependent, incredible sensitively, precisely balanced creatures we are, we need the oil for our organs (like the skin) to stay strong and protected, but we don’t want all the extra particles of ick (I, personally, wouldn’t mind some nice ‘mountain spice’ dirt ick, but God only knows what New York City dirt ick is made of), and we need ALL the hydration we can get- so we can’t cleanse dirt too much or we’ll freak out both our moisture and hydration levels . . .

Enough of the technicalities, back to the societal need for bubbles:

We weren’t always like this, you know- obsessed with the salvation of lather, needing all of life’s surfaces, including our faces and the hands of our friends to be cleansed of the dirty sin that stains us. Because I’m a true history nerd, I’ll reference a short documentary from PBS, called 1900’s House. It aired in 1999 and while I don’t want to spoil it for you, I will tell you it’s about a modern family that lives a historically accurate life- from the clothes they wear, food they eat, house they live in, and what they use to clean all surfaces, including themselves. And there was no lather in their lives.

Victorians were really the first society that was obsessed with germs and cleanliness. Outbreaks of plague, polio, seeing the grime of industry for the first time; they had a new kind of understanding about what germs and bacteria were, and how to rid their homes and bodies of these things. Still, not really any bubbles. These old-timey germaphobes brushed their hair to clean it, because dirt and oil are different. Dirt, dust, or other foreign particles (in much more prolific amounts starting at the time of the industrial revolution) don’t belong in the hair, and must be removed. All Victorians had a boar’s bristle brush and would do the whole 100 strokes a night thing to remove particles that are gross, and to distribute oils from top to bottom. That last part is old news this day and age, but I’ll just remind you- it really does need to be a boar bristle brush to distribute oil, and you really shouldn’t brush overly processed hair at all, but you do need to exfoliate and stimulate the scalp. Victorians didn’t need to worry about processed hair, so the brushing to clean thing what mostly what they did- and I’ll reinforce that is was mostly to reduce the particles in their hair, and the oil distribution thing was just a lovely added benefit. Once a week, or much less, a solution was used on the hair to clean it further- still no lather though, ugh. Watered down ammonia, lye, or castille soap were painted onto sections on the scalp with a brush, or if you were lucky, you got to wash your hair with egg yolk or salt and baking soda paste.

I’m getting to the point, I promise. I just can’t give you instructions without giving you the how come. I love me some chemistry, but I’m going to condense *awholefreakinglotofit* right here, just for the sake of time- know that there’s much science that goes into shampoo and conditioner, and the ‘feel’ it gives your hair is based on science. If you don’t like the way your hair feels, do some research and change the kind of science that’s in your life until you get the result you want.

The PH of hair should be between 4.5-5.5, slightly acidic. Pure water (but who has that?) is a 7. Don’t think for a second that pure water comes out of your faucet. If you’re having some extreme buildup problems, get some litmus paper, uncork a bottle of wine, fix a nice meal and run some tests. Know that acids soften and open the cuticle of the hair, and alkalis harden and contract the cuticle. Shampoo is somewhere in the range of 7: because it is more alkaline than hair, it expands the hair shaft allowing the surfactants (fancy word for bubble) to do it’s thang. Conditioner, a ph of around 3.5, then contracts the lil’ doors on the hair shaft, smoothing the surface and returning the hair to it’s natural balance of 4.5-5.5. Voila, magic. NO– SCIENCE!

Victorians did play around with ph when they were busy using food and/or chemicals to clean- baking soda= 8.3, Lye= 13, ammonia=11. Wait- what’s that you say? You’re wondering about what came after the shampoo for these old-timers? So, if they didn’t have conditioner or some substance more alkaline to bring the cuticle back to a neutral point, the shingles on that shaft of hair were left blasted wide open like windows on a spring day. Valid concern. However, because the hair oxidizes just by being in air (the air is, indeed the catalyst for the chemical change), over time those shingles would partially lie back down. In a lucky case animal and plants lipids were available and applied as conditioner to help close the doors on each strand of hair. Hair and scalp were drier; both lacking in moisture and hydration for sure, especially since regular haircuts were not really on the to do list, and a brush can only shmear that scalp sebum so far down the hair shaft. Good thing it was classy to wear braids and updos because even to a non-hairstylist those split ends would be appalling.

Still no bubbles, but lots of doors opening/closing, windows, and a handful of chemistry. Are you starting to miss lather yet? You can miss it right up to the 1930’s when the first shampoo specifically formulated to clean hair was invented. Hans Schwarzkopf invented some sort of soapy head stuff in 1927, but to my understanding, it was just a bottled form of what women had been using at home for centuries. The real change began in 1930 when Proctor and Gamble released Drene shampoo. Talk about a sexy name! Drene was the first cleanser that was a non-soap- it was made with synthetic surfactants and that just makes all the difference . . .

Getting molecules to stick together is more difficult than getting to people to stick together on an Okcupid date- they just repel each other. It takes either voodoo magic or chemical bonding to make it happen. This Drene, now, she was special, she had bubbles but wasn’t really a soap- she was made especially for us and made us feel goooooood. She was non-soap. Non-soap surfactants are compounds with two ends– each end is attracted to different things. The head of the molecule is hydrophyllic and is super attracted to water. Like a magnet, it just pulls a water molecule right on over to it. The tail end is lipophyllic, meaning it wants all the grease- takes all kinds, eh? This would make for a very strange internet date- a bubble monster whose head wants all the water in your drinking glass and whose tail is too busy checking out your sebum to care about conversation. This was HUGE. Women could have bouncy, light, oil free hair, and for the first time, we could wear it down, it could hold a curled shape, it didn’t smell, it wasn’t as dry . . . Drene changed the world of hair as we know it, and has shaped the perception of what hair should be (at least in Western culture). Why we don’t have national shampoo day, I’ll never know.

Our relationship started out as a cautious one- we shampooed with our Drene about once a week- the same frequency or slightly more (hey, we were excited for shampoo day!) than we were using our unfun lye/ammonia hair poison- I mean– ‘shampoo.’ Our carefully salon-coiffed ‘do lasted about a week anyway. Since the style of the times dictated our relationship status with Drene as ‘dating,’ it wasn’t until the freaking 70’s when things started to get weird. Hair was worn down down down, straight and as flat to the head as possible. This made it so much easier for the sebum produced at the scalp to make it to the surface of the hair and the result was ‘dirty’ looking hair much faster. We threw our keys in that punchbowl and started shampooing in overdrive- we started to believe that for health and sanitary reasons we needed to wash every day. Because oil is unsanitary and unhealthy, you know? Idiots.

We need to start courting oil, treating her like the Goddess divine that she is. I don’t want to assume you’re simple, and I know you’ve read in triplicate or more that oil is your body’s way of keeping your skin moist- providing elasticity to our cells so they can bend, so our hair, skin, and nails don’t crackle off and reveal our precious and vulnerable innards. We need the hair to stay on our heads to help keep our brains warm, evolutionarily speaking, and to add a modicum of protection. Oil is the lube of life- don’t piss her off or your brain will be cold.

If you over cleanse, yes, your body will produce more oil to accommodate what it thinks is some crazy dry spell. It doesn’t know that you just want voluminous Texas hair for three days without washing. If you keep removing all of it all the time, your body goes into overdrive and spurts oil from every pore like a mini geyser. Coming back down from that high of over washing is tough, too- it can take months to show your body that you aren’t trying to strip what She’s giving you, and the process ain’t pretty. Now, some people naturally have more oil production than others- woo hoo, like me, you have to find ways to cope. I’ll start a support group for other people that were called ‘greasy-haired girl’ in junior high school, someday, I promise. But stripping is not the answer. Ain’t that the truth in life, eh? Tell your daughters.

How are we supposed to clean our hair then, if we can’t get all 70’s swinger party or 90’s grunge Cobain on it? Alright, I’m going to share the magical answer that’s been kept secret since the dawn of time . . . ready? Drumroll . . . .


You just have to pay attention, and know how to shampoo your hair properly. That’s all.


Use the pads of your fingers to feel your roots- are they very oily? How is the skin on your face- oily? Dry? What about in comparison to your scalp? Does your hair become more oily in the summer as opposed to the winter? Do your ends feel like straw? Is your scalp itchy? Tight? Greasy and chunky? I’m not asking you to stare into the mirror for analysis and write me a 24 page report, but spend 10 seconds paying attention to it. I’m not even saying you should spend a full 10 seconds meditating about it- while you’re carrying your groceries home, put it on the list of things to donate 10 seconds of thought to; put it right after ‘what am I doing with my life,’ and before ‘I wonder where Snookie is today . . ?’ So few people do. Instead of using their brains and knowing their bodies, they just want to follow what the prescription says. Guess what? If you get used to listening, YOU know your body better than any doctor, and that’s coming from a proponent of both Eastern and Western medicine.

Flash forward, it’s 2014, we’re in a committed and stable relationship with Drene and she’s given birth to about a bajillion offspring, some were luckier than others in the shampoo dna department- some of the fruit of her loins were suds duds and made all our hair fall flat and were just failing at the life we want our hair to have. Or shall I say, they maybe just hadn’t found their talents or their true calling yet (fingers crossed/looks to the heavens like a worried parent). When you’ve decided it’s wash day, there’s more to know that just rinse, lather, repeat: some hair needs to be cleansed twice, some hair needs the ends washed, some scalps need special treatment. Mopsy will be glad to throw some opinions out there🙂

You’re about to get down and dirty with some Drene, but where do you start? Take off your clothes. No, seriously- the day of my State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology exam I was so nervous I got in the shower in my bra. I had boobs that were soaking through my scrubs for the entire exam. Very embarrassing and a total seventh-grade mistake. If you’re gonna go all the way- take off your bra. I’ll try to keep the raunch down from this point on- please try to note my efforts. You have to HAVE TO get the hair soaking wet from root to tip, this end to that end, all the way through the thickest hair- it needs to be wet, wet, wet (are you noting my efforts????) because- remember Drene is both hydrophillic and lipophyllic- meaning it needs water to grab on to so we can wash away excess oil and dirt.

Once the hair is soaking, use around a quarter (ish) sized dollop of shampoo, and emulsify in hands (as a side note, almost every hair product on earth is meant to be emulsified- there are more reasons why than just one, but it has alot to do with how the product is distributed throughout the hair. You won’t get great results without rubbing it in your hands. (Again- efforts.) Reach fingers up through the ends to the scalp to distribute product, since that’s where the oil comes from and that’s where it is most accumulated and the most dirty; use the pads of your fingers in small circling motions to break up skin cells, oil, dirt. Please do not use your fingernails. Even in the shower, even if you scrub under your nails like an OCD handwasher- you still have natural bacteria and weird, microscopic cockroach creatures that I swear look like they came right out of the deepest abyssal oceans just to set up camp in your nails. When you use your nails on your scalp, you run the risk of microscopically cutting the surface of the skin, introducing bacteria and nail creatures (alright fine, the creatures do sort of exists but I may have slightly embellished them out of my own fear).

Work your way around the scalp noting how much lather is created- if you feel like you’ve just put soap near the jet of your neighbor’s jacuzzi (what? who would do that?!? never.) and are about to drown in suds, your hair probably didn’t have a ton of oil accumulation and was mostly ‘clean.’ You may want to reassess the next time you think you need to wash it- maybe you could wash less. If it’s only sudsing a little, those lipophyllic buddies are going to town on all that oil, busting it up like a meth lab raid at dawn. Excuse my analogies, but shampooing is pretty serious to me.

Avoid the ends. especially if you didn’t lather a ton because that probably means you’re going to need to lather again, hence the ‘wash, rinse, repeat’ instructions on the label. They aren’t always just meant to sell you more product. They are science-related. Your ends never really get the oil production that your scalp gets, hence, less of the heavy, greasy feeling, and definitely less unsanitary dirt to stick to the sebum- so given the knowledge we have about ph and such- why put your ends through it? I agree with you (because I see in reading this that you’re starting to panic already) sometimes ends do need to be washed- product builds up and can also be sticky, thus attracting ‘dirt,’ it also makes ends heavy,  effecting our styling, color oxidizes weird; yes, I get it. Just do me a favor and wash them when they need it- differing for every hair type/season, head of hair, etc. Subscribe to the 10 second hair assessment rule before you jump right in to massive ends lathering, also known as cuticle blasting.

Yes, second scalp cleanses are often necessary- I have high oil production and cleanse every three days in the winter and I always have a need to cleanse my scalp twice, especially if I’m getting sort of chonkle-y at the scalp. That’s a technical term, btw. Apply the second cleanse the same way you applied the first, and if you’ve decided your ends are flatter than Kansas, at this point you can lightly, delicately and gently work some Drene through the ends, minding not to ruffle up the cuticle too much and bearing in mind that as you rinse the product passes over your ends anyway, carrying whatever dirt and oil was there.

If the use of a medicated shampoo is necessary, I find that cleansing the scalp once with a regular shampoo is helpful, followed by an application of the medicated one, otherwise it doesn’t spread through the surface area of the scalp as easily and is therefore less effective- why? Science. The lipophyllic parts are activated and trying to grab all the oil and there isn’t enough lather to really kick things into gear. If you INSIST on being a once cleanser ,medicated shampoo or not- I’d recommend halfway through your first (and only) cleanse to add a bit more water to your Drene, it’ll give something for the hydrophillic parts of the molecule, making the lipophyllic ends work better.

No matter the amount you’re cleansing or not cleansing, the next step is the key to the city: rinse rinse rinse rinse rinse rinse. And rinse. You’ve just captured all the particles, skin chunks, scalp flakes, dirt, and excess oil in your magical hydro/lipophyllic bondage- now get it outta there! Make it abandon ship- why would you just want to half-ass a rinse just to have it carry partially down the hair shaft causing further buildup? The point is to clean the hair effectively, remember?

For the selection of shampoo- we’re in a committed relationship with Drene, but it’s still an open one- so many choices! Do some basic research about popular shampoo ingredients, ask me, feel your hair and do the 10-second assessment after trying a few. Warning: I’m about to tangent: the baking soda cleanse method- ok, I get it, I do. And I’ll make a separate post about it later- but keep in mind, the reason Drene was so revolutionary is the surfactants- the lipo/hydro stuff. Baking soda is a sanitary ‘cleanser,’ but it has no lipophyllic quality, and is has no moisturizing properties the way other shampoos- even those for deep cleansing and volumizing- do. Just know that. You should know why you’re using something if you’re going to slather it all over your body, possibly twice. There’s a lot of criticism about sulfates in shampoo and various other ingredients that are ‘bad’ for you. Some of this is propaganda, some is probably true- but so little testing and correlation has been shown thus-far that we really can’t make a definitive statement either way. I will throw out there that most ingredients sound alike- but even one letter difference is still completely different- so if you’re not buying something that could potentially be awesome for you because you think that one ingredient was solely responsible for the untimely demise of that one person you heard about in the news (the onion) that one time, just don’t be an idiot lemming and make sure you know your chemicals and surfactants. I’m a total Berkeley hippie, but I’m with Marvin Harris on this one- there is a material explanation.

Many hippie shampoos leave out the ‘harsh, carcinogenic’ surfactants, and what are you left with? No bubbles, a product that doesn’t spread, so it can’t really treat or sanitize, and it’s really just a repackaged version of what our Victorian ancestors used, but for mucho more dough. SO in your efforts to be green and on top of your knowledge, you’re left with gross hair and not the information that can help you. Don’t be a lemming. If you believe in natural haircare- I’m here to tell you it exists, but you have to do your homework to find it, know what will hurt you and the planet, and what sounds like it does but actually won’t.

Thanks to Devacurl and Curly girls and guys and goats and poodles everywhere, the conditioner cleanse method became pretty popular in the 2000’s. Like the hot new girl in High School, everyone wanted to know her story- how did you get here? why? are you really as awesome as the rumors paint? I support this method for some- but you have to know if your in that some or not. The backstory complete in a major run-on sentence is as follows: curly hair needs more moisture (oil- and remember that the result of oil is elasticity) in order to bend, and bend many times around, therefore making a curl; since traditional shampoo has a ph that would open the hair shaft, this not only makes curls lack more moisture, but adds frizz (opening the cuticle of the hair shaft increases diameter, and reflects light less effectively), and since the ph of conditioner closes the hair cuticle and only adds moisture; someone decided to think outside the box and be like, ‘whoa, let’s do this- nix the Drene and run straight for the conditioner.’ (side note: look at that crazy sentence structure- the grammar fairy would be appalled, but what can I say? I’m a rebel with a cause)

In theory, like compounds remove like compounds, aka oil removes oil (also nail polish removes nail polish, if you were ever in a bind) but the trouble is that it does leave quite a bit behind. Not an issue if you really need a little left behind, but here are my issues with it- it makes it a hell of a lot harder to exfoliate a scalp, which means the balance of the scalp- not the oil production, necessarily- I’m talking cell turn over rate and yeast control (that post coming soon- ugh! there’s so much to talk about!) is really tough to keep in check. That lil’ sitch becomes a health and sanitary issue pretty quickly, my friends. My other issue is that since there are lipids being left behind, you are inevitably mixing, shmearing ick oil and ick dirt around with good clean oil- and only some of it is rinsing away . . . the vivid imagery of that one is the stuff hairmares (hair nightmares) are made off.

If you want to be a part of the conditioner cleanse or ‘No Poo’ club, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have one foot in and one foot out- no one says you have to drink the whole cup of Kool Ade- maybe a tongue taste every now and then won’t hurt you so bad. Maybe it will. Rotate with traditional Drene cleansing. Note the difference in the way your hair behaves and feels, and more importantly, how your scalp behaves and feels- since that’s the birthing room of hair anyway.

Wow, I bet Victorians are kinda jealous of our hair freedom. I understand- while the relationship I have with my self, my looks, my hair, is a complex one, I’m thankful that I have options to make it look and feel how I think is best; and that I can change my opinion tomorrow if I wish.  The bubble is a beautiful thing, and like a lot of things perfect in this world, while it might be enjoyable or tempting, it’s not always necessary and can sometimes do harm where we think there’s good. Respect the bubble, but also respect the counterpart of the bubble, and learn what’s right for you.

In requiem,






Coco’s a Gogo!

Ok, I know I owe you many things- like posts, updates, witty banter; but I can only do one thing at a time and right now I’m touching my hair.

I must sound like a repeater machine (there’s a phrase for that, but I can’t focus on anything but touching my hair right now), but I have fine, thin hair that is very processed at the ends and very oily at the roots. I need to treat my ends as if they were spider webs disintegrating at random. Because they are. Pink spider webs, just a cracklin’ off all the time. So you think, ugh, what a conundrum, because the ends need a ton of protein and moisture (yes both, I’ll pinky promise that post soon because they are different-DIFFERENT, PEOPLE!) but wouldn’t that weigh down the fine hair and make the roots oily?

Yes. Yes it does.

But I tried something cool today and I can finally give my own first-hand account of my experience with a glorious, glowing, shining mistress- coconut oil.

I used my protein mask in the shower, on the processed part of my ends only (because why waste product and why treat something that doesn’t need it? We all know what happened in the Westernized world with antibiotics . . . ), put my towel on my head while I did, um, some things, like, for, like, i dunno, like, 7 minutes.

Then I took my hair down spritzed My PH sealer and detangler, my favorite Healthy Sexy Hair Soy Tri-Wheat Leave In (sometimes I wish they’d change that name- acronym, perhaps?), and emulsified a tiny amount of coco oil in my palms. I applied in the same way I applied my protein mask in-shower, mostly with a pressing and squeezing motion, not so much dragging or raking.

The emulsifying part is important: people tend to forget you have to evenly distribute product onto the palms or fingers- otherwise there is too much product piled in one area of the hand- translating into too much product dumped into one part of the hair. When that happens, people think their product doesn’t work and that it sucks. Really it’s just them that sucks. Just Kidding. When you spread a thin coating onto your hands, you spread a thin coating onto your hair strands (ooh I rhyme!), wasting less product and getting better results. You can always do a couple coats if you need more.

So I put the coconut oil on after my beloved leave in, then blow dried- don’t always, but I knew that by expanding the cuticle with heat and air, my hair would probably look less oily in case my visit with the mistress went awry. I can say, 10 minutes into this adventure, at least, that I really like it and I’ll do it again. Maybe air dried wavy next time. Feels like a serum, but with no silicone, and less heavy, inexpensive, and natural. And I smell like a mounds bar. Win win.

I’ve included just-blow dried ends so you can see the consistency of hair I’m working with. Maybe try it and let me know what you think??