December 29, 2011

Hair That Rocks: Down to the Core of it All

When one thinks of the connection between rock and hair, the first thing to come to mind may be the glam rock hair bands of the eighties (see Figure 1). With a little more information, this idea may be discarded faster than David Lee Roth's shag. The parallel drawn here refers to actual rocks: sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic.

Figure 1: Twisted Sister, a typical Hair Band of the eighties (ebcak, 2008).

Rock cores are long thin pieces of rock removed from beneath the Earth's surface using a hollow drill. These segments are cut through the many layers of rock laid down by past events (Plummer, 2004). When removed and laid out for examination, the newest layers are at the top, with a visible progression of events continuing down the core to the oldest layer at the base (Plummer, 2004). Likewise, hair strands are produced from the top down, in protein units with the oldest segment at the end of the hair (see Figure 2) (Beatty, 2002).

Various landmarks throughout a rock core, such as fossils, deposits, and change in rock types can be used to deduce the geological history of that point in time (Plummer, 2004). Surprisingly enough, biochemical and isotopic signatures can be read along the hair strand, giving a history of an individual's health. Chemical indicators can be used to note hormonal changes, stress levels and diet (Hill Wood-Salomon, 2011). Hair samples have even been tested from preserved specimens, finally solving mysteries such as what percentage of a population was affected by events such as water contamination (Matsumoto and Yoshinaga, 2009), or the geographic route traveled by a murder victim (Courtland, 2008). Events such as change in location can be determined by a sudden switch in isotopic concentration (drinking from a different water source, for example) in the keratin units of the hair strand (Ehleringer et al., 2008).

Figure 2: A side-by-side comparison of rock cores and hair strands (ISGS, 2010; Hair Compounds, 2010).

Rock deposits can be altered through further events such as folding and fractures, changing the accuracy of events read along a core sample (Plummer, 2004). Similarly in hair, as the age of the event in question increases, the likelihood of taking an accurate measurement of chemical ratios decreases. Hair is structurally altered and often damaged by environmental factors such as sun and wind. Hair and scalp conditions produce abnormal strands, containing different initial chemical ratios, which would give quite different results than a healthy hair (Beatty, 2002). Physical abuse occurs on a daily basis for many, through brushing, heat styling, and chemical alteration such as colouring and perming. Furthermore, data is lost when the hair is cut, removing the oldest records at the base of the hair strand (Beatty, 2002). This process is also observed in rock samples, where glacial erosion has removed one or more layers of rock, leaving a gap in the timeline of relative dating (Plummer, 2004).

Hair analysis techniques are still in discovery and developmental stages. Nevertheless, the potential applications are incredible. Many conditions which are currently tested for by drawing blood may be examined by taking a reading from a strand of hair (Hill Wood-Salomon, 2011). Depending on the length, the recorded sequence can reveal events years into the past, providing an impressive ready-made medical record (Cerling et al., 2009). Who knows what the future may hold? As they today, gone tomorrow.

Works Cited

Beatty, D., 2002. Milady’s Standard Cosmetology.

Cerling, T.E. et al., 2009. History of Animals using Isotope Records (HAIR): A 6-year dietary history of one family of African elephants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(20), pp.8093-8100.

Courtland, R., 2008. Your history is printed in your hair : Nature News. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 26 November 2011].

ebcak, 2008. 80′s Glam Metal Rock Bands | Cool Stuff - ebcak. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 26 November 2011].

Ehleringer, J.R. et al., 2008. Hydrogen and oxygen isotope ratios in human hair are related to geography. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(8), pp.2788 -2793.

Hair Compounds, 2010. Measuring Stress Through Hair | Hair & Compounds Blog. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 2 December 2011].

Hill Wood-Salomon, J., 2011. Science for hairstylists: the potential uses of hair samples in medicine. [personal communication] [Discussed 7 October 2011].

ISGS, 2010. ISGS - Geological Samples Library Collections. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 26 November 2011].

Matsumoto, M. and Yoshinaga, J., 2009. Isotope ratios of lead in Japanese women’s hair of the twentieth century. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 17pp.643-649.

Plummer, C., 2004. Physical geology & the environment. 1st ed. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

December 28, 2011

Suave Surfactants: Maintaining the Integrity of Your Shampoo

There is nothing quite like awakening to the screams of a woman (or man, for that matter) bewailing the efficacy of their shampoo. “I trusted you!” they moan, “you promised me everything, for better or for worse, wash, rinse, and repeat...”

Storming into the hairdresser's in a fury, however, is not the best approach to take. They will listen professionally to the dilemma, calm irascible nerves with a relaxing shampoo, explain that the product performs exceptionally for the price, offer a refund, and leave one feeling rather embarrassed.

To avoid this situation, take the time to learn the factors that could decrease the power of the perfect shampoo.

Hard water contains dissolved ions which can interfere with the surfactants in shampoo. (Trüeb, 2007) Much like the properties observed in phosphobilipid membranes, each end of the shampoo molecule has a slight charge. One end is lipophilic, attracting oil and debris in the hair, and the other hydrophilic, attracting water to rinse away. (Beatty, 2002) The presence of cations or anions in rinsewater can interfere with either end of the molecule, often leaving the user with residue in their hair. The installation of a water softener will convert hard water to soft, removing trace ions and restoring that silky shine. (Trüeb, 2007)

Shampoos are often formulated at a pH mimicking that of hair and skin, approximately 4.5-6.5. (Beatty, 2002) Ideally, water has a neutral pH of 7. Contaminants, dissolved substances, and phenomena such as acid rain can alter the pH of water. While the shampoo formulation anticipates water neutrality, slightly more acidic or basic water can strip the acid mantle, which may lead to oil overproduction. This can result in an oily scalp and dry, frizzy hair. (Beatty, 2002) Monitoring of home water pH and investment in water filtration equipment can alleviate these issues.

Bacterial contamination has become less of an issue due to modern preservatives. It may still occur in hair products in rare cases, or in products derived directly from organic ingredients. (Olsen, 1967) Contrary to popular belief, the bathroom is not the most hygenic place to store hygiene products. Bacterial cultures can develop in open products or in those exposed to contaminants. Ingredient efficacy can decrease with microorganic growth, and also through exposure to extreme temperatures or sunlight. (Olsen, 1967) As with any chemical, store shampoo in a closed and labelled container in a dark cool area. If a change is noticed in the product, such as odour or texture, dispose of it no matter how expensive it was. Although it is rare for degraded shampoo to cause illness, an important ingredient rendered ineffective may alter the entire integrity of the product.

As observed in [a class research project], water quality and pH can directly affect one's health and well being. While shampoo efficacy is hardly as crucial a substantiate to life as avoiding toxin ingestion, keeping one's hair strong and supple creates a peace of mind.

Works Cited

Beatty, D., 2002. Milady's Standard Cosmetology. , September 9, 2002.

Olsen, S.W.,M.S., 1967. The Application of Microbiology to Cosmetic Testing. Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, March 4, 1967, no. 18, pp. 191-191-198.

Trüeb, R.M., 2007. Shampoos: Ingredients, Efficacy and Adverse Effects. Journal of the German Society of Dermatology, May 2007, vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 356-356-365.

December 27, 2011

I'm Still Alive and Cutting

How do you stay in touch with the hair and makeup world when you're no longer in it?

It doesn't hurt to have a teenage sister who stays savvy with all the Youtube makeup gurus. I'd have no idea what "Baby Lips" is were it not for scouring four stores until I finally found the pink colour for her Christmas present.

I wrote my hairdresser's final back in July and passed with flying colours. A few months later I quit my salon job of three years and started working on my honours bachelor of science.

Wait, what? Well, that really has been my plan for some time now. I love both worlds and couldn't see myself not being a hairdresser, or not being a scientist. Hopefully one day I'll find some blissful fusion of the two. Did you know hairdressing has its very own science? Trichology: the science of hair. The next few posts I'll be sharing are pieces I've written over the past term for my class blog. The idea is to take a scientific concept presented in class and expand upon it using an interdisciplinary approach. These posts will look a bit different than my usual format, however I can promise the same delightful blend of dry humour and a unique perspective.

So while I haven't been poring over Vogue while sitting at reception pricing Goldwell's latest and greatest--heck, I haven't even been wearing makeup--I still have beauty on my mind. I've even managed to keep up freelancing both with my former clientele and at the university.

P.S. I do try to keep up. I enjoy following a few blogs such as Oh So Coco.

June 15, 2011

Coco does Gaultier

Who says Canadians are limited to parkas and Sorels? Coco Rocha, a graceful and talented model hailing from the country I call home, has posted a video of her shoot for Elle magazine wearing all vintage Jean Paul Gaultier. There is a Gaultier career retrospective at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts should you happen to pass through Quebec. The video is well worth watching, although it's fairly long.

Jean Paul Gaultier Retrospective from Coco Rocha on Vimeo.

May 17, 2011

Fill your nails, and your time!

Now that I'm out of school and in employment limbo, I have rather a lot of empty time slots. I've been reading, catching up with my friends, baking chocolate chip cookies with Oreos inside (I KNOW), singing, and doing the three things that are impossible to regularly participate in with a heavy courseload:

(1) Sleeping

(2) Eating

(3) My nails

And I have been so inspired by nail art lately! I'll post when I try them (none of the following are my nails), but here are a few techniques I can't wait to use:

Hawaiian flowers: essentially applying petal-like stripes and removing the center.

Water marbling: swirl a couple shades together in water, dip, and have fun cleaning up. :P

Newsprint nails: dip dry, painted nails in vodka (if you're legal) or alcohol and press onto newspaper.

Crackle polish: possibly the biggest trend and most difficult to obtain since Chanel's Black Satin hit the market, OPI has brought back crackle polish (with others following suit) in black and more recently silver. Apply and let dry.

Pre-dried polish strips: I have tried these and a review is on the way. Press and stick, more or less, for designs previously reserved for false nails or hours with a professional.

Gel nail polish: while not technically nail art, brands such as Shellac (CND) and Axxium (OPI) are fairly new to the market. These are intended to be applied by a professional. Coats of polish are dried instantly under a UV or LED lamp and are completely chip- and peel-free, only needing to be removed when they grow out (or if you really want you could get them filled like gel nails). The distinguishing features between gel nail polish and actual gel nails are (A) any aesthetician can apply it, as opposed to nail technicians only, and (B) it can be soaked off, which is far less damaging than filing off gel nails (along with parts of your natural nails). I just want to try these because hardly anything will stay on my nails what with all the shampooing I do at work.

May 14, 2011

Just plugging my sister...

The regularly scheduled program has been interrupted for some shameless blood relative promotion.

If you'd happen to be looking for a blog just as amazing as this one, more along fashion lines, why not head over and check out Ponytails's My Passions for Fashions? For a taste of what my stylish sibling serves up, here are a few of my favourite posts:

5 Fave Thursday, Spring Edition

T-Shirt Shrug

T-Shirt into Belted Top Tutorial (featured at mad in crafts)

The Boardwalk Top Tutorial

April 27, 2011

Take a Shot for Skin's Sake

Ever been sitting back with a glass of wine enjoying the antioxidants, resveratrol, phenols, flavonoids and tannins...when all of a sudden you begin to wonder what the benefits of your favourite alcoholic beverage are? Oh, sure, we've all been informed about the increased mortality, prevention of heart disease, kidney stones, Alzheimer's, atherosclerosis, blood clots and hypertension. And the general public has of course been told how fun alcohol makes one at a party.

But what about your skin? Coco Perez posted an article today illuminating us on the latest findings in skin care research--which, admittedly, bear more resemblance to a cocktail recipe than the standard cleanse, tone and moisturize routine. Check out the video with expert Rebekah George followed by Perez's list of booze-infused products currently on the market here.

What do you think? Will you be adding a little umbrella to your toner any time soon?