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The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Chains that Bind

I am really not much of a fan of the usual grooming activities. Make no mistake dear girlfriends… I do enjoy being a girl. However, the primping and maintenance that can often go into the long term upkeep of being “presentable” can be taxing on my sometimes fragile psyche.

Let’s say it plain…. It takes a lot of work to look, well, good. Two hours in a stylists chair every five weeks to have my roots dyed, a cut a blow dry lasting no more than 70 minutes (I like to give my stylist some limits) every eight weeks. An hour a day on a bike just to keep my insides happy. That combined with a low sugar, low fat, high fibre, nutritionally balanced diet and I am tapped out.

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed these days, dear cybersisters…. The grooming really is adding up. I say this because just last week, I did the math… I had my roots dyed for two hours, my hair cut for 90 minutes, and I gave myself a pedicure (I don’t like people touching my feet) for almost an hour. It took me another 45 minutes to polish my fingernails….

Add up the time my cybersisters and you have the equivalent of five and a half hours of productive time that I can no longer get back. Sure I am primed and polished but I could have spent that time contributing to the planet…. Learning Italian, hunting for THE perfect pair of spring sandals, watching season one of Gossip Girl. (What am I doing with my life?) Had I gone for a massage and a facial- I would still be somewhere having something “fluffed and folded” and I would get nothing done in life…

As it is this blog entry is rather late in the day. I am a mess dear girlfriends… I’ll say it plain. But damn if my hair has never looked better.

So there I was in the chair at the salon waiting for “keratin mask” to take effect and make me perfect when it dawned on me…. What the hell am I doing? Why is it that hair is always the great equalizer?

What is it about the stuff that makes women crazy?

There I was mid afternoon on a Monday and I looked around the room to see almost a dozen women just like me all slaves to the hair shafts that bind? There we were THE SISTERS OF AVON, so to speak, primping together like a COVERGIRL coven all hoping for the best. “YES, this cut and colour will make me whole” repeated in the air like some unspoken chant and promise.

The average women in North America spends at least 20 minutes a day and $200 a month on hair care and hair care related products.

I still maintain that if we as women did not have such a hold on our hair, we could take over the planet. Look at Hillary Clinton- the woman could have been president of the United States. Then she got a new hair cut and BOOM… secretary of state.

What is it about the hair shaft that has us chained like wild animals??

The primary component of hair fiber is keratin. Keratins are proteins, long chains of amino acids. Keratin proteins form the cytoskeleton (a miniature skeleton within a cell) of all cells that cover the body. Keratin filaments run within a cell and weave a "basket" around the nucleus (brain) of the cell. Keratins are a principle part of the cells in the outer layer of the skin, hair, nails, feathers, hooves and the enamel of teeth.

In hair fiber, keratin proteins comprise 65-95% of the total hair fiber by weight. Each molecule of keratin is very small - about 10 nanometers across.

There are several subtypes of keratin proteins, some are called "soft" keratins and others are "hard" keratins. Basically, soft keratins are found in the skin and are relatively easy to break down. Hard keratins do not dissolve in water and they are highly resistant to breakdown by certain enzymes. Hair fiber is mostly made from hard keratin proteins.

Hair contains a high amount of sulfur because the amino acid cysteine is a key component of the keratin proteins in hair fiber. Sulfur in the cysteine molecules sit side by side and are linked together by “disulfide bonds”. . These disulfide bonds are very strong and very difficult to break apart.

Stick with my little chemistry lesson my sisters. Because it is these disulfide bonds that are targeted in certain chemical treatments such as perms and chemical straightening techniques.

Alkali solutions are used to break the bonds and the hair then becomes very susceptible to forming new shapes. Neutralize the solution once you’ve reshaped the hair and BOOYAH (did I really just say that?) straight hair curls and curly becomes straight.

This really is breaking the ties that bind.

Back to my keratin mask… Well it’s bullshit.

It turns out that the cells in hair follicles make all the keratin protein that they require from amino acids supplied via the blood. Eating keratin protein does not help hair growth. Eating hard keratins as found in hair fiber is pointless as they cannot be broken down and absorbed. The keratins simply pass straight through the gut.

It would be much better to eat the constituent amino acids from which the hair follicle cells can make keratin. That being said… we already do. It is extremely rare in North America and Western Europe to have a deficiency in amino acids so severe that it affects hair fiber quality. Topically applying keratin to hair also has no long lasting effect. The keratins are mostly washed away in the shampooing process.

And so my sisters, I left the salon (looking like I just stepped out of a salon) 3hours later in life. I join the millions of women, salves to vanity, all to ready to lay down their time, energy and hard earned “Shoe Money” in search of the next great “Do” to make whole.

I submit and succumb. Gossip Girl season one be gone….. Good new is… at least for today… I have reached the female Nirvana… I am having one hell of a good hair day.

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