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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tips for healthy hair

All my male friends are probably staring at their computer screens in shock right now, because after articles on immigration and discerning patriotism I suddenly decided to write about hair. I mean, how much girlier can it get?! Well, sorry guys, I am a girl - there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about it, nor would I want it any other way. And I do like my hair, I like it long and I like playing with it, just like any other girl you know. I had short hair for only one year in my adult life and I absolutely hated it.

Back to the subject... Every time I go in for a haircut, my hair stylist remarks on how healthy my hair is - despite a few gray strands here and there and considering my age. Those who are still reading this (instead of turning away in disgust and vowing not to come back until I write about something serious again), might be surprised to know that, while having good hair is a matter of genes to some extent, it actually doesn't require that much work. In fact (at least in my case) having good hair is a result of not doing a whole lot of things.

While good hair genes go way back in my family (on both sides), the environment I grew up in was definitely working against me: pollution, radiation, lousy water, not enough vitamins, half the family - smokers. What a great way to ruin your hair, your skin and your immune system (I was able to repair my hair and my skin, although my immune system is still pretty weak)! Here is a step-by-step breakdown of what not to do to keep your hair looking and feeling great for years to come.

(1) No blow-drying

That's right - unless I was absolutely positively pressed for time I have done my best to never blow-dry my hair. Instead, I wash it 1-2 hours before bed and let it dry naturally. To avoid tangles and weird hair waves in the morning, I braid it loosely overnight. If it does look a little "kinky" in the morning, I mist it very lightly with the gentlest leave-in conditioner I could find and brush it out.

(2) No curling or straightening iron

My hair is middle-of-the-road - it's not perfectly straight and not curly, it has a very slight wave to it. I do curl my hair for special occasions, but back in Ukraine I used a curling iron with a steam infuser, which made it easier on the hair, and now I use either the steam-heated foam hot rollers or sleep-in foam strips overnight (they are kind of cute - make my head look like a multicolored porcupine).

(3) No perm or coloring

I don't care if my hair can't hold a curl for more than a few hours (too thick and heavy) or that it's turning gray. I would rather let it do what's natural than subject it to the perm and coloring chemicals. If your hair color is really dull and you feel you must give it a few highlights, please, please, please do your research and work with a professional to find the gentlest way possible to do so.

(4) Not following instructions

When I wash my hair, I condition it first and shampoo later. You may think I am insane, but there is actually a method to my madness. Conditioner still does its job, plus it loosens the dirt that is stuck to your hair. In addition it pre-conditions your hair, before you hit it with shampoo (which is, essentially, nothing more than soap) and protects it from drying out. On the other hand, shampoo removes the excess conditioner, so your hair is not weighted down by it later.

(5) Not smoking

This dead horse has been beaten over and over again, but I must say it - not only is smoking bad for your lungs (this goes for second-hand smoke too, by the way), it also ages your skin and your hair. In addition, the smoke smell gets trapped in your hair - is that what you really want? If you don't want to do it for your health, do it out of vanity, but do quit smoking.

(6) No overly fancy hair ornaments

I do occasionally add a few baubles to my hairdo, but again - only on special occasions. Otherwise, I either leave my hair down or use the thick "ouchless" rubber bands for braids and pony tails. There is nothing worse than some kind of little clasp or rhinestone trapping your hair and pulling out when you are "disassembling" your hairdo. My wedding hairdo was very simple - curled hair (with the steam-infused foam rollers), lightly sprayed with a hair spray, pulled back into a half-updo, held with an ouchless rubber band and decorated with a very simple comb (which I tested at the store to make sure it doesn't snag my hair).

(7) Less alcohol - more water

As much as I love a glass of wine (or two) with my meal, I have to admit - alcohol also has negative impact on your skin and hair. If you are a dedicated wine drinker, like me, offset the negative effects of alcohol by drinking lots of water. Never go anywhere without a water bottle tucked into your bag. Yes, it will most likely make you run for the restroom more than usual, but think of it as a detox on the run - all that water is washing away some cellular debris accumulated in your body.

Happy hair days!

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