There’s one thing every girl who surfs has in common. I mean, besides our love for the ocean and the requisite health and physical benefits. One of the downsides is, we all have hair problems. Just think of putting a fine strand of silk in salt water and then letting it bake in the sun, dry out, then wetting it again, then letting it dry… and repeating this for hours at a time, sometimes weeks in a row (ah, if we’re lucky). After collecting tips from hairdressers and other surfin’ wahines, I have compiled a list of the best-kept secret hair tips for the girl in the curl…
1) Wet your hair before you go out into the water. (This tip was gifted to us by Gwen at Paul Marie Salon in Hilo – check ’em out, they give good head…of hair…) Hair, when dry, acts like a sponge, absorbing water into it. Having it absorb regular water first will prevent it from absorbing the salt. And you may question the ability of hair to absorb large amounts of anything. But any long-haired girl who surfs can attest to the weight that is added to her head as her neck is being annoyingly tugged back. Just to emphasize its absorbency, NASA studies have indicated that hair may be a very useful tool in cleaning up oil spills. Future fem scientist Marguerite Blignaut, at the Kentucky Junior Academy of Science, followed it up with her own study and concluded: “Hair absorbs the oil which means the oil collects under the surfaces of the hair fibers. I used human hair in mesh bags and floated them on 10w40 oil-water mixtures. After two days I removed the bags and let them dry. An increase of mass indicated the amount of oil absorbed. I found that human hair does remove oil from the water surface and that straight dark brown hair seemed to be the most efficient.” Thanks Marge, good to know.
Does this mean they’re using hair to clean up oil spills? Nah, they prefer to douse the ocean with toxic chemicals from companies that they own shares in (hello BP disaster). It more likely explains why it’s so hard to get the oil off of the poor birds. And it becomes clear that, whatever your hair absorbs while it’s out in the ocean, likes to hang out in the fibers, so why not have it already absorbing at maximum capacity before you enter the salt water.
2) Apply some conditioner onto your hair as well. You apply sunscreen to keep your skin protected (preferably eco-safe, reef-safe, water-resistant options), why not something to protect your hair? This works best on damaged, coarse, and thicker hair. Apply when dry (with water) to coat the hair strands and keeps them extra-protected and prohibit them from absorbing the salt water. Even in the surf, my thick hair holds it in (particularly if I do Step 3).
Some surfer girls like to use the cheapest products on their hair pre-surf because “it’s just going to come off anyway”. Problem is, it’s coming off in the water! Keep in mind, as with chemical sunscreens, many of the ingredients in hair conditioners are toxic to corals. Avoid parabens, oxybenzone (benzophenone derivatives), propylene glycol… to name a few. Even products from health food stores can contain questionable preservatives as well as natural and essential oils (from jojoba to eucalyptus) that are harmful to corals.
The only manufactured conditioner I like these days is Acure Organics. Otherwise I find it easier, less expensive, and much more natural to grab ingredients straight from the environment here Hawai’i. If the awapuhi is going off (which it does a few times a year), you gently take the flower head, tilt it over and squeeze it just enough for a watery fragrant gel to emerge, and apply it straight to your hair (it’s lovely on the skin as well). This I use as a daily leave in – pre-surf and post surf.When the plant is not flowering, I rely on fresh coconut milk as my hair rinse or leave in conditioner. Not coconut water, not coconut oil, and not coconut milk from a can, but blended and nut-bag filter milk from the fresh coconut meat (since I make it for my morning coffee anyway, it’s easy – I’ll include a link to my recipe when I post it). This can be made with dried coconut shavings as well – though if there’s a fresh option that’s always the way to go. In Hawai’i if you can’t climb a tree and grab one for free, you can usually find coconuts for a buck from fruit and veggie stands in front of local homes of farms. On the very ends of my hair if it’s particularly dry, or extra frizzy, I add a dab of argan, kukui nut oil, or a tiny bit of cocoa butter. My hair prefers when I change it up a bit, despite scientific claims to the contrary. Oh well, these same scientists still don’t believe women “bloat” before their period. ;P
3) Braid your hair. If your hair is long enough, braid it! This will protect the hair from drying out and getting too much exposure. The braids will also hold that conditioner in. And hey, maybe even keep it out of your face while you’re going for that huge airdrop take-off. The best bet is using a hair tie at the top of the braid, and one at the bottom, so you’re not losing the hair ties in the water. Not sure if turtles are able to digest those things but I’m guessing the less lost hair rubber bands the better.
4) Rinse your hair out immediately after surfing! Very often us surfers pour a jug of water over our heads or a quick rinse at the showers and leave it at that. Well… there’s likely still some salt in your hair and is still drying your hair out (especially if it dries whilst exposed to the sun). Best to give it a quality rinsing when you get home.
5) Eat Right for Healthy Hair! Veggies are essential but vegetarians/vegans should make sure to supplement with some healthy fats / oils. Get your Vitamin B’s and B-12 sublingually – highly advised for everything from stress to breakdown of carbs to glucose. Minerals are also good for your hair, and magnesium oil, applied topically, will not only help for all the post-surf aches, but as a bonus keeps the gray at bay. Gaia Hair, Skin, & Nail Support is rich in minerals, like silica, that promote healthy hair (best to use it daily to see positive results). Chemical exposure, medications, alcohol consumption, smoking, caffeine, stress and lack of sleep can affect the look and appearance of your hair (including hair loss). Basic theory: do whatever keeps you healthy, happy, strong. Lucky most of us surfer chicks do just that!
6) Be careful of over-shampooing the locks. Many water girls use conditioner as their “shampoo” – myself included. But you should still shampoo once a weak to clean build-up and start anew. Try to avoid the overly harsh toxic WalMart-kine hair care. You can make your own with Skikakai, hibiscus, Amla (here’s an example of a recipe – I think for thick / curly hair it’s better to strain in cheese cloth before applying). As far as manufactured products, again, I like Acure Organics. John Masters Zinc & Sage Shampoo is pretty gentle on surfer grrl abused hair (but can you guys take out the sodium benzoate please, thanks). We’ve heard good things about Yarok Feed Your Moisture Masque – looks relatively clean (albeit pricey), we’ll have to test it out.
7) Don’t brush your hair while it’s wet. Flash back to a Museum of Science and Industry (Los Angeles) back in the ’90s. One part of the exhibit had a huge display showing before and after microscopic images of the human hair brushed when wet vs. brushed when dry. Suffice to say…don’t brush your hair while it’s wet. Coconut Girl Wireless contributor and my very big-haired surfing cohort Ms. ReefRash sez she won’t be able to get the knots out otherwise. Copy that! If that’s the case with you, use a quality thick-toothed comb or a very gentle natural bristle brush; get the hair lightly damp and apply a dollop of leave-in conditioner first before workin’ on it. Then do so gently and hold the hair so it doesn’t stretch and snap.
8) Wear a hat! Protect the hair while protecting your face. Reefrash wears a hat when surfing because she is about as white as a haole girl can get (nah, they can get a little mo’ white).
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Hawaiian women were known (are still known) for their lovely long brown hair. Was it the coconut treatments they did after swims? Was it their rich diet that included poi, banana, papaya, lilikoi, coconut, sweet potato, breadfruit, laulau, fish and seafood? Maybe drawing from a gene pool (including those of the Asian races that have mixed here) that is renowned for their beautiful skin and luscious hair doesn’t hurt.
Even if we aren’t blessed with perfect DNA, there are things we can do to have our optimum healthy hair. Some of these tricks should help balance out the abuse us surfer grrls put our hair through.
If you have any thoughts on the matter or product tips they’re always welcomed. Have a great hair day!
Hey, by the way, this is very important – disclaimer!: No health or medical or dietary advice should ever be considered without the approval of your omnipotent physician. Make sure on your next visit you ask what hair care products he/she uses! LOL. All seemingly knowing advice that appears within this article are simply humble opinions to be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, same grain of salt we are protecting your hair from…. meowxo
[article last updated 1/5/2016]