It took me two years to fully abandon coconut oil. The popular natural hair oil had left my hair brittle, dry and increasingly prone to breakage. As my curls were nearing shoulder-length, I realized that the Pinterest and Instagram videos were fun to watch, but maybe not so great for my 4b/c, low-porosity hair. It was time for me to take matters into my hand.
That’s how I found Wendy M.S.
Wendy M.S. takes an unorthodox approach with her online hair care blog, Science-y Hair Blog. It’s not updated as consistently as, say, Curly Nikki, but that’s because her posts take a lot of work.
As a scientist, Wendy focuses on the chemistry that goes into hair care, stating how pH, weather and even specific ingredients in products might interact with your hair. She goes past recommending just tea tree oil for an itchy scalp and mentions Zinc Pyrithione, all the while making this information as accessible as possible. She is one of the only bloggers to take a more scientific approach to explaining why some things work and why some don’t so that readers can begin to formulate plans and routines that work for them– not because they saw their favorite blogger do it.
I got a chance to ask Wendy a few questions about her work and why this is important to her. Some answers have been edited for clarity and length.
OM: Most hair care blogs and sites don’t get into the chemical make-up of products and how these can react with your hair, what made you focus on that aspect and why do you think it’s an important part of the hair care regimen?
WMS: I think the number one reason it’s important to have a grasp of how different ingredients react with hair is to be able to navigate ingredient lists on products and be able to pick ones that may work, or avoid products that won’t work. Consumers are at a disadvantage when buying hair products because the ingredients are not things we can relate to. It’s not like buying a jar of pasta sauce where you can recognize “tomatoes,” “onions” and “mushrooms” and choose according to what you want in there and what you don’t want. There is a lot of decoding to do with hair products. If we have a basic understanding of how products interact with hair, we’re less likely to be swayed by marketing, and more likely to choose products that will work for us. Ideally, we save money and time and frustration on products that aren’t a good match for our individual hair, our climate, or the final look we have in mind.
I used to buy all the “normal hair” shampoos and conditioners because I figured my hair wasn’t dry or very oily. I always wore my hair very short, or longer but worn up, so it didn’t matter too much. But at some point I decided to try wearing my hair down and then I realized that things like swimming, sun, wind – all did different things to my hair. None of them good. And as I learned how to manage that, in communicating with people online about hair, I used what I knew about chemistry and biology to explain what happens with products, and with different treatments. I was having a great time learning all these new things and trying them out in my hair and sharing with other people, so I created my blog to have a place to “park” the information so people could go back and look it up.
OM: Do you do your blog and hair care full time?
WMS: I do not blog full time. I have a blog post all ready to write, but I need to find the time to do it!
I have two jobs. Blogging is more of a “for fun” thing for me. It makes me happy to have something useful to share with people because I have always enjoyed doing things with hair, but I never wanted to pursue that as a job. I believe that what we do with our hair should bring us joy – whether we are women or men and whatever our age. Being able to work with our hair and get a predictable result should help us feel confident. Anything that makes it easier to work with hair on our own, to make that more joyful, is worth it.
OM: How has a science-y approach to hair care changed your own routine and can you tell me a little more about what your routine may be like? How has your hair changed since you started really digging into hair care?
WMS: I work as a scientist with plants and soil and archaeology. So, taking a “science-y” approach is a natural extension of how I think about everything else. How does this work? Why does this work? What variables do I need to consider? How do these things work together?
My hair routine has changed mostly in adding protein, which I had never even thought about before, and learning to use oils properly. I have pretty easy and forgiving hair, but it’s not very thick, so the sun and wind damages it easily. I have eczema and products tend to irritate my skin, my skin makes demands on my hair care routine. The best change I have experienced is that every time I handle my hair – I don’t do it to a “soundtrack” of my own hairs snapping off any more. I can recognize when my hair needs protein or an oil treatment or deep conditioning by how it feels and behaves. I can recognize when I’ve over-done something and I know how to handle that. I don’t have to think too much about it any longer, but it took a lot of trial and error to reach that point.
OM: Whats’ the number 1 mistake you think people make when caring for their hair?
I think the number one mistake people make in hair care is finding somebody whose hair is really fantastic and try to duplicate their routine, hoping to have the same result. Everybody’s hair is different! What works well for somebody else may not work for you. And that’s okay. Hair is seriously complex on its own. When you add the unique chemistry of your skin’s natural oils, products and oils you put in your hair, your water chemistry (hardness, iron, pH), your climate and your weather on any given day, your unique hair texture, your hair’s density, and your styling ability, it’s almost a wonder any particular product does work for a large number of people. Be flexible, be open-minded, if something doesn’t work for you, don’t take it personally.
OM: Anything else you want to share?
WMS: In both my jobs, and on the blog, I must translate scientific research into things that non-specialists or non-scientists need to understand. It doesn’t always work out as well as I intend. When we’re used to thinking about a subject one way, it’s hard to remember what it was like before you knew about that subject. But it’s beneficial for people to be aware of things like hair porosity or width and why a product might work, or why hard water might make using some ingredients more difficult. I think it’s exciting to help people apply scientific concepts to daily life. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I think one reason a lot of young people get turned off to science is because they’re not shown how integral it is to daily life as young people experience it. Hair is important when you’re a high schooler.
And because people are talking about things like hair porosity and protein or protein sensitivity in hair (hair that doesn’t do well with protein), product formulators are starting to listen and provide products for specific needs. Through bloggers and vloggers and YouTube channels, peoples voices are being heard and that’s inspiring.
Check out Science-y Hair Blog online for more information and to learn how science can chance your regimen.