What is Silk:
Silk is a protein fibre produced by the mulberry silkworm’s cocoon. This natural fibre (thread) has a triangular prism-like structure which deflects light at different angles to help produce different colours. Sometimes silk is referred to as Mulberry Silk in reference to the leaves the silkworm feast on (less valuable silk are from silk worms that feast on Osage Orange and lettuce) for about 6 weeks to support its development and growth. Silkworms are caterpillars that descended from the Bombyx Mori moth. Once they reached their full potential growth of about 3 inches, they are then ready to spin their cocoons in a figure of 8 movements by raising their heads. They spin their cocoons around 300,000 times and the process can last anywhere between 3-8 days. A silkworm can produce a single strand of silk of about 100 meters long which is held together by sericin (Sericin is a natural produced gum). It takes around 2500 silkworms to produce one pound of silk.
History of Silk:
It is believed that the Chinese discovered silk around the 27th century BC (Before Christ) when the Chinese Princess Xi Ling Shi was the first to roll a cocoon of silk which had accidentally dropped into her cup of tea (allegedly). Since that incident the Chinese studied the life cycle of silkworm and became the biggest producers of silk whilst controlling the silk market (and keeping the silk making a secret) for 3000 years. There is evidence that silk does date back as far as 3000 BCE (Before the Common Era). The Chinese exportation of silk in the 3 century BC between Asia (where the Romans first discovered silk), Europe and Japan (by sea) is known as the silk roads.
The Chinese only allowed the women to farm silkworms and many women walked on silkworm farms. Silk was (and is still is) considered a luxurious item and was very popular amongst aristocratic and high society. The popularity of silk grew to a point where it had to be regulated for over a millennium for the use to only members of the imperial family. Silk had many uses outside of clothing, such as it was made into a luxurious paper where it was used to pay the governmental officials.
Around 500 AD (Anno Domini), Byzantium hide some silkworm in his walking stick made of bamboo, where the Byzantines were able to cultivate their own (this action marked the start of the silk Industry in the Eastern Roman Empire). The production of silk started to spread in Western Europe. Over time the Koreans and then later on the Indians were able to discover how making silk therefore making the Chinese lose their monopoly on producing silk.
Italian silk was far so expensive and the French started to make their own silk locally as they wanted lighter and less expensive materials. King Francis first of France approved a domination for silk production in the City of Lyon and so Lyon became Europe’s capital city of silk trade. By 1845 the European silk industry declined when the silkworms were hit with their first diseases and this increased the price of silkworm cocoons. Fashion was also changing in the aristocratic and middle-class circle which mean that the demand for silks in garment decreases. With all the mishaps happening in Europe, Japan became the world’s biggest silk producers up until the second world war. Today, China has regained their control and are now the largest producers of silk in the world.
The Making of Silk:
Once the silkworms have spun their cocoon and eventually enclosed themselves inside. To extract the natural silk thread, the cocoons are then placed into a boiling water. This softens the thread and dissolves the sericin. This step ensures that the full length of the thread remains intact and undamaged.
The threads are then unwind from the cocoon in individual long threads which are then wined to make a reel.
Once the threads are washed and degummed, they are then bleached and dried to prepare them for the dyeing process.
In the past silk dyeing techniques took dyes from nature and the local environment such as fruits and plants (like the indigo leaves) where the threads were placed and soaked in a boiling hot water of whatever fruit or plant, they want to extract the colour from. This process to repeated few times over days to get the desire tone and quality. However, in today’s most advanced technology, manufacturers opt to dye the threads with dyes such as acid dyes and reactive dyes. These dyes offer a far greater choice as well as to produce silk in a highly commercially demanding market.
The threads are then unwind on to a bobbin so that they lay completely flat to get ready for the weaving process. The process is call spinning and there are many different types of spinning such as: hand-spinning, mule spinning and ring spinning.
Weaving is where the silk comes together. There are many different types of silk weaving such as plain weave, open weave (most common weave), crepe and satin weave (please note there isn’t such material as satin and many materials/threads can be satin weave. Best to get silk woven into the satin weave).
If designers require special designs or pattern, then the Printing stage. Printing can take place as screen printing (this is traditional printing) or digital printing.
The silk is then treated using different chemical treatment which provides the lustrous sheen silks are known for as well as adding valuable properties such as crease-proofing and fire resistance. This final step is a most and it is known as the Finishing.
Benefits of Silk:
Silk is one of the softest, shiny, comfortable and breathable materials on the planet and it have many benefits to the skin and Hair.
Silk thread is very similar to human hair- It is 97% protein, 3% fat and wax and contains 18 amino acids, this makes it very kind and supportive to human skin.
Silk contains natural cellular albumen- this helps to speed up the metabolism of the skin cells.
Silk support the moisture in the skin and can support in the prevention of moisture loss in the skin or hair. This promotes the skin to rejuvenate, slow down the aging process (of the skin), relieves dry and/or flaky skin by locking in the moisture. It also encourages moisture balance in the hair.
Silk keeps the skin cool in the summer and preserve body heat during winter. It supports the body to regulate its temperature and provides thermal balance.
It can absorb moisture up to 30% its weight, it is very absorbent and dries very quickly by allowing good air circulation simply by the thread increasing in size. This property of silk makes the fabric great for perspiration whilst promoting the skin to breathe.
Silk keeps the moisture in the hair and doesn’t tangle up the hair as the hair simply glides over the smooth materials. Experts in the beauty field believe that it helps to keep the hair soft (it does this through the ability to balance the moisture in the hair).
Silk doesn’t create static electricity, so easily, so it keeps the hair strands in place, doesn’t cause frizz or breakage, doesn’t cling to the body and is very easy to iron.
Silk is very durable and will maintain its appearance and quality time.
Silk is very versatile and can be used for anything such as clothing, accessories, rugs, parachutes, beddings, just to name a few.
Silk is hypoallergenic, so it is a natural fungal repellant and doesn’t attract dust mites. Medical experts believe that it rarely causes allergic reactions.
Studies have shown that silk doesn’t cause the face to get wrinkled (on one side) at night when lying on silk pillows and beddings.
Balasa, O; Accessed on 05 November 2020; Great Benefits of Silk Fabric; https://www.ageberry.com/great-benefits-of-pure-silk-fabric/#:~:text=Great%20Benefits%20of%20Silk%20Fabric.%201%201.%20Silk,degree%20effects%20of%20aging%20and%20…%20More%20items
The Ethical Silk Company; Accessed on 05 November 2020; Benefits of Silk; https://www.theethicalsilkco.com/about-silk
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These are summaries of oils that are great for natural hair and provides an excellent environment for hair growth, hair strength and thickness as well as length retention.
In the future, each oil will get explored in more detail.
Grapeseed Oil: This oil is lightweight and great to use as natural hair protection as it has a high boiling point.
Olive Oil: This heavy oil, is magnificent at conditioning the hair and with its anti-inflammatory property, it can help prevent dandruff.
Coconut Oil: This lightweight oil can penetrate the hair shaft with its antiviral, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties it can help prevent hair loss.
Argan Oil: Argan oil contains omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E; this lightweight oil absorbed into the hair, providing great shiny and manageable hair.
Sweet Almond Oil: This oil is full of so much goodness, such as fatty acids, magnesium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E, and antioxidants. It helps to seal in the moisture in the hair (keeping it hydrated for longer) and therefore providing elasticity without the greasy feeling.
Jojoba Oil: This is the only oil that is similar to the sebum oil (the natural oil the scalp produces). It is an excellent sealant as it locks in the moisture (water) into the hair.
Castor Oil: Castor Oil is a very thick oil that helps to thicken the hair strands and prevent thinning hair, breakage and hair loss.
Avocado Oil: This is another super oil that contains folic acid, amino acids, fatty acids, copper, iron, magnesium, proteins, and vitamins A, B, D, and E. It protects the hair from sun damages and good to use as a hot oil treatment.
Rapeseed Oil: Conditions the hair and helps to prevent hair loss, split ends and dandruff. It is rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 as well as vitamin E.
Mustard Seed Oil: This is another excellent hot oil treatment and support hair growth as it stimulates and encourages blood flow to the scalp.
Black Seed Oil (Nigella Sativa Seed): It has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant promoting a healthy scalp (creating a fantastic environment for hair growth) and reducing dandruff.
Henna is a popular plant used all over the world as part of a beauty regimen as well as medicinally use. In ancient Egypt, ointments made from henna were used to protect their skin from the sun and prevent sunburns. Indian women used henna products to cool off the skin during the warmest periods as henna contain cooling properties; these cooling properties can also help to reduce pain such as arthritis pain (by reducing inflammation), headache and other health ailments (such as draw out fever, detoxifying the body, boost hair health, speeding healing time etc.).
What is henna?
Henna plant is part of the Lawsonia genus species of plant and can grow between 12-15 feet high. Henna is a perennial plant- perennial plants and can survive many years in the wild. Henna first origin is heavily accredited to Ancient Egypt (Egypt is still the largest exporters of Henna for the world market) and is reported that Cleopatra used the plant as part of her beauty regimen. It is then used in the Middle East and in Asia countries such as India for Mehndi (they started to do elaborate designs on the skin after they discovered cools effect on the skin, as the Indian women were fed up with orangey/reddish colour hands). It grew in popularity in the Western world as a tattoo and now it is big in the natural hair community for all the hair benefits.
Henna oil, bark, and seeds are the most common elements of the used for medicinal benefits, and the high concentration of chemicals and nutrients in the plant provides the anti-inflammatory, astringent, antibacterial, hypertensive and antiviral effects.
Benefit for the hair
Hair Colour – Although most people associate henna’s effect on the hair to dying its colour which may not show on darker hair; it plays many roles for the hair as well. Henna has been proven to increase the strength of the hair and, therefore, represents a safe dye that doesn’t permanently affect the health of our follicles as it coats the hair cuticles, providing a protective shield on each hair strand.
Hair Health – Due to the protective shield the henna coats the hair cuticle, this prevents the hair from breaking as well as hair loss and increasing the shine and appearance of the hair.
Improves Scalp Health – Due to its cooling, antifungal and antimicrobial properties, henna helps improve and maintain a healthy scalp and can reduce and smooth things like itchy and aggravated scalp, dandruff, irritable scalp and any other fungal infections.
Enhances Hair Colour – Henna is a well-known natural hair dye, but it can also improve your hair’s natural pigment and prevent premature greying of hair or colouring out any grey hair.
Relieves Oxidative Stress – Oxidative stress causes an imbalance in the production of free radicals. It causes hair loss, hair damage, breakage, and premature greying of hair. Henna has antioxidant properties that help reduce oxidative stress.
Conditions the Hair – A study conducted in Palestine suggests that henna has hair conditioning properties. This is because henna helps shield the hair cuticle so that it can retain all that important moisture.
Promotes Hair Growth and Curbs Hair Loss – Henna benefits the scalp by improving hair follicle health; this, in turn, restricts hair fall and enhances the rate at which hair grows.
Repairs Damage and Strengthens Hair – Henna is extremely nourishing, which helps repair damage in the hair shaft and improves the hair elasticity and strength, therefore reduce breakage as the hair retains its flexibility.
Balances pH and Oil Production – Henna is one of the best ingredients you could use for oily hair. It helps calm down overactive sebaceous glands, thereby controlling oil production. It also helps restore the pH of the scalp to its natural acid-alkaline level. This helps strengthen the hair follicles.
Disadvantages of Henna
Side Effects & Safety – It can cause some side effects such as inflammation of the skin (dermatitis) including redness, itching, burning, swelling, scaling, broken skin, blisters, and scarring of the skin. Rarely, allergic reactions can occur, such as hives, runny nose, wheezing, and asthma. It is always advisable to conduct a patch test when using henna or any other product for the first time.
Colour is not guaranteed – As henna is a natural dye, there isn’t any guarantee of the end (colour) result as many elements can affect this, such as harvesting, weather condition, individual’s hair and where it is cultivated. Where the henna is placed and stored can also impact the result of the colour it produces on an individual’s head.
Removing Henna – Henna is very difficult to remove from the hair and requires a waiting time or around 3 or more months for it to be removed from the hair especially if you want to chemically colour the hair. It also may have undesired hair colour on a chemically colour processed hair if the henna is applied afterwards.
Dry Hair – Some people reports of dryness; dryness can be reduced depending on the other ingredients the henna is mixed with. Some people add some of their favourite oils and/or conditioners to help combat the dryness.
Allergic Reactions – Where the henna is not purely available, pre-mixed henna may contain lead and metals which can cause allergic reactions. Please read the labels of all pre-mixed henna.
Loss in Curl pattern – Henna may loosen the hair curl patterns as the weight of henna gentle hang the hair loose. Some people find this as an added benefit whilst others as a disadvantage.
Messy and Time-Consuming – Henna can be a very messy hair process as it is messy to apply and to wash off. Since it is a dye, it can stain anything, it lands on (especially white surfaces), so it is best advised to clean immediately once this happens. Also, it is time consuming when mixing henna as the active ingredient (Lawsonia) takes time to release. When applied on the hair, it also needs to be on the head for at least one hour for the same reason (Lawsonia takes time to release and coat the cuticle).
Jojoba (2017); Henna Cat; https://hennacat.com/blog/cooling-benefits-henna/
Stalnaker, H (2017); The Lotus Room; https://www.thelotusroomnashville.com/living-ayurveda/2017/9/25/healing-benefits-of-henna
Jennyogini (2012); Awakening Yogi; http://awakeningyogi.com/blog/the-cooling-and-healing-benefits-of-henna/
Robers, C (Access on 30 December 2019); Lush; https://uk.lush.com/article/what-henna
Study.com (Chapter 5, Lesson 7); Access 30 December 2019; https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-a-henna-tattoo.html
Silk and Stone (Access 30 December 2019); https://silknstone.com/About-Henna.html