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seaweed

The sea is calming and exhilarating at the same time. It is one of the Earth’s most spectacular natural features. Whether you're swimming, basking on the beach or taking a brisk walk along the shore, being near the ocean makes us feel healthier, both mentally and physically.

The same can be said about hair and skin-care products that contain one of the ocean's most important elements: seaweed.

I enjoy products that I formulate using sea kelp, a type of seaweed. I find the smell to be reminiscent of holidays at the seashore. After using bath products containing sea salts and seaweeds, I leave the tub feeling revitalized, tingly and nourished.

This article will focus on seaweed because it appears in many different hair products. It is definitely something we curly tops should consider adding to our daily beauty regimens.

There are many different types of seaweed. Following is a list of healthful, readily available types of seaweed you might find in hair products:

Kelp (Alaria esculenta)

Kelps include wakame and kombu (Laminara japonica kombo), and are sometimes called bladderwrack. Kelps contain alginic acid, which detoxifies by removing heavy metals, radioactive isotopes from the digestive tract and bones as well as toxins from the hair. Kombu is being investigated for the low breast cancer rate in post-menopausal Japanese women. Evidence suggests it may reduce estrogen, and lower estrogen levels provide less fuel for estrogen-dependent cancers like breast cancer. Kombu contains vitamins A, B, B12, C, and E, which is part of the reason it nourishes the hair. Kelp is added to various foods like sushi and miso soup. It also is wonderful in hydrotherapy. I recommend the dried, cut and sifted kelp as an additive for healing sea salt bath soaks.

Dulse (Rhodymenia palmata)

Dulse is a type of kelp similar to black-strap molasses. Dulse is very high in iron. It also is high in calcium, which is one of the most abundant mineral elements in the body, helping with strength and vitality.

Irish Moss

(Chondrus crispus)

Irish Moss, also called carrageenan, is a stabilizing and gelling agent in many foods, including puddings, soups and ice cream. Today, with the call from consumers for no animal products, and no products that have been tested on animals, it is being used to stabilize shampoos, conditioners, gels and other hair care products. Irish moss is frequently used cosmetically as a hair gel.

Spirulina

Spirulina is blue-green micro-algae containing beta-carotene, an important antioxidant. Its green color is from chlorophyll. Dried, sifted spirulina is added to smoothies, soups and teas by the level teaspoon. It is used in some weight sustaining and weight-loss formulas. In addition to its use in hair-care and skin-care products, Spirulina is used to boost immunity and fight diseases such as cancer, AIDs and diabetes.

Consuming Seaweed

With greater availability of Asian foods, we are blessed with the opportunity to consume more seaweeds, particularly in Japanese dishes such as Miso and maki (Japanese seaweed and rice rolls). Eaten regularly, seaweeds help combat several cancers, including those of the breast, ovaries and uterus. They also help with other feminine concerns, such as mastitis when breastfeeding, irregular menstrual cycles, fibroids and ovarian cysts, infertility, PMS and menopausal problems. It is a good source of calcium for the lactose intolerant. Seaweed also helps regulate the thyroid, which in turn regulates the metabolism, conditioning the digestive system and helping reduce or maintain weight.

Consuming seaweeds helps health and beauty by improving over-all vitality, encouraging healthy cell growth renewal and and improving the hair’s strength, shine and growth because when we are healthy on the inside, it shows on the outside.

Seaweed's Helpful Qualities: Hair and Skin Care

Hair and Skin Conditioning: emollient, defining and softening curls. Nourishment: trace mineral supplement, rejuvenating and aphrodisiac. Preventive: anti-oxidant, anti-toxic, antibacterial and disinfects. Treatments: pain, nervous conditions burns. Cell-renewing: cultivaties a healthy scalp

Tips for seaweed as a natural beauty ingredient: Look for dried, cut, sifted, pulverized kelp, or dried Irish Moss. Chlorophyll and some seaweed come in liquid form as well.

Sweet Water Wash

This is an overall cleanser (body wash), and conditioning shampoo. The African sea goddess and god Yemaya-Olokun inspire Sweet Water Wash. It combines sea kelp, Irish moss, perfumed with an ocean fragrance.

1 cup distilled water
½ cup soapwort root
½ cup powdered Irish moss
¼ cup powdered sea kelp
¼ cup coconut milk
¼ cup lavender water
1 teaspoon ocean scent (skin-safe fragrance oil)

Bring distilled water close to a boil. Add soapwort root; reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and steep an additional 15 minutes; strain through a sieve or coffee filter held over a non-reactive bowl. Return infusion to the pot and bring close to a boil. Add Irish moss, a tablespoon at a time, stirring vigorously with each addition. When finished adding all moss, reduce heat to low. Cover and allow thickening for a half hour. Then strain again.

Whisk together the coconut milk and lavender water. Then continue to whisk add soapwort infusion. Add sea kelp, one tablespoon at a time. until smooth. Then add in ocean scent (available here). To use, wet hair and add a small amount, lather and rinse. Wash the body in the same manner.

Store in sterile, dry, capped bottle with squeeze top, in the refrigerator. (Makes about 10 ounces; shelf life: 1 week).

Irish Moss Hair Gel

This natural gel will not flake or encourage dandruff. It adds body and shine and can be created for a fraction of the price of commercial hair gels.

1 teaspoon Irish moss ¾ cup water ¼ cup grain alcohol or vodka 1 teaspoon essential oil of your choice

Dissolve 1 teaspoon Irish moss in water. Put in pot and bring to a boil. Stir. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 8 more minutes. Then remove from heat. Whisk in vodka and scent. Whisk again. Leave to thicken overnight, or about 8 hours. Apply natural gel to freshly washed hair, divided into small sections. It will help define curls and hold hair into smooth up-dos or chignons. Or you can use it as you would a commercial setting lotion to set your hair in curlers before going under the dryer.

Herbal Sea Soak

This recipe combines the healing properties of Dead Sea salt, seaweeds and a green-blue crisp scent created from a hair-nurturing blend of essential oils.

2 cups Dead Sea Salt ¼ cup cut and sifted kelp 2 tablespoons pulverized dulse 2 tablespoons pulverized Iceland moss 1 tablespoon cut and sifted dried rosemary 1 tablespoon cut and sifted, pulverized dry lavender buds 10 drops Scottish pine essential oil 8 drops lavender essential oil 6 drops juniper essential oil 4 drops vetiver

Place salts, seaweeds and dried herbs in a non-reactive bowl such as Pyrex or stainless steel. In a separate small Pyrex bowl, drop in individual essential oils (from their individual droppers); swirl to mix. Pour oils over salt, seaweed herb mixture. Stir with a stainless steel spoon. Add to a clean, dry glass jar with top. Shake gently each day for two to three weeks. Add one cup to bath. (Makes enough for two baths; shelf life is three months if kept in a cool, dry location).

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