Conversation with Author and Health Scientist Audrey Davis-Sivasothy
The critics have spoken and many have labeled “The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care” as the best natural hair book on the market. This critical acclaim comes directly from some of the strongest critics on the market – the consumers. Many consumers that have purchased this guide are giving it an outstanding 5* rating on Amazon.com. The book is written in a light academic style and is offered in hardcover for $32.95 and paperback for $24.95 on Amazon.com.
Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, the book’s author, is a trained Health Scientist and freelance writer who has written extensively about how to care for black hair. Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss “The Science of Black Hair” with Audrey.
Audrey really knows her stuff and this is was a great conversation; so without further ado, let’s dive right into the conversation.
Kenneth: Hi Audrey. How are you today?
Blessed! And you?
Kenneth: I’m doing great. Thanks for asking. I must begin by saying congratulations on the release of your book. I’m a big believer in social proof and the number of positive 5* reviews for “The Science of Black Hair” are literally off the charts. How does it make you feel to have such a successful product?
Thank you! I have been completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support for this book. What started off as a handful of forum posts, then articles over the years – just blossomed into this project that has really changed my life. I continue to be amazed. While The Science of Black Hair is not going to be everyone’s “cup of tea” and there have been harsher critics, I am pleased that the naysayers are significantly outnumbered by genuine supporters.
Kenneth: Audrey, before we begin discussing hair and really dive into the details your book, tell the community a little about yourself and your philosophy on healthy hair care.
My background is in Health Science, and of course I am a writer. Health scientists are essentially behavioral scientists who are trained to develop policies, programs and interventions for target communities who are affected by a particular quality of life issue. Most of the issues we deal with are clinical health problems, but because health care is holistic, a wide range of mental and social constructs affect our health and perceived quality of life.
Hair is certainly one of those issues that can spill over. Hair was always a battle for me, and I speak about this in the book. My feelings about my hair deeply affected the way I saw myself in the world. My hair was damaged, thin and looked as depressed as I felt inside. When I started really digging into the research on hair, and our hair in particular, lightbulbs started going off for me. I suppose you could say that I have a laissez-faire hair philosophy. I am always careful not to condemn or criticize another’s hair habits, tastes, products – etc. I recognize an individual’s right to chart his/her own hair course. This is why I was determined to make The Science of Black Hair a book that could be read by people at any point in their hair journey.
The Science of Black Hair
Kenneth: In your book, The Science of Black Hair, you do a really good job of explaining exactly how to build a healthy hair regimen. Many women reach a point in their life where they want to take better care of their hair, but they don’t know where to start. I’m sure you’re commonly asked by women, “Which products do I need for healthy hair?” How do you generally response to that question?
In general, a cleanser, 2 conditioners (moisture/protein), a moisturizer and oil are needed for overall healthy hair care. Now this of course depends on your personal preferences— but that’s where I generally start as a baseline. I tell them that the specific brands of products don’t matter so much as the types of products. Once you know what a shampoo or conditioner is supposed to do – you can make informed choices about the types of shampoo or conditioner products that are likely to get you to your goal.
For shampoos, for example, textured hair types need products that are not stripping. Because sulfates tend to be the stripping agents in shampoo formulas, it’s wise to seek products that do not contain them. Knowing this, a wide range of product options becomes available to you in the sulfate-free shampoo arena. So instead of me telling you to choose ABC shampoo, I tell you to select a shampoo with these properties for best results. Brand a, Brand b, and Brand c shampoos then become available for you to choose.
Kenneth: I’ve written several articles on our blog about helping your hair reach its full potential. Generally, in those articles, I discuss the benefits of total body health. I really enjoyed reading the nutritional strategies that you provide for improving the appearance of your hair and the strength of textured hair fibers. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to read your book yet, what nutritional advice can you share with the community?
Great question. Your total body health is absolutely essential for improved hair growth performance. Our bodies consider hair, skin and nails to be pretty much expendable cosmetic accessories. Perhaps not that insignificant, but their level of importance is certainly demonstrated by the body’s allocation of nutrients. Because our hair, skin and nails receive our body’s nutrition last (after the critical functioning organs, of course), you have to be sure that you are eating a well-balanced, nutrient-packed diet so that these parts are not left out. If not, your hair will certainly pay the price.
You always want to be sure that you are getting enough protein, B-vitamins and iron for your body’s needs. Your doctor or dietician can help you determine the specific intake that is best for you considering your weight, age and medical history. The best nutrition comes from our actual dietary intake (consumed foods), but if you aren’t sure your diet is up to par— consider adding a basic multivitamin to your regimen. Nothing fancy is needed here, but please get medical advice before starting any type of vitamin regimen. You also want to be sure that you are getting adequate internal hydration as well: 2.2 liters of liquids each day for women and 3 liters for men.
Kenneth: Audrey, in “The Science of Black Hair”, you provide excellent advice for women who apply heat to their hair and that was probably my favorite part of the book. Heat damage is something that we hear about all too frequently. What do you suggest for those who regularly apply heat to their hair?
The main thing that we should know is that heat used in excess can definitely lead to hair setbacks – so it’s best to use heat sparingly. If you do plan to use heat, always do so on hair that has been properly deep conditioned in the previous day. Your hair should be rich with internal moisture before heat touches your hair.
Having moisture in the hair slows the heating of the fiber because water has a high heat capacity. You also want to apply a barrier product (oil or silicone-based) to your hair – one that transmits heat to your hair slowly. Rapid heating of the hair fiber is what contributes to damage from heat appliances, so employing a moisture and barrier technique helps reduce damage from heat styling.
Kenneth: Audrey, what can we expect from you in the future?
I have a few books in the queue at this point. One of the questions that I get a lot from friends and family who are not of African descent, is “Do you have tips for me in your book? So, there is a second hair book coming next year that will be more general in nature. It will be a companion piece to The Science of Black Hair, but will be one that anyone – no matter your race/culture/hair texture can use! I am really excited about it because it’s an opportunity to broaden my knowledge base and explore all types of hair.
I am also looking forward to expanding my Science of Black Hair Scholarship Program. This year we awarded 6 scholarships to deserving students and we hope to increase the level of funding we are able to offer next year. We are planning to publish their essays in an anthology book.
Kenneth: Audrey, that sounds exciting. Thank you for taking the time to discuss black hair science with Natural Hair Community. You have an awesome book and I wish you much success in the future. Finally, to learn more about Audrey, check out her website Black Hair Science and her book “The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care”.