Pill-Popping Your Way to Longer Hair

This is the new Poise Mag Feature I wrote on Appearex and Prenatal Vitamins. Let me know your thoughts and questions!

Appearex and Pre-Natal Vitamins are Put to the Test

In elementary school, I just about died of jealousy when I’d glance at one of my classmates’ long, flowing manes. I tried valiantly to grow my hair, but I couldn’t seem to get it right. It would reach just past my shoulders and then nothing. Fast forward to 2006—the same problem exists only now, those who possess the hair I covet are celebrities. So I have implemented a 4 Step plan to make this the Jessica-Simpson-Hair-Circa-The-Dukes-of-Hazard Summer of 2006. The 4 Step plan is this: Low-lights, Kerastase Oleo Hair Masque for Fine Hair, Appearex, and Pre-natal vitamins.

Step 1: Low-lights. Here’s the thing: Donatella Versace-style highlights certainly look great, but are the equivalent of a heart attack on your follicles. The number of shades lighter you go, the more breakage ensues, resulting in hair that simply will not grow. Add straightening, perms and hot styling tools into the mix, and your hair “will be very angry with you” as Amy, my stylist at Bumble and bumble says. Low-lights are a veritable time machine for the havoc you’ve wreaked on your hair. If you can’t part with the blonde, ask for both highlights and low-lights simultaneously. Just be sure to specify that you’d like 60% low-lights, at least the first time. You can gradually add lighter pieces as you nurse your hair back to health.

Step 2: Intensive conditioners and hair masques are also a vital part of the process. The conditioner that comes with at-home color kits is usually great. I frequently buy a kit, toss the coloring paraphernalia and just use the conditioner. It’s tragic that they’re a) usually good for only 2-4 uses and b) not sold as a separate entity. Shine Happy by Clairol’s bonus conditioner is fantastic. It lasts 4 uses, and you’ll want to take advantage of the product in addition to the freebie conditioner as Shine Happy restored my hair’s luster immediately. And people noticed. At $7.99 it’s a cheap thrill that delivers. Back to Basic’s Raspberry Almond Conditioner is another gem. It absolves you of all of your hair-related sins. It’s appropriate for daily use (the Kerastase Masque should only be used on a weekly basis—twice weekly max). I like to apply an enormous amount to my wet hair, rinse out and then dab just a bit on the ends after stepping out of the shower. You’ll notice a difference after just one application—it’s like a haircut in a bottle. Back to Basics is sold at drugstores for $9.99 for 12oz.

After Dolores, my uber-fabulous colorist in Philadelphia, at Jean Madeline Salon infused my hair with darker undertones and I had partaken in twice weekly hair masque treatments, I commenced Step 3: oral supplements. I ordered my first package of Appearex on its website: www.apearex.com. A 4 week supply comes in a monthly blister pack – not unlike birth control pills – and is only $13.99. The background on Appearex: it is a once daily dietary supplement that encourages nail growth and strength. Its active ingredient is biotin, which stimulates epidermal cells and affects the protein structure found in nails, skin, and hair.

I’ve taken Appearex for the past 3 months. As mentioned, it is designed specifically to increase nail growth and strength. My fellow beauty blogger, Nadine Haobsh, (website: www.jolienyc.com) lauds its ability to also improve hair texture and speed of growth as well. I deeply respect Nadine’s opinion on many beauty subjects, so I gave it a go. So, 3 months later, why am I on the receiving end of these questions: “Have you gotten a haircut?” and “Did you do something different? Your hair looks so cute short!” Meanwhile, I haven’t had my hair cut since before I bought Appearex in early February. It seems that not only is my hair’s growth stunted, it is actually … shrinking.

I will admit the texture of my hair has dramatically improved. It’s much softer and shinier—almost Jennifer Aniston-esque. But I chalk that up to the aforementioned low-lights and recent investment in Kerastase’s Oleo Hair Masque for fine hair. Also, when time allows, I blow out my hair instead of passively holding the dryer to it for 10 minutes and then launching a guerilla war on any remaining kinks with my Solano Sapphire iron.

What’s worse than mysteriously shrinking hair length? This is not typically the stuff of beauty articles, but I must report another charming side effect of Appearex is serious constipation. Like, weeks. Why, in the name of the Olsen Twins, should I be afflicted with such an unsexy ailment? As a proper investigatory journalist, I checked the label. It mentioned gastrointestinal upset occurring “in some cases”. Looks like I am in the lucky minority. That said, my nails (which were healthy to begin with) are growing like Craig’s crazy girlfriend’s talons in the movie Friday. Unfortunately, super-long nails are currently about as chic as lugging the tote you purchased with Marlboro miles to the Hamptons.

I’ve since ceased use of Appearex and have stocked up my old standby for healthy skin and nails: pre-natal vitamins. I am not with child, but I decided to test these for myself after a pregnant friend of mine was raving about how thick and lush her hair had become after she’d been popping these Elle-Woods-pink babies. I bought the generic brand at my local grocery store (about $6.00) and have tried to take one pill per day.
Here are some other pre-natal vitamin suggestions if you’re not a “generic brand” kind of gal:

Country Life Maxi Pre-Natal Vitamins

Nature’s Plus Prenatal Woman’s Dietary Supplement

Twinlab Pre-Natal Care Multi Vitamin

Rainbow Light Just Once Prenatal One Multivitamin

I’ve been taking them intermittently for about a year and they really are effective. I took a short break while giving Appearex a whirl so as not to overdo it. I’ve noticed that my hair indeed grows slightly faster when I take the vitamins religiously. While there are many different types of pre-natal vitamins that differ in their composition, the main characteristic of each is the extra folic acid. Most of us have diets that leave us relatively deficient in it. Because of these high levels, however, make sure to take the vitamins with food and a full glass of water. When taken on an empty stomach, they caused slight nausea.

Fun fact: in addition, folic acid is required for the production of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) that has been connected to mood. Studies have shown that folic acid levels appear to be lower in women suffering from depression. Frankly, I endorse anything that yields longer hair and a sunnier disposition.

If your summer beauty ambitions are limited to nails of steel, then I highly recommend Appearex. But if longer hair is your object of lust, then look no further than your local grocer’s vitamin aisle and toss some pre-natal pills in the cart. Alas, my dream-hair fantasy remains unfulfilled. Come July, I, like my predecessors, Kristin Cavalleri and Mandy Moore, will be joining Team Extensions. Stay tuned for my review!

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