Product Alert! – Curls in a Bottle

CIAB-2I’m so excited to announce a new product that I’ve tested and absolutely love! As you may remember, it’s important to rotate all of the products you use, which are basic non-damaging cleansers (WEN conditioning cleansers, DevaCurl No Poo, DevaCurl Low Poo, lemon juice and conditioner equal-parts mixtures), conditioners (DevaCurl One Condition, Ouidad Curl Quencher Conditioner, Argan Oil conditioners, Avalon Organics Volumizing Rosemary conditioner, Aussie Moist conditioner, etc. etc. etc. and yes I have all of these and more in my shower right now), and styling products. We’ve discussed cremes, gels, mousses (meese?), you name it. I’ve found that a light gel works best for my hair type. Until now I’ve mainly been using DevaCurl’s Angel and Ouidad’s Climate Control gel because both are light hold.

Salt-Spray-RecipeHOWEVER! My hair has been looking stringy and angry lately, despite oil treatments and my tender lovin’ care. I saw a brand I’d never seen before when researching my hair type on Naturallycurly.com. [Btw people — check them out! You take a quiz to determine your curl/hair type, and then you can read all about other members who have your hair type and what products they use, how they style it, and much more. It’s like a Pinterest board of curly hair care. My type is 3a, and they corroborated my findings that a light hold gel is my hair’s bff].

This fabulous new gel is called Curl Junkie’s Curls in a Bottle (pictured above), and it was being used to demonstrate a DIY sea salt spray (if you haven’t seen this yet, it means you need to like my Facebook page). I just knew I had to try it immediately.. and yes!!! It worked! It’s highly conditioning with no harmful ingredients and was so light it looked like water. Since my hair can’t handle heavy hold gels, it’s perfect!

While I was at Ricky’s picking it up, I heard a young woman asking where she can find leave-in conditioners for naturally curly hair. The straight-haired lady behind the counter was directing her when I intervened and said, “NO! You don’t want to buy a product labeled as a leave-in conditioner. You just want a really great quality conditioner, and when you’re in the shower apply it, concentrating on the ends, after you’ve cleaned your hair. Then stand with your head falling back under the nozzle and let the water rinse out maybe 20%-50% of it.” It only takes a second for most hair types/shower pressures. So let this be a reminder to you all: leave-ins are meant to be diluted conditioners, but because they’re made to be stocked on store shelves for a long time and also because people want their leave-ins to feel smooth and not thick or sticky, they load them up with lots of alcohol and other drying, damaging ingredients to make it evaporate faster. Kind of counter-intuitive, no? Just use a quality conditioner that you already have and water it down yourself in the shower.

I saw the young woman head over toward DevaCurl’s One Condition per my suggestion, and my only regret is wishing I had creepily followed her to fully ingratiate her into the world of naturally curly hair care. But alas, I left her to her own devices and hope that she’ll find CurlyNikki.com or NaturallyCurly.com or even my little ol’ blog. So girl at Ricky’s, this post goes out to you.

Remember friends: As curly girls who have wrestled with the wave, contended with the curl, kerfuffled with the kink, it’s always our duty to spread the knowledge and love. Mentor new curlfriends and gain the satisfaction of knowing that you’re a big part of making this world a happier, healthier, prettier, and slightly more genuine place.

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CQA Interview: Renee

Renee after her curly conversion.

Renee after her curly conversion.

Renee is a friend and was the perfect candidate for curl conversion. A couple of years after following this blog’s suggestions, her hair is looking more gorgeous than even I could have predicted. Let’s hear how she did it!

Curly Q&A: Before you became a dedicated curly girl, what was your hair care routine?

Renee: I would use Tresemmé shampoo and conditioner, a second conditioner of Nexxus and then would use Biolagé as a leave in. Once out of the shower, I would use a detangler with a Sexy Healthy Hair cream to style, and top with hairspray.

CQA: Sounds crunchy! What made you decide to ditch the ‘poo (traditional shampoo)?

R: My hair was starting to get frizzier, impossible to comb, and I had to brush it. I started talking to other curly heads about it.

CQA: How long did it take to feel comfortable shampoo-free?

R: Probably a couple weeks to a month, I didn’t have the itchiness issues but it was just getting out of the old routine.

CQA: If you didn’t have itchiness, your scalp was probably screaming to be left alone and it sounds like you were finally hearing its cries. What is your hair care and styling routine now?

Renee before her curly conversion!

Renee before her curly conversion!

R: I wash it with Deva Curl No Poo once a week if that, and rotate days with using Aussie Moist conditioner and MoroccanOil conditioner. Other days I follow with Biolagé as a leave-in. If the weather is humid, I will use DevaCurl Angel light defining gel in the shower to finish. To style it, I use a mixture of Devacurl styling cream and Redken Curvaceous Ringlet and add Moroccan Oil curl styling cream if it’s humid out. Once a week I will also use a Moroccan oil conditioning treatment.

CQA: Sounds like you’ve really found a formula that works for your hair! It takes a village. What are some of the biggest differences that you’ve noticed in your hair health and appearance?

R: My hair isn’t as hard to finger comb, it’s softer and lasts longer between cuts. The curls are also much healthier.

CQA: Has it affected other parts of your life at all?

R: It’s made my hair routine so much easier and shorter.

CQA: Was there ever a time in your life when someone made your curls seem unprofessional or inappropriate in a situation?

R: I’ve had a lot of people constantly ask me if this is my natural hair and it made me feel uncomfortable when they’d respond with, “because most white women do not have as curly hair as you do.”

CQA: I just love when people feel totally comfortable remarking on women’s physical appearances in such ignorant and nonsensical ways. Is there anything else you’d like to share with would-be curly converts?

R: If you must straighten your hair, be sure to use a heat protector first as that was one of my biggest mistakes around my wedding; it damaged my hair and took months to get the curls back to normal.

CQA: Thanks so much Renee! You truly are a story of success and I so appreciate your taking the time to tell us about your journey!

Round or Flat? The Age Old Question Rages On

scissors_hairI have mentioned the importance of a proper hair cut on a curly head many times, but I don’t think that the subject can ever be given enough justice. There have been times that I’ve looked like a worn out hag or a wet rat because of my hair, and times that I’ve resembled a movie star strutting down the red carpet of my overactive imagination (major creative liberties being taken here, but you get the jist). Make-up and general face-issues not-withstanding, hair can really make or break a look. It’s based on the curl pattern and frizz factor of the day, but mainly, it’s the cut.

Until now, I have faithfully returned to my beloved Devachan Salon in Soho, NYC. They just get it. They cut curls dry without question, and use my favorite conditioners and gels. For years I’ve tried to cultivate this sort of “Mick Jagger” curly/wavy shag that fits my face shape, and sometimes it’s great, but it grows out really quickly and needs more maintenance than I can afford. Plus, I like the shag because it feels carefree and fun, and you can’t be those things when you’re always worried about your hair.

I have the types of curls that can be really glorious and well-defined, but also tend to either frizz or lie flat. I hate flat. Frizz I can work with, since you can use good hair oils and lots of conditioner and the right gel to keep it in check. But flat, blah!

I saw a great curly hair cut on a woman at the gym, and it was short and super layered. Think Meg Ryan in City of Angels. I had to ask her who does her hair, and it was a woman named Amy at Arté Salon, also in Soho. I was displeased with my last cut from Devachan, where one of the stylists I used to love seemed to rush me and not really listen to what I was saying. They also charge a s&^%load, as anyone who’s been there will know. I decided to go to Amy for my first consultation ever, since it was free and why not. I am in the tricky stage between wanting a hair cut I can love on the daily, but that isn’t too short or sparse to be used in a romantic ‘do for my wedding this August.

Course, thick curls cut in the traditional accordion style.

Course, thick curls cut in the traditional accordion style.

I loved Amy at first sight! She was so perky and knew exactly what I was talking about. She truly listened, and even more, she explained something that I hadn’t understood before. She has gone to many curly hair cutting classes, and the traditional way to cut curly hair has been to cut curls in a pattern that falls down your head in an accordion style, meaning that each strand is slightly shorter than the ones just below it. The reason for this is that it allows curls to fall on top of each other in a less upward-direction, diminishing the dreaded triangle, but also squelching voluminous roundness. Since curls have only recently become socially acceptable (hissss), there isn’t as much request for afro styles in the majority demographic. But take my word, they’re a-comin,’ and they’re fantastic.

Curls scooped out from underneath, with the shortest layers toward the bottom. This can be done with longer hair cuts, too.

Curls scooped out from underneath, with the shortest layers toward the bottom. This can be done with longer hair cuts, too.

This accordion cutting style works perfectly for people with thick or course textures, since they have enough hair to support some serious shape. But for ladies like me who don’t have as much thick beautiful hair, and top layers that tend to be more wavy than curly when long, Amy says that you have to do the exact opposite. You want to cut hair as if you’re scooping it out from underneath, so that each hair is slightly longer than the ones below it. That way the shorter strands underneath are pushing the top layers up. She even showed me how to do it myself between cuts so that I’m not constantly coming back for a re-shaping. It’ll take some practice, but when I have it figured out I will post a video.

The moral of the story: If you’re not happy with your hair, you deserve to be for all that money you’re spending! Ask anyone whose hair style you like where they get it done and book a consultation. If you immediately click with the stylist, great! If not, try to find a way to connect so that he or she understands what you’re asking for. Pictures always help! And remember to be vocal: I had to speak up so that she’d cut my curls dry instead of wet, and told her not to use shampoo on me, with which she was happy to comply. My requests solicited an irritated side glance from a male patron to my right, but then again, his hair was super boring.

CQA Interview: Jennifer*

Editor’s note: This is an unusual post for Curly Q&A, and it is one that I’ve spent considerable time contemplating. I aim to walk the thin line between helping men and women to accept their natural selves, and unwittingly convincing them that there is something wrong with them. My natural inclination is to do as little as possible to alter my appearance, while still appreciating it, which was the entire basis of this blog. Despite this, I’ve become increasingly aware of some major hair-related phobias streaming through the curly-headed minds of the strong women around me — the foremost being thinning hair. We’ve all heard about men’s hair loss, and it is much more socially acceptable — not completely of course, but more-so — than women’s hair thinning, and it’s generally equated with middle-age or older. The fact is that many of us will notice our hair thinning by our late 20’s to early 30’s. This can be a consequence of genes, stress, pregnancies, surgeries, and more.

The interview below was conducted with a young woman who noticed this happening on her own head in her mid-20’s, and she decided to do something about it. Below the interview you will also see a few tricks to help with the appearance of thinning hair. My advice is to fuss with your hair as little as possible, including coloring and straightening, and if you feel that thinning locks present a serious problem for you, it’s not unreasonable to seek the advice of a professional. Above all though, do not be ashamed — it’s absolutely, completely and totally normal!

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hair_anatomy

For starters, become acquainted with your hair and how it grows.

Curly Q&A: First of all, thank you for granting me this sensitive interview. Would you mind telling me how old you are right now?

Jennifer: I am 31 years old.

CQA: When did you first notice that your hair might be thinning, and how did it make you feel?

J: In high school I had very thick hair that took forever to straighten.  When I was 25 years old I began to notice that the shape of my hairline was changing — I was seeing a recession above my temples on both sides, as well as in the middle of my forehead. It became very noticeable to me when I straightened my hair that it was thinning.

CQA: What did you do to confirm whether your hair actually was thinning?

J: I decided to reach out to a male friend who worked at a hair restorative center to ask his opinion. He had gotten hair implants a few times, and offered to take a look for me. He said that my hairline looked normal to him, and that I should put it out of my mind, especially since stress actually will cause hair to fall out. I decided to stop thinking about it, and it didn’t really consume my thoughts again until 3-4 years later.

CQA: Why did it resurface?

J: It seemed to be getting worse, so I kind of freaked out and decided to see a dermatologist, which ended up being the best and the worst thing I had done up to that point for my hair. She was very cold to me, and when she delivered the news that her visual inspection caused concern, I broke down crying hysterically. The dermatologist went on to explain that the first step would be to do a blood test to see how my levels of iron, vitamin B6, and thyroid function were. She said that one possible solution, if I were lacking in any of these areas, would be to try adding more vitamins to my diet. If the blood tests came back normal, I could request a scalp biopsy to rule out alopecia.

CQA: What were the results?

J: My blood tests showed no vitamin deficiencies, but I still decided to supplement my diet with gelatin pills and more meat because I read that these things could help. I then requested the scalp biopsy so I could find out once and for all what was going on. The dermatologist harvested a small sample from my scalp, which (she claimed) “was the most obvious,” and took a patch of skin about 1″ in diameter. About 5 days later, she left a voicemail for me telling me that I do show signs of Androgenic Alopecia, the most common type of hair loss in women, which is a result of higher levels of a particular male hormone in the body. Immediately I broke down crying and shortly after I went into a depression. I spent all of my spare time researching female hair loss on the internet, and would even find myself staring at the scalps of other people to look at their follicles. I began to notice many women who also showed signs of hair loss and realized this was more common than I thought.

CQA: Did you have anyone to support you?

hair-rogaine

Before (left) and after (right) using Rogaine.

J: I called my male friend who had experience in this, and asked to speak with his doctor. I really did not connect with the dermatologist that I saw originally and wanted to talk to someone that I felt like I could trust, and who was on my side. I began seeing a trichologist who worked at a hair restoration center, and felt better immediately. He sat down and listened to me, and spoke to me about options. He also explained that the findings from my scalp biopsy was more a matter of opinion than fact since it’s not an exact science. There are parts of the scalp that will naturally exhibit smaller hair follicles, and that’s what they are looking for under the microscope to confirm you have alopecia. The main thing to consider was that if I did have alopecia, and any follicles closed up entirely, there is no way to re-open them. Through the use of topical medicines like Rogaine, though, hair follicles can be expanded to allow thicker strands to grow in, giving the appearance of more hair. I think that’s the biggest misconception about Rogaine; people think that it regrows hair, but it doesn’t. It helps you keep what you have and make the hair grow stronger and thicker. That’s why if you think you are definitely losing hair, it’s better to start using Rogaine sooner than later, because once the follicles close you can’t re-open them.

CQA: Interesting, I didn’t know that that’s how Rogaine works. Did you notice a difference?

J: I’ve been using it for 4 months, in addition to the gelatin pills and additional protein in my diet, and I have noticed an enormous difference. At first I was losing hair at a very alarming and very embarrassing rate, since Rogaine works by shedding thin hairs at first and then re-growing thicker ones. My friend doesn’t think that the Rogaine is the only thing to credit since it doesn’t usually work as quickly as it has for me. Reduced stress has probably played a large role.

CQA: How have you felt physically, with all of these changes?

J: The gelatin pills upset my stomach, so I cut back to one a day instead of two. I think I may have gained weight because of this as well, but I can’t be sure. The doctor assured me that there are no serious side effects of Rogaine, and told me that it was originally used in pill form as a heart medicine for women, so you may get lower blood pressure as a side effect, but they also noticed that women taking it were starting to grow facial hair! So, as I said before, it won’t create new hair follicles or re-open closed ones, but if you grow a little hair somewhere other than on top of your head, it will probably get thicker there. On the plus side, my eyebrows look great!

CQA: Wow, this has been such an educational conversation, I feel like I was with you through it all! Thank you so much. Are there any final words of warning or encouragement that you’d like to share?

J: Yes. I want to say that if any of this resonates with you, go ahead and do the tests and talk to doctors. And if it turns out that you do have alopecia, give yourself a few days to dwell on it. If it’s upsetting, let yourself feel upset. But then, after a few days or a week, STOP. I was finding myself becoming obsessed, staring at random people on my commute and in meetings at work — it was too much! It turns into a type of madness. The doctor’s last words of advice were to stop stressing out, because that was going to counter any steps we were taking to remedy my hair loss. I gave myself 5 months to try all of the things I mentioned: diet, vitamins, and Rogaine; and promised that I wouldn’t think any more about it during that time. It’s been 4 months and I’ve made such amazing strides! I’ve even been getting compliments on how full my hair looks. If I stop using the Rogaine I’d likely go back to the same problem as before, but I will re-visit that when I need to. In the meantime, it just feels like a huge weight has been lifted.

* Participant’s name has been altered to protect her identity.

Tricky Tips for Fuller-Looking Hair

As promised, here are some quick tips if you feel like your hair is thinner than it used to be, but like me, are not worried about long-term effects. It helps to look at your mother’s and father’s hair and to compare notes. My mother’s hair thinned in the same areas as mine has at 30 years old, but it hasn’t gotten any worse, so I’m not worried. If I ever feel like I should be concerned, though, I won’t hesitate to visit a specialist!

1) Put a dime-sized dab of conditioner on the tips of your fingers and massage it into your scalp. Use more if scalp feels especially dry. This will “fill out” the area between follicles a bit more, and ruffling the cuticles at the roots will make them look more voluminous as well. It’s also good scalp care.

2) Spray or sprinkle some dry shampoo on your scalp, only at the roots. Let it sit for a few seconds, and then ruffle hair at the roots. Do not rustle or apply to the middle or ends of hair strands.

3) Supplement buns with those silly donut things, they are easy to use and really work!

hair-how-to

4) Pin bangs to the side. This works best if you have shorter layers in front, but it can also work with longer hair. Instead of pulling all hair straight back into a pony or bun, take an inch-wide section of hair and bobby pin it to the side along your hairline with the least amount of coverage. Take the rest of the hair and put it up as usual.

5) Accept it! If it’s not causing any problems and you’ve never noticed hair loss before this post, guess what? You’re normal. If you have noticed it before and are getting worried, guess what? You’re also normal! We all have different genetic make-up and we’ve won a genetic lottery of sorts by getting a chance to live life at all. Focus on what matters most, and don’t stress the rest!

Oil Slick

Hello dear readers! It’s been a while. I make a point of only posting when I have something truly worthwhile to say, so I apologize if you’ve been feeling neglected.

olive-oilI’ve come across a slew of timely new products that don’t seem to be a total waste of money and are worth the investment: Easy-to-use hair oils. They come in many different brands and consistencies with a plethora of ingredients and application techniques that offer various benefits to hair and styling. I’d feel remiss if I didn’t mention that this is not a “new hair trend” by any means. Go to the small but super important “coarse hair” section of any drugstore and you’ll see products similar to these that have been on shelves for decades. This bevy of new contenders just comes in prettier packaging with highly-marketed branding, and the oils tend to be a bit more distilled so that they don’t weigh down finer hair types.

seaspongeThe first thing you should know is that the coarser the hair, the bigger the “pores,” and the more moisture that is needed. Think of hair porosity in terms of a big sea sponge with huge divots. The holes of the sponge are big so that they can absorb a ton of liquid easily, but the water also squeezes out more easily than it does in a more condensed sponge. Hair is this way too — if it thirstily absorbs everything you put on it, it loses moisture just as easily.

Below I’ve broken down a few that I’ve tried, which I’d recommend based on hair type, and how to use them. But first, a few ground rules.

1) Concentrate on strand ends when using oils. The ends don’t get as much love from natural scalp oils, especially on a curly head, and this is a big part of what causes split ends. And don’t shortchange your shorter layers — they have ends too!

2) Just because a product says to use it on wet or damp hair only, this doesn’t mean it’s a hard and fast rule. Hair absorbs more when it’s not wet — this is common sense. When it’s wet, it has already absorbed some water. When it’s dry, it’s only absorbing what you put on it. If your ends are feeling very dry, I’d definitely recommend using oil on them when hair is not wet.

3) Regardless of what some packaging may claim, hair oils are not a replacement styling product. They can be, if you’re ok with a slightly less tame hair day, because they will not hold curls together in a cast while they dry the way gels, mousses, and creams do. For an everyday look, you should probably expect to wear hair in a braid or bun that day to hide the greeeez.

4) How much you apply depends on when you are using it. Refer to the point above. I don’t style with oils on the “first day” of a hair wash cycle. Usually it’s when I go on to a third or fourth day that I start to feel like it’s a bit dry from days without conditioner. However, with very light application, and with a lighter oil mix, you can get away with running a bit over your gelled hair without greasy side effects. We also tend to wash less in the winter, and that’s when hair needs moisture the most. You will not use oils as much in the summer, but they are a great little product to pack in the beach bag for use after chlorine or saltwater abuse!

5) Your scalp can also benefit from oils. Itchy? Painful? Flaking? All of these can be side effects of a dry scalp. Not everyone gets dandruff, and dandruff is not the only indicator of a scalp in distress. Even if you have one spot that seems especially painful, rubbing a dab of oil or conditioner on that spot will soothe it instantly. It’s like magic. So if you’re already applying it to your ends, why not go all the way? But beware — this is an application site that will make hair look pretty greasy and you may not want to do it just before stepping out for the evening or heading to work. On the weekend? Cover up the evidence with a cute bandana or hair scarf.

6) Why not just use the EVOO in my kitchen cupboard? Ahh, the million dollar question! You can do that if you spruce it up with lots of yummy-smelling quality essential oils and mix them together before application. Otherwise, you will just smell like a fry cook all day, and you may get sick of that (unless you actually are a fry cook, in which case, go for it!) This is why I recommend the homemade oil treatment as an overnight remedy, not something to leave in your hair during an average day. The products below smell amazing, so any questions regarding your hygiene should be quickly dismissed.

7) Use hair oils as often as you feel is necessary, based on hair’s absorption. There is no drawback to using them, but if you over-do it you will see that it gets super greasy because it can only absorb so much. Over-saturation serves no purpose! You will know how to toe the line with your hair as you become more accustomed to using oils.

8) Wash with a real cleanser at least once a week when you are using oils. They don’t wash out with water and conditioner like other products and environmental deposits do. Because of this, you’ll want to treat hair, and especially your scalp if you’ve used it there, to some DevaCare Low ‘Poo, No ‘Poo, Homemade Lemon Juice-Conditioner cleanser, or WEN’s cleansing conditioner during shower time.

9) Start small. A dime-sized dab in the palm will go a long way. My hair is down to the middle of my back and that’s all I usually need, concentrating on ends and mid-length. If you need more you can always add more, but add in very small increments. Rub palms together and rake the oil through hair where it’s needed most.

10) When in doubt, read the ingredients!! Google any that you don’t know and you should get a good idea of how good or bad they are for your hair. Some synthetics can be extra slick, coating strands with more shine than moisture, so it’s best to go with products that have as short an ingredient list as possible.

Now, without further ado…

OjonWandOjon

– Course to fine type –

Ojon’s products come in two super-handy applications for all hair types. The first is in a bottle, and you can use it based on your hair’s absorption power with a dab in your palm that you rake through pretty liberally. If you need more, use it, but start small. The second applicator is like a mascara wand that can be used for flyaways. If you have a ponytail, say, and there are a few baby hairs that just won’t lie down, skim the wand over the trouble spots and they will simmer right down. This also works really well for straight-haired and short-haired ladies and gentlemen with stubborn cowlicks, so surprise your un-blessed friends with your new-found hair-saving savvy!

PalmersPalmers

– Coarse type –

Palmers’ products tend to be a bit on the gooey-er side, and can be used even more sparingly than the others. Coarse is not synonymous with thin — this hair type breaks more easily than all others, so oils are essential and Palmers makes a great product. Just because it comes in a spray bottle, that doesn’t mean you have to use it that way — in fact, I don’t recommend it. With a dab in the palm you are better able to control the amount that you’re using and where it’s being applied.

hask-argan-oil-and-hair-mask-L-oOR53vHask Argan Oil

– Coarse to fine type –

Argan Oil can be found in many product lines now, and with a variety of thicknesses and added ingredients. I like the Hask version, and it smells like a creamsicle. I use it more than any others, and it’s pretty thick so use sparingly and mainly at the ends.

moroccan-oil-treament-25ml-regularMorrocanOil

– Coarse to fine type –

MorrocanOil makes a long line of Morrocan oil products that have been widely circulated through the United States and they tend to stick to sparse, helpful ingredients. Their trademarked original oil is another example of a top notch product without too many unnecessary add-ons.

OrganixOrganix

– Medium to fine type –

Organix Penetrating Oil Renewing Moroccan Argan oil is my newest favorite for my fine hair type. It’s light enough not to look greasy, smells so good, and comes in an easy-application pump bottle. It may not offer enough oomph for coarser hair types.

WEN in Doubt, Try it Out!

UPDATE: The day after I posted this, a trusty friend alerted me that WEN signs you up for repeated monthly refills automatically, unless you can find the hidden way to opt out when placing your order (I never saw that! WEN, you sneaky B). So I emailed customer service immediately to ensure that no further orders were processed and sent to me. They replied within 24 hours as promised (see their response below), and said that no further orders will be sent or charged. My skeptical instincts were right on target! I still highly recommend WEN products, but either find the part in the form to opt out when ordering, or email Guthy-Renker@crm-inet.com immediately after to cancel future orders being sent automatically. You may also buy products individually at Sephora or Amazon!

$29 WEN Hair Basic Kit

$29 WEN Hair Basic Kit

Confession: I fell in love with the WEN informercial when I first saw it a couple of years ago. I found myself saying, “Yes, Yes! YES!!” (But not nearly as inappropriately as that Herbal Essences commercial of years past) to every thing that Chaz Dean was saying. “Condition a lot!” “Shampoo and sulfates are bad!” “You only need to cleanse your hair once a week or less!” Etc. He was speaking my language. This kind of advertising may also be part of what’s made it more socially acceptable to nix shampoo and the over-stripping of beneficial scalp oils in recent years. Thank you, Chaz.

However, hard-hitting investigative curl-journalist that I am, I was immediately skeptical. First of all, it was in an infomercial on QVC. Second of all, any capitalist endeavor is going to attempt to sell you as much as possible to keep the income rolling in. This feeds the antithesis to my theory — the one that has served me well for the past decade — you only need three products for great curly hair: A top notch conditioner, a gel or some other styling product, and a cleanser. The cleanser can even be made of household ingredients, such as equal parts water and baking soda, or equal parts lemon juice and conditioner (adjust amount based on hair length). The gel can be as simple as edible Aloe Vera gel from the health food store (try it sometime — makes hair super shiny. Must be refrigerated.) Oil treatments are simply household extra-virgin olive oil and conditioner mixed together.

See? Any purchase that truly is necessary is extremely inexpensive and limited. Of course curly girls are all product enthusiasts at heart, and I finally caved when I received an amazing $29 offer for a slew of products. The thing that I was most interested in was their cleansing conditioner. I expected there to be all kinds of naughty additives, but its ingredient list is pure as Alaskan snow and contains only healthy cleansers and conditioning emollients, such as plant extracts.

So now down to the delivery and product testing time.

[As a side note, if you follow Curly Q&A you will always be notified when new products are added to the Products page, so follow me now please! You may do so with the widget to the left of this text.]

My hair after using the Summer Mango Coconut conditioning cleanser and the Anti-Frizz Styling Cream.

My hair after using the Summer Mango Coconut conditioning cleanser and the Anti-Frizz Styling Cream.

The package came pretty quickly, probably within a week or less. The first thing I noticed was how much product I was getting for $29. The next thing were the little leaflets inside. I LOVE their Quick Start Guide, which details the process of washing and conditioning your hair in the healthiest and most efficient way. I’ve embedded that for you at the bottom of this post.

I also loved that all I had to do was answer a few questions and send a photo of my curls via email to receive a free full-size sample of their pricey Sweet Almond Mint Re Moist Intensive Hair Treatment. I also got two travel size cleansing conditioners; one for my gym bag and one for my travel bag. The main product that I chose, which is seasonal and can only be purchased in limited supply in summer months, smells like heaven on Earth. I opted for the special summer cleansing conditioner in Summer Mango Coconut, and the final leaflet in the package explained that seasonal products are limited and will be replaced with another cleansing conditioner at equal value if supplies run out. The cleansing conditioner really does make my hair and scalp feel clean after I use it. As always, I rotate my conditioners, so I will probably only use this one about once every other week or less, and regular conditioners the rest of the time. I could see it becoming addictive!

[When you’re using a cleanser, always massage it into your scalp as well as raking it through your strands. The hair at the roots need the most cleansing because they’re closest to the scalp oils, and the ends get the least oil, so they need more conditioner than the roots. This is why I recommend leaving some conditioner on your ends after washing. Those with shorter hair may not notice that this is a problem.]

Possibly the best of all, which is saying a lot at this point, was the Sweet Almond Mint Replenishing Treatment Mist. I sprayed it on my hair and it was immediately glossier, easier to run my fingers through, and felt so clean.

So that brings us to the last product of note, the Anti-Frizz Styling Creme. If you’ve read my recent post on Living Proof’s styling creme, you’ll know that I’m a recent devotee to this refined breed of non-sticky products. This one seems to be made more for people who want to straighten their hair with minimal heat damage, and not so much for creating a strong enough cast over curls so that they dry frizz-free. It’s not bad in a pinch, or if you’re just lounging around the house while it dries. If you’ll be out running around in wind and what not, you’ll need something with stronger hold.

I want to stress that it’s much less expensive to buy these products in a package from the WEN web site — I only linked to the products on individual vendor web sites so that you could get closer looks. They are very affordable when sold together. Lastly, referring back to my skepticism of salesmen, the amounts that they recommend you use in the guide below are way off. I use about three-four full pumps of conditioner for my whole head. Experiment with however much it takes for all of your hair to feel like silky seaweed, this will depend on the length, texture, and how much hair you have.

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments!

WEN Guide

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Response from Guthy-Renker canceling future automatic refills:

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CQA Interview: Michael

Super-star hairstylist and founder of Hair Room Service Michael Dueñas answers some of Curly Q&A’s hard hitting questions. Dueñas has specialized in curly hair care for years, and I met him when he was working at Devachan in Soho, NYC. He’s found a new creative outlet in the form of his upscale at-home hairstyling business, and his impressive client list includes Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Kim Catrall, the lovely Susan Sarandon (one of my favorite curly girls), the cast of Glee, and many more.

michaelCurly Q&A: What is the first thing that you’d tell hairdressers about cutting curly hair?
Michael: Each individual curl pattern is different, and has to be analyzed and cut accordingly.

CQA: What initially interested you about cutting and styling curly hair?
M: It is completely different than straight hair in every aspect, it was a new challenge and curly girls need some serious help!

CQA: What are your favorite frizz-fighting techniques/products?
M: The best way to fight frizz is with moisture! If you style your hair with a moisturizing product, your chance of a frizz explosion is very minimal. Your hair reaches out to the atmosphere for moisture (which causes frizz), so if you provide it with the moisture it needs, it will no longer reach out. The everyday conditioner that you use in the shower is great for controlling frizz! Schwarzkopf Professional BC Moisture Kick Conditioner is amazing for fighting frizz. It gives your hair exactly what it needs!

CQA: What would you say to curly-haired ladies who are unsure about removing traditional and inexpensive sulfate shampoos from their beauty regimen?
M: Sulfates have become so gentle that there is a not a fear if they are in the shampoo.  It was a big band wagon that everyone jumped on before conclusive evidence was brought forward. Some sulfates can actually add moisture!
(Editors note: this is why I’m always encouraging Googling ingredients. Some sulfates, especially those used in inexpensive drugstore brands, will not use quality ingredients in order to keep them cheap. Others are derived from natural additives and are perfectly safe. This applies to chloride compounds as well. Google away!)

CQA: How often should we cleanse our hair, and what do you recommend using to do so?
M: You should cleanse your hair 1 – 2 times a week at the most. The natural oils from your scalp will help to nourish your hair and provide it with the moisture it needs. Using a gentle shampoo, a soft cleanser or even baking soda mixed with water works. You do not want to use anything drying such as a product with tea tree or a volume shampoo.

CQA: How often should curly girls oil treat their hair?
M: Every time you dry your hair. Adding an oil to your pre-dry routine will help to add tremendous amounts of moisture!

CQA: What are your favorite products for curly hair?
M: My favorite products are BC Oil Potion Light, BC Moisture Kick, OSiS Twin Curl, Deva One Condition, and BC Smooth Control Conditioner.

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CQA: Which celebrity has your favorite curly hair, and why?
M: Andie MacDowell.  She is one of the few who will wear her natural curls without using a curling iron!

CQA: Any other tips for newly converted curly girls?
M: Give yourself a few days to get used to them. The first time you style it won’t be the best, it is always a learning curve! The more you do it, the more freedom from the flat iron and blow dryer you will see! Your hair will get so healthy that you can run your fingers though it while curly! (Editors note: True story.) Curls are fun!

Mud Runners Beware!

Can you spot my slight update to the Mudderella logo?

Can you spot my slight update to the Mudderella logo?

On Saturday I ran in a Warrior Dash with some friends. You’ve heard of mud runs by now if you live in the USA, and possibly even if not — it’s the newest way to showcase your crazy. They are races that involve a variety of insane obstacles such as barbed wire to crawl under, junk cars to jump over, fire to hop, walls to scale, lakes to swim, rocks to run over, and much more. I swore that I’d never partake in such a thing, but my decision was quickly reversed when I saw how many people have taken part in the trend, how much fun they’ve had, and that there are “lite” versions for those of us who do not consider ourselves “runners.” I am very physically active in many ways, but I’ve always struggled with running. Regardless of whether you go with a Warrior Dash, a Mudderella, or the full-scale Tough Mudder, one thing remains the same: You will get covered in mud.

For, as the genre name suggests, the main trait that ties all of these runs together is racing through the mud like a damned fool. Naturally my first thought was, “But what about my hair?” Now again, I am no scientist, but I know that mud has the ability to extract dirt from pores and possibly even venom from some vermin bites, so I can only imagine what kind of drying effect it might have on hair if left on too long.

Me on the left: Notice, no one can tell how greased-up my hair is! Who cares!

Me on the left: Notice, no one can tell how greased-up my hair is! Who cares!

I prefer to go at life with a proactive approach, so I decided to coat my hair with a ton of conditioner just before taking off, and covered my hair with an old bandana. My first inclination was to put on a shower cap and tie that on with a bandana, but I realized I’d look even more crazy and the thing would probably fall off anyway. Conditioner acts as a shield in all kinds of climates; it absorbs into the “pores” of your hair, saturating it to protect against humidity and dry weather. So wouldn’t it help the mud to slick right off? One would assume so.

Muddy_Mudskipper

Muddy Mud Skipper of Ren & Stimpy fame, for anyone else who grew up in the 90’s!

When I returned home, I rinsed my hair thoroughly, not to mention the rest of myself, and applied one of my favorite conditioning masks overnight. The next morning I washed it all out with lemon juice and conditioner, and it looked and felt like nothing had ever happened.

Problem solved! So now you have no excuses — if you’re healthy, in decent shape, and can find a mud run nearby, go for it. Just be very careful my muddy mudskippers, and know that you can always walk right by any obstacles that are too scary!

Curly Q&A on Facebook

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There are so many things that I want to say on a regular basis, and not everything is worthy of a full blog post. In light of that, Curly Q&A has entered the 21st century and joined Facebook! Please like my page and keep up on everything new that I and my curly friends have tried, seen, smelled, used, learned, visited; all in relation to wonderful curly hair. I’m a busy bee living in the greatest city in the world and I travel a lot and get to meet all kinds of people, so there’s always something new to share. Go ahead, give us a like, you won’t be disappointed!