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.

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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!

Easy 5 Days Wash-Free

If your first thought upon reading this title was “Eww,” go back to Start. Do not pass Go. Once you’ve gone native, this will only feel natural and you’ll appreciate it fully!

Note: This is easier for longer-haired people, but shorter-hair-eds can do it for at least three days.

CQA-calDay 1: Do an oil treatment the night before, and use the oil and lemon juice mixture to clean it thoroughly. Wash and style hair as usual, don’t use too much product. Buildup and stickiness is what attracts dirt and dust. Before bed, put hair up in a loose pony or if it’s long, drape it up and over your pillow to keep it from getting sweaty at night.

Day 2: Spruce up your roots by turning your head upside down and using a wide-tooth oil-infused comb only at your roots. This gives lift and separates roots from your scalp for less greasiness. The rest of your hair should be nice and shiny from all of the moisturizing you’ve been doing. If it’s dry at all, add a drop of hair oil ONLY TO THE ENDS. Leave the middle alone. Apply by dropping a pea-sized amount of hair oil in your palm, rubbing palms together to warm it, and rake it through hair ends.

Day 3: Things may be getting a bit gamey. Take some dry shampoo, either chemical or organic, depending upon your preference. Spray/dust it only at the roots. Wait a minute, and fluff the roots with your fingers. Voila! Added volume. If the curls in the body of your hair are starting to look sad, wet your hands slightly and rake them through your curls. This is going to be a bit of a wild day, so maybe plan it for a Friday or Saturday. If it feels dried out at the ends, put a drop of hair oil at the ends only. Tonight you can braid it to keep it off your shoulders.

Pippi-Longstocking-pippi-longstocking-5584307-380-332Day 4: Today when you wake up your hair is probably pretty disheveled, maybe flat, and definitely not shining like it should. Braid it! I love braids, there are so many ways to wear them. First, brush your hair with a wide-tooth oil-infused comb — This is the only thing, aside from your fingers, that should ever “brush” your hair — and it will add volume. Now either French braid, side braid, braid a hair headband, braid it and wrap it around itself for a thick stylized bun, Pippi Longstocking braid it, the possibilities are endless! Accentuate with a thin bandana tied around your head if you are so inclined, or you can use a headband. I like slicking hair back with some water on top and spraying with hair spray to keep the newer growth from flying around all wily-nily. Re-braid, taking out all bobby-pins, before bedtime to keep it from getting tangled and sweaty.

Day 5: When you take your hair out of the braid today, your scalp may feel sore in some spots. This is due to dryness. Think of your scalp like the rest of the skin on your body; it needs moisturizer. Rub a dab of thick, good conditioner into the areas that are sore. If your entire scalp feels sore, rub a small amount throughout. This feels AMAZING. You can do it on any other day of the week that your scalp hurts, as well. For Day 5, if you’d used water and hair spray on top of your head yesterday, it will be kind of straight today. Put hair up in a high bun, and take any shorter layers or bangs and sweep and bobby-pin them to one side or the other of your part. Stay classy. I like to wear dangly earrings on this day to take attention away from my ‘do!

silk_pillow_cases_tiajwDone and done! Side notes to keep in mind are that dirt will definitely stick to your hair, so washing your (silk or satin) pillowcase frequently is important. I wash mine every two weeks, and more often if necessary. After you’ve done a full 5 days without washing/conditioning, you’ll want to do another mask or treatment that night. Your hair deserves it! You can also wear a hair cap that can be washed often if you want to keep “dirty” hair away from your face at night. Realize though, that it doesn’t get as dirty as you are thinking, as long as you don’t abuse product. If you’re working out or getting sweaty in any serious way, wear a sweatband just at the crown of your head to keep hair from getting super sweaty. Don’t remove it until after you shower! For daily showers, put hair up and in a shower cap.

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!

Product Update: Curl Creme

frizz-cremeThis past weekend I had the pleasure of partaking in a new hair maintenance product thanks to Sephora samples that were sent to me along with my most recent perfume purchase. (They sent me like, 8 amazing samples, btw. The best two were birthday gifts, but the others were just included in my purchase.) Now, if you’ve been reading my blog, you probably know that, for me, the basics have always been rich conditioner and a hearty gel. I’ve most definitely learned that mousse is not a friend of mine (leaves hair frizzy and sticky), and creams have always left my hair feeling overdone and clumpy.

I decided to try this curl creme sample because I was going for a post-oil-treatment, post-chlorine-and-sun-abuse lazy Sunday afternoon look. I figured it would just give me some nice shine and maybe eventually I’d have to put my hair up when it got insanely frizzy. Friends, I couldn’t bring myself to put it up, even later when I’d gone for a long sweaty bike ride! I don’t know the last time my hair has looked that good, seriously. It was definitely post-treatment too, which made it feel less product-y, but it was above and beyond the norm. I highly recommend it.

Below is how I used: Living Proof Nourishing Styling Cream

  1. Aprés-swim, I used some Devachan No-Poo to rid my hair of chlorine without drying it out even further with a detergent-heavy shampoo.
  2. I saturated my wrung-dry hair with MoroccanOil Restorative Hair Mask, and rubbed it into my scalp. Note: I alternate my treatments so that my hair doesn’t get too used to any one thing. The most effective is the homemade oil treatment, but it’s best to switch it up now and then for maximum benefit. Heavy oils are less needed in the summer months.
  3. I covered my hair with the usual treatment cap, tied it on with a bandana over the top, and went to sleep.
  4. The next morning I concocted the 4 tbsp. conditioner/4 tbsp. lemon juice mixture and poured that over my hair, concentrating on working it into my scalp, distributing it through my hair, and then thoroughly rinsing it all out. You don’t want any lemon juice left in your hair. I used my Aussie Moist conditioner for the cleansing mixture since it’s a decent and inexpensive conditioner that won’t be sitting on your hair for too long anyway.
  5. After rinsing, I applied one more slap of one of my new favorite conditioners, Avalon Organics Conditioner Volumizing Rosemary. It smells like I’m in a spa and works really well in rotation with my other two favorites: Creme of Nature Argan Oil Intensive Conditioning Treatment and Devachan’s One Condition. Again, you don’t want to use the same exact products every day. Rotating products, while keeping one styling product and one conditioner as your staples, keeps hair fresh and moisturized. I always apply conditioner to the middle and ends of my hair while my head is upside down in the shower, and then rinse it out about half way. Wring hair dry with your hands.
  6. I normally add in my base gel at this point, but instead I got out of the shower, toweled off, and raked Living Proof’s creme through my hair in a very haphazard way. Some of you may have noticed before, this is often the beginning of great hair days — not caring! Curly hair definitely has a sense of humor.

Without further fiddling, I let it dry throughout the day, and I didn’t even use clips at the roots for vertical body. It created the most beautiful curls on the hottest and most humid day that I’ve ever experienced in NYC. Zero frizz, my friends. This after a sweaty bike ride, a night sleeping on it, and a spin class the next day. Still going strong and still smelling amazing. This one is worth a try!

Hair and Body Image

curly-heart-mdIt’s been so long since I’ve written a heartfelt post, so here it goes. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately pondering the issue of body image. I’ve been speaking to friends and reading a lot of articles, and have started following the Body Image Movement on Facebook. I am bringing this up in the context of a curly hair blog because I feel, personally, that our opinions of ourselves are so inextricably linked to what others seem to see in us and our appearance. What does our curly hair say about us? What do our wide hips say about us? What we see in popular culture, clothing ads, magazines, etc. has an undeniable effect on how we see ourselves.

I read an interesting article in May 2013’s Allure about body shapes throughout time, and they discussed the idea of a “period body” (not what you’re thinking, gross!) that represents the physical ideals of the time. In the Roaring ’20’s, it was considered attractive to sport a waif-like physique and small chest. In the post-Depression era immediately afterwards, it was en vogue to have larger hips and a curvier body. Throughout human history, sociologists have agreed that in a time when food and resources are scarce, it is a sign of wealth and well-being to have some extra meat on your bones. Conversely, when there is a bounty of sustenance, restraint is a valued commodity and those who are very thin represent the higher class. In the Suzie Homemaker period of the 1950’s, a woman was valued for her wide hips and large breasts; outward signs of a mother and homemaker. As women entered the professional class and went to work in what were once male-oriented jobs, a more boyish physique was considered appropriate.

Due to the prevalence of body image issues and dysmorphic disorders that are rampant among women and girls (btw, men don’t escape this either) of all ages, we have to question what is at the root of it all. Of course we want to feel attractive and desirable to our chosen mating pool, but there is definitely a degree of competition among women. I see it every day walking up and down 5th Ave in New York City, near my office. Ads in every storefront proffer aspirational images of bony women in loose, drapey clothing. Women hailing cabs on street corners are so thin that I often find myself looking twice and wondering how on Earth it is possible to have those legs after puberty.

Full disclosure: I, myself, have struggled with a mild degree of body image disorder. I am thin, due to genetics and my height, but there is always someone thinner. There is always someone with a “better” and a more petite bone structure. No matter how smart you are there is always someone smarter, and no matter how fit you are, there is always someone fitter. It’s the way of the world. I believe in setting myself up for success, so I asked myself how to escape this constant comparison envy and reach for something attainable that will make me happiest with myself?

The first step of my self-liberation — which I am still and will probably always be working on because I am human — came with setting my hair free. I used to straighten it all the time; had dreams of naturally straight, full hair. I’d lament its inability to grow past my shoulders because I was constantly blow-frying it. When I read Lorraine Massey’s quote from Curly Girl, “It’s your head that needs straightening, not your hair!” I knew that I had found my mantra. What did straight hair do for me that my natural curls did not? I knew that more men seemed to find me attractive when I had straight hair. I knew that curly hair was often viewed as child-like and messy.

My belief, based on a lot of reading on the subject, is that the assumption that curly hair is unprofessional and inappropriate for today’s professional woman has racist and prejudiced roots. Super-curly hair has primarily existed on the heads of African and Jewish people and their descendents. Straight, lank, light-colored hair was found on the wispy Eastern European goddesses who embodied the elegant high-society look for most of the last century. For a culture that values a body type that is straight and without curves, it makes sense that the same would be expected of one’s hair.

I love my hair as it is. I have accepted that it is curly by nature, and I’ve nurtured it into becoming the kick-ass spiral-y mane that it is today. It doesn’t take much work; certainly less than straightening it did. I now think that I look much more attractive with curly hair than I do with straight, and I feel more like myself. The first step to baring my true identity was to rock out with my curls out. Now if I can learn to accept my curves with the same fervor, and continue to exercise and eat well for my own health and not to try to mold my body to today’s ideal, I’ll be in pretty great shape.

More importantly — if I can convince just a few of the fabulous women in my life to do the same, we’ll be unstoppable.

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