SssBRING it on!

I hope that everyone (who lives in a four-season climate) made it through the winter relatively unscathed, both physically and emotionally. Days are getting longer, weather is getting warmer, and the sunshine is invigorating our bodies one day at a time. Ah yes, spring brings many things, among which is the reminder of our bodily hair existence. Perhaps you’ve begun waxing, threading, or even shaving again after a bit of a hiatus. Maybe your curly hair has been uncovered by a hat or scarf long enough for you to notice that you need a cut, trim, oil treatment or drastic makeover. Whether you have needs large or small, below is a little manual of next steps to help you feel your freshest and springiest. Enjoy and have fun!

littleAnjaLookin’ Fine: Good for you, you made it through winter and your hair is still on top of its game. Maybe you kept up a routine of oil treatments throughout the winter, and likely keeping hair covered with a hat protected it from sun and wind damage. Even if it looks amazing, exposure to harsh heating systems and clothing fibers rubbing against our hair means that we can always benefit from an oil treatment or hair mask every week or two. I am always surprised to see how much better my hair looks after one of these treatments. Here are Pro, Low, and On-the-Go options to regenerate those silky locks.

Mild Damage: This is to be expected as spring starts rolling in. Curly hair naturally benefits from added moisture in the air that comes with spring and summer, and the healthier and more natural your curly hair is, the more you will likely notice that you love your hair in humid weather. Follow the tips above to maintain a healthy conditioning regimen. If you’re interested in learning how to give yourself trims, next time you get your hair cut pay attention to how your stylist does it, and chances are he or she will be happy to show you how to do minor mainenance on your ends yourself. Make an appointment with your hairdresser and indulge in a healthy trim!

I’m Feeling Lucky: It is definitely possible to trim and cut your own curly hair. I do this all year long and generally go in for a professional cut once a year when imagesCAOEV51Zit starts looking too shaggy. Being blessed with curly hair, we can get away with uneven cuts, and cutting dry is a way to ensure that you are styling the hair the way it is meant to be styled. Our curls are not all the same, so cutting hair wet like stylists do with straight hair can be detrimental to our curls’ expression. Try watching a video and start with a little trim, and don’t expect final results in one session. I normally look at it for days and trim here and there as I see fit before I feel fully satisfied. You should also invest in a good pair of shears to avoid split ends. You’ll soon see how liberating and easy cutting your own hair can be!

Serious Makeover Needed: Perhaps you’ve considered all of the above and you need something a bit stronger. Book an appointment with your hairdresser, or ask women or men around you who does their hair if you particuarly like their curly style. Then spend some time researching hair cuts that appeal to you, and have photos with you when you go to your appointment. Explain to your stylist what your day is like, your realistic mainenance level, and ask any other questions you may have. They are usually happy to answer! Everything I know about curly hair I have learned from hairdressers and blogs.

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The Oil Treatment to End All

Hey folks! Well, we are in the final countdown to my much-anticipated wedding. It’s this Sunday and I will have a full report for you, along with pics of my hair style. I’m heading over to Arté Salon today to practice the style one more time with Amy, and then I’m on my own. She doesn’t do wedding hair, but has been practicing with me so that I can feel more confident doing it myself up in the mountains on the big day. I was reassured recently that I’m doing the right thing by styling my own hair at the wedding — no one has ever given me a fancy hairstyle that I like. Gotta take it into my own hands!

Image courtesy of NaturallyCurly.com

Image courtesy of NaturallyCurly.com

Before we get to all that, of course I have also been prepping my hair for the grand occasion. This includes split end trims (done in my bathroom at home, of course) and lots of conditioning, but most importantly, I’ve been going to Bliss Spa (Soho, NYC) for face and body treatments and I always add my favorite indulgence — Hair Dew. It is by far the very best hair treatment that I’ve ever had. The good news is, I’ve slowly broken down my treatment specialists and I HAVE THE RECIPE! It’s not expensive to get it done at Bliss, it’s about $35, so I highly recommend it if you ever go because they do a nice head massage. However, you can only get it as an add-on to other (more expensive) services.

The alternative is to buy the expensive ingredients and do it at home yourself as you wish. I’ll leave that decision up to you. But suffice it to say, this is the best oil treatment I’ve ever had! It has a balancing oil for your scalp (extra helpful if you tend to have a dry or itchy scalp) and amazing botanicals for the hair. This is A+ stuff, baby. So without further ado…

Ingredients:

Phyto Botanical Scalp Treatment

Phytocitrus Color Protect Radiance Mask

Phytosesame Hydrating Cream for Dry Hair

Procedure:

Start with dry hair, and it doesn’t matter how clean or greasy it is. First apply the Scalp Treatment. This comes with a pipette which is used to apply the stuff directly to your scalp. Use one full pipette per treatment. Place tip directly on scalp at varied locations and squeeze some out in each spot. My experience has been 7-8 sites on the scalp works best. Next, apply the Radiance Mask throughout hair. Lastly, apply the Hydrating Cream to the ends. Experiment with how much you use, based on hair length and thickness, but err on the less-is-more side since this stuff is $$$.

Once all has been applied, rub your scalp and give yourself a nice massage. If your hair is long or not staying put with all that cream in it, tie it up with an elastic band (alternatively — a less harsh tie that works well is the ends of sleeves on old t-shirts. Just cut them off in inch-thick strips and you have a round elasticy-but-soft hair tie.) Put on a shower cap or tie a plastic bag over your hair if you’re on a budg or like to upcycle. If you’re super attentive, put a heated cap or hot towel over your hair to open pores for better absorption. Let this whole thing sit for 20-30 minutes. You may also decide to sleep with the treatment on, which is what I do. Up to you! Take the heated cap or towel off before sleeping and tie a bandana or old scarf over your shower cap to keep it on straight and avoid staining sheets and pillows.

Wash out the whole mixture with 4 tablespoons lemon juice and equal parts conditioner, massaging into scalp. I’d suggest your least expensive conditioner for this step since it’s not in your hair for long, and its main purpose is to tone down the acidity in the lemon juice. Note: This will not make your hair blonde because you will thoroughly wash it out immediately after applying. Think of it as a shampoo. Do not leave it on for more than a few minutes.

Enjoy!

Voila! Your hair will be silky and amazing. I do this maybe a few times a year since it’s so expensive and is a lot of work. I’d suggest doing it a few days before any big event. Your hair has never been so shiny, believe me! One final note: Do not shy away from products that are for color-treated or very damaged hair even if yours is not. These just have more concentrated amounts of the good stuff and your hair will absorb it just as much as damaged strands. If you are ever choosing between two similar conditioning products and one is for damaged hair while one is for normal/dry, go for damaged.

Visit NaturallyCurly.com for more hair oil ideas!

In the name o3E2EBF0257E4D537FA90FA_Largef treatments and laughs, a tribute to one of America’s sweethearts. Thanks for everything you’ve contributed, Mr. Williams. You will be always be remembered. Who could forget the pie treatment mask?

 

 

Product Review: CURLS’ Gel-Serum Hybrid

yhst-67007254324410_2269_51235305Howdy friends! It’s been a while, but I made a promise never to post nonsensical traffic-driving blog fodder. I’m also SUPER busy planning my wedding (less than a month to go!) and will not forget to let y’all know about my upcoming appointment with my fabulous hair stylist Amy. You may recall that I’m doing my wedding hair myself, but I wanted to see if she could help me brainstorm and test styling techniques. I am not finding pictures of exactly what I want anywhere online, so I’m inventing it!

Wedding chatter aside, I have been waiting to update you on my most recent product purchase until I’ve given it a good thorough testing. The reason is because it’s very expensive, and I didn’t want to give advice either way before being totally sure. Let’s get into it.

CURLS’ Curl Gel-les’c, besides being really hard to type out, is a cutely-named, nice smelling, interesting styling elixir. Not a serum nor a gel, it embodies positive aspects of both: the conditioning qualities of a serum, but not the heaviness that usually drags finer curls down. It also has the control of a light gel. The love-child of these two styling products is a thin, syrupy mixture that can be used in very small amounts — and thank God because the bottle is super small and $25!

Absurd, you may say, to spend so much on an 8-ounce styling product, but one blogger made a good point by saying that she only trots it out on special occasions. I think that the benefits are probably greater for those with coarse hair types that need lots of conditioning with their styling aid. For me and my fine little mixed-Euro-ancestry curls, it made my hair bouncier, curlier, shinier, and much softer than usual. I used a pea-sized amount on each side of my head. My hair is down to the middle of my back when wet, but very layered. The concoction made my top layers super curly, so if you’re going for an extra-curly day, this is your product.

For me, my overall review is that I probably wouldn’t buy it again, but am glad I have it to use from time to time and it will last me a long time. My favorite recent find is still Curl Junkie’s Curls in a Bottle gel. But if you have a coarse hair type that needs lots of conditioning, or any hair type that gets dry very easily — even with regular use of conditioner (see: co-washing) and gel — I’d recommend giving it a try.

Grease Be Gone!

aloeA dear relative with curly hair reminded me of a problem I’d been having until recently. With the changing climate from season to season our skin must find ways to adapt; scalp oil production varies, causing all kinds of fun things: dandruff, oily scalp, hair breakage, flatness, frizz. You know the deal, why am I telling you?

My number-one method when this happens is to switch up the products I’m using. Most often the culprit is your styling aide; gel, mousse, cream, what have you, and all you have to do is find something that is similar in make-up but not exactly the same. For example, if a light gel like DevaCurl’s Angel works for you on the norm, try switching to Ouidad’s Climate Control gel or Curl Junkies’ Curls in a Bottle. If you’re more of a Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding sort of gal, try Living Proof No Frizz Styling Cream or Ouidad’s Hydrafusion Curl Cream. On the cheaper side, anyone with curls or waves will gain major benefits from the use of edible aloe vera gel. You can buy this at most health food stores or online, and must keep it refrigerated after opening. It doesn’t supply as much hold as the alternatives so you have to be comfortable with a less defined look, but it’s au naturel and makes hair super shiny and frizz-free. It can also serve as a great leave-in conditioner! If your scalp is a bit dry or flakey, rub some into it during your shower and rinse it out at the end.

Remember: If your scalp is getting oily or itchy after its been a dedicated shampoo-free zone for more than a few months, there’s usually some small tweak you can make to fix it. Don’t despair. If the problem seems to be scalp-related, try switching up your conditioners and any other products. As long as you’re water/finger washing your hair with conditioner every week and using a safe ‘poo-alternative every other week or so, you shouldn’t need anything more than a minor regimen shift. Bonus: You can always return to your original products when the newer ones stop doing their job.

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.

Wedding on the Way!

Hi friends! It’s been so long! I wanted to update you with some of my musings, and I stand strong against posting unnecessary nonsense just for the sake of it. This probably is just that, but bear with me because I miss you!

Arte Salon in Soho, NYC

Arte Salon in Soho, NYC

As you may remember from a recent post, I found an amazing new hairdresser, Amy from Arté Salon in Soho and YES that means I’ve ditched Devachan and their lofty(er) prices. Who knows if I’ll return eventually, and I still use and preach their products, but the salon staff and atmosphere are a bit uptight and I forgot what the fun neighborhood vibe can be like in a smaller salon.

ANYWAY — the countdown is seriously under way to my upcoming wedding. It’s going to take place on August 17, 2014 and my beauty regimen has been implemented pretty much since our engagement last year. I’ve included my skincare routine that was dermatologist-recommended and approved below in case you’re interested, voyeur that you are! My skin has never been better.

The cut Amy gave me the first time was monumental. In the words of one co-worker, “the hair cut to end all hair cuts.” However, in order not to thin out the middle too much so I can pull off the mystery hair style I’ll be rocking on the big day (No hints! You’ll see soon enough!) my most recent shaping had to be on the stingier side. Because of this, I’m kind of hating my hair lately. I also haven’t fully solved the oil-clogging-the-shower-drain fiasco and every time I do an oil treatment the bath completely backs up and we have to use Draino — which is so bad for the environment and old pipes, y’all. I will definitely be applying one this weekend and washing it out in the gym showers because it’s way overdue, but it’s just not the same. Sigh, the trials of living in a gorgeous pre-war Brooklyn brownstone!

In the meantime, I’m making good use of funky buns, sassy braids, and lots of hair accessories. I vow to make it through this trying time (insert sarcastic eye-roll here)!!! I will also update you soon with video footage on ways to cut curly hair to add some life to it between cuts. If you have gorgeous, thick, voluminous hair it may not apply to you as much, but for those of us on the thinner/finer side, you will want to tune in. I also love cutting my own hair when I can because it feels liberating. Coming soon!

In the meantime…CQA Talks: SKIN CARE

PM Instructions

1. Wash face and neck with Ceravé Hydrating Cleanser. I only wash my face once a day because I believe that over washing is bad (have you been reading my blog?!) and the best time to do that is after a day full of facing pollution and pollen outside. To keep extra-clean, wash your pillowcase often.

2. Dry completely, and apply four drops of Tarte Maracuja Oil to palm, then rub it into your face, focusing on wrinkly or dry areas. I do not have dry skin in general and I use this every night and I haven’t had any break outs, scaling, or issues whatsoever over the past year of using it nightly. This was the most severe winter I’ve ever lived through in the city and every other winter I’ve had dry skin issues from the freezing wind, but this year I had none. *Only use it at night* Some people I know use Vitamin C oil and that should have the same effect. I used to have an oily T-zone, but not anymore!

3. Apply a thin coating of Ceravé Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM to face and neck.

AM Instructions

1. Pour a generous amount of Witch Hazel on a cotton swab and wipe off your entire face and neck. Witch Hazel is a time-tested and grandma-approved way to fight redness and remove all excess oils before facing the day.

2. When face is completely dry, apply a coating of Ceravé Day Time Facial Lotion to face and neck. The SPF 30 is crucial to avoid sun spots, wrinkles, and signs of aging.

Bonus:

41GGyPC+FzLIf any parts of your body are dry, potentially starting to sag (ahem, ladies, this is me trying to be subtle), or even if you have any muscle tension or aches, apply Castor Oil to a piece of wool flannel and let it sit on the affected area for as long as you can. You can also apply oil directly to skin if that’s easier. It works wonders to keep my skin super soft! I wouldn’t recommend using it on your face, it’s too thick. Extra Bonus: Castor Oil also does wonders for your hair!

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!

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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!

Winter Hair Woes: Solved!

imagesWinter really is a b*^&% on curly hair, isn’t it? Every single year I debate cutting it all off or straightening it. This year I’m growing it out for my wedding so I can’t do the former, and I get it all sweaty with my workouts so spending $40 on a decent blow-out is not worth it.

There are some important things that we can do to help our curls, but they come with a few snarls. Here’s how to overcome them for happy, healthy hair!

1) Frequent oil treatments.

olive-oil_sq-e4b656991b973d6de22fb74a05922bb0650e9e5a-s6-c30The Problem: If you do an oil treatment every week during the winter you will love your hair. There are just a few issues, namely the plumbing and the time. With shorter daylight hours we find less energy to do the things we have to do, let alone the things we want to do. Aside from time, which would be easy enough to overcome, I have to add to the fact that I live in a pre-war building with less than stellar plumbing and every single time I do an oil treatment it clogs the shower drain. We’ve have to use Drain-O in our already old and unreliable pipes, and that’s not good.

The Solution: I have decided to do bi-weekly oil treatments and to wash them out at the gym instead of at home. Their brand new building and commercial pipes will allow for easy flow. Exercising with an oil treatment in your hair is always recommended, just don’t put in so much that your hair will be dripping, and limit yourself to the treadmill, elliptical, stairs and free weights, or activities where the head doesn’t have to touch machines. Sweating opens pores and allows for additional saturation to your scalp and hair follicles. Apply the treatment the night before so hair has had time to absorb most of it, then tie it in a tight bun and go to the gym, and wash it out when you’re done! Be sure to pack your lemon/conditioner mix for cleansing. In between treatments, apply lighter oils to your ends.

2) A hat to protect hair from the elements.

The Problem: Almost every winter hat is expressly made for straight-haired people. It tamps hair down and flattens the heck out of the top, leaving the bottom frizzy and unmanageable from exposure and friction against scarves and high-necked jackets and sweaters.

montera-newThe Solution: The slouchy trend has brought about a plethora loose-fitting yet flattering hats. To protect hair you can wrap it lightly in a loose silk or nylon bandana before putting the hat on, but you don’t have to. You can also loosely tie hair up on top of your head to keep it covered. Hat styles that work best are those that are semi-loose around the band, and balloon out on top to accommodate lots of hair. I love the hat that I got from a Caribbean market in my neighborhood, loose enough to cover a head full of dreads. There is also a smaller and more discreet version for people with less hair, which can be found in many mall kiosks and online. I’d recommend buying one in person so you can ensure that the band won’t be too tight around your head.

Click below for more ideas to make it through the long, cold winter. Above all, keep your chin up and remember that things may look a bit different, but you’re beautiful all 365 days of the year!

Read More:
Winter Shminter: Curls in the Cooler Months
Winter Hair Care
My Waterless Week
Scalp Care