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!

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CQA Interview: Katrina

Katrina-Curls1Curly Q&A: I love your hair, what would you say are some of the biggest physical challenges of maintaining natural hair? (rather than using extensions, keeping it very short, or chemically relaxing it)
Katrina: Thank you for the compliment! The only physical challenge I would say about maintaining my natural hair versus a relaxer or extensions is that I have to wet, condition and comb through my hair every day or every other day at the least because it tangles very easily. Otherwise, my hair is really easy to maintain because I pretty much wash and go.

CQA: What are your favorite products, and what do you use them for specifically?
K: I’ve tried a lot of products as I am sure most curly hair girls have. I really like the Ouidad products, especially the conditioner. These products are designed for curly hair. I also love Carol’s Daughter hair milk, it’s a leave-in cream with oil in it but it’s not oily. I like my hair to feel free so I look for products that are moisturizing without being oily. I also like Argan oil, but not too much, and if I put Argan oil in my hair I don’t use any other creams or oils. I also like Phyto products; especially the hair mask, which is only used once a week.

CQA: Do you have any particular styling tips?
K: The styling tip that works for me is to always apply product when hair is wet and never dry your hair upside down with a towel because this creates frizz. I use a towel to dry the ends of my hair. Once it’s dry, then you can flip it so your hair is not sticking to your head; you can lift the roots that way.

CQA: How often do you do oil treatments? Do you have any favorite types? What is your oil treatment method?
K: I have done oil treatments but not every week. I like Phyto hair mask as an oil treatment. I have also heard of girls that use mayonnaise, egg yolks and avocado as an oil treatment. I haven’t tried that, but since I’m always looking for inexpensive ways to treat my hair, I just might!

CQA: I love your hair cut! How often do you cut it, and do you have a favorite salon/hairdresser? Do you cut it dry or wet?
K: Thank you! I cut my hair when I feel that it needs it. I like the way that Rayna at Cutler hair salon in Soho cuts my hair; she understands curly hair. I’ve also had it cut at a local Dominican Salon in Florida and they did a good job. I’ve had it cut wet and dry and I would say dry is definitely better because you can see the shape of the hair.

Katrina-Curls2CQA: Curly hair can so often be used as a sociopolitical statement. Have you ever felt that you were treated differently because of your naturally curly hair?
K: Yes, there is one situation that stands out in my mind. I’m a model, and I was on a very high end hair job; the hair stylist that they flew in all the way from Paris kept complaining about my hair. Keep in mind that I had gone on a casting and 2 callbacks for this job, and my hair had been thoroughly inspected and fine-tooth combed (no pun intended) for me to get this job. I was also chosen out of about 50 girls, so the client was very sure about me. This “big shot” hair stylist kept saying, “You have a tough head of hair!” and she kept going on and on about how she doesn’t use products and in Paris they don’t use hair like this for hair jobs. She had also written a “hair book” and in this book there was not one curly-haired girl. I thought to myself, “Some hairdresser, she doesn’t even acknowledge curly hair! How can you call yourself a hair stylist and not include every type of hair under the sun in your book!!” Anyway, I just smiled and thanked God that I was blessed with curly hair that I was being paid to advertise.

CQA: She was obviously jealous. Are there any other tips or tricks that you’d like to share with Curly Q&A readers?
K: I would like to add that on my off days I like to wash my hair, put product in, and keep it in a braid. When it dries and I pull my braid out, it’s beautiful and wavy! Whether you are born with straight or curly hair, embrace what you’re blessed with!

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!

Time for a Hair Cut?

UnknownThis time of year we are battling all manner of trichological tragedies: split ends, dryness, dandruff, breakage, etc., due to the aforementioned over-heating and dry weather. The question that I always battle myself is, when is it really time for a hair cut?

This question has become more strident in recent years, due to the fact that my Devachan cuts are far from Supercuts prices (as well as quality, of course) and I’ve been trying to grow it out for the past decade. I also have some complicated layers that I find increasingly difficult to shape myself.

The “time-for-a-hair-cut” indicators I use are:

  • You look in the mirror every day for over a week and see droopy, unhappy curls, and it’s been OVER four months since your last cut.
  • You look at your ends and see more splits than healthy strands.
  • You’ve tried an oil treatment and still do not see much improvement in the health, bounciness, and shine of your hair.

A few ways to prolong a cut:

  • Condition well each time you wash, concentrating on ends, and oil-treat at least once a week during the winter. This can become costly, even with the at-home recipe, but it’s important.
  • Try different types of oil treatments. Some focus more on hydration, some on protein-renewal. My favorite lately was a Hair Dew treatment I had along with a seaweed wrap at Bliss Spa in Soho, if you’re so inclined.
  • Don’t pull your hair up and leave it in a tight pony tail all day. For a greasy-day solution try a braid or two — it helps to protect the hair from environmental factors and is loose enough not to cause damage.
  • Wear a loose scarf or hat over the top of your head to protect the outermost layer of hair, which is naturally prone to the most abuse.

Winter Hair Care

hair-christmasHello curly friends! I have been absent for a while, but I wanted to pop up for a quick reminder on winter hair care. As I’ve said in the past, this is probably the worst time of year for curly haired ladies living in cold weather regions, and not because of the frigid temps — blasted indoor heating dries out not only our nasal passages and skin, but our scalps and hair as well. Every week I wake up one day and notice that my hair resembles dry straw, and remember that it’s time for another oil treatment. These get expensive, since they use a lot of conditioner in both the treatment and cleansing phases, but they are absolutely necessary this time of year. The last thing you want is breakage when you’ve worked so hard to maintain your length.

In addition to weekly oil treatments of one kind or another, your scalp may need a little extra TLC. If you notice a weird kind of uncomfortable pain that radiates around your entire scalp, take a little dab of conditioner and rub it into your scalp as you would with body cream on your skin. This can be done when the hair is dry. The pain is just chapped skin, and the conditioner will soak right in. Don’t use too much though, a little goes a long way, and try to keep it off your hair as much as possible so that it doesn’t appear greasy.

Other than that, dress warm and cover up! If you’re looking for the best diffuser around so that you don’t have to go outside with wet hair, try this one. Its design doesn’t scrunch the curls and allows them to dry the way you’ve styled them. This also adds to the creation of hay-hair in the winter, so use it sparingly. I wash my hair about every 3-4 days or less this time of year.

Happy Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, whatever else you celebrate, and Happy and healthy New Year. I look forward to seeing you in 2013!

Lots of Love, your Shepherd to Curldom

My Waterless Week

I’m a strong believer in making lemonade out of lemons — after I’ve stomped on, cursed at, complained about, and otherwise viciously abused those lemons. That being said, when we realized that the boiler in the basement of the old building we just moved into has gone kaput, and will apparently take weeks to fix just as we’re starting to get snow and frigid temps here, I was forced to face some hard truths when it came to my hair.

I feel your pain, little guy!

First of all, who wants to sleep with a wet oil-treated head when it’s freezing in your bedroom? Not me, which doesn’t bode well for my poor wind-bedraggled mane. Second of all, no matter how much I diffuse my curls after washing them, they will always stay wet and I’ll be freezing again within a matter of minutes. Now, it’s easy for you in your warm seat atop your ivory tower to say that I should just suck it up and wear warmer clothes. But friends, when you’re in a freezing apartment at night and the cold is so bad that it’s seeping into your bones until you sit in front of a space heater for a good 20 minutes, the last thing you want is long wet hair dripping down your back or soaking through your pillow as you try to go to sleep. Washing in the morning is even worse with temperamental winds that feel like ice picks hitting you from every direction.

So the aforementioned lemons needed some sweetening. How can I find a way to have fun with this? I knew I didn’t want to straighten my hair, I could be more creative. Thus began the 1-week wash-free challenge.

Some of you will say,big deal, I go a week without washing my hair all the time.” Ladies or gents, this post is not for you. It’s for those of us whose thin hair gets quickly and easily greasy from product use, dirt and crud from city living, or sweaty work-outs. For those of you screaming “EWWW,” just remember that daily hair washings are a very new phenomenon as far as mankind is concerned, and is a product of our over-obsession with being squeaky clean and bacteria-free. Any crud in your hair is nothing compared to that on your jackets, shoes, and kitchen sponges. Also, VERY IMPORTANT: I am not saying shower-free. I am still showering and washing my body every day.

If you’re interested in how I maintained a relatively normal 7 days with work-outs, going to my office in Manhattan of all places from Monday to Friday, and doing all of my usual routine stuff, please read on for a daily play-by-play and you just may learn a trick or two.

Day 1: Sunday. I washed my hair after taking a nice jog outside. It was early enough in the day that I could sit in front of the space heater and wait for it to try completely before going anywhere. I used minimal gel, about 2/3 of what I usually use. The more product you have in your hair, the cruddier it will get.

Day 2: Monday. I woke up with clean hair; I had been careful the night before to keep it up off my neck by fanning it out over my pillow while I slept. Fluffed it up a little and left for work.

Klorane dry shampoo spray.

Day 3: Tuesday. It was starting to look a little tired, so I sprayed in some nice volumizing dry shampoo after I woke up. I prefer my natural powder brand, but in a pinch the Klorane spray brand gives you a much cleaner feeling. Fluffed up my roots and went to work.

Day 4: Wednesday. My hair held up pretty well after the dry shampoo, and I slept with a side braid to keep it off my neck and to reduce snarls. Still, when I woke up this morning my roots were feeling pretty stiff and greasy. I grabbed a boar-bristle round brush and my blow-drier. (My fabulous hair stylist/model friend taught me this trick for eliminating oil at the scalp and adding height to the roots.) I concentrated on my roots and lifted the hair with the boar-bristle brush while aiming the blow drier directly at my roots. I did this all around my head. I did not pull the brush through my hair in order to disrupt the curls as little as possible. This gave me a much more unstructured look, but I loved how full and long it appeared! Sometimes it’s ok to have a more tousled style. In order to make it a bit more organized, twist some of the curls with a slightly wet finger to add definition amidst the chaos. So far this was my favorite hair day this week!

The sock bun. Photo courtesy of Hello Giggles.

Day 5: Thursday. It was time to embrace the grease and try the famous sock bun. Looked awesome, and I wet the palms of my hands and ran them lightly over my hair around the crown (not touching the bun) and then put a light coat of gel on my palms and ran that over my hair as well. It kept frizzies in place all day. During my morning commute, in order to combat wind-fraying or impromptu humidity in the subway, I wrapped a light scarf loosely around my head.

Day 6: Friday. I woke up and felt once again that my roots needed a little lift and de-greasing. This time I reached for my Cold Spring Apothecary all natural dry shampoo made with no harmful chemicals or inhalants. I separated my hair into several different parts and sprinkled it directly onto my scalp. I then rubbed it in, carefully threading my fingers under my top canopy of hair so I wouldn’t ruffle the strands themselves. Next, I put my hair in a high pony tail so that the front of my hair maintained a little lift around the crown, and I braided the pony tail. Then I took several bobby pins and pinned the braid to the back of my head to disguise any greasiness or unkempt curls there. It kind of resembled the back of a corset, which was pretty neat! I then sprayed some hair spray around the crown of my head to keep flyaways in line.

Day 7: Saturday. I woke up for my morning run and employed the sock bun again, but this time with a much larger leg warmer instead. It was kind of funny running with this big sock on my head, but I also pinned it in place with tons of bobbies and put a thick cloth headband around my head to keep my ears warm and sweat off of my hair. When I got home I took it all down and it actually wasn’t bad! But it did need more body. So for my final act during this waterless week, I prepped to go out with my boyfriend and another couple for dinner. I grabbed a comb and started back combing my hair at the ends this time, not at the root. This gave me some extra body. Then I piled my hair up again on top of my head and smoothed back frizzies around my face, and did the leg-warmer bun again. With the added volume it looked amazing! The hair around my face was starting to look a little worn, so I drew some extra attention to the bun by wrapping a cool metallic headband I have around the base of the bun and clipping it into place. I felt very Hepburn-esque!

So here we are again at Sunday and I washed my hair the moment I woke up. I really enjoyed this experiment, and if we don’t get some serious heat in this place I can see it becoming a rather regular occurrence this winter. My hair is definitely no worse for the wear, I guess the oils from my scalp helped to keep it moisturized even without an oil treatment.

Lessons Learned:

* A week water-free isn’t so bad if you keep on top of scalp greasiness by blow drying it and using dry shampoo. Just limit aerosol use since it’s not good for you!

* Toward the end of the week, learn to work with the grease. Choose styles that require your hair to be plastered to your head, then just frizz out the ends for more body.

* The sock bun is a great way to limit sweat distribution throughout your hair while you’re working out! Just don’t use it if you’re going to be turning upside down or doing jumping jacks a lot, that could get messy.

* Wearing a scarf loosely over my hair instead of a hat elicits weird looks from strangers and co-workers. Still not going to stop doing it because it works!

* Not a single person seemed to notice that my hair was unwashed all week, and I suspect that my hair appreciated a break from the wash and dry routine.

Voila! I hope I’ve convinced you to try a waterless week yourself sometime, it really forces you to be creative, and there are lots of blogs with fun hair ideas that you should experiment with. Enjoy, and stay warm!

Strong-Hold Gels

I had the pleasure of experiencing an evening at Devachan’s location on Broome Street last night, and as always, walked away with delightfully new-found knowledge. The woman who was washing my hair mentioned that she always thought she had straight hair, which I hear is often the case with wavy-tressed beauties, but is not something that I can begin to fathom.

It was when she started using a strong-hold hair gel that she found that she was able to maintain a more authentic curl in her hair, because the hold would cement the scrunched up curls that she created during the product application process. So I wondered if the reverse was also true–if I wanted to dry my curls by squeezing them in my usual downward-pressing motion to lengthen them, would it stand to reason that the strong-hold gel would retain the straighter strands that I’d created? Up until now, I’d always thought that the stronger hold gels were simply best at flattening hair down as much as possible. I definitely didn’t think they’d hold a wavy-haired persons locks to a curlier standard.

Well, alas my dear readers, it did! The curls dried much longer and looser (not flat, but loose and still voluminous) than they normally do when I wring them dry the same way. So new rule for strong-hold gels: They are best used sparingly on hair that is accustomed to lighter hold, maybe half the amount that you’d normally apply, but they are perfect for maintaining your hair’s shape if you want curls to have roughly the same pattern dry as they do wet. (ie: Scrunch hair upward for curlier strands, and wring them going from scalp to ends for longer, looser strands.) Be sure to scrunch the gel out once the hair is dry.

Note: Stronger gels will also stick to your hair and attract more dust, so be sure to use a cleanser next time you wash, and I don’t recommend using strong-hold gels as an every-day hair treat as they will really gook up your hair over time.

I Recommend: Devachan’s new DevaCurl Ultra Defining Gel. Just use sparingly–don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Cast-Away Curls: A Gel Story

Don’t fall prey to the crunchy curls!

It occurred to me yesterday that perhaps a lot of curly girls don’t know how gel is meant to work in our hair. This realization came about when someone asked me why my hair had looked “wet and crunchy” in the morning, and soft and bouncy that same afternoon. Yes, she was a straight-haired woman, but her question reminded me of how many curly girls I see running around with that same crunchy-wet look throughout the entire day.

I’m going to start by saying that it’s fine if you just like the way it looks. If you want your hair to be super tame, tamped down, and orderly, so be it! But to people who like my hair and want to find a way to achieve soft and bouncy curls, I explain that the gel should only be used as a cast while your hair is drying. Let me explain:

When gel is applied to wet hair, a chemical reaction causes the gel to harden as the hair dries; this is called a cast. It is setting your hair and allowing the curls to come together and stay together despite wind, humidity, and other such elemental strains. The longer you leave your hair in its hardened shell, the longer it will remain frizz-free and ready to be released from its chemical bondage. This works to our advantage if, say, we want to wash our hair the night before a big day but don’t want it to get ruined overnight. If you let it dry with the gel still hardened and intact, when you wake up you can scrunch, ruffle, and go with super-shiny beautiful locks. If you want to leave the gel cast in during the day at work so that it will look its best for a first date that evening, that’s yet another advantage.

Ahhh, that’s better.

When you’re ready to break the cast, you just turn your head upside down and scrunch your hair upward in an accordion-like motion. Then you put your fingers at the base of your hair follicles against the scalp and ruffle the roots–as usual, do not touch the hair shafts. This causes curls to separate, but not to frizz. As they’ve dried in their protective shell, they are cool, calm, collected, and ready to face the elements.

Blow it!

Me in Florida rockin’ the pigtail braids. I’m all about braids this summer.

Last week I did the unthinkable for any self-respecting curly girl. I was visiting a close friend in Florida, who has dabbled in curly girl extremism, when she suggested visiting her favorite (and the only) blowdry bar in Palm Beach County. Fly Dry was established earlier this year on the main drag in Delray when New Yorker-turned-Floridian Kate Fogarty moved to her new neighborhood only to notice that there was no fancy pants city-style blowdry bar anywhere within a 50-mile radius. This just would not do.

Since I hadn’t straightened my hair in a good 10 months, I figured, what the heck. I’ve mentioned before that it’s ok to do this from time to time, it helps relax your natural curl a bit, and lets you survey the health of your hair by checking out any breakage or split ends in their least-camouflaged state. But this was Florida. My number 1 rule has always been not to bother blow drying in humid, hot, or sticky conditions since it usually just ends in frustration and being even sweatier than I  already was. So, yeah, I was in Florida. Just before hurricane Isaac was due to hit. But hey, even if it only lasted one night it would be worth it!

At the hair-washing station I didn’t mention my shampoo-free lifestyle since I was on vacation and living like a totally relaxed fun-girl who cared not to mention such words as “sulfate-free” and philosophies like “lemon juice mixed with conditioner really clarifies hair better than anything!!!” But my friend, knowing me as well as she did, assured me that Fly Dry only uses sulfate-free ‘poos. Phew.

My friend Karol on the left, me on the right.

The results were fabulous! I loved that they offered the option to have a wavy or beachy look instead of just pin straight (which looks awful on me) and my amazing stylist Travis did all he could to combat the inevitable frizz that would result from stepping outside.

That night it did rain. And it rained a lot. In fact, we got all gussied up just to walk a half block, then promptly returned to the car after getting completely soaked. We figured that see-through dresses that weren’t supposed to be see-through wasn’t a cute look on anyone. We changed into shorts and tee shirts and had an awesome dinner near her apartment when the rain had slowed a bit.

The point of my rambling story is that I made lemonade out of lemons. I ended up braiding my frizzified hair, which has been this summer’s raison d’etre as far as my hair is concerned. I’ve been doing one long braid down my back, side braids, two braids hanging down, two braids pinned up and encircling my head with my bangs out, and braid ponytails. It was such a fun change to create these same braids with straight hair, because it just looked so much longer. Even if you’re braiding, the curl in your hair still shortens it a bit. Plus, without any gel or residual conditioner whatsoever in my hair, it lasted about 5 days without my having to wash it. (Friends at work cringed when I told them that part, but whatever, it smelled fine and looked great).

So why not throw caution to the wind now and then and treat yourself to a custom blow-out in your home town or city. It’s really fun to have someone else do your hair, especially when it lasts a week, and it’s a growing trend. So even if you don’t live in New York, Miami, or LA, there is an increasing chance that you may find a blowdry expert in your own backyard.

Added perk? Most of them offer some bubbly or vino while they’re transforming your gorgeous, swinging locks.

Some blowdry bars I’ve tried and loved:

FlyDry | Delray Beach, Florida

Blow | New York, New York

Drybar | New York, New York

DIY Spray Gel

In addition to my most recent post on proper conditioning at the beach and the pool, I wanted to share an easy DIY way to benefit from the wonders of hair-taming gel on the go. We all know that moment where we wonder to ourselves: Is it really worth letting loose and diving head-first into the pool, or frolicking with my summer love during high tide, at the risk of my beautiful curls turning into a poodle-y mess? Well, fret no more.

After applying your leave-in conditioner (again, be sure that you have experimented with the right amount of moisturizers so that your hair won’t look super greasy after application), spritz on some homemade spray-gel to keep strands in line.

Take 1/2 cup of your favorite gel and 1 cup of boiling water, stir them together, let it cool, then add it to a spray bottle. Easy-peasy! Experiment with amounts of gel vs. water over time to see what works best for you. Then just lie back on the beach towel and let your beachy-cool locks unveil themselves!

Spray gel recipe by Curly Girl