Oil Slick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, without further ado…

OjonWandOjon

– Course to fine type –

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

PalmersPalmers

– Coarse type –

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

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

– Coarse to fine type –

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

moroccan-oil-treament-25ml-regularMorrocanOil

– Coarse to fine type –

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

OrganixOrganix

– Medium to fine type –

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

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WEN in Doubt, Try it Out!

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

$29 WEN Hair Basic Kit

$29 WEN Hair Basic Kit

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

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

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

So now down to the delivery and product testing time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments!

WEN Guide

Click to Enlarge

Response from Guthy-Renker canceling future automatic refills:

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Curly Q&A on Facebook

cqa-fb Like us here! 

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!

LOL – and Happy Tuesday!

Here is some comic relief to make your Tuesday afternoon a little bit rosier! Enjoy.

Haven’t you ever wished for a mini tornado in a cup that could create smooth, soft curls for you? Look no further!

Hair-Curl31 Problems that only women with curly hair (and those who love us) can understand!

lol

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.

Related reading:

 

Disney and Pixar’s Brave

I think I’ve found my new hero! I love that real curls are finally getting their due in Brave, an animated film by Disney and Pixar featuring a plucky Scottish lass with long, flowing red curly locks.

They’re such a paramount part of her image, and I love the association that curls have with strong, independent, and unique women! Take that, Cinderella.

The premise reminds me a bit of one of my Disney favorites, Mulan, which was also about a young woman defying her family to go off and fight more valiantly than any other dude in her village. She had to dress as a man to pass muster, but it doesn’t look like this firecracker betrays her true identity at all.

Check it out in theaters this Friday, June 22. Can’t wait!

UPDATE: Saw this on opening day at 11:30am (when 3-D tix in Manhattan were only $10–it felt like 1995 all over again!) and I loved it. The blend of character development and interactions, animation, and story line were as close to perfect as I’ve seen in an animated film, and I was fighting back tears at the end. The overarching theme, to me, was to always respect and value the lessons that your good-willed parents (specifically, the main character Merida’s mother, Elena) aim to instill in you. Don’t try to change who they are, because they’re only human and are doing their best to raise you right. Also, you should listen to your loved ones instead of projecting your own ideas of their intent onto them.

Those fabulous red curls adorning Merida and her three terror-inducing brothers’ heads definitely played a starring role and are the center of movie reviews web-wide. Hers were not restrained for one moment; even while Merida scaled sheer rock faces, galloped wily nily on her trusty steed, or flew through the air to grab a bear’s paw. In the movies, hair always seems to blow in the opportune direction. Woe is me.

I also give an A+ to the animators for including lots of curl clusters that did that wonky “not-quite-curling-in-the-middle-but-then-getting-back-in-line-at-the-bottom-of-the-curl” thing. You know what I mean. Definitely recommend seeing this one, but maybe not with Mom–unless you’re the super sentimental type.