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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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.

Oil Slick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, without further ado…

OjonWandOjon

– Course to fine type –

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

PalmersPalmers

– Coarse type –

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

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

– Coarse to fine type –

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

moroccan-oil-treament-25ml-regularMorrocanOil

– Coarse to fine type –

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

OrganixOrganix

– Medium to fine type –

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

WEN in Doubt, Try it Out!

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

$29 WEN Hair Basic Kit

$29 WEN Hair Basic Kit

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

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

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

So now down to the delivery and product testing time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments!

WEN Guide

Click to Enlarge

Response from Guthy-Renker canceling future automatic refills:

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Easy 5 Days Wash-Free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curly Q&A on Facebook

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

Product Update: Curl Creme

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

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

Below is how I used: Living Proof Nourishing Styling Cream

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

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

Hair and Body Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related reading:

 

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