Winter Shminter: Curls in the Cooler Months

Image courtesy of Etsy.

Image courtesy of Etsy.

Now that the cooler temps and dry air are upon us, at least those of us who live in 4-season climates and are currently experiencing fall’s entree to winter, you will start to notice a few small changes in your hair. Here’s how to deal.

  1. It will look a bit more flat and lackluster. Air – Humidity = less frizz, which takes away the added volume in most curly hair. I say most, because the porous quality of our hair is unique. Typically, the tighter the curls, the more porous the hair. Though, if you’re one of those who are blessed with lots of hair strands, it probably won’t look all that much different. Hair is also a bit shinier without added frizz, so that’s nice.
  2. Artificial heat is also drying, and damaging. Now that it will be too cool to breeze out of the house in the morning with still-wet air-drying hair, you will be tempted to use your blow dryer. May I caution you to use this as little a10favorite-jack-o-lanterns possible? The drying effects will mean that you need to do more deep conditioning and oil treatments, which we all know by now is expensive. A better solution, if you can stand it, is to wash hair at night, let it air dry for about an hour, and then sleep with your hair fanned out above your head and over your pillow. It sounds counter-intuitive to sleep on wet hair, but try it. The hair being lifted at the roots and drying horizontally gives added volume and the hair dries disruption-free in its gel caste, leading to smooth, shiny, defined curls.
  3. You will need less product. Now that we’re not fighting frizz on a daily basis, use less product than you do in the summer. This does not apply to conditioner — your hair always needs conditioner. In the fall and winter months, my styling routine is basically this: Condition heavily, wash out most of it, turn head upside down and scrunch in a dime-sized amount of Deva Curl Angell, get out of the shower, dry it gently with a hair towel, and rake a small dab of a finishing product through hair for added protection against the elements. This can be a creme or another type of gel. I like to mix products, it tends to work better than using a lot of one product.
  4. If you’re growing your hair out — it will look weird. This is just what I am currently experiencing, so I’m sharing it with you. I decided last spring to grow out my bangs, so I’m just letting the whole mess grow out on its own to see how long it can get before I hate it. Right now it’s lying pretty limp and lifeless, but when I use dry shampoo at the roots, it looks pretty magnificent. The main thing that annoys me is the long ringlets that have grown to about 12+ inches (in ringlet form) and make it look like I just have a few rat tails hanging down rather than a full bounty of locks. If you’re comfortable with cutting it yourself, you can take one of these longer curls, split it in half or in three sections, and snip off an inch from one of the sections. Making them slightly different lengths can separate the curls and add volume. Remember: Less is more when self-cutting (bad joke). Take off an inch or less at a time. There’s nothing worse than lopping off 5 inches without having realized; and you can always go back for more.
  5. Condition, Condition, Condition!!! I can not stress this enough. Curly hair needs a lot of conditioning. Try to work in one mask or oil treatment a week, especially in these cooler temps. If hair feels dry, leave some conditioner on your ends. *You do not need to buy leave-in conditioner!* Use the stuff you use in the shower. This applies especially to longer-haired peeps. If hair is shorter, scalp oils have less traveling to do to make it to your ends. If your hair is long, it needs some help in that department. Always wash out deep conditioning masks and oils with equal parts lemon juice and conditioner. It’s the best cleanser out there.

Now bundle up and get ready for scarves, sweaters, and hot cocoa! It’s right around the corner…

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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

Mud Runners Beware!

Can you spot my slight update to the Mudderella logo?

Can you spot my slight update to the Mudderella logo?

On Saturday I ran in a Warrior Dash with some friends. You’ve heard of mud runs by now if you live in the USA, and possibly even if not — it’s the newest way to showcase your crazy. They are races that involve a variety of insane obstacles such as barbed wire to crawl under, junk cars to jump over, fire to hop, walls to scale, lakes to swim, rocks to run over, and much more. I swore that I’d never partake in such a thing, but my decision was quickly reversed when I saw how many people have taken part in the trend, how much fun they’ve had, and that there are “lite” versions for those of us who do not consider ourselves “runners.” I am very physically active in many ways, but I’ve always struggled with running. Regardless of whether you go with a Warrior Dash, a Mudderella, or the full-scale Tough Mudder, one thing remains the same: You will get covered in mud.

For, as the genre name suggests, the main trait that ties all of these runs together is racing through the mud like a damned fool. Naturally my first thought was, “But what about my hair?” Now again, I am no scientist, but I know that mud has the ability to extract dirt from pores and possibly even venom from some vermin bites, so I can only imagine what kind of drying effect it might have on hair if left on too long.

Me on the left: Notice, no one can tell how greased-up my hair is! Who cares!

Me on the left: Notice, no one can tell how greased-up my hair is! Who cares!

I prefer to go at life with a proactive approach, so I decided to coat my hair with a ton of conditioner just before taking off, and covered my hair with an old bandana. My first inclination was to put on a shower cap and tie that on with a bandana, but I realized I’d look even more crazy and the thing would probably fall off anyway. Conditioner acts as a shield in all kinds of climates; it absorbs into the “pores” of your hair, saturating it to protect against humidity and dry weather. So wouldn’t it help the mud to slick right off? One would assume so.

Muddy_Mudskipper

Muddy Mud Skipper of Ren & Stimpy fame, for anyone else who grew up in the 90’s!

When I returned home, I rinsed my hair thoroughly, not to mention the rest of myself, and applied one of my favorite conditioning masks overnight. The next morning I washed it all out with lemon juice and conditioner, and it looked and felt like nothing had ever happened.

Problem solved! So now you have no excuses — if you’re healthy, in decent shape, and can find a mud run nearby, go for it. Just be very careful my muddy mudskippers, and know that you can always walk right by any obstacles that are too scary!

Easy 5 Days Wash-Free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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