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.

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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.

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…

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.

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!

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.