So Long!

I’ve been fielding a lot of questions lately about growing long curly hair. Mine is down to the middle of my back when wet, with a ton of layers and craziness going on that gets quite out of control between cuts. I actually love the “disheveled” look, but the other positive side to this is that my hair is given plenty of resting time between cuts. I get my hair cut about once every 7 months — partially due to the abnormal expense of my hair cuts, and also to the fact that I want it to be as long and full as possible before my wedding next year.

engaged<< Surprise! My amazing boyfriend asked me to marry him in late August and we look forward to a late-August early-September 2014 wedding. I will keep everyone updated on wedding hair ideas! In the meantime, follow my Pinterest board on the subject, and if you follow my board I’ll follow you right back! Ideas welcome. >>

When I went for my 7-month re-shaping cut at Devachan, I decided to get my $140 worth and asked the fantastic curly hair specialist for some tips on growing longer hair. I felt vindicated to hear that I’m doing all of these already, and am outlining them below for all of you! Please post any questions in the comments below and I’ll either answer them myself or ask a professional.

Condition a LOT! And more than that! Deep condition or use an oil treatment at least once a week. Curly hair is very prone to breakage, so keeping tendrils saturated is the best way to fight premature splitting. But… this tends to clog the shower drain. Something about the oils or the thick conditioner streaming out of your hair en masse can really gum things up. My plumber recommends filling a bucket with the hottest water possible and dumping it slowly down the drain when it starts to back up. Then run the hot water out of the faucet for a few minutes. That usually does it for me! Intermittent hair removal will also be necessary, as is routine, but you should do your best to catch as much as you can before it goes down the drain. BTW: Don’t fret if you gather more than your straight-haired sisters, curly hair doesn’t fall out as much as straight hair throughout the day since we don’t brush it and it gets tangled up in the curls. It all comes out at once in the shower!

blow-frierDitch the drier! Blow friers cause more breakage than anything, but nobody likes going outside with wet hair — especially in cold and inclement weather. The alternative, which I’ve posted about before, is to wash your hair the night before, bundle up and let it dry while you watch TV or eat dinner for an hour or two, and then go to bed and drape your hair up and over the pillow. If it’s too short for this, it should be mostly dry in a couple of hours anyway, and just do your best to keep it from smooshing against the pillow too much while you sleep. This is a great way for hair to dry undisturbed by the elements, making it shinier and with added volume from drying in a horizontal position (no gravity weighing down on the roots). But… some people are restless sleepers. For you, I’d still wash hair in the evening and give it as much time as possible to dry before you go to sleep. There is less friction between the sheets when you sleep on a satin pillow case! And on that subject…

53380109096cSleep on silk or satin pillowcases. I’ve covered this many times, but I can never mention it enough. Silk or satin pillows are a hair saver. Everyone rolls around and does all kinds of crazy dance moves in their sleep, and hair takes the brunt of the friction and damage. If you’re sleeping on a cotton or similar pillowcase it will cause major frizz and damage. If you’re serious about growing your hair out, get a silk or satin pillow case right now!

braided_hairNo fuss, no muss. Hair likes to be left alone. Don’t overdo it. Don’t color, don’t blow fry, don’t over-wash, etc. Ancient Egyptians braided their hair to give it periods of rest, in a similar style to the cornrows and dreadlocks that we see today. When hair is in a braid it is not as affected by wind and sun damage, and we don’t pick at it or brush it or do anything else that may harm and break it. If you’re having a bad hair day and it’s not time for a wash, just go for a fun braid. Hair should be able to go at least three days between washes, and that includes those of you who sweat on the regular. If you’re outside getting dirty just cover hair with a bandana. I do it all the time.

Don’t stress! Easy for me to say, right? WRONG! I am a person who has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder that has affected almost every area of my life at some point or another. Through a nutritionist-recommended diet, lots of exercise and yoga, as well as bouts with meditation (not medication!), therapy, hypnosis, and acupuncture I have been able to manage my anxiety and I think that you can too. Everyone has stress in varying amounts, and it’s not the easiest thing to manage and may require prescribed chemical interference, but for your hair’s sake and for your HEALTH’S sake, please take every measure possible until you’ve found a way to minimize stress. Change something, do something that makes you happy. YOLO. Find a new perspective.

scissorsFind the right stylist. This requires major emphasis. Your stylist should know that you’re trying to grow your hair out, that you want it to be full and without short layers that can make hair look sparse. Depending on how much hair you have and how thick it is, this will be different for everyone. As long as he or she knows that you are growing your hair and want to take off as little as possible from the ends, and you have been taking great care to minimize split ends that cause breakage, there should not be a problem. As always, stylists must cut hair when it’s dry in order to see what they are taking off and how it will look when you’re out on the town being fabulous.

Marie-AntoinetteDon’t lose your head. Many lose faith when they embark upon years of hair-growing. It’s a lot of extra work and there will be times that you think your hair will look much better if you just cut it short again. The fact is, curly hair looks better the longer it gets if you have the right cut, and like anything, it goes through awkward stages. You’ll go through many of these ups and downs, but as with children, just realize that as long as you’re patient and wait a couple of months it will be totally different. Be sure before you chop, so you don’t find yourself back at the beginning fretting about your hair never being able to grow out! Eliminating breakage using the steps above will make it possible to go longer between cuts so you won’t always feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back.

**Good luck and have fun!**

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CQA Interview: Katrina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Waterless Week

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

I feel your pain, little guy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Klorane dry shampoo spray.

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

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

The sock bun. Photo courtesy of Hello Giggles.

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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