Hair Color for Naturalists

madison-reed-hair-colorOne subject that I am always hearing about is whether or not to color your grays when they start springing up with more consistency. While this is not yet a concern for me, I know that it’s right around the corner and I decided to start fretting about it early (one of the many side effects of having generalized anxiety disorder — we get worrying done ahead of time!) My concerns are as follows:

  1. I am all about being natural, and I don’t really want to feel as though I have to alter something to such an extent to feel good about myself. What’s wrong with some grays? Also, I live in Brooklyn where women younger than me sport silver locks and look great. But am I personally ready to be as self-assuredly cool as they are?
  2. I had always planned on using henna dyes, as they are natural, but I’ve been told by multiple people that they do not work on grays.
  3. Chemicals are scary y’all, and no I’m not an idiot that screams and runs away from anything with words I can’t pronounce in the ingredients list — I know that chemical compounds are a part of natural life, etc. But just the smell of those hair dyes, it just can’t be good, right?
  4. Animal testing. I’m a pescatarian so I don’t have any huge moral ground to stand on, but I really truly hate the idea of animal testing without utmost gain (like finding cancer cures, etc.) I am also an animal rescuer, and something about rescuing one animal to kill another for cosmetics doesn’t sit right.

That’s about enough to keep me up at night, so let’s stop while we’re still ahead shall we? I decided to do something as simple as googling “natural hair color products” and pulled up this custom color brand called Madison Reed. They claim to leave out the “bad stuff” and do not participate in animal testing. However, are the ingredients really body-safe? We are putting this on our HEADS, after all. And does it work? Are you willing to be my guinea pig (hehe)?

If you have any suggestions as to coloring techniques, or if you yourself have wrestled with this quandary, please speak up in the comments!

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!**

Extensions: Do or Don’t?

As a curly girl, I’ve often considered the merits of extensions to add volume and length to my hair. I’ve never understood how curly extensions would work, though, especially in a weave (which stays in for roughly three months full-time, sans clips) when you get sweaty, knotty, or wash it. I know that curly weaves have been around for quite some time, but the logistics were lost on me. Plus, is it worth getting them? Does it damage your hair?

Courtesy: Lugo's Hair Center

I pondered these musings with my hairdresser recently and was told that she opted for weave extensions when she had her hair tragically shorn by an un-knowledgable stylist. She was sick of waiting for her hair to grow out, so she went full-steam-ahead and had real human hair incorporated into her own. I asked whether this was damaging, and she grimaced and suggested getting the clip-in kind if I was worried about damage.

Also, it’s important to consider that there are different hair types. While ethnic hair is actually more brittle than caucasian hair, there is also a lot more of it to begin with. If I were to get a weave and have to thin out some of the frayed or damaged pieces once I removed them, I’d look half bald. Not a good look for anyone.

The stylist direct me to Lugo’s Hair Center, which is a weave and extension online shop that specializes in curly human hair. It’s permed so the curl will stay intact when you wash. You purchase the hair and have it attached to clips, or bring it to your salon to have it weaved in with your natural locks. There is a broad color palette and they pride themselves on their deft color-matching service.

I personally opted out of the weave, but I may still try the clip-in extensions at some point. They’d probably look amazing with fancier do’s (think weddings, prom, cocktail parties, special events, etc…).


Real Simple Curly Call!

A friend forwarded me this call for curly-haired mavens from Real Simple. You’d have to let them color and cut your hair as desired, which I don’t trust just anyone to do on me, but give it a try if you’re not as crazy-paranoid as me, live in the NYC area, and would like to appear in a national magazine!

Real Simple is looking for women with curly hair—long or short, tight curls to loose curls—to make over with a haircut and possibly a change in hair color. Candidates must be in the New York City area because of the time commitment involved: two separate photo shoots (before and after) and a salon visit over the course of a few days in mid- to late May. Any interested candidates should e-mail their age, contact information, a description of their hair and its texture, and at least one recent photo by April 24 to


I’ve had a few people ask me whether it’s safe to color curly hair. Here’s how I feel on the subject: I spent my entire young adult life (from about 15-24) coloring my hair all different colors. I’ve been a firey redhead, a blazing blonde, a dashing dark-haired diva (ok, enough alliterations, sorry) and it was grand. But my hair also sucked. This was before my shampoo-free revolution, so I didn’t think too much about what I was putting into my hair, or at least not as much as I do now.

Henna hair color dyes, courtesy:

When I went poo-less, I stopped coloring and wanted to grow my hair out. I figured that the best way was to keep my hair healthy all-around. That being said, I think if your hair is a hot mess and you need serious recovery time to regain luscious well-moisturized curls, don’t mess with color. Give the whole routine a couple of years to work its magic, then go back to semi- or demi-permanent colors. Good salons will offer these. Pick a low-maintenance color close to your own so you don’t have to go too often. Keep in mind, though, that bleach will never be good for your hair. Also, any time you do something drastic like get any color or a hair cut, your hair will take up to 2-3 weeks to feel like itself again. Be patient, use your weekly oil treatments and plenty of condish, and the beauty will return! A large part of having curly hair is having a saint’s aptitude for patience.

Also, I’m sorry, but I do not believe that blondes have more fun. Curly-haired people have more fun. 🙂

Now, of course, if you are hell-bent covering grays or want an even more natural approach to hair color, this advice doesn’t apply to you. I’d say that if you’re regularly coloring your hair, you should look into henna color. I know that sounds hippy-dippy (what doesn’t on this blog?) but they’ve come a long way and have a variety of colors and strengths. I hear that they work well on grays, so definitely try it. And comment to let me know how it goes! This also applies to those who are pregnant; according to what I’ve been told, henna color will not harm your baby. Definitely speak to your doctor before trying this, however.

Part of accepting your curly hair is accepting who you really are, and loving that beautiful person! Try to stay as natural as possible and your curls will thank you.