Products Galore!

As I’ve just posted, it’s important to switch up your products regularly. My Products Page has some staples, but I am always on the search for newbies to try. I have been blessed with recent suggestions from curl-friends as well as some amazing products that I’ve found on my own, so without further ado…

Spotlight: John Masters Organics

I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed this line of products. John Masters Organics has been around for a while, but when I stumbled into their Soho store on a dreary Wednesday, I fell in love. They’re pricey, but make for a stellar hair indulgence. The cider hair clarifier is unique and something that you can probably make at home, but this is a good introduction to a new way to cleanse and clarify strands.

john-masters

My favorites: Lavender & Avocado Intensive Conditioner ($9-$41), Herbal Cider Hair Clarifier & Color Sealer ($17), Rose & Apricot Hair Milk ($26), Sweet Orange & Silk Protein Styling Gel ($17.50)

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Other great brands to try:

Desert Essence Coconut Soft Curls Hair Cream 

“This has been great for silkening and softening my hair, which is really prone to breakage in the winter.” – E.K.

Buy it here ($10)

Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray

“This stuff makes my hair voluminous and gorgeous, I love it. I don’t even need to use any other styling products with it.” – E.K.

Buy it here ($32)

Briogeo Curl Charisma

“This light cream smells great and leaves my hair soft and not crunchy. The only downside is that it’s a bit pricey, and I have to use a lot on my very thick hair!” – K.E.

Buy it here ($23)

 

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SssBRING it on!

I hope that everyone (who lives in a four-season climate) made it through the winter relatively unscathed, both physically and emotionally. Days are getting longer, weather is getting warmer, and the sunshine is invigorating our bodies one day at a time. Ah yes, spring brings many things, among which is the reminder of our bodily hair existence. Perhaps you’ve begun waxing, threading, or even shaving again after a bit of a hiatus. Maybe your curly hair has been uncovered by a hat or scarf long enough for you to notice that you need a cut, trim, oil treatment or drastic makeover. Whether you have needs large or small, below is a little manual of next steps to help you feel your freshest and springiest. Enjoy and have fun!

littleAnjaLookin’ Fine: Good for you, you made it through winter and your hair is still on top of its game. Maybe you kept up a routine of oil treatments throughout the winter, and likely keeping hair covered with a hat protected it from sun and wind damage. Even if it looks amazing, exposure to harsh heating systems and clothing fibers rubbing against our hair means that we can always benefit from an oil treatment or hair mask every week or two. I am always surprised to see how much better my hair looks after one of these treatments. Here are Pro, Low, and On-the-Go options to regenerate those silky locks.

Mild Damage: This is to be expected as spring starts rolling in. Curly hair naturally benefits from added moisture in the air that comes with spring and summer, and the healthier and more natural your curly hair is, the more you will likely notice that you love your hair in humid weather. Follow the tips above to maintain a healthy conditioning regimen. If you’re interested in learning how to give yourself trims, next time you get your hair cut pay attention to how your stylist does it, and chances are he or she will be happy to show you how to do minor mainenance on your ends yourself. Make an appointment with your hairdresser and indulge in a healthy trim!

I’m Feeling Lucky: It is definitely possible to trim and cut your own curly hair. I do this all year long and generally go in for a professional cut once a year when imagesCAOEV51Zit starts looking too shaggy. Being blessed with curly hair, we can get away with uneven cuts, and cutting dry is a way to ensure that you are styling the hair the way it is meant to be styled. Our curls are not all the same, so cutting hair wet like stylists do with straight hair can be detrimental to our curls’ expression. Try watching a video and start with a little trim, and don’t expect final results in one session. I normally look at it for days and trim here and there as I see fit before I feel fully satisfied. You should also invest in a good pair of shears to avoid split ends. You’ll soon see how liberating and easy cutting your own hair can be!

Serious Makeover Needed: Perhaps you’ve considered all of the above and you need something a bit stronger. Book an appointment with your hairdresser, or ask women or men around you who does their hair if you particuarly like their curly style. Then spend some time researching hair cuts that appeal to you, and have photos with you when you go to your appointment. Explain to your stylist what your day is like, your realistic mainenance level, and ask any other questions you may have. They are usually happy to answer! Everything I know about curly hair I have learned from hairdressers and blogs.

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.

Curly Q&A on Facebook

cqa-fb Like us here! 

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!

Full Disclosure: Product Substitutions

I’d love to tell you that I just stick to buying these 8 products, but the truth is that I still have some of that experimental energy that I had long before I started my curly transformation. In other words, I don’t try every product I see on the shelves that promises sleek, shiny, frizz-free hair, although I am tempted. No, my better-educated self turns every product right around to look at ingredients before even considering trying something new.

As I’ve mentioned on the Products page, hair likes to shake up the routine. If you use the exact same things the same way every day, your hair will start to lose some of its luster and it will get very monotonous and boring. Using varying amounts of a product, or experimenting with different application techniques can help, but if you take a total break from those products for about a month, you’ll notice that your hair is happier when you return to using them. That’s why I usually have at least one alternative to every product I use regularly. Below is a list of some of those substitutions, and how I like to keep things interesting.

1) Conditioner: This work horse may contribute the most crucial element to your hair’s health and appearance. Too much and it may look greasy, too little and it looks and feels dry and becomes more prone to breakage. When I want to take a break from Devachan’s One Condition, I use Ouidad’s Balancing Rinse conditioner. I’ll use it for maybe a week before switching back to One Condition, because it does eventually leave my hair feeling a bit less moisturized than I’d like. It’s a thinner formula so that may contribute to it. I also like Argan Oil conditioner, but wouldn’t use it more often than once a month or so.

2) Styling Gel: There are so many ways to take a break from gel. You can use only one gel for slightly less hold and control, instead of using one in the shower pre-towel-drying and one as a finishing gel immediately after towel-drying. You can use different finishing gels, although I always like to keep Devachan’s Angell as my base. I love Ouidad’s Climate Control, but surprisingly I couldn’t stand Curl Quencher on my hair. I’d suggest going to their site, they have it set up a lot like naturallycurly.com now and you can shop by curl type. I also like Devachan’s Volumizing Foam when I want a much less contained look, and I substitute this for finishing gel, while still using the Angell base.

I never use any creams, however. I’ve tried so many, and recently tried Carol’s Daughter’s Hair Milk (which had great moisturizing ingredients, by the way, so it probably left my hair better off in the end) but it didn’t hold my curl at all, which meant that day 2 I already needed to wash and re-style. I like when I can go at least 3 days between washes, which means the perfect balance between not-too-dry and not-too-greasy product application.

3) Hair Treatment: I recommend using some form of hair treatment, be it oil or deep conditioner, at least once a week. You can use those little bottles of essential oils on your ends, you can use a great deep conditioner like DevaCurl’s Heaven in Hair, you can use any of the homemade treatments in Curly Girl, including a slight variation on the amazing Oil Treatment featured on my site, or you can try some great conditioning treatment that you find on your own, as long as it has the key moisturizing ingredients high on the list, and not too many that you can’t pronounce toward the bottom. As always, look for any types of oils, glycerin and glycol derivatives, aloe, and words that you understand first. If there are any ingredients you don’t understand, Google them. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can recognize them once you’ve looked them up.

4) Refreshers: Lastly, I want to be sure that I hammer home how much I love Cold Spring Apothecary’s Citrus Ginger Sea Salt Spray to revive second- and third-day hair. There are a lot of these on the market now, but you have to be sure that they have moisturizers to counteract the drying effect of sea salt. When I use only four pumps distributed throughout my hair by tossing it back and forth, it re-awakens my hair and re-defines lost curls. I only use this when I really feel that I need it, and always use it sparingly. Don’t add this to your hair if it feels like there’s already too much product in your ‘do.

The Skinny: DIY Deep Conditioning

We’ve all seen the little tubes of hot oil treatments in the hair product aisles of our favorite supply stores, but I’m sure that you’ve also noticed the squat tubs of deep conditioners that have become ever-so-popular among most hair brands over the past decade or so. They promise to add shine, restore thickness to thinning locks, tame frizz and more. Some say to leave the treatments in for 5-10 minutes, others only 3. What’s the difference and what does it all mean?!?

Last night I treated myself to a deep conditioning treatment at Devachan Salon in Soho, and I took the opportunity to grill my stylist. First of all, why is this treatment any better than my purchasing their deep conditioner and doing it at home? Here are some tips she had that will offer you the first-class treatment from your couch.

1) The deep conditioner has to get into every nook and cranny on your head, including your scalp. After thoroughly wetting hair down with warm water and then squeezing it mostly dry, the stylist recommended separating hair into sections, like you see when women are getting their hair braided, except larger sections are fine. You work it into each section thoroughly, and run a dab of it along your scalp line between sections. It helps if someone else can help you with this since you can’t see your own scalp, but you can feel it out and maybe do this in front of a mirror to help.

2) As with the oil treatment, you should then cover your head with a plastic shower cap. This holds in moisture like a mini-ecosystem, allowing any lost moisture to be re-absorbed. Put a long piece of cotton, or rolled up paper towels along the edges to hold a tight seal, and prevent any conditioner from leaking down your neck.

Revlon hooded dryer: $33

3) If you have room, and this is very important, buy a mini (haha) hooded dryer. They aren’t as expensive and ridiculous as you think, although there is a range, it’s just hard to find a place to keep it in a tiny chock-full apartment. If you want to save moolah on expensive conditioning treatments, though, I highly recommend it.

4) Lastly, it’s recommended to leave the treatment in, sitting under the dryer, for at least half an hour. It’s pretty loud so watching TV may be a challenge, but you can read magazines and just pretend you’re in some fancy salon!

When it comes to the difference between an oil treatment and a deep conditioning treatment, I think it’s one of those things where two is better than one. Both have their purpose. I’ve read that olive oil particles are too large for hair to absorb, but I know that they have a great, lasting effect on my hair when I use them. I’d say that both treatments have their place.

As for which deep conditioner brands to buy, just make sure that they have lots of moisturizing elements, such as glycerin, aloe, any kind of oils and butters; and as always these ingredients should be high up on the list. My favorite brand, of course, is Devachan’s Heaven in Hair. Most others will be comparable, though, just make sure that they don’t have alcohol (drying) or harmful sulfate and chloride ingredients. The oil treatment can be made at home. Happy conditioning!

Not sure about an ingredient? Google it!

A few weeks ago I was at home visiting my parents and my mom had gotten some Argan Oil conditioner from a friend for her birthday (Argan Oil is such a trend right now, I’m seeing it everywhere). She was hesitant to use it, so I gave the ingredients on the back a good once-over and tried it myself. Afterwards my hair felt so shiny, sleek, and soft, and smelled so darn good. But I had a few questions about some of the ingredients, so I went downstairs to try Googling them. I always check the ingredients on every product I buy, even if it’s being sold at a credible salon by my favorite hairstylist who promises nothing but “the finest” ingredients.

There are a lot of things to know. Sulfates are bad as a rule, as most of us know (this is the ingredient that creates lather in a cleanser) and alcohol high-up on the list of ingredients can make a product very drying. Conditioners should be chock-full of glycerin, aloe, essential oils, and other natural moisturizing agents that help your hair hold on to moisture (thereby reducing frizz). Gel should have as few harmful ingredients as possible also, since this the last thing you put on and it stays in your hair until your next wash.

I found another Argan Oil conditioner brand at Target recently and read the back. It had everything I wanted in a conditioner, but toward the bottom I saw things like “behentrimonium methosulfate” and a few chlorides. Now here’s where it gets really complicated — these aren’t all bad. This particular sulfate, for example, is also a “surfactant” and is commonly used as a de-tangler. It is not harmful and is not one of the “bad sulfates.”

My suggestion is to always Google any ingredient on the back of a product if you’re not sure about it. You will find tons of hits on blogs, forums, science web sites, and various credible sources that will help you make a decision. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when you’re committing to trying something new! Also–the shorter the ingredient list the better, as a rule. It will have less preservatives and will be less drying. As curly girls it is very important that we pick moisture-rich conditioners, and we can’t glean that kind of information about a product by simply reading the fancy words on the front of the bottle!