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

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Response from Guthy-Renker canceling future automatic refills:

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Click to Enlarge

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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!

Winter Hair Care

hair-christmasHello curly friends! I have been absent for a while, but I wanted to pop up for a quick reminder on winter hair care. As I’ve said in the past, this is probably the worst time of year for curly haired ladies living in cold weather regions, and not because of the frigid temps — blasted indoor heating dries out not only our nasal passages and skin, but our scalps and hair as well. Every week I wake up one day and notice that my hair resembles dry straw, and remember that it’s time for another oil treatment. These get expensive, since they use a lot of conditioner in both the treatment and cleansing phases, but they are absolutely necessary this time of year. The last thing you want is breakage when you’ve worked so hard to maintain your length.

In addition to weekly oil treatments of one kind or another, your scalp may need a little extra TLC. If you notice a weird kind of uncomfortable pain that radiates around your entire scalp, take a little dab of conditioner and rub it into your scalp as you would with body cream on your skin. This can be done when the hair is dry. The pain is just chapped skin, and the conditioner will soak right in. Don’t use too much though, a little goes a long way, and try to keep it off your hair as much as possible so that it doesn’t appear greasy.

Other than that, dress warm and cover up! If you’re looking for the best diffuser around so that you don’t have to go outside with wet hair, try this one. Its design doesn’t scrunch the curls and allows them to dry the way you’ve styled them. This also adds to the creation of hay-hair in the winter, so use it sparingly. I wash my hair about every 3-4 days or less this time of year.

Happy Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, whatever else you celebrate, and Happy and healthy New Year. I look forward to seeing you in 2013!

Lots of Love, your Shepherd to Curldom

Beach Beauty

I realized over the weekend, while lounging on the beach under a beating sun, that I should remind y’all to keep your hair hydrated during the summer! We equate winter with harmful drying conditions, but it’s just as likely to happen in the summer when you’re swimming in the pool or ocean and getting lots of sun exposure.

While you should continue the weekly oil or deep conditioning treatments in any case, another handy trick is to bring a bottle of special super-hydrating treatment with you to the beach. What I like is to get one of those little travel-size bottles, and I mix up a combination of quality daily conditioner, deep conditioner, and some hair oil. You want to have something that’s thin enough in consistency that it will not make your hair look all chunky and gross. You also don’t want to use more than necessary.

I slick a dime-sized amount on my long but fine hair, mostly at the ends, before I go into the water so that it is saturated and won’t absorb as much pool or ocean water. When you get out of the water and are back on your towel or chaise, put enough in the palm of your hand to be able to evenly coat both hands with a thin sheen of it. Wipe that through your hair from top to bottom. Always apply product in this way — going the other direction, or even side-to-side, will ruffle the hair’s cuticle and cause it to frizz and break.

If you don’t use too much, it should soak in by the time your hair has dried. If you do use too much, it’s ok, you will just have that beachy-wet look a bit longer. Wash it when you get home either way, since salt and chemicals will still be on the hair.

My recipe:

* 1 Tablespoon Moroccan Oil

* 1 Tablespoon One Condition

* 1 Tablespoon Heaven in Hair

* 2 Drops essential oil of your choice (I like sage or cedar)

Shake it up and enjoy! Depending upon how much you’ll need, adjust amounts accordingly.

Get Wet!

While lounging poolside over Memorial Day Weekend (important side note: thank you so much to our troops, I truly appreciate everything you’re doing for our country!) I read in In Style that the wet hair look is in right now. This is great news for us curl-meisters, we just have to be sure to do it the right way. When I worked for a large publishing house years ago, I’d attract looks of scorn when I’d run into the elevator amongst the most judgmental of beauty editors and fashionistas with my hair still wet from that morning’s shower.

As we all know, diffusers are often more trouble than they’re worth. Curly hair looks best when it’s left to air dry, and in the summer no one wants to go near a hair dryer if they don’t have central air. I’d eschew their silly rules and go wet anyway, and my hair would be dry and glorious by lunch time. It’s just the price you have to pay for bounteous curls. While I was working there, one of the big-name glossies actually had a blog post about how bad wet hair looks at work.

Well, preposterously fickle beauty world, now it’s ok to rock wet hair. This is thanks to new red-carpet looks that favor severely slicked-back ponys and buns. It’s especially beneficial since you can gloss your ends with your favorite oil treatment or conditioning glaze and no one will be the wiser!

How to do it:

1) Wash and condition as usual in the shower. Leave in a touch more conditioner than you normally would, because no one will know and it’s good for your hair. It will also increase drying time, leaving you wetter longer. Skip the gel at this point.

2) Before stepping out, quickly run your head under the water flow one last time, then squeeze mostly dry (don’t scrunch, you want to elongate strands).

3) With your head upside down over the tub, coat the hair nearest your hair line with gel, on top of and under your head. Just one dollop will do. Don’t worry about your ends since they will not be seen. Instead, coat ends with a few drops of an oil serum.

4) Still upside-down, twist all hair into a bun on top of your head (I prefer this step without elastic, keep reading). Straights can do a low ponytail, but we know we’ll end up with a frizzy mess. Buns are best, even if you choose to do a low bun at the nape of your neck to up the class factor.

5) Don’t fasten your bun with an elastic — instead, anchor the bun to your head in the desired position with as many bobby pins as it takes.

6) There should not be any stray hairs hanging out, if you have bangs or really short layers that are not contained in the bun, be sure to bobby-pin them so that they appear to be part of the bun.

I paired my wet bun with a small scarf (think handkerchief-sized, but more chic) from American Apparel for my commute to work in order to soak up the drippings. By the time I got to work, my hair was dry enough to whisk off my scarf, and voila!

Leave-in Essential Oils

courtesy: womenshomeremedies.com

Sometimes even I have to battle dryness; usually if the heat has been on, or if it’s been extra-windy, or just through normal wear and tear. Our hair is like fabric and we have to treat it gently or it will break, become course, frizzy, and a whole host of other atrocities.

One thing I like to do when my hair has been feeling dryer than usual, and in between bi-weekly deep conditioning treatments, is to slick a nutrient- and moisture-rich oil treatment over my ends and to let it sit for one full night and day.

Worried about looking greasy at work or school? If your hair is really dry, it will soak up most of the oil while you sleep, and in the morning you can put it up in a loose bun. Try separating some of the greasier-looking bits with a wide-tooth comb, then forget about it until you get home. Wash it out with the lemon juice-conditioner mixture, or some No-poo, and voila!

(Note: I recommend using one of the quality store-bought oil treatments in this case, since the oil treatment detailed in this blog is less condensed and will make you look like a wet rat regardless of how much your hair soaks up. A few drops of condensed essential oil treatment, thoroughly distributed with your fingers and hands, is plenty. Experiment based on your hair-length.)

Bonus: If you go to the gym or hit the pavement to work up a sweat, you will be essentially steaming your scalp and hair, opening pores, and making the treatment even more effective!