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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No Touching!

1379670618259715621Here we are again, another dreaded winter. Post-holidays, post-sunshine, post-fun. I know that some of you are not experiencing the cold and dreary days the way I am here in the Big Apple, and some of you may even love this time of year (if so, more power to you!) Regardless of which camp you fall into, there is always time for a hair care re-vamp. I am here to remind you of two very important rules that I haven’t always stressed enough, which will hopefully help to add some sparkle to your life.

When your hair is drying and once you’re all styled and out on the town, touch strands AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE!

I am super guilty of this naughty behavior. When my hair is drying with gel in it and it gets crispy, I have this habit of de-crisping curls methodically by rolling hair between my fingers until it’s all totally silky and de-crunched. However, the more you touch your hair, the greasier and frizzier it gets. Aka, the more often you’ll have to clean it. I was reminded of this recently when I was totally distracted and didn’t touch or fuss with my hair at all after washing and diffusing it, and I saw myself at the end of the day and I was having the best hair day of my life. Coincidence? I think not! Which also brings me to…

 Switch up them products!

This is an easy trap to fall into, because what do we do, have a rotation of a thousand products gunking up our shelves? Heck no. But when one conditioner or gel runs out, instead of going to buy more, try something new. But do your research! Stick with good brands that use pure ingredients and have a golden reputation with curly hair. I always stick to my Devachan One Condition (no, they don’t pay me a cent to write this) and Angel, but the others are on constant rotation. Refer to my products page or this new post for suggestions.

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Not too much trouble, eh? It is ok to scrunch your hair to get the crunchiness out, but wait until the last minute possible. The crunchy curl effect from gel is called the “cast,” and it helps the hair to dry in a nice shape and to stay shiny and frizz-free. The longer you leave the cast on your hair, the nicer it will look when it is released from its gelled prison.

 

The Wedding Issue

kiss

I’m not one for PDA, but my hair looks good here.

As promised long ago, this is the post that will detail the way that I chose to do my hair for my wedding. The fabulous Amy from Arte Salon in Soho, NYC was my guide, and we practiced the style twice before I did it myself on my wedding day. I had to be thrifty and I also know that I’m one of the few people who can style my hair the way I like it, so I didn’t want to take the chance of having a hairstylist upstate try to make me look like a porcelain doll with fake-looking hair.

I should go into this saying that I wanted volume, and I wanted a slightly “undone” look to match my country wedding in the Catskills. It also matches who I am, and I firmly believed that I should look like a done-up version of myself on my wedding day. Not fussy and constricted. I even wore cowboy boots with my dress.

But I digress! Below are the steps and materials that I needed to do my ‘do.

Materials:

– $40 fake hair extensions

– Lots of bobby pins

– Hair adornment from BHLDN, purchased on Tradesy.com, my new-found BFF.

– Hair spray

– A borrowed $200 Mason Pearson brush

Method:

When you are manipulating your hair, it is best to work on second-day hair. You want it to be a little “dirty” because it will hold styling better than clean hair. I ended up washing my hair the morning of, but it probably would have been better if I hadn’t.

1) Tease out dry hair using the Mason Pearson brush, or another dense boar-bristle brush. Learn how to tease your hair correctly to minimize breakage. There will be breakage, so this isn’t something you’ll want to do often. You basically back-brush hair at the roots until it is very ratty and fluffed up, and then lightly skim the brush over the top of the hair to smooth down the exterior. The idea is to build volume, so you want to do it in the areas where you need the most bulk: on top of your head, around the crown, and on the sides. The benefits of a Mason Pearson is that they use about three different types of bristles and it works well to stimulate your scalp to distribute oils and make hair shinier and ultimately healthier. Note: Don’t ever blow-dry while using this brush because some of the rubber bristles will melt.

2) If you’re using clip-in extensions, put them in now, after you’ve teased the parts of your natural hair that you wanted to tease. Hair should be at its full volume. If you purchase real hair, you can curl it. If you get synthetic, you can’t. You also can’t tease synthetic because it won’t hold. I found this out a bit late, but was able to work it into my braid and blend in enough of my real hair to make it look natural.

hair-pins

Hard to see, but I made little triangles going up the back of my hair with groups of three interconnected bobby pins. They are stronger when working as a team!

3) Create an armature (shown here, third one down) at the back of your head using many criss-crossed bobby pins. This is similar to the way you’d do your hair in a French Twist. It’s basically just interconnecting them to make a support to hold up lots of hair in a way that’s more supportive than just using free-standing bobby pins scattered around. Then you will sweep other, loose hair over the armature and pin that into place to hide the armature.

4) Braid the hair that is left hanging. Loop the end instead of leaving a loose rat-tail look, or if you have real hair you can curl the end.

This is toward the end of the night and things were getting messy. But you can see my hair pretty well here, so I shared it. That's how much I care about you all.

Drunk.

5) Take a final look and make sure nothing is sticking out anywhere that it shouldn’t be, use a curling iron to curl any loose tendrils, and place hair around your face the way you want to. If you have fine hair and choose to use a curling iron for loose pieces, those pieces will probably be straight by the end of the night. I should have just wet my loose pieces and let them air dry rather than try to curl them, but I wanted big, beautiful curls!

6) Add any hair pieces to your ‘do, and voila! Since I did a side braid, I put my piece on the side with the braid and tried to make that side of my head visible when I was coherent enough to think of it.

Ultimately I loved my unkempt, messy hair look mixed in with a few shiny, well-coiled and curled strands. The look is supposed to be un-fussy, slightly glamorous, and natural-looking. Oh, the irony!

How do you like it? What would you have done differently? Have you done something similar with your hair?

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.

Quick Hair Conditioning

pic_of_cellophane_hair_conditionerWhat many people do not know is that leave-in conditioners are a hoax. When I say that, I am being super judgemental and opinionated, as my Certified New Yorker Status entitles me to be. But in all seriousness, this product category is normally a way for haircare companies to squeeze extra money out of us. So next time you’re shopping for a quick and easy on-the-go conditioning product, skip the leave-in conditioners and try one of these tried and true options:

Just Leave Your Conditioner… In

This is the easiest and you can do it as often as you’d like. Before you get out of the shower after washing, put some One Condition (or your chosen high-quality conditioner) on your hair concentrating on the ends. Then, only rinse out about 75% of it. You will know when you’ve left enough in because after you’ve hung your head back to rinse it out, feel it with your hands and it should still feel slightly like wet seaweed. Not as soft as when the conditioner is still there full-force. It may take some experimentation to work out the percentage to leave in. I usually co-wash my hair with a cheaper conditioner like Aussie Moist and save the good stuff for my leave-in. Remember: while quality conditioners are pricier, you can use a lot less for maximum benefits.

Spray Oils

Spray oils are great for the busy guy or gal. I’ve used it on my husband’s hair when he complains of dry scalp or hair. My favorite is an Argan Oil version, and I put about a “dime-sized amount” into my palm, rub my hands together, and lightly whisk it through dry hair on my way out the door. You want to use enough to really get the ends, but not so much that it looks greasy. Again, experiment.

Hair Masks

If you want an overnight or few-hour solution but don’t feel like going to the hassle of concocting a full oil treatment or dealing with a lot of mess, use a hair mask and put a shower cap over that before bed or before lounging around the house on a lazy day. You can use as much as you want and rub it into your scalp and hair, and then rinse it out with equal parts lemon juice and conditioner to get it all. I usually do 4 tbsp. of each. There are endless hair masks that you can try, and at varying price points.

Winter Root Lifter

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 5.04.44 PMI hope that everyone who shares my Northeastern United States weather system is faring well through yet another winter! I have been battling the usual ills: dry, limp hair, an itchy scalp, and more frequently required oil treatments. I actually got bored over the holidays and cut my hair off, so when it’s curly it comes about halfway down my neck. I am LOVING it and am so glad that I finally took the plunge! I plan to grow it back out again, but at more even lengths to make it feel fuller and less like a mullet. While this leads to naturally healthier hair since scalp oils don’t have as far to travel to saturate my ends, I have definitely still been struggling.

One cold-weather hero of mine has always been dry shampoo. I now realize that that was completely asinine. Curly-haired folk have to constantly combat dryness, and moisture and conditioning should be a part of our daily regimen. My hair is so fine that it tends to get greasy after a few days, and my knit winter hat also presses it down so that it’s looking stringy and sad by day two. In order to stretch hair washes by at least a few days each week, I would spray my hair with oil and proceed to dust some dry shampoo on my scalp. This works well for a couple of hours, but doesn’t hold up through a busy day or workout.

I decided to check out alternatives that would condition while lifting the hair at my roots, essentially solving my limpness problem. Luckily for me, the savvy young lady (with AMAZING hair) who helped me at Ricky’s near Union Square in NYC had the perfect solution!

5472Enter the moisturizing root lifter. It acts as a dry shampoo might, but without the drying component — it simply lifts roots while conditioning the scalp so that itchiness and flatness are no longer a problem. It also has a heat protector! I spray it sparingly on my roots after washing and styling but before blow-drying, and now my do’s are easily lasting three days before I need to put my hair up or wash it to look presentable. My hair even looked a bit like a wig when I woke up on day two yesterday, it was so full and that was certainly not the case before. I even wore a hat over it for the entire day prior. The ingredients are harmless and actually seem to be helping my hair to be healthier and stronger. I have not found that I have to reapply before my next co-wash.

If any of the issues above sound familiar to you, try it out and let me know what you think  in the comments below! What else do you do to battle winter flatness, static and dryness?

Diffuse the Situation

Hello my fine curly-headed friends! It’s been so long, and for that I apologize. I’ve been buried in books, papers, horses, kids, and classes for the past four months and have finally been able to come up for air. My hair is also ready for some action and is getting a trim today because it’s turned into a proper nest over the past few neglectful months.

Although I haven’t yet posted about my wedding hairstyle, I wanted to pop in with a quickie about diffusers. We are now entering the winter months in the good ol’ US of A and in other places around the world, so that means less going outside with wet hair and more going greasy due to a strong desire not to get wet and chilly. It’s still important to maintain appropriate hygiene, and let’s remember that pulling hair back into a ponytail or bun every day causes breakage, which means split ends and lackluster locks.

As always, there is an answer. I’ve used two types of hair drying diffusers myself and there is a new gal on the scene. Let’s examine them, shall we?

Old Reliable*

oldreliableThis friendly reminder of childhood and Mom’s 80’s hair tools is a true blast from the past, but it is still relevant. This diffuser isn’t so much designed for the average curly-haired user, but for anyone who wants to dry their hair without frizzing it to high heaven while still adding some volume.

Pros: It gets the job done, hair will dry. Curls do not separate and spazz out the way they would with a “naked” hair dryer.

Cons: It does not target the roots of the hair, meaning that getting that fully-dry feeling takes longer and comes with the consequence of additional heat damage and agitation to hair follicles. It also doesn’t do the greatest job of diffusing airflow, and will cause some curls to separate and some frizzing to occur. It also creates major drama — think 80’s glamour girls and guys. Not everyone is into that, but if you are, rock on, gorgeous!

Buy it at Drugstore.com or in most hair product retailers.

The Thing*

thethingThis Devachan creation looks scary and may frighten a significant other if you leave it hanging out in the bathroom on its own, without the context of an attached hair dryer. This may be seen as a bonus.

Pros: This lovely lady was designed to target roots and decrease frizzing and volume, which is fantastic. Just because we have to blow-dry our hair doesn’t mean we want it looking puffier than when we let it air dry, am I right? Devachan’s model works really well when you are in a rush because you can cut straight to root drying for warmth and leave the ends to dry on their own. You can use the “hand” to either push curls up for volume or just hold it in your hair while curls dangle freely while being dried in a relaxed position. It’s also great for adding volume at the roots.

Cons: While it comes with many improvements, this diffuser does not necessarily cut back on frizz as much as I’d like. My short top layers get blown this way and that, creating a frizzy, unpolished look. This is fine when I am up for it, but I’d like to have a little more control over the air flow.

Buy it at Amazon.com or in any of Devachan’s locations.

Wind Bag*

windbagI’ve only become aware of this diffuser recently. I don’t have a full analysis on it because I have not used it myself. However, a friend has said that it’s awesome and works really well at controlling airflow and limiting flyaways. I’d probably use it in conjunction with The Thing* because it doesn’t look like it would get at the roots as well. If you’re looking for something to send me for Christmas, look no further!

Buy it at Hair Beauty Bargain Bizarre.

All three of these are pretty much universal and will fit any standard dryer. Also, it goes without saying that you use a diffuser because you’re not drying with the controlling aid of a brush. I didn’t have to tell you that, though. Have you tried any that aren’t on this list? Have anything to add**? Please leave feedback in the comments below! Stay warm my fuzzy friends, and take care of yourselves.

* I made up all of these names for your reading pleasure.

** Like this one?!

Product Review: CURLS’ Gel-Serum Hybrid

yhst-67007254324410_2269_51235305Howdy friends! It’s been a while, but I made a promise never to post nonsensical traffic-driving blog fodder. I’m also SUPER busy planning my wedding (less than a month to go!) and will not forget to let y’all know about my upcoming appointment with my fabulous hair stylist Amy. You may recall that I’m doing my wedding hair myself, but I wanted to see if she could help me brainstorm and test styling techniques. I am not finding pictures of exactly what I want anywhere online, so I’m inventing it!

Wedding chatter aside, I have been waiting to update you on my most recent product purchase until I’ve given it a good thorough testing. The reason is because it’s very expensive, and I didn’t want to give advice either way before being totally sure. Let’s get into it.

CURLS’ Curl Gel-les’c, besides being really hard to type out, is a cutely-named, nice smelling, interesting styling elixir. Not a serum nor a gel, it embodies positive aspects of both: the conditioning qualities of a serum, but not the heaviness that usually drags finer curls down. It also has the control of a light gel. The love-child of these two styling products is a thin, syrupy mixture that can be used in very small amounts — and thank God because the bottle is super small and $25!

Absurd, you may say, to spend so much on an 8-ounce styling product, but one blogger made a good point by saying that she only trots it out on special occasions. I think that the benefits are probably greater for those with coarse hair types that need lots of conditioning with their styling aid. For me and my fine little mixed-Euro-ancestry curls, it made my hair bouncier, curlier, shinier, and much softer than usual. I used a pea-sized amount on each side of my head. My hair is down to the middle of my back when wet, but very layered. The concoction made my top layers super curly, so if you’re going for an extra-curly day, this is your product.

For me, my overall review is that I probably wouldn’t buy it again, but am glad I have it to use from time to time and it will last me a long time. My favorite recent find is still Curl Junkie’s Curls in a Bottle gel. But if you have a coarse hair type that needs lots of conditioning, or any hair type that gets dry very easily — even with regular use of conditioner (see: co-washing) and gel — I’d recommend giving it a try.

Grease Be Gone!

aloeA dear relative with curly hair reminded me of a problem I’d been having until recently. With the changing climate from season to season our skin must find ways to adapt; scalp oil production varies, causing all kinds of fun things: dandruff, oily scalp, hair breakage, flatness, frizz. You know the deal, why am I telling you?

My number-one method when this happens is to switch up the products I’m using. Most often the culprit is your styling aide; gel, mousse, cream, what have you, and all you have to do is find something that is similar in make-up but not exactly the same. For example, if a light gel like DevaCurl’s Angel works for you on the norm, try switching to Ouidad’s Climate Control gel or Curl Junkies’ Curls in a Bottle. If you’re more of a Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding sort of gal, try Living Proof No Frizz Styling Cream or Ouidad’s Hydrafusion Curl Cream. On the cheaper side, anyone with curls or waves will gain major benefits from the use of edible aloe vera gel. You can buy this at most health food stores or online, and must keep it refrigerated after opening. It doesn’t supply as much hold as the alternatives so you have to be comfortable with a less defined look, but it’s au naturel and makes hair super shiny and frizz-free. It can also serve as a great leave-in conditioner! If your scalp is a bit dry or flakey, rub some into it during your shower and rinse it out at the end.

Remember: If your scalp is getting oily or itchy after its been a dedicated shampoo-free zone for more than a few months, there’s usually some small tweak you can make to fix it. Don’t despair. If the problem seems to be scalp-related, try switching up your conditioners and any other products. As long as you’re water/finger washing your hair with conditioner every week and using a safe ‘poo-alternative every other week or so, you shouldn’t need anything more than a minor regimen shift. Bonus: You can always return to your original products when the newer ones stop doing their job.

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.