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.

Round or Flat? The Age Old Question Rages On

scissors_hairI have mentioned the importance of a proper hair cut on a curly head many times, but I don’t think that the subject can ever be given enough justice. There have been times that I’ve looked like a worn out hag or a wet rat because of my hair, and times that I’ve resembled a movie star strutting down the red carpet of my overactive imagination (major creative liberties being taken here, but you get the jist). Make-up and general face-issues not-withstanding, hair can really make or break a look. It’s based on the curl pattern and frizz factor of the day, but mainly, it’s the cut.

Until now, I have faithfully returned to my beloved Devachan Salon in Soho, NYC. They just get it. They cut curls dry without question, and use my favorite conditioners and gels. For years I’ve tried to cultivate this sort of “Mick Jagger” curly/wavy shag that fits my face shape, and sometimes it’s great, but it grows out really quickly and needs more maintenance than I can afford. Plus, I like the shag because it feels carefree and fun, and you can’t be those things when you’re always worried about your hair.

I have the types of curls that can be really glorious and well-defined, but also tend to either frizz or lie flat. I hate flat. Frizz I can work with, since you can use good hair oils and lots of conditioner and the right gel to keep it in check. But flat, blah!

I saw a great curly hair cut on a woman at the gym, and it was short and super layered. Think Meg Ryan in City of Angels. I had to ask her who does her hair, and it was a woman named Amy at Arté Salon, also in Soho. I was displeased with my last cut from Devachan, where one of the stylists I used to love seemed to rush me and not really listen to what I was saying. They also charge a s&^%load, as anyone who’s been there will know. I decided to go to Amy for my first consultation ever, since it was free and why not. I am in the tricky stage between wanting a hair cut I can love on the daily, but that isn’t too short or sparse to be used in a romantic ‘do for my wedding this August.

Course, thick curls cut in the traditional accordion style.

Course, thick curls cut in the traditional accordion style.

I loved Amy at first sight! She was so perky and knew exactly what I was talking about. She truly listened, and even more, she explained something that I hadn’t understood before. She has gone to many curly hair cutting classes, and the traditional way to cut curly hair has been to cut curls in a pattern that falls down your head in an accordion style, meaning that each strand is slightly shorter than the ones just below it. The reason for this is that it allows curls to fall on top of each other in a less upward-direction, diminishing the dreaded triangle, but also squelching voluminous roundness. Since curls have only recently become socially acceptable (hissss), there isn’t as much request for afro styles in the majority demographic. But take my word, they’re a-comin,’ and they’re fantastic.

Curls scooped out from underneath, with the shortest layers toward the bottom. This can be done with longer hair cuts, too.

Curls scooped out from underneath, with the shortest layers toward the bottom. This can be done with longer hair cuts, too.

This accordion cutting style works perfectly for people with thick or course textures, since they have enough hair to support some serious shape. But for ladies like me who don’t have as much thick beautiful hair, and top layers that tend to be more wavy than curly when long, Amy says that you have to do the exact opposite. You want to cut hair as if you’re scooping it out from underneath, so that each hair is slightly longer than the ones below it. That way the shorter strands underneath are pushing the top layers up. She even showed me how to do it myself between cuts so that I’m not constantly coming back for a re-shaping. It’ll take some practice, but when I have it figured out I will post a video.

The moral of the story: If you’re not happy with your hair, you deserve to be for all that money you’re spending! Ask anyone whose hair style you like where they get it done and book a consultation. If you immediately click with the stylist, great! If not, try to find a way to connect so that he or she understands what you’re asking for. Pictures always help! And remember to be vocal: I had to speak up so that she’d cut my curls dry instead of wet, and told her not to use shampoo on me, with which she was happy to comply. My requests solicited an irritated side glance from a male patron to my right, but then again, his hair was super boring.

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!**

Winter Shminter: Curls in the Cooler Months

Image courtesy of Etsy.

Image courtesy of Etsy.

Now that the cooler temps and dry air are upon us, at least those of us who live in 4-season climates and are currently experiencing fall’s entree to winter, you will start to notice a few small changes in your hair. Here’s how to deal.

  1. It will look a bit more flat and lackluster. Air – Humidity = less frizz, which takes away the added volume in most curly hair. I say most, because the porous quality of our hair is unique. Typically, the tighter the curls, the more porous the hair. Though, if you’re one of those who are blessed with lots of hair strands, it probably won’t look all that much different. Hair is also a bit shinier without added frizz, so that’s nice.
  2. Artificial heat is also drying, and damaging. Now that it will be too cool to breeze out of the house in the morning with still-wet air-drying hair, you will be tempted to use your blow dryer. May I caution you to use this as little a10favorite-jack-o-lanterns possible? The drying effects will mean that you need to do more deep conditioning and oil treatments, which we all know by now is expensive. A better solution, if you can stand it, is to wash hair at night, let it air dry for about an hour, and then sleep with your hair fanned out above your head and over your pillow. It sounds counter-intuitive to sleep on wet hair, but try it. The hair being lifted at the roots and drying horizontally gives added volume and the hair dries disruption-free in its gel caste, leading to smooth, shiny, defined curls.
  3. You will need less product. Now that we’re not fighting frizz on a daily basis, use less product than you do in the summer. This does not apply to conditioner — your hair always needs conditioner. In the fall and winter months, my styling routine is basically this: Condition heavily, wash out most of it, turn head upside down and scrunch in a dime-sized amount of Deva Curl Angell, get out of the shower, dry it gently with a hair towel, and rake a small dab of a finishing product through hair for added protection against the elements. This can be a creme or another type of gel. I like to mix products, it tends to work better than using a lot of one product.
  4. If you’re growing your hair out — it will look weird. This is just what I am currently experiencing, so I’m sharing it with you. I decided last spring to grow out my bangs, so I’m just letting the whole mess grow out on its own to see how long it can get before I hate it. Right now it’s lying pretty limp and lifeless, but when I use dry shampoo at the roots, it looks pretty magnificent. The main thing that annoys me is the long ringlets that have grown to about 12+ inches (in ringlet form) and make it look like I just have a few rat tails hanging down rather than a full bounty of locks. If you’re comfortable with cutting it yourself, you can take one of these longer curls, split it in half or in three sections, and snip off an inch from one of the sections. Making them slightly different lengths can separate the curls and add volume. Remember: Less is more when self-cutting (bad joke). Take off an inch or less at a time. There’s nothing worse than lopping off 5 inches without having realized; and you can always go back for more.
  5. Condition, Condition, Condition!!! I can not stress this enough. Curly hair needs a lot of conditioning. Try to work in one mask or oil treatment a week, especially in these cooler temps. If hair feels dry, leave some conditioner on your ends. *You do not need to buy leave-in conditioner!* Use the stuff you use in the shower. This applies especially to longer-haired peeps. If hair is shorter, scalp oils have less traveling to do to make it to your ends. If your hair is long, it needs some help in that department. Always wash out deep conditioning masks and oils with equal parts lemon juice and conditioner. It’s the best cleanser out there.

Now bundle up and get ready for scarves, sweaters, and hot cocoa! It’s right around the corner…

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!

Time for a Hair Cut?

UnknownThis time of year we are battling all manner of trichological tragedies: split ends, dryness, dandruff, breakage, etc., due to the aforementioned over-heating and dry weather. The question that I always battle myself is, when is it really time for a hair cut?

This question has become more strident in recent years, due to the fact that my Devachan cuts are far from Supercuts prices (as well as quality, of course) and I’ve been trying to grow it out for the past decade. I also have some complicated layers that I find increasingly difficult to shape myself.

The “time-for-a-hair-cut” indicators I use are:

  • You look in the mirror every day for over a week and see droopy, unhappy curls, and it’s been OVER four months since your last cut.
  • You look at your ends and see more splits than healthy strands.
  • You’ve tried an oil treatment and still do not see much improvement in the health, bounciness, and shine of your hair.

A few ways to prolong a cut:

  • Condition well each time you wash, concentrating on ends, and oil-treat at least once a week during the winter. This can become costly, even with the at-home recipe, but it’s important.
  • Try different types of oil treatments. Some focus more on hydration, some on protein-renewal. My favorite lately was a Hair Dew treatment I had along with a seaweed wrap at Bliss Spa in Soho, if you’re so inclined.
  • Don’t pull your hair up and leave it in a tight pony tail all day. For a greasy-day solution try a braid or two — it helps to protect the hair from environmental factors and is loose enough not to cause damage.
  • Wear a loose scarf or hat over the top of your head to protect the outermost layer of hair, which is naturally prone to the most abuse.

CQA Interview: Shawn

Courtesy: Shawn

Over the weekend at a friend’s pool party I ran into a guy with some seriously awesome hair (and style). I have to say, on a side note, that I am a huge supporter of men with curly hair who grow it out. It looks so fun, free, and different. It evokes a certain je ne sais quoi, love for life I guess, which is hugely enticing to be around.

A guy with grown-out curly hair was actually part of my inspiration for starting this blog, since he was a wedding photographer at my friend’s wedding and had literally 5 minutes to get the full rundown of my haircare process. That just would not do, so I created a quick and easy blog to share with my fellow curly heads.

That being said, I sort of “accosted” my new friend for information as to his haircare regimen. He was more than happy to oblige, so I am sharing it below.

Shampoo: Argan Oil shampoo
Conditioner: Argan Oil conditioner
Product: Post-shower, he applies Neutrogena Triple Moisture (but he switches it up all the time, as he should)
Cut: Roughly once a year, and he gets it cut wet
Salon: DnA Salon in Philly

If any guys are reading this, please “like” or comment below. I really want to help out all my brothas and sistas as much as I can!

Why I Love My Bangs

Aside

My first experience with bangs was in early elementary school. My mother must have thought it would be a nice change, or maybe I did, who knows. All I know is that I remembered throughout the remainder of my childhood and teen years that curly hair + bangs = horror and ridicule squared. They twisted this way and that, making me look like a sad dorky kid from some 70’s sitcom. Not cute.

So when I was in my 27th year and about to take on a new job that would initiate a very positive shift in my career, it surprised me that I wanted to try bangs again. I took out my shears, and in front of my mirror only minutes before my boyfriend was due to pick me up for dinner, I cut some bangs.

Now to preface this, I’d already been trimming and adding some layers to my hair myself, but this was still a really big deal. I cut them while my hair was straight (oops) so they were way too short when they curled up. Still, I was living in hipster haven Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the time, and half-way down your forehead bangs were actually in at the time. Who knows, maybe they still are. I went out and wore them with pride, sneaking glances in the mirror at the restaurant from time to time. It was terrifying, but so exhillerating!

Since then, I’ve had some variation of bangs at all times. Sometimes side swept, sometimes in the middle, sometimes short, sometimes almost covering my eyes. I just have to say I love them so much. They add incredible versatility to my ‘do, especially now that I have such short layers and a shag-like haircut.

Sorry to hate on you, Minnie, I loved you in “Good Will Hunting,” but you really should use a wide-toothed comb on those bang curls to loosen them up.

When I have my hair in the “pile” or “fountain,” or even a plain braid, they add some cool fringe to frame my face. When I want to hide, I can pull them forward, and when I want to see the world a bit more clearly I can put them to the side or clip them back. The top layer of my hair isn’t as ringlet-y as the bottom layers, but I can loosen my curls a bit further by pulling gel through them in a downward motion while I’m styling. Then when they’re dry, I rake my fingers down again to separate the curls a bit and add some nice coverage over my forehead.

Just saying, don’t be afraid… if your curls don’t have more than a 6-inch spring factor on top when dry, it’s worth a try. Cut them long at first, so if they suck you can always pin them back or sweep them to the side before they grow out in a few months. Or have a hairstylist do it for you, and they’ll do it right the first time. Trust me, ladies!