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.

Advertisements

Oil Slick

Hello dear readers! It’s been a while. I make a point of only posting when I have something truly worthwhile to say, so I apologize if you’ve been feeling neglected.

olive-oilI’ve come across a slew of timely new products that don’t seem to be a total waste of money and are worth the investment: Easy-to-use hair oils. They come in many different brands and consistencies with a plethora of ingredients and application techniques that offer various benefits to hair and styling. I’d feel remiss if I didn’t mention that this is not a “new hair trend” by any means. Go to the small but super important “coarse hair” section of any drugstore and you’ll see products similar to these that have been on shelves for decades. This bevy of new contenders just comes in prettier packaging with highly-marketed branding, and the oils tend to be a bit more distilled so that they don’t weigh down finer hair types.

seaspongeThe first thing you should know is that the coarser the hair, the bigger the “pores,” and the more moisture that is needed. Think of hair porosity in terms of a big sea sponge with huge divots. The holes of the sponge are big so that they can absorb a ton of liquid easily, but the water also squeezes out more easily than it does in a more condensed sponge. Hair is this way too — if it thirstily absorbs everything you put on it, it loses moisture just as easily.

Below I’ve broken down a few that I’ve tried, which I’d recommend based on hair type, and how to use them. But first, a few ground rules.

1) Concentrate on strand ends when using oils. The ends don’t get as much love from natural scalp oils, especially on a curly head, and this is a big part of what causes split ends. And don’t shortchange your shorter layers — they have ends too!

2) Just because a product says to use it on wet or damp hair only, this doesn’t mean it’s a hard and fast rule. Hair absorbs more when it’s not wet — this is common sense. When it’s wet, it has already absorbed some water. When it’s dry, it’s only absorbing what you put on it. If your ends are feeling very dry, I’d definitely recommend using oil on them when hair is not wet.

3) Regardless of what some packaging may claim, hair oils are not a replacement styling product. They can be, if you’re ok with a slightly less tame hair day, because they will not hold curls together in a cast while they dry the way gels, mousses, and creams do. For an everyday look, you should probably expect to wear hair in a braid or bun that day to hide the greeeez.

4) How much you apply depends on when you are using it. Refer to the point above. I don’t style with oils on the “first day” of a hair wash cycle. Usually it’s when I go on to a third or fourth day that I start to feel like it’s a bit dry from days without conditioner. However, with very light application, and with a lighter oil mix, you can get away with running a bit over your gelled hair without greasy side effects. We also tend to wash less in the winter, and that’s when hair needs moisture the most. You will not use oils as much in the summer, but they are a great little product to pack in the beach bag for use after chlorine or saltwater abuse!

5) Your scalp can also benefit from oils. Itchy? Painful? Flaking? All of these can be side effects of a dry scalp. Not everyone gets dandruff, and dandruff is not the only indicator of a scalp in distress. Even if you have one spot that seems especially painful, rubbing a dab of oil or conditioner on that spot will soothe it instantly. It’s like magic. So if you’re already applying it to your ends, why not go all the way? But beware — this is an application site that will make hair look pretty greasy and you may not want to do it just before stepping out for the evening or heading to work. On the weekend? Cover up the evidence with a cute bandana or hair scarf.

6) Why not just use the EVOO in my kitchen cupboard? Ahh, the million dollar question! You can do that if you spruce it up with lots of yummy-smelling quality essential oils and mix them together before application. Otherwise, you will just smell like a fry cook all day, and you may get sick of that (unless you actually are a fry cook, in which case, go for it!) This is why I recommend the homemade oil treatment as an overnight remedy, not something to leave in your hair during an average day. The products below smell amazing, so any questions regarding your hygiene should be quickly dismissed.

7) Use hair oils as often as you feel is necessary, based on hair’s absorption. There is no drawback to using them, but if you over-do it you will see that it gets super greasy because it can only absorb so much. Over-saturation serves no purpose! You will know how to toe the line with your hair as you become more accustomed to using oils.

8) Wash with a real cleanser at least once a week when you are using oils. They don’t wash out with water and conditioner like other products and environmental deposits do. Because of this, you’ll want to treat hair, and especially your scalp if you’ve used it there, to some DevaCare Low ‘Poo, No ‘Poo, Homemade Lemon Juice-Conditioner cleanser, or WEN’s cleansing conditioner during shower time.

9) Start small. A dime-sized dab in the palm will go a long way. My hair is down to the middle of my back and that’s all I usually need, concentrating on ends and mid-length. If you need more you can always add more, but add in very small increments. Rub palms together and rake the oil through hair where it’s needed most.

10) When in doubt, read the ingredients!! Google any that you don’t know and you should get a good idea of how good or bad they are for your hair. Some synthetics can be extra slick, coating strands with more shine than moisture, so it’s best to go with products that have as short an ingredient list as possible.

Now, without further ado…

OjonWandOjon

– Course to fine type –

Ojon’s products come in two super-handy applications for all hair types. The first is in a bottle, and you can use it based on your hair’s absorption power with a dab in your palm that you rake through pretty liberally. If you need more, use it, but start small. The second applicator is like a mascara wand that can be used for flyaways. If you have a ponytail, say, and there are a few baby hairs that just won’t lie down, skim the wand over the trouble spots and they will simmer right down. This also works really well for straight-haired and short-haired ladies and gentlemen with stubborn cowlicks, so surprise your un-blessed friends with your new-found hair-saving savvy!

PalmersPalmers

– Coarse type –

Palmers’ products tend to be a bit on the gooey-er side, and can be used even more sparingly than the others. Coarse is not synonymous with thin — this hair type breaks more easily than all others, so oils are essential and Palmers makes a great product. Just because it comes in a spray bottle, that doesn’t mean you have to use it that way — in fact, I don’t recommend it. With a dab in the palm you are better able to control the amount that you’re using and where it’s being applied.

hask-argan-oil-and-hair-mask-L-oOR53vHask Argan Oil

– Coarse to fine type –

Argan Oil can be found in many product lines now, and with a variety of thicknesses and added ingredients. I like the Hask version, and it smells like a creamsicle. I use it more than any others, and it’s pretty thick so use sparingly and mainly at the ends.

moroccan-oil-treament-25ml-regularMorrocanOil

– Coarse to fine type –

MorrocanOil makes a long line of Morrocan oil products that have been widely circulated through the United States and they tend to stick to sparse, helpful ingredients. Their trademarked original oil is another example of a top notch product without too many unnecessary add-ons.

OrganixOrganix

– Medium to fine type –

Organix Penetrating Oil Renewing Moroccan Argan oil is my newest favorite for my fine hair type. It’s light enough not to look greasy, smells so good, and comes in an easy-application pump bottle. It may not offer enough oomph for coarser hair types.

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!**

Strong-Hold Gels

I had the pleasure of experiencing an evening at Devachan’s location on Broome Street last night, and as always, walked away with delightfully new-found knowledge. The woman who was washing my hair mentioned that she always thought she had straight hair, which I hear is often the case with wavy-tressed beauties, but is not something that I can begin to fathom.

It was when she started using a strong-hold hair gel that she found that she was able to maintain a more authentic curl in her hair, because the hold would cement the scrunched up curls that she created during the product application process. So I wondered if the reverse was also true–if I wanted to dry my curls by squeezing them in my usual downward-pressing motion to lengthen them, would it stand to reason that the strong-hold gel would retain the straighter strands that I’d created? Up until now, I’d always thought that the stronger hold gels were simply best at flattening hair down as much as possible. I definitely didn’t think they’d hold a wavy-haired persons locks to a curlier standard.

Well, alas my dear readers, it did! The curls dried much longer and looser (not flat, but loose and still voluminous) than they normally do when I wring them dry the same way. So new rule for strong-hold gels: They are best used sparingly on hair that is accustomed to lighter hold, maybe half the amount that you’d normally apply, but they are perfect for maintaining your hair’s shape if you want curls to have roughly the same pattern dry as they do wet. (ie: Scrunch hair upward for curlier strands, and wring them going from scalp to ends for longer, looser strands.) Be sure to scrunch the gel out once the hair is dry.

Note: Stronger gels will also stick to your hair and attract more dust, so be sure to use a cleanser next time you wash, and I don’t recommend using strong-hold gels as an every-day hair treat as they will really gook up your hair over time.

I Recommend: Devachan’s new DevaCurl Ultra Defining Gel. Just use sparingly–don’t say I didn’t warn you!