Winter Hair Woes: Solved!

imagesWinter really is a b*^&% on curly hair, isn’t it? Every single year I debate cutting it all off or straightening it. This year I’m growing it out for my wedding so I can’t do the former, and I get it all sweaty with my workouts so spending $40 on a decent blow-out is not worth it.

There are some important things that we can do to help our curls, but they come with a few snarls. Here’s how to overcome them for happy, healthy hair!

1) Frequent oil treatments.

olive-oil_sq-e4b656991b973d6de22fb74a05922bb0650e9e5a-s6-c30The Problem: If you do an oil treatment every week during the winter you will love your hair. There are just a few issues, namely the plumbing and the time. With shorter daylight hours we find less energy to do the things we have to do, let alone the things we want to do. Aside from time, which would be easy enough to overcome, I have to add to the fact that I live in a pre-war building with less than stellar plumbing and every single time I do an oil treatment it clogs the shower drain. We’ve have to use Drain-O in our already old and unreliable pipes, and that’s not good.

The Solution: I have decided to do bi-weekly oil treatments and to wash them out at the gym instead of at home. Their brand new building and commercial pipes will allow for easy flow. Exercising with an oil treatment in your hair is always recommended, just don’t put in so much that your hair will be dripping, and limit yourself to the treadmill, elliptical, stairs and free weights, or activities where the head doesn’t have to touch machines. Sweating opens pores and allows for additional saturation to your scalp and hair follicles. Apply the treatment the night before so hair has had time to absorb most of it, then tie it in a tight bun and go to the gym, and wash it out when you’re done! Be sure to pack your lemon/conditioner mix for cleansing. In between treatments, apply lighter oils to your ends.

2) A hat to protect hair from the elements.

The Problem: Almost every winter hat is expressly made for straight-haired people. It tamps hair down and flattens the heck out of the top, leaving the bottom frizzy and unmanageable from exposure and friction against scarves and high-necked jackets and sweaters.

montera-newThe Solution: The slouchy trend has brought about a plethora loose-fitting yet flattering hats. To protect hair you can wrap it lightly in a loose silk or nylon bandana before putting the hat on, but you don’t have to. You can also loosely tie hair up on top of your head to keep it covered. Hat styles that work best are those that are semi-loose around the band, and balloon out on top to accommodate lots of hair. I love the hat that I got from a Caribbean market in my neighborhood, loose enough to cover a head full of dreads. There is also a smaller and more discreet version for people with less hair, which can be found in many mall kiosks and online. I’d recommend buying one in person so you can ensure that the band won’t be too tight around your head.

Click below for more ideas to make it through the long, cold winter. Above all, keep your chin up and remember that things may look a bit different, but you’re beautiful all 365 days of the year!

Read More:
Winter Shminter: Curls in the Cooler Months
Winter Hair Care
My Waterless Week
Scalp Care

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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!**

Mud Runners Beware!

Can you spot my slight update to the Mudderella logo?

Can you spot my slight update to the Mudderella logo?

On Saturday I ran in a Warrior Dash with some friends. You’ve heard of mud runs by now if you live in the USA, and possibly even if not — it’s the newest way to showcase your crazy. They are races that involve a variety of insane obstacles such as barbed wire to crawl under, junk cars to jump over, fire to hop, walls to scale, lakes to swim, rocks to run over, and much more. I swore that I’d never partake in such a thing, but my decision was quickly reversed when I saw how many people have taken part in the trend, how much fun they’ve had, and that there are “lite” versions for those of us who do not consider ourselves “runners.” I am very physically active in many ways, but I’ve always struggled with running. Regardless of whether you go with a Warrior Dash, a Mudderella, or the full-scale Tough Mudder, one thing remains the same: You will get covered in mud.

For, as the genre name suggests, the main trait that ties all of these runs together is racing through the mud like a damned fool. Naturally my first thought was, “But what about my hair?” Now again, I am no scientist, but I know that mud has the ability to extract dirt from pores and possibly even venom from some vermin bites, so I can only imagine what kind of drying effect it might have on hair if left on too long.

Me on the left: Notice, no one can tell how greased-up my hair is! Who cares!

Me on the left: Notice, no one can tell how greased-up my hair is! Who cares!

I prefer to go at life with a proactive approach, so I decided to coat my hair with a ton of conditioner just before taking off, and covered my hair with an old bandana. My first inclination was to put on a shower cap and tie that on with a bandana, but I realized I’d look even more crazy and the thing would probably fall off anyway. Conditioner acts as a shield in all kinds of climates; it absorbs into the “pores” of your hair, saturating it to protect against humidity and dry weather. So wouldn’t it help the mud to slick right off? One would assume so.

Muddy_Mudskipper

Muddy Mud Skipper of Ren & Stimpy fame, for anyone else who grew up in the 90’s!

When I returned home, I rinsed my hair thoroughly, not to mention the rest of myself, and applied one of my favorite conditioning masks overnight. The next morning I washed it all out with lemon juice and conditioner, and it looked and felt like nothing had ever happened.

Problem solved! So now you have no excuses — if you’re healthy, in decent shape, and can find a mud run nearby, go for it. Just be very careful my muddy mudskippers, and know that you can always walk right by any obstacles that are too scary!

My Waterless Week

I’m a strong believer in making lemonade out of lemons — after I’ve stomped on, cursed at, complained about, and otherwise viciously abused those lemons. That being said, when we realized that the boiler in the basement of the old building we just moved into has gone kaput, and will apparently take weeks to fix just as we’re starting to get snow and frigid temps here, I was forced to face some hard truths when it came to my hair.

I feel your pain, little guy!

First of all, who wants to sleep with a wet oil-treated head when it’s freezing in your bedroom? Not me, which doesn’t bode well for my poor wind-bedraggled mane. Second of all, no matter how much I diffuse my curls after washing them, they will always stay wet and I’ll be freezing again within a matter of minutes. Now, it’s easy for you in your warm seat atop your ivory tower to say that I should just suck it up and wear warmer clothes. But friends, when you’re in a freezing apartment at night and the cold is so bad that it’s seeping into your bones until you sit in front of a space heater for a good 20 minutes, the last thing you want is long wet hair dripping down your back or soaking through your pillow as you try to go to sleep. Washing in the morning is even worse with temperamental winds that feel like ice picks hitting you from every direction.

So the aforementioned lemons needed some sweetening. How can I find a way to have fun with this? I knew I didn’t want to straighten my hair, I could be more creative. Thus began the 1-week wash-free challenge.

Some of you will say,big deal, I go a week without washing my hair all the time.” Ladies or gents, this post is not for you. It’s for those of us whose thin hair gets quickly and easily greasy from product use, dirt and crud from city living, or sweaty work-outs. For those of you screaming “EWWW,” just remember that daily hair washings are a very new phenomenon as far as mankind is concerned, and is a product of our over-obsession with being squeaky clean and bacteria-free. Any crud in your hair is nothing compared to that on your jackets, shoes, and kitchen sponges. Also, VERY IMPORTANT: I am not saying shower-free. I am still showering and washing my body every day.

If you’re interested in how I maintained a relatively normal 7 days with work-outs, going to my office in Manhattan of all places from Monday to Friday, and doing all of my usual routine stuff, please read on for a daily play-by-play and you just may learn a trick or two.

Day 1: Sunday. I washed my hair after taking a nice jog outside. It was early enough in the day that I could sit in front of the space heater and wait for it to try completely before going anywhere. I used minimal gel, about 2/3 of what I usually use. The more product you have in your hair, the cruddier it will get.

Day 2: Monday. I woke up with clean hair; I had been careful the night before to keep it up off my neck by fanning it out over my pillow while I slept. Fluffed it up a little and left for work.

Klorane dry shampoo spray.

Day 3: Tuesday. It was starting to look a little tired, so I sprayed in some nice volumizing dry shampoo after I woke up. I prefer my natural powder brand, but in a pinch the Klorane spray brand gives you a much cleaner feeling. Fluffed up my roots and went to work.

Day 4: Wednesday. My hair held up pretty well after the dry shampoo, and I slept with a side braid to keep it off my neck and to reduce snarls. Still, when I woke up this morning my roots were feeling pretty stiff and greasy. I grabbed a boar-bristle round brush and my blow-drier. (My fabulous hair stylist/model friend taught me this trick for eliminating oil at the scalp and adding height to the roots.) I concentrated on my roots and lifted the hair with the boar-bristle brush while aiming the blow drier directly at my roots. I did this all around my head. I did not pull the brush through my hair in order to disrupt the curls as little as possible. This gave me a much more unstructured look, but I loved how full and long it appeared! Sometimes it’s ok to have a more tousled style. In order to make it a bit more organized, twist some of the curls with a slightly wet finger to add definition amidst the chaos. So far this was my favorite hair day this week!

The sock bun. Photo courtesy of Hello Giggles.

Day 5: Thursday. It was time to embrace the grease and try the famous sock bun. Looked awesome, and I wet the palms of my hands and ran them lightly over my hair around the crown (not touching the bun) and then put a light coat of gel on my palms and ran that over my hair as well. It kept frizzies in place all day. During my morning commute, in order to combat wind-fraying or impromptu humidity in the subway, I wrapped a light scarf loosely around my head.

Day 6: Friday. I woke up and felt once again that my roots needed a little lift and de-greasing. This time I reached for my Cold Spring Apothecary all natural dry shampoo made with no harmful chemicals or inhalants. I separated my hair into several different parts and sprinkled it directly onto my scalp. I then rubbed it in, carefully threading my fingers under my top canopy of hair so I wouldn’t ruffle the strands themselves. Next, I put my hair in a high pony tail so that the front of my hair maintained a little lift around the crown, and I braided the pony tail. Then I took several bobby pins and pinned the braid to the back of my head to disguise any greasiness or unkempt curls there. It kind of resembled the back of a corset, which was pretty neat! I then sprayed some hair spray around the crown of my head to keep flyaways in line.

Day 7: Saturday. I woke up for my morning run and employed the sock bun again, but this time with a much larger leg warmer instead. It was kind of funny running with this big sock on my head, but I also pinned it in place with tons of bobbies and put a thick cloth headband around my head to keep my ears warm and sweat off of my hair. When I got home I took it all down and it actually wasn’t bad! But it did need more body. So for my final act during this waterless week, I prepped to go out with my boyfriend and another couple for dinner. I grabbed a comb and started back combing my hair at the ends this time, not at the root. This gave me some extra body. Then I piled my hair up again on top of my head and smoothed back frizzies around my face, and did the leg-warmer bun again. With the added volume it looked amazing! The hair around my face was starting to look a little worn, so I drew some extra attention to the bun by wrapping a cool metallic headband I have around the base of the bun and clipping it into place. I felt very Hepburn-esque!

So here we are again at Sunday and I washed my hair the moment I woke up. I really enjoyed this experiment, and if we don’t get some serious heat in this place I can see it becoming a rather regular occurrence this winter. My hair is definitely no worse for the wear, I guess the oils from my scalp helped to keep it moisturized even without an oil treatment.

Lessons Learned:

* A week water-free isn’t so bad if you keep on top of scalp greasiness by blow drying it and using dry shampoo. Just limit aerosol use since it’s not good for you!

* Toward the end of the week, learn to work with the grease. Choose styles that require your hair to be plastered to your head, then just frizz out the ends for more body.

* The sock bun is a great way to limit sweat distribution throughout your hair while you’re working out! Just don’t use it if you’re going to be turning upside down or doing jumping jacks a lot, that could get messy.

* Wearing a scarf loosely over my hair instead of a hat elicits weird looks from strangers and co-workers. Still not going to stop doing it because it works!

* Not a single person seemed to notice that my hair was unwashed all week, and I suspect that my hair appreciated a break from the wash and dry routine.

Voila! I hope I’ve convinced you to try a waterless week yourself sometime, it really forces you to be creative, and there are lots of blogs with fun hair ideas that you should experiment with. Enjoy, and stay warm!