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.

 

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.

CQA Interview: Renee

Renee after her curly conversion.

Renee after her curly conversion.

Renee is a friend and was the perfect candidate for curl conversion. A couple of years after following this blog’s suggestions, her hair is looking more gorgeous than even I could have predicted. Let’s hear how she did it!

Curly Q&A: Before you became a dedicated curly girl, what was your hair care routine?

Renee: I would use Tresemmé shampoo and conditioner, a second conditioner of Nexxus and then would use Biolagé as a leave in. Once out of the shower, I would use a detangler with a Sexy Healthy Hair cream to style, and top with hairspray.

CQA: Sounds crunchy! What made you decide to ditch the ‘poo (traditional shampoo)?

R: My hair was starting to get frizzier, impossible to comb, and I had to brush it. I started talking to other curly heads about it.

CQA: How long did it take to feel comfortable shampoo-free?

R: Probably a couple weeks to a month, I didn’t have the itchiness issues but it was just getting out of the old routine.

CQA: If you didn’t have itchiness, your scalp was probably screaming to be left alone and it sounds like you were finally hearing its cries. What is your hair care and styling routine now?

Renee before her curly conversion!

Renee before her curly conversion!

R: I wash it with Deva Curl No Poo once a week if that, and rotate days with using Aussie Moist conditioner and MoroccanOil conditioner. Other days I follow with Biolagé as a leave-in. If the weather is humid, I will use DevaCurl Angel light defining gel in the shower to finish. To style it, I use a mixture of Devacurl styling cream and Redken Curvaceous Ringlet and add Moroccan Oil curl styling cream if it’s humid out. Once a week I will also use a Moroccan oil conditioning treatment.

CQA: Sounds like you’ve really found a formula that works for your hair! It takes a village. What are some of the biggest differences that you’ve noticed in your hair health and appearance?

R: My hair isn’t as hard to finger comb, it’s softer and lasts longer between cuts. The curls are also much healthier.

CQA: Has it affected other parts of your life at all?

R: It’s made my hair routine so much easier and shorter.

CQA: Was there ever a time in your life when someone made your curls seem unprofessional or inappropriate in a situation?

R: I’ve had a lot of people constantly ask me if this is my natural hair and it made me feel uncomfortable when they’d respond with, “because most white women do not have as curly hair as you do.”

CQA: I just love when people feel totally comfortable remarking on women’s physical appearances in such ignorant and nonsensical ways. Is there anything else you’d like to share with would-be curly converts?

R: If you must straighten your hair, be sure to use a heat protector first as that was one of my biggest mistakes around my wedding; it damaged my hair and took months to get the curls back to normal.

CQA: Thanks so much Renee! You truly are a story of success and I so appreciate your taking the time to tell us about your journey!

Product Update: Curl Creme

frizz-cremeThis past weekend I had the pleasure of partaking in a new hair maintenance product thanks to Sephora samples that were sent to me along with my most recent perfume purchase. (They sent me like, 8 amazing samples, btw. The best two were birthday gifts, but the others were just included in my purchase.) Now, if you’ve been reading my blog, you probably know that, for me, the basics have always been rich conditioner and a hearty gel. I’ve most definitely learned that mousse is not a friend of mine (leaves hair frizzy and sticky), and creams have always left my hair feeling overdone and clumpy.

I decided to try this curl creme sample because I was going for a post-oil-treatment, post-chlorine-and-sun-abuse lazy Sunday afternoon look. I figured it would just give me some nice shine and maybe eventually I’d have to put my hair up when it got insanely frizzy. Friends, I couldn’t bring myself to put it up, even later when I’d gone for a long sweaty bike ride! I don’t know the last time my hair has looked that good, seriously. It was definitely post-treatment too, which made it feel less product-y, but it was above and beyond the norm. I highly recommend it.

Below is how I used: Living Proof Nourishing Styling Cream

  1. Aprés-swim, I used some Devachan No-Poo to rid my hair of chlorine without drying it out even further with a detergent-heavy shampoo.
  2. I saturated my wrung-dry hair with MoroccanOil Restorative Hair Mask, and rubbed it into my scalp. Note: I alternate my treatments so that my hair doesn’t get too used to any one thing. The most effective is the homemade oil treatment, but it’s best to switch it up now and then for maximum benefit. Heavy oils are less needed in the summer months.
  3. I covered my hair with the usual treatment cap, tied it on with a bandana over the top, and went to sleep.
  4. The next morning I concocted the 4 tbsp. conditioner/4 tbsp. lemon juice mixture and poured that over my hair, concentrating on working it into my scalp, distributing it through my hair, and then thoroughly rinsing it all out. You don’t want any lemon juice left in your hair. I used my Aussie Moist conditioner for the cleansing mixture since it’s a decent and inexpensive conditioner that won’t be sitting on your hair for too long anyway.
  5. After rinsing, I applied one more slap of one of my new favorite conditioners, Avalon Organics Conditioner Volumizing Rosemary. It smells like I’m in a spa and works really well in rotation with my other two favorites: Creme of Nature Argan Oil Intensive Conditioning Treatment and Devachan’s One Condition. Again, you don’t want to use the same exact products every day. Rotating products, while keeping one styling product and one conditioner as your staples, keeps hair fresh and moisturized. I always apply conditioner to the middle and ends of my hair while my head is upside down in the shower, and then rinse it out about half way. Wring hair dry with your hands.
  6. I normally add in my base gel at this point, but instead I got out of the shower, toweled off, and raked Living Proof’s creme through my hair in a very haphazard way. Some of you may have noticed before, this is often the beginning of great hair days — not caring! Curly hair definitely has a sense of humor.

Without further fiddling, I let it dry throughout the day, and I didn’t even use clips at the roots for vertical body. It created the most beautiful curls on the hottest and most humid day that I’ve ever experienced in NYC. Zero frizz, my friends. This after a sweaty bike ride, a night sleeping on it, and a spin class the next day. Still going strong and still smelling amazing. This one is worth a try!

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!

Cast-Away Curls: A Gel Story

Don’t fall prey to the crunchy curls!

It occurred to me yesterday that perhaps a lot of curly girls don’t know how gel is meant to work in our hair. This realization came about when someone asked me why my hair had looked “wet and crunchy” in the morning, and soft and bouncy that same afternoon. Yes, she was a straight-haired woman, but her question reminded me of how many curly girls I see running around with that same crunchy-wet look throughout the entire day.

I’m going to start by saying that it’s fine if you just like the way it looks. If you want your hair to be super tame, tamped down, and orderly, so be it! But to people who like my hair and want to find a way to achieve soft and bouncy curls, I explain that the gel should only be used as a cast while your hair is drying. Let me explain:

When gel is applied to wet hair, a chemical reaction causes the gel to harden as the hair dries; this is called a cast. It is setting your hair and allowing the curls to come together and stay together despite wind, humidity, and other such elemental strains. The longer you leave your hair in its hardened shell, the longer it will remain frizz-free and ready to be released from its chemical bondage. This works to our advantage if, say, we want to wash our hair the night before a big day but don’t want it to get ruined overnight. If you let it dry with the gel still hardened and intact, when you wake up you can scrunch, ruffle, and go with super-shiny beautiful locks. If you want to leave the gel cast in during the day at work so that it will look its best for a first date that evening, that’s yet another advantage.

Ahhh, that’s better.

When you’re ready to break the cast, you just turn your head upside down and scrunch your hair upward in an accordion-like motion. Then you put your fingers at the base of your hair follicles against the scalp and ruffle the roots–as usual, do not touch the hair shafts. This causes curls to separate, but not to frizz. As they’ve dried in their protective shell, they are cool, calm, collected, and ready to face the elements.

DIY Spray Gel

In addition to my most recent post on proper conditioning at the beach and the pool, I wanted to share an easy DIY way to benefit from the wonders of hair-taming gel on the go. We all know that moment where we wonder to ourselves: Is it really worth letting loose and diving head-first into the pool, or frolicking with my summer love during high tide, at the risk of my beautiful curls turning into a poodle-y mess? Well, fret no more.

After applying your leave-in conditioner (again, be sure that you have experimented with the right amount of moisturizers so that your hair won’t look super greasy after application), spritz on some homemade spray-gel to keep strands in line.

Take 1/2 cup of your favorite gel and 1 cup of boiling water, stir them together, let it cool, then add it to a spray bottle. Easy-peasy! Experiment with amounts of gel vs. water over time to see what works best for you. Then just lie back on the beach towel and let your beachy-cool locks unveil themselves!

Spray gel recipe by Curly Girl