Full Disclosure: Product Substitutions

I’d love to tell you that I just stick to buying these 8 products, but the truth is that I still have some of that experimental energy that I had long before I started my curly transformation. In other words, I don’t try every product I see on the shelves that promises sleek, shiny, frizz-free hair, although I am tempted. No, my better-educated self turns every product right around to look at ingredients before even considering trying something new.

As I’ve mentioned on the Products page, hair likes to shake up the routine. If you use the exact same things the same way every day, your hair will start to lose some of its luster and it will get very monotonous and boring. Using varying amounts of a product, or experimenting with different application techniques can help, but if you take a total break from those products for about a month, you’ll notice that your hair is happier when you return to using them. That’s why I usually have at least one alternative to every product I use regularly. Below is a list of some of those substitutions, and how I like to keep things interesting.

1) Conditioner: This work horse may contribute the most crucial element to your hair’s health and appearance. Too much and it may look greasy, too little and it looks and feels dry and becomes more prone to breakage. When I want to take a break from Devachan’s One Condition, I use Ouidad’s Balancing Rinse conditioner. I’ll use it for maybe a week before switching back to One Condition, because it does eventually leave my hair feeling a bit less moisturized than I’d like. It’s a thinner formula so that may contribute to it. I also like Argan Oil conditioner, but wouldn’t use it more often than once a month or so.

2) Styling Gel: There are so many ways to take a break from gel. You can use only one gel for slightly less hold and control, instead of using one in the shower pre-towel-drying and one as a finishing gel immediately after towel-drying. You can use different finishing gels, although I always like to keep Devachan’s Angell as my base. I love Ouidad’s Climate Control, but surprisingly I couldn’t stand Curl Quencher on my hair. I’d suggest going to their site, they have it set up a lot like naturallycurly.com now and you can shop by curl type. I also like Devachan’s Volumizing Foam when I want a much less contained look, and I substitute this for finishing gel, while still using the Angell base.

I never use any creams, however. I’ve tried so many, and recently tried Carol’s Daughter’s Hair Milk (which had great moisturizing ingredients, by the way, so it probably left my hair better off in the end) but it didn’t hold my curl at all, which meant that day 2 I already needed to wash and re-style. I like when I can go at least 3 days between washes, which means the perfect balance between not-too-dry and not-too-greasy product application.

3) Hair Treatment: I recommend using some form of hair treatment, be it oil or deep conditioner, at least once a week. You can use those little bottles of essential oils on your ends, you can use a great deep conditioner like DevaCurl’s Heaven in Hair, you can use any of the homemade treatments in Curly Girl, including a slight variation on the amazing Oil Treatment featured on my site, or you can try some great conditioning treatment that you find on your own, as long as it has the key moisturizing ingredients high on the list, and not too many that you can’t pronounce toward the bottom. As always, look for any types of oils, glycerin and glycol derivatives, aloe, and words that you understand first. If there are any ingredients you don’t understand, Google them. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can recognize them once you’ve looked them up.

4) Refreshers: Lastly, I want to be sure that I hammer home how much I love Cold Spring Apothecary’s Citrus Ginger Sea Salt Spray to revive second- and third-day hair. There are a lot of these on the market now, but you have to be sure that they have moisturizers to counteract the drying effect of sea salt. When I use only four pumps distributed throughout my hair by tossing it back and forth, it re-awakens my hair and re-defines lost curls. I only use this when I really feel that I need it, and always use it sparingly. Don’t add this to your hair if it feels like there’s already too much product in your ‘do.

The Skinny: DIY Deep Conditioning

We’ve all seen the little tubes of hot oil treatments in the hair product aisles of our favorite supply stores, but I’m sure that you’ve also noticed the squat tubs of deep conditioners that have become ever-so-popular among most hair brands over the past decade or so. They promise to add shine, restore thickness to thinning locks, tame frizz and more. Some say to leave the treatments in for 5-10 minutes, others only 3. What’s the difference and what does it all mean?!?

Last night I treated myself to a deep conditioning treatment at Devachan Salon in Soho, and I took the opportunity to grill my stylist. First of all, why is this treatment any better than my purchasing their deep conditioner and doing it at home? Here are some tips she had that will offer you the first-class treatment from your couch.

1) The deep conditioner has to get into every nook and cranny on your head, including your scalp. After thoroughly wetting hair down with warm water and then squeezing it mostly dry, the stylist recommended separating hair into sections, like you see when women are getting their hair braided, except larger sections are fine. You work it into each section thoroughly, and run a dab of it along your scalp line between sections. It helps if someone else can help you with this since you can’t see your own scalp, but you can feel it out and maybe do this in front of a mirror to help.

2) As with the oil treatment, you should then cover your head with a plastic shower cap. This holds in moisture like a mini-ecosystem, allowing any lost moisture to be re-absorbed. Put a long piece of cotton, or rolled up paper towels along the edges to hold a tight seal, and prevent any conditioner from leaking down your neck.

Revlon hooded dryer: $33

3) If you have room, and this is very important, buy a mini (haha) hooded dryer. They aren’t as expensive and ridiculous as you think, although there is a range, it’s just hard to find a place to keep it in a tiny chock-full apartment. If you want to save moolah on expensive conditioning treatments, though, I highly recommend it.

4) Lastly, it’s recommended to leave the treatment in, sitting under the dryer, for at least half an hour. It’s pretty loud so watching TV may be a challenge, but you can read magazines and just pretend you’re in some fancy salon!

When it comes to the difference between an oil treatment and a deep conditioning treatment, I think it’s one of those things where two is better than one. Both have their purpose. I’ve read that olive oil particles are too large for hair to absorb, but I know that they have a great, lasting effect on my hair when I use them. I’d say that both treatments have their place.

As for which deep conditioner brands to buy, just make sure that they have lots of moisturizing elements, such as glycerin, aloe, any kind of oils and butters; and as always these ingredients should be high up on the list. My favorite brand, of course, is Devachan’s Heaven in Hair. Most others will be comparable, though, just make sure that they don’t have alcohol (drying) or harmful sulfate and chloride ingredients. The oil treatment can be made at home. Happy conditioning!

Leave-in Essential Oils

courtesy: womenshomeremedies.com

Sometimes even I have to battle dryness; usually if the heat has been on, or if it’s been extra-windy, or just through normal wear and tear. Our hair is like fabric and we have to treat it gently or it will break, become course, frizzy, and a whole host of other atrocities.

One thing I like to do when my hair has been feeling dryer than usual, and in between bi-weekly deep conditioning treatments, is to slick a nutrient- and moisture-rich oil treatment over my ends and to let it sit for one full night and day.

Worried about looking greasy at work or school? If your hair is really dry, it will soak up most of the oil while you sleep, and in the morning you can put it up in a loose bun. Try separating some of the greasier-looking bits with a wide-tooth comb, then forget about it until you get home. Wash it out with the lemon juice-conditioner mixture, or some No-poo, and voila!

(Note: I recommend using one of the quality store-bought oil treatments in this case, since the oil treatment detailed in this blog is less condensed and will make you look like a wet rat regardless of how much your hair soaks up. A few drops of condensed essential oil treatment, thoroughly distributed with your fingers and hands, is plenty. Experiment based on your hair-length.)

Bonus: If you go to the gym or hit the pavement to work up a sweat, you will be essentially steaming your scalp and hair, opening pores, and making the treatment even more effective!

Allergies and your hair

Spring brings more than pretty flowers! Read on for another easy way to combat seasonal allergies.

Hello, friends! Those readers who are currently experiencing springtime may notice that the allergens are in abundance, and have been for a few weeks already. Warmer weather earlier in the season (and in some cases, an almost non-existent winter) has created the perfect storm for a heavy-hitting allergy season. Aside from the usual <obvious> ways to avoid constantly red eyes, runny noses, and itchy skin, may I also remind you that your hair is a huge attractant for almost everything airborne?

We know that dirt is attracted to and sticks to our hair, partly because we add products and partly because that’s what hair is actually supposed to do, so the same is obviously true of pollens. Because of this, I’m trying to at least wet down my hair every night before my head hits the pillow, and it seems to be helping so far. While it’s not ideal for most curly girls to wash right before bed (air-drying becomes a bit of a problem) it’s not a bad idea to at least rinse your hair off, and then you can do the full routine in the morning. It’s also a perfect excuse to use oil and protein treatments more often, since you usually want those to sit on your hair overnight anyway!

If you are going to bed with wet hair I suggest wrapping it in a microfiber hair towel, and by the time it falls off in the middle of the night your hair should be mostly dry. Added bonus: Something about going to sleep with a soft towel snug around my head makes me feel like I’m at a spa or something. Try tying your hair on top of your head first if you don’t want it to come loose and get matted around your neck while you toss and turn. Then enjoy a nice, clean, sneeze-free night!

The Curly Shag

courtesy: seagullhair.com (No, this isn't me. I wish!)
This will work for curly hair of any type, as long as you don't cut layers too short. Be sure that you have it cut while your hair is dry!

I love my hair cut. Best part is, it works with any curly hair type. I have what I like to call a “curly shag,” a la the image to the left.

I needed to have more body on top, so one day I just started snipping layers around my face, since my long hair was dragging way too much. Right away I noticed that the curls came back to life, and my hair started drying much more quickly. It’s a great way to thin out thick hair, while adding volume and bounce for thin hair, since shorter top layers aren’t as weighed down. Great for a spring look if you don’t want to lop all of your hair off.

This cut is also very easy to manage! I recommend pairing it with wispy bangs that gradually get longer going from the middle of your forehead toward your temples, then blending that with your longer layers.

Curly Hairstyles

One thing that always peeves me is how hard it is to find good examples of curly hairstyles. As if it’s hard to make curly hair look great! Quite the contrary, my dears. I, myself, have quite a few stand-bys that I like to sport, and it often looks professionally done (despite taking 5 minutes or less to “do”).

1) The Pile: This is the easiest and most becoming, in my opinion. It also works on any length that is long enough to pull into a pony tail. There are modifications for shorter hair, but we’ll get to that shortly.

What you need:

  • 1 thin elastic hair rubber band (“Ouchless” with no metal bar, preferably)
  • About 4-8 bobby pins, depending on your hair thickness and length

How it works:

  • Put your head upside down and gather all of your hair toward the middle of the crown of your head. How far toward the back or toward your brow is up to you.
  • Gather the hair into the elastic. Wrap the elastic around your hair once or twice. Only twice if it’s loose enough to slide right off once your put your hair upright. Never more than twice, if you need to wrap it more than twice get a newer, more elastic band.
  • Flip your head back up slowly and fasten the elastic band where you want the pony to stay on top of your head. Pull the hair up and out of the pony-tail holder so the elastic is as close to your scalp as possible. It looks kind of Victorian era, which is what I love about it, but it’s also a pretty quick and easy up-do sort of look that works at the office or at a fancier event. Experiment with how many curly tendrils you’d like to have escaping around your face for the best effect.

For shorter hair:

  • It will take time to perfect this look if your hair is too short to get into a pony tail, but you can use just bobby pins. Start with pieces on top and start positioning them the way you’d like them, a little higher up on your crown perhaps. When they look good, use as many bobby pins as it takes to keep it that way. Then continue to go down your head doing this with every layer. The bottom later can be pulled up and criss-crossed over the back of your head, and bobby pinned to stay that way.
  • If your hair is so thick that the pins aren’t cutting it, try using mini claw clips instead.

2) The Side-braid: I’ve mentioned before that I love this look, it’s so medieval. I often braid my hair when I’m sleeping since it’s so long that it gets tangled and matted to my neck in warmer weather. Just loosely braid your hair down the side of your head, as a french bread if you’re so adept, or you can bobby-pin stray tendrils if you can only manage a regular braid. I usually like to keep some hair around my face, but you can switch it up.

3) The Fountain: The regular claw clips also come in handy to simply twist your hair from behind in one large twist, then fasten it to your scalp toward the top of your head. If you have enough hair it will spout out of the top like a fountain. As with the other do’s, you can bobby pin any stray hairs in place.

photo4) Headbands: Until recently, I had equated headbands with those stiff plastic things that gave me headaches if worn too long in the 80’s. Much has changed since those days, there are some great options that don’t squeeze your head so tightly and are much more fun to wear–even more so when you mix and match. My favorite is to twist my hair in the back of my head and to pin it up with as many bobby pins are needed to keep in place. Next, I add on headband in the usual place, and one more toward the back to elongate the front-to-back direction of my hair, as seen at right. Use a few bobbies to keep the bands in place, and voila!
Headbands pictured are from LF.

NOTE: Bobby pins have a frizzing effect if used too liberally, so don’t attempt a highly pinned look if you want to let your hair down later on in the day. If you want to pin pieces back, go with the mini claw clips, as they come out easily and ruffle-free.