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!

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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.

CQA Interview: Emily

cqa-emilyCurly Q&A: What was the hardest thing about having curly hair when you were young? Any funny or meaningful memories?
Emily: I’d say the hardest thing about having curly hair when you are young is accepting its beauty and rarity. When you are young, you’re more absorbed by being accepted, so you try to look like every other Tom, Dick and Harry. Curly hair is like a relationship — you need know how to work it so that it looks good and maintains its health. When you are younger you are less aware of how to style it, as this comes with time and experience.

The funniest memory was in high school when people tried to stick things in my curls – having big hair back then was like being an extraterrestrial.

CQA: Have you ever felt that having curly hair was a hindrance, either socially or professionally?
E: I like my hair big and frizzy! In today’s finely groomed society, there are times when you think, “Why can’t I look like I’ve walked out of the Golden Globes, rather than a Crufts dog show?” Then you soon realize that these people are all following the media’s dictatorship. At the end of the day, these people are all wearing the same pair of dentures, sporting Brazilian blow outs, skyscraper heels, and Victoria Beckham couture (if they are lucky). There’s not much more to it — which brings me back to my point above about being different.

I believe that you can tell a lot about a person’s personality through the way they style their hair! Boring is out.

CQA: What products do you use?
E: I try to take the best care of my hair as possible in the time I have – which is not a great deal. I recently discovered a fantastic hair balm – Aesop: Violet Leaf Hair Balm! It’s great for the days that your hair needs extra hydration.

lentmud2cCQA: I know that you’ve had curly hair extensions; did you like them?
E: My experience wasn’t great. I bought two more packs of real hair than I should have, and it was weaved into my real hair. It was unmanageable and impossible to tame — it was like brushing out a horse’s mane. I would recommend investing the time to grow your real hair out.

CQA: Do you have any tips or suggestions for someone who is considering curly hair extensions?
E: Be clued up on where you go to get them, what kind of extensions you will be getting, the process, and the type and amount of hair being used.

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!

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!

Good Guide

Good morning fine friends! I’m going to take a rare foray away from hair-specific talk to inform you about one of my favorite sites that will help you with organifying and cleansifying your lives in more ways than are detailed in this blog. It’s a site called GoodGuide, and if you haven’t heard of it you should definitely take a look.

Basically it’s a place where you can search for the products in your home, or products you’re thinking about buying, that you use regularly, and you’ll get the health and environmental low-down. Toothpaste, conditioner, hand soap, baby shampoo, the works. Each is rated on a 1-10 scale based on Health factors, Environmental impact, and Society–whether the company gives back to its community.

The products I recommend on my site are healthy and hair-friendly, but if you want to try to find something a little less expensive that won’t be damaging, this is the place to start your search. I hope that sites like this one start to influence big company’s business practices so that these important keystones of corporate responsibility will become the norm one day. Have fun, and here’s to your health!

Let’s Talk Follicles

As if you’d ever need a reason to become forever devoted to maintaining your gorgeous curly mane (ha!), you may be interested to know that there is no known non-surgical way to permanently straighten your hair. Some of us have tried various techniques, and I’ve heard friends say, post-keratin/chemical straightening, that they have found that their hair has grown out much less curly. Some even turn straight, God forbid!

The truth of the matter is, your hair is curly because your hair follicle, which is grown in a tiny sac beneath your scalp, is oval-shaped. The curlier the hair, the more oval-y (?) the follicle is. Case and point, here is the cross-section of a piece of African American hair (right). This is the extreme, a wavy or loosely curly hair follicle would be much more circular.

Conversely, if you have stick-straight hair, your hair follicle is a circle. As the hair grows down your back, the shape of the follicle determines whether it spirals down or hangs straight. Take a look at this Asian hair follicle (left).

Now, the health-conscious reader may wonder to themselves as to what chemical reaction could possibly cause permanent hair relaxing, if this is indeed possible. It’s quite alarming that a hair treatment might affect the shape of the hair that grows from a fixed-shape follicle in our scalps. Other factors may also be affecting it, like any big life event that changes your body as a whole, such as aging, a major surgery or — pregnancy! This is why many of us notice that our hair changes after having kids. I say, learn to love it and always keep your hair well-hydrated with monthly if not weekly oil treatments. Dehydration is one of the biggest reasons that curly tops become unhappy with their natural locks.

It’s science, really.

Questions, please!

Hello faithful readers!

Now that I’ve prattled on with colorful anecdotes from my lifelong pursuit to be a happy curly girl, I’d love to hear what you have to say! If you have any experiences to share, positive or negative, or if you’ve found that some of my methods don’t work for you or can be slightly tweaked for the better, please share. You can email me here and I’ll add it to a future post, or you can comment below. Either way, I’d love to hear from you!

Also, I am always in contact with real curly hair experts and love to approach them armed with queries. If you have questions, I’ll do what I can to get answers (as the blog’s title suggests). Please take a moment to take the poll below, as well, to help guide me toward the type of content that would be most helpful to you.

Thank you and be well!