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.

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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!

Blow it!

Me in Florida rockin’ the pigtail braids. I’m all about braids this summer.

Last week I did the unthinkable for any self-respecting curly girl. I was visiting a close friend in Florida, who has dabbled in curly girl extremism, when she suggested visiting her favorite (and the only) blowdry bar in Palm Beach County. Fly Dry was established earlier this year on the main drag in Delray when New Yorker-turned-Floridian Kate Fogarty moved to her new neighborhood only to notice that there was no fancy pants city-style blowdry bar anywhere within a 50-mile radius. This just would not do.

Since I hadn’t straightened my hair in a good 10 months, I figured, what the heck. I’ve mentioned before that it’s ok to do this from time to time, it helps relax your natural curl a bit, and lets you survey the health of your hair by checking out any breakage or split ends in their least-camouflaged state. But this was Florida. My number 1 rule has always been not to bother blow drying in humid, hot, or sticky conditions since it usually just ends in frustration and being even sweatier than I  already was. So, yeah, I was in Florida. Just before hurricane Isaac was due to hit. But hey, even if it only lasted one night it would be worth it!

At the hair-washing station I didn’t mention my shampoo-free lifestyle since I was on vacation and living like a totally relaxed fun-girl who cared not to mention such words as “sulfate-free” and philosophies like “lemon juice mixed with conditioner really clarifies hair better than anything!!!” But my friend, knowing me as well as she did, assured me that Fly Dry only uses sulfate-free ‘poos. Phew.

My friend Karol on the left, me on the right.

The results were fabulous! I loved that they offered the option to have a wavy or beachy look instead of just pin straight (which looks awful on me) and my amazing stylist Travis did all he could to combat the inevitable frizz that would result from stepping outside.

That night it did rain. And it rained a lot. In fact, we got all gussied up just to walk a half block, then promptly returned to the car after getting completely soaked. We figured that see-through dresses that weren’t supposed to be see-through wasn’t a cute look on anyone. We changed into shorts and tee shirts and had an awesome dinner near her apartment when the rain had slowed a bit.

The point of my rambling story is that I made lemonade out of lemons. I ended up braiding my frizzified hair, which has been this summer’s raison d’etre as far as my hair is concerned. I’ve been doing one long braid down my back, side braids, two braids hanging down, two braids pinned up and encircling my head with my bangs out, and braid ponytails. It was such a fun change to create these same braids with straight hair, because it just looked so much longer. Even if you’re braiding, the curl in your hair still shortens it a bit. Plus, without any gel or residual conditioner whatsoever in my hair, it lasted about 5 days without my having to wash it. (Friends at work cringed when I told them that part, but whatever, it smelled fine and looked great).

So why not throw caution to the wind now and then and treat yourself to a custom blow-out in your home town or city. It’s really fun to have someone else do your hair, especially when it lasts a week, and it’s a growing trend. So even if you don’t live in New York, Miami, or LA, there is an increasing chance that you may find a blowdry expert in your own backyard.

Added perk? Most of them offer some bubbly or vino while they’re transforming your gorgeous, swinging locks.

Some blowdry bars I’ve tried and loved:

FlyDry | Delray Beach, Florida

Blow | New York, New York

Drybar | New York, New York