CQA Interview: Michael

Super-star hairstylist and founder of Hair Room Service Michael Dueñas answers some of Curly Q&A’s hard hitting questions. Dueñas has specialized in curly hair care for years, and I met him when he was working at Devachan in Soho, NYC. He’s found a new creative outlet in the form of his upscale at-home hairstyling business, and his impressive client list includes Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Kim Catrall, the lovely Susan Sarandon (one of my favorite curly girls), the cast of Glee, and many more.

michaelCurly Q&A: What is the first thing that you’d tell hairdressers about cutting curly hair?
Michael: Each individual curl pattern is different, and has to be analyzed and cut accordingly.

CQA: What initially interested you about cutting and styling curly hair?
M: It is completely different than straight hair in every aspect, it was a new challenge and curly girls need some serious help!

CQA: What are your favorite frizz-fighting techniques/products?
M: The best way to fight frizz is with moisture! If you style your hair with a moisturizing product, your chance of a frizz explosion is very minimal. Your hair reaches out to the atmosphere for moisture (which causes frizz), so if you provide it with the moisture it needs, it will no longer reach out. The everyday conditioner that you use in the shower is great for controlling frizz! Schwarzkopf Professional BC Moisture Kick Conditioner is amazing for fighting frizz. It gives your hair exactly what it needs!

CQA: What would you say to curly-haired ladies who are unsure about removing traditional and inexpensive sulfate shampoos from their beauty regimen?
M: Sulfates have become so gentle that there is a not a fear if they are in the shampoo.  It was a big band wagon that everyone jumped on before conclusive evidence was brought forward. Some sulfates can actually add moisture!
(Editors note: this is why I’m always encouraging Googling ingredients. Some sulfates, especially those used in inexpensive drugstore brands, will not use quality ingredients in order to keep them cheap. Others are derived from natural additives and are perfectly safe. This applies to chloride compounds as well. Google away!)

CQA: How often should we cleanse our hair, and what do you recommend using to do so?
M: You should cleanse your hair 1 – 2 times a week at the most. The natural oils from your scalp will help to nourish your hair and provide it with the moisture it needs. Using a gentle shampoo, a soft cleanser or even baking soda mixed with water works. You do not want to use anything drying such as a product with tea tree or a volume shampoo.

CQA: How often should curly girls oil treat their hair?
M: Every time you dry your hair. Adding an oil to your pre-dry routine will help to add tremendous amounts of moisture!

CQA: What are your favorite products for curly hair?
M: My favorite products are BC Oil Potion Light, BC Moisture Kick, OSiS Twin Curl, Deva One Condition, and BC Smooth Control Conditioner.

936full-andie-macdowell

CQA: Which celebrity has your favorite curly hair, and why?
M: Andie MacDowell.  She is one of the few who will wear her natural curls without using a curling iron!

CQA: Any other tips for newly converted curly girls?
M: Give yourself a few days to get used to them. The first time you style it won’t be the best, it is always a learning curve! The more you do it, the more freedom from the flat iron and blow dryer you will see! Your hair will get so healthy that you can run your fingers though it while curly! (Editors note: True story.) Curls are fun!

Easy 5 Days Wash-Free

If your first thought upon reading this title was “Eww,” go back to Start. Do not pass Go. Once you’ve gone native, this will only feel natural and you’ll appreciate it fully!

Note: This is easier for longer-haired people, but shorter-hair-eds can do it for at least three days.

CQA-calDay 1: Do an oil treatment the night before, and use the oil and lemon juice mixture to clean it thoroughly. Wash and style hair as usual, don’t use too much product. Buildup and stickiness is what attracts dirt and dust. Before bed, put hair up in a loose pony or if it’s long, drape it up and over your pillow to keep it from getting sweaty at night.

Day 2: Spruce up your roots by turning your head upside down and using a wide-tooth oil-infused comb only at your roots. This gives lift and separates roots from your scalp for less greasiness. The rest of your hair should be nice and shiny from all of the moisturizing you’ve been doing. If it’s dry at all, add a drop of hair oil ONLY TO THE ENDS. Leave the middle alone. Apply by dropping a pea-sized amount of hair oil in your palm, rubbing palms together to warm it, and rake it through hair ends.

Day 3: Things may be getting a bit gamey. Take some dry shampoo, either chemical or organic, depending upon your preference. Spray/dust it only at the roots. Wait a minute, and fluff the roots with your fingers. Voila! Added volume. If the curls in the body of your hair are starting to look sad, wet your hands slightly and rake them through your curls. This is going to be a bit of a wild day, so maybe plan it for a Friday or Saturday. If it feels dried out at the ends, put a drop of hair oil at the ends only. Tonight you can braid it to keep it off your shoulders.

Pippi-Longstocking-pippi-longstocking-5584307-380-332Day 4: Today when you wake up your hair is probably pretty disheveled, maybe flat, and definitely not shining like it should. Braid it! I love braids, there are so many ways to wear them. First, brush your hair with a wide-tooth oil-infused comb — This is the only thing, aside from your fingers, that should ever “brush” your hair — and it will add volume. Now either French braid, side braid, braid a hair headband, braid it and wrap it around itself for a thick stylized bun, Pippi Longstocking braid it, the possibilities are endless! Accentuate with a thin bandana tied around your head if you are so inclined, or you can use a headband. I like slicking hair back with some water on top and spraying with hair spray to keep the newer growth from flying around all wily-nily. Re-braid, taking out all bobby-pins, before bedtime to keep it from getting tangled and sweaty.

Day 5: When you take your hair out of the braid today, your scalp may feel sore in some spots. This is due to dryness. Think of your scalp like the rest of the skin on your body; it needs moisturizer. Rub a dab of thick, good conditioner into the areas that are sore. If your entire scalp feels sore, rub a small amount throughout. This feels AMAZING. You can do it on any other day of the week that your scalp hurts, as well. For Day 5, if you’d used water and hair spray on top of your head yesterday, it will be kind of straight today. Put hair up in a high bun, and take any shorter layers or bangs and sweep and bobby-pin them to one side or the other of your part. Stay classy. I like to wear dangly earrings on this day to take attention away from my ‘do!

silk_pillow_cases_tiajwDone and done! Side notes to keep in mind are that dirt will definitely stick to your hair, so washing your (silk or satin) pillowcase frequently is important. I wash mine every two weeks, and more often if necessary. After you’ve done a full 5 days without washing/conditioning, you’ll want to do another mask or treatment that night. Your hair deserves it! You can also wear a hair cap that can be washed often if you want to keep “dirty” hair away from your face at night. Realize though, that it doesn’t get as dirty as you are thinking, as long as you don’t abuse product. If you’re working out or getting sweaty in any serious way, wear a sweatband just at the crown of your head to keep hair from getting super sweaty. Don’t remove it until after you shower! For daily showers, put hair up and in a shower cap.

LOL – and Happy Tuesday!

Here is some comic relief to make your Tuesday afternoon a little bit rosier! Enjoy.

Haven’t you ever wished for a mini tornado in a cup that could create smooth, soft curls for you? Look no further!

Hair-Curl31 Problems that only women with curly hair (and those who love us) can understand!

lol

CQA Interview: Katrina

Katrina-Curls1Curly Q&A: I love your hair, what would you say are some of the biggest physical challenges of maintaining natural hair? (rather than using extensions, keeping it very short, or chemically relaxing it)
Katrina: Thank you for the compliment! The only physical challenge I would say about maintaining my natural hair versus a relaxer or extensions is that I have to wet, condition and comb through my hair every day or every other day at the least because it tangles very easily. Otherwise, my hair is really easy to maintain because I pretty much wash and go.

CQA: What are your favorite products, and what do you use them for specifically?
K: I’ve tried a lot of products as I am sure most curly hair girls have. I really like the Ouidad products, especially the conditioner. These products are designed for curly hair. I also love Carol’s Daughter hair milk, it’s a leave-in cream with oil in it but it’s not oily. I like my hair to feel free so I look for products that are moisturizing without being oily. I also like Argan oil, but not too much, and if I put Argan oil in my hair I don’t use any other creams or oils. I also like Phyto products; especially the hair mask, which is only used once a week.

CQA: Do you have any particular styling tips?
K: The styling tip that works for me is to always apply product when hair is wet and never dry your hair upside down with a towel because this creates frizz. I use a towel to dry the ends of my hair. Once it’s dry, then you can flip it so your hair is not sticking to your head; you can lift the roots that way.

CQA: How often do you do oil treatments? Do you have any favorite types? What is your oil treatment method?
K: I have done oil treatments but not every week. I like Phyto hair mask as an oil treatment. I have also heard of girls that use mayonnaise, egg yolks and avocado as an oil treatment. I haven’t tried that, but since I’m always looking for inexpensive ways to treat my hair, I just might!

CQA: I love your hair cut! How often do you cut it, and do you have a favorite salon/hairdresser? Do you cut it dry or wet?
K: Thank you! I cut my hair when I feel that it needs it. I like the way that Rayna at Cutler hair salon in Soho cuts my hair; she understands curly hair. I’ve also had it cut at a local Dominican Salon in Florida and they did a good job. I’ve had it cut wet and dry and I would say dry is definitely better because you can see the shape of the hair.

Katrina-Curls2CQA: Curly hair can so often be used as a sociopolitical statement. Have you ever felt that you were treated differently because of your naturally curly hair?
K: Yes, there is one situation that stands out in my mind. I’m a model, and I was on a very high end hair job; the hair stylist that they flew in all the way from Paris kept complaining about my hair. Keep in mind that I had gone on a casting and 2 callbacks for this job, and my hair had been thoroughly inspected and fine-tooth combed (no pun intended) for me to get this job. I was also chosen out of about 50 girls, so the client was very sure about me. This “big shot” hair stylist kept saying, “You have a tough head of hair!” and she kept going on and on about how she doesn’t use products and in Paris they don’t use hair like this for hair jobs. She had also written a “hair book” and in this book there was not one curly-haired girl. I thought to myself, “Some hairdresser, she doesn’t even acknowledge curly hair! How can you call yourself a hair stylist and not include every type of hair under the sun in your book!!” Anyway, I just smiled and thanked God that I was blessed with curly hair that I was being paid to advertise.

CQA: She was obviously jealous. Are there any other tips or tricks that you’d like to share with Curly Q&A readers?
K: I would like to add that on my off days I like to wash my hair, put product in, and keep it in a braid. When it dries and I pull my braid out, it’s beautiful and wavy! Whether you are born with straight or curly hair, embrace what you’re blessed with!

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!

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

Beach Beauty

I realized over the weekend, while lounging on the beach under a beating sun, that I should remind y’all to keep your hair hydrated during the summer! We equate winter with harmful drying conditions, but it’s just as likely to happen in the summer when you’re swimming in the pool or ocean and getting lots of sun exposure.

While you should continue the weekly oil or deep conditioning treatments in any case, another handy trick is to bring a bottle of special super-hydrating treatment with you to the beach. What I like is to get one of those little travel-size bottles, and I mix up a combination of quality daily conditioner, deep conditioner, and some hair oil. You want to have something that’s thin enough in consistency that it will not make your hair look all chunky and gross. You also don’t want to use more than necessary.

I slick a dime-sized amount on my long but fine hair, mostly at the ends, before I go into the water so that it is saturated and won’t absorb as much pool or ocean water. When you get out of the water and are back on your towel or chaise, put enough in the palm of your hand to be able to evenly coat both hands with a thin sheen of it. Wipe that through your hair from top to bottom. Always apply product in this way — going the other direction, or even side-to-side, will ruffle the hair’s cuticle and cause it to frizz and break.

If you don’t use too much, it should soak in by the time your hair has dried. If you do use too much, it’s ok, you will just have that beachy-wet look a bit longer. Wash it when you get home either way, since salt and chemicals will still be on the hair.

My recipe:

* 1 Tablespoon Moroccan Oil

* 1 Tablespoon One Condition

* 1 Tablespoon Heaven in Hair

* 2 Drops essential oil of your choice (I like sage or cedar)

Shake it up and enjoy! Depending upon how much you’ll need, adjust amounts accordingly.

Why I Love My Bangs

Aside

My first experience with bangs was in early elementary school. My mother must have thought it would be a nice change, or maybe I did, who knows. All I know is that I remembered throughout the remainder of my childhood and teen years that curly hair + bangs = horror and ridicule squared. They twisted this way and that, making me look like a sad dorky kid from some 70’s sitcom. Not cute.

So when I was in my 27th year and about to take on a new job that would initiate a very positive shift in my career, it surprised me that I wanted to try bangs again. I took out my shears, and in front of my mirror only minutes before my boyfriend was due to pick me up for dinner, I cut some bangs.

Now to preface this, I’d already been trimming and adding some layers to my hair myself, but this was still a really big deal. I cut them while my hair was straight (oops) so they were way too short when they curled up. Still, I was living in hipster haven Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the time, and half-way down your forehead bangs were actually in at the time. Who knows, maybe they still are. I went out and wore them with pride, sneaking glances in the mirror at the restaurant from time to time. It was terrifying, but so exhillerating!

Since then, I’ve had some variation of bangs at all times. Sometimes side swept, sometimes in the middle, sometimes short, sometimes almost covering my eyes. I just have to say I love them so much. They add incredible versatility to my ‘do, especially now that I have such short layers and a shag-like haircut.

Sorry to hate on you, Minnie, I loved you in “Good Will Hunting,” but you really should use a wide-toothed comb on those bang curls to loosen them up.

When I have my hair in the “pile” or “fountain,” or even a plain braid, they add some cool fringe to frame my face. When I want to hide, I can pull them forward, and when I want to see the world a bit more clearly I can put them to the side or clip them back. The top layer of my hair isn’t as ringlet-y as the bottom layers, but I can loosen my curls a bit further by pulling gel through them in a downward motion while I’m styling. Then when they’re dry, I rake my fingers down again to separate the curls a bit and add some nice coverage over my forehead.

Just saying, don’t be afraid… if your curls don’t have more than a 6-inch spring factor on top when dry, it’s worth a try. Cut them long at first, so if they suck you can always pin them back or sweep them to the side before they grow out in a few months. Or have a hairstylist do it for you, and they’ll do it right the first time. Trust me, ladies!

Get Wet!

While lounging poolside over Memorial Day Weekend (important side note: thank you so much to our troops, I truly appreciate everything you’re doing for our country!) I read in In Style that the wet hair look is in right now. This is great news for us curl-meisters, we just have to be sure to do it the right way. When I worked for a large publishing house years ago, I’d attract looks of scorn when I’d run into the elevator amongst the most judgmental of beauty editors and fashionistas with my hair still wet from that morning’s shower.

As we all know, diffusers are often more trouble than they’re worth. Curly hair looks best when it’s left to air dry, and in the summer no one wants to go near a hair dryer if they don’t have central air. I’d eschew their silly rules and go wet anyway, and my hair would be dry and glorious by lunch time. It’s just the price you have to pay for bounteous curls. While I was working there, one of the big-name glossies actually had a blog post about how bad wet hair looks at work.

Well, preposterously fickle beauty world, now it’s ok to rock wet hair. This is thanks to new red-carpet looks that favor severely slicked-back ponys and buns. It’s especially beneficial since you can gloss your ends with your favorite oil treatment or conditioning glaze and no one will be the wiser!

How to do it:

1) Wash and condition as usual in the shower. Leave in a touch more conditioner than you normally would, because no one will know and it’s good for your hair. It will also increase drying time, leaving you wetter longer. Skip the gel at this point.

2) Before stepping out, quickly run your head under the water flow one last time, then squeeze mostly dry (don’t scrunch, you want to elongate strands).

3) With your head upside down over the tub, coat the hair nearest your hair line with gel, on top of and under your head. Just one dollop will do. Don’t worry about your ends since they will not be seen. Instead, coat ends with a few drops of an oil serum.

4) Still upside-down, twist all hair into a bun on top of your head (I prefer this step without elastic, keep reading). Straights can do a low ponytail, but we know we’ll end up with a frizzy mess. Buns are best, even if you choose to do a low bun at the nape of your neck to up the class factor.

5) Don’t fasten your bun with an elastic — instead, anchor the bun to your head in the desired position with as many bobby pins as it takes.

6) There should not be any stray hairs hanging out, if you have bangs or really short layers that are not contained in the bun, be sure to bobby-pin them so that they appear to be part of the bun.

I paired my wet bun with a small scarf (think handkerchief-sized, but more chic) from American Apparel for my commute to work in order to soak up the drippings. By the time I got to work, my hair was dry enough to whisk off my scarf, and voila!