Friday, November 30, 2012

Winter hair care

Now that the weather is turning colder (and dryer!) it can really mess with your hair. Cold, dry air, wind, and dry artificial heat can all contribute to dryness, static, limp curls and damage!
The answer? MOISTURE! Simple enough answer, right? Right. But getting, and keeping, a proper moisture balance this time of year can be hard.
First, we need to understand a few things. Each individual hair strand is covered by a cuticle. The cuticle looks like shingles on a roof. These shingles protect the inner structure of the hair. In a healthy condition, these shingles will lift under certain conditions to allow moisture in, and close to keep it in under certain conditions. Heat will raise the cuticle. So every time you  take a hot shower or use a blow dryer, you are raising that cuticle. Raising the PH of hair with products also lifts the cuticle. Sulfate shampoos will lift the cuticle and the hair will absorb the shampoo!
Second, we need to understand dew points. The dew point is the air temperature at which the air becomes saturated with water. The warmer it is, the more water air can hold. When the temperatures drop, even if the humidity is high, the dew point will most likely be low, so the air is still dry. What does this mean for your hair? Hair can absorb moisture from the air if there is moisture in the air to absorb. If there isn't a lot of moisture in the air, the air can actually pull moisture from your hair.
Dew points above 60-65F are considered very high. You may have more curl, and more frizz. Dew points between 40-60F are considered normal dews. There is enough moisture to keep curls happy without much frizz. 30-40F are moderately dry. How your hair reacts depends on your hair! It may be enough moisture, it may be slightly dry and you may notice some curl droop. Below 30F is considered dry, Curls may droop, and start to dry out. Below 15F is very dry. Weaker curl patterns may disappear and appear straight.
Third, humectants. Humectants draw water to themselves. Glycerin, honey, propylene glycol, are all humectants. When the air is too dry, these can pull water out of your hair.
So what can you do to keep your hair well moisturized? One of the best things you can do is to keep the air in your home at a comfortable moisture level. I like to use crockpots filled with water set on low. Mostly because they will still work if they develop lime scale. Humidifiers can be simple and just have high, medium, or low settings, or they can be fancy and measure the amount of humidity in the air and keep it a consistent level. You may want to switch to a more moisturizing conditioner. These don't have to be heavy. I really like Generic Value Products Conditioning Balm from Sally's Beauty Supply. It's a Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm knock-off. It is very thick and moisturizing, but rinses surprisingly clean. Renpure My Pretty Hair Is Parched is light but very moisturizing. Check the WHC Product Reviews blog for reviews on other conditioners. Leave-ins are also a good choice for winter. I actually use one year round, because my hair drinks them up. You can use your rinse-out conditioner. Your co-wash conditioner for a lighter choice, or any other conditioner you choose.
Regular deep conditioning treatments can add a nice boost of moisture. You can choose a conditioner labeled for deep treatments, or you can make your own! It can be as simple as adding some oil to your regular conditioner, or you can use one of a thousand recipes for homemade deep treatments found all over the net! You might want to add heat for extra moisture, or if your hair is low-porosity or course. This will open the cuticle to allow the deep treatment to work better. The spritz and condish method might work well, also. Try to avoid humectants, espeacially in products left in your hair. They may not be a big deal in your low-poo/co-wash or rinse out conditioner, provided you rinse all of your rinse out condish out. Some like to leave some in and use that as thier leave in. For some however, even humectants in thier rinse out products can have an adverse effect.
Keeping the cuticle closed after cleansing and conditioning is important for many reasons. It seals in moisture and protects the hair's cortex, plus, it adds shine! Try not to take super hot showers. Warm water opens the cuticle less and helps prevent moisture loss. Rinsing in cold water closes the cuticle, but in the winter, who wants to do that? Well, one way to do this with out freezing your buns off is to rinse slightly in the warm water from the shower. Then turn the shower to the tub faucet and turn it to cool (it doesn't have to be freezing). Lean forward and cup your hands and bring this water up into your hair to your scalp. You can then scrunch lightly to rinse more conditioner out if you feel you need to. Another option is to use an apple cider vinegar rinse. This returns hair to the proper acidic PH which closes the cuticle. You add anywhere from a teaspoon to 1/4 cup ACV to a cup of water and pour this over your head after rinsing your conditioner. You may then leave this in, or leave it for a few minutes then rinse it out. Just don't do this too often! Using this rinse too much can start to damage your hair.
Sealing with an oil or an oil-containing humectant free product (I like Shea Moisture Curl and Style Milk) can help hold moisture in. After cleansing and conditioning, you can use your oil-free leave in on wet (not damp) hair, then take a small amount of oil (like coconut, extra virgin olive, jojoba...) start with only a drop or 2. Smooth and scrunch or rake, whichever you prefer, through your hair. You could also add a drop or 2 of oil to your oil-free leave in. If you choose to use a humectant free oil-containing product, just apply to wet hair. I also like to scrunch out the crunch of my gel with a few drops of coconut oil in the winter. My hair drinks it up, so after half and hour to an hour, there is no oil detectable on my hair. This acts as sort of an anti-humectant or sealant on dry hair that keeps it from drying out.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to start a no-poo method of hair care

What you need
You will need a few products to get you started. You don't need to get online and spend big bucks on boutique type CG friendly products (such as Deva, Curl Junkie, JessieCurl, and more) unless you want to. I started my journey for under $30.
1. You will need a silicone free sulfate shampoo. This is to clarify any silicones or build up causing ingredients from your hair so you can start with a clean slate. I happened to have Suave Naturals Tropical Coconut Shampoo in my shower. So I didn't spend anything there. But even if I needed to go out and buy some, it's under $2. (I still have that same bottle under my sink, half full. And since I have hard water and color my hair, I clarify with it every 4-6 weeks before coloring.)
2. Silicone free light conditioner for co-washing. Again, I happened to have the Suave Naturals Tropical Coconut Conditioner in my shower, so I just used that. Any of the Suave Naturals or V05 conditioners will work, and they are again under $2.
3. A good silicone free rinse out conditioner. This should be more moisturizing than your co-wash conditioner. I picked up Renpure My Pretty Hair is Parched for around $6, and I still use it a year and a half later! I also picked up some GVP Conditioning Balm from Sally Beauty Supply for around $6. I use this as rinse out in winter, and I add honey and coconut oil to it for my deep conditioning treatments.
4. Optional: A separate conditioner for a leave in. Some use a small amount of their co-wash conditioner or rinse out conditioner, and it works just fine. So that's up to you.
5. Optional: A curl enhancing product. This could be as simple as Aloe Vera Juice (the drinkable kind found with the laxatives) or Aloe Vera Gel (alcohol free, like Fruit of the Earth or Lily of the Desert). A homemade product like Flax Seed Gel found in this list of recipes. Or one of these choices reviewed at WHC product reviews. I prefer Flax Seed Gel (FSG) in all dews. KY jelly (it works!) in normal dews, or AVG (Fruit of the Earth brand, found at Walmart) in low dews. But it's whatever you like.
6. Hair Gel. Most wavies need a pretty strong holding gel to keep thier waves from falling flat as they dry. Don't be scared of ending up with crunchy hair. You can scrunch the crunch out (SOTC - scrunch out the crunch) once your hair is fully dry. Leaving you with soft, defined waves and curls. Some prefer mousse.. but when I started CG, my weak wave pattern demanded the strength of gel.
7. You will need something to scrunch out water, because you will no longer use a terry cloth towel. Terry cloth has a grabby texture that pulls strands free of their clumps and results in frizz. You can start with an old cotton t-shirt if you don't want to run out and buy anything. They work just fine. I prefer flour sack towels. Which can be picked up for around $5 at Walmart. Microfiber towels (yep, the ones found in the automotive section!) work well, also. Particularly if you have thick hair or a weak wave pattern and need a lot of water soaked up off your hair.
8. Optional: A low sulfate shampoo to ease your transition or in case co-washing isn't right for you.

Shower Routine
On your first day, you will use your silicone free sulfate shampoo to clarify your hair. Rinse well. Now use your moisturizing rinse out. Use enough to completely coat your hair (you may want to only coat your hair from the ears down, to prevent flat roots). Gently detangle your hair now, don't brush wavy or curly hair when dry! Only detangle your hair when it is wet and coated with conditioner. You may use your fingers or a wide tooth comb. Squish scrunch the conditioner through your hair, adding more if needed until you can hear it squelching, and it feels like wet seaweed. Now, you can either rinse all this out and add some leave in later, or you can lightly rinse and leave some of this in. I prefer to rinse it all out and add leave in later. It's easier to control the amount left in my hair that way, and I prefer using Shea Moisture Curl and Style Milk as my leave in as opposed to my Renpure.
After your first day, you will begin co-washing. Co-washing involves using the conditioner to lubricate the pads of your fingers as you use friction to scrub excess oil, dirt, skin cells, etc. off of your scalp.
To co-wash, pour your co-wash onto the the pads of your finger on one hand. Transfer some of that to the other hand. Slip your fingers in your hair at the scalp. I like to make sure my scalp is adequately covered with conditioner before I begin scrubbing, so I repeat this step until I feel I have enough conditioner on my scalp. You will now scrub your scalp and roots with the pads of your fingers. This takes quite a bit more scrubbing than shampoo. But it's a great arm workout! Once you have scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed and scrubbed some more, continue to scrub while you rinse to make sure the conditioner rinses clean. Then proceed with the conditioning step like above.

Here you will just need to experiment with what works for you to get you the hair you want. Here is the WHC reviews with links to the most popular wavy styling methods.
But to give you an idea, I will share my styling routine.
I turn my shower to the tub faucet, leaving the water on. I rake probably 2 dime sized dabs of my LI through wet hair, raking out away from my scalp. I then do a modified supersoaker technique (reviews and link can be found above) by bringing cupped hands full  of water up to my scalp all over until I have good clump-age. I then flip my head upside down and scrunch a very generous amount of FSG into my hair while I squeeze water out. I do this before stepping out of the shower, because it can get messy! I leave my hair flipped over while I carefully step out and plop my very wet hair into my waiting flour sack towel that I set up on the closed toilet seat before my shower. (Plopping can be found in the above link). I dry off, lotion up, get dressed then take my first plop down, leaving my hair flipped over. I scrunch in a good amount of gel (3-4 palmfuls for my slightly below bra strap length hair) and I plop again in a dry flour sack towel. I leave that one for maybe 30 minutes before I start diffusing on warm heat, low speed until the gel is set (starts to feel a bit crunchy). I aim my diffuser at my roots while I am upside down to get those a little dryer. This does 2 things for me, gives me a little more lift, and helps the rest of my hair dry faster than leaving them damp. Then I air dry the rest of the way. Then scrunch out the crunch when dry.

Putting product (be it just curl enhancer or all your products) into very wet hair helps with definition, clumping, and keeping you frizz free.

There is a transition period as your scalp adjusts to not being stripped of it's natural oils. I recommend just sticking it out for at least a month. But if it bothers you, you can alternate co-washing with low-poo. The transition may take longer, but you won't be as greasy.
If, after a month or 2, co-washing just isn't for you, a gentle low-poo is just fine.
Please keep in mind, however, that clean well moisturized, NOT stripped hair does feel different than the squeaky clean of a sulfate shampoo! It takes getting used to. But once you are used to it, you will start loving it and wonder how you lived all this time with the horrid squeak of a sulfate shampoo.

Is a shampoo free life right for you?

I have a confession. I rarely shampoo my hair! I know, I know.. you are probably thinking "Gross!" I thought that same thing when I started reading about the CG or no-poo method. I continued to think that for the first month after deciding to try it! I had been conditioned to think that suds = clean. I now know that isn't true.
I do cleanse my hair every other day to every 3 days. But I use a sulfate and silicone free conditioner to massage my scalp. I also use water soluble products, so they just rinse right out instead of hanging around in my hair. Why, you ask? Because sulfates strip your hair and scalp of it's natural oils and moisture. It can also strip the color out of your hair if you use hair color.
If your hair is dry, frizzy, or undefined, going sulfate free could definitely help! I never even realized how dry my hair was until I started co-washing. My hair is now softer, healthier, less frizzy, more defined... And my previously weak wave pattern is much stronger!
This was my naked (product free) hair in the beginning of my CG journey, it's mostly straight-ish, with a few uneven waves showing through. There is a lot of frizz, and he waves would fall out and my hair would just be poofy by the end of the day.

This is my naked hair now. (Forgive the uneven cut, I corrected that!) I have strong (as in, they don't fall out) even waves starting a couple of inches from my scalp. In the front where you can't see, the sides have a very strong (they will not straighten, even with a flat iron) spiral pattern. If they started higher, they would be actual curls instead of waves! There isn't much frizz, either!
This is my styled hair about a month after starting CG. The waves are still a little uneven. No frizz, nice and defined. But they are 2 dimensional S waves, with the curl pattern somewhere around 2B.

My styled hair from yesterday! Much more curl, a little frizz from scrunching too much, but not bad. Defined, spiral-y waves that have gone from 2B waves a year and a half ago, to a definite 2C today.

What is the CG (Curl Girl) or no-poo method?
Quite simply, you avoid sulfates and silicones in hair products. I have talked about how sulfates strip oils and moisture from your hair and scalp. This leads to dried out ends and an overproduction of oil from the scalp as it tries to compensate for being stripped. Or, if you are like me, who has chronically dry skin all over anyway, just dryness from root to tip!
Why is it important to avoid silicones?
Silicones aren't ALL bad. Some super strict CGers may want to rip up my CG card for saying that, but honestly, I believe it's true. Silicones can provide slip (detangling power) in shampoos and conditioners. They can act as an anti humectant in styling products. Which can help lock humidity out in the humid summer months, and help keep moisture from escaping in the dry winter months. The trick is, understanding which silicones are water soluble and which aren't. You have to understand that if you choose to use non-water soluble silicones that co-washing (washing with conditioner) won't be enough to remove them. And understanding what ingredients in your cleanser will remove them.
Silicones form a film over the hair shaft. If this isn't cleansed away on a regular basis, it can continue to build up and start to cause problems. The build up will make it impossible to properly condition your hair, because it can't get in the hair. It may start to look frizzy, undefined, or dry. Build up can weigh hair down. It may feel dirty or waxy. Here is a link to a silicone solubility chart. I recommend bookmarking this for easy reference. In general, anything ending in -cone, -conol, or -xane is a silicone. If the silicone is preceded by the letters PEG or PPG, it has been modified to be water soluble. There are some exceptions. As cyclomethicone does not build up and evaporates as it dries. Any sulfate shampoo will get silicones off your hair. But a gentler solution is choosing a low sulfate shampoo that contains cocamidopropyl betaine or coco betaine.
However, I highly recommend avoiding all silicones until you, and your hair and scalp, have adjusted to sulfate free life. It's just much simpler. There is just so much to learn at first that adding the complexity of silicones just isn't worth it. If, after you have a handle on sulfate free life, you want to experiment with silicones, I won't judge you! But, don't start adding a bunch of new products at once.This doesn't just apply to silicone containing products, it's pretty much a good rule of thumb in general. That way, if something goes right, you know what caused it. The same goes for if something goes wrong.
There are of course other ingredients that may cause build up, or that you may find difficult to co-wash out. Polyquats can be a problem for some. Some oils or butters may wash out fine for some, and others may find it nearly impossible. Going to a sulfate free method is a journey! You must learn about your hair. It's properties (for instance fine hair reacts differently than course hair, as does low porosity hair vs. porous hair, etc), what ingredients your hair likes and which it doesn't. Styling techniques that work for 90% of wavies or curlies may not work for you.
However, if you are tired of struggling with frizz, limp hair, hair that is too fluffy, or undefined waves or curls, then it is all definitely worth it.
If you have decided to give a no or low-poo method a try, stay tuned for my next post! I will explain how to get started!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Are you wavy? aka The wavy imposter and you.

Some lucky duckies have a strong wave pattern and have always known that they posses wavy or curly hair. You may have had curly hair when you were young that relaxed into waves as you got older, or you may have had wavy hair that tightened up as you got older. 
But for many wavies, it isn't that apparent. You have always believed you had straight hair. Maybe the texture has changed as you got older, had children, taken medications, or a host of other reasons. Your hair dries frizzy, fuzzy, poofy, with odd bends here and there. You need a flat iron or curling iron to make it look it smooth. Maybe like me, even a flat iron won't tame some fuzzy bits, and no matter what you do, or products you try, you seem to end up with fried looking "finger-in-a-light-socket" hair.
The good news? You may be a wavy!
How can you tell? Next time you wash your hair, shampoo (more on this evil stuff later!) or cleanse as usual (aka low-poo, cleansing conditioner, or conditioner wash. Again, more on cleansing options later!) coat your hair with conditioner and detangle using fingers or a wide tooth comb. Rinse this out and scrunch a little leave in conditioner into your wet hair. Now take a cotton t-shirt, microfiber towel, or flour sack towel and scrunch some water out of your hair. Now look in the mirror. Is it wavy? Are the waves staying put for the most part? If yes, then congrats! You're wavy! If still no wave, or waves fall out quickly, then you probably are straight and need some hair problem diagnosis (dry? damaged? bad cut?).
Now you are probably wondering where to go from here. I swear by the CG (Curly Girl) or no-poo method of hair care. I will write more on this in a bit. But for now, I will leave you with some links. 
Naturally Curly is a great place to find out more on low-poo or no-poo, styling tips, and product advice. I used to post frequently on the Curl Talk board there until posts started being ripped off and used to write new articles without the poster's knowledge.
Facebook Wavy Hair Community is a private group on facebook started by a few of my fellow former Curl Talkers. If you would like to join, please read "how to join" and the group rules! We are a great, friendly, and very helpful community.
Wavy Hair Community Hair Product Reviews is a blog started by the WHC admins where our community has reviewed a host of products and techniques for wavy hair. is another hair blog from a fellow WHC member. She has a lot of great info!