Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why your hair's properties are important.

First of all, let me say I am sorry for negelcting my blog. I, for some reason, seem to forget I even have one sometimes. LOL!

Today, I'd like to explore hair properties. What they are, how you can find them out, and why you should care.
The hair shaft is made of layers. The outermost layer is the cuticle. The cuticle looks a bit like a shingled roof. These "shingles" are, when laying flat, water repellant. Shampoos, hot water, alkaline hair products can raise these "shingles" which can let moisture/protein treatments in, but also if left open, can let them OUT. The cuticle protects the inner layer, the cortex, which is made up of keratin protein bundles and this is where water (moisture) is stored. The cortex also contain the melanin which determines hair color, and the shape of the follicle determines the shape of the cortex. A round follicle will result in a round hair fiber that is pretty straight. Oval or irregular shaped follicles result in irregular shaped fibers which waves and curls. The cortex is what makes up the bulk of the hair fiber. There is also the innermost layer, which in finer textures may be missing, the medulla.
Hair properties are measurements of the characteristics of your hair.  I don't mean how much your hair curls (or doesn't). Sure, it's fun to know that your a 2b, or a 3C or whatever, but when it comes to caring for your hair and choosing products it means nothing. Honestly, one of the things that bugs me most is when people lump a certain curl type together and say "This is how you should care for your wavy/curly/kinky hair." Because it's impossible to say that all 2C waves behave alike. They don't. Let's say Lady A has 2C waves. So does Lady B. Lady A has fine hair with low porosity and normal elasticity. Lady B has medium textured hair, porous, very elastic. You give them both a light non oily condish (often recommended for wavies, because it's believed wavy hair gets weighed down too easily). You will get two different results. While Lady A may like that it did not leave oil on top of her non porous hair, she may not get enough moisture using this condish alone. Lady B however, may feel like her hair feels good, moisturized and light and bouncy, at first. But because there are no oils to help seal in the moisture, she may start to feel like she has straw on top her head by day's end.


Let's first take a look at texture. By this I mean the general average circumference of each individual hair strand. I say the average circumference because many of us can have more than one texture on our heads. Hair can be fine, medium (or normal), or course.
Fine hair is most often likened to silk. If you hold a strand up to the light, it may be hard to see. You might not even feel it between your fingers. It can be flyaway, delicate, and/or limp. It's easy to curl or style, but the curl or style falls out quickly.
Medium (normal) hair can be easily seen when held up to the light, but isn't very thick. It usually curls or styles easily and can usually keep that style. It feels smooth  (when undamaged and properly moisturized) but not like the silk of fine hair. I guess a good comparison would be silk vs. satin. They both feel smooth but the silk has a delicate quality while the satin feels smooth but is more sturdy. Medium texture is called normal because it is the most common texture.
Coarse hair will easily be seen when held up to the light. It will appear very thick. It seems resistant to bending, therefor resistant to styling, and can be easily felt between your fingers. Some have described it as "wirey" feeling/acting.

Why texture matters

Texture plays a very important role in determining what ingredients most likely will or won't work for you. Those blessed with normal texture can use a wide variety of products with decent results. Chemical processes (color, highlights, perms) are usually pretty straight forward with this hair type.
Fine haired gals usually need lighter products, and less slip in their products. We tend to refer to them as "grabby" products because they have little slip (the smoothing quality that aids in detangling) and will make silky strands seem to have more substance. Fine haired ladies can use oils, but they need lighter oil, like Grapeseed, and go light on them. Fine hair is more prone to damage, so care should be taken when using a chemical process on this type of hair. You should (with any type of hair) perform a test application on shed hairs to determine the time you need to get your desired result without frying your hair. This is very important for fine hair because it will most likely process faster than other hair types.
Coarse hair is probably the trickiest texture. It's strong, which is good. But can be very hard to moisturize, and it's usually chronically dry due to an excess of protein in the hair's cortex. Coarse hair also tends to be low-porous because it is very strong, it isn't as prone to the damage of other hair textures. This means that the cuticle is "packed" tightly together, making it difficult for moisture to get in. Coarse hair is quite water resistant, so it seems to take forever to get the hair wet. Coarse hair will usually take longer to process when doing color or other chemical processes. Coarse hair also has a problem with using oils and build-up from products in general (even CG products may build up on the hair, because unlike fine or normal hair, it absorbs very little of the product).


Porosity can involve the cuticle simply not laying flat against the cortex naturally (hair that is kinky, and I don't mean "afro textured", I mean hair that has sharp bends along the hair shaft and these can occur in any hair texture, will naturally have some porosity) or hair that has damage for a number of reasons, from brushing or combing too aggressively, to chemical services, being prone to damage because of you hair texture, even the act of wetting your hair can damage it over time. Some products may damage hair, and heat styling is a major culprit.
Hair that is non-porous may not like oils in their products. They tend to sit on the outside of the hair shaft. For normal textured hair, they leave an oily look/feel for awhile and slowly absorb over time. For course haired individuals, they most often do not absorb at all (or very little). Non-porous hair may experience build up (and yes, even CG products can build up! Cationic ingredients bond to the negatively charged hair. And because the hair shaft is already smooth, without any damaged spots for the positively charged Cationic ingredients to bond to, they will just coat the hair strand, and unless they are removed regularly they will continue to build up) more often than porous hair, because again, products do not absorb as easily. Often non-porous (and particularly coarse, non-porous hair) will have trouble with getting hair to a moisturized state. It is naturally quite water repellent. Using heat will help open up the cuticle layer to allow water and conditioner in. Frequent deep treatments with heat will go a long way in helping get moisture into the cortex. The combination of heat and allowing the water and conditioner time to penetrate allows the cortex to absorb as much moisture as possible.
Non-porous hair will not like (usually) protein in every day products. The exception is fine to very fine hair. This hair type may need more protein because they just do not have as much protein in the cortex to help waves and curls support themselves, and to protect against damage. 
Porous hair, on the other hand, will readily absorb product. Oils are usually very beneficial for this hair type, because they help coat and seal the hair shaft to prevent the loss of moisture and protein through the "holes" in the cortex. Porous hair doesn't seem as prone to build up as non-porous hair (when using CG products, non-CG products that contain non-water soluble silicones will almost always build up). Porous hair absorbs product VERY well (sometimes TOO well). This can be a problem with gels. Yes, it absorbs the heck out of those, too. Often, when a non-porous individual and a porous individual use the exact same gel, the non-porous individual will report that gel has a very hard hold, while the porous individual reports that is was merely a medium to medium hard hold. This is because the gel will sit on the outside on the hair shaft in non-porous hair and create a harder gel cast, while it absorbs then evaporates on the porous hair. I personally deal with this by using my Sweet Curls Flax Seed Defining Gel on very wet hair (this helps seal in moisture, set the clumps that disappear in my hair if it starts to dry, and encourage curl). Then I scrunch out excess water and gel with a microfiber towel, wait 10-20 minutes for my hair to start to dry and the gel to start to set up, and apply either more Flax Seed Gel, Flax Seed Gel mixed with a hard gel, or just hard hold gel. This allows the hair to absorb product (and at this point, my leave-in, and the Defining Gel both had oils to help seal the hair) and some of it to evaporate as the hair dries, but still gives me good definition and clumps (which I do not get if I just wait put product on drier hair) and the second application will sit on the outside of the hair shaft providing more crunch like it is supposed to. 
Porous hair also tends to need a lot of protein. Protein in the cortex is lost when washing (or swimming) through the "holes". Moisture is also lost through these holes over time. Porous hair will often notice that right after washing their hair feels great. But by the end of the day, or the next morning, their hair feels dry again. By using regular protein treatments, these holes get temporarily "patched" reducing porosity for a time. I myself like to use a combination of smaller more conditioning proteins (amino acids) and the larger proteins (hydrolyzed proteins) to replace protein in the cortex AND to patch the holes in the cuticle.


Elasticity  is usually indicative of the protein/moisture balance in the hair. Hair that is not elastic is often prone to breakage resulting that "halo" of short (often frizzy looking) hairs that tend to stick out/up around the crown. Non elastic hair needs more moisture.
Hair that is too elastic will stretch out of shape, waves and curls may appear limp, not as curly/wavy as usual, and with less volume. Hair that is too elastic needs more protein.
Hair that stretches, then returns to it's natural shape, is hair that has a good protein/moisture balance. The aim here is to keep that balance!

I highly recommend getting a hair analysis done. is a great place to get this done. There are others that do them, Live Free Live Curly has one, but I think that they just do the same as GoosefootPrints mini physical analysis. (I can't be sure on this. But I believe they just do the self-tests that have listed on the website to determine properties). Komaza Care has an in depth analysis. I hear it's great, but the wait is long and it's pretty expensive. GoosfootPrints does an in depth scientific analysis (not the mini analysis) and it's quite affordable. I know this is a side job for her, so she may get backed up at times, but I DO know she knows hair, very well.
Now, here are some at home self test. These can give a general idea of your hair's properties, but they are far from an in depth analysis. 
Texture: this one is fairly easy, it will give you a pretty good idea of your hairs' texture. However, sometimes it can be hard to determine, as your hair may fall into an in - between texture, such as medium fine, medium course, etc. You may also have more then one texture. You may have textures ranging from very fine, to some course hairs.
Hold hair up to a light. If it hard to see, wispy, maybe even a bit translucent, it's probably in the fine range of texture. 
If it easily seen, seems very thick and study, maybe even wiry, it's most likely in the coarse range.
If it's easily seen, but does not seem wiry or very very thick, it's most likely normal.
You may also want to check out This is the same lady who provides the hair analysis through GoosefootPrints. 
Porosity: check out this link. I really have nothing to add to her great post on porosity tests!
Elasticity: again, Sceince-y Hairblog has already covered this, and I have nothing to add to her great post!
I think you can see why if you are in the market for a scientific hair analysis, this lady is the one you should go to! (and no, she isn't paying me to say that!) 


This is why I say "we don't have one size fits all hair". Because we really don't! It's unfair and confusing to lump curl types into a hair care routine with products that may or may not work for them. Just because your hair curls or waves a certain amount, has nothing at all to do with your hair properties and how your products will work for you. Even just guesstimating your properties will go a long way in helping you decide how to care for your hair, and what products (and products ingredients) will most likely work best for you.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sweet Curls Elixirs Elixirs Giveaway Contest!

In celebration of the Sweet Curls Elixirs Facebook page hitting 100 likes, I am running a contest on Facebook!

The prize will be the entire Sweet Curls line, FREE! (In the US, international fans may enter, but shipping charges may apply).
And yes, the products will be fully customized as per the winner's requests!

Note: if you do not use Facebook, you can email me at to enter.

Good Luck everyone!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

And we're off!

I'm sorry it took me awhile to get back here and announce the grand opening, but Sweet Curls Elixirs is now open!
I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment at the number of orders I have received already, and all the organization and managing that needs done.
Once that is all up to date, I will get back here and create a new page with How-to's and ideas to use my products.
I'm very excited about this!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Introducing Sweet Curls Elixirs!!!

First off, I am sorry for the hiatus! I tried to post from mobile, but it just wasn't cutting it.
And now, I want to announce the opening (soon, like this weekend) of my online hair product store! This has been an idea rattling around in my head for a while. I started out just selling Flax Seed Gel to a few ladies who had expressed an interest in buying while I got other things worked out. Then I set up a Facebook page to make ordering for non-Facebook friends easier (you know, because of the stupid other inbox, where messages go unnoticed for weeks, months at a time...). Now I am in the process of setting up a store on Etsy!
I wanted to offer products with choices. I see often ladies who would like to try a product, but can't because of ingredients their hair doesn't like; or allergies; or the fragrance is too strong, or they just didn't like it, or any fragrance.
I promise to listen to you, my customers. If there is an ingredient or fragrance I do not have, I will do my best to get it for you. If there is a product I don't offer that you want, I will do my best to create it. If you need help deciding what might be good for your hair, I will do my best to help you figure it out.
Or you may contact me via email at
I will post again when the Etsy is up!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hair growth vitamins, products that repair damage, and other hair myths

We've all heard the marketing hype. For thicker, fuller hair.... Repair months of damage.. stops hair fall... grow hair longer and stronger; but how much of this is true? Can this shampoo really make my hair thicker? Can this vitamin really make my hair grow? Let's explore the truth behind these claims!
Claim number 1: Hair formula vitamins. These claim a variety of benefits. Grow hair longer, stronger, thicker, etc.
The truth is, the body can only use so much, and extra vitamins and minerals are either excreted in urine, or extras stored in fat. For a normal, healthy person, eating a balanced diet will provide enough nutrition and excess vitamins are unnecessary, and too much of some can actually be dangerous. My hero Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory put it best when he observed Penny shopping for vitamins, "While there is some benefit to taking a multi-vitamin, the body can only absorb so much. What you are buying there are the ingredients for very expensive urine."
The exception to this is if you are not healthy and/or do not eat a balanced diet. Some conditions do benefit from vitamins. I myself have Crohn's Disease and Lupus. A few years ago, my hair started falling out at an alarming rate. While it's normal to lose around 100 strands a day, I was losing so much that it would clog drains, have clumps all over the floors and furniture, gobs of it in my combs! After 3 bowel resections, I no longer absorbed B-12. And I was put on a folate blocking drug. Along with being iron anemic, and put on a restrictive diet. So I was put on B-12 shots, potassium (I forgot to mention I also had trouble keeping my potassium up), iron, a multi-vitamin, and finally folate. After being put on the folate, I started noticing quite a bit of regrowth in my crown area. After a few months, those bitty hairs were turning into short little clumps. Now my hair is almost back to it's normal thickness. So I am proof that health problems or poor diet (in my case, both, as the diets I am forced to eat to control Crohn's symptoms are very limiting) can benefit from added supplements.
Claim number 2: Repair damage. This one, while technically true in a sense, is very misleading. Let's get one thing straight, hair is dead from the moment it grows out of the follicle. It can be damaged, from a number of things from just washing it to chemical damage, to blow drying/curling irons/flat irons. Because it is dead, it can not repair itself like our living bodies can. It can however, be temporarily patched. Proteins are the best way to patch damage. Your hair is made up of keratin, which is a protein. The size of the protein does matter! Food proteins (egg, yogurt) are generally too large to penetrate the hair shaft, (however, food products containing hydrolyzed proteins are a different story) so they lie on the outside of hair and are easily washed away. Amino acids are smallest, they can penetrate the hair shaft, and can provide conditioning properties, but are usually too small to patch damage. Hydrolyzed proteins however, are the perfect size to patch up damaged hair.
Most often, though, hair product companies rely on silicones to temporarily "glue" splits and damaged cuticles down. The problem with this is that the glue is removed each time you sulfate wash your hair. And to remove most silicones, you do need a sulfate shampoo. There are exceptions, PEG and PPG modified silicones are water soluble, and there are a list of others that may be water soluble, or removed with a low sulfate shampoo. At any rate, each time you need to remove the silicones you are damaging it even more with sulfates. These silicones coat the hair, so they must be removed regularly. They can build up and suffocate hair. Not allowing moisture in, and ultimately causing more problems. 
Claim number 3: for thicker fuller hair. Again, this is semantics. These products may make your hair appear and/or feel thicker and fuller, but your hair isn't actually thicker or fuller. Again, hair is dead. It is what it is. You can only improve the health of the hair that is growing in the follicle by eating right (or taking vitamins if you need to), drinking enough water, and caring for the health of your scalp. Anything you do to (dead) hair (with the exception of damage, which is permanent) will be temporary. This is not to say that these products are without worth. If you have fine, thin, or limp hair, extra body can be very welcome, even if it is just the appearance of fullness.
Claim number 4: stop hair fall. As far as I can tell, it's just regular shampoo and conditioner with caffeine and protein. They recommend scalp massage with use. I have no idea if applying caffeine externally would actually increase blood flow to the scalp. The massage definitely will, however. Increasing blood flow by massage will help clear off dead skin and excess oil. It stimulates the follicles and the oil glands which does help the health of the scalp.  And the protein would help patch damage on hair stands to resist breakage. So in reality, if you already cleanse your scalp properly, and give yourself protein treatments, your already doing everything this line would do for you.
Keep in mind that it is normal to lose around 100 strands a day. In straight hair, these stands slip out throughout the day and aren't as noticeable. With wavy or curly hair, the texture does not allow for these hairs to slip out unnoticed. They stay stuck in their clumps, nestled up with their curly buddies, until we wash and detangle and physically pull them out with our fingers or wide tooth combs. So a clump of 100 hairs seems like a lot, all at once, but it is perfectly normal. Broken hairs are usually pretty obvious, since they are shorter. In conclusion of this claim, cleansing your scalp properly with a good massage, keeping up with your protein/moisture balance, and for very damaged hair, a hair cut, trim, or "search and destroy" for damage will go a long way for the health of your hair and scalp and reduce breakage.
Claim number 5: grow hair longer and stronger. This claim appears on things from shampoos, conditioners, hair treatments, oil treatments, vitamins, and more. It's the same principle as claim number 4. Some of these products will help in this goal if used regularly, as part of a good hair care routine. Massaging the scalp with an oil helps with blood flow, exfoliation, dissolving excess oil, and moisturizing dryness. Shampoo (hopefully a low sulfate shampoo!), conditioner, treatments, stylers, etc that are moisturizing and/or fortified with protein will help keep the moisture/protein balance of your hair to keep it hydrated, elastic, and strong (keeping in mind any damage is still there, it's just patched up). Hair in good condition may grow longer, and keeping it in good condition can keep it as strong as your hair can be. But it's important to have realistic expectations. A girl with hair as fine as silk won't have her hair transform into the plump strands of a girl with course hair. Your hair is your hair, and no product will change that, all you can do is aim for the healthiest version of your hair.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Quick side"bun"

I made this vid last year to show how I do my quick side faux bun. I can actually do this much quicker than in the video, but I am used to doing this in a mirror! Oh, and I was nervous, because I had never done a video before.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

So you tried a product or technique that everyone seems to raving about, and the angels didn't sing...

It seems everywhere you look, all your curly friends seem to be raving about some new product or some new technique for styling. Of course that means you must try it! You run out and buy the product, or read up on the technique, and are excited to try it. But after your hair is done and dried... you are less than pumped about the results. Rest assured, fellow wavies, it happens to all of us. Everyone has different hair properties, and those properties will mostly determine how your hair will react to products, and techniques. Sometimes, it just takes a little tweaking to hear those angels sing. Other times, it isn't going to happen. Don't write off a product or technique if it doesn't seem to work out the first time. Keep experimenting with it. Maybe try it with wetter hair, or drier hair. Try less product, try more product, etc. But, if after giving something a fair shot it still doesn't impress you, there is no shame in saying it doesn't for work for you.
Part of the Curly Girl philosophy is learning to love YOUR hair. So if that means you can't use some "miracle" product or technique that seems to work for everyone else, then that's just fine.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Off Topic: I LOVE my Neti Pot!

Please forgive my indulging in an off topic post for a minute.
I had recently subscribed to one of those daily freebie sites, and lucked into a free Neti Pot from Neilmed on Facebook.
I often get sinus pressure and sinus headaches, and I had been looking into better ways to deal with it, because OTC sinus medications and Tylonal just really didn't do much to help.
Using the Neti Pot for the first couple of times was awkward. Saline running into your throat while your trying to breathe is an odd, and gross, feeling. I soon got the hang of it, though, and was rinsing my sinus cavities like a pro. I had terrible pressure and a sinus headache that has lasted for 4 days when I first used the Neti Pot. It was like a miracle sent from heaven! Pressure and headache instantly gone! I was in love.
I have had the flu for the last week or so, finally feeling much better today. At the first sign of respiratory symptoms, I started using the Neti pot 3 times a day. I have been on immune suppressants for years for treatment of autoimmune disorders, and usually respiratory symptoms hang around and start evolve into ear infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Not this time! I kept up rinsing my sinuses 3 times a day for 2 days, and by the 3rd day, my stuffy nose and cough were almost completely gone! I still had other flu symptoms like a fever and achyness, but they were much more tolerable with out struggling for air!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Refreshing faded color between hair coloring

As a continuation of my last post, I thought I would share some tips on how to refresh hair color between hair coloring. I just recently went back to my actual natural color (but still coloring to cover grey!) after having been a number of different shades of red. As some of you may know, red is a very hard color to keep. I developed a few tricks to refresh my color so it would stick around until my next coloring. My favorite product for this is Ion Color Brilliance Semi-Permanent Hair Color found at Sally Beauty Supply stores. The semi-permanent name is a bit misleading, IMHO, however. There is no developer. It is a temporary color, that they say qualifies as semi IF you use heat. However, even then, it's still not a semi IMO! It's pretty much just straight pigment that will temporarily stain the hair. Heat opens the cuticle so it penetrates deeper into the hair shaft, causing it to take, and last, a little better. I found one bottle lasted me a while, because I didn't use it according to the instructions. Instead, I would add some to my weekly gelatin protein treatments, or if I decided to skip those, I would add it to some condish and leave it on for an hour or so. When adding it to my protein treatment, I would add enough to turn the gelatin a deep brownish red. I never really measured. It would work best if I used the blow dry version of the protein treatment, but it worked fine with out blow drying. When I added it to condish, I would do a 50-50 mix, wrap in plastic and use my dryer on low for 10 minutes or so then just leave it on for another 50 minutes. One treatment would last around a week for me. I wash my hair every 2-3 days, so if you wash more often, it will fade quicker. You can also add a little to your shampoo/co-wash and/or condish every time you wash to help prevent fading. It works pretty much like those shampoos and conditioners that have added pigment to prevent fading.
I had meant to get around to trying out the Ion Color Brilliance Brights in red to see if that added more of a punch since my hair is dark and I think it would have blended nicely, but decided to go back to dark brown for winter before I had the chance. I do plan to try it out the next time I go red though.
Food coloring works too, but it takes a good eye for color to get it the exact color you want, and works best for refreshing red. Beet juice and cranberry juice are also good for temporarily giving reds some extra oomph.
Triple strength coffee is good for brown. As is strong black tea. And I have heard chamomile is good for blonde, though I have zero experience with being blonde.
To use these types of refreshers (coffee, teas, juices) you hang your head back over a large bowl, pour the liquid through your hair, wait a minute or two, and repeat using the liquid that was collected in the bowl. It's easiest to just use two large bowls to pour the liquids over your hair, instead of pouring the liquid from a bowl back into a smaller container, than replacing the bowl to collect the liquid again. At any rate, you will repeat pouring the liquid over your hair anywhere from 5-10 times. And let it dry in your hair if you can, even using a little heat to help it penetrate the hair shaft.
You can also try these refreshers on non-color treated hair to give some added dimension without using chemicals. You can even mix-and-match if you like, using cranberry or beet juice to give brown or blonde hair a reddish tint, or darkening blonde hair with coffee, or even adding a bit of light highlights to brown hair with chamomile (light brown hair, I don't think it will work very well for darker hair).
These are my favorite techniques, though I have tried the refresher masks/glosses and other such products made for refreshing color. They work just fine, but I found that the Ion Semi works just the same, is cheaper, comes in a variety of colors, and you can adjust the intensity.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How I prepare for hair color

I have dyed my hair at home for years. I easily get bored with my color and feel a need to change it up, but I don't have the moolah to go get it done at the salon! One thing I have learned over the years is that if you color regularly, you need to prepare your hair for even color absorption. Virgin hair can also benefit, but most likely will take more evenly than regularly colored hair.
At least one day before I plan to color, and preferably longer, I do the following steps to prepare my hair for coloring.
The first thing I do is clarify my hair with sulfate shampoo that contains EDTA and/or citric acid. This removes all manner of build up, including stylers, mineral deposits, and also (this important) lifts some of the left over color from your previous coloring. The reason that's important is because you need to make room for the strands to accept NEW color.
After clarifying, I do a protein treatment. Protein fills in any holes (porosity) in the hair shaft. This also helps the color absorb evenly. I use this recipe for Science-y Hair Blog's gelatin protein treatment. I love this PT because it's cheap, easy, customizable, and it WORKS. Of course, if you aren't the mad scientist type who enjoys cooking up hair concoctions in your kitchen, there are many store bought options. Some options from Sally Beauty Supply are Ion Effective care (mild protein conditioner), Ion Re-constructor (protein treatment conditioner), aPhogee 2-step (strong protein treatment, comparable to the gelatin PT), Joico K-Pak. There are also botique type treatments available online from Spiral Solutions, Curl Junkie, and Jessie Curl (maybe more, I'm not sure..).
I follow this with a moisturizing deep treatment. I prefer to play mad scientist again and mix up my own DT with Generic Value Products (Sally's knock off brand) Conditioning Balm with some honey and coconut oil. I leave that in for at least 20 minutes with 10 minutes of heat, 10 minutes of cool down time. Sometimes longer if I just don't feel like washing it out. I have left DT's in over night, but I let my hair down to DRY because leaving it wet leaves it in a stretched state and prone to breakage.

Don't color the day you wash. Your natural oils will protect your scalp from irritation, so it's best to color on day old (or longer, I have insanely dry skin, so it takes my scalp at least 2 days to build up enough oil to properly protect my scalp).

It's so much easier to spend a couple of hours preparing for your color, than it is to try and fix uneven color once you dye your hair! In some cases, you can't fix it at home and will have to shell out the dough to go to a salon so a pro can fix it.
One last thing, at home coloring works best if you stick within 2 shades of your natural color. This is particularly true if you're going lighter. Darker is less tricky than lighter! So unless you are experienced in going lighter, please don't try to go platinum on your own.