Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Low-Down on Co-Washing

"What IS co-washing?" I have so many guests that have heard this term and wondered what it meant. Co-washing refers to the use of conditioner to cleanse the hair, but the definition has widened slightly to encompass some non-sulfated, low-lather, or creamy cleansers. The idea behind this method is that we are not stripping the hair of precious oils that keep it protected; rather, leaving the hair's natural moisture system in place and removing unwanted dirt, styling product, and pollutions in a more gentle manner.
From my experience behind the chair, I can isolate a few problems with co-washing that any well-intentioned person of curl should be aware of before committing to this method:

1. Not all Co-wash is created equal. Look at your ingredients! If there are silicones in your co-wash, you have a problem. This can cause hair fall and myriad other issues that I will get into in just a moment.  Likewise, look for ingredients that have some inherent cleansing properties. Some are rosemary, tea tree oil, and mint, to name a few.

2. Make sure that if you are co-washing, you are not also using products that contain silicone. Silicone is not a curl's best friend, and that is because it coats our hair in such a way that it prevents true moisture from being obtained. So the first step to healthier hair would be to eliminate all silicones completely, as most silicones are at least partially water insoluble. That means that in order to remove them, you require a sulfated cleanser. The problem with washing curly hair in harsh detergents is that it makes the hair incredibly dry and fragile. Thus, using silicone enters us into an unhealthy cycle of coating the hair which prevents moisture, and then cleansing with harsh surfactants to remove the silicone. To remedy this, many reach for yet more silicone-laden products to smooth out their dehydrated hair, and so it continues. What makes this even worse is when we dabble in silicone use and expect a co-wash to be able to handle removing these products. This can have disastrous results if practiced for any length of time, as the silicone collects on the hair, scalp, and follicles, never completely being removed. Imagine a friend holding a roll of industrial plastic wrap as you pirouette around and around it. Not only would you feel like you were suffocating, if you hopped outside in the rain, the water would bounce right off of you. This is what happens to your hair when you use silicone. Unfortunately, we've been brainwashed to believe that keeping moisture out of curly hair is the main goal, and that just is not true. Our hair needs moisture to look and feel healthy.

3. Time commitment. Co-washing isn't just about hopping in the shower, half asleep and splatting a handful of conditioner on your head. As you are replacing the action of harsh surfactant with mechanical movement, guess what happens if you omit that movement? Unfortunately, many begin their use of conditioner washing without the massage necessary to actually remove excess sebum, dirt, and product from the scalp. You MUST massage the scalp when co-washing, both on the way in and out.  Without the massage, product and sebum can accumulate on the scalp and hair, coating it much like a silicone can! You must also stimulate the hair follicle so that it continues to produce new hair. A coating on the scalp, over the follicles can create an unhealthy environment in which the hair cannot bloom from the follicle. Some may notice bumps, blemishes, flaking, itchiness, oiliness, a dull coating, and scalp pain if they have gone for any length of time improperly co-washing. The key is to use the pads of your fingers in a circular massaging motion, moving the co-wash over the entirety of the scalp vigorously, and then rinsing it out using that same movement. I tell my guests to flip over in the shower as it helps remove product from the crown and nape, areas that some with very dense curls may miss.

4. Consider your water. For most of my guests, it makes sense to co-wash most of the time, adding in a hard-water removing treatment or gentle lathering cleanser every so often, perhaps every couple of weeks. Hard water can make it difficult to remove any cleanser, including co-washes, and that is why I recommend an occasional treatment to ensure that mineral deposit is being removed.

5. The crown is the spot where I find many have build up and the reason why is because that tends to be the area with the most density. We think because we are standing under the shower and the shower head is rinsing that area the most, that we should be fine! The truth is, because that hair is thicker in that spot, we must be moving it aside so that the water can make it all the way down to the scalp, and manipulate the product off of the scalp in that area. It should feel like a nice hearty massage and your arms should get a workout!

I have seen some of the healthiest scalps using a co-wash method and I have also seen scalps with tremendous build up from co-washing. If you feel like you have build up, some steps you can take to re-start a healthy co-wash routine are as follows:

1. Take an unadulterated oil, like Innersense Organic Beauty's Harmonic Healing oil, and massage into dry hair at the scalp. Massage vigorously.
2. Wet hair in shower and either apply DevaCurl Build-Up Buster or Malibu Undo-Goo or Hard Water cleanser. You may need to do this twice.
3. Proceed with applying Co-wash as suggested above using massage. I love Long Hair Don't Care for my own Co-wash.
4. Condition as usual, being sure to rinse conditioner from roots completely.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tales From the BG

So how many of us have what I call the "Beauty Graveyard" under the sink?
C'mon, just admit it.
Some of you wander the aisles at the beauty supply or even the local drugstore in search of that "holy grail" product, lured by the claims you may have read on the Internet by Curl_zilla123 that "It has been the product she has been lost without her WHOLE LIFE!" She posts a pic of her amazing tendrils springing forth from her head like curving arcs reaching for the heavens, nary a coil out of place, shiny, and no frizz to be seen.
You look under Curl_zilla123's profile and see that she has the EXACT same hair type as you do, 8F wavy/springy. You practically trip and fall headed out the door to purchase the product she is using, and when you get home with it you confidently stand before the mirror in the shower, barely able to contain the excitement, practicing your acceptance speech for the world's most beautiful naturally curly hair.
 You use it according to the way Curl_zilla123 described, patiently wait for it to air-dry, and then it happens: NOTHING.
It does nothing.
Your hair has barely even woken up off your head to say hello to the world, laying in stringy pieces in between clumps of undefined frizz. You are out $15 and it ends up under the sink behind the tampons so your husband doesn't see that you have purchased yet ANOTHER hair product.
"Why?" you may ask.
Well, Dear Curlies, I am here to let you in on a secret, and one that frustrates me both as a curly girl AND as a specialized curl stylist for many reasons.
Your hair is YOUR hair. Just like when we use fingerprints to unlock a phone or a door, we cannot use Someone Else's products to unlock the mysteries of our own hair. We owe much to websites that have taught us about our textures. But in many ways it has made us a tad confused; a bit bewildered, if not somewhat misinformed. Perhaps CurlsMcQueen_88 puts mashed baby food and bull semen in her hair (Yes, those are real hair treatments) and gets fantastic results, but that doesn't assure your own great results.
It just means that she, like many, is on a curl journey and is learning through experimentation.
Where I find this to be detrimental  is when I see a guest who has been trying anything and everything without regard to the many factors that one should be taking into account when trying new products.
 What is your porosity? Does the product change the PH of your hair? Are you protein sensitive? Do you have skin sensitivities/allergies? How long should you give this product to work? And once and for all, What is Your Hair Type??? Some of these subjects will be for future posts, but one thing I'd like to acknowledge is that yes, we do have more knowledge about curly hair than we did, say, 15 years ago.
 Now we have curl "types". While I can appreciate that, the first thing I tell my guests when they ask me what "type" of curl they have is that not everyone will fit neatly into the hair typing standards we have set forth as a curl community. Using myself as an example, I can easily find four different curl types on my head on any given day (depending on my products, humidity in the environment, application methods, drying methods, and sometimes even more! ).
The best way to find your ideal routine is not going to pop up on Someone Else's profile or jump out at you from an article on the web or the aisles at Target. As a matter of fact, when I see pictures of guests who send them to me prior to an appointment, even I cannot be for sure what their hair needs without putting my hands in it to touch it, to see how it responds to water, to feel whether they have buildup, dry scalp, dry ends, or if their PH is off. I cannot tell from a picture and neither can any other professional.
Curly hair is a fabric. Imagine that you are purchasing an expensive dress on the Internet and you are going off the description, "soft, flowing, supple, clingy, warm, breathable" but they never tell you exactly what the fabric IS. How confused would you be with this description?  Would you even know what the fabric could be? Now what if you were in the store and you felt this beautiful dress with your hands and saw it with your own eyes and tried it on to see how it moved with your body? Would you laugh and say to yourself, "Why didn't they just say it was silk!? " It could be that the person who wrote the description never had the opportunity to actually wear the dress.
Just like this dress, I cannot go by other's descriptions of their hair unless I touch it, see it move, and see with my own eyes how they wear it. I cannot tell you what you should cleanse your fabric with or how you should dry it without feeling it. This is exactly why it is so important to seek out a professional to help you establish a routine in person.
You do not need a beauty graveyard!
It doesn't have to be that way, and your routine can be very simple with only minor swaps when the seasons change. I put very little thought into my routine at this point because I know what my hair needs and what it does not. Don't mistake this for not being open, however, as I can add and subtract new products where I would like as long as I have an understanding of my own hair, as well as a basic outline of information that is not too involved or complicated- so that I know where I can and cannot break rules.
Just like a fingerprint, everyone who comes to see me gets detailed notes about their routine, and no two are alike. I find even if two guests have similar notes, something will vary somewhere to make them unique to them specifically.
I recommended seeking out a specialist in your area that can help you establish a routine that works for you and take the guesswork out of the equation- not to mention give you a great cut to boot. Look at the work they post on social media and ask questions! A seasoned curl specialist will be happy to take time for your consultation and be available even after your appointment is over to answer questions you may have. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hide or Seek?

Now that winter has set in many of my guests have been telling me they have been noticing halo frizz. WHY would that be and how could it be happening? Now that the summer humidity is over with, we have a different problem to contend with. Instead of moisture being readily available, (and almost too plentiful in some places!) our hair is now on a desperate search for moisture in the environment and it is not finding it! So, where does moisture hide in the winter time? It hides where cold people like to be: in the boiling HOT shower, over a steaming bowl of soup, your mug of coffee, or, for me, standing over the cleansing basin all day. You will find that there is no in-between with steam. Your hair either must hide from it, or is constantly seeking it. I myself must protect my baby fine strands from the steam of my shower unless I want to look like the Heat Miser. My hair will lose definition, fall flat, and become lifeless if I leave it uncovered for a hot bath or shower.  The following tips are for those hair types that must hide from the steam in the winter, and I will cover in another post how to seek steam and use it as an advantage for those whose hair type benefits from it.

 I have many clients lament that they wear a shower cap, but there are some fatal flaws we can make such as leaving out the hairline, which just so happens to be extra vulnerable to frizzing since the hairline is where some of our shorter baby hairs live. One of the best ways to protect your hair from the steam is to place a hair Buff on your head first, THEN place your shower cap over that. THE MOST IMPORTANT YET VERY SIMPLE STEP IS AS FOLLOWS: Do not remove either the Buff OR the shower cap until you have left the bathroom. That steam is hanging out in your bathroom just waiting to tease up those baby hairs with it's sweet, steamy caress.

Another issue people can come across is feeling the need to adjust curls after sleeping, and they reach for a wet product to do so. This is a tough one to suss out, but if your hair is the type to frizz like crazy when you are in the shower, chances are you shouldn't be using something water-based to try and refresh with. Instead, use a cream or oil based product to settle down frizz, or better yet, prevent the friction on your curls in the first place by sleeping in your buff, or a topknot with a satin pillowcase. If you find you must settle a few curls down, take the approach of placing a small amount of your desired touch-up product (typically not gel) like a leave-in, cream, or pure, unadulterated oil, directly in your palm and moving from the root to the end, sweep the product onto the misbehaving curl and wind it the direction the curl naturally turns.

So what about exercise? This one can be challenging as well because we must work under the premise that the hair will get wet with perspiration. Since this is unavoidable, you can place your hair back away from your face by either wearing it in a topknot of pinning with bobby pins. I do not recommend a headband as the combo of tension and moisture will cause a dent or crimp in the hair, but you could try a buff or a half buff headband. First though, before exercising, use a good coating of spray gel or place some light hold gel on your fingertips and work it all around your hairline, sweeping away from your face. As your hair dampens, you will then have the extra coverage of the gel already present, and your hair will fall into a cast again as it re-dries. Once you are dry, flip forward and scrunch/shuffle gently at the root.

If you are planning to do some major cooking, opening and closing the oven door, standing over roiling pots of boiling water, you could put on your buff, or you could keep some plastic elastic caps tucked in between your cling wrap and tinfoil for such occasions. If you are like me, you will enjoy pretending to be a lunch lady and scaring your kids with your high-pitched Julia Childs impersonation. Plus, this keeps your lovely locks protected from enthusiastically flung bits of food and keeps your DNA out of the dinner.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Curl Kebabs!

So I have been gone awhile, but wanted to touch base with a new video covering a method I created born out of necessity. Recently I had a major surgery involving my skull and spine, and in addition to having a limited range of motion, I am missing about a quarter of my hair on the underside. Naturally this is making my hair seem less voluminous; and without being able to clip or plop, downright flat! This has been a blessing in so many ways, including bringing me a little outside the box to be able to experience some challenges some of you may face with limited motion, or for those who don't like to clip or plop. Click the link for  Curl Kebabs!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Flax Seed Gel

Have you ever made your own products? I definitely have, and I love to play in the kitchen so it satisfies the curl lover and the chef in me!
I am linking back to my friend and leader of Curly Hair Artistry, Scott Musgrave's blog post where he featured my gel recipe. Let me know if you try this and how you like it, or if you made some alterations to your own gel!
You can find Scott's blog and my concoction here.  Happy curling!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

'O' Clipping Version 2.0

I really, really want everyone to understand how to use clips in their hair; it is such a great tool to have in gaining height and volume! Sometimes we just don't feel like using small clips, though. Small clips do have their advantages, such as more precision and smaller sections which can be great for certain hair types. When placed properly, small clips have mighty strength in numbers. However, for those days where you have less time, if you find you are not using your clips at all because they frustrate you, or if you want to hike up those tresses to the heavens, these clips do just the trick! This is great for all hair types but I think those with heavy, thick, or long hair will especially appreciate this technique with these larger and easier-to-handle clips.  Happy, happy clipping!

Top View
During the drying process

After air drying and diffusing!

Friday, May 29, 2015

That's Deep!

So many of us experience dry hair at this time of year. Whether it's from a rough transition from winter or because with warm weather comes more headbands, hair ties, and chlorine, we all could benefit from a deep conditioner now and then. Many sit in my chair and say "I never have time!" but I encourage you to take a little time out of your hectic schedule to give your hair some TLC; relax with a good book or movie! It's a great excuse to spend a little time on YOU and you'll be rewarded with great hair!
I find that when I do a deep conditioner, I like to detoxify my hair by either using a gentle-lather, sulfate-free cleanser; or a Malibu Hard Water/Swimmers treatment packet. This way, the hair is prepped and ready to accept the moisture I am trying to give it. These treatments can also "press the reset button" on limp and lifeless curls. Both hard water and chlorine can be so tough on hair; and I will address these specific problems in a future post to give you some ideas on how to deal with them.
For now, choose a silicone-free deep conditioner or an oil of your choice and try both of the following methods of application to see which works best for you.
Your deep conditioner can be applied however you wish, both on wet or dry hair. It is very beneficial to apply it on dry hair because the hair is like a sponge, accepting readily what you put on it first. This method works especially well with hair that tangles easily or is low-porosity,  as you can use this as a pre-cleanse softener. You can also sleep with the deep conditioner in your hair if you simply tie it gently with a ribbon elastic hair tie or wear a shower cap. Just lay a microfiber towel or old tee-shirt over your pillowcase while you sleep. While the exchange here is that you may be using much more product to evenly saturate the hair, you may find that your hair just eats up that moisture like never before!
On the other hand, the benefits to applying deep treatments on wet hair are that you may use less product and achieve a more even application. Another positive is that you are able to use warm water to open the cuticle further, allowing for great penetration of all that beneficial hydration. When applying deep conditioner to wet hair, always squeeze out as much water as possible and you may even want to blot a little with a microfiber. I then recommend applying to the ends first working up to midway through, then using the remainder left on your hands for the top and part-line. Next, exit the shower to give the conditioner some time to work it's magic. You can sit under a hood dryer, or if you don't own one, try the method I show you in the video below! Cold water seals the cuticle back down, so I always recommend this as the final step after any conditioning.