Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is there something in the water?

You're using a pH balanced shampoo, you do your weekly deep conditioning treatments and you've purchased every product under the fluorescent lighting of the drugstores that promise frizz free hair, and yet your hair still isn't getting smooth and shiny. The problem might not be your regiment... it's probably the water.

Using pure clean water would be a luxury for most of us curlies, however when we're in the shower and in a rush, how realistic is it to have a gallon of purified water to rinse your shampoo out and then your conditioner? Not very.

Before I tell you about this nifty gadget I found, I'd like to first explore hard water a little bit and how it effects our hair. Hard water, simply put is water that is hard to deal with. My simple trick to know that I have hard water is by looking at my shower head. If it gets clogged up then most likely it's the minerals in the water that is causing this. According to the website; A geological survey of the US shows that more than 85% of our water is considered hard water with levels varying according to your area. Well water is the worst since it hasn't been filtered and contains all of the sediments and minerals from below ground. (No this isn't like a mineral spa.) The result of hard water ends up being dull looking hair, shampoo that is hard to lather and dry skin.
I am a solutions kind of girl, and rather than taking this information lightly, I decided I needed to do some digging and find out what I can do at home for a nominal cost. I have found...the Sprite Shower Filter. These filters come in various forms of the filter itself, from those that you mount your own shower head to, to a shower head filter in one. I have the the filter which I use with my own shower head. If you check out their website, you will find a myriad of the benefits. As a user, I can attest to how great this filter is. I've even used it at my parent's house in Florida where they have well water (the nastiest of all hard water) and it even helped to remove the sulfur smell and kept my skin clean. Anyone who has used well water knows that you have this slimey feeling after a shower.
According to their website;; Chlorgon & KDF - The only non-carbon filtering media to remove:
-Free Chlorine (Cl-)
-Combined Chlorine (Sodium Hypochlorite)
-Hydrogen Sulfide (rotten egg smell)
-Iron oxide (rust water)
-Dirt, sediment
-Plus, its pH balanced
Easy to install, and it can be found in any hardware store such as Home Depot or Lowes. At only around $25, it is well worth the investment.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Softeners, Silkeners & Texturizers...OH MY!

People who opt to wear their hair in their natural state may become surprised to find their hair to be thick, curly, dense and/or appear shorter due to shrinkage. Many salons will give them the option to ‘texturize’ in order to achieve more manageability and length. Salons such as Christo’s Fifth Avenue will have a ‘Bio softening’ and Curve Salon has a ‘Silkener’. For all intents and purposes, these are both fancy terms for a texturizer as they both utilize some chemical to alter the curl pattern. A texturizer is simply a milder form of a relaxer. It can either be cut with a conditioner to lessen the potency or kept on the hair for a much shorter period of time. It still uses some form of lye or caustic ingredient to break down the bonds.

According to, a hair texturizer changes the chemical makeup of the hair. A strand of hair contains several chemicals that give it a particular appearance. The disulfide bond, a bond between two sulfur atoms, is the one that allows a strand to hold its shape. When this bond is manipulated, the shape of a hair can be altered.

First, a reducing agent is placed on the hair to break the disulfide bonds. Next, the hair is manipulated into the desired shape. It can be straightened in the case of a relaxer, curled for a perm, or in this case be texturized into looser curls. Lastly, an oxidizing agent is introduced to reset the disulfide bonds into the newly formed shape.

There are several reasons why a person would undergo a texturizing treatment as opposed to relaxing.

To maintain the hair’s curl shape without going bone straight

To loosen the tightness of the curl

To gain more manageability

To have more versatility

The pros with getting a texturizer are that you could achieve all of the above.

The cons of having a texturizer are:

Using chemicals to alter the hair

Having to maintain the texturizer 3 to 4 times per year

Same as a relaxer, hair can become weaker and break

Hair can become over processed and lose the curl

Natural alternatives to a texturizer are available that promises to loosen the curls without chemicals and therefore leaving the hair healthier.

Click here to read what the FDA says about hair relaxers and then see the following links for more information regarding texturizers and relaxers:

Hair Relaxers - FDA Pointers

Hair Relaxers

Are "no-lye" hair relaxers safer?

  1. Any relaxer can burn your scalp if you use it the wrong way.

  2. Lye is something found in many hair relaxers. It helps the product work, but it can also burn the skin.

  3. Relaxers without lye don't usually bother your skin as much, but you still need to be safe and use them the right way.

Tips from skin doctors and hairdressers to help use hair relaxers safely:

  1. Don't leave the relaxer on longer than the directions say you should.

  2. Wash it out with a neutralizing shampoo. (You can get neutralizing shampoo in most places where you buy shampoo.)

  3. Use conditioner often after relaxing your hair.

  4. Be extra careful when you use hair relaxers on children. Keep hair relaxers out of children's reach. Children have been hurt playing with hair relaxers.

  5. It can be a good idea to get help with relaxers instead of doing it all by yourself. That way you can be surer to use the relaxer evenly and rinse it all out from places you can't see.

  6. You can protect your scalp by putting petroleum jelly on the scalp before using the relaxer.

  7. Don't scratch your head or brush your hair before you use a relaxer.

  8. Remember that curling and blow drying can hurt your hair, too.

How often should I relax my hair?

  1. Straightening too often can damage your hair. You might want to ask your hairdresser for advice, because different products on the market have different directions. According to some hairdressers, every six to eight weeks is common, but this depends on the product.
  2. It also depends on your hair, such as how fast your hair grows.

Can I dye and relax my hair at the same time?

  1. You are more likely to damage your hair if you use both hair dye and a relaxer.

  2. If you do color your relaxed hair, some hairdressers say you should use a semi-permanent dye. They say it will cause less damage than a permanent dye.

  3. Refer to product directions and talk to your hairdresser because different relaxers have different directions. Some should not be used when you have dye in your hair.

Contact FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) Adverse Events Reporting System (CAERS):

* call 1-800-FDA-1088

* email

To learn more:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Trimming Curly Hair for Next to Nothing

I have this belief that just because I am broke doesn’t mean I have to look the part! I consider myself a resourceful and savvy shopper, even before this economy went downhill. So, when I found myself unemployed and unable to afford my $130 haircuts (not including the tip), I had to improvise. So after over a year of seeing my wonderful stylist in NYC who specializes in curly hair, I cheated on her with SuperCuts. I’m not advocating leaving your stylist altogether. She has to make a living as well and depends on her following, however, I do suggest fudging a bit. I also know that I had to give up the luxuries that come with the $130 cut, such as a very relaxing shampoo and fabulous style. But, at $15, this was by far the easiest and cheapest cut I’ve ever had and she did exactly as I told her. Plus, I got one of those frequent user cards where my 10th cut is free!

How I did it: I straightened my hair and drove to the nearest SuperCuts where I simply asked for a trim, a mere dusting of the ends if you will. The stylist can cut your hair dry. I already had a great shape from my usual stylist and just needed those annoying little knots that form in curly hair to be gone. I’ve always had my hair cut wet while it was curly since that is the way I wear my hair, however, once I straightened my hair, I had a better idea of what the ends looked like. In the end I was quite pleased with the result and will employ this method to cutting my hair more often.

Coo Coo for Coconuts!

If you are looking for a light oil that will not only moisturize your hair, but penetrate it to make it stronger, you need only to go to your vitamin shop or health food store and ask for organic virgin coconut oil. Science has proven what islanders have known for centuries, using coconut oil will make your hair stronger, preventing breakage and split ends.

According to research “coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce the protein loss remarkably for both undamaged and damaged hair when used as a pre-wash and post-wash grooming product. Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft.

Extra virgin coconut oil is in solid form at temperatures below 76 degrees and will melt at higher temperatures. Once in your hands it will melt into an oil, just rub into your hair. You will feel immediately the difference. Coconut oil can be used as a hot oil treatment or a leave in. A curly’s best friend, the oil maintains the shine, helps curls to find each other without being heavy. Some may complain about the smell as it is sweet and can leave you smelling like a pastry. Mixing with olive oil or your favorite essential oil will help neutralize the smell.

Curly Basics 101

If you’re a new curly girl, or have some curly girls, there are some basics you should know about curly hair.

  1. All curls are created different, and sometimes on the same head! You might notice that your hair curls differently in the front, might be a bit frizzier in the middle and wavy in the back. This is normal for most curlies, although it can be a bit frustrating.

  2. Comb only when hair is wet. You should only comb in the shower with conditioner in your hair. Any other time, use your fingers. Fingers are the gentlest ways to comb through hair without snagging. If you have to use a comb outside of the shower, try a wooden comb with smooth edges.

  3. Oils that mimic our natural oils are best. Coconut oil has the best penetration into the hair and is scientifically proven to strengthen hair. However, if you don’t like your hair to smell like a cookie, olive oil will also penetrate.

  4. Deep Condition. For detailed instructions on how to do a deep conditioning treatment please click here.

  5. Once hair has been styled, leave it alone. This is the most difficult thing to do as most of us have a tendency to want to touch our hair.

Deep Conditioning

I know you’ve heard this before, but I will say it again...moisturize, moisturize, moisturize, it’s one of the best things a curly girl can do for her hair. It helps to reduce frizz and maintain the suppleness in your hair. You would want to deep condition either once a week or twice a week depending on your hair.

First you want to choose a good deep conditioner. I always read the ingredients and stay away from anything that has alcohol or mineral oil listed. I look out for moisturizing agents such as avocado oil, shea butter, essential oils. A good rule of thumb is to see what is listed first, those ingredients have a higher percentage. A deep conditioner usually comes in a large jar as opposed to your daily conditioners which is in a bottle. And be sure to read the directions. They usually tell you they’re a deep conditioner on the label, but also if it says to use a plastic cap and apply heat, you’re in good shape. Whenever possible, open the product and smell it. You want to be sure you’re comfortable with how your hair might smell the rest of the day.

Now that you’ve found a good conditioner, you will need a plastic cap. I like to use a shower cap so that it gets reused. If you don’t have a plastic cap, saran wrap will also work.

Next you want to apply the conditioner to your hair generously. This is best achieved with clean wet hair that has been sectioned off using your alligator clips. Pull all of your hair up and place the plastic cap to cover your conditioned hair.

Here is where your bonnet dryer will come to play. After you’ve applied the deep conditioner and put on your plastic cap, you will want to sit under the hair dryer for 20 minutes. Fret not if you don’t have a dryer, the heat from your scalp should do the trick. The heat is key as it helps the conditioner to penetrate the hair and do its job better.

Finally, use cold water to rinse your hair to seal the strands and promote shine. Use your tee-shirt to squeeze out any excess water, style as usual.

Tools I can’t live without

I’ve found there are certain tools that help make my daily styling much easier:

~spray bottle - for when the top of your hair dries as you’re still applying product to the back

~alligator clips - keeping hair put

~wide tooth comb - I use only in the shower to evenly apply conditioner and remove tangles (any other time I use my fingers

~hair brush - great for removing hair from your hands and brushing the whispy pieces in a ponytail

~blow dryer with diffuser - dry your hair while maintaining the curl

~hard bonnet hair dryer - drying your hair with minimal damage and aiding the deep conditioners

~tee-shirt - squeezing out excess water, alternative to a towel, reduces the frizz factor

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dry your hair faster

My hair is very dense and super curly. Plus I hate having wet hair loaded with products dripping down my back and shoulders. That's why after reading about the Curly Girl method I became interested in purchasing a microfiber towel to dry my hair. I had been using tee shirts and while this was okay, they still left my hair too damp, were too cumbersome and took forever to dry themselves.

One day I was walking through Marshall's and came across their microfiber towel selection and at only $7.99, I decided to pick one up. I will never go back to using a tee shirt again!

I liked the length of the microfiber towel, it was perfect for wrapping around my head and held in place easily without being too heavy. I left it on for a few minutes and when I removed it, my hair was close to 50% dry. This to me is ideal for applying my hair products. I find when my hair is in this state it helps the products to stick better and I'm not annoyed with hair dripping down my face.

Now, if I could find one in a bath size.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Safely straighten your curly hair

If you are anything like me, sometimes you crave a little variety in your styles. I love love love my curly hair. I can stare at it and watch all the bends and curves all day. But there are those days when I want to see the length and just look different for a couple of days.

The safest method to straightening your hair is to roller set it (aka doobie set). While this won't get your hair totally straight, you'll still have some waves depending on your hair texture and how tight you put in your rollers. This method won't alter your curl and it will go back to its natural state when you add water to your hair.

Put the flat iron down! The promise of pin straight hair can be so appealing, but even one pass of the iron in your hair at a too hot setting can change your curl pattern and repeated use will cause breakage and fly aways. If you insist on using it, be sure to keep the setting low and no higher than 347 degrees. To read the study put out by the American Academy of Dermatology see

To foller set your hair you will want to part your hair off into three vertical sections, going the long way down your head so you have a middle section and one section on either side. Try to keep these as even as possible. Pin up the two sides and start with middle going from top to bottom. I always section the very first piece and roll it second. This will ensure the front of my hair won't get a bend to it. Section the pieces into at most half inch pieces (more or less depending on the density of your hair). Roll the piece of hair, place bobby pins to keep them in place. I also like to use the velcro rollers. The hair does snag which is a con, however, my hair dries faster as the velcro rollers offers more ventilation and eliminates the need for bobby pins to keep in place (although I will use alligator clips in some instances). Once you're done with the middle it's time to work on the sides, one at a time. Further section the side into two pieces from top of the middle down to the ear. Continue to roll your hair. Sit under the hair dryer for about an hour. Drying times can vary depending on length and density of your hair. Get a good book or bring your laptop and read my website, www.wondercurl.comwhile you wait for your hair to dry.

After your hair is dry you may find it still has some bends or is too curly. Using a big round brush and your blow dryer, you can remove some more of the curl. Again, section hair into workable pieces and in a downward motion, work the brush and hair dryer through your hair. To use the round brush effectively, run the brush through sections of your hair avoiding the ends of your hair until your last pass with the brush. This will help minimize split ends. Don't use too much heat and become overzealous! Remember, your hair is not relaxed and won't get bone straight.

Please note, using any kind of heat to your hair has the potential to cause some damage to the hair. Roller setting causes the least amount of damage from blow drying and flat irons because it distributes heat evenly throughout your hair and there isn't all of the brushing you would have if you blow dried your hair from the beginning.

People with relaxed hair can also use this method to straighten their hair to prevent further damage to their hair.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

When your family doesn't accept change

I've recently read an email from one of my friends about how her family isn't on board with her decision to go natural. This only made me sad and remember my own experience with my family when I first made the decision to stop relaxing my hair. I like to think of myself as a strong person, but at a certain point the words do get to you.

I decided to just go for the big chop. I didn't want to ease my way into my transition. After not relaxing my hair for about 6 months I went to my stylist and had her chop it all off. I went from having long hair to no hair and I loved it. Everyone complimented me. But when I got home all heck broke loose! It got even worse as my aunts and uncles saw me. This was back in 1998, before there were as many products and websites for curlies.

Fast forward, 12 years later, my family now comes to me for hair advice, and some have even opted to forego the relaxer for their natural styles. Sadly, there are still people who aren't as willing to accept change. When you aren't able to find the support you need from your family, you can go to different blogs and message boards where your hair will receive all the love it deserves. Just google words like 'natural hair', 'curly hair' and a myriad of sites will come up.

Good luck on your natural path, and don't be dismayed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Caring for natural hair

By nature, curly hair is dry because the oils in your scalp aren't able to move down the hair shaft. Curls, to put it simply, inhibit this from happening. Also, curly hair is full of weak spots, each curl is a potential break point. By taking certain measures when working with my hair, I've found that I've been able to reduce breakage and even the amounts of hair I shed has lessened considerably.

Shampoo less often. I shampoo my hair once a week. I make sure the shampoo I use is pH balanced to not only cleanse and remove all the products I've used during the week. If I don't use shampoo, I do an apple cider vinegar rinse. Yes, my hair smells like a salad for a few minutes, but the smell goes away and the conditioner leaves a pleasant odour.

Deep condition. I try to deep condition my hair when I cleanse it with shampoo or the rinse. Deep conditioning treatments penetrates the hair and makes it smoother. This also makes detangling easier.

The last time I used a comb was last month. Before you get grossed out, I detangle my hair when I condition it with my fingers and again when I work the products through. Combs can snag, creating more breakage and tangles. Your fingers are gentler.

I also make sure each product I use serves a function.
First I add a leave in conditioner. See my post on Philip B,, it's one of the better ones I've found. It softens and reduces the frizz.
Second I use virgin organic coconut oil. It's very important to make sure it is virgin organic. Only this kind has been scientifically proven to penetrate the hair and make it stronger. For more information:!.html
Third is aloe vera gel. Aloe is a best friend of curly hair, especially kinky hair. Its water properties works to moisturize without weighing down and also smooths away any frizz and works as the ultimate antihumectant. This is a product I don't think one can ever overuse,I know, I've tried.
You can stop there and get perfect curly locks, but as an added sealant for my hair I use Curlisto's Structura Lotion. This should be called miracle in a bottle. It adds extra shine and smoothness to hair as well as works as an antihumectant.

I usually let my hair air dry or I sit under the hair dryer if I'm in a rush.

The result is great curly hair every time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dying curly hair

I've read several different sites about how to dye curly hair and frankly I was intimidated by them. It made the whole idea downright scary. So I decided to figure out how I could dye my hair, and being the impatient person that I am, I wanted to do it easily and quickly.

First, I did take my time in the drugstore. I read all the different brands, read their ingredients and made the decision that I wanted a product with no ammonia, but was permanent. I finally came to Revlon Colorsilk. Not only was the price point perfect at only $3.00, it had no ammonia and claimed to make your hair better. Who doesn't want better hair? I bought two applications since my hair is very thick and wanted to be sure I had enough to saturate every strand. I wanted my hair only a shade lighter, about the colour of my eyes which is a medium to light brown depending on the light.

That night I read the instructions which told me to do a strand test, meaning I had to cut some hair and dye it the night before. I did as I was told and was happy with the results.

Now, for the heavy lifting...

I rinsed my hair the next morning to make sure it was clean and then blow dried it straight (not too straight of course but enough to get it dry and manageable). I began to work the dye throughout my hair. And as predicted, halfway through I ran out and had to apply the second application. As instructed I waited 25 minutes before rinsing out my hair. The entire process must have taken about an hour.

The results were fantastic. My hair felt softer and had less frizz. I was also pleased with the resulting colour. I didn't want anything too different. Now that it's summer, my hair will only get lighter and have natural highlights.

Stay tuned to read about my review of L'Oreal's new Everpure line. It sounds promising.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

There comes a time in every curlie's life when she must decide if she should chemically relax her hair. Sometimes this happens shortly after she's 'transitioned' from relaxed hair and finds her hair to be new and uncharted territory. This can happen when she's just plain old sick of the frizz and bulk.

My girlfriend, a newbie to the curly circuit found the growth of her natural hair a bit more than she thought she can handle and so decided to have her hair 'bio softened' (which is just fancy for texturized) at Christo's Fifth Avenue.

The treatment isn't cheap, however I would urge any person contemplating using chemicals to alter her hair to seek out professional help (I mean a stylist!) to minimize any damage. She quickly learned that her 4b texture hair takes chemicals very quickly and as she gained the length she missed she found her hair to be a new texture unlike the natural and relaxed and has to learn a new cocktail to make it work.

Here is a direct quote: "I feel like a white woman with a biracial child. lol I am clueless as to what to do. Part of me thinks it was easier BEFORE the silkner - at least it wasn't stringy then... now it's stringy, yet bushy/frizzy, looks dry, these products they gave me make my hair feel dry, and it's just not what I expected. But I have length.... not sure if that makes up for the other stuff."

I don't blame her, when I first went natural I felt my hair was too thick to manage and started texturizing. I had to cut all of my hair and start over, this time I decided the only chemicals I will put in my hair are the ones I can rinse out. Everyone has to decide for themselves how they want their hair to look. It's all up to you, and if you don't like it, you can cut it and start over!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lovin' Leave In Conditioner by Philip B

I love walking through the aisles of a TJ Maxx or a Marshalls because you never know what you might find. During one of my usual promenades through the local TJ Maxx I came across a line I've never heard of called Philip B. I've been on the hunt for the perfect leave in conditioner and have been disappointed too many times, but like men, I like to take everyone on a case-by-case basis and I don't hold a grudge. I decided to pick up a tube and try it out.

After my no 'poo shampoo and deep conditioning treatment, I proceeded to use the leave in conditioner. I immediately enjoyed the clean, citrusy smell, and I knew right away from the texture of the cream that my hair was going to like this product. I worked the leave in conditioner in sections through out my damp hair and then used my other arsenal of hair products (coconut oil, aloe gel and structura lotion). I then sat under the hair dryer until my hair was completely dry.

The end result was smooth and shiny hair. Before the leave in, my hair still had some fuzz to it. Philip B's Lovin' Leave In eliminated the fuzziness my hair had, worked well with the aloe gel (which could sometimes be a problem with other leave ins) and left my hair smelling fresh. I know some people can't stand the smell of coconut oil, but none of that anymore.

The following weekend I went back to the TJ Maxx and bought the remainder 3 tubes. The clerk asked me if it worked, I told her I loved it. She said she would have to try it and I told her I just bought them all. I then drove to the store near my job and bought all of theirs. As you know, if you find a product you love at a discount retailer, you have to buy all you can, you just don't know if they'll get others in. If you can't get your hands on one at TJ Maxx, try their website:

Friday, February 27, 2009

To curl or not to curl

Curly Hair Take 1
Back in 98 I went to my stylist at the time and told her to cut it all off. It was scary and exciting as I've never been without hair, I was 21. She cut and cut until there was nothing but a teenie weenie afro cloud on my head. She added the gel and worked it through and sure as small miracles happen every day, my fro became curls. Small beautiful corkscrew curls. I was beyond delighted with the new look. My friends told me that they could see ME now. And this didn't frighten me at all. However, months passed and my hair began to grow. Fear was beginning to creep in. My hair is getting long, it's too thick, I'll never get a comb through it! I went back to my stylist and shyly asked for a texturizer. She worked the mild relaxer in and as quickly removed it. Ahhh, that's better. Hair that's still curly but not too kinky.

Introduction to Ceramic Iron
Three years later and my new stylist introduced me to the ceramic flat iron. What a wonderous upgrade to the old metal flat irons this contraption was. 410 degrees and my hair was smoother than it had ever been. Addiction to stick straight hair started, soon I was straightening my hair twice a week. I began to notice that my hair was no longer curly. Now it's wavy. Nice. But the new growth is thick, the middle is wavy and the ends are straight. I have to flatten this out some more.

The Dark Side to Flat Irons
My hair started to look flat, the ends were ravaged and for every half inch of hair I grew, my stylist had to cut off one inch to keep it looking healthy. This made no sense to me. She told me, more blow drying and less flat ironing. I didn't understand how something that can make my hair so smoothe and shiny also make it so damaged. I had to stop cold turkey and start over. Besides, I was really missing my natural curls.

Curly Hair Take 2
Let's try this again, this time with courage, determination and understanding. I went to my stylist and ordered 'cut it all off' and once again I had tiny ringlets all over my head. I felt light and free. I became somewhat invisible to men, and this was fine. My exboyfriend said that's because guys don't know if I'm gay or just broken up and suffering from the Angela Bassett syndrome (remember Waiting to Exhale?). I didn't care about it or the attention. I was happy. I had my curls back and this time I was going to take care of them instead of being afraid of them.

Almost 3 Years Later
No chemicals that I can't wash out have touched my hair since. I've been educating myself on hair and taken on a more experimental approach with products and a "wait and see" attitude. My hair is the longest I can remember it has been and sometimes I'm overwhelmed with the sheer volume of it, but I wouldn't want to hurt it again.