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