Saturday, June 28, 2008

Loma Imply rocks

Yesterday, I broke out the Loma Imply Creme. I love the smell of this stuff, plus the last time I used it, I really liked what it did for my hair. So, I used it under Paul Brown's Gelatine Goo (a mild-holding gel that has strong humectant qualities).

And I loved the results. (Sorry no pics. I couldn't get the light or the angle right today!) Super soft hair, fullness, and fabulous curls.

So, I decided to look at the label, even though I'd already checked it out many times before. Guess what the first ingredient is? Aloe vera gel! No wonder it rocks! I think I have found my new favorite hair creme.

With quite possibly the worst product photography ever, Loma's site gives an overview of their offerings, but unfortunately also fails to disclose ingredient lists. I will never understand companies that don't tell people what's in their products. I won't buy something if I can't learn first what's in it. And since Loma's whole premise is natural, healing, nourishing, and organic, you'd think they'd be happy to tell you what ingredients they use. Because they don't, though, it casts some suspicion on what they sell, and that's unfortunate because I am thoroughly and utterly delighted with Imply Moulding Creme and would probably buy other things from them if they'd be a little more upfront about what's in them.

Dry hair? Try aloe vera

Over the past week, I've been testing out a theory. I'm now able to report on it.

In my previous post, you saw what dry air did to my hair. Yes, horrifying. And I am determined not to let that happen ever again. Just thinking about it makes me wince.

On the very last day of the heat wave, I scrunched in several rounds of aloe vera gel (I used Trader Joe's brand, but aloe vera gel with only preservatives would also be fine). My hair curled within minutes. Minutes! I also got some frizz but that would happen no matter what I applied to dry hair.

I thought immediately of something Lorraine Massey said in her book, Curly Girl, about the ingredients to look for in a conditioner. I'll quote that list here:

Emollients soften and smooth skin and reduce frizz in hair by smoothing the cuticle. There are hundreds of emollients. [She lists shea butter, vegetable oils, wheat germ/olive/walnut oils.]

Proteins coat the hair shaft and protect it. Look for plant proteins such as what, wheat germ, or soy protein ...

Humectants absorb water and hold in moisture. They are absolutely crucial in a conditioner for curly hair. Panthenol, vegetable glycerine, and sorbitol are just a few humectants to look for on the label.

Moisturizers add softness and control to curly hair. Amino acids and aloe vera are two great moisturizers.

(In case you were thinking -- like me -- that amino acids are proteins, let me share what Wikipedia says: "Amino acids combine in a condensation reaction that releases water and the new "amino acid residue" that is held together by a peptide bond. Proteins are defined by their unique sequence of amino acid residues; this sequence is the primary structure of the protein. Just as the letters of the alphabet can be combined to form an almost endless variety of words, amino acids can be linked in varying sequences to form a vast variety of proteins.")

So, moisturizers are among the four essential ingredients a conditioner should have. I looked through my stash and discovered that although many had a slew of humectants, few had moisturizers. (Or the moisturizing ingredients were sporting names I didn't recognize...) It's no wonder that my hair got dry -- and that squishing aloe vera gel into it made it feel and look quenched.

This realization inspired me to do a little testing. I used aloe vera gel several days this week, always on wet hair. And every day, my hair was not dry at the end of the day. Now, granted, our weather here is no longer as arid as it was two weeks ago, but neither has the air been super-soaked with moisture. Today the dew point is 55 so I didn't use the aloe vera gel, but for the past four days, I have used it in some capacity.

And I'm now convinced that it is the key to making my hair curl.

But here's the caveat. Using it when the weather is not dry will result in frizz. I'm really starting to see that hair responds to weather, products, and the combination of the two. In dry weather, hair needs moisture (aloe vera) applied to it and something to seal it in (oil or protein). In humid weather, hair needs a way to attract moisture and hold it (oil or protein).

If your hair is feeling dry, I strongly encourage you to try aloe vera gel. Good brands include Trader Joe's, Lily of the Desert, and Fruit of the Earth. I have not used completely natural aloe vera (the kind you can get at health food stores that needs to be refrigerated), but I would think that would be even better.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Unspeakably ugly

Well, in case you were wondering what one of my bad hair days looks like, I'm about to give you a front-row seat to that horrifying spectacle.

I went to work yesterday fully confident that I would have a good hair day. I conditioned with Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose, followed it up with some Shea Moisture Leave-in, and then scrunched in some Biotera. All these products generally work well for me. I was purposely trying to go easy on the protein, since my hair had been feeling a little straw-like of late.

And yet by lunchtime, it was painfully apparent that something had gone horribly wrong. This photo actually makes my hair look better than it was! My hair was brittle, flat, lifeless, and frizzy. Spraying it with Jessicurl Awe Inspiraling Spray seemed to only make it worse. By the time I got home, even Chris was visibly surprised when I walked in the door.

Why did this happen? I honestly don't know, but the weather had to have played some role. The temperature soared to 85 degrees, the dew point descended from 46 in the morning to 38 by the time I got home, and the humidity was a paltry 33 percent. The environment was hot and dry -- a very rare set of circumstances in San Francisco.

But my hair had been heading in this direction for several days. Increasingly limp and less curly. Normally, these are signs of overconditioning for me. But I wouldn't accept that this time. I wanted to believe (and still want to believe) that the weather is the culprit.

I posted some photos of this hideous development on and two people suggested it might actually be overconditioning and not the weather. So, this morning, I dutifully did an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse. I then conditioned with Robert Craig conditioner, applied Rockin' Ringlets, and scrunched in Max Green Alchemy Styling gel (the lightest gel I own).

It helped, but not to the extent I was hoping, as you can see here in today's photo. My hair's curls are more defined but overall, it's still pretty flat.

Which leaves me with that weather excuse again. But what the heck should I be doing to combat this dry weather? Today was 92 degrees, a dew point of 34, and humidity of 23 percent! What is this: the Sahara? I'm stumped about what to try next, but I'm a firm believer that less is more, so tomorrow, I'm only going to use conditioner. No stylers. We'll see what happens.

Stupid hair.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Straight vs. curly

I ran across this article today, wherein the author attempts to theorize about why men prefer straight-haired girls to curly-haired ones.

Um... first of all, who said they do?

She references an article that implies that they might. I know the article she means, even though she did not provide a link to it. It's this one. Please do read it because the upshot is that men are initially drawn to straight hair but in the end, hair doesn't much matter to them.

This noncommittal attitude was recently confirmed by my boyfriend. I read the article about the woman who conducted her own little test, and then I asked my boyfriend what he believed men's feelings to be about curly hair. He looked at me a little sheepishly and said, "Honestly, most of us don't care. We're looking at other attributes."

Spoken like a guy, no?

And I believe this to be true. Even the woman who conducted her own test ultimately came to the same conclusion: initial attraction may be to straight hair, but in the end, how a woman carries herself determines whether men will sniff after her.

But honestly, this whole debate irritates me because it not only generalizes about an entire gender, it assumes all curly hair is created equal. Preposterous on all counts.

All women supposedly think Brad Pitt is to die for. I'd like to state for the record that I can take him or leave him. So, we've now blown a nice hole in any argument that begins with "All women like...." And I think we can do the same with the "All men like...." generalization as well.

In the Box of Chocolates article, the writer posts photos of Jennifer Lopez and Scarlett Johansson with straight as well as artificially curled hair. Hello? These women could be bald and they'd still be beautiful. What kind of lame argument is that?

Let's look at all the variation there is in curly hair. There are loose curls, tight curls, crazy curls, and tame curls. But most of all, there are conditioned curls and dry, frizzy curls. BIG difference. A woman who takes care of her hair is going to feel more confident, look better, and attract more interest than a woman who doesn't.

So, here's a photo of straight hair. Make you wanna touch it? Yeah, I didn't think so.

When are we going to just embrace what we have and make it the best it can be? These foolish debates are just designed to create a "winner" and thereby simultaneously create a "loser." Do we have debates about whether white women are prettier than black women? Of course not -- it would be the height of stupidity and ignorance. We are born as we are and it's completely unproductive to debate the relative merits of what we got because in the end, it's what you do with what you've got that matters.

Today's hair

This is not the best my hair has ever looked, but it isn't too bad, and since Chris was home to take a few photos -- I suck at doing it myself -- I thought I'd post it.

This is the result of Activate conditioner, Shea Moisture Leave-in, Loma Imply curl creme, and Max Green Alchemy Styling gel. I didn't expect much, and really it actually *is* a little heavy but the curls are decent. We'll see how it holds up through the day.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Recent product discoveries

I've been mixing Paul Brown's Gelatine Goo into various other styling products this week and quite liking the results! Used alone, it's kind of like a gel but it doesn't really hold quite enough for my taste. But it does add a bit of volume, so I've been mixing it with some gels (Aveda Flax Seed Aloe, Condition & Sculpt, and Max Green Alchemy Scuplting) for the best of both worlds: definition and volume! It's an interesting product, especially since I didn't expect to like it at all (seemed like it would be too humectant-heavy, which is maybe why I like it best with other things).

And speaking of Condition & Sculpt, I really like this, too! It's one of those products that has a bit of an identity crisis, so you don't actually know the best way to use it. Some people at said they hated it because it left their hair stringy and lifeless. But somebody else said they use this under gel to good effect. So I used it under Biotera gel one day last week and loved the results! It's a good clumper -- I might turn to it when the magnesium sulfate in Rockin' Ringlets makes my hair frizzy (which is often). I can tell by the consistency of it that I probably wouldn't like it by itself. It seems to need something with it, so I'll experiment with some other stuff this week.

I've been having such great hair days lately! I really attribute it to the protein I've been making sure to incorporate into my daily hair routine. I'm also scrunching more. Maybe that helps too?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Balancing act

If you read this blog, you know that I spend a lot of time on I've learned so much there, I can't begin to recount it all. One thing I did not learn, however, was how to figure out what my hair needed and why that was important.

When you first arrive on that site, the protein-sensitive people are constantly talking about their protein sensitivity. Those who can't tolerate protein really do have some horror stories -- and horror photos! -- to prove what protein does to them.

The problem, though, is that when you're relatively new to the site, you get the distinct impression that protein is inherently bad.

I believed this for several months and kept my protein usage at a minimum. Meanwhile, my hair was getting less curly and flatter by the day. I even blamed the haircut I got in March for all my woes. And then I started using a conditioner that had absolutely no protein at all but was "light" (which I've come to discover means that it's primarily a humectant formula -- it pulls moisture from the air). My hair was frizzy and fairly lifeless. At the same time, another person with hair similar to mine, noticed the same thing when she used it. She then commented that she probably needed more protein.

And that's when it hit me. Protein isn't bad for everybody! And I was suddenly reminded of how often I would use a reconstructor (protein-heavy) back in the 90s and how it always made my hair happier. So, I set about using only conditioners with protein fairly high up on the list of ingredients. (I used Activate Hydrating conditioner but also a couple of Desert Essences types.)

Eureka! That did the trick. Suddenly my curls were back. I used to love Jessicurl Aloeba but now when I use it, I don't see the same kind of bounce and curl that the Activate gives me. I'm not saying I will stop using the Aloeba but I suspect I will use it much less often than I used to.

So my point here is not just to say that protein rocks (for me), but to urge anybody who is struggling with the Curly Girl method to do more than just avoid silicones and sulfates. Find out what balance of humectants, oil, and protein your hair likes.

This is not done quickly or easily because lots of other factors play a role. Climate, water, diet, stress level: these variables can complicate your experiments. But pay attention to ingredients (not just the impossible-to-spell ones) and see whether protein makes your hair happy. Discern whether humectants are always right for you. Learn what oil does to your hair.

You'll save a lot of money and time.

Most of all, though, don't let anybody tell you that protein is bad or that humectants suck or that oils don't do anything. Try them on your hair and come to your own decision.