Monday, July 28, 2008

Shea butter

You know, aloe vera is not the only thing I like to feed my hair.

Over the past few months, I've noticed that my hair responds well to Too Shea conditioner and Shea Moisture Leave-in. So, I recently decided to buy some unrefined shea butter to see if my hair will respond well to it.

Why unrefined, you wonder? Good question! Just like with food, you want to use shea butter that has undergone as little processing and adulteration as possible to preserve its natural gifts. To quote from the Agbanga Karite site:

...refined shea butter has usually been extracted from the shea kernels with hexane or other petroleum solvents. The extracted oil is boiled to drive off the toxic solvents, and then refined, bleached, and deodorized, which involves heating it to over 400 degree F and the use of harsh chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide. Shea butter extracted in this manner still contains some undesirable solvent residues, and its healing values are significantly reduced. Antioxidants or preservatives such as BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) or BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) may be added as well. The end result is an odorless, white butter that may be aesthetically appealing, but lacks the true moisturizing, healing, and nutritive properties of true traditional shea butter. In addition, refined shea butter is often hard and grainy, not smooth and creamy like pure, unrefined shea butter. All that can be said for refined shea butter is that it has an extended shelf life, a white, uniform color, and no odor.

I ordered mine from Shea Terra Organics (because I got a money-off coupon!). The smell ain't great, but then, I wasn't really expecting it to be -- I'd read enough to know that it doesn't smell all yummy like refined shea often does. I also learned that the aroma of shea butter varies depending on where in Africa it is from. Mine really doesn't smell all that bad. It reminds me some kind of barbecue or oven smell. And it doesn't linger, which is good.

I was really excited when it arrived today. After dinner, I rubbed about a dime-size worth of it (maybe a little less) between my palms until it was very melted (almost like oil) then I grabbed handfuls of my hair and squeezed. (My hair was very curly today -- lots of fog! -- and I didn't want to disturb those curls by pulling on my hair to distribute the shea butter. I've found that the heat from my hands is often a good way to transfer product of any kind from my hands to my hair.

I didn't want to use too much of this stuff because despite my hair's affinity for shea butter in other forms, I know that it doesn't take much to weigh my fine hair down. So rather than scrunch in so much that my hair felt coated, I stopped short of that and just made sure that everything in my palm got absorbed by my hair.

You should see my hair now -- even curlier than when I started applying it! Whee!

Depending on how my hair looks tomorrow, I might make a habit of this application every night. We shall see.

Stupid FOG!

Yes, it's true that living in San Francisco is mostly a great experience. The wonderful restaurants, the progressive ideas (mostly!), the cultural diversity -- and the romantic fog.

Well, let me tell you something. You can keep the damned fog. It has ruined my hair countless times and shows no sign of remorse or contrition!

I keep reading about people who live in very humid climates and how their hair suffers. I'm sure their plight is a serious one but I would have to say that fog is just as frustrating.

What to do? It's weather like this that makes me wonder whether silicone-laden products might not be the best way to go! Seriously. Maybe it would take something like the evil cyclomethicone to keep the fog out of my hair. But I don't have the guts. I recall all too well what silicone products did to my hair in the past, and I have to say, even with the fog, my hair looks better now.

I just like to complain.

I've only found two gels that even attempt to battle it. One is Fuzzy Duck (which surprised the heck out of me because the stuff is supposedly made for kids), and the other is Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee. Neither of these gels wins in the war of hair versus fog, but their perform admirably enough.

If any of you have some recommendations, I'm eager to hear them!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Liking my hair today

I'm not even going to apologize for the bad photo -- by now you all know that I am incapable of taking a decent photo of my hair.

But I am very happy with today's experiment! I tried my TheraNeem gel today, but I combed it through with my new Denman brush, the way someone on said they distribute their products in their hair. I then scrunched. Within seconds, my hair was curling like crazy. I toweled and then applied Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee. Diffused a little, then air-dried the rest of the way.

My hair is so curly, I've lost a good inch of the normal dry length! Aloe continues to be my holy grail product. (And it's foggy today so I used the strongest gel I own: BRHG)

Confirmation Code: GDVSNSB8285350

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stylers on wet or damp hair?

In a strange bit of synchronicity, this morning I applied gel to towel-dried hair instead of wet hair. And a couple of hours later, somebody on the boards at said they'd done the same thing.

And we both got great results. (Sorry about no photo -- I really have a terrible time capturing my hair on film. It never looks as good as it does in real life. I don't know if it's the lighting or that I have dark hair, but no photo has yet been really accurate. Oh, except for this one.)

So, I think this is an approach I'm going to try more often. My hair's been dry for 11 hours and I still have great curls and no frizz. Woo hoo!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Empty conditioner syndrome

No, I'm not talking about when your bottle runs out. I'm talking about conditioners that provide almost nothing of value to your hair.

A few months ago, everybody at was singing the praises of TIGI Moisture Maniac. Well, the name is certainly compelling -- you can practically feel your hair sucking up the wet droplets of much-needed moisture. So, having about as much willpower as an alcoholic at Mardi Gras, I bought some. It goes on light, has great slip, and smells pretty. We girls like all three of those properties. So far, so good.

But after a few uses, I noticed my hair was frizzier than usual. I decided to really read the label. Here it is:

Aqua (Water), Cetyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetrimonium Chloride, Glycerin, Acetamide MEA, Cetrimonium Bromide, Stearyl Alcohol, Parfum (Fragrance) (Fragrance), DMDM Hydantoin, PPG 2 Myristyl Ether Propionate, Pentaerythrityl Tetracaprylate (Tetracaprate), Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Tetrasodium EDTA, Silk Amino Acids, Orange 4 (CI 15510)

Sure, it's "CG" ("Curly Girl" -- which means it has no silicones or sulfates). But let's really look at that list. Everything between "aqua" and "Parfum" is an emollient or emulsifier. Everything. Oh, wait, there's glycerin, a humectant. And let's not overlook all those preservatives and artificial colors!

Do you see any oils? Anything to provide moisture? A humectant will pull in moisture from the air, but what if the air doesn't have much moisture? Is there any protein in this product?

Honestly, in my opinion, it is a detangler. It is *not* a conditioner. And it's too bad the industry isn't regulated in such a way to prevent this kind of product from claiming to be something it isn't. And what is the retail price of this mislabeled product? Anywhere from $12 to $18!!!

In contrast, let's look at an Aubrey Organics conditioner. Any one of several will do, but let's look at the famous Honeysuckle Rose, as it is often referred to as a conditioner that is so potent, many people can't use it every day. I absolutely love how this conditioner makes my hair feel and behave. Check out the ingredient list:

Coconut Fatty Acid Cream Base, Organic Aloe Vera, Organic Shea Butter, What Germ Oil, Organics Jojoba Oil, Organic Rosa Mosqueta Rose hip Seed Oil; Extracts of Fennel, Hops, Balm Mint, Mistletoe, Camomile, Yarrow, Chrysanthemum, Angelica, Forsythia and Magnolia: Honeysuckle Oil, Carrot Oil, Aubrey's Preservative (Citrus Seed Extract, Vitamins A, C and E).

Now that, people, is an ingredient list with substance! Fatty acids, aloe vera, shea butter, herbs -- wow! (And if you wanted protein, Aubrey's other conditioners would provide it. This one, however, doesn't.) Not one wasted ingredient. Your hair will not only feel better after something like this, it will actually be better. Unlike with the hocus-pocus of the Moisture Maniac.

And the price? Anywhere between $10 and $12.

So, you decide what you want to feed your hair. Overpriced chemicals or oils/butters/moisture/protein? I know which one I'm choosing!