Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Do I need to "straighten" up and fly right in 2009?

It's possible I'm verging on militant when it comes to curls. Am I alarmed by this epiphany? Only a little. Which is further proof that I may have a problem.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs today, babyassface, wherein Jennifer is extolling the virtues of the Conair Infiniti Hair Designer. Jennifer claims to not have "good curly hair," and there's certainly not a curly-headed person in the world who hasn't shared that sentiment at one time or another about his or her own hair. And if you've tried a million ways to make your do what you believe it ought to do, and it simply refuses to obey, what alternative seems more expedient than to straighten it? The Conair Infiniti Hair Designer accomplishes this, at least for Jennifer. And you gotta love a story with a happy ending.

(I tried another Tourmaline ceramic product in the Conair Infiniti line a couple of years ago, hoping for the results that Jennifer apparently got. I was hugely disappointed, but then, I never have been very good at wielding hot appliances around my head. Maybe if I had more confidence with them, I'd get better results.)

But back to my militancy. Is it wrong that I am disappointed that yet another curly-haired person has had to seek refuge in straightened hair in order to feel presentable/sexy/well-groomed? I honestly don't know. I haven't straightened since August 2007 and I don't think I'm wearing it as a badge of honor, but am I kidding myself? Why does it bug me so much that society deems only certain types of hair "pretty" and that straight hair is so consistently lauded?

My reaction is so strange to me because I am a girl who loves her accessories. I even have hairpieces that I wear on occasion just to give myself a different look. So why am I so opposed to straightening my hair?

Is there a doctor in the house? Calling all head-shrinkers! Please diagnose my anti-staightening obsession.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cold weather hair care

Have you been confused about why so many of the products you normally rely on suddenly seem to have stopped working their magic? The answer: WINTER.

(Apologies if you live in a different hemisphere and are in the middle of a humid summer. I promise to cover that more in depth in about 6 months...)

Back in August, humidity might have been the demon you were fighting and so you adapted your routine to keep moisture out because there was just too much of it in the air. Summertime dew points were upwards of 55 and the weather was warm. Now, maybe your dew points are more in 'teens and twenties and it's much colder. Does that really affect how products perform? Does it ever. Laurabeth has a fantastic post about the difference in hot and cold weather and the effect on hair, if you care to learn more from an expert.

When the weather gets cold, your primary goal is to keep your hair moisturized. It's impossible to get the moisture from the air, so you have to use products that will do the trick. This means lots of aloe vera, creams, and butters (if you hair can tolerate butters). Humectants such as honey or glycerine may defeat your purposes -- remembers that humectants pull moisture wherever it's needed, so if the hair is dryer than your hair, guess where the humectant will pull from to try to hydrate the air??

In addition to the dew point situation, you also have to remember that your hair cuticle is tighter (like most things, hair contracts when it's cold). This means that not much pollution is getting in, sure, but it also means that not much moisture can, either. Even the type you apply yourself. Where does that leave you? For some people, it means just using bigger helpings of moisture. For others, it means applying moisture more than once a day. If you're in an environment where heaters are running to combat the cold, consider that a double whammy -- the air is already devoid of moisture and now the heater is making things even drier. Oy vey, what's a girl to do?

- Use heavier conditioners. Now is the time for serious stuff, not the empty conditioners I'm always railing against anyway. You want to pull out your Aubrey Honeysuckle Rose or White Camellia or Island Naturals, your Jessicurl Too Shea, your Karen's Body Beautiful Hair Milk. Try to leave some in or if you aren't a fan of that, add some as a leave-in.

- Ditch the light leave-ins. Especially if your dew point is below 20, just don't waste your time with anything that doesn't contain some oil or shea butter. (Try to stick to jojoba, coconut, and other hair-friendly oils. Stay away from mineral oil, also known as parafinium liquidum. Depending on your hair, you might also want to steer clear of castor oil, but I'll leave that to you to decide.

- Use creamy curl cremes. I'm a fan of Pink Boots curl creme, but in this cold weather, it is not enough unless I put something under it (yes, in addition to my leave-in). Curl cremes I've been loving so far this winter include Loma Imply, Donna Marie's Lock & Twist (just a little goes a LONG way), and Karen's Body Beautiful Super Silky. All of these are excellent! They either contain no glycerine at all or have it in very minute amounts.

- Avoid gels that contain humectants. I've noticed that I get better results with, say, Max Green Alchemy Sculpting gel as opposed to Biotera. Aubrey's B5 gel is really fabulous in this weather.

Not sure what constitutes a humectant? Check out this article for some guidance. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the article for a list of humectant names in products.

- Consider scrunching out your crunch with the help of a butter. Jane Carter's Nourish and Shine was a favorite among many last year, but this year, I'm hearing raves about Karen's Body Beautiful Hair Cream as well as Butter. (I don't personally scrunch out this way but many curlies have success with it. I'll be trying it when I'm in New England next week -- their dew point is scary low.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My true identity

I have too many identities and for anybody who might care enough to be confused, I thought I'd clarify things in this post.

My name is Jill. Hence the "jillipoo" at and the name in this blog's URL.

The Botticelli Babe title was my own creation back at the end of 2007 but subsequent to that, a woman who posts a lot on the discussion boards at calls herself that. (Which is perfectly fine -- it's not copyright protected or anything.) But I am not that woman, although I wish I were because her hair is fabulous and she is famous for cooking up awesome hair potions in her kitchen.

So who is "Sage Vivant" who signs all these posts? She is my nom de plume. I used to write erotica under that name and that's how Google knows me. I was too lazy to register another name for this blog. If you are interested in my sexual self-help book, Your Erotic Personality, by all means, visit and learn all about it. I would, of course, be extremely grateful if you bought a copy of the book, especially since I'm pretty sure my agent and my publisher think I've dropped off the face of the earth.

And there you have it. And you thought I was going to tell you I was Wonder Woman, didn't you?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Weird Product Wednesday: Greg Juice

Ever buy a product and not be entirely sure what it's supposed to do? Such behavior is a telltale sign of product junkieism, and I was afflicted with it when I bought Oyin Handmade's Greg Juice.

Is it a conditioner? A detangler? A curl rejuvenator? Or is it so full of herbs and essential oils that you feel virtuous just owning it?

This is one of those products that can be whatever you want it to be. Which at first vexed the hell out of me because I have been trained to read instructions and use a given product in the manner and for the purpose that the manufacturer has deemed appropriate. Yeah, that's right -- I'm a product lemming.

One thing that going CG (Curly Girl) has taught me is to get creative with products. Mix them together. Apply to wet as well as dry hair. Add them to your eggs in the morning. As you learn what ingredients your hair likes and how it likes to receive them, you also learn how to break out of narrow product label restrictions.

Given what's in this product:

- water infused with horsetail, lavender, roses, chamomile, and nettle
- aloe vera juice
- organic flax seeds
- vegetable glycerine

You can assume that it will:

- smell nice
- provide moisture
- inspire some clumping
- attract moisture from the air (if there is any)

As with many products that are designed for a certain type of hair (in this case, thick, possibly wiry, very curly hair), its benefits will vary with the quantity one uses. The label says it "softens loose hair to ease detangling" and I'm not entirely sure what "loose hair" means in this context but I'm willing to just go with the detangling part. It also says that a "quick spritz helps refresh thirsty locks," and that's the first way I used it.

I sprayed it on dry hair one night when I knew I'd be in all night. I figured in the event of a hair disaster, I didn't want to be out in public. I spritzed as suggested on the bottle and didn't touch it. Then I sat at my computer and got involved in something for at least 30 minutes before remembering to check on my hair. It was much curlier! But it was also a little frizzy. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the curl factor.

I tried it another night and got lots of curl again but less frizz. Hmmm. I was feeling hopeful.

I tried it yet another night and just got frizz, with very little increase in curls. But it's worth noting that with this application, I scrunched the product in, and possibly used too much.

Based on the weather conditions and the state of my hair in all three cases, I came to believe that when weather conditions make my hair a little dry at the end of the day, Greg Juice is a viable way to give them a necessary drink.

And then I saw that Shellynot used it on wet hair before applying gel. I liked this idea and so I applied it before using Biotera. And for the first time since going CG -- EIGHT MONTHS into it, in fact -- I had my very first great hair day that actually lasted all day. That combo has since worked well for me almost every time I've tried it since.

So. We have success with the mysterious Greg Juice as a hair rejuventor and a ... what? Pre-gel application? Post leave-in? There is no name for the function of this product! And that's just weird.

Final tip: Don't use too much. Your hair will get a little sticky and weighed down.

Also, there is a Frank Juice and a Juice and Berries -- they are all the same except for fragrance. So if you don't care for the way Greg Juice smells, try the others.

How did this product get such a weird name? Read about it here on Oyin Handmade's site.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Animal testing

Here's the part where people will label me with all kinds of nasty names and accuse me of having no heart or soul.

I just saw a post on one of my more frequented message boards where the poster said she didn't want to use L'Oreal products because they did animal testing. (To make matters worse, another poster then made a totally unsubstantiated claim that L'Oreal had links to Nazi Germany. Hey, thanks for throwing that out there. It's always a great idea to spread rumors when you have no evidence -- the Internet thrives on that kind of fastidious fact-checking.) But back to my original point about L'Oreal and animal testing in general. [Addendum: Turns out the Nazi Germany link is not pure rumor, despite the poster's lack of knowledge about it. There is a book on the subject, if anybody is interested: Bitter Scent: The Case of L'Oreal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott. ]

I do not claim to have an inside line on what happens within the walls of the huge conglomerate cosmetics companies, but I have read some interesting commentaries and observations by people who do. For instance, in this Beauty Brains post, they point out that the companies who proclaim that they do not test on animals are simply using ingredients that other companies have already tested. So, yes, those companies can safely make their claim, but what they're really doing is profiting from some other company's "dirty" work, no? Paula Begoun, author of Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, also writes on her Web site that:

Many companies proudly boast that they do not test their products on animals. Nonetheless, despite the fact that they don't test their finished products on animals, there isn't a company selling a sunscreen or using vitamins or myriad plant extracts in their products that doesn't know about the efficacy of these ingredients based on recent or current animal testing. While it is wonderful that companies like Beauty without Cruelty do not test their products on animals, as is true for many companies, a good many of their formulations are a result of animal research. If Beauty without Cruelty does excel in one area, it is that none of their products are sourced from animals. That is somewhat unique in the industry and definitely a plus for vegans.

Okay, but that doesn't get to the issue of the big companies that actually do the testing. I keep digressing....

The FDA doesn't require or discourage animal testing -- it just says that companies must use whatever method best substantiates the safety of their products. Unfortunately, although great strides are being made in the product testing arena, animal testing continues to be a highly reliable (in many cases, the most reliable) method of determining how a product will interact with humans. New methods are being developed all the time, and that is definitely a good thing. It will be a great day when no animals are sacrificed just so we can be prettier.

My research once again brought me back to the Beauty Brains, who wrote an excellent post about how this issue is simply not as black and white as most consumers would like to think.

So what about L'Oreal? I found lots of evidence to indicate that even if L'Oreal had once been an offender, it is determined to change its ways. This highly encouraging story at the cosmetics news site, that indicates L'Oreal is taking some very positive steps to move away from animal testing. And that story is more than a year old.

Another cosmetics insider site, Invitroskin, indicates that L'Oreal has discovered a new way of product testing called Episkin, which is essentially a human epidermis reconstructed on collagen.

I don't know about you, but I think it might be time to stop bashing L'Oreal for animal testing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cationic polymers (or: Why I didn't major in chemistry in college)

Yikes. Looking pretty is a hell of a lot easier than learning how products do what they do.

I spent about 30 minutes researching this cationic polymer issue that was the subject of my previous post. And yes, it's amazing what you can find online, but I didn't understand most of it because they talked in terms of molecule chains. I'm the girl who took nutrition classes to get out of taking chemistry back in college. Get what I'm saying? 95% of it was over my curly head.

But fortunately, Tonya -- the Curl Chemist at -- had written a column a while back that I think tells those of us with inquiring minds what we need to know. I'll try to sum it up in a paragraph. Here goes.

Cationic polymers are most often identified by Polyquarternium and some number. Polyquat-4 is water-soluble and does not result in build-up. Polyquat-10 is more prone to build-up than Polyquat-4, and Tonya says that guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride performs in a very similar manner. Polyquat-11, which I personally avoid because it kills my curls and makes my hair feel unnatural, does indeed build up. Furthermore, Tonya says that many polyquats can be resistant to removal even by clarifying shampoos. I don't know if she means sulfates when she refers to clarifying shampoos.

Most of her article is too scientific for me, but if you love molecular talk, check it out at the link I provided earlier. At least what she wrote was a bit more accessible than what I found elsewhere on the Web.

Bottom line is that the Beauty Brains were correct in expressing real concern about cationic polymers (although to say that all of them are problematic may not be correct). And I must emphasize here that they are only problematic for those of us who want to avoid sulfates, which strip the hair. If you use a shampoo that contains sulfates, go ahead and use silicones and polyquats.

(Why do cationic polymers, silicones, and polyquats exist? Two reasons: they smooth out hair and make it easier to comb, and they also protect hair that is exposed to heat styling. With cationic polymers, there is also the added benefit of the substance going to the most damaged part of the hair and filing it in -- kind of like spackle. This remarkable chemical reaction can help hair look and feel smoother. Again, if you don't mind using sulfate shampoos to remove it, this effect could be beneficial to you.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stylers potentially worse than silicones?

One of my favorite blogs, The Beauty Brains, has a forum where people can discuss beauty-related things, and I came across a thread about silicones in hair products that intrigued me. If you can get past the typical in-fighting and the allegations of plagiarism (sigh -- gotta love the Internet), you read down to Left Brain's post in which she says:

More troubling in hair care products than silicones are Cationic Polymers. These ingredients like Guar Hydroxypropyl Trimonium Chloride or Polyquaternium-10 have been demonstrated to build up on hair. They ionically bond to hair and you do need to shampoo more to get them off. Silicones don't stick nearly as well as those ingredients.

I wonder why there is no controversy about Cationic Polymers?

I am very interested in following up on this, mostly because I believe cationic polymers are indeed far worse than anybody cares to talk about. My objection to them is based on pure experience -- nothing scientific. Since going CG, I have definitely noticed that stylers with polyquaternium-10 and -11 leave residue on my hair that requires more than a conditioner-wash.

I'm going to be doing some research on this in the next few days and will keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weird Product Wednesday: SilkShake

What comes in a poorly designed bottle, smells like cake batter, and might make your curly hair look better? Blended Beauty's SilkShake.

I confess that I bought this product solely because somebody at said it smelled like cake batter. I think I had just started my diet and probably figured that if I couldn't eat cake, I'd be just as happy to wear the aroma on my head.

And it really does smell like she promised. Imagine vanilla cake batter with some cinnamon and nutmeg. Quite yummy.

But then comes the application process. Quite annoying.

This is one of those products that separates a little when stored, so shaking it is absolutely necessary before use. Okay, I can handle that. But it's also rather thick, which means you have to shake it a lot and with gusto.

Now, I ask you: does it make any sense to put thick product in a spray bottle? No, of course it doesn't. When SilkShake emerges from the bottle, it all speeds to one point on your head. So unless you like the Something-About-Mary look, you should avoid the spray nozzle on this product. In keeping with our cake batter theme, I will demonstrate the effect like so:

In the above image, the cake batter is your hair and the thin stream of liquid would be SilkShake. I don't know you, but I know you would not enjoy this particular application process.

Usage tip: Take the nozzle off and pour the product into your palm. Or, alternatively, spray a bunch of it into your palm. From there, emulsify it a little in your hands and then rake or scrunch it into your hair. I've only used it on dry hair and I will say that it gave me immediate moisture, rejuvenated curls, and an unrelenting desire for baked goods.

I don't know what the Blended Beauty people were thinking when they decided a spray bottle was the best way to dispense SilkShake, but I think they might want to reconsider. Meanwhile, sidestep their faulty wisdom and apply this Canadian creation by alternative means. It's decent stuff, just packaged badly.

Anybody ever use this on wet hair? I'm curious, but not curious enough to give up a day of good hair if it fails. Plus, do I want to smell like cake batter all day? No, really -- I'm asking. Do I?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Weird Product Wednesday

I'm going to start a new feature on this blog called "Weird Product Wednesdays." I made this decision earlier today when I got the idea to blog about all the strange products that exist for curly hair. And when I realized that I could also take advantage of some excellent alliteration by doing such reviews on a Wednesday, that clinched it.

So today, ladies and gentlemen, we will be talking about Kinky-Curly Curling Custard, which is its own alliterative marvel. With the aroma of coconut and the consistency of snot, this stuff seems to flummox even the most experienced of curl mavens.

First, the enormous jar. You don't know whether to think, "Wow, what a deal! I'm set for life!" or "I guess I'm supposed to use a lot of this every time I apply it." Imagine your surprise when you learn that neither is true.

(Well, I fib here. For 3a hair like mine, not much is needed. But from what I understand, type 4 hair requires gobs of it.)

The jar costs about $25 and you will probably have to get it online either at Kinky-Curly's site or CurlMart. (Some hair boutique and beauty supply stores carry it, but odds are, you don't live near one of them.) This seems a little pricey, but when I look at the range of products already in my bathroom, I see that this product is pretty standard, price-wise.

Next, we have the aesthetic appeal of the product itself. Yuck. It is just simply gross. If you've got little boys under the age of 12 in your house, keep it away from them or it will end up as fodder for a good old fashioned slime party.

But the aroma goes a long way toward offsetting the visual impact. It smells like a cool coconut drink or a yummy coconut dessert. So, you really don't mind dipping your fingers into its gloppiness.

Once you dip into the jar, you realize you have no clue how much to use because the consistency of Curling Custard is unlike anything you've ever used before. Mysteryflavored at did a nice little video showing how much she uses and how she applies it, but prior to that, most of us were really struggling with exactly what to do with this concoction. Big thanks to mysteryflavored (who is adorable and has good hair even without product).

Another bizarre feature (some might even call it a problem) of this product is that it can be awkward to distribute. And so, you might need to call upon your Denman brush to accomplish the task. I tried this once and it worked okay -- some people swear by the brush method so I would be remiss if I did not mention it here.

To add insult to injury -- or oddity to strangeness, in this case -- your hair will kind of suck this stuff up, which is why the company strongly recommends that you use a healthy dose of its leave-in, Knot Today. The idea here is that if you can get your hair reasonably saturated with emollients and moisture before the Curling Custard goes on, you hair won't absorb as much of it. And believe me, you want to avoid too much absorption. Why? Because your hair will take forever to dry otherwise. (But you definitely can use any leave-in of your choice. Using Knot Today is not a requirement. In fact, today I used EO Rose and Chamomille Conditioner and it worked like a dream.)

Kinky-Curly Curling Custard (KCCC) goes on gooey and wants to keep your hair very hydrated for many hours afterwards. Mostly, that's what curly hair craves, but your challenge in this case is to control how much hydration actually happens. Left unchecked, KCCC will stay "wet" for hours.


* Apply to hair that's less wet than you'd normally want to apply products to. This tactic will help minimize the amount of water that gets locked into your hair via KCCC's moisturizing qualities.
* Use a little more leave-in or conditioner than you normally would. You want a slicker surface on which to apply KCCC.
* Use the towel of your choice to absorb water from your hair after you apply KCCC (and gel, if you've opted to use it)
* If you're prone to frizz, you might want to apply gel after KCCC and before you dry your hair.

My verdict: Once you figure out how to use this product, it is likely to give you gorgeous hair. Patience is key -- you will undoubtedly experience some really god-awful hair days as you experiment. Or maybe you'll get lucky and get it right the first time. My advice is to keep trying, though. I took me probably 7 or 8 tries to get today's fantabulous results!

(A related fun curly tale: After months of sporadically trying to get KCCC to work for me, today I finally had success! My hair looked wonderful today -- and I couldn't get a decent photo of it! And at lunchtime, a woman who works on another floor got into the elevator with me, complimented my hair, and we proceeded to talk about curly hair for the next five minutes. Hers is curly, too, and although pretty, would very obviously be curlier and healthier with the right products and care. So, I have KCCC for not only giving me a good hair day but also for being a catalyst in hooking me up with a fellow curly, who I think will become a friend! Yay, curls!)

Added on April 20, 2009:
I have discovered that absorbing some water *before* applying KCCC yields even better results than applying it to wet hair. Add your leave-in as described above, and then mop up excess moisture (but not too much -- you do want your hair wet, just not really wet). You can plop or squeeze or whatever you like to do.

I have also found that mixing KCCC with a little gel is terrific! For strong hold, I use a bit of BRHG. For lesser but still good hold, I use Max Green Alchemy Styling gel.