Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is the CG Emperor naked?

Since going CG and visiting the discussion boards at, I've heard over and over how using the right products will bring moisture to your hair and restore its "health." Testimonial after testimonial repeat the same messages:

"My hair is not nearly as frizzy as it used to be."

"My hair curls so much more now than it did."

"My hair is so much smoother now."

I don't doubt that people are seeing a difference but I think we need to look a little more closely at what we're comparing.

Some people come to CG with very damaged hair. Maybe they've been flat-ironing for years and/or using any assortment of chemical treatments that have wreaked serious havoc on their defenseless tresses. When they start CG and give those things up, when the new hair grows in, of course it feels and behaves better. CG won't fix what's damaged but it will help the new growth look better.

But what about people whose hair was not damaged prior to CG? What can they expect? This is the point on which I'm still not clear. I want to believe the folks who sing CG's praises -- the ones who say that even without product, their hair looks and feels better. They indicate that months or years of CG care and attention (and some even say a few days or weeks) has done them so much good that even without using any product (beyond conditioner), they see a noticeable difference in their hair.

I want to be one of these people. But I have to confess that I am not.

My hair looks fabulous compared to how it looked a few years ago. I like it most days. But if I didn't use gel or curl creme or my all-time-favorite, Kinky Curly Curling Custard, I can tell you right now that my hair would look and behave exactly as it did prior to my going CG. I don't see any real improvement in its natural state.

Has anybody else had this experience or are all of you blessed with visibly better hair since going CG? Don't get me wrong: I am NOT going to stop following the CG regimen I've created for myself but my point is simply this: the conditioner has done a world of good, yes, but without the styling products, I wouldn't have clumpy curls and I would have frizz.

How about you?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Curl Junkie Giveaway!

When Marsha at Curl Junkie puts on her thinking cap, new and improved products are sure to follow. Over the past few months, she created FIVE new concoctions that already have the curly community buzzing. (I haven't tried them yet, but you can bet I will soon.) I love the way Marsha runs her business but mostly I love how her passion is reflected through product innovation. Her products are unlike any others, and I swear this woman's brain NEVER stops thinking about ingredient combinations!

In case you haven't been apprised of the new products, here are the official descriptions:

Beauticurls Daily Conditioner - a lightweight instant conditioner/detangler that is perfect for everyday use for all hair types.

Beauticurls Leave-in Conditioner - The companion to the daily conditioner, this is an emollient rich, yet lightweight, detangling, and glycerin-free leave-in.

Curl Assurance Smoothing Conditioner - Got Frizz? This is the conditioner for you. It is perfect for giving you daily moisture with just the right amount of frizz control. This will come in a 12 oz. size!

Curl Fix - Intense Hair Treatment - This is a wonderfully restoring deep treatment that is rich in proteins and amino acids to help your damaged/dry tresses. This is a well balanced treatment that does not leave your hair hard or dry. It can also be used in place of a leave-in as an all-day hair treatment. Wonderful for fine-haired curls as well!

Curls in a Bottle - Curl Styling Solution - This product is all you need to get your curls looking right. Perfect for all hair types especially fine hair, this hair styling liquid gel has a flexible, not hard, hold and due to it’s lightweight conditioners, it won’t dry out your hair. Works well with leave-ins and other styling products and adds great shine and bounce to curls! This also comes in a 12 oz. size!

So, did you just have a brain freeze when you read all that? Yeah, me too. I wanted them all and couldn't decide what to try. But you know what? Decision-making just got easier because if you post a comment and state why you love Curl Junkie, I will read them all, choose the two best comments (maybe I'll go with heartfelt, maybe wickedly amusing, maybe scientifically accurate -- there's no telling, really), and GIVE AWAY ONE CURLS IN A BOTTLE and ONE CURL FIX!

Don't let this chance slip away! You have until December 18 to tell this blog what's so great about Curl Junkie -- and possibly win some free product if your comment curls my toes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How can a product review be useful to you?

Have you ever purchased a product because you read a good review of it? Have you ever had the same experience with it as the reviewer?

If my own experience is any guide, you answered "yes" to the first question and "hardly ever" to the second. So what does this mean? Is there something wrong with your (and my) hair? Are these product reviewers lying? Did we misunderstand the reviews?

Except for reviews that are written by shills for a given company, the answer to all of those questions is "no." But that takes us back to the original questions of why it's so rare to have the same experience with a product as somebody else.

You know why there are so many products out there? Because there's so much variation in hair! There's porosity, texture, volume, and elasticity to consider. And not only is there variation among heads but there's the mineral content of the water you use, the temperature and dew point where you live, the other products you might also be using in your hair, how badly your hair needs to be cut, your diet, your stress level, and even your hormonal activity.

A product review can only be helpful if the reviewer has a head of hair similar to yours and lives in conditions that approximate your own. What are the odds of that? I don't know. I flunked math in school because I preferred English.

I see blogs dedicated to reviewing products and to be honest, I rarely read them. They are well-intentioned and I'm sure the reviewer feels she's rendering a service, but without knowing any of the variables I listed above and without knowing how much product the reviewer used, the review is pretty worthless to me.

Reviews also can be helpful, though, if the reviewer compares the product to another product. Then you have some frame of reference, especially if you've used either product. When a reviewer has reviewed many products and can compare and contrast, you can start to get a feel for what her hair is like -- and how it differs from or is similar to yours. In my case, my hair tends to be pretty sensitive to humectants. I limit them and avoid products that have a lot of them high up on the ingredient list. If a reviewer gives a thumbs up to products that are humectant-heavy, I know that her hair is very different from mine and I won't pay too much attention to what she says because we're comparing apples and oranges. It doesn't mean she's a bad reviewer or that the product is bad (or good) -- it just means that the combination of ingredients in that product is better suited to her hair than to mine.

But wait, you might be saying. Wouldn't you be able to figure most of this out just by reading the ingredient list?

Yep. And that's why I think product reviews are of limited value. Read the ingredient labels for yourself and you'll be able to make your own determination about what will work for you. Even this method isn't foolproof obviously, because although we know what's in a product, we never know how much of each ingredient is in it. That's where experimentation comes in, and only you can do that for yourself.

If you've found a product reviewer who seems to like the same products you do, you are one lucky curly head. But for the rest of us, the only reliable way to know whether a bottle or tube or jar contains our holy grail is to read the label and/or try it ourselves.

And then, of course, you can write your own product review, if you like.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ready, Set, SHOP

Holy Curmoly, the number of sales today is dizzying. I'm going to try to group them all in one post for your spending convenience:

Curl Junkie: Five (!) new products being released today! Woo hoo! And to top it off, on Black Friday only, they are offering 10% off your order of $50 or more (use the Code “NEWSTUFF” at checkout). They are putting a few products on 50% off sale!

Komaza Care: They're giving 15% off everything you buy between November 26 and 29! Just be sure to enter the word Thanksgiving as the coupon code during checkout to take advantage of your 15% discount.

Curl Mart: They're cleaning house over there to make room for new products. So grab your favorites while you can! Get 30% off 26 brands they carry -- for example, Wen, AG and Curl Junkie-- only while supplies last.

Sally Beauty Supply: They are offering a number of promotions for the holiday season that give you two products for the price of one, including free dryers, curling irons and flat irons. (This means one for you, one for somebody else. See how that works?)

Donna Marie: Get 20% off everything -- but only on Black Friday. The secret code is DMBLACKFRIDAY.

Have fun!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I heart Perry Romanowski

No, he's not famous (although see what you get when you Google "most famous cosmetic chemist") but I just love Perry Romanowski. He's been part of a few roundtables here at No-Poo Jillipoo not only because he knows his stuff but because he is a quirky, funny, smart, and gracious person (for instance, he always participates in my roundtables rather than saying something like "Who the heck are you, No-Poo? I work with dimethicone, dammit, and I have no time for your foolishness!"). He contributes to several blogs (Beauty Brains and Chemists Corner and perhaps others with equally alliterative names) and recently, he gave a presentation on "Skepticism and the Cosmetics Industry" in Chicago at the Midwest Society of Cosmetic Chemists.

In this presentation, he addressed what he calls the five most popular beauty myths. And here they are:

- Natural is safer
- Cosmetics are toxic
- More expensive is better
- Cosmetic woo works
- Pantene is plastic

Could a perspective be any simpler? Or for that matter, funnier? (And no, I'm not entirely sure what "cosmetic woo" is, either, but I'm sure that if I'd been at the event rather than ogling his PowerPoint presentation online, I'd have been utterly titillated by his definition.)

I guess another reason I love Perry is because his observations about the beauty industry are not influenced by his "feelings" or superficial evidence or anything other than straight-up science. I adore the no-bullshit insights. He's my kinda beauty blogger. And as long as he is willing, I'm going to keep on including him in my roundtables. Mwah, Perry!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Always learning

On Saturday, I was part of a group of curlies who paid to fly Tiffany Anderson Taylor out to San Francisco (well, Fremont, actually) so she could cut out hair. I've gotten to know Tiffany through various means for the past year or two, and even helped copyedit her e-book, Live Curly Live Free. (If you don't have the book, by the way, I strongly urge you to purchase it. It provides more help and information than any book ever written on the topic of curls. And I am not exaggerating.) Here is a photo of Tiffany that I took at the event and as always happens with my stupid iPhone camera, you cannot see curls!

Tiffany cut hair all day Saturday and all day Sunday. It's clear that she thoroughly enjoys her work! Everybody left looking better than when they arrived. Except, strangely enough, me!

I am fortunate to have an outstanding hair stylist here in San Francisco: Bebe of Sassy Salon. She does not cut my hair according to the Deva method. She gives me a traditional, layered cut that takes my curls into account. I have never had a bad haircut from her. When I arrived at my appointment with Tiffany, I knew my hair already looked ... well ... fabulous. (I've been using Mop Top Daily Conditioner, Karen's Body Beautiful Hair Nectar as leave-in, and a combination of KCCC and Fuzzy Duck gel as my styler -- this combo has yet to let me down!)

Tiffany asked me why I wanted anything done to my hair. She said she didn't think she could improve on it. And really, I kind of agreed but thought I kind of needed a trim so why not let her do it?

So, Tiffany sat me down and inquired about what products I used, what my routine was, and what I wanted from the haircut she would give me. All very good questions and ones that every stylist ought to ask their clients.

She cut very little, which is what I wanted. She gave me a tip or two to relay to my stylist, but insisted that my cut was already just great. (I can't wait to tell Bebe that her work was so appreciated!) Now that a few days have passed, I don't see much difference in the way my hair falls, and actually, that's fine by me.

Then came the wet-down and product application. And this is where I started to learn one major lesson: not everybody follows the same routine! Tiffany used Aquage conditioner and gel on me (I preferred that to the Deva products she had available). Both the conditioner and gel contained protein, so that was good by me. But from this point forward, I think things started to go awry for me.

Through no fault of Tiffany's, my styling and drying sequence contrasted fairly sharply with what I do at home. But I wanted to stay open to new techniques, so I went along.

1. She applied the gel to sopping wet hair. I don't do this. I squeeze out as much moisture as possible and then apply gel. If I don't do this, my hair is weighed down by the water, takes forever to dry, and does not encourage curl.
2. She clipped my hair with metal clips. My experience with metal clips has been abysmal, but the ones she used were of better quality and they actually did work well. (I use these plastic ones and love them because they hold better and don't get tangled in my hair like the metal ones generally do.)
3. She put me out to air-dry before diffusing. I generally diffuse right away to get some volume and then I air dry.
4. She used the Deva Fuser dryer. She likes it but I can honestly say that for all the curlies I saw that day, all of them had their curls broken up and slightly frizzed because of this dryer. It is just god-awful and I must be honest about that. At least two of us who had terrific clumpy curls when we arrived, left with no clumps after the Deva Fuser was used on us. Maybe it's a case of operator error with this thing, because Tiffany did not personally blow-dry most of us -- a curly "helper" did. In my case, I used it on myself and hated it so much that I asked the person whose home we were at if I could use her blow-dryer and diffuser. Marginally better.

After two hours, I couldn't take it anymore and scrunched out the crunch. It looked terrible. Tiffany saw my disappointment and offered to do me all over again. We did that and this time, we followed a routine that more closely resembled my own. Although my results were better, they were still not great.

I really want to emphasize that none of this is Tiffany's fault. She didn't do anything wrong, and she even asked all of us to bring our favorite products if we wanted her to use them. I should have brought my KCCC!

I learned that there is simply no right or wrong way to care for curly hair. Everybody's hair is different, and more important, everybody's preferences for the end result are different. Some people don't want clumpy curls. I do, and I want them by the truckload! Some people don't want volume. I do. Some people can't stand a really wet head and I am one of them. My routine has been adapted to my preferences. And it works for me, but it may not work for everyone. Tiffany's routine may work for some clients but it did not work for me.

So, next time you're trying to follow a routine that's been posted somewhere on the Internet yet you aren't getting the results you want ... TRY SOMETHING ELSE. Pay attention to your hair and don't be afraid to alter your routine or your products to honor your instincts.

The right way to care for curly hair is whatever way works for you.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Are you doing CG correctly?

Once upon a time, a hair stylist wrote a book about how to care for curly hair. The information and guidance in the book were based mostly on her experiences with her own as well as her clients' hair. The book helped a lot of curlies, including me, and I'm forever grateful to have found it.

But let's be clear, people. It is a very big mistake to regard this book as some kind of bible.

I say this because it seems that a lot of people go to great pains to "get CG right." They agonize over whether a product is CG, ask as many CG followers as they can about the "correct" way to apply product, and they think that if they make a mistake, it's like being an alcoholic who takes a drink--and that they must "start over" again.

My view is that it's time to relax about being CG.

What is the CG method?

If you were to distill the Curly Girl book down into a few sentences (and believe me, you can), here are its tenets:
1. Avoid sulfates
2. Avoid silicones
3. Treat curly hair gently (no brushes, no rough towels, no blow-dryers)
4. Gel is your friend
5. A good conditioner contains a blend of moisturizers, protein, emollients, and humectants
5. Don't touch your hair before it's completely dry

There's also a bunch of silliness about "typing" one's hair, none of which is terribly helpful but a delightful little exercise that helps give the book some substance and allows the author to use celebrity photos to demonstrate her points. People love celebrities. So do publishers. Celebrities help make everything sell better.

The book asserts that silicones coat the hair and starve it of moisture. It goes on to say that shampoo (at least the kind that contains sulfates, which is pretty much all that existed when the author wrote the book) is what's needed to remove the silicones, but the sulfates strip hair of its natural moisture, thereby forcing us all to reach for silicones to give us the shine we crave. And hence, a heinous cycle of interdependency ensues.

And that, along with the hair typing and a plethora of curly confessions, is the sum total of the book.

Points of confusion

Sulfates. Not all of these are created equal. What's more, not all shampoos have the same amount of them. And finally, there's not a single silicone in existence that requires the use of sulfates to remove it. Surfactants, no sulfates, are what's required to remove silicones (and most products in general). (So-called harsher sulfates include sodium laurel sulfate, sodium, laureth sulfate, and ammonium laurel sulfate. Milder surfactants that will do the job for you include sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, and sodium cocoyl isethionate. Still milder are non-sulfate anionic surfactants, including sodium laurel sulfate, sodium, laureth sulfate, and ammonium laurel sulfate. Least harsh are the amphoteric surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, and sodium cocoyl isethionate.)

Silicones. These come in many guises and have many names. Some adhere to hair (dimethicone), some evaporate in a few hours (cyclomethicone), and others are extremely mild (dimethicone copolyol). Not all of them evil. In fact, many would argue that none of them are. In 2009, we have many more cleansing options than were available in 2002 when Curly Girl was written. There is no reason to be draconian in your avoidance of any ingredient ending in "cone" unless you have discovered that your hair really despises all silicones. And even if it does hate silicones, maybe if you found a way to remove them that your hair doesn't hate, that peaceful coexistence of cleansing and silicone could work for you. You never know unless you try.

Gel. Have you ever tried using the amount of gel recommended in the book? Fuggedabowdit. I use about five times as much gel as the book would have me using. It took me a few months to figure out that the quantities (of conditioner as well as gel) Curly Girl suggests simply are too skimpy for me. And in case you haven't noticed, amazing advances have been made in the formulation of gels, and now you also need to watch for certain polyquats. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security about a gel just because it doesn't contain any 'cones. What's more, some people's hair doesn't respond at all well to some of the most common (and seemingly harmless) gel ingredients such as propylene glycol, PVP, acrylates, and others. Just because something is technically CG doesn't mean your hair will thrive with it.

Conditioner. Another aspect of CG that required trial and error for me was conditioner selection. First, not everybody likes protein. (The author has done a rather abrupt about-face on this point herself: her products no longer contain protein and she preaches an anti-protein approach to her followers.) I adore protein and need more of it than I ever would have expected, but coarser haired curlies don't need and don't want protein. Humectants are good in theory, too, but depending on your hair's porosity and the climate you live in, you may not need humectants in the same quantities that somebody else would. Excess humectants result in frizz for some of us. So, when you read that a good conditioner must contain all these ingredients, proceed with caution because your hair may not want them all and it may not want them all in equal proportions.

How much conditioner you leave in your hair is also a huge variable among curly-headed people. Some people like to just not rinse it all out. Others like to rinse it all out and then add a bit more so they have more control. Still others use a curl creme instead of a conditioner. Some like no conditioner left in at all. You are the best judge of what your hair likes. The guidance in the book should only be used as a general suggestion about the need for curly hair to have some moisture left on it somehow. You can figure out for yourself what that moisture should look like for your hair. (And yes, figuring that out can take a while. But it's better to experiment than to blindly follow the advice of one stylist who has never seen your hair.)

Touching and being gentle. This is some of the best advice ever. Make sure your hair is totally dry before you scrunch out your crunch. It does make a world of difference! I have also found that towels with no nap make the best choices (I avoid terrycloth and even microfiber towels, which act like velcro on my hair, even when it's wet).

The Curly Girl book is a great introduction to the needs of curly hair. After you read it, loiter at the discussion boards (do NOT believe everything that's posted there, however!) to get some new insights, and read some of the blogs I've got listed in my favorites. Acquire information.

If there were one right way to handle curly hair, everybody's curly hair would be perfect and beautiful. But the sad truth is that there is no surefire way that applies to everyone's hair. All you can do is learn what you can, talk to people, and experiment. And when you experiment, you may discover a trick or two that will help someone else.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

CurlyNikki has a forum!

Once upon a time, there was no place for curly-headed people to go to talk about their hair. The world was a dark place, full of frizz and useless hair products.

Then came And there was light!

A few months ago, we were treated to the LiveCurlyLiveFree discussion board (especially for curlies with somewhat "advanced" knowledge). Some nice brainy discussions go on there.

And now.... CurlyNikki has launched a forum, too. Headings include: Products, Henna, Stylin' and Profilin', Transitioning, and more! Go have a visit and see what you think!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Products I Love

Curly Nikki just posted about her Holy Grail products, and that prompted me to disclose mine here. What's interesting is how few I really have. I've been CG for more than two years now and this list -- a finely honed assortment that doesn't reveal any inkling of how many products I went through to find them -- is all I've got. Maybe some of yours are on this list, too?

Shampoo(s): never touch the stuff (well, okay, sometimes I reach for Jessicurl's Hair Cleansing Cream, but normally I just scrub with a palmful of Suave Naturals Coconut Conditioner)

Conditioner(s): I'm on my last bottle of Activate Hydrating Conditioner (pictured here among some companion products as a kind of memorial), which has yet to be replaced by anything else as my No. 1 favorite. The company no longer makes the stuff (or maybe the company is out of business; I don't know) and I will have to turn instead to any of these very nice conditioners: Mop Top Daily Conditioner, Aloeba, Aubrey Organics Island Naturals as well as GPB Conditioner, Karen's Body Beautiful Hair Nectar and the old version of EO's Rose and Chamomile (of which I have only two more bottles left).

Leave-in/Styler (s):I always use my regular conditioners as leave-ins and you already know what those are, so I'll just list stylers: Kinky-Curly Curling Custard is my absolute Holy Grail product, and yet I cannot use it by itself. In rainy weather, I mix it with Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee and for nice, normal dew points (35 to 55), I mix the KCCC with Max Green Alchemy Sculpting Gel. Sometimes Aubrey's B5 Design Gel alone or mixed with Mandarin Magic is nice. I've also been discovering Joico JoiWhip mousse lately -- it's not consistently great but when it's good, it's very very good.

Deep Conditioner (s): Several months ago, I decided that these are just silly. For me, anyway. My hair (3a, fine) doesn't need deep conditioning as much as it needs protein, so I combine the two in my daily conditioners and my hair is much happier.

Friday, October 9, 2009

When imaginations curl

My curls inspire some dark thoughts. The kind that should never see the light of day.

Like, every morning, when I step carefully into my shower, I think about how I should have cleaned the tub better. I think about how the tile's slick surface is an amalgam of conditioners gone before. And I think about slipping, and falling, and breaking my neck in the pursuit of curls.

When I lean forward to scrunch out all the water and my back creaks its objections, I think about how I easily I tolerate this pain. I wonder how old I will be before it becomes impossible to assume this position for very long, and I think about what on earth I will do if I cannot scrunch water out and product in when I am in my seventies.

Stooped over to allow my hair to fall neatly into my diffuser, I'm aware of my neck's distaste for this position. I think about a woman I worked with who suffered from a pinched nerve and I think about what a foul mood she was always in. She didn't have curls, though, I reason, so no wonder she was bitchy.

On the train to work, I imagine myself slugging the idiot behind me who can't control his newspaper. Each time it disturbs the damp curls on the back of my head, I think about another way to make him resort to a Kindle in the future.

All of this before I even get to work.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Adjusting the volume

I'm old enough to remember several different hair trends:

The long, flat straight tresses of the sixties

The feathered look of the seventies

The big hair of the 80s

The grunge do's of the 90s

And thankfully, today there's more than one acceptable way to wear one's hair. Look at the tremendous variety of hair we see in the first decade of the new millennium! Big hair is fun, flat hair is cool, and curls (especially defined ones) are arguably more popular now than at any time since the Marcel wave (shown below for you young'uns who may not know what it is).

So now, we have the enviable privilege of living in a time when we get to choose whether we want curls or not, and if we do want them, we can also decide whether we want them to dangle, bounce, stick out, or look as if we got caught in a steam room. Another factor in our control that previous generations did not enjoy: volume.

Many curlies struggle with volume. Those who have it want to reduce it and those who weren't blessed with it desperately want it.

I will start with this one, since I've got more experience with it. Everyone thinks I have a lot of hair and maybe that's true, but the hair that I do have is thin, so I'm always looking to make it look thicker. Here are some of the tricks that have worked for me:

- Diffuse dry. Now, there's more to this than simply diffusing. To build volume, I've also learned to:
* Get out most of the water from my hair first. I use my Curl-Ease towel to squeeze handfuls of curls after I apply my styling products.
* Do it upside down. This position helps to keep the roots from plastering to your head.
* Diffuse to about 85% dry. I used to go to 75% or even 80% -- no, I do not have a scientific method for determining this -- but then learned the less water I asked my hair to carry around, the better, volume-wise.

- Mousse it up. Mousse does add a bit of volume, but not if you use it on hair that's too wet or if you use too much of it. The air in the mousse helps keep your hair lighter. Not all gels weigh down your hair, but if you're looking to lighten things up, try mousse. I've had luck with Joico JoiWhip (loaded with protein, so if you love that, great; if you need to avoid it, beware), and also Herbal Essences Totally Twisted. The only downside is that is dews over 50 or 55, frizz is likely without a gel on top of it, which gets to the next point.

- Use fewer products. This rule is pure logic, really. The more stuff you put in your hair, the heavier it gets. One product may work in tandem with another to promote a certain type of curl you desire, but every product you add to your hair adds to the potential of weighing it down. Choose wisely, my curly friend. I find I can never use more than two products over my leave-in. And really, the more you combine products, the more you increase the possibility that none of them will work as they should.

- Look for certain ingredients. Some ingredients raise the cuticle a little and although this can result in making hair a little rougher than the silken tresses we've all been taught to strive for, when you are short on volume, raising the cuticle a wee bit can increase volume, making it look like you have more hair than you actually do. And yay for that. For the first year I was CG, I vaguely noticed that whenever I co-washed, I always had more volume that day. I later read that one of the ingredients in my co-wash (Suave Naturals Coconut) contains cetrimonium chloride, which raises the cuticle. Stearalkonium chloride will also do it, but my hair doesn't seem to like it (gives me frizz). I've also found that panthenol has a good volumizing effect on my hair, too. Panthenol is mostly a humectant, but it also binds to hair and adds to its volume without creating weight. I'm a fan.

Just as removing water from hair helps to minimize weight, incorporating more helps to make it heavier, thereby decreasing volume. Some tips:

- Add your styling products to soaking wet hair. A person on the discussion boards recently earned a lot of devotees when she announced her super-soaker method. Her post is a prime example of how keeping hair very wet for as long as possible will weigh it down and diminish volume.

- Air dry. Not using a blow-dryer prevents any air from helping to fluff things up. It will take forever to dry, of course, so that's why some people opt for using something like this hard-hat dryer. If you have the time and space to set it up, it can be a great way to speed up the drying process without adding volume.

- Apply more product. People who want to reduce volume can use leave-ins and curl cremes more liberally than those with thin or sparse hair. Not only does this help to add weight, but it can also really give your hair a good dose of a given product's benefits.

- Experiment with oils and butters. Thicker-haired people can tolerate oils much better than people looking for fuller hair. And just because one oil or butter doesn't agree with you hair doesn't mean that others won't. Play with oils and see what your hair might like. Keep in mind that coconut oil and avocado oil have been shown to penetrate the hair shaft best and may therefore give you more softness and pliability (is that a word), which are also attributes you'll want in your quest to reduce volume.

Got any tips for reducing or building volume? Share them please!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Silicones, polyquats, and soap

Who doesn't have questions about silicones, polyquats and soap?

To get some answers, I assembled the stellar roundtable group I consulted for the aloe vera discussion a few weeks ago: Marsha Coulton, the owner of Curl Junkie, who concocts her own products and was a stylist before that. She's got definite opinions about curly hair. Next, we have JC, whose blog I wrote about a few months ago. She is a curly-hair scientist in the UK who backs up her findings and determinations about hair by quoting from specific scientific studies. Jessica McGuinty, founder of Jessicurl, shies away from silicones, soaps, and polyquats in her product formulations, and as she stated in a recent interview, does a lot of testing of these products and how they perform. Tiffany Anderson-Taylor, aka StruttsWife on the discussion boards, has been a hair stylist in Florida for several years, and recently wrote a book about caring for curly hair. Her site, Live Curly Live Free, is a fantastic resource for people curious about curls' unique needs. She is not a fan of silicones. And finally, we have Perry Romanowski, an independent cosmetic formulator who is associated with one of my favorite blogs, The Beauty Brains as well as a site for cosmetic chemists called Chemists Corner. He's written a book titled Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry, and he has been a senior project leader at Alberto Culver.

Here's what these experts had to say....

1. Followers of the "Curly Girl" method avoid products with silicone because although they coat the hair to smooth it and reduce frizz, they also are believed to block moisture, which curly hair desperately needs. Have new silicones been developed since that book came out in 2002 that are "lighter" or attach themselves less to hair? And are curlies unnecessarily avoiding silicones, in your opinion?

PERRY: Silicones are not all the same. Some like Dimethicone are substantive (will stick to hair) and others like Dimethicone Copolyol are not substantive (will not stick to hair). Companies can modify Dimethicone Copolyol to make it more substantive. There is also Cyclomethicone which is substantive but will slowly evaporate off the hair just like water. These different types have been around for decades.

Silicones work by coating the hair. They do not penetrate significantly. This means there is some potential for build-up of substantive silicones so avoiding them is not unreasonable. However, they do not affect the amount of moisture in the hair. If silicones on hair did significantly block moisture, curly hair would never dry! The water from your shower wouldn't be able to leave your hair and that just isn't what happens.

There really is no reason for curlies to completely avoid all silicones. Dimethicone Copolyol & Cyclomethicones are perfectly fine to use and will not build up. And occasional use of Dimethicone will not hurt either.

JESS: I agree that most things in moderation won't cause too much trouble. The trouble starts when a heavy cone like Dimethicone is used daily and is not being washed regularly. (as we all know we're not supposed to wash our hair every day for fear of the dreaded poof.) At that point a harsher shampoo is necessary to remove the silicone, thus drying out the hair and causing the curly to believe only more silicone will solve the problem. So the cycle continues. For this reason I avoid all cones in Jessicurl products and use gentle surfactants in the cleansers to that users don't have to face the problem of the rebound cycle. Occasional use of silicones shouldn't be a problem though.

MARSHA: For me, if you can find a gentle shampoo that can remove silicones, then it doesn't seem to matter. I had just been revisiting the silicones issue again to see if they are really worth avoiding. I found that at first, they give me the feeling that everything is okay. It's not that my hair looks any better, but it feels better with the silicones in the beginning. But then, after I shampoo to get them out, I realize they just seem to mask my hair's real condition. In other words, they don't help improve or add to the hair's condition. But let's face it: your hair's not gonna fall off your head if you use silicones. The trick is finding the right shampoo -- many are so rough. For the look I like, I need a lot of product, so I do like to use my gentle cleansing shampoo on my hair. The co-wash method doesn't work for me, and I have witnessed that it doesn't work for everyone.

I am not a fan of Cyclomethicone or Cyclosiloxane. They apparently evaporate off the hair, but for me something in doing so makes my hair frizz. If you must use silicones, I prefer the PEGs and dimethicone copolyol since they have some degree of water solubility. As far as new types of silicones, I haven't seen anything new. The industry seems to be happy with what it has.

JC: I'm certain that there have been new silicones developed but I do think the existing silicones are perfectly fine. Frankly silicones were being abused by curlies circa 2002, especially with people using serums on their hair every day, so the book was necessary for people to rethink this habit. I do think that fast forwarding to today, many curlies are unnecessarily scared of silicones . I personally do NOT think that silicones are bad. In fact, I would even go as far as to say they are good in certain cases.There is a huge difference between using a styling serum with 80% silicone and a shampoo with under 5%. The shampoo with silicone actually offers protection in terms of keeping your hair on your head (preventing breakage) and maintaining the internal moisture. The styling serum is useful for protecting from heat damage therefore necessary in my book for heat styling but perhaps if the serum is used daily, then problems will arise. Some people really do well with silicone containing conditioners (especially bleached/coloured hair) and in this case the silicone offers some protection from moisture loss and helps temporarily seal damaged portions of the hair. Hair is a very personal thing, one person's experience is rarely completely reflective of all hair.

TIFFANY: I believe anything that forms an impenetrable barrier on the hair shaft, like non-water soluble silicones such as dimethicone, is often problematic in the long run. The cuticle of our hair strand is formed like roof tiles to allow penetration of moisture and oxygen into the hair shaft for a reason. Continually coating and sealing the cuticle to prevent it from performing its proper function for a long period of time is not the best route to optimum hair health in the long run.

I do not believe all silicones are "evil"; however, I do counsel my clients to stick to those that are water soluble, such as dimethicone copolyol or PEG/PPG-manufactured silicones, whenever possible to avoid any potential issues.

2. Polyquaterniums seem to behave much like silicones -- they bind to hair and in some cases, aren't even fully removed even by sulfate-laden shampoos. Should curlies be mindful of polyquats, and if so, which ones? Are we worrying about silicones when polyquats are really much harder to remove? And do polyquats block moisture like silicones do?

PERRY: Curlies should be much more concerned about Polyquats than silicones. Polyquats are positively charged polymers that effectively stick to the damaged sites on hair. They make the hair feel smooth and soft but they can also build up with repeated use resulting in flatter, less lively curls. They can even be more difficult to remove than even Dimethicone. The most problematic polyquat is Polyquaternium-10. While it is the most effective at conditioning hair, it is also the most likely to build-up. Better choices include Polyquaternium-7 or Guar Hydroxpropyltrimonium Chloride.

Neither silicones nor polyquats significantly block moisture. The negative to using them is that they build up on hair and weigh it down.

JESS: When researching what ingredients to put in our Confident Coils Styling Solution, it because obvious that many curlies have an aversion to polyquats. For this reason I left it out and thus haven't done much further research on it as I don't intend to use them in any future products. So I guess I don't have an emotional opinion on them one way or the other.

MARSHA: Polyquat 7 and 11 seem to be the most substantive and hardest to remove if you do not shampoo. I do not find that Polyquat 10 is not as hard to remove. Chlorides seem to do a good job at removing it. Guar Hydroxpropyltrimonium Chloride is an interesting ingredient -- it's a great conditioner but you have to be careful as too much seems to over condition the hair and cause frizz. I've used it in small amounts in some of my products and have had no complaints, but it's easy to overuse and I've seen other products that use too much. Polyquats 4 and 44 are not very difficult to remove. Polyquats 37 and 72 are supposed to provide good curl retention and I suspect would be harder to remove, although I haven't actually used them in my products (although I've tried them out in other products I've tested). And interestingly, Polyquat 72 hasn't been picked up by the industry as much as I would have expected, which probably also says something about its performance record. I believe most shampoos will remove any kind of polyquat, though. When you see some of these ingredients before they go into a formulation, you get a sense of how they behave. For instance, Polyquats 10 and 4 and Guar Hydroxpropyltrimonium Chloride are powder and dissolve instantly in water. For me, this gives you some clue about how they'll behave on hair (in terms of water solubility), especially when you contrast them with Polyquats 7 and 11, which are gluey.

JC: As a surface scientist, I can say that there are quite a few things that cannot be completely removed by SLS; to completely remove, a proper solvent (like chloroform) is needed. We need to redefine this idea of 'complete' removal and why we feel it is necessary because in order to do so, extreme measures have to be taken.

As Perry says, polyquats stick to hair as they have a positive charge. This is similar to other conditioning agents that curlies have no problem with such as such as stearalkonium chloride or behentrimonium chloride. Now people will like different types of conditioning agents. The general trend I have noticed in literature is that polyquats tend to be more useful for damaged hair (bleached). I really have to emphasize and say not all hair will react in the same way to a given product. Some people will swear by polyquats, others won't.

Even more unique, a seemingly similar combination of ingredients from two different companies can yield different results. It really is about how well the product was formulated, so I'm with Marsha on this one, test it first and see how it behaves.

TIFFANY: "Polyquaterniums" is an extremely general category and it is difficult to make a sweeping assumption and say whether or not they are "good" or "bad" across the board. From a cosmetology perspective, however, allergic contact dermatitis, or a hypersensitivity reaction, is not uncommon among some individuals after exposure to certain polyquaterniums.

Most surfactants seem to be effective in removing polyquat build-up; however, I would more cautious about their use from a health perspective rather than a beauty perspective if an individual is prone to any type of skin sensitivities.

3. For people who don't want to use shampoo of any kind, what methods of hair cleansing do you recommend? Are there some ingredients that people should look for that do the job without stripping the hair? Or is it really the friction rather than the ingredients that ensure cleanliness? (I realizes cleanliness is a relative term, so feel free to comment on that, as well.)

PERRY: If you want to avoid shampoo, you have a variety of options. You can was your hair with a basic conditioner. Look for products that contain Cetrimonium Chloride or Stearalkonium Chloride. Avoid Dimethicone & polyquats since these will not be removed by the surfactants in the basic conditioners. However, it is ok to use conditioners that contain Dimethicone Copolyol. This ingredient is barely substantive and build up will not be a problem. An excellent conditioner wash is VO5 Hot Oil formula. The name is actually misleading because there is no oil in the formula. It contains an ingredient called Cocotrimonium Chloride which is both a great conditioner and a good detergent.

Other options are to use dry powder shampoos like Oscar Blondi or a No-Rinse shampoo. Both of these products do not require water to rinse out but many people are dissatisfied with how they leave the hair feeling. You'll have to try them to see if you like them.

JESS: Personally, I never found a conditioner-only system to work for me, but I know lots of curlies like it. I've had luck with mild apple cider vinegar rinses but even that can be drying over time. I know some poo-less curlies use baking soda and my experience with that was that it was FAR more drying than even a sulfate shampoo. For that reason, I think a mild cleanser using gentle surfactants should allow for good cleansing without stripping. I understand that this is basically my own personal opinion though, and that many people have great success with conditioner-only washing. It just never worked for me personally.

MARSHA: For me, co-washing doesn't work very well although I know that there are many people who use this method effectively. I try to formulate my products so that those on a CG regimen can use them without worry as well. That being said, if I were to look for an ingredient for sulfate free cleansing, I would look for a formulation with coco betaine but you should be careful if it's your only surfactant, as it can be harsh (especially at higher PH levels). I have found that it's meant to work best in synergy with other surfactants to be most effective and gentle. Shampoo formulation is a difficult process because shampoo ideally needs to be more alkaline to have the cleansers be the most effective, but it best in general for a product to be more acidic to be more gentle on the hair. Ideally a pH of 5-6 should provide a good balance between cleansing and conditioning. But do consumers know the pH of products when they buy them? Of course not. So, it's challenging to find one that works for you. Some people use baking soda to clean their hair, but I think can really rough up the cuticle so you might as well use a gentle shampoo. If you don't want to use shampoo, you need to avoid some of the stronger silicones and polyquats. Other ingredients that you could look for if you are conditioner washing are PEG ingredients as most seem to suds up and can help with cleansing. Another thing curlies who co-wash need to remember is that friction as well as ingredients matter when cleansing. The scalp really benefits from friction as this really helps to dislodge product residue and dirt/oil.

JC: Scientifically the evidence that we have is that there is nothing wrong with shampoo. Friction is not needed for shampoo to work. This is about solubility of oils. Here is a simple chemistry experiment you can do at home. Take a plate of greasy bacon, eat the bacon (if you wish). Place the plate under a cold water tap and scrub with your hands, would this plate feel/look clean? Next place a little dishwashing liquid and mix with water, do not scrub. Leave for 5 minutes and rinse - would this plate feel/look clean? Try it, scrubbing is not necessary because the oil is dissolved by the detergent. Yes scrubbing will quicken the process and help distribute the product which is why hair is washed with scrubbing.

In short, shampoo is an extremely mild version of dishwashing liquid (which is why shampoo does not wash dishes well). It does contain detergents such as SLS which dissolve oils, something that plain water doesn't do. The idea behind shampoo is to remove grease and the dirt that grease attracts in low temperature water (you do not have the luxury of using hot water on your head as you would with dishes).

It is perfectly understandable that many curlies are not looking for that squeaky clean feel which shampoo is designed to give. It is also perfectly understable that for very curly hair, we would probably even add oil to hair (I do). There is a whole range of shampoos to pick from. I would recommend a visit to the beautybrains site if you are looking for the nitty gritty on what you should expect from shampoo.

TIFFANY: You do not need a harsh, detergent-based product to wash your hair; movement and agitation are extremely effective in and of themselves. Think of a washing machine: that agitator in the middle that swishes your clothes back and forth is there for a reason. Without it, your laundry detergent would be fairly ineffective, no matter how many "mountain-fresh" chemicals and surfactants are loaded in there.

If you use a decent cleansing agent once a week, even one without a surfactant of any kind, and give yourself a really good, brisk scalp massage while cleansing—using your fingertips and rubbing your scalp with a firm, energetic circular motion—you are massaging the excess sebum, dirt and debris out of your hair follicles while stimulating your sebaceous glands to maintain their proper function. The cleansing agent acts as an agent to carry that oil and debris away without damaging and drying out your hair shaft. A good cleanser should never strip your hair of the moisture and oils that keep it healthy.

I haven't used shampoo on my hair since April 2002; my hair is extremely clean and not in the least bit oily or dirty. If sulfates and the like were that mandatory to clean the hair effectively, I would not have been able to maintain not just good, but extraordinary hair health over the past 7-1/2 years.

4. Do you ever recommend soaps of any kind for use on the hair?

PERRY: No. You should not use soap on your hair. Soap can combine with naturally occurring ions in your water (Calcium and Magnesium) and form insoluble salts the will stick to your hair. These salts feel waxy, make hair look dull, and are extremely difficult to remove. When you see a ring around someone's bath tub, that's what it is, insoluble salts from their soap. You don't want that in your hair.

Now, it might be ok to use synthetic soaps for your hair but that's really no different than using shampoo.

JESS: I agree with Perry, a gentle surfactant cleanser will be better for the hair than a bar of soap.

MARSHA: I agree with Perry and Jess as well, I do not really like to use soap bars as I always feel the film (residue)! The pH of a natural soap bar tends to be alkaline and that can be hard on the cuticle. I like gentle cleansers. Some people like soaps and they should use them, but I'm not in that group.

JC: I think people will do what works best for them. I think scientifically shampoo is your best bet for cleaning hair provided there is a follow up - conditioner. However, I have seen many natural haired ladies who thoroughly advocate for castile soap and shampoo bars (many with great looking hair). There is also always the good old conditioner washing of hair. This works well for some but others can experience problems as Jess said earlier. Also some surfactants in conditioner can actually end up forming a complex with shampoo instead of being washed off and this can create build up (Yes, really I don't make this stuff up - Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, pg 205-214,1989).

TIFFANY: I know shampoo bars are all the rage these days, but I do have a few concerns about them.

Shampoo bars typically range from 8 to 10 on the pH scale, meaning they are quite alkaline. Alkaline substances will open up the hair shaft, allowing the cleansers to penetrate within the hair shaft to remove build-up. That, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing: however, it is important to remember that you are stripping your acid mantle every time you cleanse with these bars.

The acid mantle is the very fine, slightly acidic film on the scalp that acts as a barrier to keep bacteria, viruses and other contaminants or chemicals from penetrating the scalp. As an example: one of the reasons that you are instructed to color your hair when it is "dirty" instead of freshly washed is not because the color will take better on the hair shaft—it is so your acid mantle is intact and will prevent the chemical color from penetrating your scalp.

If you are cleansing with shampoo bars, you are interfering with the natural acid mantle function and leaving a very vulnerable part of yourself exposed. Your acid mantle is there for a reason and it needs to remain undisturbed as much as possible so it can do its job to keep you healthy.

Thank you, experts, for your opinions! I think we've all learned a lot from these insights.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Marini Hair Revitalizing Conditioner

(The folks at Jan Marini posted a comment to this post and rather than leaving it where not all readers will see it, I've added their additions in red to this original post. I'm grateful to them for contacting me and clarifying several bits of information that I got wrong.)

Hold on to your ringlets, boys and girls. This product is poised to be weirder than Dr. Bronner's Magic Organic Shikakai Conditioning Hair Rinse (but for entirely different reasons)!

A rep from Jan Marini asked if I'd be interested in trying the company's new product called Marini Hair Revitalizing Conditioner. I don't have to tell you how difficult it is to say no to free products. I looked up the ingredients, found nothing that violated my no-silicone-or-polyquat 11 rules, and told the rep I'd be happy to try the product and share my experience with you nice people.

Here are the ingredients, by the way:

Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Spirolac (7á-Acetylthio-3-oxo-17á-pregn-4-ene-21,17-carbolactone), Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate Ester, Steareth-100, Steareth-2, Mannan, Xanthan Gum, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben,Propylparaben, Retinol, Panthetine, Kiwi Fragrance (Parfum), Zinc PCA, Myristoyl Tetrapeptide-12, Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Japanese Green Tea Extract, Hydrolyzed Oat Protein, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Niacinamide

Perhaps you stopped to pause at "Spirolac." I know I did. I had no idea what it was, and although it sounded like spirulina, which is a health food supplement, a quick look around the Interwebs told me that the last place I'd find Spirolac was in a health food store.

In a nutshell, Spirolac is spironolactone, which has been linked to cancer, according to Jan Marini's product specs. Spironolactone, primarily a blood-pressure medicine and a diuretic, is also prescribed for women who suffer from hair loss. According to Hair Site, Spironolactone "works as an antiandrogen by decreasing the production of testosterone by the adrenal glands and by preventing DHT from binding to its androgenic receptor. Some have suggested that Spironolactone can bond to the hair follicles before DHT can bind to the receptor." For this reason, it is not prescribed for men, although it is used topically to treat male-pattern baldness. It is a common component in hormone therapy for male-to-female transsexual and transgender people.

Okay, so we've got a product here that contains a topical application (something that's best used to treat male pattern baldness) of a substance that the company warns might give you cancer. Hmmm. An auspicious beginning.

When the rep wrote me, she stated: "I’d like to introduce you to a recent Jan Marini product release that immediately and dramatically improves the appearance of aging, thinning and environmentally and chemically damaged hair, and gives it renewed body and bounce! Marini Hair Revitalizing Conditioner, already a favorite of Hollywood hairstylists and their clients, immediately makes the hair softer and more manageable. Over time, the hair will appear significantly thicker, fuller, lusher and dense and results will become progressively more pronounced.

Marini Hair features the same proprietary peptide ingredient contained in our hugely popular cosmetic eyelash enhancement product, Marini Lash Eyelash Conditioner."

Is the "proprietary peptide ingredient" Spirulac? Nothing in my research refers to either Spirulac or Spironolactone as peptides. But tetrapeptide-12 and pentapeptide-17 are peptides. And from what I can find about peptides, they're nice additions to skin care products (they stimulate cell metabolism and protect against UVB damage) but they won't stimulate hair growth. More on this in a moment. (Jan Marini says: "Actually, peptides perform multiple functions, including hair and lash enhancement to promote the appearance of lusher, fuller, thicker hair and lashes.")

And maybe that's okay, because Jan Marini Revitalizing Conditioner isn't necessarily promising to stimulate hair growth. It is only saying that it will make hair "thicker, fuller, lusher and dense."

This is where product copy gets really fun. I know because I used to write it. There are distinct and specific boundaries that personal care product claims must stay within in order for them to meet FDA labeling regulations for cosmetics. You'll notice that no cosmetic ever says it will absolutely cure something -- that's because it can't and technically, only a drug can cure something. So, cosmetic companies have to be careful about their claims. (Things are a little different for the class of products called cosmeceuticals, but we don't have time to talk about that now.)

But wait. There's more.

Jan Marini debuted a mascara called Marini Lash (which is what the rep referenced in her email to me) in 2005 and it was met with tons of accolades because it promised to make lashes lusher -- and apparently delivered on that promise. It used peptides that an early study showed to stimulate hair growth at the follicle. Hence, eyelash hair would ostensibly grow thicker and fuller. (I have not tried this mascara, mostly because, as you can see at Amazon, it sells for anywhere between $68 to $105 dollars. Working girls like me will stick with the L'Oreal Lash Out, thanks ever so. For a good review and highly scientific explanation of how Marini Lash works, visit Let me know if it makes any sense to you if you are of a scientific bent.) ( From Jan Marini: "While we do make a Marini Mascara with the same proprietary peptide ingredient found in Marini Lash, the product that we sent you and which was reviewed was indeed Marini Lash, a clear-liquid lash enhancement product that is applied like an eyeliner.")

But here's the thing: the original formula of Marini Lash had to be taken off the market , and many believe it was because the subsequent studies of its primary ingredient -- a drug called latanoprost -- could not duplicate the initial findings of it as an eyelash growth stimulator. (From Jan Marini: "Peptides were not in the original formula. The key ingredient was “bimatoprost,” not "latanoprost".)

Um, I thought it was the peptides that made the hair grow? Nope, I guess not. I'm so confused.

Well, so as not to disappoint customers who were clamoring for the stuff -- which may or may not have actually made their lashes thicker and lusher -- the company put out a new version of it, sans the latanoprost. That's probably when the Spirolac was substituted. (From Jan Marini: "Marini Lash never contained Spirolac. Marini Hair contains Spirolac. Rather, the new Marini Lash contains a proprietary peptide blend, which in combination with other essential factors, produces extraordinary eyelash and brow enhancement.")

And here's another piece of weirdness: the rep's email said what I've disclosed above, but the the product bottle itself makes NO CLAIMS WHATSOEVER. I mean none. Every other product I've ever used on my hair addresses somewhere on the bottle or jar what I might expect from it. Luster, fullness, body, shine, elimination of life's little toxicities, whatever. But this one says nothing. The box that the bottle came in reads exactly the same as the bottle. The little insert that came in the box, however, says this:

Marini Hair Revitalizing Conditioner is a remarkable formula that targets thinning and aging hair. Now you can experience vibrant, lusher, fuller and younger looking hair.

Marini Hair Revitalizing Conditioner is not intended to stop, prevent, cure, relieve, reverse or reduce hair loss or to promote the growth of hair.

Isn't it funny that both claim and disclaimer are on an insert and not on the product itself? I don't want to accuse Jan Marini of anything underhanded, but the placement of that information raises some questions, in my mind. The box and bottle both say "patent pending" so maybe there are some issues caught up in that process.

The rep said she hoped I would use the product for 3 months to experience the full effects of it. I haven't done that, but I have used it for about a month, fairly religiously. I don't see much going on but I am so skeptical, I doubt I'll continue using it. I mean, the product doesn't claim to do anything, it costs a fortune, and an insert tells me my hair will be lusher and fuller but that I shouldn't expect a reduction in hair loss or the growth of new hair.

So, then, isn't this just a volumizing conditioner?

I do want to say that Jan Marini is highly respected and has been around since 1994. I don't believe the company is trying to be sneaky. More than likely, they encountered some resistance from the FDA and have had to reposition the product, and as as result, the mixed messages compromise the product's identity and allure. As you can see from the website, Ms. Marini, the founder, has a lot of celebrity endorsements (and all from people who look pretty damn good). Jan Marini Skin Research makes products that address the usual skin care problems, such as acne and rosacea. (It also markets a line of professional and clinical products that are available only by prescription.) The company's products are sold through distributors in more than 80 countries worldwide and directly to physicians and licensed skin care professionals. Major competitors are Clarins, Estee Lauder, and Kiehl's -- so we're looking at a very upscale product line here.

I also want to say a genuine "thank you" to the rep who sent this product to me. I'm not being sarcastic. As an author, I know what it's like to send out my "product" (at my expense) to a reviewer who may ultimately trash it publicly. It's a nasty fact of life that when you open yourself up to public scrutiny, you expose yourself to potential humiliation and criticism as well as appreciation and applause. I appreciate this opportunity to review the product and am flattered that the company took a risk on me.

I could have been polite and just said that it was a cool product and that you should buy it. But that wouldn't have been honest. And I'm not saying the product is bad -- as a conditioner, it's certainly fine. And as a weird product, it most certainly qualifies.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Best hair advice ever

I'm a no-bullshit kind of gal, which will come as no surprise to you if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time. I love girly stuff, and I love the idea of creating illusions with hair/makeup/accessories, but I don't really have much tolerance for legerdemain where hair products are concerned. Do not lie to me, is basically my mantra. And I would wager that many of you feel the same way.

And that's why I loved this recent post by Paula Begoun that tells it like it is about hair and hair products. I sometimes lose patience with folks obsessed with hair care (yeah, yeah, guilty as charged!) to the point where they opt for marketing hype or some kind of emotional attachment over fact or science. Some people want to believe that something is good for their hair even when all evidence -- including the product's performance on their own hair! -- points to the contrary. They want to believe that natural products are somehow superior or they want to believe that expensive products are preferable to the ones in the drugstore. And nothing will convince them otherwise.

If you secretly know that you might be one of these types of people, do read Paula's post. And then read the post by my friends at The Beauty Brains about natural products.

I suspect I will take heat for this post. I can already see the comments: "All I know is that my hair does better with natural products." "My scalp breaks out when I use drugstore conditioners." "Cheap products make my hair feel like crap." To these comments, I would counter: "What is natural about your products? Is it the absence of parabens? The lack of anything you cannot pronounce? Has your scalp ever broken out from something not sold in a drugstore (and if not, how do you know that it wouldn't?)? Is it possible that some expensive products could also make your hair feel like crap?"

What I'm getting at is that we all want to feel pampered and special, and we want to believe that our product choices are informed and reflective of our self-respect. But the facts are no secret: there really is not a huge amount of difference among products. Yes, there will be ingredients that some hair likes more than others -- no question about it. But are those differences reflective of the retail price of that product? Over and over, I read that they aren't.

My hair has its preferences, and yours does, too. But it seems to be a question of ingredients, not price.

Time for a bob, methinks

Most of my life, I've kept my hair length above my shoulders. One reason was that my parents were always insistent that I looked better with short hair because "it showed my face." (To a self-conscious kid like I was, this was precisely the wrong reason to give for keeping hair short.)

But beautiful hair was long, I convinced myself. So, a few times during my five decades of life, I tried growing my hair past my shoulders and every time, I ended up cutting it because it was just too much hair for me. (I don't have thick hair but I do seem to have a lot of it.) I am now at that point where I officially feel (and look) like a troll. Too much hair, not enough Jillipoo.

My hair is about an inch longer than you see in this photo:

It's a good photo but doesn't give the perspective of hair to person. I also think that my hair is dragging down my face. And when you're my age, that is definitely not a good thing.

Here are a couple of the looks I'll be showing my stylist next week. Do you have a favorite? I think they're all basically the same -- only the lengths vary a bit.

I think my favorite might be this one. I like the slightly asymmetric style.

But this look is fabulous, too, except that maybe it looks great because it's blond (and you can see the curls better) and because anything looks cute on Meg Ryan:

And this one is great but I am uncertain whether the angle is too much for me. But I really like it on this model.

This hair is very similar to mine, so I'm drawn to it probably because I like having a hair twin...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Premature Evacuation

So, it's Wednesday and normally that would mean it's time for a Weird Product post, but I've been foiled in this pursuit by a phenomenon I will call "premature evacuation."

Premature evacuation is what happens when you buy a hair product, give it few tries, determine it isn't right for you, get rid of it, and then suddenly regret its absence. You think of several ways you could have used the product but didn't. Or you read about inventive ways that others used it that you wished you had tried. Bottom line: you wish you still had the product so you could experiment a bit more.

That's what happened to me with Curl Junkie's Aloe Fix Gel. I got a little sample of it and thought it showed some promise. So I bought a jar of it. Used it a few times and never was able to repeat those initial good results. In fact, every subsequent time I used it, my hair got a little uglier. Frizz, limpness, general yuckiness. A couple of weeks after purchasing it, I swapped it at NaturallyCurly for some of my beloved Kinky Curly Curling Custard.

And I was going to write about it for Weird Product Wednesday -- until I started reading that I should have tried using it on dry hair instead of wet. Or that it works if you apply it to your hair before bedtime. Or use it without a leave-in conditioner. Or use it only with leave-in. Or apply it only to the ends of your hair.

So now I feel like I can't cast any aspersions on this product whatsoever because I failed to use it every possible which way known to humankind. Even Marsha herself (owner of Curl Junkie) gives some tips on her blog that I didn't try.

Therefore, due to premature evacuation, I will not be featuring a Weird Product this Wednesday. What a loser I am.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Crazy name, crazy story

I've got samples to give away of a product with possibly the dumbest name on the planet: Curl Gel-les'c. Have we really run the gamut of nomenclature when we have to resort to hyphens and apostrophes in a product name? Yikes.

It's billed as "not quite a gel, not quite a serum." It has fans as well as detractors, as does every product for curly hair. But I can't use this product because it has Polyquaternium 11 in it, and that ingredient makes my hair throw up. Here's the full ingredient list:

Ingredients: Purified Water, Polyquaternium-11, Sorbitol, Certified Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Polyquaternium-37, Vegetable Glycerin, Certified Organic Coconut Milk ( Cocos Nucifera Fruit Juice), Certified Organic Linden Seed Oil ( Tilia Cordata Flower Extract), Certified Organic Flaxseed Oil ( Linum Usitatissimum Seed Oil, Certified Organic Chamoile Extract (Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract) Certified Organic Rosemary Extract (Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract), Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol

To win these samples, you must post a comment with the funniest hair story you've got. I figure a product with a crazy name needs to go to a curly with a crazy hair story. I want to laugh BIG, people, not just an "isn't that cute" kind of story. If we chuckle hard enough, maybe we can forget about how bloody hot it is out there! I will choose the winner by September 7.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: John Masters Organics Citrus and Neroli Detangler

It is possible to like a weird product. Take KCCC, for instance. Same is true for John Masters Organics Citrus and Neroli Detangler.

The difference, however, is that I will buy KCCC over and over again because the weirdness is goofy and lovable. Silly, even. But the factors that make me like Citrus and Neroli Detangler are distinctly separate from the reasons I won't repurchase it.

The Good
What a lovely aroma! I am unfamiliar with neroli but if it's the vaguely flowery/creamy scent that melds so deliciously with the subtle citrus, call me a fan. It's not overwhelming in the slightest way and is feminine without being cloying. A+ on scent.

Terrific ingredients. Specifically:
Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera leaf juice) gel,* aqua (water), behentrimonium methosulfate, cetearyl alcohol, panthenol (vitamin B5), hydrolyzed soy protein, wheat amino acids, sorbitol, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil,* cocos nucifera (coconut) oil,* helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil,* lecithin, tocopherol, glycerin, citric acid, citrus mentha piperita (peppermint) leaf oil,* rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil,* rosa damascena (rose) flower oil,* pelargonium graveolens?(geranium) flower oil,* mentha spicata (spearmint) leaf oil,* nardostachys jatamansi (spikenard) leaf oil,*sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, arnica montana (arnica) flower extract,* camellia sinensis (white tea) leaf extract,* chamomilla recutica (chamomile) flower extract,* calendula officinalis (calendula) flower extract,* equisetum hiemale (horsetail) leaf/stem extract,* foeniculum vulgare (fennel) seed extract,* lonicera caprifolium (honeysuckle) flower extract, linum usitatissimum (flaxseed) seed oil,* borago officinalis (borage) seed oil,* sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid), sulfur *

(I have bolded all the ingredients that my hair likes. Your hair might have different affinities.)

So, I was all set to be enamored with this product. And yes, I did like it. So did my hair.

The Bad
The stuff retails for $16. You get 8 ounces, which works out to be $2 an ounce. Not exorbitant, but not what you could call a bargain. The real problem, though, was that I got about 10 applications from this bottle. Maybe 12. If I conditioned my hair every day, I'd be running to the store for more conditioner in less than 2 weeks. (That is, if I didn't have 15 other bottles of various conditioners in my bathroom right now.)

My hair slurped this potion right up. I found I needed a lot of it to get any slip (or "squish factor" as my pal Del calls it), and although it feels very luxurious in my palms and my hair, I was appalled by how much I needed to work it through my hair in the shower. I would have thought the behentrimonium methosulfate would have provided the slip I like, but it didn't seem to.

It's weird to me that this is marketed as a detangler. Tangling, for me, is one of the few hair problems I've been spared, but I'm thinking that for those who do need something to combat that situation, Citrus and Neroli Detangler doesn't seem like it would be up to the task. I take that back -- it would do the job as long as the user didn't mind going through a couple of bottles a month. (Maybe this product should be packaged like AfroDetangler....)

The Ugly
The crying shame of such a lovely product being too expensive to consider for regular use. A damn ugly shame.

What do you think? If you've used this, did you have to use a ton of it, too? Or is my hair proving once again that it is a demanding beast?