Friday, January 30, 2009

Same head, different day

Aside from the fact that a clear and accurate photo of my hair is a rare thing indeed, I offer the following two pictures, taken the same week, to show the unpredictable variations in curl I am forced to endure.

So here we have my hair with KBB milk as conditioner, KBB nectar as leave-in, Donna Marie Aloe and Honey Curling Jelly, and Fuzzy Duck gel. In real life, it looked curly. In this photo, however, it does not. But notice the length -- it's pretty long for me. For me to use this many products with glycerin in them, the dew point had to have been in the mid to upper 40s. On this day, it was 48.

I like that there is virtually no frizz but I am still baffled by why in real life, the curls were more pronounced, whereas in this picture, they just look wavy. Does anybody else have this happen to them? Or am I just delusional when I look in the mirror?

This photo was taken yesterday -- and it is Day Two hair of the following combo: EO Rose and Chamomile conditioner and then more added as leave-in, KCCC, and Fuzzy Duck gel. Dew point was 40ish. It's curlier, for sure, but it's also not as smooth (there is a little frizz). Note, too, how much length I've lost and how much volume I've gained. (It's okay, really -- I kind of like big hair.) Funny, what curls do.

Notice, too, what a dork I am with a camera.

So isn't it odd that humectants on a moist day did not make my hair as curly as products with fewer humectants on a drier day? Or is it just that EO Rose and Chamomile ROCKS?

And wouldn't it be a regular laugh riot if the reason for the difference is something completely unrelated to glycerin and moisture levels? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. Hysterical.

Sally Beauty Supply, you suck

The buzz on the forums at is lately around Lustrasilk. It's cheap and it seems to be really working well for people. So, I thought I'd give it a shot.

Three Walgreen's later, I figured I'd just bite the bullet and visit Sally Beauty Supply, whose website indicates they have it. (I refuse to give Sally a link.) I was on the road for my job yesterday and so had the opportunity to visit two cities (both of which had Sallys) to assist in my quest.

Called the one in Concord, where a young and mildly disinterested person told me they carried Lustrasilk but not the olive oil version. I then called the other one and they didn't even answer their phone. As far as I know, yesterday was not a beauty holiday.

So, when I got home, I had time to check out the Sally's here in San Francisco. I phoned. Much to my horror, I got the same Russian-as-a-first-language sales associate I got when I phoned Sally's last year to inquire about Biotera. The conversation inevitably goes like this:

"Hi, do you carry [fill in the blank]?"


"[product name]. Do you sell it, please?"

"[repeats product name in a barely recognizable way]. I don't know. I'll check."

Sixty seconds later she returns to the phone. "No, we don't have it."

Now, yes, I could have driven over there to confirm (especially since months after the idiot told me they didn't have Biotera, I saw it in their store), but I am disgusted with Sally Beauty Supply and so despite the shipping costs, I went home and ordered it on Amazon.

(Also about a year ago, I wanted to buy something else there. The website said the store was open until 7:00 so I went directly there after work. When I arrived at 6:40, I was greeted by a locked door and a sign that said their hours were 10:00 to 6:00. I honestly believe this store exists to annoy as many people as possible. I don't think that's good for beauty.)

I'll keep you posted on the Lusatrasilk results. Meanwhile, I spit on you, Sally Beauty Supply!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Panthenol

Oh, all right. So it isn't a product. But it's in just about every product. So what is it, anyway?

From Wikipedia:

Panthenol is the alcohol analog of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and is thus the provitamin of B5. In organisms it is quickly oxidized to pantothenate. Panthenol is a highly viscous transparent liquid at room temperature, but salts of pantothenic acid (for example sodium pantothenate) are powders (typically white). It is well soluble in water, alcohol and propylene glycol, soluble in ether and chloroform, and slightly soluble in glycerin.

In cosmetics, panthenol is a humectant, emollient and moisturizer. It binds to hair follicles readily[citation needed] and is a frequent component of shampoos and hair conditioners (in concentrations of 0.1-1%). It coats the hair and seals its surface[citation needed], lubricating follicles and making strands appear shiny[citation needed].

Now, the first thing that's striking about this is the same thing that's striking about vitamins and minerals that we eat: substances don't usually act alone. They frequently do something/work better with a leg up from something else. (Like, take calcium. Alone, it doesn't do much, but combine it with Vitamin D and both are absorbed well by the body.) But I digress. My point is that when you look at what it's soluble in -- water, alcohol, and propylene glycol -- you suddenly realize that a product containing panthenol will, ipso facto, be likely to contain glycerin in order to free it from its viscous state.

Damn it, I wish I were a scientist. I feel like there's a whole bunch of secret hair knowledge that would be unlocked if I just knew how ingredients interacted.

So, based on that Wikipedia definition, we basically see that panthenol is yet ingredient that acts to smooth things out in Hairville. And it attracts moisture.

And here's more interesting stuff about panthenol, although this time the source is not exceptionally reputable (JMS Beauty Supply!): Panthenol is a small molecule that can penetrate the epidermis and dermis, the papilla and shaft of the hair, and the upper layers of the fingernails. Panthenol moisturizes both hair and skin. Panthenol repairs damaged hair, makes hair more manageable, thickens hair by up to 10 percent, and imparts lustre of the hair. (Bolding is mine.)

Based on what I know about hair (which admittedly would fill a hair shaft), there is no way to "repair" hair other than feeding it protein to fill in "holes" that sometimes result from chemical treatments. The best you can really do is to moisturize to mitigate damage (the equivalent of a band-aid). Are we to believe that panethenol is a protein, then? No -- I looked at many definitions of panthenol and none of them say it's a protein.

Thickening the hair also makes us wonder whether this substance is a relative of protein. We know it's not a silicone but what an oddity that something could add that much thickness to hair.

Then again, if this substance started out viscous, is cut with propylene glycol (sometimes), and tends to adhere to hair, I guess that results in thickness. Is that good? If your hair is thin and coarse, then yes! If your hair doesn't need to be any fatter and isn't all that damaged, maybe you'll have a problem with it.

Pantene gets credit for making panthenol a household name of sorts -- it is named after that ingredient. Actually, the substance is called by many names, strangely enough, there isn't much evidence to show that panthenol really has measurable benefits to your hair. (Those venerable smart chicks at The Beauty Brains referenced Procter & Gamble's attempt to extol the virtues of panthenol, but P&G has since pulled the page and hasn't replaced it with anything new. Interesting, no?) As with so many products and their ingredients, the benefits are understood and appreciated primarily by the user of the product. In other words, if you like what panthenol does for your hair, you probably don't care that it is masking your hair's flaws rather than actually fixing them.

As long as we consumers of hair products understand that that's how the beauty industry works, all is well. But it's when we start believing the claims that hair can actually be physically altered and improved that the trouble begins. Hair products exist mostly to dupe us and those who look at us into thinking that we possess the bare minimum of flaws.

Hey, we do it with makeup. Why not hair products, too?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Got an iPhone? Get a hair salon!

I downloaded this app for my iPhone on Sunday, and let's just say that I've lost comparative interest in my *real* hair.... I'd rather serve my "customers" and grow my "business!" This game is so much fun!

Uh oh. Does this mean I'm a geek?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Non-hair: Suds you'll love

Hair care is not the only thing that goes on in your shower. At least, I hope it's not. Those of us who are CG avoid lather on our heads, but we're not generally opposed to it on our bodies. And boy, have I got a resource for you.

I discovered Savor Soap about six months ago when I was at Etsy searching for something else entirely (can't even remember what). The love affair began instantly.

Obviously, the photography is irresistible. Even if you don't want to suds up with these fascinating creations, surely you want to take a bite out of them. But don't -- this soap doesn't contain any SLS/SLES (them's is sulfates, by the way), propylene glycol (a petroleum product), or parabens, and it is vegan, but it's still not very tasty (or healthy for the digestion).

The brains behind this charming operation is a woman with a passion for food that she translates into soapmaking. This connection explains why so many of her concoctions are named after edibles: Creme Brulee, Raspberry Walnut Panna Cotta, Mmm Pie.... And unlike so many scented cleansing products, these are not overbearing. They are just remarkable.

I started out loving the soaps but because I have always preferred creams and gels in the shower, I gravitate more toward her creme fraiche products now (pictured here). They come in a jar and are creamy, often whipped-like, versions of her soaps. Absolutely delectable.

And she's having a little promotion until late tonight: order anything and she'll throw in a sample of one of her newest creations! Just put JanNews in the comment field of your order and she'll toss one in. By the way, the only way to do business with Savor is to use PayPal.

Don't forget to check out the body scrubs -- they are unforgettable!

Curly brains

I had planned to write about hair porosity. I had also planned to write about dew points.

And then a couple of smarty-pants bloggers beat me to it. And dang if they didn't do great jobs, to boot!

Tiffany's latest blog post is a MUST READ for any curly. If you've been baffled by what your hair needs and the product junkie in you has been taking blind stabs at potentially magic potions, you will learn how to kick that habit when you read what she writes about the role of porosity in determining what to feed your hair.

Meanwhile, PittsburghCurly provides a fabulous summary of the dew point phenomenon. It seems like I'm always talking about this topic when I'm at and maybe people think I'm obsessed with it. (Can you imagine? What a preposterous notion.) But it is so important to get the connection between dew point and your hair's needs, and I'm so glad PittsburghCurly has crafted such a great reference post. And I like that she called me a hair geek.

If you read both these posts, you will know 90% of what you need to know to keep your hair looking great.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Jane Carter Condition & Sculpt

Here we have another contender in the "I'm not sure what it's supposed to do but maybe it'll do something I didn't know I needed" category.

Just so you know what we're dealing with, here is the description of this product, taken directly from the Jane Carter Solution website: "Condition & Sculpt is a liquid sculpting lotion that is ideal for taming unruly curls. Perfect for wash and wear curly hair and curly weaves. Use a little for light hold and a lot for maximum hold. Condition & Sculpt smoothes the hair’s cuticle, providing phenomenal shine. It is a terrific product for all hair textures, and is great for those "ponytail" days!"

Well, you're thinking, sounds like a liquid with conditioning as well as holding qualities. What's the mystery?

The mystery, my friends, is that there are no conditioning properties of any real substance and the stuff doesn't hold worth a damn. Check out the ingredient label:

Deionized water, Anthemis Noblis Flower (Camomile), Symphytum Officinal Leaf (Comfrey), Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail), Urtica Dioica (Nettle), Rosemarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf, Humulus Lupulus (Hops), Lawsonia Inermis (Henna), Certified Organic Essential Oils: Lemon, Vanilla extract, Panthenol, Polyquaternum 11, Phenoxyethanol.

Herbs are lovely but when the first three ingredients sound more like something I'd drink than put in my hair, I have to wonder where the efficacy might lie. Horsetail is supposed to strengthen hair, and I haven't done enough hands-on research to know whether that's true, although I had a friend who swore by Mane 'N Tail. Nettle is often added to natural hair products because it supposedly adds shine (although the claims for nettle have been ranging from shine to body to even prevention of hair loss, which sounds like a bit of a stretch for a lowly little herb, don't you think?). And then we've got rosemary, another fairly innocuous addition from nature that I don't believe my hair has ever once craved.

We are now halfway through the ingredient list, which means that what we've already seen is present in higher proportions than anything that follows it. In other words, you got a whole lotta herbs, baby. And I have seen precious little research to indicate that herbs make a big difference in hair. (By all means, correct me if I'm wrong. I have a day job and so I don't research as much as I would if I had more free time.)

At the end of the list are the items many of us will recognize from other hair products we own: essential oil (lemon, which is cleansing/healing but a little astringent), panthenol (emollient/moisturizer with humectant qualities), and one of my least favorite ingredients, polyquarternium-11. (Why I dislike it: it tends to straighten my hair, make it feel artificial, and it builds up on me like crazy. Phooey.)

So, why did I buy this product? Because several people on the discussion boards at gave it a thumbs-up! One woman even said that she used it in the same manner that one would use Rockin' Ringlets or Curl Keeper -- as a kind of clumping agent. I only had about 6 months of CG under my belt and was still randomly trying products, hoping for miracles. I figured I'd try Condition & Sculpt.

It kinda almost sorta worked like a clumping agent for me. Especially if you count lifeless pieces of wavy hair as clumps.

I'm being harsh. It wasn't that bad. But it certainly wasn't good. My hair felt dry and had no bounce. Plus, the smell was a cross between medicinal and antiseptic. I shudder to think how bad it might have smelled without that lemon oil...

So, I tried mixing it with other products, thinking maybe it would enhance the performance of some of them. I tried it with Paul Brown Gelatine Goo and really liked it, but only the first time. It never worked very well alone or in conjunction with another product.

But now, let's get back to that product description. It says it's "great for those 'ponytail' days." Little did you know that Condition & Sculpt is what to buy if you want a ponytail day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

When you can't be curly

Yes, there are days when I am not reveling in my curls. Shocking, I know.

I was checking out this blog post about a French braid headband (very cool but I don't think I could ever do this myself because it's just too complicated and I'm just too lazy) and I got to thinking about how I don't let my curls curl every day. I have not straightened my hair since July 2007, but I have done other things with it that did not exactly encourage curls.

When I visit my hair stylist, for example, I usually ask for a French braid. I do this because my stylist just really isn't very good at working with my curls. No matter how many times I ask her not to excessively handle my hair during the drying process, she can't keep her mitts out of my hair. And I always end up looking electrocuted. So, I ask her to French braid it. It's my way of sidestepping the whole problem -- I leave looking pretty and she doesn't have to humiliate herself once again by showing that she still doesn't understand how to blow-dry curly hair. I think it looks so pretty when it's done and it lasts me a couple of days. I rarely do this myself though, mostly because of the afore-mentioned laziness.

In between visits to the hair salon, I can't do the French braid thing and so I have come up with other solutions. My hair is not really long enough for a decent ponytail but I do like to wear it up on occasion, so I have a couple of hairpieces I turn to now and again. Like this one. People at work think I spend hours straightening my hair and putting it up when I wear this. I think a little mystery is a good thing.

I've got this sort of glamorous one, a long curly ponytail, and a shorter, wavy ponytail. (One of the cool things about having 3a hair is that all of these curl patterns represent viable options for my real hair -- that's how variable my hair is.) They give me a whole different look without having to damage my hair (or wait for it to grow!). I would send you to to buy these hairpieces, but my most recent experiences with the company have been downright poor, so I don't recommend them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dear Lorraine Massey

There's no question that author Lorraine Massey started a curly-hair movement that's not only proven to make hair healthier but also to make it look better. But I can't help but feel her book, Curly Girl, has given us just enough information to be dangerous -- and frustrated. So, Lorraine, if you're out there, please read on:

Dear Lorraine Massey,

First, a big "thank you" for your book and your philosophy of curly hair care. My hair has never looked better!

I see that you are very busy launching new salons and products and so you probably won't have time to read this letter, but I thought I'd try anyway because you seem like a genuinely nice person who wants to help people feel better about themselves.

The big question on every curly's mind is: Why don't you update your book?

Perhaps you feel an update is not necessary. But surely it must be, if for no other reason than the fact that Curly Girl tells us to avoid silicones -- and yet Deva Curl products contain them. I would think you'd want to explain this glaring contradiction and yet you are amazingly silent on this point. Would the science only serve to confuse us? The silence confuses us more.

I mean, you don't even have a Web site or a blog where you talk about this. What's up with that?

Now, I am a writer myself and I know that the publishing industry sucks and that book royalties aren't even enough to keep a cat in kitty litter, so maybe you're just trying to steer clear of the broken industry known as publishing. Okay, I can accept that. But I also know your book is doing a hell of a lot better than mine, so maybe an update could prove lucrative, after all.

If, since your book came out in 2002, advances in cosmetic science have resulted in silicones that don't smother hair or require sulfates to remove them, we'd love it if you'd tell us. If you're waiting for the beauty industry to explain this to us, I think we all know that's pretty unlikely. The beauty industry wants us to be as ignorant as possible so we'll keep grasping for the latest new product, hoping it will be our Holy Grail. They get richer while we remain desperate yet eternally hopeful.

And really, if I wasn't so grateful for your book, I'd suspect that you've joined the industry in this mercenary approach to customer attention. A steady stream of new products come out under your label, but where is the real outreach to us? I was under the impression that the only way to reach you was to hand over the equivalent of a mortgage payment for a haircut from you -- but now I've heard that you don't even cut hair anymore! Is this true? We need to hear from you!

Your book is great but let's face it, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered:

1. I'm a Botticelli type. So now what? How should that categorization affect how I care for my hair?

2. The book says leave-ins are a waste of time (page 49). Yet B'Leave In is among the products in your DevaCurl line. Can you explain this discrepancy?

3. You're kidding with those clipping photos, right? Have they helped anybody figure out how to clip their hair? How about posting some videos? We know you know how to do videos -- there are several (entertaining) ones out there promoting your products. Please help us!

4. Why are there silicones in your products?

5. The book doesn't make any mention of the fact that terrycloth towels rough up the cuticle, a fact that you mention in various interviews after the book came out. This is an important point but nobody will get it unless they take the time to do research above and beyond what's in the book.

It's hard for any nonfiction book to stay relevant and accurate, but that's where the Internet can fill the gaps. So, if you can't or won't update your book, won't you please consider blogging at the very least? We're hungry for information out here in Curlyland.

Keepin, the curly faith,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Wen Hair Care

If you spend any time in front of your television, and if the channel miraculously finds its way to QVC, perhaps you've seen the glamorous and persuasive informercial for the line of hair care products called Wen.

Now, normally on Weird Product Wednesdays, I like to feature a product I have used. But I'm making an exception this week, because it's the marketing and ingredient list of this product line that is weird to me. I have no first-hand experience with it -- and soon you will know why.

So, one morning as I ate my yogurt and muesli before work, I was channel surfing and saw the ad for this new line. Some celebrity was shilling it; Melissa Gilbert, I believe. Because it was a hair product, it immediately grabbed my attention. And then when they started condemning shampoo and talking about unnecessary it was, I settled in to hear more.

As with any marketing schtik worth its salt, you don't just buy one product -- you buy a whole line of them. Cleansing Conditioner, Styling Creme, Re Moist Intensive, Texture Balm, and oooooh, they throw in a comb. At no point, though, do they tell you what's in the products beyond the pretty stuff like almond oil and herbs. But they spend lots of time telling you how bad sulfates and detergents are, so if you're CG, you keep watching.

I waited until the end of the program, and then went to the company's Web site, in search of an ingredient list. I also went to the discussion boards at to see if anybody there had used this product line. Not many had (this was last summer). And then I found the ingredient lists.

Holy "Cone"heads, Batman!

The Cleansing Conditioner is not too terrible for CGers, but it does contain amodimethicone, which hardcore types like me would want to avoid:

Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Bark Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hydrolyzed Wheat, Protein, Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Polysorbate 60, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Amodimethicone, Citric Acid, Menthol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Fragrance (Parfum, Limonene.

But let's face it... There's nothing in that list that's especially wonderful or that you couldn't find in other conditioners. (Plus, it has too much glycerin for my finicky hair.) Next, the Styling Creme:

Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclotetrasiloxane, Phenyl Trimethicone, Polyacrylamide, Dimethiconol, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7, Panthenol, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Butylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Benzoic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum), Citral, Citronellol, Hydroxycitronellal, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Linalool.

Hear that siren in the background? It's the silicone police! And these are not the lightweight kinds of silicone -- they are the heavy hitters, people. Only the very cleansers that Chaz Dean and company steer clear of are the substances that will remove what's in this product. Is that crazy or what?

The Hair Repair Mask seems okay except for a little amodimethicone:

Water (Aqua), Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol,Glyceri, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Bark Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Gardenia Tahitensis Flower, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Amodimethicone, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Polysorbate 60, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Citric Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Menthol, Fragrance (Parfum), Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Annatto (CI 75120).

But you'll probably want to step away from the Texture Balm:

Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Cyclopentasiloxane, Beeswax, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Paraffin, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Sorbitan Oleate, Propylparaben, Canola Oil Glyceride, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Citric Acid, TBHQ, Propylene Glycol, Fragrance (Parfum), Citronellol, Coumarin, Eugenol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool.

The Texture Balm also contains castor oil, a viscous oil that some folks find very difficult to remove, even with shampoo. The hydrogenation process may make it less onerous but it's still an issue for many curlies.

It's weird that a product line based on the notion that traditional shampoo is damaging would offer up potions that need shampoo to remove it from the hair.

Have you used this stuff? What did you think of it?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The first annual Curl Product Awards!

Yes, I totally made up this award about five minutes ago and if you're wondering when the ceremony took place, don't rack your brain too long -- it did not happen in anybody's reality but my own.

Before I disclose the winners, let me tell you what the criteria was for my completely subjective selections:

* At least two products in the line have very much impressed me and made my hair all pretty-like
* An affordable and reasonable price
* Must be CG-friendly


Too Shea and Aloeba are two of the very best conditioners I've ever used. Too Shea is ideal for the winter, and Aloeba is great year-round (also makes a fantastic leave-in). Jessicurl would have scored in first or second place were it not for the magnesium sulfate in the Confident Coils and Rockin' Ringlets (which I do still use once every week or two). (There is nothing inherently wrong with magnesium sulfate -- it just doesn't agree with my hair.) Jessicurl's Weekly Deep Conditioning Treatment is a huge favorite at and although I liked it at first, over time I found that it was really too much for my hair. If I ever needed a deep treatment, though, I would still opt for this one. There is no junk in Jessicurl products and they do what they say they will do. Nice.


Although this line is technically designed for thicker, curlier hair than mine, I have had very good success with their products. The Curling Custard, though challenging to figure out, gives me defined curls that don't look fake and untouchable. Plus, I love the smell. The Knot Today Leave-in is also a mighty fine product, although I prefer more protein and fatty acids in my daily conditioners (they call it a leave-in, though, so I can't take issue with the lack of oomph). Sometime in the coming months, I plan to try the Gloss Pomade and the Spiral Spritz because I've heard raves about both. Here, too, the products don't claim to be one thing yet deliver something else. They don't waste time on fillers and they just get the job done.

Donna Marie
A relative newcomer to my world, this is yet another line that is clearly small and intended for thicker, curlier hair. With this in mind, I use less than the package directions say. I've been using the Lock and Twist after my leave-in for several weeks now and I really like it. It's got some flax seed in it for clumping but the aloe and the butters and oils give thirsty hair a good drink without weighing it down. Not the best smelling product but such is the case with products containing flax seed. You sniff and bear it. Also, I have used Cocoa Hemp Hair Buttercream and have liked it, too (although because of the glycerin, it is not the best in low dew points). The smell of this makes up for the smell of Lock & Twist. No fillers, no mineral oils masquerading as "fruit oils" as some companies who shall remain nameless have taken to doing. These folks also ship quickly, which is an added bonus. (I just ordered the Honey and Aloe Curling Jelly, which should arrive next week. I have high hopes for that product, and it just may be the item that moves this line out of Runner-Up status.)

And now.... for the WINNERS!


Karen's Body Beautiful. It was a close call between this line and Donna Marie, but ultimately, it was the variety of scents and the curly-targeted products that pushed them into the winner category for me. If you cannot find a scent you like from Karen, there is something seriously wrong with your smeller. Let's see, where to start with the products. Hair Milk is a lovely conditioner that's rich without being heavy. Although I don't like it as much as the products that came in second and first place, I do like it enough to repurchase. (It has glycerin, and well, I think we've already covered that in a previous paragraph. Also, I wish it had a bit more protein -- my hair needs protein daily.) Hair Nectar is going to be a good one for me in warm weather, but in the meantime, I use it sometimes as a leave-in. Possibly my favorite product by Karen, however, is the Super Silky. What a surprising performance this delivered! I bought it because it is glycerin-free, and I thought it would work well in cold weather. Does it ever! I'm blown away by how fabulous this product moisturizes my hair without making it stringy or heavy. On cold days, I use it as a leave-in as well as a curl creme, and it has yet to disappoint me. But here's the real kicker: I can scrunch this into dry hair and not end up with frizzies! Kudos to you, Karen, for inventing this much-needed product. (Karen also makes some of the most scrumptious, moisturizing body lotions you'll ever try...)


EO. An odd name, yes, but quite possibly the most perfect conditioner my hair has ever met. It possesses the ideal blend of essential oils, protein, emollients, and aloe vera. My hair likes it no matter what the weather is doing. I have used the Conditioner in a couple of different formulations (Rose and Chamomille, and Rose Geranium and Sweet Orange) and love both. I use this stuff as a leave-in and it is sublime, as well. The company is based here in the Bay Area and I've seen it in a variety of stores (including Bed, Bath and Beyond, but if you need to find it in your area, use the store locator for information. I am also a fan of their body lotions.


Aubrey Organics. Surely you knew this line would steal the trophy for me. I have tried four different conditioners (Honeysuckle Rose (which I use after a protein treatment because it is protein-free), White Camellia, Island Naturals, and GPB) and love them all. They all contain coconut fatty acids, which my hair responds well to. The B5 Design gel is probably my favorite hair gel. Aubrey's has patented its own preservative, made from grapefruit seed extract, so you never have to worry about parabens and other toxic substances designed to prolong the life of the product. It's true that the shelf life of Aubrey products is shorter than stuff you'd buy at Walgreen's, but it's also true that Aubrey products don't sit on the shelf very long -- they get used because they are fabulous! (These products last about a year, depending on how you store them. So, just don't buy them in bulk unless you've got a big family or are preparing for the apocalypse.)

I'm sure if the companies were here in the room with me right now, they'd make tearful acceptance speeches, thank the Academy, and send me free product. But they're not here, so I guess I'll have to continue shelling out the cash for their great products.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Something's rotten

Lest you think every day is a good hair for me, behold today's tragedy! Look at that frizz (and the roots in dire need of touch-up, but that's another problem entirely). What a disgrace. And I am still trying to figure out what went wrong.

I used Too Shea to condition, and Too Shea as a leave-in. Then I scrunched (rather than raked) in some Donna Marie Lock & Twist. Because I'd just written about Boots Curl Creme, I brushed some through with a Denman brush. I scrunched and then scrunched in some Fuzzy Duck. The curls were wonderful when it dried but by noon or so, this frizz on the top of my head denied me any pleasure I might have taken in the clumpy curls.

The dew point today was 46. This product combo should have been perfectly fine. Maybe, though, the L&T was too much? Maybe I shouldn't have used Fuzzy Duck? But why not? Could it have been .... dare I say it ... the Boots Curl Creme?

Woe was me. Tomorrow it's back to my Kinky-Curly Curling Custard and B5 Design Gel.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Boots Curl Creme

There are many ways in which a hair product can be weird, and Boots Essentials Curl Creme is guilty of several.

First, the makers of it certainly don't want you to find a picture of it on the Web. Maybe the product has some sort of spiritual quality -- like, maybe if you see a digital representation of it, you will be cursed. Or die. Or be destined to live out your life with bad hair. Hmmm. Maybe Boots Curl Creme is like a vampire and it cannot be photographed. (I tried photographing mine but the jar is clear, the print is white, and the product is pink. I think it would take more than my iPhone camera to capture its charms.) A site in Italy had this one up so I stole it. Although you cannot possibly read what's on the jar, you must trust me that it bears a striking resemblance in color, shape, and size to the one sitting in my bathroom.

Now, then. About the smell. It's not exactly unpleasant but it is perfumey. You could even say cloying. Definitely a product for girls and very pretty boys. I find it a little overpowering but that quality has not stopped me from using it.

When I was new to CG, I had no idea what a curl creme was. I don't think I'd even heard of curl creme. And when I started visiting and read about people using them, my initial reaction was, "Sounds like something for older people." For eleven thousandth time in my life, I was incorrect.

Curl cremes in general are moisturizing, smoothing concoctions that help to define and separate curls. They are best used in colder temperatures yet many a curly-headed human enjoys their benefits in warmer weather, as well. I prefer them in winter, myself, because I need all the help I can get in feeding my hair moisture and preventing it from getting flyaway and dry-looking.

Curl cremes are generally used after a leave-in and before gel. But I have heard of curlies who use curl creme over gel or who scrunch out their crunch with curl creme. This curl creme, in fact.

Which leads us nicely back to the topic at hand, which is: why Boots Curl Creme is weird. I have a bit of a beef with this product because the directions provide no guidance whatsoever about application quantity. And in this case, that information is hugely important because you need to use about half as much of this curl creme as your instincts tell you to use.

I was reading Katrina's Colorado Curly blog and saw where she reported product failure when trying to get this stuff to work its magic. From what she described, it sounded like overdose (the symptoms of which I knew all too well). Not only do you need to use a teeny tiny bit of Boots, you need to emulsify it before you apply it.

I shall demonstrate. Here is a photo of how much I use.

Basically, you dip a finger into the jar and use whatever coats that finger. Next you spread it over your palms. Here's what that looks like in the first swipe:

You see how my hand just looks wet and shiny. As you would expect upon spreading a slippery hair product between your palms. But then you rub your hands together for about 7 seconds and look what happens to the product:

It almost lathers! It seems to multiply and definitely becomes more than what you thought you were dealing with. It plays a similar role once it's in your hair, too -- when it's in mine, my hair has more volume (not lots more but more than other curl cremes give me).

Another weird performance feature of Boots curl creme is that it does contain alcohol. Not much, mind you -- it's the last item in the ingredient list -- but enough to prevent me from using it daily. I have to be sure to leave in a little more conditioner than I normally would whenever I use this creme or my hair gets a skosh dry if I use it more than one day in a row.

Other curl cremes define curls by, well, defining curls. But Boots gives you clumpage to the fifth power. Seriously. I used to think that Jessicurl Rockin' Ringlets was the ultimate clumper until I tried this. Only KCCC comes close to rivaling it in terms of clumps.

And now for the final reason why this product is weird. It's made in the U.K. and sold there in drugstores (or whatever they call them there!). It's super cheap -- kinda like the equivalent of Suave here in the U.S.A. I think it's available in other countries, too -- but you can't buy it here it in the United States. What is up with that? Not only is it unphotographable but it's also unavailable. I think the best word for this product here in the United States is elusive.

But you can order it online from a place in Great Britain called Brit Super Store. The Boots Curl Creme will cost you about $4. Shipping, however, will be considerably more. Is it worth it? I have to say it is, especially since you will have the jar for most of your adult life, even if you are now currently 16.

Let's review.

Pros: Great price, excellent clumpage factor
Cons: Perfumey smell, finicky application process, teeny bit of alcohol, not available in the U.S. (and let's not forget the no-picture thing)

See if you can score some on the swap board at NaturallyCurly...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sites you need to know about

The blogosphere is rife with curls! I wanted to point you in the direction of three of them that I think are especially fabulous.

1. Live Curly, Live Free. This site was created by noneother than "struttswife" at Whether you're starting out or think you've got this curly hair thing licked, you're bound to learn something new at this site. What I like best about it is her emphasis on hair thickness and texture as barometers of what locks need, rather than how they curl. (Massey devotes a lot of time in her book to distinguishing one type of curl from another, and ultimately, it means almost nothing. It does little to help you determine a routine.) I strongly recommend this site, especially since struttswife has dispensed a load of excellent advice on the discussion boards -- she truly knows her stuff.

2. Curly Nikki. There is a whole world of transitioning curlies out there and they face some unique challenges. I tend not to address any of them on my blog, mostly because of my complete lack of experience with that aspect of curly hair. But once you visit Nikki's blog, you realize the depth and breadth of issues that transitioning hair entails. Despite this specific focus, Nikki understands what a blog should be: varied and interesting! She offers giveaways, features testimonials, and product reviews so it feels like a community as well as a resource. Plus, she's a good writer!

3. The Daily Curl. This blog launched today, so there's no history -- but there's a ton of potential! An enterprising curly who frequents assembled a group of loquacious curlies together and unleashed them in one blog space. And I am one of them! This interesting group of women have only three things in common: opinions, experiences, and curls that have at one time or another vexed the hell out of them. They (we) write so you can learn from their (our) mistakes! I hope you'll check it out. I'm very excited to be a contributor.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The "modified" CG

I'm pro-CG (Curly Girl), as you well know if you frequent this blog. I evangelize it but I also understand fully and completely if somebody tries it and decides it isn't for them. The adjustment period can vary from a few days to a year, and if you fall into the latter category, I can certainly see why you'd give up on the no-sulfates-or-silicones routine. I sure thought about it more than once, I can tell you that.

But when I read that somebody is a modified CG curly, I always wonder what they mean. Is that like being a little bit pregnant? I asked the girls at once what that phrase meant to them, and predictably, I got a variety of answers. Essentially, though, it seems to mean that you do only some things CG. Like, maybe you use a sulfate shampoo every few weeks. Or maybe you use some of the less onerous silicones. Or maybe you claim to have read the book when you really haven't. It could be anything. But the bottom line is: you are not CG. But for some reason, you still want to affiliate yourself with that method of hair care.

Suppose I said I was following a modified version of Weight Watchers. Wouldn't you chuckle and wonder whether my so-called modification included late-night Twinkie pig-outs? And if I were an alcoholic observing a modified 12-step program, how convinced would you be that I was sober? I think you can see where I'm going with this. At least, I hope you can. A modified program can't help but be a compromised version of the original. If you have modified something, in most cases you've really created something entirely new.

So, okay, if you need to adjust the CG routine to make it suit you, no harm done. But
why continue to use the CG label to describe what you're doing? Be creative and call it something new! After all, it is yours...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Lots o' handling

In addition to being three or four minutes longer than it needs to be, this video is a prime example of a stylist who claims not to want to break up curls and yet proceeds to over-handle hair during the diffusing process.

The model looks very good at the end -- and why not? she's gorgeous -- but I can't help but wonder how much better she'd look if this guy did not insist on touching her hair through the drying process.

I wonder what products he's using?