Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cold weather hair care, day six

Kathymack is another role model at We've witnessed her hair go from very nice to gorgeous over the past few months as she's discovered the benefits that natural products give her hair. Kathymack is primarily known for her interest in soap bars (she sells samples of them and other products, if you're interested) but she's also a great resource for information about all things curly.

Read how she copes with mid-Atlantic chill factors....

"Last August/September, I changed my routine over to natural products and added the natural soap bars (after six months of cowash.) My hair was very happy. I also cut out gel, because I didn’t seem to need it.

"Well, some of that routine had to change as a result of the cold weather. This is the first winter I’ve been a curly and not a wavy. In the past, I was a 3a during the summer and a 2-something during the winter. This year, though, I consistently get the tight curls you see here. It’s the product and technique that I’ve learned to use this past year, thanks to

"My usual routine is to do a wash with a natural soap bar every three days. I always follow with an ACV rinse (to restore pH balance) and a rinse out conditioner. The other days I wet and do a rinse out. Because I need more moisture in the winter, I added the Aubrey Organics Island Naturals and GPB as rinse-outs in addition to Curl Junkie conditioners, Komaza Califa Conditioner and Karen’s Body Beautiful Hair Milk. I use varied products as my leave-in and curl crème.

"I frequently use things as stylers that are not marketed as stylers. I always use a leave in: Donna Marie Coco Curly Butter, Lock & Twist, Coco Hemp Buttercream, Curl Junkie Butta or Curl Assurance Leave-in, or the Komaza Califa line, to name a few. Curl crèmes include the three Donna Marie products, the varied Curl Junkie products, Kinky Curly Curling Custard, Aubrey Organics Mandarin Magic Jelly and the Komaza Califa line.

"Gel needed to come back into my routine. My curl was loosening and falling out. The Curl Junkie Aloe Fix Gel is magic -- I mix it with a few things, such as KCCC and AOMM. I’m also experimenting with the Curl Junkie Smoothing Gellie. I scrunch the water out with a Curls Like Us curl cloth, diffuse for five minutes and air-dry the rest of the way."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cold weather hair care, day five

It's time to feature a wavy in this series. I immediately thought of DEL2C at Yes, she is a self-confessed product junkie, but she's also got sizzling hot hair. (And it turns out she has a very talented four-year-old, as well. That's who takes many of the photos of her hair. Not this one, though.)

DEL2C lives in the northern part of the northeast, so things get pretty cold in her neck of the woods. She has tried several coping strategies, but this is the one she's using lately.

"This winter has been a big challenge for me. I've been trying to find the balance with giving my hair adequate moisture. DevaCurl OneCondition has been fantastic! I wasn't getting the best results, but then I read on the threads about that "seaweed" feel we should get in the shower and that prompted me to be more generous with my conditioner. I use a good palm full whereas before I would use about a quarter size. Also adding a LI has helped tremendously. Lustrasilk Mango Shea or Lustrasilk Olive Oil as a leave-in has been great no matter what combination of products I choose. I use it as a leave-in and I've used it mixed with curl cream as well and have been getting fantastic results. It has just the right amount of moisture for my hair and doesn't weigh me down, I LOVE Lustrasilk. It's made all the difference for me this winter."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cold weather hair care, day four

Xcptnl (sound it out phonetically and you get "exceptional", which is what her hair is, if you ask me) is not only known at for her pretty hair but for her relentless experimentation with products. (Msgiblet and Xcptnl tie for honors in this regard.) I've always felt that Xcptnl may not realize just how wonderful her hair is, so because I am queen of this here blog, I am using this cyber-pulpit to show her off to the world!

Here is the story of how she gets these beautiful curls in horrifyingly low dew points.

"I feel like a celebrity!! How exciting to be part of Jillipoo’s blog!

"This winter was the first winter I had noticed issues of flyaways/frizzies -- whatever you want to call them. And it’s no wonder -- I don't think our dew points have been above 20 for weeks! For example, today the dew point is 2!

"I started paying attention to other curlies on and their discussions of glycerin/honey (humectants) and their effects on hair in low dew points. To maintain some of my curls and get rid of those flyaways, I started avoiding or reducing glycerin and other humectants in products such as stylers and leave-ins that stay in my hair.

"Lately I have been using MOP C Curl Enhancing Shampoo* every two or three days. When I do not shampoo, I use Devacurl One Condition as a co-wash (or I just water-wash) and follow it with Giovanni 50/50 conditioner (glycerin is low on the list of ingredients), Avalon Organics Olive & Grape Seed conditioner, or Lustrasilk Shea Butter. I use Lustrasilk Shea Butter as a leave-in. This is put on VERY wet hair while I'm still in the shower and upside-down, after I have rinsed out my rinse-out conditioner upside down. I only use about a nickel-sized blob. My best stylers in these low dew points have been Kinky Curly Curling Custard or Boots Pink Curl Cream. When I use the Curling Custard, I mix it with Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee for good hold while my hair dries. When I use the Boots Pink Curl Cream, I emulsify it in my hand and scrunch into my ends. Both are added to very wet hair while I'm upside-down. When I use the Boots, I mix Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee with any other medium-hold gel that is glycerin-free. In these photos, I mixed it with Pantene Curl Defining Scrunching gel. As any reader of knows, I am a certified product junkie so I am trying to use up these tubes of gel that are everywhere in my house!

I then flip right side up, get my part organized, and then scrunch out the water with my Curlease towel. I do this upside down first and then upright. Then I move on to diffusing with a deeper bowl attachment. I do this upside-down for about five minutes to get the products to set then I go upright. I spend some time on the ends with the deeper bowl attachment and then I move on to the diffuser that came with my blowdryer -- it's shallow and I can use it to get at the top of my head and the roots. I place it midway on my head and then move it up to get some volume at the roots, turn it on, and hold it there for a minute or so. I do this all around my head. I only dry my hair 50% dry with the hairdryer and then I let it air-dry the rest of the way. Once it's dry, I decrunchify with my Curlease towel. I have found by using the towel, my fingers, rings, and whatever do not get caught in my hair and create frizz. TA DA! Curls.

I cannot wait until the dew points go above 30 and I can start using all the products I bought containing glycerin, honey, and other humectants in them. It's very hard for me to ignore all those pretty bottles, tubes, and tubs but soon they will get their day in the rotation!

*This is sulfate-free, folks!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cold weather hair care, day three

What's cooler than a smart, sassy redhead? A curly, smart, sassy redhead! RedCelticCurls, whose blog Pittsburgh Curly offers up an assortment of curl-related observations, primarily of the scientific/geeky/insightful variety, has been inquiring and experimenting with her hair for years -- and it's paid off. She understands what ingredients work for her thick, coarse locks and stays away from the ones that have proven to disappoint her.

It's hard to argue with a mane this riveting, no? Here's what RedCelticCurls has to say about her cold-weather hair care.

"Last winter, my hair had few problems. It wasn't a very cold winter, and low dew points did not come into play that often. This winter is different. It's actually cold, and dew points have averaged from the teens to negative single digits. My curls had turned to waves. While that wasn't a bad look, I did want to find something that gave me my 'oomph' back.

"After some reading around, I decided to try the Lustrasilk Shea Butter Cholesterol Plus. It doesn't have anything that my finicky hair objects to, and for $2.49 for a 20 oz. tub, I couldn't complain about the price. Little did I know then that not every Sally's carried this product, and some were even obstinate about ordering it. I got lucky.

"I started out using this as a leave-in then reapplied as a curl cream. I have since tweaked it to using Curl Junkie Curl Rehab Curl Moisturizing Deep Treatment as leave-in followed by the Lustrasilk as a curl cream. I have been getting outstanding curl enhancement with this combo. If I use the Lustrasilk alone, I also get a big boost in volume. It's nice to have winter options now. I can forgo the Lustrasilk if I want waves (something I can't get in the summer) and hit the Lustrasilk if I want curls."

Nice to find effective options that don't cost a fortune! Lustrasilk seems to have worked for lots of people (unfortunately, I don't think the weather was cold enough here for Lustrasilk to have been much help to me). Although it's available at some Sally Beauty Supply stores, I recommend you buy it at Amazon to keep frustration to a minimum. (Also, get only the Shea Butter or Olive Oil versions if you are avoiding silicones.)

Cold weather hair care, day two

Ever since I joined the discussion boards at back in the fall of 2007, I have been totally in love with msgiblet's hair. The color, the curl, the volume -- I am just enthralled with this hair of hers! And now you can see for yourself what makes my envy meter go haywire. So, I asked her what she uses in cold weather to preserve those awesome curls, and she was gracious enough to tell me. (Now all I have to figure out is how to get that amazing color!)

"I have been using Suave Tropical Coconut conditioner when I co-wash for quite a while now. I love how it makes my hair feel. There is none of that lousy coated feeling that I have found with a lot of the other Suave conditioners, plus it makes my hair feel clean and soft -- a lot better, in fact, than a lot of the more high-end, expensive conditioners. So, I started thinking that if a very cheap drugstore conditioner is making my hair so happy, why not a cheap drugstore gel to go with it?? Ah, the infinite wisdom! Now, I haven't had much success in the past with many drugstore products, but I know that some very wise curlies on have had great extended success with L.A. Looks Sport Gel. I had never tried this particular gel before so I thought what have I got to lose? Not a whole lot of money, that's for sure!

"After co-washing with the Suave Tropical Coconut conditioner and rinsing very well, I apply some more, massage through my hair and rinse out. Even though I have been on the hunt for some good winter conditioners, I have found that this conditioner seems to give me just the right amount of moisture. Go figure. If the weather is very dry, I mix a little dollop of the Suave with a little more than a quarter-sized amount of the L.A. Looks Sport Gel and gently rake through and then scrunch while upside down. I will apply 2-3 more globs of the Sports gel, scrunching firmly and thoroughly until I like how my hair feels, adding more gel if necessary. Then, using my Curls Like Us towel (I'm really loving this towel; it's the perfect size and design for scrunching), I scrunch out some excess moisture, then scrunch in a little more Sports Gel and plop in a Curlease towel for 10-15 minutes. After that, I diffuse for 10-15 minutes and let my hair continue to air dry. When completely dry, I gently scrunch out the crunch. What I really like about this combo is that yes, this gel does dry crunchy, but it's not the kind of crunch that makes you worry that if someone gets too close to you in the middle of air drying that your hair could literally impale them. No, it's a nice moist-looking crunchy; the kind of crunchy look that doesn't bother me to go out and about with before it's fully dry. Plus it's very easy to scrunch out and gives enough hold to keep my curls going even on the coldest days.

"So, it seems that my hair is just as happy with these oh-so-cheap drugstore products as with the hoity-toity, high-end expensive stuff. But am I going to give up the more expensive products and stick to the cheap stuff? Oh, hell no. There are times when a girl puts on the diamonds and heads off to the Kennedy Center, but then there are times when there's nothing more fun than going out to a good ol' cheap, rowdy, redneck bar."

Msgiblet -- ever the experimenter -- wrote me just before this post went live to tell me that dew points where she lives recently descended into the teens, and this combo was proving not quite effective enough. However, by using Mop Top Daily Conditioner as her rinse out, she's controlling the problem nicely.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What to use in cold weather

A couple of months ago, I wrote about cold-weather hair care. I had a few product recommendations, but mostly I wrote in general terms about which ingredients to seek out and which to avoid.

But because I know that a lot of you don't want to be bothered reading labels and pretending to be a scientist, I'm going to make your life easier. I'm going to ask some other curlies to offer their suggestions about what products have worked for them!

I'll begin with myself, mostly because I am the easiest for me to contact.

I live in San Francisco, where dew points don't vary nearly as much as they do in other parts of the country (or the world, for that matter). Dew points here are in the 40s for most of the year, although in the winter there are probably a few weeks where they dip into the 30s. And at unpredictable times, there are days where the dew point creeps up over 50.

But last Christmas, I found myself in New England, where the dew point never went above 20. I was pretty frightened, I don't mind telling you -- I had no clue whether my theories about what would work for my hair would actually prove out. I packed Karen's Body Beautiful's Super Silky, which has no glycerin. I figured I'd use it as a curl creme.

Well, I used it that way and got some very pretty curls (see photo -- but know that the curls were prettier in person). But what amazed me even more was the way I could squeeze a bit into my palms, scrunch it into dry hair, and watch my hair perk up at midday when the dry air started to take its toll. I was very impressed with Super Silky and highly recommend it for cold weather!

But you know what? Not everybody's hair is the same. I know, it's shocking. So I thought it might be fun to ask some other curlies what they use when the dew point is the same as one's dress size. I turned to the fabulous Nikki, of Curly Nikki blog fame, who knows a thing or two about hair -- especially her own! Can you believe how gorgeous this woman's hair is?

"My go-to ingredient/product is Shea Butter, of course! I truly believe that this mystical butter has single-handedly saved my ends from splitting and breaking off during the harsh winter season. I style my hair twice a week (twist-n-curl) using rich water-based conditioners to moisturize (DevaCurl OneCondition + Jessicurl Weekly Deep Treatment), and Shea butter to seal the goodness in. I also touch up 2-3 day old hair with Shea- it de-frizzes and somehow moisturizes! I also like that the weight of it prevents extra shrinkiness. I hope to continue my love affair with Shea Butter well into the summer."

If you're wondering about quantities, Nikki uses a pea size amount, melts it between her palms and applies it to the ends of each curl with her fingers. She calls it, "tedious, but effective."

And so I'm closing with one more photo of her to-die-for locks. Just amazing.

Tune in tomorrow, when I will be posting yet another curly's secret product for cold-weather hair beauty...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Clump alert!

I may have found a new love: Aubrey Organics Mandarin Magic Ginkgo Leaf & Ginseng Root Hair Moisturizing Jelly.

I had read that some curlies found this product comparable to Kinky-Curly Curling Custard. The ingredients didn't seem similar, though, so I doubted they would work the same way. Here's what's in the Mandarin Magic:

Water, Panthenol (Vitamin B-5), Aloe Vera Gel, Tragacanth and Gum Arabic Blend, Ginkgo Leaf, Ginseng Root, Chinese Magnolia Blossoms, Chinese Angelica, Chrysanthemum, Earth Smoke, Morus Root, Mandarin Orange Peel, Aubrey's Preservative (Citrus Seed Extract, Vitamins A, C and E).

And although they are both gooey, KCCC is much thicker and gloppier. It also takes longer to dry. KCCC smells better but the AOMM hardly smells at all, which is also nice, especially if you'd like to wear cologne or perfume!

KCCC does give me boingier curls and it does deliver fabulous spirals. AOMM's curls are spirally but they look more natural, and my hair is far more touchable. Both products seem to keep frizz to a minimum.

I think I'm in love with both products and will use both, but I just had to share this new crush I have on the AOMM in case any of you are interested in trying something a little less dramatic than KCCC.

I have used Aubrey's B5 Design gel over KCCC as well as AOMM, and I really like the results. (I really want to thank michaput from the boards at for turning me on to both the B5 Design Gel and the EO Rose and Chamomille conditioner. I also want to thank kathymack for sending me a sample of the AOMM to help me decide whether I wanted to try it.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Jellies, Gelees, Gels, and Goo

We curlies sure slap loads of slime in our hair.

And it's hardly ever called slime. It goes by a wide range of names:

- gel
- gelee
- gellie
- jelly
- goo
- custard
- pudding
- butter
- paste
- souffle
- cream
- creme
- meringue

(And I'm not even going to tackle the mousse, polish, pomade, gloss, serum, lotion, glaze monikers out there. Not to mention the milkshakes and elixirs and whatnot.)

Okay, cosmetic companies, we get it. These are all names for products that we can glop on our heads in some fashion. Obviously paste is going to be thicker than gel, so that sort of differentiation is helpful. But the difference between a gellie, a jelly, a custard, and a goo simply confounds me. Maybe it does to you, too?

Now, a gel we understand. It typically has some copolymers in it and it provides some hold. In fact, we use it almost exclusively for hold.

But this other stuff... It's a free-for-all of naming conventions! I used to think "gelee" meant it was a product from France. A "jelly" was going to be looser than a gel and probably not provide as much hold as a gel (I still believe this to be true, but your experience may differ). And goo, well, you're on your own with that one -- the name implies that it might be fun to play with but beyond that, who the hell knows?

And then we have the custards, puddings, meringue group, which is distinguishable from the gel, gelees, jellies, gellies, and perhaps the goo by its creamier quality. Some of these have copolymers and some don't, so the amount of hold they might provide is yet another crap shoot. Read the label and you might get a clue but chances are, your best way to know what the product does is to buy it and take your chances. Because for instance, Kinky Curly Curling Custard is not creamy, it's gunky. Miss Jessie's Curly Meringue, though, looks (and sort of feels) like it belongs in a pie.

Which slime do you reach for to keep your locks in prime condition? I confess to owning a wide assortment of all these crazy products, and depending on the weather, my mood, and the other products I might have applied that day, I'll reach for the concoction that offers some kind of balance to those variables. Sounds scientific, but in practice, it's as much an instinctive decision as an informed one. Do we need all these different products with their appetizing names? Probably not, but there's something deliciously fun about opening your medicine cabinet and having it look not so terribly different from your refrigerator.

Still, though, I'd like to see some standardization among product categories. Or maybe just call everything slime and distinguish its hold abilities by color. I don't know. What would you like to see?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rate your soap bars

An ingenious curly has started a review site for the various soap bars some people are using on their hair. Check out the Shampoo Bar Reviews Site to post a review or to help you decide on a bar or two to try for yourself.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lift and separate with surfactants

The shampoo-less crowd has a tough time trying to explain to the brainwashed masses that cleansing with conditioner is effective. If only we could say, "the surfactants in most conditioners remove the dirt from my hair as well as any shampoo," and have them understand.

Surfactants are a necessary part of getting dirt and pollution (in other words, normal gunk as opposed to stubborn silicones and clingy oils such as mineral oil) out of hair. They lift the dirt and separate it from our hair (when we rinse, that is). Hence the image I've used here. A little conceptual, I know, but I get tired of using only hair-related images. Sometimes life isn't only about hair. Sometimes it's about boobs, too. But there I go digressing again.

In layman's terms, here's how surfactants work, per Tonya, our favorite Curl Chemist:

At sufficiently high concentrations in water, surfactant molecules group together to form three-dimensional structures known as “micelles”. These structures are clusters of molecules with an oily center made up of the non-polar tail, surrounded by a shell formed by the polar portion of the molecule. These micelles absorb oils from your skin, hair or clothes, and trap them inside until they are removed from the surface by the rinsing phase of the process. Another very important property of surfactants is their ability to produce significant foaming effects, an attribute considered to be desirable by many product developers.

Tonya, it turns out, just this month created an informative article about the nature of surfactants. (This is point where a well-placed "Great minds think alike" comment gets inserted and I act a little smug.) To summarize what she says, surfactants are chemically composed in such a way that they interact well with oils and water. Because of this chemical composition, surfactants get bubbly when you use them. (This is a desirable quality in hair products. Bubbles are not only fun, apparently, but they make users believe the product is doing something.)

Surfactants come in a variety of strengths, in terms of their effect on hair and skin. One category is the sulfates, which the Curly Girl philosophy urges us to avoid. Sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, and sodium myristyl sulfate and sodium myreth sulfate seem to be the harshest, with sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium myreth sulfate, sodium coco sulfate and sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate being slight less harsh. Sodium coco or cocoyl sulfate, despite claims that they are gentler than its petrochemical cousins, is not any gentler. Just different because of the coconut oil it's derived from.

Less drying surfactants are the nonionic surfactants, such as sorbitol, decyl glucoside, laureth 4-20, and decyl polyglucose. Tonya's article ends by telling us that many of the cleansing products out there today use co-surfactants, such as fatty alcohols, nonionic surfactants, amphoteric surfactants (cocamidropropyl betaine), and even some oils to reduce the drying tendencies.

For a great list of surfactants, check out this page. If you do not shampoo, the anionic surfactants probably will be irrelevant to you because they are primarily found in traditional shampoos. If you like to shampoo every so often, however, check out the amphoteric surfactant list -- these are the ingredients typically found in milder shampoos.

The cationic surfactant list was useful to me because I've been noticing that conditioners with Behentrimonium Methosulfate (EO Rose and Chamomile, Activate Hydrating, and Robert Craig, to be specific) really do well with my hair. Perhaps, then, it is the mild cleansing they provide -- my hair always feels a bit lighter and bouncier after I use those conditioners.

But what I really want to say here is that if you've been trying to go "natural" with your co-washing, you might be unhappy with the results. Why? Because the surfactant content is low, if not nonexistent. Take Karen's Body Beautiful, for instance. The ingredient list for the Hair Milk is:

Purified Water, Jojoba and Avocado Oils, Vegetable Wax, Vitamin E, Panthenol, Arnica and Calendula Flowers, Echinacea, Nettle and Horsetail Extracts, Vegetable Glycerin, Wheat Germ Oil, Fragrance Oil and Natural Enzymes

I don't see anything there that would do anything but condition your hair. Conditioning is great but for co-washing, you want something that will get rid of dirt and oil. Aside from the fact that the Suave Naturals and VO5 lines are wonderfully affordable, they are also chock full of surfactants. Use 'em, girls. Use 'em.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Best. News. Ever.

Curlies! Did you know you can save 15% off any CurlMart purchase between now and February 28? No-Poo Jillipoo does not lie. Just use this code: Jillipoo09 (Please note that kits, cocktails, and Wen products are excluded -- but that still about a bijillion other products to choose from.)

CurlMart rocks!
[NOTE: The original discount code posted here was incorrect. The one you see now should work just fine.]

Friday, February 6, 2009

New name!

So, it seemed to me that there was just too much confusion between the woman who is making (and selling) her own gel at and this blog. Far be it from me to obstruct the noble pursuit of commerce (especially when it benefits curly hair), so I wanted to simplify things for her and for me!

Sorry for any confusion, but hopefully this change will be easier for everyone.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The much-maligned silicone

The boards at NaturallyCurly are abuzz with talk of texture, porosity, density, and elasticity. Tiffany is handling those topics beautifully, and Pittsburgh Curly and others are providing their own takes and impressions, all of which are useful and thought-provoking as always.

So, I thought I'd write about something else.

And that something else is silicones. Don't gasp. Like Jessica Rabbit, they are not evil. They are just misunderstood.

Silicones are synthetic polymers also known as polyorganosiloxanes (that's why we CGers look for ingredients ending in "cone" as well as "xane" when we read labels). The very properties that make them undesirable for those of us who follow the Curly Girl philosophy are the same properties that give them their usefulness.

Look what silicones do:

- They are heat-resistant and can protect hair from heat styling temperatures as high as 400 degrees (yes, that's Fahrenheit).
- They form a waterproof (hydrophobic) seal around hair, which is great for locking moisture in.
- They offer some resistance to sunlight, another terrific protection.
- They are flexible so all this protection doesn't come with immobility.
- Because of the seal they form, the hair looks shinier
- Supposedly, they help to eliminate frizz. I never found this to be true, but plenty of people have experienced this performance from hair products containing silicone, so to each her own.
- They help to detangle hair because of the afore-mentioned smoothing properties.

Better living through chemistry, right? Almost. Silicone molecules are too large for the hair shaft to absorb, so they sit on hair retaining moisture and keeping the sun rays at bay. At the end of the day, you have to decide whether you want your hair to breathe. If you're okay with sealing moisture in and preventing new moisture from feeding your hair, use silicones. Just know that silicones build up because they do their sealing job so well, and in most cases the solvent for removing them is sulfate (sodium lauryl sulfate and its cousins, which I will talk about in an upcoming post). Sulfates strip the hair of natural oils so when you use them to remove the silicones, you are treating your hair to some fairly harsh detergent. Only you can decide what's best for your own head. As long as you know the risks, you're a grown-up who can make her own decisions.

All silicones are not created equal, however. As this excellent post by Girl with Curl points out, science is a beautiful thing and has given us gradations of silicones. Some coat the hair quite thoroughly while others only leave a thin layer of protection on your hair. It's also worth noting that some silicones, such as cyclomethicone, evaporate fairly quickly, so if you're hoping for all-day effectiveness with that one, you might be disappointed.

Most silicones need some kind of shampoo to thoroughly remove them. The good news, though, is that only the heavy silicones require sulfate shampoos to accomplish that, and for some people, a good co-wash is all they really need. Girl with Curl addresses this in her post, and also, there is an excellent article by Curl Chemist at

What about silicone on your skin?

When silicones first came out and started appearing in skin care products and foundation (especially primers), I was very dubious. It seemed to me that coating my skin in something designed to keep air out (or depending on the advertising spin, locking moisture in) couldn't possibly be healthy. And there are people who hold that point of view today (The Health Report -- about which I know nothing -- lists them as questionable). In the book What's in This Stuff? author Patricia Thomas says the following:

On the whole, silicones allow skin to breathe better than mineral oils, but question marks still hang over their long-term safety. While they increase the feel-good factor of a product, they are poorly absorbed by the skin, which raises some doubt as to how well the ingredients suspended in them will be absorbed.

And when I read now that silicone-based anti-aging creams are sought after because the silica (the basis of silicone) helps to fill in fine lines, I have to wonder whether that's healthy for skin. Maybe silicone in skin products is benign -- I just don't know enough science to say for sure. But it sounds kinda icky, doesn't it?

Paula Begoun is a fan, and certainly the industry in general has jumped on the silicone bandwagon. Silicone seems to get praise for its water-binding properties and non-greasy feel. Some forms also reflect light, making us look oh-so-beautiful. Cosmetics companies all claim that skin-care products containing silicone deliver protection yet allow skin to breathe. Which, when you think about it, seems contradictory.

So, in a nutshell, I have no answers. All I can say is that the jury is out on silicones for skin. But they sure are hard to avoid...

Sources used in this article:
Beauty Brains
Dow Corning

Monday, February 2, 2009

Soapin' up the curls

Many curlies have embraced the joys of using soap bars to clean their hair and scalp. Although this was not one of my more successful experiments, it does work well for some -- kathymack at being the pioneer on this front.

I interviewed kathymack for The Daily Curl, so take a gander at what she has to say about soap, soap-making, and using the bars to clean your head.

On the flip side, I want to quote what Tiffany the hair stylist has to say on her blog about soap bars:

...Which brings to a small derail. I know people are tired of me harping on the excessive use of shampoo bars. If, however, you have porous hair, you are not doing yourself any favors by using them. These bars are fairly alkaline and raise the cuticle, the exact opposite of what people with overly porous hair are trying to achieve. Your goal is to establish a routine and determine the most effective product use for your hair without swimming upstream in the process.

I think Tiffany's observation/warning is the reason kathymack follows her soaping experiences with a vinegar rinse (it closes the cuticle). So, be advised that soap + acidic something = hair happiness.