Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Aubrey Organics Mandarin Magic

"Hey, wait a minute," you're saying. "Doesn't Jillipoo like this product?"

Well, yes. And no. Therefore, it's weird and qualifies for the Wednesday treatment.

When I read some of the threads over at, I am frequently struck by how instinctive product application and combining is to some women. They are inspired cooks in a kitchen, knowing mysteriously and miraculously that a dash of this thing will be the perfect complement to that other thing. Meanwhile, just as I need a cookbook to navigate the creation of a meal, so, too, do I need hand-holding and advice when it comes to products.

I am the type of person who buys something and uses it. Whatever it does, it does. If the bottle tells me to use it a certain way, that's what I do. That is, until I read about some intrepid soul who has combined it with something else or applies it to sopping wet hair or only uses it on dry hair. Then, I will give that idea a whirl. You might say I am wholly unoriginal and completely uncreative when it comes to product usage.

That is my shame.

But I've experimented a little with Mandarin Magic now, thanks to the trail blazed by others, and I'm ready to report my results. I should also say that I bought this product because I'd read that it was a kind of substitute for Kinky Curly Curling Custard. The comparison intrigued me -- because who can get enough of the wonders of KCCC? -- so I had to give Mandarin Magic a try.

Mandarin Magic used by itself
When I first get them, I often like to see what stylers do when unaided by other products. It establishes a baseline. It helps me know what I can pair them with to counteract some features or play up others. (Yes, okay, I do think about combining, but my repertoire is pretty limited, I think.)

Mandarin Magic gave me volume as well as lovely, natural-looking clumps. My hair felt soft, pretty, and productless. I was hopeful! KCCC doesn't do this when used alone (at least, for me it doesn't) so this aspect of Mandarin Magic had me very excited. I also got big banana ringlets by the end of the day and I love that.

I did get a little frizz, though, so I knew I'd probably have to pair it with a gel for the next round.

Mandarin Magic and B5 Design Gel

I figured that since both were Aubrey products, they'd play nice together. I was right. This was a great combo -- it gave me the same fullness, curls and volume I got before only this time, the curls had more definition for a longer period of time and there was less frizz.

In case you're curious, my Excel spreadsheet indicates that I used Robert Craig conditioner as my rinse-out and Aloeba as my leave-in. I applied the MM and then the B5.

Donna Marie Lock & Twist and Mandarin Magic
I mixed these together and scrunched them in. The dew point was ideal for Lock & Twist, so I felt confident it would work well. But the combo was not a success, and looking back on it, I think it's because I didn't follow it with gel. I lost definition soon after scrunch-out and had a fair amount of frizz by day's end. Boooooo.

Really, I should have known better. I need gel.

Donna Marie Honey & Aloe Jelly, Mandarin Magic, and Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee
To be fair, the Honey & Aloe Jelly never worked well for me, and I think I paired it with this because I thought the MM would kick its ass. And I thought the BRHG would keep frizz to a minimum.

What I got were decent curls (thanks to the MM) but a fair amount of frizz (thanks to the damn honey in the jelly). I think the BRHG just looked at the combo and shrugged. I can only imagine what the frizz situation would have been without the BRHG, though. Yikes.

Karen's Body Beautiful Super Silky, Mandarin Magic, and Max Green Alchemy Styling Gel
I tried this because kathymack mentioned that she often used Mandarin Magic to distribute other products better. This seemed like quite an inspired idea to me so I tried it with Super Silky, mixing two squirts of SS with about twice as much MM. Understanding by this point that gel was important, I scrunched in some MGA Styling Gel, one of my favorites. The dew point was 23 that day, so I thought the Super Silky was a good product to use (no glycerin).

Overall, my hair was on the flat side, I had a small amount of frizz fairly soon, and although my curls started strong, they fell as the day went on. I like all of these products separately, but they didn't seem to like one another. Perhaps it was the Super Silky -- I always have better luck when I use this product on dry hair.

In any event, this is not a combo I'd attempt again.

Confident Coils, Mandarin Magic, Kinky Curly Spiral Spritz
Nope. Not a good combo: stringy curls that were a little frizzy by day's end. Confident Coils is a great product and I've been having luck with it as a weather protector for some time, so I think it's blameless in this scenario.

Kinky Curly Spiral Spritz
, however, is another story. Of the four times I've used this product, I only had one good experience, and I think it was a fluke that I can never duplicate. Spraying it on results in an undistributed mess so you really have to spray it into your palm and use it like a serum. It sort of performs like a gel on wet hair but not as well. And I think we've already established that I need gel.

So, class, what have we learned from these Mandarin Magic experiments? First, team it with gel. And second, keep it simple. This is a very unique product and certainly worth keeping in your stash. There aren't many products out there that make your hair feel soft and natural but this is one of them. I also love what it does for my curls. Thumbs up on this baby!

How about you? Got any great combos using Mandarin Magic? Any usage tips?

Monday, April 27, 2009

And now ... Donna Marie!

It's not often that a small personal care product line takes off so quickly after it launches, but Donna Marie has done just that. From the moment the buzz started at, curly-headed people have been discovering and appreciating this unique line of natural hair products. President and Developer Ayanna Henderson took some time out of running her business -- and planning her wedding! -- to answer some questions about her terrific products.

Jillipoo: Why did you start your business? What did you feel curly-haired people were not getting from the marketplace that you could provide?

Ayanna Henderson: Donna Marie was born after dealing with my own frustrations as a curly girl. For a long time, I wore my hair permed because I was conditioned to believe from a very early age that straight hair was more acceptable. Although I was very familiar with naturally kinky, curly and wavy hair because I have been a natural hairstylist since the age of 13, I never actually embraced my own natural texture. After graduating from college and during cosmetology school, I decided to let my natural hair grow out and stop the perms. After completing the “big chop” (i.e. cutting the permed hair off and allowing the natural hair to emerge), I had no idea how to “rock” my natural hair and maintain the curl pattern I saw when my hair was wet. After countless failed attempts at using commercial, synthetic gels and styling products created for looser curl patterns, I started experimenting with natural alternatives. My mother had a basement full of herbs that she stored for soap making. She never used them, so I decided to use my resources and experiment with her huge supply. I found out then that there are natural ways to create styling aids, and I continued to experiment until I discovered a formula that actually produced the results I sought! I tested my concoctions on my clients, and after continued encouragement from my testers, I launched my product line.

J: Donna Marie is only a year old and yet has become a popular favorite with curlies. What do you think accounts for your success?

A.H.: Great question! I still cannot believe the amount of curlies that have expressed love for the Donna Marie product line in such a short amount of time and I am so grateful that the products have made a difference for so many women. Our commitment to providing natural products that are effective and free from harsh synthetics and cheap fillers and our commitment to quality customer service has been essential to the success of Donna Marie thus far.

J: How involved are you in the creation of your products? Are you active in the formulation of them?

A.H.: I formulate, manufacture, package and deliver every single product in the Donna Marie line! I do consult with a chemist during the formulation stage to ensure quality.

J: I've noticed that some of your products have changed ingredients even in the brief time they've been around. What prompted the changes?

A.H.: Two products in our line have changed ingredients slightly due to an overwhelming number of requests from customers. Even though there is a long period of research, experimentation, and testing involved with creating a new product, there are still customers who may not be satisfied. I listen to my customers and if enough people request a change, I will try to accommodate them, as long as the change does not affect product performance negatively. I have also removed ingredients and replaced them with more natural alternatives to enhance the performance of our products.

J: Your product line is targeted to women of color, and yet loads of white girls are quite fond of them too! Has this surprised you?

A.H.: I love to hear that ALL women with all hair types can benefit from using Donna Marie products! I originally developed the line to provide solutions for women with all curl types, but specifically formulated the products for women with tighter curls and kinks because like myself, these women, were unrepresented in the commercial curly hair care market. Knowing that there is an increasing popularity among women with looser curl patterns is incredible because this finding has motivated me to create more products that provide more solutions for all hair types.

J: If you had to pick one product that really sets Donna Marie apart from the crowd -- a signature product, if you will -- what would it be and why?

A.H.: The Lock and Twist Pudding is an incredible product because although it was created for molding twists and locks, while providing a flexible, soft hold, it also serves as a curl enhancer for practically all curl types! Also, the product is 99 percent natural -- truly a rare find and my favorite product in the line!

J: As a small company that makes its own products, what kinds of challenges do you face that consumers may not be aware of? (Availability of ingredients, distributor problems, regulatory issues, staffing, etc.)

A.H.: I create every product 100 percent by hand with no staff. Occasionally I will ask family members to assist me with large orders. Unfortunately, as orders increase, processing time increases, causing occasional delays in delivery. Even though the processing time is disclosed on the website, consumers do not usually take into consideration that our products are hand-made fresh daily and processing is longer than commercially manufactured product lines. The biggest challenge I face currently is trying to produce the products in bulk to decrease the overall processing time so that delivery times can be faster.

J: What's on the horizon for you and Donna Marie? Where do you see the company in five or ten years?

A.H.: I plan to launch three new products this summer and plan to expand into a full body, skin and hair line. Also, my long-time dream of opening a salon providing natural hair and skin services will be a reality in the near future!

Thank you so much, Jill, for the opportunity to let you and readers know more about the Donna Marie line!

Thank you, Ayanna, for letting us in to see the inner workings at Donna Marie. It's great to learn about a company whose owner is so involved in the operations of the company and so involved in the selection of ingredients!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cuticle killers

I've been curling up with my new book and in between totally incomprehensible sentences designed for chemically literate people, there are some excellent insights and observations, many of which I'll be sharing here during the coming weeks and months.

Today, though, I'll start with some basic stuff that may actually surprise you -- like the many ways in which your hair cuticle can suffer damage. (The cuticle is the shingle-like outer coating of your hair. Healthy cuticles lie flat and have minimal "shingles" broken. Unhealthy cuticles are chipped, exposing the hair shaft to further damage from the loss of lipids or even protein.)

1. Shampoo

The mere manipulation of the hair during this process is enough to erode the cuticle to a significant extent. I had always thought that wet hair was more pliable than dry, thereby possibly adding some protection but wet hair is quite susceptible to damage, says author Clarence Robbins, who provides several studies in which this phenomenon is repeatedly proven. When the hair is wet, it stretches while you shampoo it, and between the stretching and the abrasion of rubbing against others hairs, you get chipped cuticles.

Wet hair also swells up a bit as it absorbs water. So, even though it feels slicker to you, the cuticle is actually raised and if you are too rough during the shampoo process (no matter what kind of shampoo you're using), you are contributing to cuticle breakage.

I found this interesting because even though I do not use shampoo, the way I wash my hair with my Suave Naturals conditioner is producing a similar degree of damage to my hair. I am going to be gentler going forward.

But there's more ... the conditioning agents in whatever you're using can lift the cuticle still further and make hair even more susceptible to breakage. Robbins quotes studies that indicate cationic surfactants such stearalkonium chloride or cetrimonium chloride raise the cuticle far more readily than neutral conditioning agents such as cetyl or stearyl alcohol. If you use products to cleanse that contain cationic surfactants, you can somewhat mitigate their lifting tendencies by ensuring that the product also contains the neutral conditioning agents. (This information really helps to explain why hair feels fuller -- or in my case, flyaway -- after using conditioners with these cationic surfactants -- the scales of the cuticle have been lifted.)

2. Combing and brushing

No real surprise here except ... combing wet hair is more damaging to the cuticle than combing dry hair! Again the factors described above come into play. Brushing, however, is even more damaging than combing.

It's important not to confuse actual breakage of the hair with chipping of the cuticle. Combing or brushing dry hair is far more likely to break the hair completely than combing or brushing wet hair. If you combing combing or brushing wet hair, just keep in mind that you are not performing as harmless an act as you thought you were.

3. Exposure to sunlight

This "weathers" the hair and "ages" it (and not like a fine wine). Like anything that is subjected to the sun for too long a period, the hair dries out and gets brittle, and when it gets brittle, cuticle chipping happens.

4. Drying hair with heat

When heat is applied to hair, it rapidly removes the water that the hair was holding on to. The hair contracts quickly to adjust to this abrupt change in moisture and this contraction -- or relieving of pressure -- results in cracks to the cuticle surface. These cracks lead to fragmentation over time.

If you comb during heat styling, you're doing even more damage.

Obviously, chemical treatments such as bleaching, dying, straightening, etc. also do damage but you already knew that, so I won't go into that here.

My next post will look at how this cuticle fragmentation can allow beneficial as well as damaging chemicals to enter the hair shaft.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lorraine Massey update

A couple of you have asked me whether Lorraine Massey phoned me as she said she would after receiving my response to her message. (To recap, she wrote me in response to a blog post I wrote about how I wished she'd do another book, start a blog, and explain the 'cones in some of her products. I posted her message and my response to it.)

Upon receiving my email, she wrote me back very quickly on April 4 and said:

thank you so much,Sage
i love your search curl truth,i am like you that way !![it gets me into trouble at times]
if i may add , i am a hairdresser that works all day behind the chair with my curly clients,whom i adore!
So i don't always get on the computer !!
I am off today to a curly CURLlaberation in phoenix !
could we talk at some point?
i am quite a slow one handed writer ,
please be patient with Deva & me ....we come in curlpeace after all we are not talking about illnesses .recession or death here !! thank God !!!we have to get perspective
let me know, we could have a podchat if you'd like.
curl love ,curl truth & curlHIlites

The message is simultaneously gracious and annoyed, which is a hard balance to strike. :) (I didn't clean it up at all -- what you see is what she typed.)

It's obvious to me, though, that she did want to talk. However, she did not seem to agree with me that the concerns of the curly community were quite as dire as I'd represented them. Perhaps not. But if Deva were my business, I'd want to do all I could to squelch rumors, clarify misunderstandings, and present my business as an honest and forthright one. Her message left me feeling like I cared more about how Deva looked than she did.

Nevertheless, I told her I'd be happy to talk and gave her my phone number. But it is now April 19 and I have heard nothing.

Now, there's no denying that answering to one little blogger in a sea of curly-headed devotees who will buy Deva no matter what is probably not that big a priority for Lorraine Massey. Hers is a big (and growing) company and my 1300 visitors a week pose little threat to her empire. I get that. I also understand that the demands of her schedule are hefty and that her time is precious. But again, if it were my company, I would welcome the opportunity to rectify what is without question a whole bunch of confusion.

From what I can see, Deva has contracted with to present this marketing campaign (the "Challenge") and will be the mouthpiece through which Deva speaks. If it were speaking well, I could understand what a successful arrangement that is. But it isn't working well. The thread related to the Challenge is full of invectives, questions, and outright Deva-bashing. (Deva has a few supporters but honestly, they do not impress me as people who feel comfortable questioning corporate motives or accepting that a company might be capable of lying. They want to trust slick marketing messages and smiling shills. Sorry if you're one of those people and I've just offended you, but hey, it's my blog and I can say what I want here.)

I guess the question I'd like to pose to anybody reading this is: If you were Lorraine Massey, what would you do?

Deva has attempted to address the labeling situation with the following statement Gretchen at recently posted:

Deva decided to use existing packaging (labels, bottles & components) to avoid delaying the introduction and availability of the newly formulated silicone- and paraben-free Deva Curl One Condition as well as to avoid packaging waste. Moving forward, Deva has implemented transition procedures to make sure the new packaging coincides with any new silicone and paraben-free formulations.

We apologize for the confusion and are committed to doing a better job in the future. We appreciate your faith in Deva and your patience while we work on bringing exciting new silicone- and paraben-free products to you.

This statement appeased some people, but not most of us. Again, we were glad that Deva took the time to respond to our concerns, but the statement they released is pretty ridiculous and full of holes:

- Just how long does it take to get labels printed? Does a new formula honestly get created and bottled and distributed faster than accurate labels can be printed and slapped on bottles? Was this formula such a last-minute surprise that there was no time for labels?

- Claims of avoiding packaging waste are very amusing to me, considering that Deva has been advocating the use of paper towels to dry clients' hair for several years now. Taking an environmentally conscious stand at this juncture rings a tad false for Deva.

- It's nice that Deva, "moving forward," will see to it that the labeling transition from old formula to new will be better. That's good because I'm sure that's what the FDA would like to see, too.

- As I posted in the Challenge thread at, an industry insider recently explained to me that this sort of "label catch-up" is quite common in the beauty industry. The FDA either turns a blind eye to it or companies just don't divulge that they're still using old labels on new products, mostly because it is a temporary measure. Most companies handle this quietly but Deva kind of messed up and put the cart before the horse by announcing the new formula before the labels were on the bottles. It's important to note that Deva was not trying to intentionally mislead us all -- I think they just stumbled and made a mistake. Unfortunately, it was a confusing mistake and it left a lot of people angry about mislabeled products. Deva should have clarified this way sooner than it did.

So, folks, unless I hear from Lorraine Massey, I'm putting this matter to rest. There's so much more to talk about in the curly world than one line of hair products.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A curly community for the curious

I am delighted to report that Tiffany (of Live Curly, Live Free site and blog, aka StruttsWife) has set up a forum for those of us who have moved beyond the "what hair type am I?" stage and long to know more about what makes products work, why our hair behaves as it does, and what we can do to respond to hair's specific needs.

Can you even imagine how excited I am about this? Plus ... I am a moderator on the forum, which means I will have to read everything, even if it takes me away from my day job. Oh, the sacrifice.

Visit the Live Curly, Live Free Forum to see whether it's a place you can appreciate. Even if you don't feel you know enough to contribute, there's nothing wrong with lurking. We all stand to learn so much from a forum like this one, and big hugs to Tiffany for creating it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Deva Curl One Condition

One Condition is weird, you ask? Since when?

Since they decided to change the ingredients, of course.

The original product -- which smells more divine than any conditioner I have ever experienced -- contained the following:

Aqueous Extracts of: Achilea Millefolium, Chamomilia Recutita (Matricaria), Cymbopogon Schoenanthus, Humulus Lupulus (Hops), Melissa Offcinalis (Balm Mint), Rosmarinus Offcinalis (Rosemary); Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Glycerin, Amodimethicone, Olive Oil, Cetrimonium Chloride, Cetyl Esters, Propylene Glycol, Trideceth-12, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methyl Paraben, Propyl Paraben, Fragrance.

Lots of people loved it, despite the fact that it contained a silicone (which Massey made her millions railing against) and had no protein (which Massey says in her book that a good conditioner should have). I suppose we could argue that the hops in the formula counted as protein, but I have not been able to find anything that proves this conclusively. If you can point me somewhere to see that kind of proof, by all means, do so.

Please note that the above list of ingredients is taken directly from the bottle I possess (bought more than a year ago). The first item is misspelled. It should be achillea (two l's) millefolium. So right off the bat, it's clear that somebody wasn't doing their due diligence on ingredient fact-checking. By the way, achillea millefolium is yarrow, another fact that the label does not disclose.

The next item, Chamomillia Recutita, also goes by Matricaria Recutita, and is basically chamomille. Cymbopogon Schoenanthus is also known as "camel grass" (so you can see why using the Latin name is preferred) and also as lemongrass, and it is a fragrant herb with no medicinal uses. The rest of the ingredients before the semi-colon are explained in parentheses and we can see, thanks to the semi-colon, that this list represents an herbal blend. And because this blend is at the top of the list, we can deduce that it figures prominently in the formulation. (To learn more about how to read an ingredient list, check out this blog post by the Beauty Brains.)

So now we are told that the new product contains the following ingredients:

Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Glycerin, Glycol Distearate, Cetyl Esters, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Oleo Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Melissa Officinalis (Balm Mint) Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (Lemongrass) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricia) Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Achillea Millefolium (Yarrow) Extract, Propylene Glycol, Cetrimonium Chloride, Citric Acid, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Fragrance (Parfum).

Do you see what has happened? What is the main ingredient in this product now? Why, it's water! And after the emollients, fatty alcohols, and humectants (6 to be exact), there is some olive oil, which is nice. I've always thought that was one of the better ingredients in the previous formula, too. I am a big fan of olive oil.

But then comes the list of botanicals. And it is remarkably similar to the list from the old product.

Hey, wait a minute. Didn't Deva say that it was removing the amodimethicone because the company had finally found botanicals to replace it? Do you see any new botanicals in this list? And why, if botanicals are now so important, do they appear lower on the ingredient list than they did before? In other words, why do we have more fillers in this version of the product and a lower percentage of botanicals?

Don't you find that weird?

The parabens do appear to be gone, if those were a concern to you, and there is no mention of silicone, so that's a plus, too.

So, you're still paying $18 for 12 ounces but now you're getting fewer botanicals, a higher percentage of fillers, and the lingering memory of a labeling saga that reeks of something far less pleasant than lemongrass.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The right way to run a curl business

Well, the events of last week left me (and probably many of you) a little disappointed. There's nothing worse than realizing that someone you respected and admired is really not worthy of respect or admiration. So, rather than harping on how not to run a business and focusing on a company that disregards its clientele for the sake of ever-increasing profit margins, I thought it might be nice to give some time and attention to a company that's doing things right: Curl Junkie.

Talking to Marsha, owner of Curl Junkie, reaffirmed for me that it's possible to create quality products for curly hair, and respond to client inquiries and requests with respect and honesty. Marsha is passionate about curly hair and gets very involved in the formulation of her products -- she can tell you not only what's in them but why. She also maintains a terrific blog!

Jillipoo: When did you start Curl Junkie and why?

Curl Junkie Marsha: I got started with Curl Junkie officially in February 2006 after months of formulating and learning about formulating, and years of being a PJ (product junkie) and learning about ingredients. I cut off my relaxed hair in 2003 and had been trying everything as well as the different methods (CG, etc.) to take care of my hair and was pretty frustrated. When I was in cosmetology school, I also saw a lack of product selection for our curly haired clients and their dissatisfaction with what was out there. I was working at a salon in NYC when I was inspired to try developing my own products to work on my clients' hair as well as my own. I wasn't necessarily thinking of starting my own line, but as my clients asked for more product, I began to do more research into how to start.

J: What is your background in hair?

I have always been fascinated by hair and actually wanted to be a hairdresser since I was 11 years old. I can remember being into analyzing conditioners and reading ingredient labels and trying to decipher ingredients in my early high school years. After going to college and grad school and working in the business and education fields, I finally decided that what I really wanted to do was go to cosmetology school. I graduated in mid-2005 and got my license in Oct. 2005.

J: What is your business philosophy?

CJM: There are so many types of curly girls and therefore there should be as many options. My goal is a modest one and that is to make high quality products that are worthy enough to stay in my customers' permanent rotation, if not become their HG (holy grail) products! Everything else revolves around that goal, including trying to provide excellent customer service and listen to customer feedback to keep improving customer satisfaction.

J: How do you create products and how is that different than the way most companies create products?

CJM: I cannot speak 100% for how other companies create products, but I think that the bigger companies or folks with the money go to a chemist and ask that a certain product created. They then let the chemist create. This means they are in the hands of the chemist, and not all chemists are created equal! Not to mention the back and forth between getting the samples which may or may not be good, can take months and months, and have no guarantee of success. In my experience, I have found it better to do the product creation, since I can work more efficiently and quickly than doing it through a chemist who may not understand all the needs of my client base. This means many, many hours of formulating on paper and then actually formulating, then failing many, many, many times until finally it clicks and the final product is born!!! Nothing is more satisfying!

J: Most people really do not understand what "all natural" means and why it isn't necessarily better than using ingredients made in a lab. What are your thoughts on this subject?

I think that is because the term has been abused. I do not think that all "artificial" ingredients are bad, but you have to choose wisely. I always check the safety of the ingredient and the function, because sometimes there are not good substitutes for the natural and sometimes the synthetic just really performs better. I have found that many companies claiming to be "all natural" are not. They may use some natural ingredients, but they are mixed with plenty of synthetics. Again, that doesn't mean that the products aren't good or safe, but it is misleading.

J: I've noticed that your product line is constantly evolving. What does this mean?

I listen to and take customer feedback very seriously. If I get enough complaints or requests for a new product and I can do it, time and money-wise (since manufacturers are very costly!), I work on developing or improving product and I love to do it since I want my customers to be as happy as possible with the products.

J: Lots of curly girls avoid silicones like the plague. Do you think that's necessary?

CJM: I think that every head is different and a lot depends on your lifestyle and product selection. For example, I love to shampoo, but not with harsh SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) type shampoos, but gentle ones like (shameless plug alert) my Curl Assurance Gentle Cleansing shampoo. That means, for me, that I could use a product with any type of silicone if I wanted. What I have found however, is that my hair doesn't react well to most silicones and can only take some modified Dimethicones and Amodimethicone in small doses and occasionally. I have tried to formulate my products so that there are no silicones or at least very small amounts and yet function in a similar fashion (in terms of conditioning, detangling, etc.) It can be done, it just tends to be more costly! But, in the long run, I have found my hair responds better to my products and others like them. The silicone-based ones feel like a "quick fix." However, for people who want to use heat tools or have very damaged hair, silicones may help with ease of combing and heat protection. It is a very individual choice, so I would not make a blanket statement about silicones since they do work for some people.

J: Most beauty products today are sold as much on the basis of how they feel and smell as much as how they perform. "Fillers" in hair care products are very common yet not well understood. What are some examples of fillers and can they ever be harmful or are they just benign and help the product feel more appealing to users? Does Curl Junkie avoid these and if so, why?

CJM: I have come to understand that there are certain ingredients which can help lower the cost of a product, while achieving a similar function, but if you use too much of these ingredients, you lose the effectiveness of the product. This is why a lot of drugstore products are disappointing. The ingredient lists look similar to more expensive ones, but don't perform the same. That’s because, instead of using, say, 5% of the ingredient, they use 1% because it's cheaper. It's not that most of these "fillers" are bad, it's just that companies seem to use them to substitute out or use less of more effective, expensive ingredients. For example, Cetyl Alcohol is a thickener and can be used as a filler. I love fatty alcohols because they make the product feel luxurious and do have conditioning benefits, but if you use more of it so you can use less of, say, shea butter, because it's cheaper, then you are using it as a "filler." So when I formulate, I look to find the right balance that will achieve the goal I'm looking for, not to hit a certain cost. Then, I'll see what it prices out to be. For some large companies, they will say to a chemist, "Develop a new rinse-out conditioner for $2 per 8oz,” and then the chemist will work backwards to achieve that goal. They will think about the cheapest thickeners, conditioners, and emollients with little concern about safety and most concern about cost and then effectiveness. I think there are few unsafe fillers. To me, it seems to be more about cost vs. function/effectiveness.

J: Advertising messages tell us we can eliminate frizz. How realistic is that for curly-haired people?

CJM: It is realistic for some, not all. For me, my hair can be mostly frizz-free, but I have NEVER been all frizz free and that is because I have too many types of curl patterns in my hair (from 3c-4a) and that alone can cause frizz. I have seen some curly heads that can be, and are, 99% frizz-free, but they are rare and I don't think that is a completely realistic goal for most and quite frankly, I think it can look a bit fake! A little "frizz" gives character and body! I look for hair to be: 1) healthy, 2) moisturized, 3) as defined as possible. I don't mind crunch, since some of it is necessary for my hair to look how I want it to look. If I have some frizz, I don't mind as long as the first two goals are met, because then your hair will look good no matter what ... IMO!

J: What have you learned about curly hair since first starting Curl Junkie?

CJM: Wow ... A ton. In particular, just how many types of curly/kinky hair there are and why you can't please everyone's hair type. That's OK, though, since I believe there is room for everyone! Also, I've learned a lot about chemistry and the uses of different ingredients. For example, gels, or I should say, the ingredients which can be used to make them and their benefits and drawbacks, which was something I hated in the beginning because I didn't fully understand the chemistry and have now come to love! I love challenges!

Thanks so much, Marsha, for your time and insights. Curly girls take note: this is the kind of enterprise that deserves our patronage, not one that plays games with labeling and won't answer direct questions about ingredients...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

One step closer to geekitude

I've had my eye on this book for months. But at $175, I balked. Justifiably, I think.

And then, about 10 days ago, I saw it on Amazon for less than half of that. And I had just gotten paid, so ... I bought it. It arrived today and my inner curl is all a-twitter.

It's the fourth edition (the most recent) but it came out in 2002, so perhaps I won't learn about the latest and greatest product interactions, but at least I'll learn more about the hair itself -- how it behaves, what role heredity plays, how certain substances react with it.

Either that, or it'll be completely over my head, I'll abandon the whole idea, and go back to getting all my information from women's magazines.

Wish me luck. I'll share any cool stuff I pick up here so we can learn together.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Japanese hair trends

I have my boyfriend to thank for sending me this little tidbit. Have I got him trained or what?

Maybe this is a trend that we'll soon see in the U.S., but Japan-based Mod's Hair is selling hair products based not on hair type (or desired hair type!) but rather on the hairstyle itself. For instance, take the "Airy Bob" hair wax. You would buy this product if you intended to wear your hair as the model to the right is wearing hers. You can see where the "airy" comes from -- it isn't flat and straight -- and obviously, her hair is cut in a bob. What an ingenious way to sell product. With all the hairstyles that are out there, you could convince users that they need a different product for every one!

And yes, there is one for curls. Well, waves. It's called Wave Memory and it's intended to make your hair "remember" the waves you create for it in the morning, even if you run your hands or fingers or a comb through it during the day. Hmmmm. My hair does enough thinking for itself, thank you, I don't know if I want it defying my attempts to run my hands through it. And when does it stop working, I wonder? Maybe when it gets wet? I don't know enough Japanese to read the site and find out.... But I wonder if it will hold naturally curly hair as well as it professes to hold fake curls/waves?

I couldn't find an ingredient list (in English) so I don't know what magical stuff these products contain. Maybe one of you can let me know!

And in keeping with our Japanese theme today, here's a little glimpse of the recent Japanese Hair Show. If this doesn't make you glad that all you have to worry about are some uncooperative curls, I don't know what will.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why your boyfriend is oblivious to your hair

Don't tell your boyfriend but there may actually be a scientific reason that explains why he doesn't notice when you're having a bad (or good) hair day.

New Scientist tells us that, for some people, the part of the brain that recognizes hairstyles is different than the part of the brain that recognizes faces. The article called this "hair blindness."

Personally, I eagerly await the man who has "does my butt look big in this dress" blindness.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lorraine Massey wrote to me

Gentle readers, gather round. I want to share an email I received from Lorraine Massey today. (I don't think she'd mind my putting it out for the world to see.)

dear Sage!
came across your blog ,someone 4warded it to me!!
so sorry about your frustration with me ,but i never claimed to be an author!
we never even thourght [sic] we would sell as many copies as we did!!
YES , i am updating & expanding CG as we Curl!!
thank you ,its curly girls like you that push me to try even harder
much curLOVE
lorraine ox

She is obviously responding to my post of a few weeks ago, in which I implored her to speak up about several discrepancies between the philosophy in her book and the ingredients in her products. Mainly, though, the post asked her publicly to update her book in order to address these discrepancies.

She must subscribe to Google Alerts or something because she found me and wrote to assure me that another book is coming.

Most of us knew that already, thanks to the Curly Girl Challenge. And for the most part, it's good news. As long as the book has more substance than the first one, that is.

I am touched, honored, and flattered that Lorraine would take the time to write me. It's also good business. Her timing is interesting, though, isn't it? For those of us who've been following the controversy at NaturallyCurly about the Curly Girl Challenge, Lorraine's response comes up a little short, I'm sorry to say.

I wrote her back, and here is what I said:


What a pleasure to hear from you! I'm very flattered that you took the time to write me, and I'm excited to know that another book is in the works. I'd heard about it through the Curly Girl Challenge you are conducting with the help of

I'm not sure whether you know that you and Deva are not getting good press at the moment. There is confusion over not only the contest, but the Deva line of products. And nobody from Deva is representing the company in a manner that adequately addresses the community's concerns, which is only adding fuel to the fire and raising the level of debate. In fact, I am sharing this email with the readers of my blog at because many of us are following this topic with great interest.

I confess that I am at a loss to figure out why so many questions continue to go unanswered. Rather than sending a representative to field questions and promote Deva at, why don't you speak to us directly, as you did to me via email? The Curly Community who frequent the forums there are rapidly losing faith in what you and Deva stand for. Nobody is happy about the situation. I would think that would be true of you most of all.

A Deva representative stated: "Any trace amount of a cone that was previously in Deva, has been removed. The reason it was there in the first place, was because we were unable to find a botanical replacement. However, I am happy to report that as of January 1st, 2009, DevaCurl is silicone free, paraben free, plastic free, resin free, sulfate free, botanically drenched and considered vegan. We have never tested on animals and we will never test on animals.

"Please note that by law, we have permission to finish any unused labels from 2008, but rest assured, any product that was filled in 2009, even with 2008 labels stands by our promise."

Some people have found the Challenge unclear and confusing. (I am not in that camp, but am just relaying some of the buzz to you.) More important, though, is the flurry of commentary that has arisen from the Deva rep's statement I quoted above. People are demanding to know:

1. How can Deva legally sell a product whose contents are not accurately represented on its label? Gretchen from tried to explain that Deva just wanted to use up all its labels. Are the costs of labels that big an expense for a company as large as Deva? And are labeling standards that loose in the United States? If so, it would seem that none of us should trust that what's listed on any product is actually what's inside the bottle/tube/jar. Why not put a new label over the old one, or at least date the bottles to help consumers know whether they are using the old or new formulation? Surely you can appreciate how ridiculous Deva looks when it makes a statement like that. You need to step in and clear things up.

2. Many of us, myself included, feel that DevaCurl OneCondition is the antithesis of what you say curly hair needs. It contains a silicone, and has no protein. (Your book states that a good conditioner should have a balance of protein, emollients, humectants, and moisture.) Although amodimethicone is a relatively light silicone, it is nevertheless present in OneCondition, and we can only assume, since Deva is your company, that you were fully aware it was there. Because you have been silent on this point, many of us have further assumed that you opted to put out such a product because it was financially expedient to do so. We'd probably even find it in our curly hearts to forgive you for that lapse in judgment if you'd just talk about it publicly. Your silence is forcing people to fill in the gaps, and when that happens, the truth is lost amid conjecture, accusation, and assumptions. The fact that Deva is now announcing that the silicone has been removed suggests that the company acknowledges it was mistake to have it in there in the first place.

3. The Deva rep says botanicals will replace the amodimethicone. What sort of botanicals? Because the new products aren't labeled properly, we cannot even consult the bottles for more information. Doesn't this lack of disclosure leaves Deva open to civil suits in the event that someone uses the "new" version that contains something they are allergic to? Why would Deva risk that? What is in the new formulation and why aren't you sharing the ingredient list?

Lorraine, I know you're busy but it wouldn't take long to address the curly community through and put a stop to all the rumor mongering and Deva bashing. A few hours of your time and some genuine transparency in lieu of the cutesy curl banter would go a long way toward winning back some customers and gaining new ones. It's a goodwill gesture that's long overdue, in my opinion.

Best regards,
(aka Sage Vivant)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Propylene Glycol

If you counted all the times I've had my head up my butt about ingredients, you'd get a number higher than the Nasdaq. (True that number is lower than it has been, but it's still pretty high.)

Take propylene glycol, for instance. About a year ago, after reading CurlChemist's article on Humidity, Humectants, and Hair, I took a gander at her list of humectants at the bottom of the page. In my addled little pea brain, I noticed that many of the humectants contained gly in their names and so I made the rather natural assumption that the gly meant they were derived from glycerine, the mother of humectants.

[Buzzer sounds] I was wrong.

Turns out that propylene glycol is a petroleum product. No reason for concern, says CurlChemist, and I have to agree, even though I try to avoid petroleum products whenever I can. (Like, I once had a friend who slept with Vaseline on her face every night. She had great skin but I just couldn't bring myself to emulate that particular ritual without evoking images of oil derricks and highly flammable job sites.) Although it is a humectant and works very much like glycerine, propylene glycol does not contain glycerine.

But get this. Scientists are at work to convert glycerine into propylene glycol! Seems it's a renewable (read: eco-friendly) method of propylene glycol production. (Yes, propylene glycol is used in anti-freeze, but that's not as scary as it sounds. The more you learn about ingredients, the more you realize that our laundry detergent contains the sulfates that are in shampoo, our hair conditioners contain the very compounds that make fabric softeners work so well, and that personal care products benefit from the same viscosity that anti-freeze does. What a world, huh?) I haven't found too much more about this topic that's recent, but I thought it was interesting that the gly in propylene glycol may not signify glycerine now, but it will in the near future!

I do avoid propylene glycol because my hair is not a big fan of humectants, but at least now I know not to avoid them because they are glycerine. Yet.