Sunday, May 24, 2009

Is there a cure for product junkieism?

Also known as PJism, this condition is rampant and growing among women in general and with curly-haired women in particular. Treatment is still in development: cures have been elusive and there is no 12-step program for this problem.

First, though, let's define this condition and its victim. A Product Junkie (PJ) is someone who keeps purchasing products despite:

* lack of funds
* an abundance of existing product
* hair that already looks great
* having found products that are compatible with her hair

Most PJs recognize that their conduct is a little abnormal. For example, they know that other people do not:

* hide their purchases from other family members in an attempt to avoid the inevitable intervention
* buy products they know will not work for them
* repurchase products that failed to work for them

Oddly, Product Junkies are not ashamed of their buying habits. On the contrary, many are proud of their overflowing medicine cabinets and wear their unbridled consumerism like a badge of honor, especially when talking to others who are similarly afflicted. If you have a PJ in your life, you would be wise to note this personality trait because it means your attempts to alter their behavior will be futile. The average PJ does not wish to change. Trying to modify their behavior is like putting lipstick on a pig: it doesn't work and it only annoys the pig.

If you are a PJ, take note: nobody believes your halfhearted promises to go straight and stick with a handful of products. When you use the swap board at just to ensure that no company name appears on the package that gets sent to your house, you aren't fooling anybody who lives with you.

When your purse is extra heavy, nobody thinks it's because your wallet has more money or you've acquired a few new keys -- they know you're carrying around a new jar of something to eradicate frizz in the afternoon.

And when you're in a drugstore, it's obvious that the hair care aisle is your real destination, even if you force yourself to meander there after picking up ant traps and tampons.

Everybody knows. And I know too, because I'm right behind you in that aisle.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Rockin' Ringlets

In keeping with our Jessicurl theme of the past week and a half, I thought I'd cover a product that I have a love/hate relationship with: Rockin' Ringlets.

How do I love thee, Rockin' Ringlets?

Well, first off, you are made of flax seeds and we all know what a friend flax seed is to curly hair. Mwah!

Secondly, you are unlike any other product in look, consistency, or aroma. You break the mold for products and I am a sucker for originality. For this, I kiss you.

Next, you give me beautiful, clumpy curls that never look fake or stiff or overdone. I could hug you for this alone.

But how do I not love you, Rockin' Ringlets?

Well, first off, I have to remember to shake your bottle before use, and for some reason this action is not always intuitive. Especially first thing in the morning. Over time, though, I have accepted this charming quirk of yours.

But the real reason I do not love you is because you possess something that my hair rejects: magnesium sulfate. Oh, I know; magnesium sulfate is just plain ol' salt and for many people, that ingredient makes curly hair curl and stay curled. I don't hate you for being salty -- I just wish magnesium sulfate didn't give me wicked halo frizz after one day of use.


Why can't hair care be a slam dunk? Early in my CG journey, I started using Jessicurl. All was well for the first few weeks and I was so delighted to have found what was clearly my holy grail product line. Then the halo frizz started. Mild at first, but after a few more weeks, the halo frizz was no longer curly but straight! I hadn't seen my hair without curl since my last trip to Arizona (where the dew point was so low that my entire head of hair had no curl at all and I am not exaggerating). So, I knew that something in Rockin' Ringlets was drying me out, and it didn't take long to figure out, after reading about magnesium sulfate in the "Ingredients Philosophy" on Jessicurl's site, that that was the culprit. These days, I can only use it once a week or so. (There is magnesium sulfate in Confident Coils, too, but Jess says there's much more in Rockin' Ringlets.)

Tiffany recently pointed out that the magnesium sulfate issue might afflict porous hair like mine more than non-porous hair. Her theory is that magnesium sulfate can build up in the pockets and holes that characterize porous hair, thereby giving it more opportunity to dry the hair out. Sounds reasonable.

As Jess stated in her interview here recently, mixing Rockin' Ringlets with either some oil or even Aloeba may help to relieve some of the magnesium sulfate troubles for those of us who experience that reaction. (I haven't tried this yet but intend to soon.)

So, for me, Rockin' Ringlets is a weird product because when it's good, my hair looks smashing but when it's bad, I want to smash my hair.

(If you're not sure what Rockin' Ringlets will do to your hair, either buy some on the swap boards at or buy a trial pack from Jessicurl.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Jessicurl speaks! (Part Five)

This might actually be my favorite segment of the interview. If you've ever spent any time at the Jessicurl site, you'll know that Jess is extremely committed to public service -- everything from Smile Train to Women Around the World to donating her own hair to Locks of Love. When you buy from Jessicurl, your money doesn't just go into Jess's pocket, it goes to support worthy causes worldwide.

What if bigger companies did what Jess is doing? And what if all of them did it? Maybe there would be fewer problems in the world that exist for lack of financial support.

Listen to Jess talk about why it's important to her to do more for the world than make curly hair pretty.

Previous installments of the Jessicurl interview:

Listen to Jess talk about her role in the company.

Listen to Jess talk about how to choose products and why product performance may change for you over time.

Listen to Jessicurl's stance on "natural" claims

Listen to Jess discuss silicones and sulfates

Listen to Jess talk about how products get developed and made, why you can't please everybody, and what to do if magnesium sulfate is troublesome for you.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jessicurl speaks! (Part Four)

Anyone who has ever written to Jessicurl and received a response directly from Jess herself probably knows that she is actively involved in her business. As her business grows, though, she is having to prioritize how and where she spends her time. As marketing demands increase, she has to adapt from a purely customer service person to an emissary and public relations person for Jessicurl.

Listen to Jess talk about her role in the company.

Previous posts in this interview series:

Listen to Jess talk about how to choose products and why product performance may change for you over time.

Listen to Jessicurl's stance on "natural" claims

Listen to Jess discuss silicones and sulfates

Listen to Jess talk about how products get developed and made, why you can't please everybody, and what to do if magnesium sulfate is troublesome for you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Jessicurl speaks! (Part Two)

These portions of the Jessicurl interview are about ingredients: what is "natural", why Jessicurl products will never contain silicones, and how she developed hair cleansers without sulfates.

Listen to Jessicurl's stance on "natural" claims

Listen to Jess discuss silicones and sulfates

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Jessicurl speaks! (Part One)

As regular readers of this blog will note, I've been interviewing owners of small, curly hair product companies to celebrate and showcase the ones who know what's in the products they sell (and why) and the ones who truly demonstrate respect for their customers. So far, we've heard from the delightful Marsha at Curl Junkie and Ayanna at Donna Marie.

This series would not be complete, however, without checking in with Jessica McGuinty, owner and founder of Jessicurl. I have a special place in my heart for this line because it was the first one I tried after going CG and I absolutely loved it -- until the magnesium sulfate caused me to have to cut back and use the stylers less often. But I still use the Aloeba conditioner several times a week -- I truly love it. Jess started her company in 2002 and traces her, um, roots to the discussion boards at, where she began making flax seed gel in her kitchen based on what she was learning about ingredients that worked for curly hair. Other curlies wanted to try her concoction and soon afterward, Jess started her own company, where that modest but potent flax seed gel became the venerable Rockin' Ringlets! You can read more about Jess and her story here.

Jess agreed to be interviewed but after seeing my questions, she asked if she could answer them verbally in order to give them the attention she felt they required. For those of you who've never met Jess, she is an engaging, personable, fun-loving, and articulate person (with great hair) with a gift for making people feel at ease. She was in San Francisco for a few days in April, so we got together and did the interview in person. And then we celebrated the success of the interview by going out for a beer. I tell you, we bloggers live a glamorous life!

Jess is such a generous person that she put the interview on her voice recorder then uploaded it in pleasantly bite-sized portions so that you can listen to all the pieces or only those that you think will be relevant or meaningful to you.

Part One: Listen to Jess talk about how products get developed and made, why you can't please everybody, and what to do if magnesium sulfate is troublesome for you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Afro Detangler

What smells pretty, is a popular leave-in among curly heads, and is only sold by the half-gallon? Why, it's Afro Detangler!

This product is yet another one that sort of slipped by me until throngs of people were using it. I finally looked up, said "Huh? Wha'd I miss?" and asked kathymack for a sample. Because ain't no way I was going to shell out $49 for a product I'd never tried. And that's some kinda confidence, don't you think, for a company to sell a product only in an impossibly large container? Based on the raves at, though, maybe that confidence is justified.

Plus, who the hell needs a product that takes up as much space as a half-gallon of milk?

Now, even though I am a bit of a lemming when it comes to product experimentation, I did want to see what was in this stuff before I committed even to a sample. Here are the ingredients:

Active Ingredients: water, avocado/mango/shea butter, vitamin E, avocado oil, lecithin, green tea extract, orange extract, CitroZine™ (Organic) as a preservative, natural fragrance.

"Well, that's a pretty nice list," I thought, eyebrows raised in interest as I PayPaled kathymack for a sample. I love avocado oil and shea butter as nighttime treatments (I sleep in one of them or coconut oil every night). Vitamin E is a known moisturizer and anti-oxidant for hair. And I didn't see anything on that list that I didn't understand, so I went ahead and ordered.

It smells very pretty indeed. Not overpowering or weird, just pretty. And if I didn't have fine hair, I think I would be in love with this product.

But alas, I do have fine hair, and all those oils make my clumps skinny. I like my clumps fat.

Thick, coarse hair is bound to love Afro-Detangler, and probably medium hair will, too. And although it did not weigh my hair down as I suspected it might, it did react on my hair like straight oil does, and that is to give me many smaller curls instead of fewer big curls.

Does anyone else experience this with products containing oils? I don't know the science behind the phenomenon but I do know that although my hair feels conditioned and soft with a small amount of the right kind of oils, it also separates into a bijillion curls. I guess that would be okay if that's the look I was going for, but most days, that isn't what I want.

Also, Afro-Detangler absorbed into my hair very quickly, as if it contained aloe vera. I wonder what ingredient made it do that?

So, I don't dislike this product at all. In fact, if it came in a container that didn't require two hands to wield, I'd probably buy some to use on occasion because it does condition beautifully and I can see why people would love it as a leave-in. For me, though, it just doesn't deliver the kind of curls I like.

So what do you think? Do you love it? What does it do for you?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Look no further for hair knowledge

Have you been trying to figure out what products to buy? Are you confused by how your hair behaves? Do you wish you had a little science on your side to get answers to your questions?

Tiffany Anderson (aka StruttsWife at has written a book!

Tiffany has been dispensing information from for years and cutting curly hair for even longer than that. She understands that not all hair responds to the same products and she knows why. And now, with her book, you can understand it too.

This is a fantastic book -- I know because I had the honor of being one of the editors for it! It is without question the resource that so many of us have been crying out for.

It's called Live Curly, Live Free: Unlocking the Secrets Behind the World of Beautiful Curls and guess what? You can get your hands on it instantly because it's an e-book! Download it today. You will not be sorry.