Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Weird Product Wednesday: Dr. Bronner's Shikakai Conditioning Hair Rinse

Aren't lemons wonderful? They are so cleansing, so fresh! And of course, my favorite: so natural! Products with lemons? Why, yes, please. I'll take two!

Lemons are great on fish. You can't make lemonade without them. And a little bit rubbed on your silverware will make it shine.

Lemon in hair, however, is quite another matter indeed.

Good students of hair know (by reading Live Curly, Live Free), that acidic solutions help to close the hair's cuticle (making hair smoother) while alkaline solutions raise it (making hair rougher and facilitating the loss of moisture and the entry of dirt, pollution, and other environmental ghouls). The pH of hair is somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5 on the pH scale (which goes up to 14). Vinegar has an acidic value of about 3 (depending on the type of vinegar, it ranges from 2.4 to 3.4). This is why vinegar rinses are favored by many of us -- the abrupt change in pH shuts down the cuticle and results in smoother, shinier hair.

Lemon juice's pH is about 2 on the pH scale. "Pffft," you say. "That's almost the same as vinegar." How wrong you would be, my curly princess. Every successive number on the pH scale represents an amount 10 times more (or less, depending on what direction you're moving in) than the previous one. So, lemon is quite a bit more acidic than vinegar.

I knew this going in when I ordered my bottle of Dr. Bronner's Shikakai Citrus Rinse. I thought I could take it. I thought my hair just needed some tough love, courtesy of the Doctor and his insane little ramblings on his products.

The bottle arrived in the mail and I read the directions. I frowned when I read I would have to dilute a couple of capfuls in water -- I prefer products that are perfect and ready to use the moment they leave the bottle. But, I reasoned, I would have had to mix vinegar had I opted to close my cuticle with an ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinse, so I justified the inconvenience with that rationale.

I had read on the NC.com forums that some people had encountered "globs" in this product. One person said she dealt with them by putting the two capfuls of product in a plastic bottle, adding the water, and then shaking up the concoction like a cocktail. Another person said she brought a cup and a whisk into the shower to eliminate the globs. This option did not seem viable to me, as I refuse to bring kitchen utensils into the bathroom. I have boundaries about that sort of thing.

I believed I could just put the product in my plastic cup, hold it under the shower head and let the shower spray break up the globules. Well, it certainly sounds clever, doesn't it?

I underestimated the power of the globules. When the water filled the cup, the globs danced in spiteful revelry. They proceeded to laugh at my attempt to break them up with my fingers. I tried stirring with my fingers to no avail. Finally, concerned that the shower was running and no progress was being made with my hair routine, I just poured the contents of the cup over my head slowly, being careful to make sure not to miss any areas and waiting to feel that luxurious sleekness that the bottle promised.

I was distracted from discovering this sleekness, however, as I watched brown globs go SPLAT on the floor of the tub. The back of my head started to burn in one spot, so I quickly turned my head to catch the shower spray there. But I didn't want to stay too long under the spray or I might lose the benefits of this acidic treatment. Water is alkaline, you know.

Bent over, I ran my fingers through my hair, imagining I felt the "magic" conditioning effects. I also wanted to make sure I'd gotten rid of all the globs that might be stuck there. One hit my knee. Another landed on my toe. A few more landed in the water headed for the drain.

I turned the water off, vaguely aware that the back of my head was still more than a little tingly. Onto my white bath mat fell a brown glob, and when I reached for my cream colored towel, the one that had been hiding on my middle finger smeared itself on the towel. Another glob popped out of my head and flew onto the toilet seat. It mocked me as I stared in horror at it.

These things were like Tribbles. I began to wonder if I'd come home that night and find armies of them in every room of the house.

I scrunched in some Kinky-Curly Curling Custard, then dried my hair with my Curl-Ease towel. That's when I discovered the entire capful of product that resided just above the nape of my neck. My Curl-Ease turned brown where I had touched it to my head.

Clearly, I needed to rinse this area. The burn was becoming uncomfortable and the Curl-Ease was not up to the task of removing it all. But I had styling product in my hair already! Carefully, then, I put my head under the sink and tried to remove the excess Bronner's without rinsing out the KCCC. I was moderately successful. My head no longer burned and I still felt some KCCC in that section of my hair.

I also saw new brown globs -- two on the nearby wall and another on the bath mat. My boyfriend was going to think I was having intestinal problems...

Did I mention it smelled fresh and clean? Yeah, well, it did. And as long as I kept it from running into my eyes, I could enjoy the aroma.

I blow-dried my hair and went to work, self-conscious for the first hour or so that globs would be dotting my collar or sitting on my shoulder seam. These fears were unfounded, I am happy to inform you.

How did my hair look? Pretty good. Better than normal. But by the end of the day, it was decidedly parched. The lemon juice in Dr. Bronner's had gotten the best of me. If my hair could have made a face, it would have been this one:

This product is beyond weird. Maybe I can use it to clean my bathroom.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Polyquat update!

It seems that NaturallyCurly.com's Curl Chemist has written more about polyquats, and I wasn't aware of it (thanks, ReddishRocks, for clueing me in!). So, for those of you with an interest in this topic, be sure to check out her article here. It contains information about recent studies that have determined which polyquats build up more than others.

Quick summation: Hair smiles upon Polyquaternium 44. It is very conditioning yet easy to remove. Polyquat 10 doesn't condition terribly well and is not that hard to remove (although this conflicts with what my brainy book says), and Polyquats 7 and 11 are a little harder to remove (which my hair already knew).

Many thanks, Curl Chemist!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Get to know Komaza Care

I'd like to introduce you to Rene, owner and founder of Komaza Care hair products.

Komaza is a line of products designed for and mostly marketed to people with African American (or "ethnic") hair, but like Donna Marie, Caucasians have fallen in love with them, too. The Komaza line is free of sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates, mineral oil, petroleum, and silicones, which of course, makes it a big friend to those who are CG ("Curly Girl"). I must confess up front that I have never tried this line, and yes, I'm as shocked as you are by that oversight! But I've been reading the many raves on the discussion boards at NaturallyCurly.com and I know that this line has lots of fans. I also know that Rene, similar to Marsha at Curl Junkie, is as committed to providing high quality products as she is to delivering attentive, responsive customer service.

Rene started her company because she was fed up with the poor quality and synthetic properties of the products that were available for ethnic hair. Hair and scalp issues were so common that she vowed to develop products that would encourage growth (by keeping pores and follicles unclogged) and not build up on the hair. Rene is also smart enough to offer samples of her products, so if there's something you're curious about, you can just try it out rather than making a big investment.

Enough of my blathering! Let's talk to Rene.

Jillipoo: Do you formulate your own products? If so, what is your method/process? If not, who does it for you?

Komaza Care Rene: Yes, I formulate my own products. I think about what results I want to achieve for the hair type I am creating the product for. I know that each hair type does well with certain ingredients based on the hair type's structure. Some hair types need ingredients that help the hair absorb more moisture and retain it while some do not.

J: Komaza was started to give people with ethnic hair an alternative to the mineral oil-laden and petroleum-based products that have been a staple for them for years, and that's wonderful! You may have seen my recent post on "natural" products. Do you consider Komaza's ingredients natural, and if so, why? Are there some ingredients that you consider very unique to Komaza? Do you feel that there are any synthetic ingredients that are benign or actually good for hair?

KCR: First, I must say, I agree with your Natural Product post. Komaza Care products are considered natural because they are plant based. But you are right, most plant based product have been altered to make them more compatible and "natural" doesn't always mean that they are not harmful. I wouldn't consider any of the ingredients unique to Komaza -- just the formula is unique. There are so many ingredients that work wonderfully for hair, especially if used in a balanced combination.

J: Your hair care as well as business philosophy speaks as much to lifestyle as regimen -- you encourage people to eat well, be kind to themselves, drink plenty of water. Have you seen first-hand that this approach has positive results?

KCR: Yes, most definitely. I am living proof. I know that it works and this is why I encourage it. I changed my lifestyle because it was necessary. It was a gradual thing but I noticed big changes in my hair, my skin, my figure, and most of all my attitude. Health is beautiful and very important. As long as you are healthy you can do and be anything. We spend years neglecting our health because of time and money but then soon learn that it takes twice as much money and time to recover from those years of neglect. It is always best to do the right thing first.

J: According to your website, product recommendations are made according to curl pattern (2, 3, 4 and their gradations). What made you choose this classification system rather than the classic fine/medium/coarse definition that is taught in beauty schools?

KCR: The reason I did not use the classic fine/medium/ coarse system first because our customer base is very hair savvy. Most of them have hair down to a science and understand that their curl pattern matters just as much as the fullness. Also I use this method to help formulate products. Some of us have a looser curl and may want a product that tightens the curl and vice versa. If we at Komaza know the curl pattern as well as the fullness, then we can better serve you.

J: Komaza means "growth" in Swahili. (Do you speak Swahili, by the way?) Obviously, occlusive substances like mineral oil block pores and hair follicles, preventing growth, whereas oils that are compatible with skin and hair do not produce that reaction. I've heard some curlies say, however, that their hair seems to grow *faster* once they start using your products. What do you say to that?

KCR: I wish I was fluent in Swahili but I am not. I am always happy to hear people are getting great results; however, I think that Komaza products provide hair with the essentials to help it grow to its full potential and proper rate.

J: How involved are you in the day to day operations of your company? Do you have customer contact? What kind of experience should customers have when they deal with Komaza and how do you ensure that that happens?

KCR: I am heavily involved with the day to day operations of Komaza. I love customer interaction and get most of my ideas from listening to what people say they need for their hair. The kind of experience a customer should always get when dealing with Komaza, first, is kind honesty. It is most important that we do what is best for your hair rather than to sell our product. We have had some customers completely turned off by this concept and I can understand why; however, it can not waiver our duty to do the right thing. Secondly, everyone should be treated as family or as an old friend with kindness, compassion and respect. God has blessed us with a wonderful staff here. I always hear from customers informing me how wonderful the staff is and how knowledgeable they are. It makes me proud. All of us are constantly being trained in hair care and we follow a simple motto: Treat every one with kindness and compassion even when you don't feel like it or think they don't deserve it.

Thanks for talking with No-Poo Jillipoo, Rene. What a great attitude you have about life and hair!

(Be sure to check out which products best suit your hair at Komaza Care by using the site's hair typing system!)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Like trying to scrape gum off a shoe

Months ago, I wrote a post about cationic polymers. Before your eyes glaze over, let me just say that cationic polymers are known by most of us as "polyquats." They are the ingredient names that begin with Polyquaternium and then a number. The numbers express some kind of molecular chain organization.

I had written the post because one of my favorite blogs, The Beauty Brains, had raised concern that cationic polymers attached themselves to hair more stubbornly than silicones, and therefore were potentially more troublesome. I did some research and sort of confirmed that they may have been right. But I didn't dig deep enough.

Yesterday, I slogged my way through my trusty copy of Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair by Clarence R. Robbins. This is not light reading, folks. Quite a bit of it is essentially Greek to me, but now and then, I can figure out the message. And with regard to cationic polymers, I learned just enough to develop a bona fide fear of polyquats.

The message is this: cationic polymers do not necessarily penetrate the hair to a great extent, but they are damn near impossible to remove.

Think of polyquats like gum on the sidewalk and your hair like the bottom of a shoe. When those two meet, it's hard to separate them. Things can get ugly.

Now, the book addressed Polyquaternium 10 in most instances. According to Tonya McKay at NaturallyCurly.com, this is one of the more conditioning cationic polymers and is often added to shampoos to impart softness and manageability. But other polyquats -- specifically those with different molecular weights and chemical structures -- are used in styling products because they adhere better (!) and result in a better hold. Polyquat 10 is favored more as a conditioning additive than a styling/holding one.

(For you geeks out there: "Cationic ingredients in general are highly substantive [resist removal by water rinsing] to hair because of hair's low isoelectric point, which is approximately pH 3.67 in cosmetically unaltered hair, and even lower in bleached hair. Therefore, at any pH above the isoelectric, the surface of hair bears a net negative charge, and positively charged (cationic) ingredients are attracted to it." Chapter 7 )

The news is worse for those who have had chemical services done to their hair because the "holes" created by these services create additional opportunities for cationic polymers to attach themselves. So, if your hair is colored or straightened or otherwise messed with by some sort of chemical, you can expect that polyquats will stay with you for quite some time.

So just how long do they hang around? The experiments cited by Robbins indicated that less than 15% of Polyquat 10 was removed from the hair after soaking in distilled water for 30 minutes. (Note that they used distilled water, though. I don't know whether that might make a difference -- seems like it might?) Salt removes cationic polymers better than water, but it's not clear that you could call that removal "effective": "sodium dodecyl sulfate, analogous to a shampoo, was much more effective, removing more than 50% of the polymer in one minute and nearly 70% in 30 minutes." And get this: "Even after a week in 0.1M lanthanum nitrate solution [also a salt], approximately 40% of the polymer was still bound to the hair."

Salt and surfactants combined with cationic polymers decrease the uptake of them to the hair. So, if you find Polyquat 10 in a shampoo or in a styling product that contains magnesium sulfate (salt), the stuff won't stay on your hair as much. But a small amount will remain. Depending on how often and how much you use the polyquat, and what strength it is in the product, you could be looking at days.

Now, the question is: Is this bad? Are cationic polymers blocking moisture like silicones do? That isn't clear, either from the Robbins book or from McKay's article. But anything that has the potential to build up on your hair and be difficult to remove doesn't seem like something to gravitate to.

I realize that I have simplified this topic considerably and that not all polyquats are the same by any stretch of the imagination (or science!). If you are using stylers and/or conditioners with a polyquat or two in them and your hair feels funny or you can't get it clean, maybe this post will help you figure out why.

Friday, July 3, 2009

What an honor!

NaturallyCurly.com (source of great discussion boards, articles, and Curl Mart) recently polled its thousands of users and asked them to reveal the products, celebrities, blogs, and books that they liked best. From a curl perspective, of course. They are calling it their Best of the Best awards.

Some of my favorite products, such as Kinky Curly Curling Custard and Jessicurl Too Shea, took top honors in the product categories. And Jessica McGuinty won for Inspirational Curly!

I am delighted to report that No-Poo Jillpoo shares the Best Blog title with Curly Nikki! (I'm a big fan of Curly Nikki, so the honor is especially nice for me.) Thanks so much, NaturallyCurly.com and all of you curious curlies out there!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Heads up, Curl Junkie fans!

A little birdie just told me that Curl Junkie is having a Fourth of July special!

Get 20% off your order of $50 or more!! Type the coupon code "JULY4U" at checkout to get your discount.

Offer is good July 2nd-4th, 2009, and the coupon must be used at checkout to receive checkout.

(So if you've been waiting to buy Curl Junkie's Aloe Fix gel -- the one that's getting all kinds of raves at NaturallyCurly.com -- this might be an excellent opportunity to spring for it!)