Saturday, December 20, 2008

Choosing the Right Products for your Curls!

It's a tricky thing...but the first thing you need to do is understand (or at least come to terms) with your hair and what it can and can't (or won't) do.

I don't claim to be an expert, but after going through my own issues with my curly/coily hair and working for the past few years cutting, coloring and styling curly hair, I've learned a few things. I've also learned a few things while developing the Curl Junkie line of hair products. The developing/testing phase for all of these products has been rough on my hair and others as well since I've been known to test out (and shampoo out) products on the same patches of hair over a dozen times back-to-back. That I still have hair on my head that is in good condition, if proof enough to me that the products work. Then, the validation that comes from my clients and testers gives me further reassurance.

1)Curly hair can be temperamental. You need to understand and accept this because what this means is that it will be most unlikely that you will be able to use the same shampoos, conditioners and stylers every day. As most girls with curls know, you need to have a variety of products so you can change things around depending on the day.

2)The smaller/tighter the curl, the drier your hair tends to be. So if your hair type is like the picture above, you want to use really moisturizing products. Look for products for Dry, Damaged (like Hibiscus and Banana Deep Fix Moisturizing Conditioner), or even Color-treated hair. If your hair is wavy and fine, you might be able to get away with lightweight products for fine, normal or "curly" hair. If your hair is color-treated, then assume it needs more moisture and maybe the occasional bit of protein in your products (not to be confused with Protein treatments which are for really damaged hair).

3)Weather plays a huge part. If it's a humid or rainy day outside, you know that you need to grab the extra moisturizing conditioner and/or use a moisturizing leave-in product (so your hair is saturated with moisture and won't try to "grab" it from the air, causing frizz and expansion) and then use a styling product to help "seal" hair and keep frizzies at bay. If it's dry outside, you want to use a product (especially a leave-in or styler) with more emollients (which help smooth and protect the hair shaft) than humectants (which grab moisture from the air) to help keep moisture in the hair shaft and not have the dry air try to "steal" it, which can cause frizzies as well.

4)Shampooing is not necessarily a bad thing. If you do choose to shampoo, make sure you use an extremely gentle one so that you don't rough up your hair's cuticle layer. Sulfate-free is not necessarily better if it's not formulated well. I've tried more than my share of these shampoos and found them to be harsher and help to strip my color-treated coils. If you find that holy grail shampoo (mine just happens to be my Curl Assurance Gentle Cleansing Shampoo), then you'll find that the products you apply after that perform better and you are less likely to suffer from build-up problems.

5)You may not want to shampoo everyday...maybe every other day, or every 3 days or not at all. You can try a conditioner wash routine, where you use a lightweight conditioner as you would a shampoo. Add to wet hair and scrub really firmly and then rinse. The trick here to preventing buildup is to a)use a lightweight conditioner that actually suds a little when rubbed in the hair and b)massaging the scalp firmly and thoroughly. I cannot stress this part enough as if you are too light with the massage buildup is likely to occur. I have seen this in many a client's scalp and it is not pretty.

6)Over-conditioning happens from time to time, and is especially likely if you follow a no shampoo routine. I believe that you can over-condition most hair types (except maybe for the thickest, tightest curls/kinks). You'll know that your hair is over-conditioned because it a)gets unreasonably frizzy, b)you get flat, limp, undefined curls, c)you have some breakage/shedding (not in all cases, but it can happen). In these cases, I find that I need to a)shampoo my hair and/or b)use a conditioner which contains a small amount of protein (like Curl Theory Moisturizing Hair Conditioner) or contains Amodimethicone (like Curl Assurance Daily Hair Conditioner). I find that this solves that situation and I may only need to use either one every 3-4 days (I do shampoo my hair regularly).

7)I'm a hair control freak so I shampoo my hair almost daily and then apply conditioner and styling products. This is because I feel that have more control over what my hair looks like on a daily basis. After the shampoo, I do a quick check of how my hair feels and what the weather is like and take a guess at what products I'll use. Mistakes do happen though and then I'll just start all over again till it has the right feel and look to it! When I'm not feeling so controlling and I know I'm not going out for the day, I may treat myself to a deep conditioner and leave it in my hair as my leave-in and styler. I don't necessarily get the definition I want, but I love the softness!

8)Lastly, decide what you want. Do you want a) Definition, b) Softness, c) Shine/Sheen, d) Curls/coils that clump together, or e)Looser, separated curls. All these factors play a part in what products you'll use and very few (if any) can give you everything in one product (this is part what causes product junkie-ism-the search for that magical product-which can be fun too, but can be costly!). I go for definition and shine/sheen, so I'm willing to sacrifice softness (although my hair is not dry-I can always scrunch out the crunch later if there is any). Experiment, experiment, experiment!

Next post we'll talk a bit about ingredients in products and how that knowledge can help you choose the right product for you...

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