Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Little Bit About Ingredients...

What are some of the common (and confusing) ingredients in curly hair care products you should look out for? There are some different categories to check out. Let's see:
A) Emulsifiers/Emollients-
1)Cetearyl Alcohol is used to thicken and stabilize formulations. Cetearyl Alcohol imparts an emollient feel. This is one of many fatty alcohols and should not be confused with harsh, drying alcohols like SD Alcohol.
2)Cetyl Alcohol is used to give emulsions more stability, body, viscosity. It is also a fatty alcohol.
3)Behentrimonium Methosulfate - is naturally derived from Colza oil and is noted for its exceptional mildness. It is substantive to hair, it imparts excellent body, spring, improving wet comb.

1)Vegetable Glycerin – A humectant which draws moisture from the air into the hair shaft, helping to correct dryness and makes for softer hair.
2)Panthenol - said to impart long lasting moisturization and is said to increase the strength and diameter of the hair shaft.

1)Jojoba Oil – This oil (which is technically a wax) helps to add softness and shine to hair. Its texture is close to your skin's natural sebum.
2)Cocoa Butter – Rich in antioxidants and believed to be extremely healing, moisturizing and softening.
3)Shea Butter - A very emollient and moisturizing butter derived from the Karite tree in Africa.
4)Amodimethicone - is a type of silicone that provides selective conditioning to the areas most in need of it. While not water-soluble, it is reputed to be one of the silicones least likely to build up on the hair shaft with repeated use.

1)Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride – This naturally derived substance is very conditioning, helping to detangle hair and leaves hair soft.
2)Hydrolyzed Oat Flour – A natural thickener which draws moisture from the air to help with moisture balance.
3)Lecithin – Derived from Soy, this ingredient is very moisturizing and nourishing containing vitamins and a small amount of protein.

E)Proteins-can provide moisture, increase hair strength, and fill in damaged spots in the hair shaft.
1)Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein - a naturally derived protein that has a unique hydrating complex offering a combination of moisture-balancing and film-forming properties.
2)Oat Protein - retains significantly more moisture no matter what the humidity, and can gain up to 50% more moisture at relative low humidity when extra moisture is most needed.
3)Soy Protein - has been shown to improve gloss and texture, increases moisture retention, and improves manageability and body.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it's a good starting point!

In our next post, the topic will be "To 'poo or not to 'poo" - should you use shampoos or not?

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...