Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Curl Whisperer on Protein Treatments

For porous or damaged hair, protein treatments are often prescribed. But sometimes there is some confusion about the different types and forms of protein. There is keratin, eggs, silk protein, re-constructors, etc. Some products are called "light" protein treatments, while others are labeled "intensive." Just what is the difference in terms of the effect on the hair? And how do you know exactly how much you need?

First of all, any protein that is animal-based or that has the prefix "hydrolyzed" in front of it is a stronger protein; those such as natural "wheat" or "soy" are the proteins that are lighter. "Keratin" is the natural protein from which your hair is made. Your hair's condition and texture is a great baseline to determine how much and what type of protein you need. If you want to add protein simply because you have a fine texture and you need the extra support, a light protein treatment is fine. If, however, you have damage from sun, chlorine or chemical processes, a heavier protein reconstruction will then be necessary for any real effectiveness.

Another question I've been asked in the past about protein treatments: is it true that some protein has molecules small enough to penetrate the hair and be more effective and, if so, what kind of protein is that?

Proteins with smaller molecules are not necessarily more effective than those with larger molecules. While it's true smaller molecules can penetrate into the cortex--or inner layer of the hair--more easily, this really only becomes a consideration when you are effecting a chemical change in the hair, such as with color or texturizing. Proteins with larger molecules may take a slightly longer time to penetrate into the cortex, but they will be just as effective as those with smaller molecules once they get in there.

It is also vitally important you pay attention to your hair's texture when deciding to do a protein treatment. Fine hair is a hair type that typically needs more protein on a regular basis since it is fragile and doesn't have the support and structure of other hair types. If you are fine-haired, incorporating a protein pack or daily light protein into your routine is a good idea.

Not so for coarse hair, however. Coarse hair has so much protein in it naturally, applying any product with protein on top of it can spell disaster--resulting in a strawlike, wicked dry mess. Protein-free deep treatments with a heavy emollient base, which we will address in a future article, are a far more effective treatment type for those with coarse hair!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Curl Whisperer on Shine Enhancers

Oh, the elusive state of shine in the world of curly hair. Historically, we ladies with curly tresses have more issues with natural shine than our straight-haired sisters because of how our hair catches the light. Straight hair reflects light, giving it a shiny appearance; curly hair refracts, or diffuses, light, making it appear dull and drab. Consequently, girls with curls often turn to shine enhancers to add the additional shine we lack naturally. It is important, however, to understand the differences between the different types and to know how to choose the most appropriate one to ensure good hair health over the long term.

There are three main types of shine enhances: silicone serums, oil serums and glazes.

Silicone Serums
Everyone is familiar with silicone-based shine serums, which claim to smooth the hair surface and add brilliant shine. Most of these serums, however, consist of non-water soluble silicones, such as dimethicone or dimethiconol, which form an impenetrable barrier on the hair shaft. Any product ingredient which seals the hair shaft shut can be problematic and create issues in the long run. The cuticle of our hair strand is formed like roof tiles to allow penetration of moisture and oxygen into the hair shaft for a reason. Continually coating and sealing the cuticle to prevent it from performing its proper function for a long period of time is not the best route to optimum hair health in the long run.

If you are going to use a shine serum, find one that includes water-soluble silicones, such as dimethicone copolyol or PEG/PPG-manufactured silicones, whenever possible to avoid any potential issues.

Oil Serums
Many believe a safer alternative to silicone-based shine serums are oil serums, which are touted as using carrier oils such as jojoba or olive oil to deliver shine and manageability. The vast majority of these products usually also contain some level of non-water soluble silicones in addition to the oils, however, and sometimes in greater quantity than the oils themselves. Additionally, care must be taken when using any type of heat application with any oil-based product as excess heat can literally "fry" a hair shaft coated in oil.

If you would like to use oils for shine, a good approach is to buy a can of olive oil cooking spray (such as Pam®) and use it to spray lightly on your curls (for both shine and frizz control). Be judicious, as you do not want to make yourself oily from using too much. Keeping the spray can at least 10 inches from your hair while spraying will also help to ensure any propellants will dissipate before reaching your hair.

I love clear shine glazes and use them often in my own color work. Glazes are mainly semi- or demi-permanent color treatments with a clear or tinted result. They are different from permanent color in that they only stain the outside of the cuticle, whereas permanent color actually results in a chemical change inside the cortex. Clear glazes add a beautiful dimension and give hair enormous depth and shine.

As a bonus, glazes can help to prevent permanent color from fading since they add another level of "defense" on top of the hair shaft and normally last anywhere from six to 12 weeks, depending on the type of glaze used. Glazes are my preferred method for adding long-lasting shine to hair.

Shine on!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The 'Curl Whisperer' on Carrier Oils

Carrier oils are oil extracts from seeds, fruit, vegetables or nuts that are rich hair emollients (moisturizers). They can also be used to “carry” essential oils, which are either too concentrated or will evaporate upon contact on their own, into the hair.

Unlike essential oils, carrier oils, which are also known as "base" oils", do not usually carry a strong scent of their own and are classified as "fixed' oils, meaning they do not typically evaporate. They can have many health properties of their own as they often contain vitamins, minerals and some essential fatty acids.

Cold-pressed oils, where the oil obtained from seeds and nuts is extracted using little to no heat, is a more expensive process, but the oils produced are considered to be a superior quality in many applications. Carrier oils produced by using a procedure called "hot extraction", in which extremely high temperatures are used to extract the oil, are often regarded as inferior as much of the oil's benefits are destroyed in the process.

Carrier oils are also available in refined and unrefined forms. Although unrefined oils are preferred in massage therapy and certain practices of aromatherapy, refined oils are generally chosen for use in cosmetic preparations so their heavier color and texture does not compete with any other ingredients.

Because carrier oils are oily in nature, they are included in many hair care products to supply additional moisture to the hair shaft. In hair care products with more natural formulations, they are considered a better base than alcohol, which can be drying, and can also assist in combating breakage, splitting and tangling.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The 'Curl Whisperer' on Alcohols

There is widespread concern about the use of alcohols in hair and skin products; common perception is that alcohol is drying to the skin and hair, so many individuals seek to use products that are alcohol-free.

What is not commonly known, however, is that there are two types of alcohols: fatty and short-chain alcohols. There are important differences between the two and it is important to be able to tell them apart, as fatty alcohols can be quite beneficial to curly hair care.

Because the molecules in fatty alcohols are more oily in nature than those of other alcohol molecules, fatty alcohols are used as emollients in hair care products and contribute a smooth, soft feel to the hair. Excessive use of them can make the hair greasy, but a judicious amount of fatty alcohols in hair care products can add beneficial moisturizers.

Fatty alcohols should not be confused with what are known as “short-chain alcohols,” which are effective in aiding the dissolution of product ingredients not soluble in water, but can be drying to the hair when used in large amounts. They evaporate quickly, but can still ruffle the cuticle and strip moisture from the hair. As long as a short-chain alcohol is close to the bottom of a product ingredient label, you can be reasonably certain it is only included in the formulation to aid in creating a stable emulsion and will most likely not contribute any drying effects to your hair. And individuals with fine hair should be cautious about using any product with heavy amounts of fatty alcohols, as an overabundance of this product ingredient type may over-moisturize and weigh down fine strands.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The 'Curl Whisperer' on Essential Oils

With more and more individuals moving towards "green" and natural living, essential oils are playing a much larger role in the formulation of hair care products than ever before.

What are essential oils? Essential oils are concentrated liquids from plants containing the oil of the plant material from which they were extracted. They have been used in hair preparations for centuries to promote shine and enhance natural hair health.

Essential oils are most commonly mixed with some type of carrier oil in hair product formulations, as they are either too concentrated or will evaporate upon contact on their own. Because of their concentrated nature, essential oils should not used in undiluted form as some can cause severe irritation, or can provoke an allergic reaction.

Despite their benefits, it is important to note most essential oils carry what are known as "contraindications." A contraindication is a condition in which application of a particular treatment or substance is not advisable, i.e., if someone is allergic to penicillin, we would regard that as a contraindication for penicillin use, since further use of penicillin on that individual would trigger an allergic reaction.

As an example: rosemary and sage are contraindicated in pregnancy and with high blood pressure, meaning that women who are pregnant or individuals with high blood pressure are advised not to use any preparation containing those essential oils.

Additionally, many essentials oils also carry what are known as "cautions," which are similar to contraindications, but are not as severe in nature. For example, citrus oils, such as lemon and grapefruit, are photosensitive and should not be applied prior to sun exposure.

It is VERY important to note that you should not infer any essential oil is safe if a contraindication or caution is not listed. ALWAYS consult a medical professional to address any concerns you may have about the safety of any product ingredient.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MIA Again!

I know, I know...I really need to get back with the program!

Two brief updates:

I am moving to a new salon effective September 1, so things have been busy as I have been getting ready for that. I am really excited about this move...I think it will be a great thing for me and all of my curly friends. I will be able to do more curly-type events and have more control over the process, so I am over-the-moon happy.

If you haven't seen the pictures of the Lake Worth road show LCLF did on August 9, stop by and give them a look. We had a lot of fun, did some amazing hair, and are potentially planning to head back down again in the next few months. We have another road show in mind for November that I am very excited about, and I will keep you posted as plans are solidified.

Out for now...wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Running on Empty

I haven't been nearly as diligent in firing up my blog again as I intended. But...truth be told, I have pretty much run out of steam with everything I have going on and I needed to let some things go. I am going on vacation from July 4-14 and I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to it. I love, love, love what I do but I have been running on fumes for a while now and really need to rest and recharge before I plunge back into the madness.

There are some exciting things in the works for LCLF (and with other projects). I am doing my first official "road show" in Lake Worth, FL on August 9, which is going to be awesome. I've had a couple people tentatively ask me if I would travel and do one elsewhere and my response has been: never say never. Of course, someone in Lake Worth put this all together and all I have to do is show up; creating and scheduling road shows isn't something I'll be adding to my "to do" list any time soon. If anyone is really serious about this, I figure they will proactively start the ball rolling and contact me for more information, at which time I will be more than happy to chat about it :)

Also...if you live in the Tampa Bay area or anywhere in the general vicinity, I will be teaching a curly hair workshop on July 20 at 5:30 p.m. We are going to have a lot of fun, so if you are interested, please contact Essentials the Salon at 727.522.9424 for additional information and to register.

Be good and I will see you when I get back from vacation!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mystery Solved

I had a big "a-ha!" moment last night...I think I figured out what set Lorraine off.

As I said on my previous post, Lorraine Massey of Deva completely trashed me on Twitter yesterday (and it looks like she is continuing to do so today). I was thinking about what could have possibly upset her this badly and it hit me yesterday.

Right before I left for the show, I tweeted Lorraine with the following message:

@LorraineMassey Let's hide all the flat irons while we are at Premiere ;)

Meaning, of course, that the two of us should run around to the other vendor booths and hide their flat irons! It was just a cute message to show my support since I knew there was going to be a lot of keratin treatment vendors there, etc. Deva is the one company I can count on to be at Premiere to show there is a beautiful alternative to straightening hair.

Her first tweet back to me yesterday at the start of all these unpleasantries was: "struttswife???? what does that MEAN?", which I took as "what does 'struttswife' mean"? Of course, I was reading it out of context...but, now that I think about it, she was asking what I meant by my tweet since she apparently didn't understand it.

Clearly, she (incorrectly) assumed I meant that she should hide HER flat irons and that understandably upset her. Instead of asking me privately to clarify it, however, she chose to believe the worst and has been very publicly writing all these nasty tweets (her latest is calling me "the imposter Curly Girl") and attacking me.

Mystery solved. But what a sad ending :(

Lorraine Massey was my idol for the past seven years...the woman I looked up to all of my career. She truly has been the woman "who started it all" for women with curls. To find out she is really this mean-spirited of a person has me stunned and saddened. There was no need for any of this...she should have approached me privately and we could have resolved this quickly and easily, without the ugliness she instead chose to start.

I wish her well, but I consider my association with Deva to be at an end. I pride myself on my professionalism and I expect the vendors/manufacturers/companies with whom I do business to show an equal level of professionalism as well. If this is how she and Deva do business, then I have no wish to associate myself with them any further.

And that's the saddest ending of all :(

Monday, June 8, 2009

Report from Premiere

Hey, all! I'm back from Premiere.

First of all, it was a great show...then again, they all are. I was able to take lots of classes given by some fabulous industry leaders. It is pretty intense, but it is a great educational resource for beauty industry professionals and I am always happy with the quality of education given.

One of the highlights of my weekend was meeting Michelle and Gretchen from wonderful ladies with some rocking curls. They were there to formally launch and seemed to be making some good connections every time I passed their booth. I tried to say goodbye today, but they were busy and I didn't want to interrupt them...I hope to see them at Premiere again next year.

I am happy to say it seems some of my initial fears about the site were unfounded; perhaps, given all the overall industry "killing" of curls and my sensitivity to that, I saw ghosts where there really weren't any to be found. Yes, there is focus on the site on retexturizing, etc. for curls, but let's face facts...we aren't going to change things overnight. Michelle told me they are eager to have a place where more stylists can go to learn the real deal about curly hair and start effecting that change, and I have pledged my commitment to help them make that happen (and Michelle, if you are reading this, I have not forgotten my promise to you to submit a Stylist Spotlight form :) )

Unfortunately, there was one unpleasant incident, one that took me completely by surprise. I took Deva's class on Saturday morning, which was taught by Denis and Lorraine, just to see what was new at Deva. I stopped by their booth briefly to buy some products, but that was the extent of my contact with them...I was just too busy with other classes and meeting with other vendors/manufacturers to hang around long in any one place and I didn't speak to anyone there.

It's not a secret that I took the Deva class in 2007, but have kind of evolved into my own style since then and have started teaching curly hair education that differs a bit from what others, including Deva, teach and believe. And that's cool...never have I ever been less than positive or respectful about anyone else or started uncomplimentary rumors, etc. (and if anyone can find anything I've written that contradicts this, feel free to bring it out into the open). I think that as long as we are all devoting our attention to creating beautiful curls, it doesn't matter if we agree 100% on the method or products we use to get there. There is no reason we can't peacefully coexist.

Imagine my total shock, then, when I saw Lorraine Massey absolutely trashing me on Twitter this morning in several tweets...saying I said things that were "knot true" about her. It was so unbelievably ugly. At the end, she all but dared me to come to the Deva booth for a confrontation. To say I was completely stunned is an understatement. I have never said anything disrespectful or untruthful about Lorraine, a matter of fact, I refer to her as "the woman who started it all" to my clients and my other curly cohorts. If it wasn't for Curly Girl, there are thousands of women---ME included---that would still be trying to figure out what is best for our curls.

I wish I could tell you what precipitated this, but I am so mystified and in the dark myself, I couldn't even begin to speculate. I did Tweet her back to tell her I wasn't clear about what she meant, that I've never been negative about Deva and that I hope next time we can talk about the facts first...but she doesn't follow me anymore and I'm sure she won't see it. And I guess I wish she would have been professional enough to approach me privately if she heard or read something that upset her, and that we could have cleared the air between ourselves without such a nasty and uncalled-for public display.

C'est la vie, I suppose...but it was an upsetting end to such a wonderful show :( It is my hope we can resolve this someday so we can once again remember we are all a team dedicated to helping women to love and embrace their curly hair.

So, other than that, it was a great weekend, although I am really exhausted and I am glad this only happens once a year, lol...of course, staying out late last night didn't help the exhaustion any either ;) I had some great conversations with a lot of people which have pretty much determined my plans for the next year, including the direction I would like to take LCLF. I think I can definitely count on some exciting times in the next 12 months.

Time to take a nap and catch up on cuddling my four-year-old daughter for a while (who got a brand-new Disney Princess cutting cape of her very own from the show!)


Friday, June 5, 2009

I'm Off to Premiere!

I'm off to Premiere Orlando tomorrow, the largest east coast hair show for beauty industry professionals. On average, about 50,000 hairdressers attend each year and all the major product manufacturers are there with stage and sound shows, product and technique demonstrations, etc. It is an exciting event.

Deva had asked me to do stage with them again this year, but I declined since there is a lot for me to check out this year. Several product manufacturers have asked me to stop by their booths to chat. And is formally launching their new CurlStylist site, which touts itself as a curly community/educator for stylists.

I've taken a sneak peek at CurlStylist already and I have to this early juncture, I am not encouraged. There is quite a bit of focus on things like keratin treatments, straightening, and re-perming, as well as how to discourage clients from purchasing less expensive products even in this bleak economy. Frankly, I don't really find this approach curly-friendly. But I will chat with them at Premiere to get a better feel for their direction and report back.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Curls

While virtually everyone is familiar with the damage sun can do to skin, few are aware of its effects on hair.

Sunlight comes in different wavelengths, with the most familiar being the ultraviolet rays UVA and UVB (there is actually a UVC ray as well, which is the strongest ultraviolet ray and can actually be fatal, but it is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not actually reach the earth's surface). Both UVA and UVB rays can cause damage to the hair and scalp if adequate protection is not taken.

UVA - aka, the "aging" ray. The UVA ray remains at the same strength all year round, regardless of the season; other than the UVC, this is the strongest ray and can penetrate deeply into the cortex. UVA rays can burn the cuticle of the hair, leading to porosity issues, and can damage melanin, the color pigment in our cortex responsible for our natural hair color. UVA rays can also sunburn the scalp and damage the hair follicles, leading to the risk of permanent hair loss over time.

UVB - aka, the "burning" ray. The UVB ray is the weakest strength ray and will have different strengths at different times of the year, depending on your location's proximity to the sun. This ray can still do some substantial damage to your hair, however; in addition to drying hair out, it can cause fadage in color-treated hair without protection.

So, if you live in an area where the sun's rays are strong, it is definitely not a bad idea to make sure your hair care products include a sunscreen or UV filter. The product ingredients you should look for on the label include:

- Benzophenone-2, ( or 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
- Benzyl salicylate
- Benzylidene camphor sulfonic acid
- Bornelone
- Ethyl cinnamate
- Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (octyl methoxycinnamate)
- Octoxynol-40, -20
- Octyl methoxycinnamate
- Octyl Salicylate
- Oxybenzone
- Phenyl ketone
- Polyacrylamidomethyl benzylidene camphor

And, if all else fails, there is always a hat!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Color and Highlights for Curly Hair

Okay, the e-book is done and it's time to get this blog fired up again!!!

I recently wrote an article for CurlyNikki on coloring and highlighting curly hair, and I would like to repeat it here. Thank you to those of you who told me how helpful it was!!!

Color and highlights are two of the most popular ways to get a new look quickly. And a new, fun color can certainly take some of the pain out of the maddening process of waiting foreeeeeeever for our hair to grow! So, let's take a look at a few of the options.

Highlighting is the process where strands of hair are pulled through a cap or wrapped in foils to add a lighter, more "streaky" effect to the base color of your hair (conversely, "lowlights" are the same, but are darker than the base color of your hair). They can be subtle or chunky, depending on the pattern you want and how they are wrapped.

Highlights can be done with color IF you are highlighting on hair that has not been previously colored. A color process cannot "lift" or lighten existing color...only bleach can do that. Most highlights are done using what we call a "double process"--meaning the bleach is applied to create the highlights, then a color-based "toner" is applied over the highlights to cool down any unwanted warmth or brassy tones that may result.

You can safely have bleach highlights as long as your hair is in good condition and you make the commitment to take care of them well, although I do NOT recommend anyone using bleach at home unless you have had some training and know what you are doing. Bleach is a very caustic process and can cause big damage to the hair shaft if your hair strength and condition are not properly evaluated prior to application. Additionally, you need to think about what it will cost you for a professional to fix your hair if you run into trouble (my own color correction prices, incidentally, start at $70/hour).

I am not such a stickler about base, or all-over, coloring, however; many of the home haircolor products have greatly improved over the past several years. There are four different types of color:

1) temporary - only lasts until your next shampoo
2) semi-permanent - lasts approximately 6-8 weeks
3) demi-permanent - lasts approximately 8-12 weeks
4) permanent - lasts until the hair grows out

The main difference between semi- or demi-permanent and permanent color is that semi- and demi-permanent colors only stain the outside of the cuticle; permanent color actually results in a chemical change inside the cortex (inner core of the hair shaft).

Haircoloring can be safely done at home, provided you remember a few basic rules:

1) Home haircolor is what is known as "progressive" color--meaning the longer the color sits on your hair, the darker it becomes. That means, if that box of color says to leave it on your head for 30 minutes, ladies, you had best be buck-naked and ready to climb in the shower at minute 29. Salon color is "safer" in that it is non-progressive, so I can leave it on your head for hours and it will never become any darker than it is supposed to be.

2) If you are doing a "retouch" (only applying the color to new growth), you need to be careful to only apply the color to the new growth and not extend the color past the line of demarcation (where the existing color begins). This can create what we call "banding"--stripes of color running through your hair where you colored over the previously colored hair.

3) If you need to refresh the color on your length when doing a retouch (common when you are using red-based colors, which tend to fade quickly), do the following: about five minutes before your color is done and you are due to wash it out, mist your hair all over with water, then pull the color through to the ends. The water will dilute the color to avoid too much deposit on your previously-colored hair and make them darker than the rest of your hair.

Another note on color: please be very careful using temporary, semi- or demi-permanent colors over any type of bleach process. Bleached hair will "grab" onto any type of color and it can become permanent (and who wants those green, orange and black streaks from Halloween in their hair forever?!?!?).

Vegetable dyes, the most popular of which is henna, are increasingly becoming more natural alternatives for many women. The downside is that you will not be able to make any drastic changes with them: they are mainly semi-permanent, meaning they do not affect a chemical change within the hair, cannot lighten your hair, and are best used to add depth to your natural hair color.

If you do use a vegetable dye and then want to permanently color your hair, you MUST ask a trained professional to do a hair strand test on you first. Some vegetable dye products, like henna compounds (not to be confused with body-art quality henna), contain metallic salts: if you put permanent color over these compounds, you will get a chemical reaction and your hair can literally smoke or boil on your head! (Ever heard someone say their scalp felt warm or hot when their color was processing? Now, you know why!).

Be safe, but have some fun with color this summer!

Monday, May 11, 2009


I am completed blown away by all the positive feedback I am receiving about my Live Curly, Live Free e-book!

One of the comments that has touched me the most--and one that I have heard from many of you--is "how I wish I would have had this book when I was growing up because life would have been so much easier!" You know, I find myself wishing the same thing. I spent so much money and shed so many tears by not having just this simple understanding of why our curls do what they do.

My primary motivation for writing it was my beautiful, four-year-old daughter, Katie. I swore she and other little girls with curls would never, ever have to go through the same thing growing up that we all did.

It was time, I think, for curly hair understanding to come out of the closet and for frustration to take a hike so that all of us with curls can learn to peacefully coexist with them...or at least have enough of an understanding so we know why they are freaking out when they do! Education and knowledge are power, and empowerment for the curly hair community is what Live Curly, Live Free is all about.

Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and encouragement.

(You can read the introduction here :) )

Monday, May 4, 2009

Another Late Night, But ...

... the new web site is live :) Let me know if you find any issues and I'll fix them as soon as possible!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

It's Here!

I am happy to announce that my e-book, Live Curly, Live Free - Unlocking the Secrets Behind the World of Beautiful Curls was released today!

You will note, however, that the old site is still live. Note, also, the time this blog entry was made, lol. Some of the files on my new site were corrupted and, after four hours of trying to restore them, followed by 12 hours of cutting and coloring hair ain't happenin' tonight, folks. I was able to get the book online, but restoring and rolling out the new site will have to wait until I'm less tired.

I tested all the downloads and cart functionality tonight and everything on that end seems to be working just fine. If you experience any difficulty, however, please drop me a line at

I'm off to bed to sleep just as long as my four-year-old will let me. Good night!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Product Testing

Once we get rolling, one of the goals of the Live Curly, Live Free forum is to conduct objective product testing, based on a standardized set of criteria according to product category, to provide impartial reports to the curly hair community on how certain products perform on curly hair.

I created Live Curly, Live Free as an independent site for curly hair education--a site not tied to a particular product manufacturer (and, for the record, I have no intention of ever accepting manufacturer advertising directly). I am a beauty industry professional who doesn't manufacture her own line of products, and who doesn't owe her loyalty to a particular brand/company and subsequently must toe the "party line," so I feel LCLF is in a good position to provide objective information to the curly hair community.

LCLF will be a place people can go to find the "real story" on products--without having to wonder if the information is biased due to manufacturer interests. Right now, there is no other site in existence that provides this type of information that I am aware of, and I am very excited about the opportunity to serve the curly hair community in this way.

Of course, all product testing can be somewhat "subjective"--what I may love, you may hate. But, by using standardized criteria and by utilizing a team of product testers, I think we can achieve our goal: by taking a scientific look at hair care products, we can apply the principles of hair science to understand how and why a product may work for a certain type of hair.

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, April 27, 2009


I know I said May 11, but things have gone so well in the past several weeks, there is no reason to delay our big announcement any further!

In October 2008, I launched my web site,, to educate curly women and men everywhere on the basics of simple hair science. My goal was, and remains, to empower the curly community of the world so we understand our own hair’s individual needs and why it reacts the way it does to certain product ingredients, environments, climates and care routines.

Most importantly, I want you to have this information so you can always make good product choices for yourself regardless of what any product manufacturer might claim is good for you. Live Curly, Live Free is the only web site in existence to provide objective education on curly hair care and basic hair science while remaining “brand neutral”—meaning it is not owned or operated by any product manufacturer and can provide unbiased information without obligation to promote a particular brand.

In addition to my web site, I also spend a great deal of the time behind my chair educating my clients personally; however, there is just too much to learn in the relatively short amount of time of a typical appointment. Because of the sheer volume of information, my clients and others who have called or written to me from around the globe have constantly urged me over the past year to write a book of my own. The time, they told me, is long past due to have a volume with this type of impartial information and education available to the curly hair community of the world.

And so, that’s exactly what I’ve done.

I am excited to announce that my new e-book, Live Curly, Live Free – Unlocking the Secrets Behind the World of Beautiful Curls will be available on my newly redesigned web site, with a planned launch date of May 3, 2009. This 72-page e-book expands on the web site information to provide even more comprehensive instruction that can help almost anyone make intelligent product and curly hair care maintenance routine choices based on their own individual needs.

I am most excited about two sections in particular: 1) the expanded product ingredients section in the book that includes vital information on essential oils, humectants, fatty alcohols, petrochemicals, salts, proteins and other primary product ingredients found in today's hair care products; and, 2) easy-to-read charts that show recommended guidelines that can be used for product selection based on hair porosity, texture, climate and product ingredient suitability.

I agree with my friends and clients: I think a book like this one is long overdue. I just wish something like this would have been available to me when I was younger. Had I only had the simple and basic education a book like this provides, I would have avoided 18 years of straightening and destroying my own hair.

With the release of the e-book, the new site design will also be launched on May 3 and I hope you will take a moment to go and check it out as well. And, as always, please feel free to send me an e-mail to tiffany [at] to let me know what you think!

Isn’t it time we learned to live curly and free?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oh, the Anticipation!

I am almost beside myself with anticipation myself :)

I am excited to announce...that I will be making a very exciting announcement on May 11.

Stay tuned!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Do We Really Need Another Forum?

I felt the need to post a bit more information about why I feel the Live Curly, Live Free forum was necessary.

While and other sites provide a welcome and supportive space for curly women (and men) to explore products and try to determine the best ones for their particular hair, there is no site that actually takes a scientific look at these products and applies the principles of hair science to understand how and why a product may work for a certain type of hair.

Product manufacturers spend millions on marketing plans so you will buy their products. And if you buy them, the marketing plan will have done its job--which is to make the product manufacturer money. Educating you on the special needs of your own individual hair is wayyyy down at the bottom of the product manufacturer's list, if indeed it is even on the list at all.

There has been, up until this time, no site that is 100% devoted to objective curly hair education without being tied to a particular brand. That is why Live Curly, Live Free was created.

We took it one step further and created a forum on the site--because we perceived a huge need for a place that was not loyal to any brand, where we could talk about products and hair properties and figure out how and why certain products work for certain hair. And without having our members wonder if there might be any underlying motive afoot because the site is either owned by a product manufacturer or is a site that accepts sponsored advertising or other income-generating opportunities from a product manufacturer.

I get asked quite often if I will be developing my own product line in the future. Now, I've learned to never say never, but at this point in my life, I would rather crawl into a corner and stick forks in my eyeballs. Education is my passion, not product development. Besides, I feel once I develop my own line, my objectivity goes right out the window--and my ability to stay brand-neutral is far more important to me right now than having product bottles with my name on them.

With all this, I am in no way inferring all product manufacturers are going to be less than forthcoming about their products or whose main goal is to sell you crappy, sloppy stuff just to make a buck. There are some good, decent companies out there with whom I am happy to do business in my salon and with whom I enjoy my professional relationship.

What I am saying is that your curly hair education is not their priority; selling their products and their services is. Anyone who is serious about the health and care of their hair needs to have a space for proper, brand-generic, objective hair education in order to do so.

And I believe Live Curly, Live Free and its forum is the place that can fill that need.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The New Live Curly, Live Free Forum

Okay. So maybe there is ONE thing I can't wait to announce, lol.

I am pleased to announce that the Live Curly, Live Free forum is now live and online!

Over the past year, it has become increasing clear to me that more and more people with curly hair have become educated far past the point of “what is CG?” and “what products do I use?” Many individuals have expressed to me a longing for a discussion forum where more attention is paid to the hair science behind our curls, and less to the first baby steps in the curly hair education process.

While beginners’ forums are vitally important for anyone starting on their curly hair journey, there comes a time when some are ready to move on and sink their teeth into meatier discussions. The Live Curly, Live Free Forum aims to provide exactly that:

- advanced hair science conversations
- more in-depth focus on product ingredients, NOT just products and product brands
- product testing

For product testing, we will be assembling a team of product testers who will look at current (and professed) products for curly hair and run them through a fairly serious battery of tests to see how they withstand close scrutiny. They will report on their findings, which will include individual hair properties for a true apples-to-apples comparison, so you can make more informed product choices for your particular hair type. (Manufacturers, beware!)

If you have questions such as what does or does not constitute “CG”, or how to get second day hair, or what your “hair type” is, this forum will not be the place for them. Since 1998, has been providing a place for new beginners to ask those types of questions and you will find plenty of information and support there—but those questions are not relevant to this forum.

Our intent in creating this forum was not to form a "copycat" site, but instead to provide a space where more advanced discussion can take place without loss of focus. If you are ever asked to bring your question elsewhere, it is not because we think your question has no value: it is because it will be better answered where the overall site content is more appropriate for your particular inquiry.

I also ask that you read the Forum Guidelines before participating and feel free to PM me or one of the Moderators if you have any questions. Then sit back and enjoy this opportunity to understand the science of hair as it relates to your own.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coming Soon ...

I've been burning the candles at both ends here at Live Curly, Live Free over the last several weeks and I am excited to announce a new web site design that is targeted to be launched within the next month. I also have planned a few surprises as part of the new site that I almost can't wait to tell you about. Almost...but I promised myself I would wait until all systems were definitely go until I made an announcement.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Do "Sulfate-free" Cleansers Automatically Clarify?

This has come up in several conversations over the past week and I thought I'd take a moment to address it here.

Individuals are asking the question: do sulfate-free cleansers automatically clarify?

I need to make it clear that “sulfate-free” does not necessarily mean "surfactant-free." A surfactant—sometimes referred to as a detergent—is a substance that, when dissolved in water, gives a product the ability to remove dirt from surfaces such as the human skin, textiles, and other solids. There are several different types of surfactants, ranging from harsh to mild.

For example, many non-sulfate based cleansers contain an ingredient called “cocamidopropyl betaine,” which is a surfactant just as sulfates are. However, cocamidopropyl betaine is derived from coconut oil and is therefore not considered harsh like sulfates; however, it will clarify and remove product build-up because it is still a surfactant. Clarifying is largely necessary for those who still use non-water soluble silicones in their conditioners and styling products.

Conclusion: if your cleanser is sulfate-free, but contains another surfactant which is milder, such as cocamidopropyl betaine, you will receive the benefits of clarifying without the harsh effects of sulfates.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


And in other friend and curly cohort, Mary Pat, just had to go and sell me on Twitter at dinner last night. So if you Twitter as well, you will find me Tweeting and Twittering away under StruttsWife :)


Liquid Keratin

The latest round of questions I've been getting is about a treatment called "Liquid Keratin." Many curly girls are asking me if it is as safe and effective a way of straightening at home as the company claims it is.

Frankly, based on what I've heard from others and my own training as a cosmetologist, I think Liquid Keratin is a whole lot of bad news and not a whole lot of anything else. I have absolutely no qualms about sitting here and telling you I believe there is a bunch of misleading information in their marketing and they are not being honest with consumers about this product.

First of all, what is Liquid Keratin?

The company says it is a "...revolutionary patented treatment that infuses curly, frizzy, unmanageable hair with keratin protein that it's naturally missing in just 30 minutes...unlike salon treatments, Liquid Keratin DOES NOT contain Formaldehyde or harmful chemical ingredients..[it] is a spray in treatment with amazing results of straighter, smoother, stronger and longer hair instantly!"

From the above, which can be found on the company's web site, I think we can agree consumers are being led to believe this is a safe way to straighten their hair using only a protein infusion treatment. Unfortunately, their marketing is misleading for quite a few reasons, as I have outlined below:

1) Not everyone who has curly hair has keratin protein that is "naturally missing." On the contrary, coarse-haired curlies manufacture an overabundance of protein "naturally" in their hair on their own. If you put more protein--especially with a treatment like this--on top of hair that is already protein-heavy, you will have a dry, straw-like mess on your hands.

2) Hair is permanently straightened or curled by breaking what are called the "disulfide bonds" in your hair--the bonds that are responsible for the shape of your hair strand. The marketing of this product leads consumers to believe the keratin protein infusion is what is responsible for straightening the hair; however, it is absolutely impossible for protein alone to break disulfide bonds to permanently straighten curly hair. That takes chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate...or, formaldehyde.

And here's where it starts to get really interesting.

3) The company bills the product as formaldahyde-free. They literally scream it at you in caps: "DOES NOT contain Formaldehyde or harmful chemical ingredients." However, if you look at the ingredients on their product label, you will see one near the top called "Biformyl." And another name for biformyl is oxalaldehyde, which happens to belong to the group of organic compounds called aldehydes...a group to which formaldehyde also belongs.

4) There is protein in this treatment; however, the order of the ingredients on the product ingredient label tells me this is simply a formaldehyde-type straightener with a little protein keratin thrown in so they can legally call it a keratin treatment instead of what it really is...a procedure that is banned in many salons because of the risk of sickness from fume inhalation.

5) Quite a few women with lightened or bleached hair who have actually used this product reported it turned their color a horrible, brassy orange color, which they then needed to have redone. Something a pure protein treatment wouldn't do.

So, there you have it. This safe little at-home treatment doesn't seem so safe all of a sudden, does it? And I have to wonder: what do we think might possibly occur if an individual with asthma or other breathing-related health issues is exposed to an aldehyde without their knowledge?

My biggest issue is this: I have a BIG problem with sneaky, unethical marketing. I don't like it when any product manufacturer tries to pull the wool over the customer's eyes just so they can make a buck. And I invite any representative from the Liquid Keratin company to address the points above and tell us why they are not being misleading or dishonest in their advertising of this product.

You can contact the Liquid Keratin company at:

Liquid Keratin, Inc.
101 King High Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
0001 - (647) 588-5515

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Whatever Did We Do to Deserve This?

I realize this isn't hair science-related...but it's my blog and I am feeling the need to rant about that trifling twit on Millionaire Matchmaker.

If you haven't seen the show, the twit in question is Patti Stanger, an annoying, shallow, homely hot mess who has no class, no manners and no style. She owns a business called The Millionaire's Club, which helps men with a lot of money find a "Perfect 10" wife.

That, in itself, is enough to gag me. But my real problem is how she bashes curly girls at every opportunity. She calls them horrible names like "brillo pad," makes them get thermal reconditioning if they want to join her service, and goes ballistic if they show up for a follow-up appointment and she thinks they are not "straight enough". She insists no man--especially one who is wealthy--wants a woman with curly hair.

In my experience, idiots like her spew their ignorance because they don't know how to handle curly hair. It's easier to go on the attack like she does than admit you haven't the slightest clue what to do with it. From what I've seen, she only seems to know how to turn out carbon copies of the O.C. shallow bimbo look.

I guess Bravo couldn't spare the ten seconds it would have taken to find someone more competent with real styling and fashion skills. Of course, these women do allow her to treat them as she does, but I think it's ironic this "reality" show is based on something not real at all.

If you would like to write to Bravo and tell them exactly what you think about this sorry excuse for a reality show, you can do so at:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where, Oh Where, Have My Curls Gone?

If you are like me, this winter has been hell on your curly hair. The dew points in Florida have been much lower than usual over the past several months, leaving me mourning the loss of my bouncy, shiny curls. For weeks, I've been getting panic calls and emails from clients, saying, "Tiffany! Ack! My hair was wonderful and now, all of a sudden, it's a mess! What happened?"

While most of us pay attention to humidity as the barometer for our curls, it is actually the dew point that is more critical. There are several good discussions already on about dew point, and it is something I definitely want to elaborate on myself in the future.

In a nutshell, the lower the dew point, the less moisture there is in the atmosphere for our curls to use. Moisture is what forms and shapes our curls, and keeps frizz at bay, so it is no wonder many curl patterns turn looser and frizzier when the dew point dips. My usual quarter-sized amount of leave-in conditioner often turns to a palmful on low dew point days.

If you are suffering from the winter curly hair blues, your first step is to make sure you are putting enough moisture into your hair to supplement what Mother Nature has taken away. If you have fine hair, be judicious as too many emollients can weigh you down and dry you out, but a small bump in your normal amount could be just what you need.

You also need to take care with products that contain glycerin which, although a humectant, can actually dehydrate your hair drastically in weather with very low dew points. Glycerin has what are called hygroscopic properties, meaning it absorbs water from the air, but if there is no moisture in the air to absorb, it will take the next best thing and go after the moisture already present in your hair.

So, pump up the volume and throw your curls an assist to get moisture back into those curly locks. Spring is just around the corner and the dry winter blues will be behind us before we know it.

In other news, I recently did an interview with Sage Vivant, author of the curly blog No-poo Jillipoo, and answered her great questions about protein, porosity, color glazes and other cool curl stuff. And as of this week, I'll be contributing weekly to CurlyNikki, a site dedicated to the helping the curly-haired women whom Nikki calls "naturally glamorous"... as indeed we all are :) If you have not yet checked out the sites of these two fabulous women, you need to do so pronto!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

So they say. But is it flattery when others want to profit from it and stoop to stealing rather than putting in the hard work and effort themselves?

I've had a couple of little industry birdies whispering in my ear over the last month or so, that others within the professional beauty industry are potentially looking to appropriate my blog posts, forum posts, web site information, etc. for their own for-profit publication. And I have to be honest--that leaves a really, really bad taste in my mouth.

So, I am taking a brief hiatus from posting any more of my research findings, hair science information, etc., until I figure out how I am going to manage this. And that really pisses me off more than anything, because there are a whole lot of women out there who tell me they are finally starting to understand their hair better and get a handle on it for the first time in their lives--and now, I have to leave them in limbo for a while because of some common thieves who only care about lining their own pockets at the expense of others.

Bah. I thought I left this kind of crap behind when I bailed out of corporate America. But apparently, there are shysters anywhere you go.

Any suggestions are welcome--well, anything that is legal and doesn't involve calling my Uncle Guido.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

If You Could Design Your Own ...

... what would be your dream styling product?

I talk about product all day long with my clients. A large part of my work is listening to what my clients want in a product, analyzing their hair type and other factors, then trying to match them with the styling mousse/cream/gel/custard/spray/paste/pomade/shellac that will work best for them. It's a daunting task.

In some cases, it has also become unbearably complicated. On other boards, I read that many curly girls use two, three, sometimes four products to get the results they want. Why is that?

So, I'm putting out a call to ask the curly world what it is they would want in a single product. First, tell me about your hair -- is it fine, medium or coarse; porous or not porous? And then tell me, if that mythical Holy Grail did exist, what would it do for you? Give you volume? Shine? Could you live with a little bit of frizz if your curl definition looked like you spent all day with a round barrel curling iron? What are your dream product's most important characteristics?

Let your imagination run wild and send me an email at And feel free to pass the word along to your other friends, pop a little blurb into your blogs, post some messages on Facebook, etc. I'd love to know what the curly world is thinking about styling products these days.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hair Myths?

We now interrupt this blog for two small conversations that will most likely result in having lots of things thrown at me...or a collective belief that I have gone over the edge and no longer have the slightest idea what I'm talking about.

But as I've said before...I am not nor will I ever be 100% right 100% of the time. My thoughts, posts and advice are based on what I believe and observe from my professional training and my professional career as a hair stylist and curly hair specialist. If it works for someone, that's great. If it doesn't and something else works better, then that's great too. But I'm largely Italian, which means I'm always going to open my mouth when I have something to say, LOL. And there have been two topics on my mind lately I feel I need to address.

#1 - There is No Such Thing as "The Holy Grail"
Many curly girls get obsessed with finding what is known among us as "The Holy Grail" for their curls - that mythical, miraculous, one-of-a-kind, priceless treasure of a product that will give us impeccable, frizz-free, red carpet curls--the kind that always snap back into perfect ringlets even in the worst rain, hail, humidity, sleet and hurricane-force winds known to mankind.

The good Lord knows, I was on an HG quest myself for eons and there are times I still find myself falling into that trap. Even when I find a product combination that makes me look great 99% of the time, I'll catch myself thinking: sure, my curls look great...but what if I stop looking now and that one great product--that one single elixir of magical fairy tales--is just over the hill? And what if I never find it because I was happy with "second best" and I stopped looking too soon? It was enough to drive any curly girl to drink.

It was with a mixture of relief and sadness that I finally came to the conclusion--after doing hundreds and hundreds of curly heads, and studying reams of information on hair type and product ingredients--that, despite our greatest hopes and wishes, that mythical "Holy Grail"

just. doesn't. exist.

Yes, there are products that are great for our hair and will work wonders the vast majority of the time, sometimes even 99% of the time. There are products with ingredients that love our particular hair type--our texture, our porosity, our elasticity--and will make our curls look the absolute best they can possibly be.

For a time.

But ...

Hair type changes over time. Texture changes, porosity changes, elasticity changes. Weather changes. The chemical composition of your water changes. Hormones change. Medical conditions change. If there is one thing we can count on in the crazy world of curly hair, it is change. And that means no product is going to work 100% the best 100% of the time.

The same product might work almost as great, but from the bottom of my heart I do not and will never believe one single product can unfailingly give you what I call "red carpet curls"...the perfect, rockin' kind of curls that make any Hollywood A-lister turn around and think jealously, "I want HER hair." Unless you live in an environment and in a body where absolutely nothing changes, the Holy Grail will have to remain the myth it is.

Incidentally, that's why it is all the more important to understand your hair type and your environment and, subsequently, what product ingredients work the best for your particular situation. There might not be a single Holy Grail...but that doesn't mean there can't be a foundational core of products that act in tandem with each other to give you red carpet curls all the time.

#2 - There is No Such Thing as "Ethnic Hair"
Didn't see that one coming, did you?

I get a lot of questions on whether or not I know how to handle "ethnic hair" or about the special needs of ethnic hair. And I'm here to tell you there is no such thing. Hair is hair is hair. Period.

Your hair is fine, medium or coarse. Your hair is porous, overly porous, or has low porosity. Your hair has normal elasticity or low elasticity. Your hair is thin, medium or thick. It does not matter what your ethnic background is. Fine, porous, elastic, thick hair is fine, porous, elastic, thick hair whether it is on an African-American woman, a Caucasian woman, a Native American woman, an Asian woman, a Latina get the picture.

Now, you may have a genetic predisposition to have a certain type of hair based upon your ethnic background. African-American women often have much finer hair and a much tighter wave pattern than women from other ethnic backgrounds. Asian and Native American women can be so coarse and stick-straight, cutting their hair is a huge challenge because every slice of the shears can leave a visible mark. But there is no guarantee your hair will follow a certain pattern just because you belong to a particular ethnic group. I have African-American clients with loose waves and medium texture; I have white clients with coarse hair and extremely tight coils. And that's just the way it is.

That's not to say we shouldn't take pride in ourselves and where we come from, or not seek advice from others who share the same culture as we do! But by realizing that "ethnic hair" truly doesn't exist and knowing that our particular hair type is the key to taking the best care we can of our curls...we will always have those red carpet ringlets, no matter what our ethnic backgrounds.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hair Analysis

In addition to the four main hair properties, a good stylist performing a proper analysis on you will also examine your wave pattern, hairline and growth pattern. Although not critical, I'd still like to touch very briefly on these because it is helpful to understand them for any consultation with your stylist.

First, some definitions.

Wave pattern:
The amount of movement in your hair strand. Your wave pattern can be described as anything from "stick-straight" to "extremely curly."

The hair that grows at the outermost perimeter around the face, around the ears and across the neck.

Growth pattern:
The direction in which the hair grows from the scalp. This is also referred to as your hair's "natural fall." Cowlicks, whorls, hair streams and other growth patterns directly affect how the hair rests once it is dry.

Wave pattern is most often identified by some of the curl classification systems that have sprung up in recent years, such as "2c" or "4a". Again, I am going to reiterate that your wave pattern has absolutely NOTHING to do with what products and product ingredients are appropriate for your hair type.

Hairline becomes important in deciding on how to style and cut your hair...if you have a high hairline, for example, you may feel more comfortable styling your face frame so the curls come over your forehead a bit.

Cowlicks and whorls -- which result when hair follicles grow in different directions from the main hair streams -- can be a huge pain in the posterior. You can't fight your growth pattern, but it again becomes important to consider these when choosing a shape and style.

(A hair stream is an area of hair that grows in the same direction. Two hair streams that flow in opposite directions, incidentally, are what create a natural part.)

Like I said, not critical... but still good to know. I believe the more information we have about our own hair, the better we will be able to educate those who help us to take care of it, right?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hair Elasticity and Density

Okay, up next: hair elasticity and density. Let's see how coherent I am after my Steelers' big Super Bowl win last night :)

Elasticity is the ability of your hair to stretch and then return to its original length without breaking. It is an indication of how strong the side bonds are in your hair, which are the bonds that hold the individual protein chains of the hair strand into place. More than any other property, elasticity is what dictates your hair's ability to hold its curl, whether natural, or created by a wet set or perm.

Hair with normal elasticity can be stretched when wet to up to 50% of its original length and will easily return back without breaking. Hair with low elasticity is brittle, will not return to its original length when released, and usually snaps or breaks easily when stretched. Hair with low elasticity also will not hold a curl from a wet set or a perm.

Previous overprocessing and excessive heat styling (flat irons, etc.) are the biggest reasons for low elasticity. I hear a lot of this from clients who are just starting to let their curls go natural: "I've flat-ironed for a long time and I think my hair has forgotten how to be curly." Hair cannot forget how to be curly; only your genetics and medical condition can determine your wave pattern. But if you flat-iron or blow-fry your hair over a long period of time, you compromise the health of the hair by killing the elasticity in your hair strands. No elasticity = dry damage, high porosity and less curl.

To check the elasticity of your hair, wet a single strand, then stretch it to 50% of its original length. If it bounces back to its original length without breaking, you have normal elasticity. If it does not return to its original length or breaks, you have low elasticity.

Hair density is the number of hairs on your scalp per square inch, and is classifed as low, medium or high -- we usually describe it in layman's terms as "thin, medium or thick." Typically, natural redheads have the least amount of hair strands on their head: about 80,000. Black hair averages 108,000, brown is 110,000, and blondes average the highest density at about 140,000.

Density is important for two reasons: cut and product types. A good stylist will take both your hair texture and your hair density into consideration when determining the most appropriate cut for your hair. On straight hair, for example, someone with fine, thick hair would take a heavily-texturized razor cut well, but using a razor on someone with fine, thin hair will be unflattering since they need more weight, not less of it.

For curly girls, choosing product type is where knowing your density can be quite helpful. If you have very thick hair, gels -- which are volume-minimizing -- are often the best choice in creating a more structured, less "poofy" look. Girls with thin hair, however, will most likely get much better results by using a volumizing mousse, which creates the appearance of more hair.

Now that we've discussed the hair properties, next I'm going to touch a bit on hair analysis, which determines the behavior of the hair. This includes density and texture, which we've already covered, but also wave pattern, hairlines and growth pattern.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hair Porosity

Okay, impatient people, LOL. Here are my thoughts on porosity.

There are a lot of myths out there about hair porosity and how it relates to curly hair care and maintenance. Let's see if we can't set some of the record straight.

Porosity is, simply put, the hair's ability to absorb and retain moisture. Porosity is a critically important factor in determining one's curly hair care. Since moisture is what defines and shapes our curls, the inability to keep moisture within the hair shaft will defeat the most valiant efforts to maximize curl potential.

If you don't know your hair's porosity, you won't be able to make the best product and maintenance routine choices to maximize the amount of moisture your curls retain. The existing "curl classification systems" never, ever mention porosity in their classification process. Since lack of moisture is one of the biggest causes of frizz, I personally find that odd in the extreme. Just one more reason I don't find those systems very helpful or informative.

Your degree of porosity is directly related to the condition of your cuticle layer. Healthy hair with a compact cuticle layer is naturally resistant to penetration. Porous hair has a raised cuticle layer that easily absorbs water, but is quick to lose moisture as well. The texture of your hair is not an indication of its porosity. Different degrees of porosity can be found in all hair textures. For example, although coarse hair normally has a low porosity and is resistant to chemical services, coarse hair can also have high porosity as the result of damage or previous chemical services.

There are three different levels of porosity:

Hair with low porosity is considered "resistant" hair. Low porosity is when the cuticle of the hair shaft is too compact and does not permit moisture to enter or leave the hair shaft. Hair with low porosity is much more difficult to process, is resistant to chemical services, and has a tendency to repel product rather than absorb it. Chemical services performed on hair with low porosity require a more alkaline solution than those on hair with high porosity, to raise the cuticle and permit uniform saturation and penetration.

Hair with average porosity is considered "normal" hair. With normal porosity, the cuticle is compact and inhibits moisture from leaving or entering the hair shaft; however, it allows for normal processing when a chemical service is performed -- according to the texture -- and will readily absorb and retain product properly formulated for this hair type.

Hair with high porosity is considered "overly porous" and is the result of previous overprocessing. Other factors that can also affect porosity include heat damage, chlorine/hard water/mineral saturation, sun damage, or use of harsh ingredients. Overly porous hair is damaged in some way, and is dry, fragile and brittle. It has an open cuticle that both absorbs and releases moisture easily; it processes very quickly and can be easily damaged even further if extreme care is not taken when a chemical service is performed. Although overly porous hair absorbs product quickly, it is often dry as the open cuticle does not allow for product retention within the hair shaft. Chemical services performed on overly porous hair require less alkaline solutions with a lower pH, which will help to prevent further overprocessing.

Porous hair accepts haircolor faster and permits darker color than less porous hair; however, although overly porous hair takes color quickly, color also fades quickly. While hair with low porosity is difficult for chemicals to penetrate and takes a longer processing time, the color will last much longer.

You can check porosity on dry hair by taking a strand of several hairs from four different areas of the head (front hairline, temple, crown and nape). Slide the thumb and index finger of your other hand down each hair strand from end to scalp. If it is smooth, you have normal porosity. If your fingers move very fast up the hair strand and it feels exceptionally slick, dense and hard, you have low porosity. If your fingers "catch" going up the strand, feel like they are ruffling up the hair strand, or if the hair strand breaks, your hair is overly porous.

Unfortunately, porosity issues stemming from irreparable hair damage CANNOT be permanently corrected. Only time can truly mend damaged hair. You can, however, create a temporary fix until the damaged part grows out by "reconstructing" the hair shaft with protein treatments. Protein fills in any holes within the cortex (inner layer of the hair) and also helps to fill in the gaps exposed by a raised cuticle.

Individuals with coarse hair, however, must be cautious: putting additional protein on coarse hair can dry it out even more. For those with a coarse texture, acidic treatments such as apple cider vinegar rinses are likely a better alternative as your hair already manufactures an overabundance of protein naturally.

(Which brings to a small derail. I know people are tired of me harping on the excessive use of shampoo bars. If, however, you have porous hair, you are not doing yourself any favors by using them. These bars are fairly alkaline and raise the cuticle, the exact opposite of what people with overly porous hair are trying to achieve. Your goal is to establish a routine and determine the most effective product use for your hair without swimming upstream in the process.)

So, what does this mean for the curly girl? It means you need to determine your hair texture and your hair porosity, and then think about what types of products are best suited to your particular hair type. Other factors will come into play, but these two hair properties are the most important properties to know.

Next, I'm going to touch briefly on hair elasticity and density. Although not nearly as critical as texture and porosity, they still play a role in determining the most effective curly hair care routine.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hair Texture

I've already covered some of this on my web site under Curly Hair Basics, but I'm going to expand on it here.

Hair texture is the thickness or diameter of the individual hair strand. Your hair texture plays one of the most important roles in how you should care for your curls, not only through daily maintenance, but also when considering any chemical services such as haircolor or texturizing. Even how your hair is cut needs to be adapted to the texture of your hair.

There are three different textures: fine, medium and coarse. Not everyone has the same uniform texture over their entire head, however; for example, you can be fine at the nape and coarse at the hairline (especially if those pesky grays are starting to pop up). The hair textures are:

Fine Hair
Fine hair can appear very limp or flyaway and does not hold a style well. It frequently seems dry, when in fact it is quite often over-moisturized. It is very easy to over-process and is quickly damaged by chemical services if great care is not taken. Products with a lot of humectants and emollients should be avoided in favor of those with protein.

Medium Hair
Medium hair is what is considered “normal” hair, meaning it has a mid-range texture. It does not require any special considerations for chemical services and usually processes normally. Undamaged hair with a medium texture can generally support products with a wide range of ingredients.

Coarse Hair
Coarse hair is much thicker and stronger than fine or medium hair, but typically does not bend and cannot hold a style well. It is also often dry and brittle, due to an overabundance of protein. Coarse hair is much harder to process and is often very resistant to chemical services. Products with a lot of protein should be avoided in favor of those with humectants and emollients.

Hair texture is key to establishing the best routine for your hair. As I've said before on many other occasions, those popular "curl classification systems" that help you in identifying your wave pattern from a visual perspective are absolutely useless when it comes to caring for your curls. Let's say you and I have the same exact visual spiral pattern, so we both consider ourselves "3b." And let's say we both have about the same thickness of hair (density) but my hair is fine and yours is coarse. Those curl classification systems would still lead us to believe we have the same hair type because we are visually almost identical, right?

However ... if we try to use the same products because our hair "looks" the same, guess what is going to happen? If we are using products with heavy proteins, my hair is going to look fabulous and yours is going to look like frizzy, crackly dry straw. If we use products with heavy emollients and humectants, your hair will look like a million bucks and I'll have a flat, limp mess. You cannot look to those visual classification systems for information on how to properly care for your curly hair. Only your hair properties -- texture, porosity, density and elasticity -- can tell you that.

Here's another interesting tidbit for you: did you know that different hair texture types respond differently to the kind of cutting they receive as well? For example, fine hair needs to have a cut with more weight because it tends to lie flat no matter how short it is. Short cuts can be problematic for coarse hair that is very thick because hair with a coarse texture expands naturally in an east-west direction. Even with a curly dry cut, the methodology remains the same, but the stylist has to take all kinds of other factors, including your hair texture, into consideration.

There are special considerations with color as well. The melanin (color pigments) contained within your hair shaft are grouped more tightly in fine hair, so color takes faster and can look darker than expected (because less light is able to reflect through those tightly packed color molecules). With coarse hair, the hair strand has a larger diameter and the melanin pigment is not so tightly packed, so it can take longer to process and can look a bit lighter.

Other than porosity, I would call hair texture the most important hair property there is. Your curly hair care routine will hugely improve when you start taking your hair texture into consideration.

Next: Porosity

Monday, January 5, 2009

Starting with the Basics

It's been a while since I've blogged, but I've had a busy holiday season, coupled with my daughter's birthday. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday as well.

Although I don't have time for a full post tonight, I think I'm going to start talking more in depth about hair properties with my next couple of posts - things like texture, porosity, density, and elasticity. Those who know me know the "curl classification systems" pretty much drive me bonkers, since they don't give a clue on how to properly take care of curls according to type. It's time to demystify the mystery.

First up ... hair texture.