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!