Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Updated Live Curly Live Free e-Book Coming Soon for Kindle, iPad and Nook!

Live Curly Live Free is pleased to announce the new second edition of our e-book will be available soon for Kindle, iPad and Nook (in addition to its original .pdf format)! We anticipate it will be available for download at both amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com by November 7.

Although the vast majority of the information in the updated second edition of the e-book is still the information we published in the first edition, we have made a few changes to reflect what we have learned over the past several years since the original e-book was published. There is additional styling information for more tightly coiled patterns, a few adjustments in the product ingredients lists, and a look at the actual science behind the controversial keratin straightening treatments (as well as a slight change in the title from Unlocking the Secrets Behind the World of Beautiful Curls to Unlocking the Secrets Behind the World of Beautiful Curly Hair).

We hope you enjoy the updated edition and look forward to your feedback!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Protein: Friend or Foe?

It is a never-ending question on boards and web sites everywhere: does my hair need protein or not?

There seems to be a ton of debate online these days about protein and its role in hair health. Some beauty industry professionals and product manufacturers advocate lots of protein, some say protein is the devil and should always be avoided. Which of these is really true?

The world of hair science can be a bit daunting, but let's break down the information on protein needs one bit at a time to figure out how it all really works.

First of all, it is important to understand that 98% of our hair shaft is made of protein, a protein called "keratin." Those keratin protein amino acid chains are what form the structure of our hair strand; they are also what give our hair its strength. Protein in and of itself is a strengthener; for example, if you eat it, you build muscle. So it stands to reason that if you put it on your hair, it will make your hair stronger as well.

So how does that work in relation to our hair needs?

Let's look at a fine hair strand. When you hold up a fine hair strand, it is almost translucent and has a "barely there" kind of feel. There is not a whole lot of protein in the structure of that hair strand, so it isn't very strong. Mary Pat Mestre, the fine-haired curly who runs the hair analysis service of Live Curly Live Free, calls fine hair, "floaty hair." It is kind of limp and flyaway and does not hold a style very well; it has a tendency to "float" up into the atmosphere since there isn't a whole lot of structure or weight to anchor it down.

For fine-haired curlies then, it stands to reason that protein in their "penetrating" products, i.e., conditioners and protein packs, is a crucial part of a healthy hair routine. Since Mother Nature didn't give fine hair a whole lot of strength naturally, the added strength and support provided by protein-based products will help to anchor the hair strand down, and give it a bit more structure and texture.

Protein deprivation in fine hair can often come across as a "dry" or "unmoisturized" feeling when, in fact, it is actually fairly easy to get moisture into relatively undamaged fine hair strands. What most girls with fine-textured curls are really feeling when they feel "dry" is most often protein deprivation instead of lack of moisture. (That is why so many fine-haired curlies who use a heavy emollient-based deep treatment--which are often protein-free--to combat that dry feeling often end up feeling limp and greasy, but still dry!)

While baby-fine hair usually needs protein every single day, those with more of a fine-medium texture may find that using a protein-based conditioner once or twice a week, or even every other day, is more than enough to provide optimal structure strength and control. Adjust your amounts as needed based on how your hair "feels" that day: trust me, if you listen to it, it will let you know.

And now for our coarse-haired friends.

Coarse-haired curlies are the perfect polar opposite of their fine-haired counterparts. Hold up a strand of coarse hair and you will still see it as plain as day even if you walk across the street. It is a strong, beautiful hair texture, but it is also resistant and not very supple (have you ever tried to bend a coarse hair strand?) because coarse hair strands naturally manufacturer too much keratin protein within their own structure.

When you use a protein-based penetrating product on a coarse hair strand then, what you are actually doing is strengthening the structure of a hair strand that is already too strong naturally--resulting in what I call the "broom straw" effect. When protein penetrates within a coarse hair strand, that strand immediately becomes a hard, rigid "straw" you can almost literally snap in two.

When a coarse-haired curly sits in my chair and tells me, "I tried to go the sulfate- and silicone-free route, but it didn't work for me," I can almost guarantee she was using a shampoo or conditioner that contained a significant amount of protein in it. The avoidance of sulfates or silicones was most definitely working, but the protein penetration into the hair strand was causing the structure to become inflexible and stiff.

It is important, therefore, that those with coarse hair generally avoid protein and ensure that their conditioners and deep treatments are instead loaded with plenty of moisturizing emollients, as lack of moisture is usually the biggest challenge for coarse hair. The heavy moisture from those emollients will help to soften a coarse hair strand and make it more supple (a suppleness it does not naturally possess).

And for those in the middle of the road: the "mediums."

If there is such a thing as a "normal" texture in Curly Hair World, the medium-haired curlies are pretty much it. They aren't too weak and they aren't too strong: their texture is fairly well where it needs to be. And so, the medium-haired curly hair contingent generally wants to avoid protein in their penetrating products because there typically is no need for them to strengthen their structure. If they do, they could eventually strengthen it to the point that they will start getting that "broom straw" effect like the coarse-haired girls.

To pull it all together with respect for your own hair and make it easy for yourself, use this thought process: when you think "protein," think "strength." When you are debating if your hair needs protein or not, ask yourself: Does my hair need some added "strength" right now? Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of "listening" to your hair and following its cues.

It is also important to remember that, although the above is a great general guideline, there are always exceptions to the rule sometimes; for example, a coarse-haired girl has a lot of structural damage from repeated flat-ironing or chlorine exposure and could benefit from a good protein reconstruction. Always let the condition of your hair be your guide as well as the facts of good hair science!



Friday, March 18, 2011

Keepin' It Real

As virtually everyone knows, I have been heads-down getting Live Curly Live Free the Salon ready for opening day on April 5. Having chosen to do the majority of the renovation work myself (I wield a mean drill), that has meant more than a few days of a less-than-glamorous Curl Whisperer: no make-up, paint-smeared clothes and curls that are--to put it kindly--a little less than pristine. Something that I wouldn't have given more than a passing thought if not for an incident that inspired a deeper look.

Live Curly Live Free will be located in the Art Village Courtyard in Gulfport, a charming cluster of Key West-style bungalows that house approximately 10 merchants, including The Perfect Ten, the nail salon where I have my nails done. Linda Craig, owner and nail tech extraordinaire, was the driving force in bringing LCLF to the Courtyard and has been going gangbusters telling everyone about our opening and our natural approach to curly hair.

Last week, I ran into her while going to check my mail and she proceeded to grab me and drag me all over the Courtyard, introducing me to a pile of people. "This is the new curly hair expert coming to the Courtyard in April," she kept repeating, pulling me from person to person like the world's most expert PR advance team. Now, you need to understand I was looking about as ratty as I possibly could, frizzy curls scraped back into a scrunchie bun and paint speckles adorning the top of my head. Which, of course, meant the first thing these people did was raise their eyes and look right at my hair.

What threw me in hindsight was how I automatically felt the need to make an excuse about how my hair was looking to these people I didn't even know. Here, clearly, was my thought process: if I carry the label of curly hair expert, people will expect to see my hair looking a certain way 24/7. If I fall short of that expectation, then excuses or explanations are owed no matter what the circumstances.

That got me to thinking: how many of us fall into that trap?

Having curly hair is a challenge, there is no getting around it. For most of us, unless you are willing to devote serious time on a daily basis, your hair is not going to be perfect and pristine every minute and every hour of the day. (And even if you do, there is no guarantee your curls will feel like behaving themselves that day). How many times, then, do we feel the need to explain a less-than-perfect appearance of our curls: "I overslept and didn't have time to do my hair", "I ran out of my regular gel and had to use a backup that doesn't work as well"; "I was up all night with the baby and I was just too tired to take a shower"? Excuses we owe no one but, for some strange reason, we feel obligated to give so those around us won't criticize our choice to live naturally or perceive curly-haired women as "less than."

I say the excuses stop. Right now. Starting with me.

I am a proud girl with curls. I can rock my hair with the best of them. I am also a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend with a tremendously busy life. I don't have the time nor, frankly, the inclination to rock them 24/7. Some things in my life are a higher priority at certain times and the hair takes a back seat. When it comes down to it, I shouldn't owe anyone anything when it comes to my curls and how they look, even when they are not at their most glorious.

Perhaps, most importantly, is that no one's opinion of me should be of more value to my self-esteem and my soul than my own opinion of myself. In anything.

To truly live curly and free, we need to embrace the notion that someone else's definition of perfection is not something we need to own. It is time the world around us understands we not only rock our curls, but we roll with them too. We are real. And if the curls on our head are perfect enough for us, in any way they choose to display themselves, then they certainly should be good enough for everyone else.

Grab a paint brush and let's get busy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Stand Up and Holla!

Happy Valentine's Day, curly friends!

The countdown to Live Curly Live Free the Salon continues and my excitement is growing. I am up to my earlobes with plans and blueprints to opening day and I just can't wait. In the course of my planning, however, I had another thought that kind of skidded me to a halt: okay, girl...what happens AFTER you get the doors open?

I've had a lot of thoughts about how to move forward this year even before opening my own salon became a reality. I put a lot of things on hold last year and didn't do too much outside of standing behind the chair because my dad had major surgery and my family had to come first. He is in great health and doing wonderfully now, so it's time for the rubber to hit the road and for me to get busy.

So, where would you like to see Live Curly Live Free go in 2011-2012? YouTubes? Workshops? Road shows? More articles? Now that I will have another stylist with me initially (and eventually three of us altogether in not-so-distant future plans), I think we will be able to think outside the box a bit more :)

Send your thoughts to info@livecurlylivefree.com or post them as a comment here and let's see what we come up with!

Curliciously yours,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

QOTW: "Best" Product Routines?

QOTW from Raena S. : What is the best product routine for fine 3c/4a curls?

Great question, Raena!

First thing I want to make clear, though: there is no ONE best way to put product into your curls. That's like saying there is only one best way to get to New York from Philadelphia or only one best way to make great chili. There are more than a few best ways to accomplish all of those things: what is important is to ask yourself, "What is the best way for ME?"

There are a lot of resources on the Internet today that show how to apply product: web sites, YouTube, blogs, product manufacturer sites, forums, etc. And some of them will work for you and some of them won't. Texture, density and wave pattern play a really big role in determining your results. A girl with fine-textured, thin and wavy hair, for example, typically won't leave nearly as much water in her hair when she applies her gel as will someone with medium texture, thick and tightly spiraled curls; the extra weight of the water will most likely drag her waves down and make her go flat. Not a happy result.

That's not to say that she doesn't have choices, though. Does she want a quiet wave today? She can rake a bit of gel into her hair after a great deal of the water has been scrunched out of it, let it dry and then gently "side scrunch" to finish. More volume? She can apply mousse with a bit of gel for hold into damp hair, scrunch like mad and pop in a few clips for height. Two different routines, two different "best ways," depending on the results desired.

Our own personal best way will even change for a variety of reasons other than our look: transition from winter to summer, moving from a humid to a dry climate, the planet Jupiter is currently in Aquarius (you know we girls with curls will find any reason to mix it up :) ). I know my own routine changes in winter since there is such a drastic reduction in moisture level in the Florida winters: my quarter-sized dollop of leave-in conditioner turns into a palmful most days. However, I would be a flat, greasy, disgusting mess if I tried to do that in August when the dew points typically reach the mid- to high 70's.

The "best way" to find the "best way" is to give yourself the freedom to play and find a couple of product routines you love that work for you. Don't feel you need to hem yourself in and find one "perfect" routine or feel pressured to buy into one particular philosophy. I teach a fairly standardized product routine to my clients, depending on their hair properties, but encourage them to experiment and change it up to suit themselves. I love it when they come in for their next appointment, eager to show me things they discovered in the course of their experience as a liberated girl with curls. Believe me, I learn a lot from my clients too!

I have only one caution: if a product routine you see requires a bucketful of product to hold your curls in place, then it mostly likely isn't the best routine for you. When I am at work, I use far more product than I advise for most girls with curls, probably anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 cup of product total for my below shoulder-length, thick, medium-textured spirals. But I lean over steamy shampoo bowls all day and flip my curls around constantly, showing my clients how to plop, scrunch, clip, rake, shake, etc. I need that extra protection for the eight to 10 hours I am at work.

I wouldn't dare to use that much product when I am regular Tiffany at home, however; it would be way too much and the routine I use doesn't demand more than a few tablespoons of leave-in and gel for great hold, even during a Florida summer. If a routine requires you to really load the product on--if you find yourself thinking, "Gee, that's a LOT of product" or "That is WAY more product than I ever use"--then ask yourself this question, "Why does that routine require that much product for great curls and great hold?"

Living life as a girl with curls is always about what works best for YOU!

If you are interested in submitting a Question of the Week, please send it to: info@livecurlylivefree.com with "QOTW" in the Subject line.

Monday, January 31, 2011

This 'n That

Hola, my friends with curls!

I hope you all are weathering the winter without too much angst. It has been quite cold in Florida--we set a record in December for the coldest December on record--and it has played havoc with our curls down here. We Florida girls are used to lots of moisture in the air, even in the winter, and the extremely low dew points have led to more than one "WTH???" moment!

Thank you to everyone who has sent Mary Pat and I such positive feedback on the hair analysis service we launched in November, as well as on our new sister site, www.curlwizard.com. We suspected there was a need for these services, but we have been astonished at the responses thus far. I can't tell you how happy we are that we've been able to help so many of you with figuring out your hair properties and the needs of your particular curls.

I am quite excited to announce that Live Curly Live Free the Salon will open its doors on April 5, 2011 in Gulfport, FL (still in the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg area, right off I-275). Some of my readers are not aware that I actually rent a chair in another salon right now and do not have my own place. But that will change in 64 short days: Live Curly Live Free the Salon will open as a curly hair specialty salon, one of the only salons in the state of Florida to focus exclusively on curly hair care. It's a small place for now and that suits me fine: there will be room for me and one other stylist to start and then, with a little remodeling, a place for three stylists to focus on all things curly. No disrespect to our straight-haired sisters, but it's about time we had our own place to celebrate the beauty of our curly hair, don't you think?

First order of business once I open my doors will be to find another stylist to train in the LCLF methodology and cutting style. I am hoping I will be able to find someone who is as passionate and dedicated to curls as I am! (And let me know if you have any leads!)

Gulfport, incidentally, is a funky little art village located on the Boca Ciega Bay right across from St. Pete Beach. My Tampa/Orlando/Sarasota clientele should be happy since it is right off the interstate and will make for a much easier (and shorter) drive! If you are interested in learning more about Gulfport, our chamber of commerce president, Lori Russo, has put together a wonderful YouTube that shows our beaches, great restaurants, shops and other hidden gems of this great little community:

Time to make 2011 the best curly hair year ever!

Curliciously yours,