Saturday, August 22, 2015

Why Labels Matter: A Curly Girls Guide to Hair Oils

Posted by Jen Lennox at 2:17 PM 1 comments
I will admit, hair oils are new territory for me. I haven't struggled with a particularly dry scalp and my hair responds well to regular conditioning and deep conditioning, but I have thrown myself into all aspects of the Curly Girl method and for many people oils are necessary. Dry hair and scalp mean unhealthy curls, and many of us need and extra boost every now and again.

Several hair products are touting treatment oils for hair and some of them are actually quite pricey. Although I don't doubt the effectiveness of these oils, I found recently that they are often marketed with silicone added, and unless you read the label, you'd think you were getting something pure.

If you are not committed to the CG method, then added silicones in products is not an issue for you. If you HAVE committed to the no sulfate/silicone lifestyle, and are deliberately trying to avoid things that will cause a build-up on your hair, you need to be careful when choosing a hair oil. For example, here are the ingredient lists for two VERY popular and HIGHLY advertised hair oils:

Macadamia Natural Oil, $32+

This oil looks like and is marketed as "natural," but Dimethicone is the FIRST INGREDIENT. Curly Girls, steer clear of this stuff if you're co-washing. Low-poos with wash out these ingredients, but co-washes will NOT.

Moroccan Oil Treatment, $50+

Once again, a very expensive oil that looks to be "pure," but has added Dimethicone. Again, not a good idea for those of us going CG.

There are many silicones out there, but Dimethicone is the most common and least expensive silicone. It's great for conditioning and adding shine, but can be difficult to remove. Additionally, this heavy coating can make hair feel heavy. 

If your hair is feeling dry and you want to turn to oils, there are many excellent choices out there, but READ THE LABELS because THIS is the kind of label you want to see on the back of a "pure" oil:

Coconut Oil: Contains oil, fragrance, and a few other things, none of which end in CONE.

Like I've said, if you're still using sulfate-based shampoo, you can get away with silicones, but if you've eliminated sulfates, these oils will sit on your hair, build up, kill your curls and make your hair waxy and heavy. Chances are, if your hair is NOT responding to the CG method, it's because there are silicones hidden in something you're using. Find out where the problem lies, do a good wash WITH a sulfate shampoo and start over.

Pure oils are excellent for hair. You can even make your own with coconut oil and add essential oils (like lavender, peppermint, etc.) to get the fragrance you want. Next time you're at the beauty supply, make sure you read exactly what's in the hair oil you're purchasing. No matter how pretty the packaging, it's what's in the fine print on the back of the bottle that matters.

Do you use oils? How often? What are your favorites?


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Product Review : DevaCurl SuperCream Coconut Curl Styler

Posted by Jen Lennox at 12:17 PM 2 comments

Hello, readers!

I apologize for the lack of posts this month, I'm a school teacher by trade and we started back this week. It's been exhausting and time-consuming getting ready, but I'm one of those lucky folks who loves my job so it never really feels like "work" to me!

Back to curly business...

If you are a DevaCurl follower, you know that for about the past month they have been pumping up the release of their new styler, SUPERCREAM. This styler is marketed towards those with course, dry curls who need extra moisture to amp up their curl pattern. I'll admit that when I first heard about SuperCream I thought it wasn't going to be for me, it seemed more for those with type 4 curls or dry, transitioning ethnic hair. Still, my curiosity was piqued. 

As with any new product release, there is often a lack of supply with demand, so I was not expecting to get my hands on this stuff for at least another month, but to my surprise my ULTA store had some on hand, so I swooped in and picked up some.

Although I generally try to stay with drugstore products and prices as much as possible, there are some things that are just plain WORTH the money. With the way this product was marketed and my genuine love of all things Deva, I thought I should at least try it once and see if it was worth repurchasing.

Before applying the SuperCream to my hair, I did my routine as normal: my weekly low-poo (DevaCurl Low Poo), rinse out conditioner (SheaMoisture Curl and Shine) and leave-in (Kinky Curly Knot Today). I then applied about 5 total pumps of SuperCream to my entire head (using one pump for each section and one last pump to flip my head over and scrunch). 

I am used to using gel, and have had excellent luck with gels, so I am used to the hard hold I get from a gel. I knew I would not be getting that with this product, but it claims to give moisture, definition and hold so I didn't layer anything else with it.

I plopped into my Jac-o-Net as usual and sat under my hooded dryer for about 15 minutes as I usually do. I then took the net out and sat under the dryer to let my curls start to dry completely.

Within about 10 minutes, with my hair still half-damp I could tell that this was not going to be good enough as as stand-alone product. My curls had some frizz and were not being held in place the way they were with gel, so I got up and scrunched a couple of handfuls of DevaCurl Frizz-Free Volumizing Foam into my half-wet hair. This was just enough to give me a little more hold, so I went back under the dryer.

Once my hair was fully dry, I saw a marked reduction in the frizz and dryness I've been fighting against lately. But... how will my hair look on day 2? That was the question.

I "Pineappled" my hair that night and woke up the next morning. To my surprise, my curls were defined, soft and still full of body. 

This is my Day 2 hair after using SuperCream with Volumizing Foam. I am definitely happy with these results!

Will I repurchase this cream? Maybe. Like I said, $28 is steep for a styling product. I'm not sure how long it will last, which is a big factor for me. If your'e on the fence, it is WORTH TRYING, without question. After I've used up the whole bottle, I'll let you know if I still love it.

Have you gotten your hands on this stuff? What do you think?


Monday, August 10, 2015

When Your Curls LIKE 'Cones: How To Use Silicones and Still Have Great Hair

Posted by Jen Lennox at 7:16 PM 1 comments
Hello,  curly friends!  My job here at Jen's Curly Mess is to pull from the hundreds of thousands of resources about curly hair and bring the most useful and pertinent information to you as I can. If the Internet is your newspaper,  I'm your highlight reel,  so to speak.

Many of you know that for well over a decade I flat ironed my hair almost exclusively.  Many of my closest friends didn't even know I HAD curly hair underneath my perfectly flattened tresses.
When I discovered the CG method a few years ago,  I went all in: No sulfates,  No silicones,  No poo,  the works. I used only Devacurl products. My hair started looking really good.

My husband and I at a CBJ game during my flat-iron era. It was a long era and this look took up a lot of my time and fried the heck out of my hair.

I've thrown myself into figuring out my own curls and so much of the information I've found is because of great folks willing to share their knowledge and experiences. Through countless hours of research (you cannot imagine how many hours I spend reading about hair,  it's ridiculous, my husband will vouch for the absurdity of it, but I can't help it!)  I have realized that there is an entire world out there filled with great products for curly hair. However,  for those of us trying to live the CG lifestyle, navigating the do's and don'ts of the method can be exhausting and frustrating.

I come to you today because I inadvertently purchased a styling product a couple of weeks ago that I read the ingredient list of at least 4 times in the store,  only to find out AFTER I put it in my hair that it contains a dreaded 'cone called Cyclopentasiloxane. Even worse?  I'm in love with this product. The Curly Girl,  Lorraine Massey-loving part of me immediately started to panic:

How am I gonna get this stuff out?

I don't want to  use sulfate shampoo,  gosh darn it. What have I done?

Am I going to have to stop Cowashing if I use this again?


Dear Lord,  no.... NOOOO! *shakes fists at the heavens*

*grabs paper bag and starts breathing heavily *

You laugh,  but I swear this is the stuff that was running through my mind. So,  I did what I do: started researching. I read article after article after forum thread after forum thread.
Folks,  what I'm about to share with you is going to make your ingredient-reading, silicone-fearing brains explode.

A very well-respected curl chemist has this to say about Cyclopentasiloxane (a derivative of Cyclomethicone, which is found in a ton of curl products we have sworn off because of the CG method):

"Cyclomethicone IS cyclopentasiloxane, and also cyclotetrasiloxane (just a smaller molecule). It's just another name for the same thing! Neither will build up on your hair, although they are not water soluble. The reason for this is that they evaporate. They do not remain on your hair. You need nothing to remove them because they do not remain on your hair. I know I have addressed this in an article, but it is still a huge point of confusion for folks.
The reason some find it makes their hair feel bad is that when it evaporates it can make your hair a tad dry and maybe mess with your cuticle layer a bit, just like alcohols that evaporate.
Also, according to all the research I have seen, all of the silicones can be removed just as efficiently by products containing cocamidopropyl betaine or coco betaine as by SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate) or SLES."

What does this mean? That Cyclomethicone AND it's derivatives, and pretty much ALL silicones in general, can be washed out with most sulfate-free shampoos on the market. That those products you loved that you had to toss because they were not CG friendly can actually be used again. That an entire world of stuff we used to fear no longer has to be feared. Look for the ingredients cocamidopropyl betaine or cocobetaine on the ingredients list of a sulfate-free shampoo. They are surfactants that are gentle enough not to strip hair but strong enough to get rid of non-water soluble silicones. Here are a few of the best-sellers out there right now:

DevaCurl Low-Poo

Mixed Chicks Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Giovanni Tea Tree Shampoo

What I'm beginning to realize is that,  if Lorraine Massey's Curly Girl handbook is the Constitution of Curly Hair,  there are some pretty cool amendments made that make it possible to have great curls and not sacrifice hair health, curl pattern, OR have a need to use harsh sulfates. Though many of us will still stick to the original CG rules,  know that there is some wiggle room available that you may not have known about before. Every single person reacts differently to different ingredients,  so it's a matter of what works or doesn't for YOU. 

If you'd like to know more about which silicones are which and how to wash them out, click here. This particular article is written by a real curl chemist who knows all the technical stuff about which molecules are which and what sulfate-free chemicals wash out which silicones. It's brilliant.

Now, as for the product in question, the amazing stuff that launched me into this whole maddening game of "DID I JUST KILL MY HAIR?"..... it is the TIGI Curls Rock Amplifier.

If you read my review of TIGI Strong Hold Mousse, you know I'm crazy about the stuff, and it's CG safe. I love its strength, but I wanted just a TEENY bit more definition. I used about a nickel-sized amount of Curls Rock Amplifier on top of the mousse and the results were incredible. My hair has a lot more volume and definition than with any product I've yet tried.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Top 5 Low-Poos That Won't Strip Hair

Posted by Jen Lennox at 8:52 PM 0 comments
Although Co-Washing is ideal for Curly Girls who use the CG method, everyone SHOULD use a Low-Poo at least once a month, if not more. Even water-soluble ingredients can leave build-up after a while, so using a Low-Poo can help start with a clean canvas now and then. Some people Low-Poo exclusively, some every week, some every two weeks. Only YOU know what's right for your hair and how it responds to certain ingredients, so the decision as to how often is completely yours.

The key ingredient Curly Girls try to avoid is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). The alternative is a Low-Poo with Cocomidopropyl Betaine OR Cocobetaine, which are found in many popular brands on the market. These mild surfactants can lift product build-up off the hair shaft without causing the same stripping/drying effect as SLS.

I've tried many winners and losers in this category and here are my top 5 Low-Poos, in no particular order:


This gentle cleanser smells wonderful and contains natural ingredients like Chamomile and Rosemary. One of the pioneers of the Low-Poo movement, this has been around for a long time and has legions of fans.


SheaMoisture is one of my all-around favorite brands because they are free of pretty much everything: sulfates, silicones, parabens, etc. AND they are cruelty-free. At a lower price point than the Deva brand, this is a great way to keep healthy hair at a drugstore price.


With avocado and sweet almond oil as ingredients, you'll be sure to enjoy this natural low-poo. Paired with Mixed Chicks Leave-In Conditioner, your hair will be soft and your curls will be nicely moisturized and defined.


Enhanced with lavender and aloe leaf juice, this sulfate-free shampoo smells amazing and leaves curls hydrated without stripping. 


If you have any sort of dry or itchy scalp issues, this is the low-poo for you. Hair is cleansed gently without aggravating any pre-existing skin conditions.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Super Science-Geek Guide to Humectants

Posted by Jen Lennox at 7:33 PM 0 comments
The folks at Naturally Curly made this excellent infographic to describe what Humectants and Anti-Humectants do in hair. Tonya McKay is one of my favorite Curl Chemists and writes some pretty awesome stuff. If your hair isn't doing what you want it to do even when you follow all of the Curly Girl rules, you may want to check your ingredients and make sure you have the right balance. Enjoy! The Ultimate Guide to Humectants and Hair

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