February 1, 2009

African American History Month

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Nella Larsen

Nellie Walker…a.k.a.  Ms. Nella Larsen was, and continues to be one of many inspirations in my life. If you are celebrating African American History Month, much kudos! I hope it’s a thoughtful journey for you as well as those you choose to share it with, no matter your race

January 30, 2009

Sleek & Shine Gel

So this week, because my hair and scalp have been at odds with the weather, I’ve had to reach for my go-to products and accessories to alleviate my frustration. 

sleekshine

Back when I was transitioning I felt my options in styles were extremely limited (they really weren’t I was just clueless:-( ), so I continually pulled my hair back in a puff bun or wore it in a TWA with a variety of headbands I’d hoarded once I did my BC.  But before I’d BC’d I hardly EVER used gel on my hair for fear of cutting back on the longevity of my relaxer (this was a sordid myth in my household), always using cremes and elixirs to slick back.  But when it was time to find products that suited my newly textured hair, I think I got extremely lucky when I found a curl activator gel that was suitable for dry, coarse hair AND most importantly did not flake, or when dried remained hard.  Sleek & Shine  adds the right amount of glycerin and aloe to this gel to make your strands soft, but at the same time this thing slicks back, and stays back! 

My only problem with this gel is that it was always a tad difficult to find! After I moved from my old neighborhood several years ago I could not locate it at any of the supply stores, and settled on IC Fantasia gel, a staple gel many naturals swear by.  I liked IC Fantasia gel…after trying their olive oil formula and the color treated formula, I understood the hype…but the only thing missing was what my old faithful gel often did and that was leave a punch of added softness and absolutely no dryness!

Luckily last year I found a supply store here in BK that’s the meca of all things hair related that also stocked my old staple.  Needless to say I stocked up and have been using it ever since, and will continue to decline other gels as styling staples…it works that well!

Ingredients

Water, Glycerin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Hyaluronic Acid, Panthenol, Oleth-20, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Benzophenone-4, Disodium EDTA, DMDM Hydantoin, Fragrance, Ext. Violet 2.

bandsThis morning, as well as for the past two days, I’ve simply slicked back my curls into a 4-6 day old curly fro with my new favorite headbands from Goody, their wonderful Stay Put bands,  and walked out the door!

January 29, 2009

Spotlight: Fresh Scrub

Yum!

 

‘What a difference a year makes…’, I’ve heard this before but never has it meant so much until I took a step back the other day to envision parts of my life this time last year.  Basically I had started a new job, a second job really, that was intended to supplement the happy moments in my life, you know… those moments where you’re entitled to pay yourself first before paying your landlord. I’d delegate myself to be happy on those pay days, and liberally bought something, whether it was small or big that would make the fact that I was so tired all the time a meaningless slight.

What I also distinctly remember is lagging behind on really taking care of me, more specifically my skin! Last year I was running around on tip toes, arriving at the day job at 8am, leaving there around 5:30pm for the other job…then finally resting at home close to 11:00pm.  After only a couple of weeks of that routine, my skin was not adjusting to my negligence.

Winter in NYC is certainly unforgivable if you don’t acknowledge it, and that’s pretty much what I did.  My skin for the first time began to flake, and I discovered dry patches that never used to exist! Still adjusting to my new schedule I had zero time to whip up a batch of shea-loe, or a shea mixture that would help alleviate my growing problem.

Instead I needed a quick fix…something that could easily slip into a routine that I hadn’t yet caught up with.  Thankfully, around the corner from my second job is one of those fancy shmancy type beauty stores that have white luminescent walls, ceilings and floors…it was almost dreamy…lol! It was the kind of place I simply did not trust myself going in alone, I’d need friendly support or the confidence to withstand the buckling pressure of over eager saleswomen.

Unfortunately the day I finally walked into fresh, I had none of that. All I did have was desperation and a new paycheck.  My skin was dry and cracking so I didn’t want a lotion I needed creme! I wanted something with a whole host of oils, milky ways and H2O, and the saleswomen had no problem shoving product after product down my throat.  By the time I approached checkout, I had two bars of soaps and a bottle of lotion she’d convinced me would work better than anything I’d ever tried.  Now, I was never really convinced, even after her recitation of all the ‘wholesome’ ingredients, so I continued to wander the store (this time alone!) and stumbled upon something so ideal and spot on, that I knew I’d be making the right choice in purchasing…their Brown Sugar Polish!

This is a great two-for product, a scrub AND a moisturizer in one…it smooths and scrubs away dead skin, while the natural oils hydrate and soften! The surprising factor for me, especially after trying it, was it’s ability to last all day.

Key ingredients:
– Real brown sugar crystals scrub away flakes without causing irritation
– Precious evening primrose, sweet almond, apricot kernel, and jojoba oils nourish skin and moisturize dry areas
– Passionflower oil and ginseng root extract invigorate the senses
– Citrus oils brighten and tone the skin

 

Last night I was able to treat myself to this stuff and instantly had no regrets.  I had no energy left to emulsify my shea butter and  needed a quick fix to moisturize my skin, and the fact that I could do that while in the shower was just too tempting!

At $65 for a 14 oz jar I now know just how desperate I was back then, yet at the same time it’s lasted well over a year and it’s been my secret winter spa moment:-).  So if you’re feeling lucky or just need to be reminded of a Calgon moment…this puppy will take you there!

January 28, 2009

Hair Update: ACV

acv

It’s only mid-week but I’m seriously contemplating washing and styling my hair again, a routine I usually pencil towards the end of week or weekend.  My scalp is acting up in bizarre ways! Not necessarily itching or flaking…but the dryness is causing an odd tingling sensation…something that often occurs when I don’t moisturize enough.  This happens on my scalp as well as the rest of my body…if I fail to moisturize regularly my skin gets the creepy crawly feelings.

Last night I moisturized with shea butter to see if my hair & scalp could withstand another three days or so…but I’m not sure I can hold out! Last week I tried to cleanse with the bentonite clay, and that ended in a complete disaster.  After rinsing the clay with conditioner, I didn’t adequately DC or cleanse my scalp…I’m thinking I may also have some buildup because my hair is feeling oddly stiff.

Last year I gave up using commercial  shampoos to cleanse my hair,  and in turn stopped searching for a sulfate -free shampoo that cleanses without stripping…not that I’m convinced one actually exists…but it’s costly and unnecessary at the moment.  So I’m setting my sights on an ACV rinse for the first time.

I’ve long heard about the benefits of using an ACV rinse to cleanse the hair, but was reluctant and skeptical at the same time.  Initially when I think of vinegar, my mind envisions the lingering smell it has a tendency to leave, and I was not looking forward to a smell that strong lingering for longer than a day!

But after a little research I’m convinced I was just being overly cautious, because apparently the smell lingers for a short bit, it simply dissipates a couple moments after rinsing! So after reading this, I officially climbed on the ACV bandwagon.  The recipes for ACV are varied, but the best one I find was the simplest: one part ACV to two parts water.

In addition to balancing the PH levels in your hair/scalp and removing product buildup, the rinse acts as a great itchy scalp reliever:

Dandruff and Itchy Scalp Relief

The acids and enzymes in ACV kill the “bottle bacillus”, a bacteria that is one of the causes for many scalp and hair conditions such as dandruff, itchy scalp, hair loss and often baldness.The bacteria clogs hair follicles allowing dry crusts to form that itch and flake.

For a simple home treatment for dandruff and itchy scalp, apply full strength ACV to the scalp, rub in, and leave on for a half hour to an hour before washing your hair.

For an extra strengthnatural hair care product, apple cider vinegar can be infused with herbs such as stinging nettle, southernwood, goosegrass, plantain and burdock root all of which help prevent dandruff on their own. Tea tree oil is another excellent natural anti-dandruff ingredient, which can be added.

There are countless more uses for ACV that you can read about here, but my first foray will be to use it as a hair/scalp cleanser.  I’ve also read that it’s practically unnecessary to condition after cleansing because the rinse acts as a 2 in 1…but I’m leaning so far in the other direction, simply because my hair has gotten so used to DC’ing.  Will post results laterz;-)

January 26, 2009

Bentonite Blunder

I’d been planning on experimenting with my latest conditioning find, Bentonite Clay for about two weeks,  but had to put it off until yesterday.  My excitement had built to a point where I honestly felt what was in store for my hair was a world of wonders….

…alas I fudged it up.  I failed to follow directions the way they were meant to be followed and ended up with something so cakey…something so….crumbly and messey that I immediately had to rinse it out of hair.  The mixture, pulled from anita grant’s website called for:

Instructions:
Mix 1 to 2 parts Bentonite clay
Slowly add *water to the clay until you achieve a pancake mix texture.
Apply to your hair (dry or wet)
Allow to set for between 15 – 20 minutes
Rinse thoroughly until it’s all out of your curls, kinks and coils.

My mistake was substituting coconut milk for coconut oil,  a pretty dramatic substitution if you’re overcompensating.  I added water to the mix but definitely allowed myself to be too heavy handed with the coco oil! The mix was able to achieve a pancake like consistency but I’m almost certain the oil added something else altogether to the formula.  My thought process going forward is to use a much lighter oil that has less fatty substance to it, but to be certain to use water as my natural base, at least to start off.

here’s the brand curlyniki used and that’s commonly found at health food stores, I picked my supply up at the Vitamin Shop: aztec_clay

After thoroughly rinsing the clay out of my hair, I ended up co-washing and immediately detangled with my KCKT.  For my next hair processing session I plan to try the bentonite mixture again, hoping to achieve better results.

This curly-head is not a quitter!!

January 26, 2009

Product Haul: Donna Marie, Curl Rehab…

So this past week I’ve been a bit out of sorts, sick with the flu…staying home from work one day then dragging myself along with my packets of tissue to work the next, only to be sent home early out of pity from my boss.  Shame really…bottom line, the best way to take care of yourself while you’re sick is to first admit to yourself that you are sick, rest up and get better…!

But man, the days that I did stay home were a true test of my strength.  Even this past weekend I hauled myself in my place with just the right amount of groceries, so I didn’t have to step out in 17 degree weather,  checked out some of my favorite curl friendly blogs,  and luxuriated in season one of the Mary Tyler Moore show (season 1&2 on sale at Target for $19bucks!! ). 

Another thing I often do when confined to a spot for longer than a couple of hours is go absolutely stir crazy… so to alleviate this I buy products!!  I mean, they make it so easy these days with easier shipping/payment methods that I kept saying to myself…why not;-)

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Lock & Twist Pudding

At the start of the weekend I lurked around www.naturallycurly.com looking for reviews on any Donna Marie product, a curl friendly line I’d been curious about trying for some time.  Most reviews were for the popular curly butter creme,  a product some have compared to Kinky Curly Curling Custard.  But because of the cold weather here in NYC I decided to keep that on my to-try list for the summer, and instead ordered the lock &t twist pudding! The product description from the site claims to make twists and locks moisturized enough to keep your hair soft and silky.  Not bad…I was pretty much sold on the moisturizing properties rather than it’s claims to make my hair silky…something that can happen in winter but I’ve learned not to bank on it’s magical appearance each week. 

Ingredients:

Deionized water, aloe vera gel, carbomen, kokum butter, mango butter, sweet almond oil, glycerin, flax seed gel extract, hibiscus extract, carrot seed extract, burdock root extract, agave nectar extract, silver citrate, potassium sorbate and natural fragrance.

Payment was fast and easy, and I received a confirmation that my product shipped the next day! Ohhh how I love to know that my products are en route…lol!

Next up I lingered around the new Curl Junkie website to see if I could put an end to my DC treatment search.  Often times I linger around sites, reading recommendations from users while taking note but often times hold back because DC’s often run a bit more $$! Makes sense if their intent is to give your hair more punch, but lately I’ve been drawing back on spending over $20 bucks on something I’d use several times a month. 

But here’s what I love, sites that offer discounts! Yes, introductary discounts on new products are something I can wrap my pennies around! Curl Junkie is running a sale until January 27th  on some of their new products, and luckily there was a 30% savings on a new DC treatment!.

junkie

Curl Rehab

Their Curl Rehab Moisturizing Hair treatment has the main thing I typically go ga-ga over, and that’s moisture!

A description from the site:

Give your hair the moisture it deserves. Check your dry, frizzy curls into rehab! Let your hair drink in a wonderfully rich cocktail of Aloe, herbs, and healing butters & oils to rejuvenate and restore your precious curls! Wonderfully scented with the rich and beautiful Gardenia flower with a hint of Coconut and mystery, this treatment is excellent for taming frizz with much needed moisture. This is a real treat! This treatment is lightweight, yet moisture packed. Give everyone curl envy!

An added bonus for me lately as well is a glycerin free product,  a humectant that’s common in most conditioning treatments, but lately my hair is poofing from too much glycerin due to my choice of styling products and my co-wash conditioner.  I love BIG hair for my twist out’s but lately my big hair comes on first day hair rather than 3 day old hair and I’ve been fishing around for even more product to combat the poof! I love glycerin, but too much of a good thing is always not good for my hair…balance is key!

Again, processing was a breeze! My new DC shipped the very next day and I hope to have by end of week!

Oh dear…so I wasn’t done.  On top of lingering on the curly hair boards, I peeked into some youtube channels that offer hair care reviews, and found myself taking note on the growing popularity of another creme based moisturizer for twists and coils. 

pudding1

Wet Set Pudding

Curls by Sisters Smith’s site looks a tad non-discript but the reviews for their products have been close to raving! The  product that really stood out was their wet set pudding curl enhancing creme.  The pudding is non-greasy, so it has no oils or waxes, gives you a light hold without the crunch similar to other holding products, AND for an $5.50 you can get a hefty 8oz jar to try!  The ingredient list floored me a bit because…well there are only three: glycerin, aloe vera, & olive oil.  Floored because I failed to notice any kind of preservative, which is odd for most curl enhancing products.  But eh…we’ll see…for $5.50 I’m willing to take a chance! Each batch is custom made according to your specified scent which range from:

  • unscented
  • green tea
  • vanilla 
  • summer garden 
  • summer citrus
  • floral blend
  • brown sugar
  • lavender
  • peppermint

By the end of the weekend I’d received confirmation that my pudding had been shipped, so they too are quick and efficient!

Whew! By Sunday Night I was feeling great! My products were on their way, I was saving the planet by using less tissues to blow my nose AND one of my favorite bloggers had a new post up…and oddly enough it had nothing to do with hair products.  Botticelli Babe is known for her more than honest reviews on curly-hair products and her willingness to try out the most random of stuff on her weird product Wednesday posts. 

This go round though,  her review centered on a staple she’d come to rely on as a showering soap, something she calls, ” creamy, often whipped-like, versions of […] soaps.”  The line, called Savor is an Etsy creation which means they’ve got a lot of love going into them, simply because the products are home based…and affordable!

souffle1

Princess Bride

I purchased two of their frothy souffle soaps to sample, Princess Bride and one of their mini  chai creme fraiche scents! The pics on the site are delicious to look at, so here’s hoping they feel as good as they look on film!

 

I’m going to be in new territory with these new products so if you guys have tried any of them feel free to let me know how they worked, what you liked best, what didn’t work etc.  I rarely do product hauls, so this will hopefully last me until the end of winter:-)

 

et finir!