Saturday, April 27, 2013

Exam time

Hello all! I won't be posting any new blogs until May 12th because I've got exams until then.   Time to hit the books!  See you all on the other side.  Leave me a comment suggesting a post topic for when I'm not surrounding by notebooks and outlines!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to Use Dew Points to Pick Your Hair Products

The media and beauty industry would have you believe humidity is what curlies should fear more than anything. Dew point, a cousin of humidity, is a much better indicator of how your hair will behave in given weather conditions. 

Humidity is a misleading number when dealing with haircare. Chances are, you know this intuitively already.  You know from experience that 100% humidity in the summer and 100% humidity in the winter are not the same feeling. This is because those numbers represent relative humidity. Also, 100% humidity in Arizona is very different from 100% humidity in Florida, even if we're talking about the same time of year.

Dew point is very easy to find out. Just check, accuweather, or any weather service for your dew point.  It'll be posted as a temperature, like 70 degrees.

Dew point is the temperature at which water will condense to form dew or fog.  20 degrees and 100% humidity means the dew point should be at 20 degrees (because the air is saturated). So dew point and humidity are related, but dew point helps you gauge how much moisture is really in the air more accurately, which can tell you a lot about what kinds of products to use.

Dew points are why a lot of curlies find that one product may be a holy grail in the summer, but results in flat, stringy curls in the winter.

What does all this mean for your hair?

Low Dew Points: Negative infinity through 30 degrees

  • This is the winter in my hemisphere. It is dry! If there is no moisture in the air, your hair cannot retain any. Your hair wants to be in equilibrium with its environment. This means that if there is no moisture in the air, and your hair has some, it will give up its moisture to the air. If the air around you has 0 figurative drops of water and your hair has 10 figurative drops of water, your hair will expel moisture until the air around it has 5 drops and it has 5 drops. This is the battle of winter. You have to continually replenish moisture because your hair will be continually giving it up to the dry air in low dew points. 
  • Deep treatments, rich conditioners, hair butters, creamy leave ins, and humectant-free products will help you in winter. 
  • Humectants are products which work to make that equilibrium between your hair and the environment happen faster and more efficiently. As we'll see, they are your friend in moderate dews, but your mortal enemy in low dews, because they will just be pushing moisture out of your hair and into the air! Common humectants are glycerin, panthenol, honey, propylene glycol, and vitamin B5.

Moderate Dew Points: 40-60 = moist and happy! 

  • This is a favorite time for many curlies. 
  • The air is now comfortably moist, so the air now has the 10 figurative drops, and your hair has 0 (well hopefully you've been taking better care of it than that so it isn't that dry, but this is for illustrative purposes). You want to use products that will help pull some of that moisture from the air into your hair.
  • Humectants will pull moisture into your hair to balance it out. Don't ignore your moisture treatments, but you can now use lighter products.

High Dew Points: 60 and up = muggy and 80s hair revival. 

  • Some curlies will outright skip rinse out conditioners. 
  • Humectants become somewhat dangerous here, because they can pull too much water into your hair, making it swell and poof. 
  • Here, you will want to use antihumectants. These ingredients are water repellents. Castor oil, beeswax, coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, and shea butter are antihumectants. 
  • A hard hold gel will be your friend in these muggy conditions as well, as these gels create a barrier around hair strands, which will block some of the moisture from the air.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Curly Hair Cuts: How to Talk to Your Stylist to Get A Great Curly Cut

Show me a curly haired person who says they've never had a bad haircut, and I'll show you a liar! At some point, we've all walked away from the hair cut chair with our nice blowouts, washed our hair the next day, and been pretty horrified by how our hair looked curly.  I've had my fair share of these experiences, and more importantly, I've figured out how to avoid them.  Here's some advice on how to find a curly hair stylist who will help end your bad hair cut blues and talk to them about what you really want!

1) How to find a stylist who knows what to do with curly hair
There are lots of tools available these days that can help you find a good stylist.

My biggest suggestion is to find someone with curly hair in your area, and ask who they go to.  Word of mouth is still the best way in my opinion to find a stylist.  It's a win-win, because you're probably going to make that curly's day by asking, and you get a helpful tip on who to see.

If you can't do that for some reason (big city, shy, whatever), start by looking for curly haired stylists who have special training.  Look for Deva trained stylists, or Ouidad trained stylists.  They have been through additional training specifically geared toward curly hair.  Remember, beauty schools focus on straight hair almost exclusively.  You want to find someone with extra training.

I've personally had a lot of experience with Deva stylists.  Deva is a company founded on the principles of the Curly Girl method (no harsh shampoos, encourage curls, etc).  Deva has its flagship salon in NYC and the company offers training and certification to hair stylists so that they can learn how to cut curly hair.  They use a dry cut method, which means that you show up with your hair curly, and they cut it without wetting it, curl by curl.  They then wash it, restyle it, and make adjustments to the cut.  It's definitely a unique process.

One thing to keep in mind though is that just because a stylist goes through the Deva training, that doesn't mean that they are going to be great curly hair cutters.  I could go get certified to do accounting, but that doesn't mean you should trust me with your funds, because I just don't get math.  Some stylists just don't get curly hair.  It's a different beast than straight hair, and needs different techniques.

Supplement this training info by checking online reviews
Check out the salon's Yelp page.  Google the stylist's name.  You know the drill!

Stay away from chain stores
The stylists in chain stores generally have quotas for the number of clients they must see in a given time period (hour, shift, etc).  Cutting curly hair is a unique thing and it takes time for the stylist to really develop a plan for what to do with your unique hair.  A standard cookie cutter haircut at a chain store just doesn't translate well to curly hair.  Most curlies are surprised when a Deva cut, for example, takes around an hour and a half to two hours to complete.

Don't ask the salon if they have someone who is good with curly hair
This is so silly, but so many people still do it! Of course the receptionist is going to tell you they have the Curl Whisperer in their salon! It's their job to help bring clients in.

Instead, ask what kind of additional training the stylists receive in cutting curly hair
Like I said, beauty school focuses on straight hair.  You want to know if a stylist has gotten additional education about cutting curly hair.  Ask the salon receptionist what curl-friendly products they carry.  If they don't have a curl line but offer to tell you all about their straightening products, what does that tell you?

2) Once you've found someone promising, schedule an appointment for a hair cut, but think of this first appointment as a consultation first, hair cut second
You need to let the stylist see and touch your hair, but importantly, you also need to make sure they're going to cut it in a way you feel comfortable.  I personally have a rule that I prefer a curly stylist to actually have curly hair herself, so I generally ask her if her hair is straight that day whether she has naturally curly hair herself.  It's hard to explain your curly concerns to someone who has never lived with them!

Do not be afraid to get out of the chair if you are not comfortable.  You're a paying customer.  You might offend the stylist that day, but you have to live with your hair however they were going to cut it! I've gotten out of a chair before when the stylist pulled out the thinning shears.  I said that I didn't want her to use those on my hair, and she said I should trust her.  I said I wasn't comfortable continuing in this appointment, and I left.  You have to be comfortable with what they are doing, first and foremost

3) Curly hair cut tips and tricks that you should know

  • Be specific.  Don't say you want a trim.  Tell your stylist that you want 1/2 an inch off.  But even that isn't specific enough! You need to specify whether you mean 1/2 inch when your hair is wet/stretched out, or 1/2 inch off of the curly length.  Half an inch on wet or straight hair can translate to a totally different length when dry and curly
  • Curly hair needs some layering, but this is dangerous territory!  Tell the stylist that you want long layers but to keep the angle at 45 degrees.  They should not raise you up to 90 degrees.  This refers to the angle at which they cut the hair.  This is how you avoid triangle hair
  • Get up out of the chair and leave if they want to use razors or thinning shears.  These generally are very bad for curly hair.  I'm sure there's an exception to every rule, but I've yet to find one for this rule
  • Ask your stylist to avoid giving you stringy ends by leaving you with a solid base. 
  • Tell your stylist how you style your hair.  Do you wear it curly every day without fail? Do you occasionally straighten? When you style, are you trying to elongate your curls? Encourage them? Get more volume or less volume?  All this info should be valuable to a stylist who knows how to work with curly hair.
I hope this is helpful for your next hair cut!  Remember, you have the control over the hair cut.  Stop the stylist if you're not comfortable.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hair Care Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

Mother's Day is one of those holidays that always sneaks up on me.  I've been trying to be better about that in recent years though.  Since I'm an only child, I feel like I've got a lot of pressure to give my mom a great gift.

1) A luxurious deep conditioner

If your mom is like mine, her hair has been color treated for as long as you can remember! My mom uses at home permanent hair color (Revlon Colorsilk) which really dries out her hair.  So a few years ago, I bought her a Macadamia Oil Deep Repair Masque.  She loves that stuff now!  She has straight hair, but I think this would be good for curly moms who aren't watching their silicones.  She loved it so much that she now asks for a new one in her Christmas stocking every year!  You can grab this online or in some drugstores (I've seen it in my Target, for example)

2) Help her pamper herself with a spa-like environment for that deep conditioner

Three words: bath tub pillow.  If your mom is like mine, she has a bathtub that never gets used, because she's a shower-and-go kind of gal.  But that won't work if she's trying to relax and give herself a lovely deep treatment.  So last year, I bought her this bathtub pillow.  Now, she loves to draw up a bath every once in a while.  This pillow is super dense and suction-cups to the bathtub so it stays put.  I know this one isn't technically hair care, but it definitely encourages you to sit and let your deep treatment work its magic for a while!

3) Upgrade her hair dryer

This one is on my list this year.  My mom uses one of those tiny little hotel hair dryers that folds up and has two speeds: on and off.  The funny part is that she doesn't travel with it! She borrows mine whenever she comes to visit me at school.  So I have a feeling she's going to love getting one of her own.  I am going to grab her this one by Babybliss. I love my own Babybliss.  It dries my hair so much faster than any other dryer I've owned and it doesn't scorch my hair like some other dryers have.  This dryer is under $40, so it's a gift with a big impact on your mom's daily routine that is still budget-friendly!

4) Upgrade her brush set
If your mom has been using the same hair brush from Walmart since 1998, maybe it's time to grab her some professional brushes.  I love my Denman brush ($12) for detangling and encouraging curls.  It really cuts down on damage because it doesn't have those little plastic balls on the ends of the spokes that snag and break hair.  When I want to give myself a blowout, I love this brush ($12).  The vents really cut down on drying time.  So for $24, you can give your mom two brushes that she can use every day!

5) Fun hair accessories

Check out Etsy's huge selection of hair accessories that are made by hand! There are so many that I know my mom would love, even as a working professional.  How gorgeous is this metal hair band?  Or these jazzed up bobby pins?  You can feel good about supporting a hand-crafter and get gorgeous stuff that will give your mom some options other than the pony tail holder.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: CoverGirl Clump Crusher Mascara

Happy Friday!

I've got a quick mascara review for you guys.  This has been one of the most hyped up products of the year, and I had to know if it was worth it.

My go-to mascara is Covergirl Lash Blast (the original, non-waterproof formula in the orange tube).  So I was coming in to trying this mascara with high hopes because I really love that formula and brush.

The tube is exactly like the Lash Blast tubes, but a cute, bright green this time.

The brush, however, is very different.  It's still a pretty large synthetic bristle brush, but it's got a scoop in it.  The bristles are a bit longer than the Lash Blast bristles, so that's good news for those who found that the Lash Blast didn't separate their lashes well. 

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the brush is the biggest, if not the only, change to this mascara compared with the Lash Blast formula.  This mascara claims to separate your lashes completely, giving you a totally clump free look.  I think the brush goes a long way to doing that.

I've been using this for a couple of weeks now, so the formula has had a little time to dry up a bit.  I tend to like a drier formula for my lashes.  I would say that I have pretty long lashes naturally, so what I really look for in a mascara is some plumped up volume.

I am really enjoying this mascara.  I think it delivers on its clump-free promise.  But lots of mascaras do that, so why buy this one?  I think that the formula is really buildable, which I love.  I find I can keep going back over it and build volume without getting that spider lash look.  The photos below are the product of many swipes of the mascara.  I didn't really count coats since I don't wait for one coat to dry before applying more, but I spend about 30 seconds with each I would guess.

I find that I get the best separation when I use the scoop side of the brush.  I think it fits in well with my eye shape, and as you can see below, I can get those tiny lashes at my inner corner no problem.  The definitely a winner in my opinion.  

Side note: don't you wish you could buy mascara brushes separately? Like, I'd love to use this brush with another mascara whose brush I don't like so much.  

I would not recommend this for lower lashes.  I don't wear lower lash mascara during the day, but I think this mascara would probably give you flakes if worn on the bottom because I do notice a tiny bit of flaking at the end of the day with this.  Nothing that a quick tissue swipe can't take away, and by the time I notice the flakes, I'm ready to take the mascara off anyway.

Bottom Line:  I think this one is a winner, and I think I might actually like it better than Lash Blast because of the awesome brush.  I find that the formulas perform very similarly though, so if you didn't love the formula of any of the Lash Blast mascaras, this one might not be for you.  You can get this mascara for around $7 at your drugstore, or you can grab it for $5.59 on Amazon!

Have you tried this mascara? Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review and Swatches: Maybelline Color Whisper in Pin Up Peach

It seems like the cosmetics industry had an epiphany, and it's one that I am thrilled about!  They seem to have all discovered that, actually, we really don't like lip products that are dry and cakey and make our chapped lips worse!  Imagine that!

So now every company has a lip butter/tinted lip balm/balm color stick/you name it.  The object of the game is the same for each of these products: provide some actual color payoff while being comfortable on the lips, and maybe even good for the lips.

Here is Maybelline's contender in this game.  They are called the Color Whispers.  The official Maybelline description is that they provide pure color pigments suspended in a weightless gel without waxes or heavy oils.  As of this blog post, there are currently 20 shades that run the gamut from very sheer pinks to deep berry shades.  You can check out the full shade range on their site here.

I'm always on the hunt for the next best "your lips but better" shade, so I decided to start off with Pin Up Peach.

Size comparison: Maybelline Color Whisper on the left
and Revlon Lip Butter on the right
Packaging: Pretty standard.  I like the size, especially compared with the bulkier Flower Lip Butters I've reviewed.  The one downside is that the tube wasn't very well sealed in the store.  I was able to open tubes in the store, which might be cause for concern.  I'm not sure if that was just an issue at my store or not though.

Color: I loveeeeeeee this shade!  It's very fresh for springtime while still being very wearable and neutral for an office environment or a school environment.  There is no shimmer in this color.  It has a creamy finish.  In indoor lighting, it matches up better with its name and looks like a peachy pink shade.  In natural light, the pink tones come through a bit more.

By a sunny window

Application: I love the way that this applies.  You definitely do feel like you're applying some kind of weightless gel.  It feels very smooth.  I would say that these are actually smoother on application than the Revlon lip butters.  The most notable thing about the application is that you can really build up color, which brings me to...

Pigmentation:  I think that these are the most appropriately named lip products (based on my one shade experience, anyway).  It starts off as just a whisper.  With one swipe, you'll get a sheer wash of the color.  However, just like a whisper in real life can easily build into a full on conversation, these are super buildable.  The more pigmented swatch was three swipes (all in the same direction, so no rubbing back and forth).  

Left = 1 swipe
Right = 3 swipe
Lasting power: These are comparable to the Revlon lip butters in terms of staying power to me.  I think I get longer wear from my Flower lip butters, but those are also a bit less pleasant as far as their texture is concerned (they are a bit gritty at times).  I'm happy to reapply this every few hours or after I eat because it's very comfortable, and I don't feel like I need a mirror since it applies evenly.

Bottom line: I think what says it all is that I've been wearing this shade by itself every day since I bought it.  It's a fresh, spring time peachy pink that is still super wearable and office/school appropriate. It feels great on the lips, applies evenly, and builds up color like a dream.  I will absolutely be buying more of these.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Secret Weapon for Dark Circles: Review of Pixi Correction Concentrate Concealer in Brightening Peach

I have hereditary dark circles under my eyes.  I get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, I carry a water bottle everywhere, and I am good at managing my stress levels.  No matter what I do, though, I am always going to have my mom's very blue toned dark circles under my eyes.

Accepting that, I'm always on the look out for concealers that work well under the eyes.  In order to counteract the blue tone of dark circles, makeup artists recommend using a pink toned concealer.  The problem is, pink concealers at the drugstore are pretty much non-existant, and I'm a student on a budget.

Last year though, I picked up Pixi's Correction Concentrate Concealer from Target.  It's $15, which is expensive as far as drugstore stuff goes, but it is easy to find and, hey, it's still less expensive than the Bobbi Brown or Benefit concealers I've sampled in the past.  You can also get it for $15 and free shipping from Amazon, so depending on if you live in a state that taxes Amazon purchases, you might actually get it tax free (and thus cheaper) on Amazon.

This concealer/corrector only comes in one shade: Brightening Peach.  I would call it a salmon toned concealer.  Don't judge it by the color you see on the box, because that picture looks skin-toned to me, but the concealer is definitely salmon-toned.
See what I mean about the package showing you flesh toned
when it's actually peachy pink?
By the window on a somewhat cloudy day
This stuff rocks! I use it everyday.  I apply this to bare skin under my eyes, then I apply my Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Dark Circle Eraser concealer over it to match my skin tone.  This is the one under eye concealer from the drugstore that I have found that truly brightens up my dark under eye area.

The key to this product is to warm it up first.  I apply it with my fingers.  I normally like to apply products with brushes, but this is a fingers-only product in my opinion.  You need that warmth to get it to be a texture that you can easily smooth on.

Only use a tiny, tiny bit.  This pot that I'm working on now has been in use for about a week, and you can barely tell I've used it.  If you apply too much, you will find it getting cakey.

A picture is worth 1000 words, so here is the before and after!  I recognize that some of you might look at my circles and think, "Ha! What circles?" Trust me, it's hard to capture that blue tone on camera.  They are there, and they are hard to cover.

Before: Bare skin, sorry for the half blink!
After! Eye circles are pretty much covered, whole area is brighter

Have you got any favorite under eye concealers or treatments? Leave them in a comment!  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Calming the Product Junkie Part 2: Test Products Intelligently to Find the Best Products For Your Hair

Last week, I talked about how getting to know your hair at more than a superficial level is critical to being able to make informed decisions about what products to buy for your hair.  This week, I'm going to get a little science on you and talk about how to test out products once you've bought them.

She might be changing too many things in this experiment.
But at least her curls look fab!
1) Change one thing at a time
This is experimenting 101!  If you change more than one thing about your hair routine in one go, you won't know which product to praise for the good results and blame for the bad results.  For example, if I normally use Product A, but today I switch it up and use my new Product B and Product C because I just got them and I'm so excited to use them, and I get the best hair day ever, I won't know whether Product B or Product C is at work.  This isn't to say that it isn't possible that both products working together made that great hair day.  But I could very easily get trapped into thinking, "If I want great hair, I must use Product B and Product C."  But what if Product B is the one that is actually making your hair look great and Product C is just sitting there?  You're spending money repurchasing Product C when it isn't really necessary.

There are lots of variations on this story.  What if you change your conditioner and a product? You love the way the conditioner feels on your hair, but you don't like the results.  You're probably going to blame the product, rather than the conditioner.  But it could very well be the conditioner that gave you the bad results!  That's going to make you spend more money on products when the real culprit is the one in your shower.

The moral of the story: even when you really want to try a bunch of new products you just bought, slow down! Keep everything you're already doing the same, and just change one piece of the puzzle.

2) Give products more than one use before you decide how you feel about them
Every curly girl knows that our hair can sometimes act like a natural barometer, letting us know when it's more humid today than yesterday.  Knowing that the weather can affect your hair, why would you only give a product one use before putting it in your "Never Use Again" bin?

Our hair is susceptible to so many different things.  Weather, hormones, products, and even activity level can totally change how your hair looks on a given day.  Since the goal with trying new products is to get the variables in play down to just one (the new product itself), you should give products more than one use before you decide you don't like them.

That being said, I know it's hard when you suspect that a certain product is to blame for your bad hair day to put it on again.  It feels like you're giving in to having another bad day.  But I think you'll be surprised that the results will often be different.  Even if the results aren't different, take note of what your weather was like that day, and try the product again on a day with different conditions.  Hate a product in July? Stash it until December when it's drier.

3) Be realistic about what a given product can do
The idea of the Holy Grail Product is a fun one.  Just keep searching, you'll find that one product that makes your hair perfect every day, they say.

Here's a loving reality check.  Remember how I just said that there are a ton of variables affecting how your hair looks on any given day?  Now, just tackling it from common sense, do you think that there is really going to be just one thing that can handle all of those variables, year round?

Sometimes, there is.  I can pretty much count on my Suave Captivating Curls mousse year round if I know what to layer it with, for instance.  But more often than not, you need to learn to adjust what you're using to the conditions presented on a given day.  I add gel when it's super humid.  It's a must.  Otherwise, my fabulous mousse won't give me the same results I get in December.

This isn't meant to be a downer.  This is meant to be an eye opener.  When we pin our hopes and dreams of perfect hair on one bottle, we're not giving that product a fair evaluation.  If you can give a product a fair evaluation, you're more likely to make a realistic judgment about whether it's something that you can make work for you, even if you don't end up repurchasing it.  The goal is to use products you buy, not just try them once and then go buy more!