Category: Beauty

Highlighting my Hair

Let me preface this by stating I did my research before attempting this AND have taken the precautions to strengthen my hair beforehand.

Spoiler alert: the results are not at all what was expected and I have finally been able to stop crying long enough to get dressed, go to work, and have some semblance of reality again. Boy oh boy was this a learning experience.

A quick reminder of what I went in with before this experiment:

This photo is from a month ago.

Last week, I made an appointment to get my hair partially highlighted at my local Ulta salon. The balayage that I did over a year ago was starting to grow out and look less balayage and more just neglected. So I wanted to get some caramel/honey highlights to blend with the remaining balayage and add some dimension to my naturally dark hair. I had prepped my hair and clarified to ensure the highlighting would be safe and had a bottle of Olaplex waiting for me at home for afterward to repair the hair follicles from the color lift. I had seen some YouTubers and friends go to their local Ulta salon and had some great results, so I decided it was a risk worth taking – I mean you can’t go that wrong with highlights, right?

My appointment was at 2:30 pm. I didn’t get home till 6 pm. Almost 4 hours for partial highlights – no cut, no styling, just highlights. This is almost the same amount of time it took to get balayage done for my whole head…

For starters, the stylist didn’t utter any of the variations of the dreaded “wow…look at all that hair” so I thought that was a really good sign! Once I sat down and explained what I was looking for (caramel/honey highlights to blend with my balayage…I am sorry for the repetition but it is key to what is to come), she got started on splitting my hair up into sections and brushing it out (meh, okay).

Here we go!

As we got to talking and she mentioned her sister had curly hair so another sigh of relief as I thought ‘hey, she must have some curly hair know-how’. And then the process began! I was so excited to start the process and was thrilled that this was so convenient – I was able to book my appointment online and for a Sunday! And even though Ulta is a Redken salon, I know that they have curly products (that’s where I bought some new products I will be reviewing for you soon) and thought hey…worst case they’ll pull them (yes, they can and do this). But even so, I’d give Redken a go and then style it my way once I got home.

Brushed out curls and lots of foil

Then came the rinse time. Before she rinsed it out, I got to take a quick peek and I was so happy with the results – yes, a little light but overall not bad! She even said she was so happy that I wasn’t brassy or over-processed. But then she grabbed the toner. The toner, y’all. So okay, maybe it was a translucent toner or something just a tinge darker than the highlights to tone down the blonde a smidge. I thought ‘hey, it’s okay if it is a bit warmer because it is fall.’ After 20 minutes sitting at the rinse station, she came back and rinsed it out, applied a deep conditioning masque and rinsed that out after a few minutes.

After chatting about how I usually don’t apply heat, how she wanted to showcase the highlights on her IG and how diffusing would take me about 45 minutes at home, I opted to have her diffuse it – gotta help promote each other, right? Mind you, at this point, my hair was wet so I didn’t see any highlights but thought once it dried, they’ll pop out.

She applied some serum to my hair (think FrizzEase from the 90s) by Redken – I honestly have no idea what it was. And then she pulled out the diffuser attachment and went to town – physically lift chunks of my hair while seated upright and holding it to my scalp with the diffuser. What is happening right now? At that point, I was too shocked to say anything and I kept thinking, alright, at least I’ll be able to see the highlights. Five minutes later she was done. DONE?! My hair was still wet and I looked as frizzy as a poodle, in Florida, that air-dried after a rainstorm. Can’t picture it? Well, here is an example:

So okay, she can’t style curly hair – totally okay because I can fix it when I get home. But here’s the thing…where are my highlights? Where is the blonde from my balayage? I saw the foils in there y’all. The proof exists above! I even IG’d it. So where are they? Am I being punked? Where are the highlights?!

I then panicked. I wanted to get out of there and to my shower as quickly as possible. I even paid, though I wholeheartedly am not sure why, and ran home in tears. TEARS! My poor husband tried to coax me into thinking it looks alright but even he was shocked.

Home in 5 minutes and I was in the shower with a clarifying shampoo then chelating my hair like crazy! I needed to remove some of this toner and revive my curls. Now if you don’t know what chelating hair is, it is a very extensive process of stripping your hair to remove any build-up and often times temporary color which toner essentially is. If you’re interested, I will do a post about it.

The result? Let’s put it like this – my curls are safe but I am not necessarily looking in the mirror too long once the bonnet or scarf comes off. I am already gearing up for the next wash day and mentally preparing for a lot of deep conditioning. Here’s the final product:

Still can rock it!

Overall, it is an improvement from what I walked out of the salon with but it is still not what I asked for or anticipated. I am shocked. I am dumbfounded. And overall, I am NOT going back. I am going to let the toner run its course and hope that the blonde will end up seeping through with time and look okay. Ultimately, it isn’t that bad and is aligned with the season change but it is not what I expected, asked for, paid for…

This was a failed experiment overall and a reminder that you cannot go to just anyone when you have curly hair. Highlighting may be more universal, but if they do not understand the structure of your hair, the end result may not be what you expected. So perhaps it is slightly my fault… Maybe my assumption of your run-of-the-mill caramel/honey highlights is not so common and I should have had examples ready.

So inquiring minds want to know… Have you had a poor experience with coloring or highlights and if so, how did you respond? How have you revived a coloring mishap?

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One Month Check-In: Hair Update

I cannot believe it has been one month since starting my journey to revive my hair! Last month, in my post about Hair Loss, I shared about my struggle to revive my hair after experiencing some major life stressors and changes with my health. Today is my check-in and I am eager to share updates with you.

Let’s recap what has been going on with me recently that has impacted my hair. Keep in mind that stressors that are happening at this point in time may not actually impact your hair for months to come. In fact, I have had numerous doctors ask me “what has happened in your life in the past six months?” to help deduce what is now showing physically.

In the past 9 months, so since 2019 started, I have had both of my parents have serious medical conditions and have life-saving operations. I got really sick in April. I stopped taking birth control and started taking prenatal vitamins to get my body ready for the future so my husband and I can try and start a family. My endometriosis resurfaced, most likely because I stopped taking artificial hormones. I lost 35 pounds. I passed my prospectus and have a tight timeline to finish my dissertation. We had a little financial hurdle to overcome – mostly contributed to our frequent trips to check on family across the country. Work – nothing else needs to be said about that. Our lease was expiring and our complex wanted to increase our rent by 12% which was beyond our means, especially for an apartment that wasn’t updated. Work.

I think that’s the gist of it – in retrospect, it’s not that bad but when you are actively going through it, it really seems like your world is crashing in and you cannot get a break.

If you read or re-read my post, you know I researched Nutrafol and took the plunge to start my journey with them. Coupled with my #four-a-day (the number of CORE vitamins you take), I continued with my scalp massages with Righteous Roots. I started a better diet. Continued to exercise (even started doing yoga routinely). Went to bed earlier and woke up earlier so I didn’t start the day stressed. Took time to decompress. Started hiking. Talked with my husband. Talked with my parents. Talked with my friends. I accepted that I am good enough – even with issues or valleys. And I took my supplements.

These have become my daily regimen!

Low and behold – changes started to occur and the outlook is getting better! The more I took Nutrafol, even though those 4-a-day pills are no joke, and reinforced my CORE vitamins with stress combating supplements (I stopped those after month 1 for now), the more I noticed positive changes and they were not with just my hair. My nails have been growing like weeds. My skin is actually looking better than it did when I was in my 20s (though I continue to take collagen daily still). My weight has been steady but I have been finding muscles I didn’t know where hiding. Maybe TMI here but I am beyond “regular” now! I can sleep better. And yes, my hair has regrown!

Look at those baby hairs!!!!

I will continue to take these supplements and will do monthly check-ins. I would be remiss to mention that they have amazing customer service too – if I had questions, I would get an answer in less than 24 hours AND when I auto-delivery set up but still have a bottle from my erroneous ordering, they paused my account and refunded me so I don’t have multiple bottles collecting dust!

I am so excited to share on this journey. I know IG ads are great but when you are seeing it firsthand…I hope I can help you make an educated choice! Don’t forget to follow my new Instagram (@msbelladaniela) to see updates or live chats about my journey.

So inquiring minds want to know… Have you tried Nutrafol or Righteous Roots? Are you experiencing hair health issues? Have you tried any other supplements that have improved your growth, thickness, or reduced shedding?

Top 3 Favorite Skin Care Products

So let’s get to the real reason for this post since I know a few of my English major friends are cringing as they read on… Moving to the Central Valley of California, saying that the summer weather is hot and dry is one of the understatements of the year. There are days were the humidity does not even hit double digits though the thermometers are reading 105 degrees Fahrenheit easily. So coming here and trying to survive my first summer after spending 5+ years in Florida, and New Jersey before that, well my skin was in for a surprise. So I had to find a fix and fast because my face was experiencing dryness, flaking, redness, itchiness…the whole gambit. And to make matters worse, my skin is super sensitive so it was not like I could go to Walgreens and pick up the first moisturizer on sale and call it a day. I had to research, test, and even cross my fingers a little to find something that worked! And I could not just stop at my facial skin, but I had to do something about my chapped lips and even my under eyes. That’s when a trip to Sephora and Ulta led me to my top 3 tried and true products.

Now I am getting compliments on my skin, its radiance, how smooth it feels…and my makeup, when I want to wear any, goes on smooth. I am very grateful to have found my signature three products and while I do test others and have a few items I use seldom, these are the three that I keep returning to!

For Lips: Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask – $20 (0.70oz)

This lip mask is not the same as your Eos balm or the Chapstick on your nightstand -that I can promise you. This lip mask is very thick which is why the little spatula is included. It goes on very nicely, has a very minimal fragrance at first application and is not sticky. It usually lasts the whole night for me and when I wake up in the morning, I wipe it off and my lips are hydrated and supple! My husband even tries to steal some of the product here and there! I do not use this every night but can if necessary (like in winter months). I have had this now for 4 months and it is about 1/4 of the way used so even though you get less than 1 ounce, this product will last a very long time.

For eyes: Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb – $48 (0.84 ounces)

This water based eye cream has helped take my under eyes from dry and itchy to moisturized and healthy. This has even helped fade my dark circles. It claims to work for 26-hours and I have to say that while that is false, this does work through the night and into the next morning. On particularly trying days, and often some dehydration or stress, when my eyes are particularly puffy or dry, this also lasts throughout the day. As an occasional contact lens wearer, with seasonal allergies as well, this product has not once irritated my eyes even when I cheat and put some under my eyebrows.

For Face: Trio logo Certified Organic Rose Hip Oil – $29 (0.67oz)

Now I know you are sitting there saying “Didn’t she say all of two paragraphs earlier that she has sensitive skin so why would she use an oil?” Well, sensitive skin actually responds best to minimal ingredient products with less fragrances and additives, so an organic facial oil is one of the best things to use.

Okay but what if I told you that I also have combination to oily skin? I shouldn’t use this product repeatedly then, right? I must get breakouts! So nope on all accounts! This oil is fine and light enough that it does not clog pores, does not have added fragrances (so no it does not smell like old lady perfume), and it helps keep my skin balanced so there is no over production of oil.

This oil also helps fight free radicals and even has a more concentrated version available at Ulta. I only have to use three drops for my cheeks and nose, three drops for my forehead and chin, and three drops for my neck (yes, my neck gets some love too) so a little goes a long way! This then lasts all night and I can either wipe it off in the morning for any excess left behind or just add my BB cream on top and call it a day!

So inquiring minds want to know… What products are your top 3 skin care products? Have you tried any of the ones I mentioned? Comment below or tag me in your IG posts and stories – @ms_bella_daniela!

10 Curly Hair Don’ts and Do’s

When you think of a beautiful woman, standing at the beach, staring into the sunset, and catching the ocean breeze billowing through her long tresses, what does that look like to you? For me, that is a caramel blonde with long, straight hair who looks photoshopped during the ocean breeze and photoshopped immediately after. For me, that is a straight-up hysterical fantasy because these curls will never look like that effortless image.

So does that mean I hate my hair? Not at all! At least not anymore. I can’t say the same was believed by 5 or 13 years old me. But now I have been able to embrace my differences and one of them happens to be my hair. I have dark brown curls that tend to take on a personality completely of their own.

After decades of trying to tame my mane, I have decided it was time to embrace each curl, kink, wave, or whatever else my hair wants to do that day. So what do I do to keep myself from pulling a 2007 Britney Spears-esque style modification? I have developed multiple curly hair tips that really work!

  1. DO NOT use cotton pillowcases or towels! Cotton is an abordbant material that wicks out the moisture that curly hair needs, especially the natural oils that your tips are already lacking. And the fibers in the towel will snag the hair and cause frizz or cause breakage!
    DO use satin/silk pillowcases and microfiber towels. Satin/silk pillowcases will allow your hair to maintain its moisture while also being slippery enough to reduce the number of late-night knotting. Microfiber towels will soak up the excess water while letting your hair keep its adequate level of moisture.
    1. Don’t have either and don’t want to shell out the cash just yet? I use a t-shirt when I travel that has the same priciple for my hair in that it does not tug, snag, or overdry my hair. I also have a satin sleeping cap that I got at the DOLLAR STORE which serves a simliar purpose to the pillowcase while keeping all of my hair out of my face and off my neck.
  2. DO NOT wash your hair every day. It’s been said before and I’ll say it again -everytime you use shampoo, you are stripping your hair of the pollutants, dust, product build-up, and other gunk but you are also stripping your hair of its natural oils which prevents frizz and maintains hair structure.
    DO wash your hair every 3 days (or more if you can – I opt for a wash day once a week but I refresh daily or cowash). And try cowashing instead of your standard shampoo. Cowashing is a cleansing conditioner that cleans your hair withou the soapy suds so there is little to no moisture removal. You will need to detox your hair once a month with a solid cleansing shampoo that you’ll follow up with conditioner but the less you strip your hair, the healthier it becomes!
  3. DO NOT use a brush…ever. Brushing will go against your curl pattern and cause frizz and breakage.
    DO untangle your hair with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb only. Better yet? Do it while you’re in the shower and your hair is still sopping wet rather than dry and prone to breakage. I have also used a detangling brush after a particularly intense hair styling session but try to limit the use overall.
  4. DO NOT dry your hair with a standard hair dryer. No, I’m not telling you to spend $500 on a “new” hair dryer with fancy lights and buttons. However using a standard dryer will localize the heat and over dry your hair which can lead to burning and breakage.
    DO use a diffuser as you do not want to target heat on any strand of your hair -the more you can spread the heat around the faster you can dry without overdrying. If you want some volume, diffuse your hair upside down!
  5. DO NOT skip the leave-in conditioner. Curly hair has this knack of twisting and turning which means the natural oils from your scalp don’t tend to make it to your tips which leads to frizz and anger.
    DO use products meant for your curl type and make sure you use the right amount to fill in the gaps that nature missed! Depending on how thick and tight your curl is, you will may use different products than your neighboring curly-haired friend but please take prudence on how much product you use. If the directions say dime-size for shoulder length hair and your hair goes a bit farther, try that first then add more if you need it. It always easier to add than try to take away.
  6. DO NOT to straight to bed without some maintence. After a long day, your hair is just as tired as you are and needs some particular TLC.
    DO develop a nighttime routine just as you do for your face. Using a good oil on the tips of your hair will seal the dry cuticles and prevent knotting and frizz. And make sure you do a scalp massage! It will help with growth and maintenance. My favorite nighttime product is Righteous Roots Oil – a little goes a long way.
  7. DO NOT neglect your weekly hair duties.
    DO pamper your curly hair. Once a week, after washing/detoxing your hair, follow up with a good hair masque. I personally vary between a simple moisture mask or a protein mask, depending on the state of my hair. I wrote about a great line of masks here: Masks & Scrubs.
  8. DO NOT skip the salon or forget to trim your hair once a year.
    DO get annual trims, at least. Once you found a salon that you like, and in order to do so, call around and make sure they have stylists that work with curly hair if the salon is not exclusively for curly hair, make an appointment every 3-6 months depending on your length, at the very least. It took me years to find a place that did not tell me “Oh wow. You have a lot of hair.” If your stylist ever says that and looks like a deer in headlights -RUN!
  9. DO NOT use standard hair ties.
    DO use satin scrunchies or hair ties made for curly hair! Standard hair ties will tug and break your hair. It may be a little 1980’s but if you are putting your hair up for a gym workout or a lazy-day do (gotta love a top bun), then add some extra conditioner and use a scrunchy or non-elastic tie. I personally use a lot of bobby pins to achieve my updo’s!
  10. DO NOT add heat!
    DO take advantage of your amazing hair – people pay hundreds of dollars for perms and wigs and styling products. You have natural volume! Sure, your hair may not be “perfect” and you may want to switch up your look, but heat will damage your hair strands and follicles, leaving you prone to frizz, breakage, shedding… You can always braid, twistout, or use the over abundance of hair clips to style a new look or stretch your pattern for a while.

I do not wake up every day thinking I am so blessed to have curly hair… In fact, when someone compliments my hair, I get so awkward and uncomfortable! I have even offered to trade my hair for theirs on more than one occassion. But at the same time, my hair is also a part of my identity – without my curls, I do not feel like myself. There are always going to  be days that the scrunchy is used to plop a pineapple or a messy bun, but embracing what makes me, me is also important!

So inquiring minds want to know… What are some of your curly hair tips? Do you have any favorite hair products? Have you embraced your natural hair?

Hair Health: Hair Loss

I bet you looked at that title and were like…”Uh…those two things don’t go together. She must not have had enough caffeine today.”

While you are most definitely right on the caffeine front (is there ever really enough), today’s topic is about how I have found myself losing my thick, curly hair and what steps I am taking now to try and reverse this! In the past few weeks, due to a few reasons – stress and hormones mostly, my hair has been thinning and shedding in clumps. I am still doing my weekly masques, nightly scalp massages, taking my daily vitamins, exercising and eating well but I have recently found myself in a highly stressful situation and have decided to stop taking birth control pills –double whammy.

So what am I talking about when I say hair loss? I’m talking about excessive shedding and thinning of my hair. Below is a photo outlining what I’m referring to where you can see how much I lost in one wash day and how thin my hairline looks. Yes, I have curly hair so I can hide it well but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

About two months ago, I noticed my hair was shedding a little more than normal. I attributed that to the heat and stress, but it was normal for my hair to go in phases – in fact a visit to the dermatologist a year ago even cemented that. However, the past month, my hair has been shedding with no end in sight. I dread wash day because of how much will fall out in the shower -at times in clumps. I don’t slick my hair back because it shows just how thin my hair has become. I hesitated every time I had to remove my hair tie because of the clumps that came with it. It may not look too bad in the photos above, but I want to prevent any further damage and try to regain a piece of me. I have never been in this situation before, even when I personally experienced high stress, so I wanted to act fast.

Now I know you already know that stress can cause hair loss. I know you know that an improper diet can cause hair loss. I know you know that medications and surgeries and trauma can cause hair loss. I know you know that hormones can also cause hair loss – hello male pattern baldness. But did you know that you are supposed to lose 100 or so strands of hair a day? And did you know that because curly hair does not wash daily, some of those strands can get knotted into the rest of the hair making wash day look even worse? That is because our hair goes through phases of growth with the shedding phase being known as telophase. Unfortunately that was way more than normal for me which brings me to today.

So after crying for a bit (because I didn’t want to admit that something was wrong), it was time for some research to resolve this issue. I scoured the internet and journals. I started taking prenatal vitamins. I tried to force myself to sleep earlier. I slowed my roll of exercising and did just yoga. And all to no avail. So I decided to start taking Nutrafol.

What is Nutrafol? Nutrafol is a company started by 3 people who were also experiencing hair loss/thinning and could not get the mass marketed solutions to work effectively. They collaborated with physicians and scientists to find a natural alternative to cure this issue plaguing so many people. The results are oral supplements that work with your body to balance hormones gone-awry, reduce over production of cortisol, balance glucose response, or other issues that may be affecting your hair growth.

One of the biggest reasons I took the plunge with Nutrafol is that local dermatologists actually promote this product in addition to their in-house services. Moreover, Nutrafol is transparent with their ingredients – in fact almost all the information from the “Core” supplement (this is the main supplement divvied up by gender) is up on their website for public view! Lastly, the plan you get may be very different than mine because your regimen varies per person! When you first start out with Nutrafol, you take a GrowthPlan assessment and answer a few questions on your environment, your diet, your stress levels, even things you wouldn’t normally think about like if you get hangry if you don’t eat or when you have more energy during the day. 

Yeah, so what I am trying to get at is that starting 2 days ago (Saturday, August 24th), I started taking 4 pills a day with a meal to help my hair grow again! I also am taking 2 of the stress adaptogen every morning but opted to not take the liver support (both of which are a part of my personalized growth plan) due to the high levels of milk thistle and possible interactions with endometriosis. I am scheduled to speak with one of their on-staff physicians in the coming weeks to see about an alternative for the livers support booster.

I will then be checking in every month as each bottle is a 30-day supply to show you the effects that Nutrafol is having with me – or if there is no effect at all! Make sure you follow me on Instagram (@ms_bella_daniela) to get updates as they happen with my hair journey!!

Inquiring minds want to know… Have you tried Nutrafol? Have you tried other growth plans? Comment down below!

Hair Care – Repairing Damage

In yesterday’s post, we discussed some hair masks and a scrub that helps detoxify the scalp. While all of these products help the hair through moisture retention or protein sealing the hair shaft, there is a different type of product that helps strengthen damaged strands! It isn’t a miracle cure by any means, but it does overtime reverse the damage caused by bleaching, over-styling or heat styling. It does contain protein but works on a molecular level to repair damage versus a more superficial remedy. And again, this is good for ALL hair types though I know my fellow Curly Girls swear by this the most.

Introducing…

Now this is the 3rd step in what was originally a 3-step series of which the first two are only available to salon professionals. Bond Perfector (also known as Number 3 or No. 3) is available for at-home use and does work by itself overtime, though combining it with the benefits of the bond multiplier (No. 1) and bond perfector (No. 2) yields even better results and more rapidly.

Recently, the Olaplex company has added additional products that help strengthen, repair, and reverse damage.
Now I know you read in the prior paragraph about No. 1 and No. 2 and thought – “shampoo and conditioner…really now?” BUT No. 1 and No. 2 are not the shampoo and conditioner products – that is why they have to be applied by a professional. Recently, Olaplex introduced No. 4 and No. 5 which are the shampoo and conditioner products, respectively. However they are not standard cleansing products but rather serve as bond maintenance items prolonging the benefits that 1-3 (or just 3 alone) have done.
Even more recently, No. 6 and No. 7, which are the leave-in styling creme (bond smoother) and styling oil (bonding oil), respectively, have been added to the at-home line of products. I have not tested either of these so I cannot speak to their benefits yet!

But back to my trusty bottle of No. 3… This treatment, not a conditioner or leave-in styling product, is applied as a mask to reduce breakage, strengthen hair, and improve its resiliency. Whenever I highlight my hair or notice that it is breaking a lot due to stress/heat/water damage, I use this treatment to help my hair bounce back.

How do I apply it
I always wash my hair and leave it clean and damp/dry before applying any of my treatments. Any of the products I use for daily styling can counteract the treatments/masks and prevent my hair from getting the full benefits!
Step 1: Wash & almost fully dry hair without any additional products post-shower.
Step 2: Apply the equivalent of 2-3 tbsp to the hair – you want this to saturate your hair without globbing off.
Step 3: Comb or use a Denman (all my curly girls know what this is) brush to ensure coverage throughout hair – yep, that means roots too.
Step 4: Let it sit for a minimum, though not recommended for more than 30, of 10 minutes.
Step 4a: I personally use my heat cap whenever adding a mask or treatment to help it penetrate better but this is totally optional.
Step 5: Rinse throughly. Shampoo. Condition. – Yep, unlike the masks from yesterday you shampoo/condition with this treatment.
Step 6: Style as usual.

After applying this, even after I color my hair, I notice that my hair is softer, more supple, and stronger. It does not weight my hair down because it is a treatment that bonds to the hair itself and doesn’t just coat the outer layer.

And if you doubt its benefits on straight hair… My mother has VERY straight hair and has her stylist apply step 1 & 2 before she leaves the salon every time they color and/or highlight. She will then follow-up with No. 3 at home. The results have been amazing! She is shedding less, breaking less, and you can see her hair is able to handle styling (including heat) much better than before she introduced Olaplex.

So give it a try! Yes, you can buy it online or you can find a salon near you but I would not recommend buying this from other vendors (think Walmart, Amazon…) as they are not guaranteeing the product is the same as the real deal!

If you try it and have before/after pictures, please send them to me! I would love to showcase you in a future post! If you have any questions or other product suggestions, please let me know! Just comment below and I will give it a go and let you know the results – I’ll be your personal tester.

Curly Hair 103 – Product Review (Masks & Scrub)

So if you have curly hair, scratch that, honestly if you have hair then you realize that there are times that your scalp needs a little extra TLC or that your hair strands are a little less than ideal. Sometimes you may need a little extra protein and other times you just need some moisture (especially when it is 105 and less than 20% humidity). Then there are times where your product build up leaves you with flakes, itchiness, and even irritation and fall out. So what do you do?

About six months ago, I took the plunge and tried out a raved about line of products from Rawkyn – the clay hair mask (aka RED), the green tea hair mask (aka Green), and the detoxifying scalp scrub (aka Gold). The only product that I have yet to try is their deep treatment mask (aka Vanilla). These are all purchased directly from Rawkyn and arrived to me in less than a week (please do not order from non-vendor sites like Amazon as they are not official distributors yet). Below are overviews, application techniques, and reviews on each item for my 3a/3b type hair in hopes they may help you as well!

Disclaimer: I am not paid for this review nor am I receiving any non-monetary incentives. The pictures below are stock photos from the company’s website.

The RED clay mask is the most popular item from Rawkyn. At first, I was very skeptical to try this because clay is historically drying for my hair but with the multitude of other ingredients, like murumuru butter, chamomile, coconut oil, and sage, I wanted to give it a try. Now, this is not for protein sensitive individuals as this does contain protein (coconut oil) but is significantly less than their other hair masks. This is currently sold for $26.99 for 8oz.

I applied this to my hair after cleansing and when it was fully dry. You can apply this before washing too but with product build-up and oil build-up, I wanted to give this a try on fully fresh hair. I used the equivalent of about 2 tbsp for my entire hair because a little really goes go a long way. I started off by leaving this on for 20 minutes (eventually I increased to 30 on my second trial) before rinsing out. I did use my heat cap as well with a shower cap in between as this red clay is very pigmented (I thought my hair would be a strawberry color when I was done). After 20 minutes, I rinsed it out in the shower until the water ran clear (this took about 3-5 minutes to make sure everything came out). I then applied my normal products.

Overall, I liked this mask a lot. I did notice that it detoxed my hair a bit but did not leave it dry. It was very soft after rinsing out the mask. The color is very pigmented though so it did stain my towel a bit so make sure to really rinse everything out. It also helped my hair not need as much moisturizing product after rinsing. I have used this a couple of times now and there has been very positive outcomes though I would recommend this every other week and not weekly for 3a hair as it is an intense moisturizer and can weigh the hair down a bit.

The GREEN mask is the most protein enriched mask in the Rawkyn line. This is still moisturizing, like the RED mask but the emphasis is on protein to help rejuvenate lifeless or dull locks. This product is also good for sensitive skin users because of its plant-based proteins and lack of added fragrances (it is naturally fragrant). The natural ingredients in the mask do get darker in pigment as the mask is oxygenated, but it does not change the benefits in the mask. It is currently on sale for $27.99 for 8oz.

Just like its RED counterpart, I applied this mask after washing my hair and once it was dry. It is not recommended to apply this mask on anything other than freshly washed/dried hair because of its protein penetrating ingredients. Now I am naturally protein-sensitive so I opted to keep this masks on for only 10 minutes, but you can leave it up to 30 though the most commonly time frame is 20 minutes. I applied about 2 tbsp worth to my whole hair, put on the shower cap, and my heat cap. I then rinsed thoroughly after the 10 minutes were up until the water ran clear (it starts off a brownish-green). Do not shampoo/condition after rinsing it out.

Being protein sensitive, I do not use this mask regularly. In fact if you opened my jar right now, it would look almost new but slightly darker than a new jar. I apply this once a month or so when I notice that my curl pattern is weak or my hair is starting to lose luster or shed more than normal. It left my hair very hydrated and soft. The first time I applied too much and my curls were a bit stretched (you have to find a happy point as every curl is different) but subsequent times were more beneficial. I noticed that after applying significantly less product after rinsing and refreshing on day 2, my hair was actually a tighter curl than normal looking more 3b/3c.

This GOLD scalp scrub is amazing! By far, this my favorite product especially when my scalp is extra dry or if I have product build up. A little goes a long way as it contains ingredients like apple cider vinegar, grape seed oil, green tea leaf extract, apple fruit aromatic extract, and exfoliates. Be careful if you have sensitive skin, however, as it does contain acids (apple cider vinegar) and added fragrances. It comes in a 6oz jar for $20.99

Applied to dry uncleaned hair, this is the easiest product from Rawkyn to apply! It is meant to really clean without stripping your hair or leaving it greasy/oil. I part my hair in sections, scoop a dollop, and apply directly to my scalp where I run it in through circular motions. I then apply to the remaining sections and eventually smooth whatever remains on my hands through the length of the hair before massages the whole head for another 2-3 minutes (usually with my scalp massage device). Once it sits for another 15-30 minutes, I rinse it out with warm water before shampooing.

Once you rinse this off, you can actually feel your scalp breathe as silly as that may sound. I use this almost weekly for my wash days because of how effective it is without having to dry out my hair completely. The apple cider is not extremely potent and the smell does not remain on your hair once it is rinsed out. There are little sugar exfoliates that help slough off the dead skin, product, and invigorate your scalp which also aides in growth!

I have not yet tried the Vanilla product as that is only available in small quantities throughout the year but is a lighter GREEN mask in that it is a protein-enriched product. Once I work through the GREEN mask and the Vanilla goes on sale, I will update you all with that information as well.


Overall, these are great products but I am a repeat users of the scrub without a doubt! They are natural products that pack quite a punch. Yes, they are a bit expensive but with the amount you use, it is worth it! In fact, my husband even uses these now for his 3c/4a hair and he sings their praises as well!

Do you have any products that you are using that I should give a try? Are you going to try any of the items mentioned above?? What hair conditions are you experiencing that you want me to write about next? Comment below!

Curly Hair 102 – Dangers Lurking in our Products

It seems that in the past couple of years, being natural and embracing ones curls has become the “in” trend. I happen to think that us curly girls were just too darn tired to keep straightening our hair and too broke to keep paying someone else to do it. I know I personally haven’t straightened my hair, personally or professionally, in 7 years.

On top of embracing ones natural state, it seems that being conscientious of the types of products we use is also a part of everyday vocabulary now. We went from using whatever was on sale at the grocery store, to selectively “canceling” brands because of their chemical components.

Recently, I have come to learn that even in our most treasured and talked about lines, there are chemicals lurking that we need to know more about and stay away from if possible. Now, before you go on that soap box and tell me about how some of these chemical compounds already exist naturally and we consume them in other ways, I have to say while you are right, if I can avoid even 1% more of that formaldehyde or other carcinogen, I will.

So without further ado, lets cover the top 8 chemicals that you should avoid when purchasing your next leave-in conditioner, hair gel, or styling cream…

  1. Silicone – This is pretty obvious and I am sure you are tired of hearing about it but just to cover the basics, silicones are found in a lot of different forms. This is a form of plastic and yes, you have heard of silicone breast implants, so why would you put this in your hair? It has some benefits like producing shine and slip (translates to easy to comb through) but it also weighs down your hair and produces a film that prevents other products from helping your hair including water and oxygen.
    Types of silicones: When reading a label, look for a compound that typically ends in “-cone” like dimethicone, methicone, cyclomethicone or sometimes a combo item like: phenyl trimethicone or dimethicone copolyol
  2. Sulfates: So if you have used a silicone, and as I just mentioned, silicones prevent water from penetrating, then you need some even more abrasive -enter sulfates. This is the chemical that is used often in shampoos and creates that lathering and bubbly effect. It works by lifting the cuticle of the hair and stripping it of any product or natural oils which results in long-term dryness, brittleness, and even scalp irritation. You know where else you find sulfates? In your laundry detergent or dishwashing soap. Would you wash your hair with a Tide pod or Dawn?
    Then skip a shampoo that has any variation of sulfates including, but not limited to: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, sodium cocoyl isoethionate, or
    disodium laureth sulfosuccinate. In other words, look for an ingredient that ends in “-ate”.
  3. Alcohol: I have to say that not all alcohols are bad, but think about the last time that you had a few too many drinks. How did you feel later on that night or the next day? Think beyond the headache to the dehydration. The same thing happens with your hair! Alcohols in hair products will help evaporate the natural oils in your hair leaving it dry and brittle overtime.
    Look for ingredients that end in “-ol” such as: ethanol alcohol, ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, isopropanol alcohol. Even if the the “alcohol” word is not there, the base of the chemical is still an alcohol compound.
  4. Parabens: This is another hot discussion item but what exactly is a paraben? Parabens are chemicals that are added to extend the shelf life of a product. These are often also linked to cancer and serve as a harmful carcinogen.
    Look for ingredients that end in “-yl” like: methyl, propyl, butyl, or ethyl. These are also often overlooked or regarded as an alcohol.
  5. Urea: I know some of you read that as a bodily secretion of sorts but really it is another form of preservatives, like parabens, that extend the product’s shelf life. These types of chemicals are linked to skin irritation, flakiness, and even dermatitis. Worse yet is when this is aggravated through heat. When these types of chemicals are exposed to heat, which could be as little as your hair dryer when you diffuse, they break down to even more harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde.
    These are often easy to spot on an ingredients list: diazoldinyl urea or imidazolidinyl urea.
  6. Formaldehyde: I know when I first learned that some of my curly hair products had the same thing that is used when a person dies to embalm the body, I knew this was something I had to avoid. Formaldehyde is used for the same purpose as when it is used for a body – preservation. Yet another cheap ingredient like parabens or urea, this chemical has been known to cause cancer, heart palpitations, infections, and many other health conditions.
    You can find this on your ingredient list in many different ways including: formalin, formic aldehyde, methanediol, methanal, or methyl aldehyde.
  7. Mineral Oil: If you are Curly Girl Method (CGM) or even if you have followed me on IG or in earlier posts, you know that oil + curly hair = a great equation! BUT there are some oils that are actually damaging to your hair such as mineral oil. This is an inexpensive form of oil that does not live up to its name – it is not moisturizing and is often too heavy for hair and weighs the hair down so it is lifeless and greasy. It also causes a lot of build-up on the scalp. It may feel nice because it has a lot of slip but it will have a negative impact in the long run.
    While you will see “mineral oil” as its own ingredient, you may also see its sister compounds like lanolin or petroleum (yep, just like Vaseline).
  8. Perfume: We all want to smell good and usually are persuaded to buy products simply because it may remind us of homemade cookies, our tropical vacation, or what we project romance to smell like. However, putting on products that are full of perfumes is actually damaging to your hair for a few reasons. First off, many bases to perfumes is an alcohol, which as we already discussed, dries out the hair. Secondly, perfumes are often compounded to be concentrated in that 10oz container and if you have any skin sensitivity, you could experience scalp irritation, itchy/watery eyes, rash, dandruff, or other side effects very quickly.
    Typically the ingredient list will simply state “perfume” or “fragrance” in the list so if you can find something with natural scents, you are definitely better off.

So, that’s a long list but what prompted me to start researching and posting this is what I found in one product that I specifically used almost daily – DevaCurl Styling Cream

DevaCurl SUPERCREAM® Coconut Curl Styler

Ingredients:
Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Glycerin, Hydroxpropyl Starch Phosphate, Cetrimonium Chloride, Behentrimonium Chloride, PPG-3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, Ethyl Macadamiate, Laureth-4, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Protein, Panthenol, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Extract, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) Extract, Melissa Officinalis Extract, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Lauryldimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Lauryldimonium Hydroxypropyl Wheat Starch, Propylene Glycol, Ceteareth-20, Disodium EDTA, Aminomethyl Propanol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Fragrance.

While I enjoyed the fragrance component (it reminded me of sitting on the beach in the Caribbean), I need to be careful with my sensitive skin. However worst yet is the urea, especially since I often diffuse my hair with the hair dryer. Knowing that this breaks down into formaldehyde and knowing that this could cause unwanted health defects, I have stopped using this altogether and have decided to no longer purchase DevaCurl products personally. Why? It doesn’t stop at the styling cream. The shampoos and conditioners also have harmful ingredients like the No-Poo Original Zero Lather Conditioning Cleanser has diazolidinyl urea and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate.

So moral of the story is that I am moving beyond DevaCurl for other brands that may have more organic and safe ingredients. And while I know I cannot avoid everything all of the time, if I can make one swap, and even save some money in the process, I will because my health is more important to me than perfect hair.

Have you heard about these ingredients before? Do you read the label of your hair care products before purchasing? Did it surprise you that DevaCurl had some less than ideal ingredients? Comment below and lets continue the conversation!

Curly Hair: Rice Water Rinse

A lot of times, curly girls, especially those that are transitions (like I did almost 7 years ago) mix up when their hair needs moisture and when it needs, and you are reading this correctly, protein. When hair is frizzy or brittle, it needs moisture. When curly hair starts to go limp and lost its definition, the hair needs protein. Sometimes, hair needs both, at the same time, and that is when multi-tasking comes into play!

Now when I say protein, I don’t mean a steak or cracking an egg (though believe it or not, that works). I meant a simpler way that could even smell delightful and bring back some of the luster while bringing back definition as well! You may have seen it all over the internet, but I tried this method first hand and the results were quite impressive. I am talking about a rice water rinse.

The first time I heard about this, I laughed because why would I put that murky water on my clean hair and expect any good results? But after diving head first into the YouTube abyss, I decided the worst that could happen is that I needed to wash my hair again. So I gave it a go!

I will be honest that I have only done this only a handful of times to date because my hair is protein sensitive so once a month is more than enough for me.

Side bar: How do I know my hair is protein sensitive? Because when I overload my hair with protein, albeit through masks, rinses, or my everyday products, my hair does the reverse of what it is supposed to do and goes limp -almost wavy. And it starts to feel straw-like. I reverse this boo-boo by washing and doing a moisture treatment. Think of moisture and protein like pH levels – on what would be acidic would be protein and what is base would be moisture. You just need to find your happy middle (which may or may not be “7”).

So what did I do? What did I need? How did it turn out? Keep reading!

First things first, you need: an airtight jar (you could use a mason jar but make sure it is a good size -not just a standard overnights oat size); distilled or filtered water; a cup of rice (or more depending on length); and essential oils (or my little secret).

In the couple of trials I did, I did not notice a difference between the two different types – first time I used brown basmati rice and the second time I used white rice. I suppose the type of rice you use is personal preference.

I prepared my rice water by rinsing the rice. Yes, that means I ran the rice under running water (while in the colander) to remove the major impurities. Once the water started coming out clear-ish, I was ready to prepare the rice water rinse.

I placed the cup of rice into the mason jar and added three cups of distilled water. Now this is the step where you can add a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil for fragrance, but because I am sensitive to smells and did not want to disrupt the experiment, I opted to add 1/4 of a cup of my favorite rose water (I use this for cooking mostly but the scent is just amazing) which I inserted a photo below for reference.

al wadi rose water

Then just simply seal up the jar and put it in a dark, dry place – like a cupboard, for at least 24 hours but ideally no more than 36. Once you start to hit that 48 hour mark, the rice water has really fermented and will start to smell sour and will not work as well – trust me, I learned from experience!

After 24 (or so) hours, you are now able to transfer that rice water to a spray bottle or a bowl. I personally opted for the bowl method because I’m also lazy, but that is personal preference! Then you can chuck out the rice. And no, you cannot use that rice again and truthfully a rice water rinse should be a one-time use situation for optimal results even if you refrigerate; yes, refrigeration stops the fermentation but the potency also diminishes.

Now be forewarned – that rinse will be COLD even if it is at room temperature. What I did is I start to dunk my clean (after shampooing but before conditioner) hair in the bowl and watched it soak up the water. I then poured the remaining water on my roots and massaged everything in using my scalp massage brush.

Again, I will tell you that I have done this more than once and tried several different methods with the first being the more successful (I attribute the second to the fact that I let the rice sit for 3 days).

I finished my shower routine and rinsed some of the water out. I did leave some of the rice water in my hair, almost like conditioner. I then detangled outside of the shower and applied my normal products (this time was a Ouidad/DevaCurl combo).

And these are the results…before diffusing and after.

Yeah…no make-up or filter. Sorry! But that definition on the right… That makes up for it!

Conclusion? The rice water rinsing works…and at a minimal cost! But only if you need protein and are not sensitive. You need to also make sure you have the right amount of moisture in your hair.

So tell me…have you tried rice water rinses? What has your experience been? And if you haven’t, do you want to?

Hair Health: Righteous Roots

Many of you may know by now that I have curly hair that sometimes looks like 2C, sometimes 3A, and sometimes 3B… If you don’t know what that means, I have curly hair that sometimes is with a looser pattern and sometimes it looks like I wrapped my hair around a cork screw!

But one thing that you may not know is that I am the only one in my family with not straight hair. And no, it is not because I am adopted or switched at birth because I otherwise am a spitting image of my mother, but some genetic fluke decided that I would have curls instead of lustrous (and dare I say more easily manageable) hair. In fact, my mom has such straight hair that even if you try to curl it, pin it, put it in a ponytail, or really style it in any way, within an hour it is out and straight.

So what am I getting at? While my family and I do not have the same hair pattern (my husband leans towards 3C/4A which is tight curls to kink), we all have the same wants with our hair (well, maybe not my husband on everything). We want volume, definition, health, shine, and growth. We do not want to settle for hair falling out or dry, brittle, lifeless locks.

Yes, I do use a heck of a lot more products than my mother and I use different curly hair products than my husband, but there is some definite overlap if we want the same results and we want to use products that are good for us – not chalk full of chemicals than only a chemist could pronounce (even a biologist by trade such as myself cannot pronounce half of these items). We do not want parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, alcohols, silicone, or formaldehyde. And in my case, because I have sensitive skin, I want no or natural only scents – no perfumes!

One product that we are all using, daily, and have seen a tremendous change in our hair is Righteous Roots Oil ($15/bottle).

Ingredients (per the company’s website): COCOS NUCIFERA OIL (COCONUT), RICINUS COMMUNIS (JAMAICAN BLACK CASTOR OIL), OLEACEAE OIL (OLIVE), PERSEA AMERICANA MILL OIL (AVOCADO), VITIS VINIFERA OIL (GRAPESEED), SESAMUM INDICUM OIL (SEASAME), MENTHA PIPERITA OIL (PEPPERMINT), MELALEUCA ALTERNIFOLIA LEAF OIL (TEA TREE), SIMMONDSIA CHINENSIS SEED OIL (JOJOBA), ARGANIA SPINOSA OIL (ARGAN), ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS OIL (ROSEMARY)

This company blew me away when they were not afraid to list their ingredients on their website and on their product. The more I read, the more I realized this was all natural. And after I tried in on myself, everyone in the family was required to give it a try (with a nightly scalp massage of course). Low and behold, each member of the family (straight, curly, or kinky patterns) all noticed hair growth even in that almost annoying baby hair and length. Oddly enough our hair started to get darker too when it started to grow out. It detangled my hair with ease and smelled wonderful without irritating my scalp or rubbing off on everything around me. It also helps me break the cast formed by gels and leaves my hair looking shiny and healthy!

In fact, we ended up ordering 3 additional bottles after just breaking into the first one because we never want to run out! I only use 6 drops per night while my mom uses no more than 4, and my husband uses 8-10. We are just about to finish our first bottle.

Now my only caution is, especially if you have straight hair or are trying to go an extended period before wash day (I know we all dread that because it is a whole day affair for curly girls), is that this can start to coat your hair and leave it feeling oily. This happens to me around day 5 and for my mom around day 3. So how do you wash it – with shampoo like always, right? No. Not this time. There are two tricks on washing your hair when it is super oily albeit through the overuse of this hair oil or other reasons:

  1. Use your shampoo on dry hair. That’s right, do not jump immediately under the water when you are going to wash but rather apply shampoo to your dry hair. This will bond with the oil and allow it to be rinsed off versus the water “mixing”, or better yet coating, with the oil and creating an oilier situation. Once you rubbed the shampoo in, rinse, and repeat your normal process.
  2. Use apple cider vinegar (ACV) as a rinse. Using a bottle or bowl, depending how you want to apply the rinse, mix 1 part ACV to 2 parts water. Then you can rinse and massage this mixture in your hair before applying conditioner in the shower. I do not recommended shampooing after an ACV rinse because it will be super drying.

I am partial for the latter of the two when I have the time, because it helps my hair look and feel shiny and strong, but when I am short on time, the first option works well.

I will have some status photos up soon so you can see first hand on how effective this product is for all of our hair! But in the meantime, do not hesitate to buy a bottle of your own and try to carve out 5 minutes for yourself and massage a little but of Righteous Roots on to your scalp at night and I can almost promise you will see a difference!

If you take the leap of faith and give this product a try, leave a comment below and share your experience!

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. Links and images are not my property and are not affiliate codes.