Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Home Conditioning Treatments

If you color, highlight, perm, chemically straighten, flat-iron or even look at your hair in the mirror every morning, you are entitled to a piece of information that will save your hair and your wallet. For most of my clients, I recommend conditioning treatments to help replenish moisture and keep hair healthy. Getting a treatment in a salon may run from a cheap $10 to as much as $50 (you'd better be getting a killer scalp massage for that price!!!). Save yourself the cash and do this at home!
First, if you have a hood dryer, fabulous! This is the best way to go. A hood dryer (often sold for $50 or so at Sally Beauty Supply) provides a heated environment for your entire scalp and head. It might make you feel a little like Darth Vader, but you'll love how sensuous your hair feels afterward! Take your shower, shampoo your hair with your favorite splurge and then, yikes, get out without conditioning! Gently towel dry your hair slightly, apply your moisture pack (I'll explain in a minute), put on a shower cap and grab a good book. Sit under your dryer for 15-20 minutes in a warm to hot setting. I always like to put on a thick moisturizer or vaseline to keep my face from drying out. When done, take off the hood and allow your hair to cool down for another 10-20 minutes. This allows time for cooling so that your hair's cuticle can close properly. Then, rinse in luke warm or cool water until you've removed the excess conditioner.
If you don't have a hood dryer, but have a clothes dryer, follow the same instructions, but put a big towel in the dryer first. You want that sucker to be hot, hot, hot! Slap on that plastic shower cap, wrap your hair turban-style and in 20 minutes, voila, you are ready to rinse, if your hair has cooled to room temperature. If not, remove the towel, let it cool and rinse.
If you have neither type of dryer, you can always soak a towel in very hot water and place over that sexy plastic shower cap for 20 minutes. Just protect your hands when working with the towel.
Now for the low-down on conditioning treatments. Ditch the hot oil; the oil molecules are generally too large to penetrate the shaft for a lasting effect. Choose a good moisturizing conditioner. Since you will do this every 2-4 weeks, splurge on a good one, like Nioxin's Deep Repair Hair Mask or their Weightless version for fine hair. Graham Webb also has an awesome duo that is mixed and foams up before application, available in packet form. There are many incredible products out there, but generally you are looking for a salon-quality reconstructor, reconstructive treatment, hair masque or moisturizer treatment, not just a light conditioner for every-day use.
With monthly use, you should notice a huge change in the condition of your hair! And as always, I'm sure that you're rinsing in cool water to help your hair stay healthy and shiney!

Demystifying Styling Products: My Favorites

You leave the salon with a new cut and feel almost sure you can tackle replicating your stylist’s skills by wielding your new curling iron in a Jedi fashion. The next morning, you get up for work, slather gel through your locks and achieve a style you feel comfortable walking into work wearing. Half way through the day, your hair is as droopy as a hound dog. What happened?

For every style, just as for every hair type, there are an arsenal of products. Choosing which to use makes all the difference in your ability to style your hair and the likelihood it will last all day.

Medium or Thick Hair

If you find your locks require a lion tamer’s touch, you’ll need a product with some strength. For hold, apply a gel near the root area--Nioxin's Smoothing Reflectives Styling Gel provides excellent no-flake, gentle hold--particularly around the face. During styling, a dry working spray (an aerosol that does not have too strong a hold, such as Sebastian Shaper) will help you as you shape it into your desired style. If you like, you can follow it up with a finishing spray, one that has a stronger hold to last longer, such as Sebastain Shaper Plus or the heavy-duty 25 by Redken.

When you want your wavy or curly hair to be styled straight, you have more of a challenge. First you’ll need a product to help your hair repel frizz-inducing moisture. Graham Webb's Stick Straight is an excellent product that adds shine while keeping hair smooth. After blowing straight and/or using a flat iron, consider adding an additional shine product, such as a liquid silicone or a shine aerosol if needed. Beyond Shine by Aquage is one of the best on the market.

If you find fuzzies decorating the top of your head after straightening, mist your hands with an aerosol spray and smooth over the very top of your hair.

For wavy or curly hair worn in a more natural way, try a sculpting foam, such as Paul Mitchell’s Extra Body Styling Foam, applied when your hair is wet. It will cut down on frizz, add a little shine, and keep the hair managed. If more shine is desired, just add a a touch of Beyond Shine. The only time gel should be applied all over is for hair that is very curly and thick. In this case, steer clear of gel with a great deal of hold unless you want a stiff curly helmet.

Fine or Thin Hair

Fine hair presents its own problems. If your hair’s limpness is aggravated by gels or heavy hairsprays, consider using a styling foam. Added to hair before blow drying, foam (mousse) will increase volume without smothering tresses, and is particularly wonderful for wavy or curly hair. Again, Paul Mitchell's Extra-Body Sculpting Foam is the best.

If you want to straighten fine, wavy or curly hair, Nioxin makes Smoothly Defined to keep your hair frizz free without gluing delicate tendrils to your scalp. For extra shine, use Aquage’s weightless shine agent, Beyond Shine. Yes, I know I'm harping on this one, but of all the shine products with which I've smothered my frizzy mane, it's tops! It won’t weigh you down like shine gels or shine liquids will.

For hair that needs a boost, a root lifter or weightless gel used just at the root area is most appropriate, followed by a light-weight aerosol hairspray, such as the ones made by Sebastian (Shaper, Shaper Plus). Nioxin’s line of products is specially designed for fine and thinning hair, including a gel that adds muscle without strangle-holding and a super light, but sturdy, hairspray. Please resist Paul Mitchell’s hairspray line as it can weigh down fine hair and create buildup that can lead to tangling and breakage. If this occurs, try a chelating shampoo (Nioxin’s Bionutrient Cleanser* will work) and then invest in a home or salon conditioning treatment to soften the hair a d further remove the built up spray.

* Visit www.nioxin.com to take “Assess my Needs” for the shampoo and conditioning combination that will work best for your hair.

Hair Myths Uncovered: Head Shaving

Once again the question has popped up and once again I am amazed. People, even licensed and trained cosmetologists, are sometimes privy to some really misguided ideas. This time it has to do with head shaving.
When I was a kid I remember the neighbor shaving her son's head before he had a chance to sprout a full head of hair. Her reason: she believed that shaving a baby's head would result in thicker, fuller hair.
Just the other day, a client of mine asked about his hair texture. He had heard from a professional that if he were to shave his head, his hair would come in straight rather than its natural curly form. Luckily he hadn't taken to the clippers yet.
Here's the skinny on head shaving: it won't do jack to change your hair, other than to alleviate you of its burden temporarily.
There are many elements that affect the amount of hair you have, the thickness of each individual strand and its texture (straight, wavy, curly). The first is genetics. If you are born with 1,578,935,235 hair follicles (the little pores in your skin that house the roots of your hair), you cannot suddenly acquire 2,578,935,235 by shaving your head. You just can't. God, Vishnu, Jehovah, the big bang, your mom and dad or whomever saw it fit, gave you the number of hair follicles that you possess. Without some serious skin & follicle grafting, you cannot grow more. Also, the thickness of each individual strand is another factor powered by your DNA. You cannot increase the thickness of your hair by shaving it, even though it sounds like it would work. Please read on.
If you are reading this, you likely shave (or have shaved) some part of your body. Now, the reason people fall for the idea that head shaving increases thickness of the individual hairs is that when you shave, the hair that continues to grow out feels coarse. This is because you have cut the hair in a blunt manner, creating stubble. If you were to grow out this hair until it reached full maturity, you would find that it is no longer quite so blunt. It seems to become softer and finer. Don't believe me? Stop shaving for a month or two. What happens is that the hair grows to a point at which it no longer feels quite so blunt and coarse anymore. Each hair is still the same diameter. Your perception changes, however because the hair is not jutting out of the follicle once it grows long enough.
Now, as to texture of your hair (whether your hair is curly, straight, or wavy), this is determined by a number of factors. One is hormones. Puberty, pregnancy, post-partum, menopause: all these can change your hair. In fact, you don't have to go through pregnancy to experience hormonal changes. Your body is changing all the time, based on what you do, what you eat, medicines you take, the amount of exercise you get, etc. These changes affect your hair and may even lead to dramatic texture change. For example, my neighbor was surprised when she had her third baby; her lifelong curly hair lost its curl and became nearly straight.
The texture of your hair is also determined by follicle shape and DNA. It is not determined, however, by having shaved your head. If you shaved your head and found your straight hair grew in curlier, it's likely due to some kind of physiological change, not your clippers!
The one time cutting your hair will affect your hair texture is when you have removed a good deal of weight. If you have very long, wavy hair, you may find that cutting 4-6 inches off results in your hair seeming curlier. This is because you have removed weight, allowing the curl to spring up further. Another example is when I went from long hair to a very short style. My wavy-almost-curly hair seemed straight all of the sudden. This is because I cut my hair at a point before it normally began to twist into its natural wave. It was very strange for me to experience nearly-straight hair after a lifetime of waviness, but made perfect sense.
Just because one event precedes another, does not mean it is the cause of it. We humans are programmed to judge cause-effect relationships; it's what Darwin would say teaches us to keep our hands off a hot stove. But please, make sure you do your research before you decide to pull a Britney Spears.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Winter Dryness: Lips

Nothing's worse than that chapped-lip burn. Eating or even sipping your favorite tea brings discomfort, not to mention the embarrassment of looking as though you mistook the correct application of Ash Wednesday's forehead swipe. There are enough products out there to drain your bank account and trust fund in a pursuit to cure your ailment. What can you do for a price you can afford?
My perfect remedy has always been Vaseline, the kind that comes in a jar for just 99 cents. I loved it so much, I bought the portable Vaseline for lips, but found that the formula was much thicker and lost in the translation from tub to tube. I've always wished they could harness the original formula in something better for traveling. Like many women, I've tried any number of fixes.Waxy, old Chapstick has never been my favorite and we all know the perils of Carmex, that addictive little pot of lip goo.
I have read a great deal about Burt's Bees, a more natural cure for crusty lip. For $2.99 I walked out of Target with Burt's Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with pomegranate oil and was instantly pleased with the feel of it. It wasn't too waxy, nor was it tacky. It smelled pleasant and gave my lips a little bit of all-natural color and shine. Finally I think I've found something both portable and satisfying for winter dryness. They also make sheer colors, which I'll probably try later. For now, I think I've found moisture mecca.
Of course one more thing to keep in mind is the effects of consumption. Drinking alcohol or caffeine can dry out your lips. It's best to make sure you are getting your recommended daily amount of hydration in the form of pure H2O. Eat and drink well, and if needed, try that Burt's Bees!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I See Change in Your Future: Cuts

Change is an inevitable part of life, especially when it comes to fashion or hairstyles. Even those who change styles as often as lipstick colors may find big changes scary. We all have stories of the time we cut our hair from here to here only to wish we'd stocked up on ski caps beforehand. The following recommendations should make your transition to a new style much easier.

Talk About More than Celebrity Gossip.
Okay, so Britney Spears went and did it again. Before you and your stylist sync your eye rolling over her latest anti-motherhood capers, keep talk on something more relevant: your hair. Most stylists offer a free consultation to both new and current clients, but to make sure you get the time and attention you deserve, alert your stylist--or whomever is scheduling the books--that you'd like a few extra minutes to discuss a change in your haircut. Do NOT wait until you settle your sit bones into the chair to bring this up. Good stylists prefer to book extra time for major changes because there is a great deal of analysis required before and during the cut.

Be the Paparazzi
No, don't go hiding in the dumpster to shoot a pic of Kate Hudson coming out of her favorite restaurant, but do the research before your appointment. Many clients like to ask what changes to make to their styles, but the prepared ones bring pictures. If you have fine hair, we can't give you a mane like Beyonce, but a few well-chosen pics will inform your stylist about shapes and styles you like, as well as ones you do not.
I like to tell my clients to bring at least four pictures, two of styles they desire, and two of those they despise. Usually, there are features I can pick out from both so that I know what shapes to emulate and which to avoid.
For further fun, check out a free hairstyle generator where you can upload a picture of yourself and try on styles. I enjoy Instyle's use of Makover Solution: http://www.instyle.com/instyle/makeover. You'll quickly see which work well with your facial shape and which will make even a supermodel look like the elephant man's next-of-kin. Well okay, that's what I felt like when trying a crop cut.

History Repeats
Be sure to indicate to your stylist why you have chosen certain styles. Were there styles in your past you adored and to which would like to return? Or is there a certain cowlick that will spring up like a geyser if your hair isn't left longer in the bang area? The most telling admission is when a client describes a past style they absolutely hated. Just because I love the flip doesn't mean you will.
Be prepared to answer such questions as, what is the worst thing I could do with your cut today? It sounds like a very negative approach, but it helps cosmetologists gain a deeper understanding of how to apply their skills to your sense of style.

Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate!
Obviously what looks good on Eva Longoria might not work for you. This doesn't mean you can't have a similar style, though. Ask your stylist to consider your facial features and face shape and adjust the cut to best fit you. If you are sensitive about a round face or wide-set eyes, make sure to let her know. Chances are she can recommend a slight alteration that would make the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man look svelte.
Also remember that your stylist is likely gifted in tailor-made 'dos. As he works, he will be adjusting to best accommodate your head shape, directional growth patterns and hair texture.

Tools and Fools
No, I don't think you're a fool, but the rhyme was too tempting! When the "Rachael" came out, a cut worn by Jennifer Aniston from "Friends," women flocked to their local salons to chop off their hair. The problem? Few could actually achieve the look at home.
When getting a radically-different cut, make sure you ask your stylist how to achieve the look yourself. I often like my clients to get their hands in their own hair to get the feel for using the tools they'll need. A quick explanation of styling products and hairstyling tools, as well as a little tutorial may go a long way in helping you look salon-gorgeous every day. Feeling too timid to ask? Remember, a lot of our clients come word-of-mouth. We want you to look good, for the both of us!

Know Your Comfort Zone
One of the worst feelings I get is when a client feels I've cut her hair too short. Just last night I had this recurring nightmare of accidentally shaving a woman's head! Yikes!!! To avoid this problem, I sometimes ask my clients the following question: If I were to err in my estimation of this cut, would you rather I erred by cutting it a little shorter or by leaving it just a little too long? This helps me understand the mindset of my client. It might seem a no-brainer, but some people really would rather sport a too-short style for a week than to have to come back sooner for a maintenance trim.
Even more important, consider your lifestyle. Is getting your hair layered like Laurie from "That 70's Show" going to work with a sporty get-up-and-go orientation? Will you be comfortable with full bangs and angling when you've always worn your hair one-length? While I encourage everyone to try something new, remember work is involved in certain styles. You might be happier with mild angling than full-on layers. Even small changes can create a whole new look.

Variety, the Salt of Life
So you have a new style. Now what? If you're the type to wear it in the same way daily, you are set! But if you're like me, demanding a new look every few days, be sure to mention this. Your stylist usually has a repertoire that will allow you to wear one cut three or four different ways. I even offer a portfolio, in which I will demonstrate three styles and explain how to achieve them.

When You Can't Make the Cut
Does your desired style require growing out? I commiserate. Keep in mind that every few weeks, this growing out is akin to getting a whole different haircut and may require a little ingenuity in styling. Take a few minutes to play with it. You cannot expect hair to react to your same style when it's an inch longer and now a different shape. Also, be sure to keep up on those maintenance trims. The 1/8" you trim today will save you the inches in cutting off split ends or damaged hair. Some may even require a little retexturizing (shaping without removing length) to help best deal with the changes of growing out.

Making a big change should be exciting. Use these suggestions as your safety net for getting the look you want!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Winter Hair Problems: Dryness

Those of us with wavy or curly hair are already too familiar with frizz-inducing dryness. Add winter cold, hot showers and a cranked-up thermostat and the problem may even lead to split ends. How can we keep hair lustrous? Below are a few tips that, when heeded consistently, should boost hair health.

1. Nix the 40-minute full-heat marinade.
I would almost give up chocolate for hot showers, if I had to choose. Fortunately, unless you have a serious cocoa-bean allergy, you don't have to give up either. That said, it's important to remember that hot showers can dry out your skin as well as your hair. The best thing you can do to prevent hair issues is to keep rinse water slightly cooler while shampooing and then drop the temperature a little further when you rinse out the conditioner. You don't have to use cold water, but rinsing out in tepid water will help seal down the cuticle (the outer, protective layer of the hair shaft), which in turn protects hair, increases shine, reduces tangles and keeps hair conditioned.

2. Daily conditioners are NOT enough.
Using the appropriate conditioner is a must. If you have very dry hair, especially if it is thick and/or curly, check out Kenra's line of moisturizing conditioners. They work wonders for medium or coarse hair.
Fine hair may receive a boost from conditioning products by Nioxin or Matrix (made by Biolage), which specialize in thin or fine hair. Sebastain's Sheer Weightless Shine offers both a shampoo and conditioner worthy of use.
Now here's the important part. If your hair is dry, tinted or straightened, you should be receiving conditioning treatments at least monthly, whether in the salon or at home. Don't bother with hot oil treatments; the molecules are much too big to penetrate the cuticle and will provide, at best, a superficial fix. Look for products such as hair masks, reconstructors, deep or conditioners. Since you will only be using this one or two times a month, splurge if you can and get something worthy of your hair, like Nioxin's Deep Repair Hair Masque or Graham Webb's Silk Repair Thermacore Therapy, which can be bought in 1-oz packets for those on a shoe-string budget.

3. 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
"It was a pleasure to burn," writes Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451. Great for a novel, tragic for hair. I currently own and use a 400-degree ceramic straightener that I wouldn't part with for a month of free massages. That said, moderation is the key. Those who frequently subject their beautiful curls to scorching hot irons, no matter how much they paid, are looking for a case of irreparably split ends. Take it easy on your hair. If you notice excessive dryness and damage, step away from the flat iron, give yourself an emergency conditioning treatment and give your hair a break. Reserve that iron for special occasions until your hair's health picks up. If you don't, go grab yourself a hairstyle mag: It's time to pick out a nice chin-length bob.

4. Once they split, they don't go back.
I don't care what the Pantene commercials offer. If you have split ends there is only one way to banish them permanently: cut them off. Now wait, don't panic! In most cases, you can preserve the majority of your length and still get them removed.
A majority of my clients who come in with split ends leave with similar-length hair. First I recommend the conditioning treatments mentioned above. Then I make sure to trim the hair, often 1-4 inches, depending on the style desired. Layers or angling also remove the clutter of bad ends. If the problem cannot be remedied by the chosen style, there is one more weapon in the arsenal. I go through the hair, a section at a time, and snip off the offending ends. For full-blown cases that would take hours and hours of knit-picking, I even assign my client homework. I ask that they spend 20 minutes three times a week snipping at it themselves, usually while watching TV or listening to an mp3 player to keep the tedium to a minimum.

5. Quick fix: Leave-ins and Shine Sprays.
One additional (note the word additional!) way to keep hair looking soft and shiny is to use a good leave-in conditioner after you get out of the shower. You can go cheap with Suave's Kids Detangling Spray. I find it works about as well as many high-end products on the market. Biolage also has a leave-in spray worth noting.
Shine products drastically improve the appearance of otherwise dry hair. My all-around favorite is Aquage's Beyond Shine. It works wonders in both thick and fine hair and doesn't tend to weigh hair down. For super coarse hair, try a serum, usually made up of silicone. Every product line has one and many people seem content with John Freida's Frizz-Ease, which is available at most grocery and drug stores.

I can guarantee that if you follow the above suggestions, your hair will be much better for it. Heat is damaging, and damage doesn't correct itself.

In the future look for posts on products, styling, cuts to make you look thinner, talking with your stylist about new styles, and home conditioning treatments.