Articles By Karen McIntosh

Do you scorn buying hair products for more than $5 or $10? Do you go into drugstores with a shopping list that doesn’t include hair products—and walk out with gels, shampoos, conditioners, and whatever else you could find? Do you stalk the hair aisles of discount stores, drugstores and markets, picking up and putting down products, reading ingredients?

If any of this sounds familiar, you may be addicted to discount hair products. Of course, much like our curvy tresses, discount product junkies (PJs) come in several types. So which one are you?

The Thrill Seeker

Motto: A day without buying is a day without sunshine

The thrill seeker is an adrenaline junkie, a true, dyed-in-the-wool hair product junkie. She pours over on-line ads and imagines using the product. As she nears a drugstore or discount store and draws closer to her fix, her heartbeat accelerates with anticipation. The Thrill Seeker does not need product, motive or reason. She only needs frequency and opportunity. By indulging her habit and getting her thrill on with discount hair products, she also aims to be fiscally responsible.

The Splurger

Motto: Shopping Spree!

Similar to the Thrill Seeker, but with one difference. Although sometimes splurging can be good, the Splurger must, must, MUST have a full shopping bag. A Splurger may also like to use her product liberally, by the handful rather than a tablespoonful, so she can replenish more often.

The Skeptic

Motto: Expensive does NOT equal better

Does a high price really mean better quality? The Skeptic doesn’t think so. She reasons, “Why use an expensive brand when I’m just going to wash it out?” To her, using products by the handful is a good thing, especially at these low prices. After all, water is the first ingredient.

Bargain Stalker

Motto: Wait for it...wait for it...

A win for the bargain hunter is finding the lowest price at any cost. She needs to know she bought the product for less than anyone else. She sniffs out every sale and only buys discount hair products. The Bargain Stalker’s fix comes with waiting for and anticipating the right price—the BOGO, the coupon, the rebate, the flash sale. And when it finally arrives? Touchdown! Let the buying begin.

The Frequent Buyer

Motto: A full closet is a happy closet

At drugstore prices, the frequent buyer can buy one or two products every week, or stock up in multiples. In fact, she can purchase an entire line of products at Wal-Mart or Target. For her, the price is always right when she’s pulling the product from her closet! After all, buying in multiples saves money, right?

Risk Taker

Motto: What’s a dud product or two at these prices?

The risk taker doesn’t worry about buying products she hasn’t tried. With the low cost of entry, she can afford to take the plunge and risk a little trial and error. She may even find her new favorite, cheap, perfect products from her cart full of never-tried.

Instant Gratification PJ

Motto: I can’t wait—I need it now!

Why wait even a few days and pay for shipping when the Instant Gratifier can stroll into a chain drugstore and get her product groove on immediately? The easy button, automatic doors and self-checkout was made for her. If she has access to discount hair products, she will buy them—whether she needs them or not. In fact the instant gratification PJ may already have bought the product—and forgot!

The Tommy PJ

Motto: See it, feel it, touch it, buy it!

The Tommy PJ is visual and tactile. She needs to smell it, look at the texture, hold it, and feel it, or else she’s not buying it. No photo on a web site will ever be good enough for her. Remember, if you ever find that your concealer bottle has already been opened, never fear, the Tommy PJ was here.

The Day Trader

Motto: Knowledge is power!

The Day Trader uses the power of the Internet to keep tabs on sales and discounts. She knows the location, current price, and inventory of every Target, CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens within a 20-mile radius. She has an intelligence network of area buddies who report on stock at TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Trader Joes. She knows where salon brands are available for half price. She always knows where you can get it for a dollar less. And when she locates a source where she can buy discount hair products in bulk—road trip!


Karen Mcintosh (Suburbanbushbabe in CurlTalk) is grateful to the straight hair gods who ignored her. Share your views with Karen in CurlTalk or her blog, SurbanBushBabe.


Bun

It’s beachy wave and curl season! Here are some curly hair care tips for keeping your curls looking great during the hot, humid summer months.

Water, Water Everywhere

Sea water and salt spray turn waves to curls and curls to tighter, springier ones. You can buy a sea spray leave-in for $20—or go to the beach and make seawater work for you. Landlocked? Make a salt spray with this recipe from John Masters, owner of John Masters Organics: Dissolve 1 tablespoon sea salt in 8 ounces warm water; add 10 drops lavender oil, shake well, and spritz onto wet or dry hair.

To protect hair from chlorine and give it a pre-pool treat, soak it with tap water before a swim, then slather on conditioner or a little oil. Hair saturated with clean water won’t soak up as much chlorinated pool water. Use a swim cap for extra protection, and never leave chlorinated water in your hair. Sea water should be rinsed out too, as salt can cause dryness over time. Use an oil spray to protect hair from its dehydrating effects.

Need more hydration? If you hair feels and looks dry, use conditioners that contain saccharides and fruit sugars as well as oil-based emulsifiers and softeners like behentrimonium methosulfate. Aloe vera, honey, agave, lactamide MEA, Hydroxypropyltrimonium honey, and simple fruit juices or extracts are all moisture-attracting ingredients. Indulge at least once a week in a deep conditioning treatment. Many good ones don’t require more than 5-10 minutes to work.

Hydrate Inside and Out

Iced coffee and tea, mixed drinks, beer or wine are refreshing but also dehydrating. For every non-water beverage, drink a cool glass of water. Add lemon or cucumber slices for a refreshing taste.

Seal In Moisture

A good part of summer curly hair care is to seal in moisture once you've hydrated your hair. These glazy, syrupy gels are great for minimizing frizz, helping hair retain moisture and enhancing curl patterns—Curl Junkie Curls in a Bottle, Just Great Curls from Canada’s Hair and Skin Essentials, Devacurl AnGel, Ouidad Climate Control, or a moisturizing flaxseed-based gel like Botticelli Botanicals. Continuing the sugary trend, Kinky-Curly Curling Custard and Uncle Funky’s Daughter Curly Magic contain moisture-attracting ingredients to help keep dry hair hydrated. Apply gels over your leave-in conditioner to seal in moisture. Leave-ins that contain protein are marvelous for smoothing curls and discouraging frizz.

Nature’s Heat Cap

Use the sun’s warmth to help hair soak up conditioners. After swimming, apply a deep conditioner to protect your hair. Smooth in conditioner or a moisturizer before piling into a bun or twisting, and let the sun shine in!

If your skin can get sunburned, so can your hair. Products like shea butter and sesame oil have natural UV filtering properties. And while many hair products claim to protect hair from the sun, unless they have a SPF rating or contain a known sunscreen ingredient, these could be just marketing claims. If you plan to be out in the sun for more than an hour, the best curly hair care tip is to wear a stylish hat or scarf.

Cool Products

Refrigerate conditioners and stylers for a refreshing wash and wear. It will encourage your cuticle to close and your scalp will love you for giving it a cool shot on a hot day. Use products with a pH that’s more on the acidic side to help cuticles stay closed.

Don’t Sweat It

During the summer months, you may wash your hair more frequently to remove sweat and refresh the scalp. But sweaty doesn’t always mean dirty. A condition wash, or even a thorough water rinse can be enough to rid hair of sweat and impurities before you style. But make sure your hair is clean— build up is one of the main causes of frizz.

Keep It Fresh

No time to rinse after a workout? A fragrant emollient product helps freshen the hair and keep it from drying out between washes. Aquage Illuminating Gellade smoothed over hair adds shine and a protective barrier. For tighter curls, Karen’s Body Beautiful Sweet Ambrosia or Karen's Body Beautiful Hair Nectar applied to dry hair can rehydrate even the most parched tresses. Spritz a little water first to help it absorb.

Low Maintenance, High Style

Warm weather is the perfect time to add a colorful flower or sleek accessory to your hair. Check out Goody’s spectacular and low-priced headbands. They more than hold their own against the higher priced designer versions. Or bun hair up in a flash with the revolutionary Goody Spin Pin or a Flexi8.

Fragile When Wet

Binding wet hair into a tight pony is a curly hair care no-no, and can cause split ends in the middle of the hair shaft. Instead, slick wet hair back with conditioner and a little oil or gel. Let it dry loose or use a headband to keep hair off the face. In summer’s hot weather, air drying is quicker than ever, so enjoy your wash and go’s.

Be a Twirly Girl

Or a coily one! Twirls, coils, buns, and twists can enhance texture, emphasize curl and minimize frizz. To twirl or coil the hair, apply styler to clean, conditioned hair, then twirl small sections of hair around fingers. For best results, dry completely under a hood dryer. To loosen and fluff, rub a little pomade or style paste on your hands and gently scrunch hair close to the roots.

Put summer’s hot weather to work pampering your curly tresses. Be at one with Mother Nature, don’t fight the curl, remember to hydrate, and relax and enjoy a laid back summer.

Karen Mcintosh (Suburbanbushbabe in CurlTalk) is grateful to the straight hair gods who ignored her. Share your views with Karen in CurlTalk or her blog


Bun

“Frizz is a curl waiting to happen,” according to Lorraine Massey, co-founder of DevaConcepts and Devachan Salon, curly expert and author.

Curly hair experts can turn frizzy hair into healthy-looking, beautifully cut and shaped curls in a relatively short period of time. But recreating no-frizz salon perfection at home is a challenge even to the most curl-savvy consumer. The resulting frustration can lead to using shortcuts, techniques and poor product choices that encourage frizz.

How can you achieve no-frizz curls between visits to the salon? And what frizz mischief do you get up to when you're not being diligent?

Compulsive Touching

Beautiful curly hair begs to be touched. If you have the hands-in-hair obsession, you are likely to have a frizzy hair problem. But like nail biting, this is a curable habit you will be motivated to overcome once you see the results.

Allow your hair to dry completely after styling it wet, without touching it. Although air drying takes less time in the hot summer weather, if you don't have the patience, partially diffuse to 70% or 80%, then allow curls to air dry completely. And no touching! Once it’s dry, you can use a tiny dab of pomade, oil, cream or serum to break up the gel cast and enhance shine.

Under- or over-applying products

Curlies who apply stylers unevenly and use too much or too little product may find one hair section too coated or weighed down and another frizzy, dry and flyaway. Watch your stylist to learn how she applies stylers to your hair. Work a small section under her supervision. This can save you a lot of hair-aches between visits to the salon.

Under moisturizing

Curly girls who have regular color and chemical services know how essential regular salon deep treatments are. But the same women who get massages and facials like clockwork may balk at salon moisture treatments. You might do them at home all too infrequently, or not thoroughly enough, and miss out on the pampering of a good salon deep treatment. Treat yourself to a restorative hair treatment service, on a routine basis—you'll have a great a reason to sit back, relax and get an essential treatment that will help curls stay smooth and moisturized.

For home deep treatments, Massey recommends heating the treatment in the microwave and cooling stylers. “In the summer, all the gels and stylers are great to put in the fridge,” she advises. “So it cools and refreshes, and helps close the cuticle when you put them on your hair. Every frizz is a curl waiting for moisture.”

Bun

Rough Drying

Towel drying roughs up the cuticle, causes frizzy hair, and diminishes the effects of conditioners and leave-ins. And wrapping a towel around the head can compress and mat curls. Encourage your client to blot or fist-squeeze excess wetness from hair using a microfiber hair towel, thick T-shirt material, or cotton waffle-weave.

Tolerating product build-up

Salon pros recognize product build-up immediately, but you may not. If you don’t recognize the signs, you may inadvertently allow product buildup to continue and then wonder why your hair is lifeless, limp and frizzy.

Curl specialists like Cala Renee, a Devaconcepts salon in Massachusetts, use All-Nutrient ClarpHx Active Clarifying Shampoo before color treatments and for thirsty, sensitive curls. This mild, plant-derived, sulfate-free cleansing system with unique chelating agents shampoo clarifies and removes product buildup, and removes minerals from hard water, without stripping the hair.

Ignoring the climate and dew points

“The cuticle resembles a pinecone,” Lorraine Massey says in her book "Curly Girl". “Smooth equals moist cuticle. Open equals dry, frizzed cuticle.”

Some of the worst cases of frizzy hair result from high humidity and high dew points. When atmospheric moisture is greater than the moisture in the hair cortex, hair absorbs moisture from the air and swells, opening up the cuticles. A well-hydrated cortex whose moisture content is closer to atmospheric moisture will resist frizz. And anti-humectants such as serums that rinse out relatively easy help keep moisture in the climate from opening up a less hydrated hair cuticle.

Product Show and Tell

Recommending and selling the products and tools you want your client to use can go a long way toward her success at home. Preferably these are the ones you already used on her in the chair. With your recommendations, she can be armed against frizz and ready to recreate the look to the best of her ability. If she needs more economical products, we have a few recommendations.

An award-winning stylist who got his start doing his sisters’ hair in Trinidad and now lives and works in Miami, Antonio Gonzales likes MoraccanOil for frizz control. “It’s an ideal product for all hair types, especially curly or frizzy hair and I love adding it to my favorite curl cream for extra support… It makes love to the hair.” For more frizz-fighting recommendations check out his blog, Comesse.

The DevaCare and DevaCurl lines were formulated specifically for a healthy, frizz-free, easy-to-manage curly hair lifestyle. Their complete line offers choices of cleansers, conditioners, treatments, gels, stylers and shine serums that work brilliantly together and separately.

“These products are like little babies”, says Lorraine Massey. “Once they get out into the world they have a life of their own. And curly girls tell us what they do. So it actually changes once they get out.”

Unless you are the on-site or on-call style muse for a major celebrity like Oprah or Angelina, it’s impossible to control how your client looks between visits. By arming her with the tools to help stay frizz-free curls between visits, you can help her maintain and promote your professional style, get word of mouth referrals , more frequent customer visits and product sales.


Karen Mcintosh (Suburbanbushbabe in CurlTalk) is grateful to the straight hair gods who ignored her. Share your views with Karen in CurlTalk or her blog


Bun

The average woman applies up to 200 chemicals to her skin every day through cosmetics, lotions and hair-care products. Yet few question the reality behind the marketing promise on our favorite bottle or jar of cosmetic, hair or skin product. After all, they come from reputable companies, are bought by millions of women around the world, and their ads demonstrate how beautiful we can be if we use them regularly. What’s not to trust?

Standards for Natural and Organic Beauty Products

You can buy cosmetics labeled natural and organic in supermarkets, drugstores, warehouse stores, online and in salons. But cosmetics are among the least-regulated products on the market, and products that are labeled organic or natural might not actually be. Major loopholes in federal law allow companies to use nearly any ingredient in beauty products—even chemicals that are known to harm human health and the environment.

The FDA does not review or regulate what goes into cosmetics before they are marketed to salons and consumers. It bans or restricts only 11 chemicals from cosmetic products compared to the 1,100 chemicals the European Union Cosmetics Directive bans from cosmetics.

But there are companies who care about the interests and safety of consumers, salon professionals and the environment.

Planet, People and Product

Nature is a cycle—of caring, taking and giving back—and producers of natural and organic beauty products share a deep respect for it. They join forces with nature, using its resources while sustaining them. They respect biodiversity, form long-term relationships with the people who actually cultivate the plants. And they follow fair trade practices.

Products with natural ingredients perform better without harmful chemical ingredients that enter the bloodstream by being absorbed through the skin. They also contain fewer irritants and allergens, and are earth friendly causing little to no negative impact on the environment.

Sales of natural and organic beauty products reached $7 billion in 2008 and accounted for $1 billion of growth in the cosmetic market. Sensing a tipping point, smart and responsible companies voluntarily began making safer products and adopted the triple bottom line of not just profit, but also planet and people. The ranks of companies who are adopting these practices are slowly growing with the support of organizations like NATRUE.

NATRUE – True Friends of Natural and Organic Cosmetics

A non-profit organization based in Brussels, NATRUE helps manufacturers maintain standards for natural and organic cosmetics (and their ingredients) by promoting industry-standard, global certifications for the usage of natural and organic beauty products.

Founded in 2007, NATRUE now represents two-thirds of the European natural and cosmetics market. Brands like Weleda, Dr. Hauschka Skin Care, Kneipp, Logona and Lavera are NATRUE certified. Burts Bees is the first U.S. manufacturer to join.

Drawing a Line Between Conventional and Natural Cosmetics

Most cosmetics are full of synthetic ingredients that NATRUE doesn’t think are necessary. Their globally recognized certification label tells you which products you can trust by guaranteeing that a product is as natural as it can be. The NATRUE label means the organic and natural product actually contains certifiable ingredients.

To bear the NATRUE label, a product must have natural and organic ingredients and use soft manufacturing and environmentally friendly practices. NATRUE certified products do not contain synthetic fragrances and colors, petroleum derived products (paraffins, PEG-, propyle-, alkyle-, etc.), silicone oils and derivatives, or genetically modified ingredients. Furthermore, ingredients and products must not have been tested on animals. NATRUE certifies both products and raw materials, and maintains a raw materials database for products that bear their label.

The NATRUE label has three certification levels starting with the Natural Cosmetics certification. It sets a high base standard that must be attained before a product can qualify for the other two levels. The NATRUE certification process is transparent, independently managed and all certification criteria and information is available at their website.

Consumers and Salon Professionals Benefit

The NATRUE label allows consumers to avoid potentially harmful chemicals in the beauty products they use every day. Stylists can provide customers with safe, effective, non-toxic products and protect customers and employees alike from exposure to harmful chemical ingredients. They can also encourage manufacturers of brands they carry to clarify how they define their natural and organic beauty products.

NATRUE Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxWnNupVmlI&feature=player_embedded


Karen Mcintosh (Suburbanbushbabe in CurlTalk) is grateful to the straight hair gods who ignored her. Share your views with Karen in CurlTalk or her blog


Porosity

When it comes to porosity and its effects on curly hair styling, naturally curly consumers are well ahead of the curve. In the past few years, natural curlies have evolved home-grown styling techniques beyond those that only emphasize curl type to ones that include porosity and its impact on curly hair wearability.

Porosity - Its Highs and Lows

Porosity is all about water and how your hair absorbs it. All hair is porous, and curly hair is more porous than natural, uncolored straight hair.

Highly porous hair has a cuticle layer that is raised and open. The hair quickly absorbs moisture, but loses it just as fast. Very porous hair can absorb more than twice the amount of water and moisture than hair with normal or low porosity can. It loves rich, moisturizing conditioners that contain protein, and even takes to pure protein treatments well.

But the more porous your hair is, the more prone it is to lose tensile strength and to break when soaking wet. If oils, butters and silicone products are applied in the wrong order or amount, your hair can get weighed down from within and build up in the hair shaft make it bloated, limp and lifeless. With porous hair that’s relatively dry and lacks sufficient moisture in the shaft, when dewpoints rise, get ready for a frizz fest.

In hair with low porosity, the cuticle layer is more tightly closed. Hair is slower to absorb water and longer to release it, so low porosity hair holds moisture quite well. But with fewer surface openings for product to be absorbed into, build up on the hair’s surface can happen quickly. Too much conditioning and excessive stylers may coat the hair and rob it of its vitality and bounciness. Some styling products may even sit on your hair or create a white cast. And because there’s little margin for absorption on low porosity hair’s smooth surface, excessive or pure protein treatments may cause the crispy, straw-like feel of protein overload.

Achieving Your Personal Porosity Best

The key to working with your hair's porosity is how you layer your products on wet, clean hair. Those products closest to your naked hair have the most impact.

Cleansing

All porosities can benefit from condition-washing, alternating with the occasional gentle, effective cleanser to clarify. Use one that does not strip hair or neutralize the fatty acids in the hair shaft. Sulfates are not recommended.

Deep conditioning treatments also benefit all degrees of porosity, especially moisturizing ones with good detangling properties. How much they soften, enrich, moisturize and strengthen is the key. Experiment with the level of protein to see what works for you. Proteins help smooth the cuticle by filling in the gaps. The general rule of thumb is the higher the porosity the higher the protein content. The same rule of thumb applies to rinse out conditioners.

Since very porous hair absorbs ingredients faster, heavy silicones and oils on naked wet, clean hair will sink in and bloat the hair. Curlies with higher porosity may want to try henna, cassia, or clay treatments combined with a moisturizing conditioner. These help to smooth and coat the hair shaft and temporarily lower porosity. Do a final rinse with cool water to seal the cuticle. Leave conditioner in; you can even add more after rinsing.

Lower porosity curlies may find a warm water rinse helps to open cuticles for styling product. Leave enough conditioner in to cover and clump, but rinse enough to dilute product and avoid coating. And since your hair holds moisture more efficiently, you may not even need a rinse out conditioner. Try going straight to a leave-in from your co-wash.

Leave-ins and Stylers

Leave-ins and conditioners containing protein help clump curls and minimize frizz in highly porous hair. Protein smooths, but it can also dry, so seal by smoothing or scrunching in a buttery product, emollient or your favorite carrier oil. If your hair is on the lower porosity spectrum, use proteins that can wash off easily, like amino acids. Fine, low porous hair tolerates proteins better than coarse low porous hair. And for low porous hair that’s well moisturized, a light leave in and a good gel may be enough to maintain low-frizz in most dew points.

Porosity is a continuum. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with it.


Karen Mcintosh (Suburbanbushbabe in CurlTalk) is grateful to the straight hair gods who ignored her. Share your views with Karen in CurlTalk or her blog


gray hair

Going gray while transitioning to natural curls can require a long grow out period.

Going gray at the same time you're transitioning to natural hair from chemical straighteners seems like a no-brainer. Both require a long grow out period, with multiple trims along the way to the final reveal. So what’s the catch?

Going Gray and Natural Can Be Stressful

A dual detox from relaxers and color to gray hair and natural texture is one of the most challenging transition journeys you can take. This is especially true for ultra-curly 3c, 4a and 4b textures. It is an adventure that will change the way you see yourself and the way you think others see you. Obstacles like dry hair, breakage, hair loss and more cause many women who start the journey to become discouraged and want to relax again. But chemical straighteners won’t help and can cause even more thinning, dryness and breakage.

Take heart, double transitioners! If your hair has had it with the double chemical whammy of color and relaxing, you can bring it to optimum health with these tips and make your double down transition a win-win.

Why Does Gray Hair Feel and Act Differently?

Hair texture changes when it loses color. You may find your grays are more wiry or coarse. Gray hair is more susceptible to dryness and breakage, which can be caused by decreased moisture levels in the hair, tension between the new and old growth, or both. And if you are going gray during perimenopause and experiencing thinning or breaking hair, hormone loss or change in thyroid levels can be the culprits.

Rules for a Healthy Double Transition

The first rule of going gray? Your hair needs a lot more moisture than any other color. Eliminating harsh cleansers and products with stripping power is the first major step to healthier looking, moisturized, more supple gray hair.

1. Give your hair moisture, moisture, moisture.

If you have been bumping along using the same products you did on your relaxed hair, change your hair routine to one that nurtures gray hair. Do it now. Do not wait. Do not sleep on it. Take these protective steps:

2. Take strain off your strands -- big chop now, not later.

Want to minimizing breakage? Cut off those relaxed ends now! What are they, keepsakes? No matter how careful you are, the point at which relaxed hair turns natural is where much breakage occurs. Letting the natural growth run free without fighting for dominance with relaxed ends will help stop breakage in its tracks.

If you decide not to chop and wear a bun, consider braiding, twisting or bantu knotting instead. Pulling the hair back stresses the hairline and can cause breakage at the binding point. Protect the hair when sleeping with a silk or satin pillowcase.

3. Stop treating hair like laundry!

Eliminate shampoo, especially any shampoo with laurel or laureth sulfates. You may as well wash your hair with Tide or Dawn; that is how harsh these shampoos are. Women with stick straight hair who need to control the amount of sebum coming down the hair from their scalps can use them. We ultra-curly 4a and 4b women have no such problem -- the first coil or kink stops the sebum in its tracks, resulting in dry brittle strands. Instead, use light conditioners to cleanse the scalp and hair.

gray hair

Eliminate shampoos containing sulfates.

4. Eliminate products that indelibly coat the hair.

Eliminate conditioning and styling products with silicone, heavy waxes, mineral oil or paraffin. That means most products in the Ethnic Hair section at the drugstore whose first or second ingredients are mineral oil. Follow a no shampoo method, and after 2 to 4 weeks you will start to notice the difference.

5. Let your clean, uncoated hair soak up moisturizing conditioner goodness.

Splurge on rich, moisturizing, detangling conditioners and deep conditioners with balanced moisture and protein and use with every wash to restore gloss and shine to your gray hair. Condition often with completely water-soluble conditioners and leave-ins. Cool water rinse, leaving some conditioner in, or add some back after the rinse. Then “seal” that conditioner in hair with natural oils, butters and soft gels.

If you can go a day or two without re-cleansing, maintain softness and moisture on your dry hair with a small amount of product like Devacurl Set it Free or Qhemet Burdock Root Butter Cream.

6. Treat your hair from the inside out.

The second rule of going gray is to improve the health of your hair from the inside out. Effective treatment starts within your body. A medical check-up, exercise, good nutrition, vitamins and mineral supplements will all help enhance the look and feel of your gray, natural, curls, coils and kinks.

As women age and enter perimenopause, there is more going on than just the hair turning gray. Our hormone levels -- the building blocks that regulate almost every function of our bodies -- drop drastically and continue to drop throughout and after perimenopause. This can cause the hair to thin -- along with mental fuzziness, breast pain, weight retention, digestive and bowel issues, food cravings, migraines, drier and less elastic skin, lowered sex drive, vaginal dryness, interrupted sleep cycles, hot flashes, night sweats and more.

The good news is that hair loss due to decreased hormones is usually temporary, especially if you modify your diet and lifestyle to increase hormone consumption and improve circulation.

7. Get a check-up that includes testing hormone and thyroid levels

Get a thorough medical checkup with an endocrinologist, gynecologist or hormone specialist who understands the issues aging women face and can recommend several options to treat perimenopausal as well as possible thyroid symptoms, which also cause hair loss. Many doctors just think menopause is our cross to bear. Back away from those doctors quickly.

8. Add nutritional supplements.

Eat foods containing phytoestrogens, cruciferous vegetables, and soy isoflavones. Because there are many healthy hair benefits of Omega 3, you should take supplements containing Omega-3s and magnesium, as well as probiotics.

With knowledge, determination, and care, your transition to natural hair and gray, curly locks can be a beautiful one.


Omega-3

Omega-3 is great for your hair and scalp.

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are vital to every cell in the body. The benefits of omega-3 extend to the heart, breast, bone, brain, hair and skin health, without any of the side effects of prescription drugs. That’s not just essential—it’s miraculous!

The Magic of 3: ALA, EPA, DHA

Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) is the primary fatty acid in omega-3. Two others, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are converted from ALA. Since our systems don’t convert ALA into DHA and EPA very well, we need all three omega-3 EFAs in our diet. And because our bodies are incapable of producing it, we have to import all Omega-3 in food or supplements.

Now you know how essential Omega-3 EFAs are for your health. Have you considered how vital they are for your hair and scalp?

Shinier, Healthier, Stronger Hair

Omega-3 has gained attention for its ability to combat dry and brittle hair, hair loss, dry, flaky scalp and reduced circulation to the scalp. The benefits of omega-3 EFAs include adding luster, sheen and elasticity to your hair. Both DHA and EPA are vital for the nourishment of hair follicles. Omega-3 can help restart hair growth, help hair grow quicker and stronger—even prevent or reverse hair loss.

Hair Care Manufacturers Are Listening

More and more hair product manufacturers are capitalizing on the benefits of omega-3 with new hair care products for curls, coils, kinks and dreadlocks. These products deliver omega-3 conditioning agents that mimic the scalp’s natural EFA-containing emollients to the hair shaft. Onesta, Beauty 4 Ashes and Knotty Boy all integrate omega-3 into their hair care lines. Onesta shampoos and conditioners contain an omega 3 & 6 Essential Fatty Acid Complex that delivers a burst of nutrients to the root and hair shaft. Beauty 4 Ashes hair growth and scalp health-oriented products contain omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. And Knotty Boy Dreadlock products contain organic hempseed oil, a rich source of Omega-3s.

Other omega-3 containing products worth a look are Kevin Murphy Born Again Treatment, Carol’s Daughter Khoret Amen Hair Smoothie and Tui Hair Smoothie, Bain de Terre All About Curls Camelina Defining Cream, and Sofnfree GroHealthy Milk Protein and Olive Oil Daily Growth Lotion.

Omega-3

Omega-3 is found in many fish oils.

Omega-3 Super Foods

The best benefits of omega-3 come from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna. Non-flesh foods high in omega-3 content include acai, purslane, flaxseed, microalgae and kelp oil. Acai contains omega-3, 6 and 9. Flaxseed oil is extremely high in ALA but lacks EPA and DHA. Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. Oil from brown algae (kelp) is a source of Omega-3 EFAs.

Look for hair products containing these and other plant-based super foods like wakame, chia, hazelnuts, Persian walnuts, butternuts, and pumpkin seeds, avocado, as well as grapeseed, camelina sativa, wheat germ, canola, and hempseed oils.

With concern justifiably high about levels of pesticides, dioxins, PCB’s, lead and mercury in fish, more people are turning to supplements to get the benefits of omega-3. But wading through the many omega-3 supplements available and choosing one that delivers the best and purest omega-3 EFA’s can be daunting.

How to Spot Quality Omega-3 Supplements

For fish-oil based omega-3, look for formulas that have been purified and are free of mercury and other contaminants. Fish oil-based supplements should always undergo a manufacturing process that removes impurities and retains all of the EFAs. And, they should contain both EPA and DHA.

In a vegetarian or vegan diet, Omega-6 is more available than Omega-3. Supplements are almost a must and those derived from algae help make up the deficit. Vegans and vegetarians may want just a DHA/EPA supplement to augment the ALA they readily get from eating plant-based foods.

Usana Biomega Formula is a purified, fish oil derived supplement. Usana’s double molecular distillation process removes harmful contaminants like pesticides, mercury and other heavy metals while retaining DHA and EPA.

V-Pure is a new generation of vegetarian and vegan Omega-3 supplements and is the only Omega-3 algae oil on the market today that has both EPA and DHA.


Karen Mcintosh (Suburbanbushbabe in CurlTalk) occasionally wonders if her passion for curly hair is really an obsession. Talk to Karen in CurlTalk or her blog.


The Maiden, the Crone, and the Mother—these familiar female archetypes can be somewhat limiting to the roles women actually play in the world. In honor of International Women’s Month, we expanded the female archetype to include the female qualities that don’t fit these narrow classifications—Healer and Crusader; Warrior and Rebel; Goddess; Wise Ruler and Sage; Free Spirit; Storyteller or Muse; Adventurer; Diva, Trailblazer, and Chieftain/Leader.

We put the spotlight on curly icons who have made a difference in the world. They are living (with one exception) legends that through their acts and achievements embody the spirit of an archetype. All have lived long enough to shape our times and our lives. And regardless of which archetype she fits, each is a leader and trailblazer.

Here’s to these extraordinary women and the waves, curls, coils and kinks that are an intrinsic part of them.

Healers and Crusaders

Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts

These two women transcended their respective roles as journalist and actress to become outspoken advocates for other women with cancer.

Robin Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. Currently Anchor of ABC-TV’s Emmy Award-winning "Good Morning America" and author of “From the Heart: Seven Rules to Live By,” Roberts used her peerless reporting skills to document her chemotherapy and radiation treatments and the arduous journey back to health. After her hair fell out due to her treatment, she filmed herself having her head shaved bald. Six months later she ditched her wig on-air and appeared almost completely hairless and shared her worries about her new on-camera short curls. Her courageous and public battle has been recognized with awards and honors from organizations around the country, including The Susan G. Komen Foundation. She has truly shown us that “We are all a little stronger than we think we are.”

Fran Drescher

Fran Drescher

In Fran Drescher’s book “Cancer Schmancer”, the actress writes: "My whole life has been about changing negatives into positives." Fran Drescher took the contrast between her beauty and love of haute couture and her comedic talent and trademark nasal Queens accent and bankrolled it into a sitcom tailor-made for her. The Nanny ran from 1993 through 1999 and was nominated for two Emmys and a Golden Globe award. In 2000, after two years of symptoms and misdiagnosis by eight doctors, Drescher was diagnosed with uterine cancer and underwent an immediate radical hysterectomy to treat the disease. She celebrated her ninth year of wellness on June 21, 2009. Now a U.S. diplomat and an outspoken health care advocate, her efforts helped get unanimous passage for Johanna's Law, which provides for programs to increase the awareness and knowledge of women and health care providers with respect to gynecologic cancers.

Warriors and Rebels

Angela Davis

Angela Davis

Professor Angela Davis is a cultural icon and a symbol of the Black Power movement for many who came of age in the 1970s. From a segregated childhood and early education in Birmingham, Alabama, marked by racial conflict, by her junior year in high school Davis won a placement in a New York City high school. Later she joined the Communist Party when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 and then joined the Black Panther Party. Following a 1970 courtroom killing of a judge, Davis was briefly on the FBI's most-wanted list for allegedly providing guns for the attack. She was tried, represented herself, and was acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury. She was active with the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) before joining the Black Panthers, and in 1980 ran for U.S. Vice President on the Communist Party ticket. She achieved tenure at the University of California at Santa Cruz, though former Governor Ronald Reagan swore she would never teach again in the University of California system. She has published on race, class, and gender.

Goddess

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren (really, who else did you think would be in this category?) is the second most-awarded actress in cinema history, surpassed only by Meryl Streep. This beautiful lady became one of the major sex symbol of the sixties, competing with Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda. Loren is one of The American Film Institute’s 50 Greatest Screen Legends, yet never appeared in a theatrical production because she suffered from stage fright. Her prominent films include "El Cid," "Marriage Italian-Style," "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," "Two Women," "A Special Day," "Prêt-à-Porter", and "Grumpier Old Men." Loren, who turned 75 last September, can currently be seen on the big screen in the star-studded cast of "Nine," in which she plays the deceased mother of Daniel Day-Lewis' Italian film director, a man overwhelmed by the many women in his life.

Wise Ruler and Sage

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Delegate to Congress from the District of Columbia, Eleanor Holmes Norton was active in the civil rights movement and was also an organizer for the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). By the time Norton graduated from Antioch, she had already been arrested for organizing and participating in sit-ins in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Ohio. While at Yale Law School, her encounter with Fannie Lou Hamer during a trip to Mississippi compelled Norton to bear witness to the intensity of violence and Jim Crow repression in the South. These turbulent beginnings propelled her through an impressive political career—from a clerkship for a Federal judge, executive assistant to New York City Mayor John Lindsay, campaigning for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to becoming the first female head of the Equal Opportunity Employment commission under President Jimmy Carter.

Adventurer

Erica Jong

Erica Jong

Erica Jong—novelist, poet, and essayist—has consistently used her craft to help provide women with a powerful and rational voice in forging a feminist consciousness. She has published 20 books, including eight novels, six volumes of poetry and six books of non-fiction. Her 1973 breakthrough novel was “Fear of Flying” in which she first used the term “zipless f-ck”. It created a sensation with its forthright treatment of women’s sexual desires.

Diva

Bernadette Peters

Bernadette Peters

Bernadette Peters is so astoundingly beautiful it’s hard to comprehend she was born in 1948. An amazingly talented actor and singer and one of Broadway’s brightest stars with a career that spans five decades in Broadway, television, films and concerts, Peters’ acting and singing chops are impressive. Her voice can crack and cry with emotion and poignancy, yet she maintains a control, range and volume that are nothing short of miraculous. Peters has been proudly and beautifully curly throughout her life. A native of Queens, New York, she made her stage debut in 1958 and is the youngest person to be inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Muse/Storyteller

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, lyrical style, sharp observations, and vibrant storytelling. Her first novel, "The Bluest Eye," was published in 1970 and told the story of a young African-American girl who believes her incredibly difficult life would be better if only she had blue eyes. She continued to explore the African-American experience in its many forms and time periods in such works as "Sula" (1973), "Song of Solomon" (1977), and "Beloved" (1987), which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Morrison became a professor at Princeton University in 1989 and continued to produce great works. In recognition of her contributions to her field, she received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the first African American to be selected for the award. Morrison grew up in the black community of Lorain, Ohio, where her parents had moved to escape the problems of Southern racism. In first grade, she was the only black student in her class and the only one who could read. She hoped one day to become a dancer like her favorite ballerina, Maria Tallchief. We are glad her life took a different turn.

Free Spirit

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg

With her trademark dreadlocks, wide impish grin, and piercing humor, Whoopi Goldberg is best known for her adept portrayals in both comedic and dramatic roles, as well as her groundbreaking work in the Hollywood film industry as an African-American woman. Goldberg unknowingly suffered from dyslexia, which affected her studies and ultimately induced her to drop out of high school at the age of 17. She gained attention in 1983 in The Spook Show. The one-woman Off-Broadway (and later Broadway) production featured her own original comedy material that addressed the issue of race in America with unique profundity, style, and wit. Among her most poignant and typically contradictory creations are "Little Girl," an African-American child obsessed with having blond hair; and "Fontaine," a junkie who also happens to hold a doctorate in literature. Goldberg made her film debut in "The Color Purple" playing Celie, a mistreated black woman in the south for which she won a Golden Globe award and received an Oscar nomination. She won an Academy Award for her role in Ghost.

Trailblazers

Sharon Christa McAuliffe

Sharon Christa McAuliffe

A Framingham, Massachusetts native, Sharon Christa McAuliffe was selected from among more than 11,000 applicants from the education profession to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space project. She took a leave of absence and trained with NASA for a year to be an astronaut, planning to conduct experiments and teach two lessons from Space Shuttle Challenger. NASA’s goal in sending a teacher into space was to increase public interest in the space shuttle program and demonstrate the reliability of space flight at a time of continuous pressure and declining financial support. On January 28, 1986, her spacecraft disintegrated 73 seconds after launch. The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation a special commission appointed by President Reagan to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission found that NASA managers had known since 1977 that a contractor's design of a shuttle component contained a potentially catastrophic flaw, and failed to adequately report these and other technical concerns to their superiors. After Christa McAuliffe’s death, schools and scholarships were named in her honor, and in 2004 she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Chieftain/Leader

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Gail Winfrey is an American television host, producer, and philanthropist, best known for her self-titled, multi-award winning talk show, which has become the highest-rated program of its kind in history. She is also, according to some assessments, the most influential woman in the world. According to Forbes magazine, Oprah was the richest African American of the 20th century and the world's only black billionaire for three years running. Life magazine hailed her as the most influential woman of her generation. In 2005, Business Week named her the greatest Black philanthropist in American history. Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than $51 million for charitable programs, including girls' education in South Africa and relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Any net worth estimates fail to account for the value of Oprah's powerful brand.


About International Women’s Day:

Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is observed on March 8. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but also throughout March to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women. The first IWD was held 1911 in the USA. For more information, click here.


big chop

What makes a woman impulsively and spontaneously big chop? How does the instant switch in hair personality from long and straight to short hyper curly coils and kinks affect her? And how does she cope with often negative reactions from those in her support circle and still feel good about herself and how she looks? And – is it really impulsive or does it just seem that way?

As one who has big-chopped at least 3 times but chose the little chop route for my last incarnation, I find the phenomenon of the sudden BC fascinating. I spoke with three NaturallyCurly community members who did their own spontaneous big chops and who shared their stories with me.

I also tapped Curlynikki for her professional outlook—not as the fab hair diva and creator of www.curlynikki.com—but as a practicing psychotherapist who regularly counsels women through depression, low self-esteem and image development.

According to Curlynikki, “Hair for many of us is a big part of our identity. It says a lot about who we are—for better or for worse.” The sudden big chop “can be looked at as a way to mark a new season in life…. Many do it because of the anxiety to finally reveal their true texture. It's like ripping open that present two days before Christmas—you just couldn't wait any longer. Instant gratification! “

But is emotional and mental acceptance as instant as gratification? Is it realistic to expect to feel instantly at ease with the new look? Here are the experiences of our three spontaneous Big-choppers — Ange, Monica, and Kaila (aka Subbrock).


Ange

“I decided I was going to go natural and let my hair heal”

Ange

For Ange, a professional in the Washington, DC, area, “I’d always wanted to grow my hair long, and it was difficult to do so. It wasn’t until I started braiding my hair I finally achieved the length I’d long desired.” Then she became ill and had to choose between having "healthy hair" and preserving the quality of her health. “The choice” she said, ”was easy”.

Her hair started to break and fall out because of the prescriptions she was taking. “In the course of four years, my hair went from mid-back length to just a few inches below my ears, and it was very thin. It was then that I decided I was going to go natural and let my hair heal. I decided to go natural in August of 2007. I think God prepared me for this experience because I kept listening to 'I Am Not My Hair' (a song from India Arie). It was a very difficult and traumatic decision for me.”

Ange let her hair grow out from September 2007 to April 2008. But having the two textures was driving her crazy. Her hair was still weak where the textures met and she was afraid of further breakage. She decided to go ahead with her BC ahead of schedule.

While walking by a salon of an old stylist, Ange decided “to walk in and see if my stylist would take me.” In a spur-of-the-moment decision, she went from shoulder length, five inches of which was relaxed hair, to just over an inch long. Her feelings about the result? “I was livid. She took off all the length that I grew out! I should have known something was wrong because she kept cutting and cutting and cutting.”

It took Ange about a month to get used to the look, “but I loved the feel right away. The texture was great!” A couple of months after that, Ange was reaping more benefits. “I felt more attractive than I did before I decided to go natural and I was more at ease with caring for my hair because I didn't have to worry about the two textures. I was also able to do wash and go's, so I was especially happy about that.”

How did her personal community react? “I think only three people sincerely liked it. My aunt, who always wore her hair in a short 'fro, loved it. One of my friends, who encouraged me to go natural, loved it, too.

“Just the other week, I thought of cutting it short again! I've come to the conclusion that I either like my hair very long or very short. And I keep thinking that it would be soooo easy to have it really short again! This was a major issue for me because I loathed short hair before all this.”


Monica

“I was tired of spending oodles of money and time in the salon to relax my hair and then set it on rollers for curly styles.”

Monica before

For Monica, a 27-year old, married professional in North Carolina, the only plan was “I was just not going to get a relaxer anymore.” Monica had talked about cutting for a year, but couldn’t bring herself to do it before her wedding. “My husband was completely behind me, but I just wasn't prepared for what might happen.“

Four months into her transition, Monica’s new growth compared to her relaxed hair was “like night and day. My roots were so thick that combing was definitely not an option unless it was flat-ironed.”

Having never before big-chopped in her life, Monica went into a professional salon shoulder length and came out with an inch-and-a-half TWA. Immediately after, she was much more at ease with caring for her hair because “it was so short. It didn’t require much thought at all.”

Monica after

Initially she felt anxious and somewhat unattractive, “but no one knew that but me and the Lord!” Her husband was a big support; “He massaged my scalp, clipped my ends, and just gave me motivation to keep going when I wasn’t sure if I could. My family was dismayed. They basically thought I had lost my mind….My husband was my rock.”

It took Monica about a year after her BC to get comfortable. Today, “I am much more confident about my hair. People around me are also embracing their natural texture and it has created a bond between us. They come to me for advice, because I was the first. Also, a coworker BC’d at the beginning of this year…. We learned about our hair together.”


Kaila (a.k.a. NatuallyCurly community member Subbrock)

"I BC’d 6 yrs ago and I’m still not used to how my hair looks and feels…it’s been a constant evolution."

Kaila before

“My hair and I just didn’t get along—it was always frizzy and I was tired of straightening it every day on top of getting relaxers. It wouldn’t stay straight; it wouldn’t hold a curl. That’s when I realized I was ready to get rid of it. I wasn’t thinking about going natural, I just wanted to get rid of that stupid hair. I was 21, a junior in college, and very spontaneous. When I BC’d, I had never even heard of transitioning, so it wasn’t even on my radar.”

Before the BC, Kaila (now a 27-year old SAHM in Greensboro, NC) had 3-5 inches of natural growth to work with. After the BC, at the longest part it was around 1-2 inches long. Immediately after the BC, which was done by her sister, a stylist and salon owner, Kaila “loved it! …I went back a few days later to get it cut even shorter.” And three months later, ”I still loved it. I always looked young for my age, so once I did my BC , I finally felt like I looked my age. I finally felt like a grown woman.”

Reactions from her personal and professional community were mixed. “My coworkers and all the families who came to the daycare I worked at gave me compliments all the time. My boyfriend at the time…flat out told me that he preferred long, straight hair on women. My parents hated it. Out of all the reactions, positive and negative, my parents' had the biggest impact on me. I was hurt and confused as to why they didn’t love the hair that they gave me.

Kaila after

For Kaila, getting used to the look and feel of her hair is a continuous process. Six years after her BC, “I’m still not used to how my hair looks and feels because it’s been a constant evolution. It did take me several years to stop dreaming and picturing myself with straight hair.”

Each of these impulsive big choppers had vastly different reasons and circumstances but similar issues and reactions.

Finally, I asked Curlynikki about what can help sudden BC’ers deal with changes in self-image, unwelcome reactions from their significant others, families, and other communities.

“Tap into your genuine self-esteem. The real kind that is not attached to what your hair looks like, how much money you make, or what neighborhood you live in. It's easier said than done, but if practiced, it will definitely improve overall mood, and overall self-confidence.” The tips in her Tyra.com article are perfect for this. Check them out at Some Tips For Improving Stock in Yourself.


About the author, Karen McIntosh, aka Suburbanbushbabe: A somewhat hair-obsessed woman of a certain age, I am recalibrating my personal GPS to live and breathe what I value. I am deeply curious about how women reclaiming and embodying their naturally curly, coily, kinky hair affects self-image, self-esteem, authentic relationships, emotional and financial well-being, and communities. Write to me in the comments section below!



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