Kinky hair expert offers her criteria for product selection

Dear CurlyNikki: I am a certified PJ and have been even before transitioning. When I buy a product, I don't have specific criteria it must fit, like whether it's all natural or CG friendly. I generally go with what works the best with my hair. My question is: Do you have a product criteria, and if you do, would you use a product if it didn't quite meet your criteria, but works well for your hair?

Dear Kenya: When I first started experimenting with my natural curls, I became a frequent visitor of NaturallyCurly.com and was totally on the shampoo free bandwagon. I avoided sulfates (in shampoo) and silicones (in conditioners and stylers) like the plague. I also steered clear of protein, mineral oil, the "bad" alcohols, parabens, polyquats and other blacklisted ingredients.

Eggs

You need protein in your diet, but your hair may not like it.

As time went on, I became a bit more lax and expanded my product arsenal. What works for some curlies truly doesn't work for all... this is true of the shampoo free method and other popular and much-hyped regimens. I stopped taking info at face value and started doing a little experimenting of my own. Through trial and error, I learned that my hair wouldn't revolt if I used silicones and that the occasional use of a sulfate shampoo wouldn't stop the world from spinning. I also learned that my hair really doesn't like protein and that it adores conditioners containing behentrimonium methosulfate. My criteria today? Since I'm mostly a conditioner junkie, I look for the following:

  • Excellent reviews (NaturallyCurly.com, curlynikkiforums.com, amazon.com): I try to research products prior to purchase. I hate to buy something only to get home and read that most folks who tried it had a bad experience. In the reviews I look for phrases like, 'good moisture', 'lots of slip', 'can be used as a leave-in too', 'great as a deep treatment', 'too much moisture, made my hair limp (says the looser, type 2 curly)', etc.
  • I look for fatty alcohols (Stearyl, Behenyl, Cetearyl, Cetyl, Lauryl, and Myristyl are a few of the popular ones)
  • I avoid the drying or short chain alcohols (SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, Alcohol denat, Propanol, Propyl alcohol and Isopropyl alcohol)
  • I avoid proteins
  • I avoid mineral oil/paraffin
  • In the dryer months, I try to make sure I use products with few, if any humectants. If one of my favs contains humectants, it's usually not one of the top five ingredients.