Do you pay attention to the type of water that streams from your shower? If it’s very soft or very hard water, it’s difficult to ignore the way it affects your skin and hair. One reader discovered just how much of a difference hard water can make, and she reached out for help. Here’s what Kim has to say:

“I am hoping that the No More Dirty Looks community can help me solve a hair problem. Until October, I lived in Virginia Beach where I had beautiful curls using no-poo, Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Conditioner, and Alaffia Curly Kinky Curl Creme.  I have very thick hair — as in, stylists have said, whoa you have a lot of hair — in loose curls. Late this fall, military orders took my family to north of Jacksonville, Florida. The water here is really, really hard — as in, 400 plus ppm. The water smells alternately of swamp and sulfur. I have managed to find green cleaning for my skin, but my hair is a disaster. It is frizzy, dry, straw-like, and my curls have no definition. I have tried hair masques, coconut and argan oils, the Alaffia curl cream and leave in conditioner, Acure’s argan shampoo and conditioners and none of it seems to be having any effect. Help!  Do any of your readers have super hard water and curls that look good?”

Yikes! Who has dealt with this issue before? What helped? A shower filter? A certain product? Never getting your hair wet again? Just kidding. Let Kim know your thoughts and recommendations in the comments.

Young Lisette needs our help!

While we talk a lot about natural curls on this site, for obvious reasons we haven’t gotten into the specifics around African-American hair. So it’s time for our readers to step in here and talk about what you’ve tried.

That said, Lisette, here are three brands we think are worth testing out. All three smell good, and are super hydrating for thick/coarse/curly hair.

1. Andalou: We haven’t tried their shampoos, but the conditioners and the styling cream are great.

2. JessiCurl: We did a two-part review of this full line for curls and were really impressed with how effective these products are.

3. Intelligent Nutrients: And old favorite, the leave-in conditioner and volumizing spray are two great styling product for thick and/or curly hair. (Smell might take getting used to but it grows on you!)

What products would you recommend Lisette try?

Here’s her note.

My name is Lisette and I am an avid reader of your blog. I have learned so much from other readers input and have come to view your site as a resource for many of my clean questions. Ever since I learned about the types of chemicals that the beauty industry puts into our products I have been on a clean crusade. So here is my question. What products would you or your readers recommend for someone with ethnic hair.

I am a 19-year-old African American woman and I have thick natural hair. As much as I love clean products the one area that I have been struggling in is hair care. It has been so hard to find a shampoo and conditioner that works for my type of hair texture. I have being trying products left and right and I find that the ones that work decently smell terrible and the ones that do smell good don’t really work. I am desperately trying to find a set that not only smells decent but also works well. Price really isn’t an issue at this point because I am willing to try anything (I am that desperate).

Right now I wouldn’ say that I am at the point of giving up but if I can’t find something I fear I might have to resort back to conventional hair care products until this area develops for people with my type of hair.

I know that you guys have tons of expertise in the area and would really really appreciate any recommendations you or your readers could give to me.

Don’t give up! Natural products (and less frequent washing) can be a real boon for curls.

The above image is from this awesome photo series called The Coiffure Project.

As promised here’s part dos of the review. The leave-ins are the real stars of this line for me.

They also behave dramatically depending on whether you’re a curl scruncher, comber, or just let them be. How do you do your curls?

Confident Coils Styling Solution (16.95 / 8oz): The claim? Defined but not enhanced, beautiful and touchable curls. Totally true! It’s really surprising to me when a product actually does what it claims. But both these leave-ins do exactly that. I love this one. It reminds me of an Aveda product I’ve mentioned in the past that my entire family was once hooked on. It’s consistency is light and a bit sticky, which is really good for curls. It kind of just makes your existing curls their best selves. If you’re like me, sometimes you comb through and scrunch your curls for more bounce, while other times you finger-comb or don’t touch them at all. This responds well to both, and can also be used with…

Rockin’ Ringlets Styling Potion (16.95 / 8oz): The claim? The tightest, most coiled version of your curls without giving you “ramen noodle hair” according to the site copy (hilarious). When I was kid we called these bottle curls, and it’s not  a look I usually rock out on a Tuesday. But, again, because this product actually delivers I discovered that it’s pretty fun to be able to suddenly have a ringlet head. When I used this product and did a traditional towel scrunch, I easily lost two inches in length and gained a veritable helmut of ringlets. One day, even a friendly construction worker guiding me through a barricade called to me through his window: “Go on through here, Shirley Temple!”

Awe Inspiring Spray (16.95 / 8oz): I’ve never really been one for sprays, other than the Intelligent Nutrients Volumizing one (still a fave). But this is not a hairspray like that—this is more of a curl refresher. It’s perfect for mornings when you don’t want to jump in the shower but your hair needs a little wakeup. Or maybe in the evening after a long work day before you head out for dinner. It’s got aloe and a little jojoba in it, so it’s hydrating with just the tiniest bit of control. Very convenient.

I’m also curious how these leaves-ins would work on straighter hair. I feel like they could be a real boon on a humid day for any hair, especially because they’re light. Have any of the straight girls tried curl-geared products in the past? Let us know, and happy Friday!

P.S. We are completely floored by the amazing applications we got for the assistant job. We have no idea how we’re going to decide yet, but a huge thanks to everyone who applied—we’ll definitely put up a post to let everyone know when we’ve decided!

Sometimes having curly hair can feel like having a pet (that you never asked your parents for). It needs constant love and attention, petting, fluffing and calming, and you can’t just leave it out in the rain and expect it to behave.

Then one day you discover that, in fact, it’s not as needy as you thought. It actually wants to be independent, and if you just let it do it’s thing and don’t coddle it like a crazy person, it might actually be able to survive in the wild.

K, this is a weird metaphor. But it sort of sums up what happened to me and my curls and I went clean. The constant monitoring, treatments, and loads of leave-ins proved to be a bit moot once I just learned to let it be, not wash it much (or ever), and use a good, thick, natural conditioner. Suddenly: Nice curls, responsive to heat if I wanted to style it, and I could even sleep on them and not look like a total animal in the morning.

For a while there, I flat-out lost my taste for hair products, because it was such a revelation not to need them. But these days, I’m working my way back to the middle because—as I almost forgot—the right products can do a lot for a curl. It can make it springy and tight, or loose and lovely. And this line does it all.

Who is Jessicurl? Some quick reading on their website says it’s a brand started by a woman (Jess) who grew up fighting her curls until one day she discovered a natural and DIY approach to haircare and learned to love them. Sound familiar? Cut to: Ten years later she has her very own line with very nice people working with her. These folks were kind enough to send me their entire Rich and Radiant Collection, which I’ve now thoroughly tested.

Note: There are a few ingredients in the line that aren’t perfect. The last two ingredients in the conditioners and leave-ins get a question mark on SkinDeep (4-6), though I’ve never heard of them (have you?) and the cleansing cream contains a PEG. While that gets a low hazard score, if memory serves PEGs run the risk of being contaminated with 1,4-dioxane—which is really bad stuff. I have not emailed the folks at Jessicurl about any of this yet (feel free to post in the comments, guys), but given how clean the rest of the line I’m feeling a bit forgiving about it. Especially on the products that I’m obsessed with. :)

OK, let’s go through it!

Hair Cleansing Cream ($16.95 / 8oz): Touted as an alternative to shampoo this product foams just a little, featuring gentler surfactants. As promised in the description, your curly hair will actually look great on the same day as washing (on the rare occasions I wash, I’ve found this to be true with most good natch, and non-stripping, shampoos). Remember when your curls were absolutely destroyed by hair-washing and you had to wait several days for them to get back into their groove? Man, those days sucked.

Next up!

Too Shea! Conditioner ($16.95 / 8oz): This is a really nice hydrating conditioner that leans more towards the sticky than the greasy side in consistency. I’ve been using this most days as my conditioning cleanser and it’s absolutely great. The whole lines smells good too, in a natural good way, and the presence of peppermint in this conditioner makes it perfect for waking up in the morning shower. This conditioner gets my solid stamp of approval, and I think it would work especially great for women who don’t want their curls weighed down. I, on the other hand, also happen to enjoy a really heavy conditioner too… Which is why I use it in tandem with…

Deep Conditioning Treatment ($16.95 / 8oz): This conditioner is the bomb. It’s so thick that it’s almost tough to squeeze it out of the bottle. Heavy and rich, it literally seems to detangle curls on contact. Funnily, it has almost the exact same ingredients as the previous conditioner, but the proportions must be totally different. According to the description, I’m not the only curly girl obsessed. While it was once marketed as a weekly treatment, so many women started using it daily. That’s what I’ve been doing, and the results are GREAT.

OK, that’s a wrap for now. Tomorrow I will cover the three amazing styling products that came in the set. But tell us, curlies and wavies: What is your washing and conditioning curl ritual? Have you heard of JessiCurl?

We haven’t posted one of these in a while! Today’s morning star is Lauren—and as a fellow dirty curly living in dry LA, I can relate to this simple (but lovely) routine. Do you wash your hair? And if not, what are some of your best tips for those looking to give the no-poo practice a try? I’ve personally taken to doing a very “light wash” with Acure once every three months or so—using a tiny bit of shampoo at the roots—just to kind of reset the clocks, without stripping. What’s your wash or not routine?

Name: Lauren
Age: 25
Current weather: The Valley outside of LA. Very hot with limited humidity.
Hair: Dyed shoulder-length curly hair.
Skin: Normal with occasionally breakouts on chin (usually hormone or stress-related), pale complexion.
Favorite star or icon from the past: Audrey Hepburn for her flawless style and sophistication (if only she didn’t have an un-diagnosed eating disorder, she would be the ultimate role-model!).

In the shower…

I switched to no-poo shampoo about 4 years ago and I haven’t looked back since. I switched because I heard it was better for curly hair. I used to just use conditioner with weekly baking soda rinses, but now I switched to baking soda and apple cider rinses about 3 times a week. I comb out my hair in the shower to detangle without causing frizz. I use Dr. Bronner’s Shikakai Peppermint Body Soap or Nubian Heritage Coconut Papaya Soap. I tend to focus it on my dirtier or smellier parts and save homemade coconut-sugar scrub for the rest. The coconut oil is also great as a shaving cream, although it clogs up my razor. It also lasts after my shower as a moisturizer!

Outside the shower…

I gently dry my hair with a microfiber cloth to minimize frizz. I spray a homemade hair gel of aloe vera gel, jojoba oil, vanilla extract, and essential orange oil into my hair to help define curls. On my face, I apply argan oil as a base layer, than DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer (SPF 30) to  my face and neck. I use Badger Unscented SPF 30 lotion for the rest of my body for it. I use Weleda Skin Food to moisturizer throughout the day. I apply Burt’s Bees Cuticle Cream or Badger Balm to  moisturizer my nails and cuticles to keep them healthy.

Finishing touches…

I often only wear mascara and eyeliner (if that) and my current favorites are Zosimos Botanicals in Branch and  Physicians Formula Organic Wear 100% Nautral Origin Lash Boosting Mascara in Ultra Black. I used to use benefit Babe Cake liner, but it doesn’t have clean ingredients and it was discontinued. I plan on buying Nvey Eco Organic Cake Eyeliner in Black when I get the chance. My favorite eye shadow is Physician’s Formula Organic Wear  100% Natural Origin Eye Shadow Duo in Hazel Eyes. It applies subtly, so I can build it up to the intensity I desire. I also have added RMS Living Lumizier to my routine. I have been using the Thai Crystal deodorant and really like it. I’ve tried Soapwalla and Lavanila Healthy Deodorant, but neither worked for me. I carry Weleda Citris Deodorant Spray to freshen up if I feel sweaty or stinky later in the day. I am currently switching to non-toxic nail polish and I love Priti NYC nail polish remover, which is a soy-based remover. I plan on trying HoneyBee Garden corn-based nail polish remover when I run out.

Thanks Lauren! And don’t forget to send in your routines to nomoredirtylooks at gmail dot com, with GOOD MORNING in the subject.

I die for those eyebrows