Let the covers of women’s magazines tell it and you’d think seasonal change only means one thing: getting your body beach-ready (do people really do this?). But for me, it’s always meant getting my hair right.
I’m a huge fan of letting my mane do its thing during warmer months (see last year’s fun summer-hair challenge, for proof), but after a long winter of daily heat styling and dry air, my hair has seen better days. I suspect I am not alone in this! And so I want to help.
The most important aspects of any hairdo are, of course, healthy hair and a good cut. I love my hairdresser, and if he weren’t gay I might want to marry him, but I’m trying to let my hair get longer, so I’m spacing out my visits. HOWEVER! The waves I so love when I air-dry are, well, limp now.
In order to get things looking better as it grows out, I’ve tried LOTS of products and even—gasp—one dirty one. I won’t tell you about that one because it gave me a rash and I only used it once, but I will share five clean products I tried and loved. And if you don’t like these, or want to save your cash, there’s always coconut oil. And avocados.
1. Argan Oil (prices vary)
Arganoilarganoilarganoil. I’m a broken record, I know (there’s nothing like the zeal of a convert, right?). I’ve slept with Kahina Giving Beauty and Amal argan oils in my hair many times, and the next day, after a light shampoo, my hair always looks and feels and smells amazing, with no greasy buildup. I do it extremely rarely for a simple reason: It’s just too “rich” for my stupid hair. Not rich like heavy, rich like expensive. For the price I pay—and I believe it’s worth every cent—it means my face gets to use it, not my split ends.
2. Max Green Alchemy Scalp Rescue Styling Gel ($12.99)
I’m wild about this gel. I put it on my ends wet or dry and it holds nicely. I also sometimes use a pea-sized amount on the hairs around my face, when the hair is still wet. It’s not a typical gel—the texture reminds me a little of aloe—there’s no crunchiness or wet look, obviously, and the ingredients are squeaky clean. It’s nongreasy and smells light and fresh in a unisex kind of way, which gives you full license to throw out your boyfriend’s Dippity Do when he’s not looking.
3. Rare E’lements EL Treatment ($44)
This serum-like treatment is delightful. We both love it and use it with some frequency as an overnight treatment or a leave-in for day on our ends. It smells incredible. Like, “Ooooo! What perfume are you wearing?” incredible, thanks to the ylang ylang and other scented oils. I might go so far as to say that, with frequent use, my ends actually look markedly better than they did. I try to avoid overpromising, but this product really is a winner, and it seems to be more of a winner the more I use it. A dab will do ya, and even with several-times-a-week use, I have a long way to go before I’ll have to repurchase.
4. Whatever is left on my hands after I apply body oil ($0)
Oil-rich body lotions or body oils contain a lot of the same ingredients as natural hair treatments, so if your lotion pour was on the generous side, use the leftovers on your wet hair before drying. I do this probably two or three times a week instead of using a hair product, and it works well. Plus, it saves money and encourages the kind of ingredient savvy and multitasking we’re fond on.
To prove how clean this product is, Horst made me drink it when I met him. Little did I know it would become the only go-to hair product I would use and reuse for almost two years straight. A word about the name: Maybe it’s because my hair is heavy to begin with, but I’ve never understood why this product is called a volumizer. That said, we both absolutely love it as a leave-in, and have been using it and repurchasing it religiously since we discovered it while writing the book. (Other ladies: Please weigh in if you have tried it and found it gave you a boost at the roots! Is this a volumizer for you?) One bottle lasts several months to half a year, it smells incredible, and it helps smooth wild ends and flyaways. It also makes heat styling much easier.
OK your turn. What have you tried as a hair treatment? And do you do the beach-body thing? (Just kidding!)
Vintage hairdryers via
Friends! If you’ve read the book or hung out here for a while you know we’re fond of oils, and coconut oil in particular because it’s an amazing and cost-saving multitasker that has lots of qualities to recommend it.
It’s a rich moisturizer, it’s cheap, it’s versatile, it’s antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial, has a decent amount of antioxidants, and it smells like baked goods. What’s not to love? Well, some stuff.
You can get it at any good health food store in the cooking oil section, just be sure to spend the extra buck or two to get raw, organic, virgin coconut oil. Now, without further ado: Here are the 10 specific things I’ve tried it for, with honest assessments of how that worked for me:
1. For cooking at high heat. Coconut oil has earned itself a bone fide health halo, which you can read about here. Because some oils are not safe at high temperatures, I’ve swapped in coconut for a lot of my roasting, and some frying. I have tried and liked it in the oven for potatoes, sweet potatoes, Brussell’s sprouts, carrots, asparagus, broccoli rabe, red onions and other veggies, too. I’m not fond of how it tastes with eggs or mild-tasting white fish—but it’s great with salmon.
2. As a cheekbone highlighter. Sweep a little on top of makeup (sounds weird, go with it) and leave it alone. It looks like your skin but glowier, which is why Rosemarie Swift, of RMS Beauty, uses it in her amazing Living Luminizer, “Un” Cover Up, and Lip-2-Cheek pots.
3. To shave my legs. So good! You get a real close shave and don’t have to worry about moisturizing after.
4. As a deep-conditioning hair treatment for my totally wrecked ends. There’s a reason lots of conditioners use coconut oil: According to this study, coconut oil is better able to penetrate the hair than is mineral oil (shocking!) and sunflower oil—which is good news because I’ve been dealing with a little heat damage over here. Because I don’t want to cut off the damage—I’m liking my hair long right now—I’ve been trying to get the ends looking OK as I grow it out. Knowing full well there is no way to physically repair fried ends (I even confirmed this with a cosmetic scientist named Colin, who isn’t a clean guy, but he’s nice and he’s smart) I’ve been loving this method: once a week, I sleep with a handful of coconut oil in my hair. I rub it in, comb it, pile it in a loose bun on the top of my head, and call it a night. In the morning I shampoo and it seems to make a big difference in the look and feel of my ends.
5. To take off my eye makeup. Put a little on a cotton ball or a piece of toilet paper and sweep it over your eyes gently. It even works on waterproof mascara.
6. As a personal lubricant. Saucy! Let’s be brief: It totally works by yourself or with a buddy, but it’s not compatible with condoms (oil + latex = babies).
7. As a face moisturizer. I do not like this. I’ve read about acne-prone women who have used it to great effect because it’s naturally antibacterial, calming, and moisturizing, but I won’t put coconut oil—or any product that contains it—anywhere near the part of my face that breaks out (hi, chin). I tried the oil-cleansing method when we were writing the book and I got the absolute worst cystic acne ever which, yeah, yeah, might not have been the oil’s fault, but did I want to wait another month to find out? Hells no.
8. As a body moisturizer. See above (shaving). I recently met my friend Jessica at yoga and before class started she yanked up her pant leg and told me she’d been using coconut oil on her whole body. How’d they feel? So soft. So! Soft! And the smell doesn’t linger, for the record.
9. As a day-time hair tamer. Cute on your ends but I wouldn’t put this on the top of your head, especially if you’re blonde, because it looks really, really greasy.
10. Gluten-free and vegan baking. It’s a staple. It tastes really good and, it seems to me, is the only thing that can mask the chalky taste you get with most gluten-free baking. (Mmmmm Babycakes.)
What am I missing? Or what have you tried and loved—or hated?
There was an interesting article this morning on MSNBC about how some women just don’t care about formaldehyde if they can get frizz-free hair. From the piece:
“Chemicals are a way of life now,” says Stefeny Anderson, a 36-year-old event planner from Renton, Wash., who got her first Brazilian Blowout two weeks ago in an effort to tame “corkscrew curls” that frizz at the slightest hint of rain (a given in Washington state). “It’s not like you’re putting it in your hair every day.”
One thing we’ve tried to make abundantly clear is that if you know what’s in your products, and you want to go ahead and use them anyways because you like the cosmetic result, we think that’s fine. What is tricky about the Brazilian blowout, though, is that even if somene is cool with some formaldehyde, the workers are the ones being exposed to those fumes on a daily basis—to say nothing of the other clients in the salon at the time, who didn’t sign up for the BB.
Now if Brazilian blowouts were always done in glass boxes, like the weird smoking room at the airport, and everyone who walked in knew what they were signing up for—well, hey, that would be a different story.
What’s your take?
Yes, Brazilian blowouts are toxic. It’s official. But I’d like to talk about something else for a moment: They can also completely mess up your hair. Behold the unflattering exhibits above.
I was pretty shocked to revisit these pictures, and see just how awful my hair looked. Part of me was starting to think that I’d maybe overreacted at the time. I hadn’t.
If you’re wondering why I cataloged my hair like a crazy person, it’s because Siobhan and I were sending each other pictures like these over instant message to check in on whether our $400 blowouts were worth it. We sure thought so at first.
In picture 1, my hair felt silky smooth. I could even run my fingers through it, something that had never happened before (and hasn’t since). But beyond that first month of bliss? The situation started to seriously degrade. As my real hair tried to break through the toxic veneer, I was left with a dry, flat mess.
I really thought I’d ruined my hair for good. I went to the salon to complain, only to be scolded by a mean (and actually Brazilian) hairdresser. Just that morning we had Google-panicked about the treatment, but he yelled at me when I questioned its safety. I cried the entire drive home. Let me tell you, it was a rough few weeks.
Of course, my story has a happy ending. Eventually my hair came back to as the treatment washed out over time, and now it’s really healthy. That awful experience also happened to give us an idea for a book. You may have heard of it?
But my heart seriously goes out to the women who have shared their stories with us, some of whom are currently panicking about their hair just like we did. The other day I met a natural hairdresser who told me that she’s had to “treat” women whose hair began falling out from repeated Brazilians. I really find it heartbreaking!
I’ll be honest, I’m a little embarrassed to share these pictures—but I’m just so sick of hearing the rebuttals about why this toxic treatment is worth it.
Are you still convinced?