Conditioners: what, why, how

plastic bottles on shelf
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

If you have been in curly girl world long enough, you know that we love conditioner. Really love it. In fact, love is probably not a strong enough word for how we feel about conditioner. I believe “worship” is a better word for it.

Why is this? Well, curly hair tends to be dryer than our straight-haired friends because it takes longer for the oil produced on our scalps to move down the hair shaft. It’s like driving over lots and lots of hills. Some curly haired folks can get away with only washing their hair once a week because of this.

Also, depending on how quickly and easily your hair absorbs moisture (porosity), it can be harder to keep curls moisturized. High porosity hair likes to chug all the moisture at once and can’t seem to get enough. Low porosity hair has a harder time absorbing the moisture initially, but tends to hold onto it longer. I have high porosity hair myself and sometimes joke that it has a drinking problem, which is ironic because I myself do not drink.

More than one kind?

Did you know there are different types of conditioner? It’s true. Rinse out conditioners, leave-in conditioners, pre-poos, co-washes, deep conditioners….wait, there’s a difference? Yup!

Like I said, curly girls LOVE their conditioners.

What’s the difference between rinse out, leave-in, pre-poo conditioners, and deep conditioners?

Get yourself comfortable, this may take a bit. I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible.

Rinse out conditioners

This is self explanatory. You apply conditioner, detangle, leave it in for a few minutes, and rinse it out. Basically, conditioner.

Rinse out conditioners help restore any moisture lost while shampooing and can help in the detangling process. Some curly girls don’t rinse out their conditioners, but I only do this if the product says it can be left in. I’m kind of weird like that, I guess.

Leave-in conditioners

Conditioner you leave in. I like to think of it like facial moisturizer or makeup primer–it gets your hair ready for styling products. Curly girls tend to use more than one styling product, and I’ve found for myself that if I don’t apply leave-in conditioner before my stylers, the stylers will dry my hair out. Some folks (especially those with fine and/or low porosity hair) can skip leave-in conditioners. I am not someone who can skip leave-in conditioner. My hair is dry and thirsty.

Conditioner Washing

Also known as “co-washing”.

Back in the dark ages when curly hair products were not really available, Lorraine Massey came along with her Curly Girl Handbook and suggested using silicone free conditioner instead of traditional shampoo to cleanse the scalp and hair. For best results, you massage your scalp for several minutes to get the dirt and oil off.

Now that it’s 2020, curly girl products are much more accessible and it’s pretty normal to see products with “co-wash” and “cleansing conditioner” on the label. We also have access to sulfate free shampoos (also called “low poos”)

I tend to use sulfate free shampoos because while my hair is dry, my scalp is fussy. I have scalp psoriasis and dandruff, so I need something a little more cleansing than a co-wash. However, I make an exception for this hair cleanser.

Deep Conditioner

Deep conditioners are designed to penetrate deeper into your hair to moisturize and hydrate. These are not meant to be used every day or else your hair will get moisture overload (yes, that is a thing). The general recommendation is once a week, but everyone’s hair is different.

Are you still confused?

I hope my explanation didn’t confuse you too much! Learning how to manage your curly/wavy hair is super intimidating at first. But if you learn nothing else, learn to love conditioner. Here are some of my personal favorites and what I use them for:

Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk 3-in-1 Conditioner–I use this after I shampoo and just leave it in. You can find this at Walmart, Target, and Ulta.

Tresemme Botanique Nourish and Replenish Conditioner–I rinse this out. It’s also cheap and you can find it just about everywhere. Tresemme has recently come out with a sulfate and silicone free line called Pro Pure that may be worth checking out.

Kinky Curly Knot Today–Leave In Conditioner that can be rinsed out

Jessicurl Deep Conditioner Treatment–deep conditioner, but you can leave it in (I haven’t)

Pacifica Pineapple Curls Conditioner–I rinse this out, but some leave it in (not marketed as a leave-in) There is also a Deep Conditioner from the Pineapple Curls line as well that I like.

Mop Top Leave-in Conditioner–it smells absolutely divine and I love using it in the summer. It’s available on Amazon (it’s an authorized Mop Top distributor)

SheaMoisture Manuka Honey and Yogurt Hydrate and Repair Treatment: this is technically a protein treatment with moisturizing properties. I like using it when my curls are losing a bit of their spring.

My Soigne Hair Cleanser–possibly the only co-wash I have ever liked. Most co-washes aggravate my scalp, but not this one!

 

Do you have a favorite conditioner that you don’t see listed? What conditioner(s) do you use?

My Itchy Scalp Secret Weapons

 

Boy look up and scratches his head
Photo by Igor Stepovic

I have struggled with itchy, flaky scalp for a significant portion of my life. Heck, my parents have even said that I had the worst cradle cap as an infant. Then to add insult to injury, I was diagnosed with scalp psoriasis (on top of the dandruff I already have) when I was 30. Needless to say, I’ve gone through a lot of products marketed for itchy, flaky scalps. And I do mean A LOT.

Another part of the challenge of having itchy scalp issues is finding products that won’t completely dry me out. It wasn’t until recently that companies have come out with sulfate and silicone free dandruff products. I really had to look high and low.

So, here are some products and techniques that have worked for me to keep my scalp healthy and keep the itching/flaking at bay.

Jason Dandruff Treatment Shampoo

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Image from jason-personalcare.com

When I was first diagnosed with scalp psoriasis, my dermatologist recommended a clinical strength shampoo from a popular dandruff shampoo brand. Because I prefer not to have sulfates and silicones in my shampoos, I looked into alternatives. I looked up the active ingredients in the clinical strength shampoo and did a search for sulfate free shampoos that had it. Lo and behold, this Jason Dandruff Shampoo was on top of the list and at the time I could find it at my local Kroger. I used it religiously for a few months, and now I use it as a periodic clarifying shampoo, since it is a little drying.

Shampoo Brush

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Image from MySoigne.com

Don’t have a shampoo brush? Get one! My favorite is this one from My Soigne. I love it because it’s all one piece and the bristles are the perfect balance between firm and soft. Also, it’s lavender.

Witch I Love Your Hair Magic Hair Mist

I tried a lot of scalp oils and all they really did was make my hair look greasy, cause breakouts on my forehead, and just didn’t make much difference. I know scalp oils can work great for many other curly haired folks, but unfortunately I am not one of them. I had seen Witch I Love Your Hair all over Instagram, but hadn’t tried it for whatever reason. I finally took the plunge and ordered a bottle and I was immediately impressed. It has peppermint, lavender, and rosemary essential oils (all great for scalp health) in addition to Jamaican Black Castor Oil and Argan Oil. I like to spray it directly on to my scalp and massage it in for the best results.

My Soigne Hair Cleanser

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Image by MySoigne.com

The My Soigne Hair Cleanser is probably the ONLY co-wash I have ever liked on my scalp. It has aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, jojoba oil, jojoba esters, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil. The little jojoba esters help clean the scalp without drying it out. Also, the esters rinse out pretty easily. I’ve tried some scalp exfoliating scrubs that took me FOREVER to get completely rinsed out.

I even gave this cleanser AND the scalp brush to my mom for Christmas, and she loves them.

Also, the owner of My Soigne is amazing and super sweet. She also has a baby girl who is so cute that my ovaries explode every time she shares pictures of her.

Coal Tar Shampoo Hack

Coal Tar Shampoo is one of those necessary evils for those of us with scalp psoriasis. It smells nasty and can be extremely drying, but it can help. I don’t have to use it very often now, but when I do, I do this to keep it from drying my hair out:

Use it with my deep conditioning treatment.

You see, the instructions on the coal tar shampoo bottle say to leave it on for “several” minutes for it to be effective. What else do we curly girls do for several minutes every so often? Deep condition!

So…how do I do this?

Apply the coal tar shampoo to the affected parts of my scalp. Then I work the deep conditioner into the rest of my hair, and leave it in for however long I decide to leave it in.

Then I rinse the deep conditioner AND coal tar shampoo out. My scalp gets what it needs AND my hair doesn’t get dried out.

T-Sal Shampoo

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Image from neutrogenamd.com

In my research for sulfate free shampoos, I found out that the Neutrogena T-Sal Shampoo is sulfate free. It does have sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate in it, which is one of the more cleansing surfactants in sulfate free shampoos. This shampoo is meant to be a clarifying shampoo, so not meant to be used everyday, but we curly girls don’t usually wash our hair everyday.

How about you?

These are a few of the things that have been working for me. If you’ve had luck with these products, or you have other products that have worked well for your own itchy scalp issues, let me know! I’m always looking for something that itchy curly girls can love.

 

 

Roots and Boots Review

This was my first time receiving a hair product free for review, and yet my original interactions with the people behind Roots and Boots LLC were not hair related at all. I met Katie in a Facebook group completely unrelated to haircare, but the topic of curly hair came up and she offered to send me some of her products to try out.

Roots and Boots does not exclusively sell hair care products. In fact, it’s only a small part of what they sell. They sell handmade soaps, skincare products, lotion bars, pain relief lotions/oils, bath bombs, etc. They even have a section called “Jacob Friendly”; these particular products are safe for those who have allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, soy, and melons. As the mother of a child with food allergies, I think this is extremely thoughtful.

The women behind Roots and Boots are Anna and Katie: two moms who struggle with chronic health conditions. They started Roots and Boots to help other people like them. Their philosophy behind their products: if they won’t use the products on their families, they won’t sell it.

I chose to try out the Lemon and Lavender Shampoo, Lemon and Lavender Conditioner, and Lemongrass and Ginger Detangler.

First off, I want to rave about the customer service. When my products arrived, the conditioner pump did not work and they sent me a new pump right away! There is even an option when you are ordering to let them know if you have any sensitivities or allergies so they can accommodate you. I had questions about the ingredients in the detangling spray and they answered them right away. Also, the products came wrapped in pretty fabric rather than paper and plastic! I love me some pretty fabric.

Katie told me that she loved how lightweight the products were on her hair. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical of this because I normally want ALL THE MOISTURE. My hair is naturally dry, after all. I also don’t normally use detangling sprays.

The shampoo and conditioner both smell lovely: citrusy and floral. Nothing too overwhelming. The shampoo has a liquid gel consistency while the conditioner is very liquidy.

I felt like the shampoo cleaned my scalp enough without drying me out, and it didn’t seem to aggravate my flaky scalp issues. It lathered up pretty nicely too.

As I previously said, the conditioner is very liquidy. Normally, the conditioners I use are super creamy, so this was a new experience for me *laughs*. I had to use a fair bit to get the right amount of slip, but this is par for the course for curly haired folks. But the nice thing about this conditioner is that if you have dry hair (like me), you don’t have to rinse it out completely.

I mentioned above that I don’t normally use detangling sprays because they tend to be too light for me.

The spray has kind of a spicy citrus smell that I didn’t care for at first, but it has grown on me. I tried using this on my daughters’ hair, but neither of them liked the fragrance. Otherwise, the detangler worked great in their hair.

The slip isn’t amazing in my own hair, but since I do almost all my detangling in the shower, I don’t need a ton of slip in my leave-in conditioners

For my first time using the Roots and Boots line, I decided to use just the shampoo, conditioner, and detangling spray without any other stylers just to get a baseline for how my hair would look. I was expecting my hair to be completely frizzy by day three with no styling products. Remember my skepticism about how “lightweight” the products were?

These pictures are how my hair looked for three days without any styling products besides the detanger. I was pleasantly surprised. While yes, my hair was on the frizzy side by the third day…it was the voluminous, beachy waves kind of frizz.

I admit that volume wasn’t a big priority for me when I first started embracing my curls fully. In fact, I wanted nothing to do with volume. Because to me, volume meant frizz and frizz was to be avoided at all costs.

But thanks to these products, I am starting to embrace my volume as a natural part of my texture. Even if there’s a little frizz.

The only improvement I would suggest is a wider range of scents and maybe some thicker, creamier products for those who want extra moisture.

All in all, I enjoyed trying the Roots and Boots hair products out and I learned even more how to embrace my waves. If you’re looking for sulfate free, silicone free, natural hair products that are reasonably priced AND you want to support a small business, then you want to try out Roots and Boots.

Sample Saturday: Jessicurl

Bag of Jessicurl Samples

Jessicurl is a popular curly hair brand started by a woman named Jess. She couldn’t find any products that worked for her curly hair and found a recipe for flaxseed gel online. She tried it out (and made her own tweaks in the process) and loved the results so much that she shared the recipe in the Curl Talk community, and her inbox got flooded with offers to buy bottles of her concoction. The product Rockin’ Ringlets was born, and subsequently this brought about the creation of many more products. Never did Jess dream that her discovery would turn into a business!

I hesitated about trying out the Jessicurl products because well, at around $16.95 a bottle, they are not cheap. Then I remembered that Jessicurl offers samples to order from the website–all you have to pay is shipping and handling (only $3.10 for me).

What did I get?

Gentle Lather Shampoo

Sulfate free cleansing that won’t weigh hair down

Too Shea Conditioner

Daily conditioning for dry thirsty curls

Deep Conditioner

Intense pampering for dry hair

Aloeba Conditioner

Weightless moisture for dry hair (I used this as a leave-in in my LCEG routine)

Confident Coils

Defines touchably soft curls in all climates 

Rockin’ Ringlets

Encourage and enhance curls

Spiralicious

Provides all day hold and frizz control for all hair types

All products are sulfate free, silicone free, drying alcohol free, mineral oil free, etc. If you have gluten sensitivities, Jessicurl products are also gluten free. While the samples are unscented by default, full size products have three fragrance options: Unscented, Citrus Lavender, and Tropical Fantasy.

First Impression

Overall, I was pleased with the products. The shampoo lathered and cleaned nicely. The conditioners were all moisturizing and there wasn’t nearly enough of them, but alas, that is the problem many curly girls face: not enough conditioner. I think I could have done without the Confident Coils. I thought Confident Coils was just a cream, but it’s a cream gel just like the Spiralicious, just less hold than Spiralicious. I think both of them together were just a bit too heavy for me.

If I were to do the styling routine over again, I would go with one of the conditioners as a leave-in (they all can be used as leave-in conditioners, even the deep conditioner), Rockin’ Ringlets, and then Spiralicious. But, despite feeling a bit weighed down, I had some nice clumping and definition until my next wash day.

 

First Day Hair with Jessicurl products

Third Day Hair with Jessicurl products
Third Day Hair

Would I buy the full size products?

I definitely want to try the Rockin’ Ringlets and Spiralicious Gel again. I wouldn’t get Confident Coils again simply because combining it with the Spiraicious was just too much for me. The Jessicurl products don’t have a lot of protein in them, so I think I would need to use a product with a little protein to give my curls that extra bounce. I also wouldn’t mind trying Too Shea as a leave-in. The Aloeba was nice, but it is meant for fine hair (my hair is pretty coarse).

Purchasing information

You can get free samples from the main Jessicurl website for only the cost of shipping and handling. Full sized Jessicurl products cost around $16.95 and you can pick from three fragrance options: no fragrance, Citrus Lavender, and Tropical Fantasy. You can also purchase Jessicurl through Curl Mart.

Sample Saturday: Sashapure

sashapure product samples

I recently started doing Sample Saturday on my Instagram page because I have a bunch of samples that I received from Curl Mart purchases (three samples in every order) and I needed to use them. Sample Saturday is my way of using them up and trying something new without buying more stuff.

Wait, I got most of the samples from buying stuff to begin with…

But the point is that I’m not spending more money, at least right now.

The Brand

For this Sample Saturday review, I used samples from Sashapure. The brand boasts of using Certified Peruvian Sacha Inchii Oil, which is an oil that is rich in protein, omegas 3-6-9, and vitamins A and E. It comes from the Sacha Inchii plant in South America that can also be eaten and is claimed to be a superfood.  On their website Sashapure says that they are the first haircare brand to use USDA-certified organic and sustainably harvested Sacha Inchii Oil.

On the main Sashpure website, there are six products: Healing Shampoo, Healing Conditioner, Restorative Conditioning Mask, Re-hydrating Cleansing Conditioner, Perfectly Defining Curl Cream, Smoothing & Shine Hair Treatment, and Deeply Therapeutic Hair, Scalp, and Skin Elixir. The prices range from $11.99 to $15.99. So, they are about mid-range in cost. You can purchase from the website, or you can order them from Curl Mart.

I got three samples in a past Curl Mart delivery: Healing Shampoo, Healing Conditioner, and the Hair Elixir.

First Impressions

I was pretty happy with the shampoo and conditioner, though I wish there had been more product in the little packets. I was able to squeeze out just enough of the shampoo to work through my thick hair, but there wasn’t nearly enough conditioner for my liking. Of course, is there ever enough conditioner in Curly Girl World? I managed to get just enough conditioner to detangle, but I did not have high hopes for how my hair would turn out.

I used the elixir after I applied my Kinky Curly Knot Today leave-in conditioner and before gel. For Sampe Saturdays, I like to keep styling product usage to a minimum so I can see how much the samples work. My first impression of the elixir was that it STINKS! It smelled really, really grassy. It smelled like fresh cut grass with a touch of gasoline. At first I was just going to stop after the elixir, but I HAD to put something else in my hair to cancel out the smell because I couldn’t stand it. So, I scrunched in some LA Looks gel.

Looking at some online reviews, the fragrance is the most commonly disliked part of the elixir. If Sashapure could do something about that, that would be great.

I should add that the fragrance in the shampoo and conditioner was mild and actually quite pleasant. I was really disappointed in how the elxir smelled.

Would I buy the product?

All in all, I wasn’t expecting much out of this experiment, but once my hair dried, I was pleasantly surprised. I had nice, beachy waves. Normally, I focus on curl definition, but I actually kind of liked the looser look. I am on Day Three hair as I write this, and the look has been holding.

 

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Day 1 after air drying completely
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Day 2 and feeling a little lazy. Refreshed with leave-in conditioner
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Day Three and refreshed with leave-in conditioner and spray gel

However, my scalp is a little itchy on Day Three, but that’s kind of normal for me when it’s getting close to my next wash day. I’m just prone to having an itchy scalp because of some scalp psoriasis

Would I buy these products in full size? I might buy the shampoo and conditioner to try out in the larger bottles. I would not get the elixir again based on the smell alone. There have got to be just as good products on the market that don’t smell so bad. I am interested in trying the hair mask and the curl cream (voted Best Curl Cream 2017 in People Magazine!)

The product designs are nice too–not at all fancy, but attractive nonetheless. As far as I can tell, most of the products are curly girl friendly, except for the Smoothing and Shine Treatment, which does contain silicones.

Have you heard of Sashapure hair products? Have you tried them? Let me know in the comments below!

Unpopular opinions: I use parabens

I only avoid four ingredients in my hair products: sulfates, silicones, drying alcohols, and mineral oil. If you read this post, then you know why.

You may notice that parabens are not on that list of things I avoid.

WHY?!

I don’t avoid parabens because avoiding sulfates, silicones, drying alcohols, and mineral oil is more important to me. I’ve picked up many a bottle of “paraben free” shampoo and conditioner only to put them back on the shelf because they had sulfates and/or silicones in them.

Now, I don’t go completely out of my way to avoid “paraben free” products because the term is so ubiquitous now, especially in curly hair products. But if a product has parabens but is otherwise free of the four ingredients I try to avoid, then I’ll probably try it out. Bonus points if it smells amazing.

There are a lot of people who choose to avoid parabens because of some poorly understood/poorly designed studies claiming they are hormone disruptors and could cause cancer.  Lab Muffin has an amazing blog post about this where she explains it all better than I ever could.

At this point in time, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that parabens are harmful, especially at the tiny, tiny amounts they are used. They are effective preservatives and they are actually natural because get this, they are naturally occuring in….FRUITS AND PLANTS!!!! That’s right, fruits and plants. I was pretty surprised when I found this out.

Now, if you want to avoid parabens, that is a perfectly valid choice to make. Just know that it may be difficult to avoid them completely because they are *everywhere*, maybe even in products that market themselves as being paraben free.

Of course, there is such a thing as being allergic or sensitive to parabens. It is extremely rare, but it does exist. If you are one of those few people who are allergic to products with parabens, then of course you must avoid them! I have a daughter who is severely allergic to cashews, but I’m not going around telling everyone not to eat cashews because of it.

If you want to read more about the safety of parabens, check out these other blog posts. Some of them also include links to studies 🙂

Beautiful With Brains

Lab Muffin

Cosmetics Cop

 

 

How I treated my scalp psoriasis without drying out my curls

I discovered a red flaky rash on the back of my neck at the hairline in 2017. Here is what it looked like back then:

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Needless to say, I was very self conscious about wearing my hair back in any fashion. I tried treating it with hydrocortisone cream, antifungal cream, various oils, all to no avail. I finally saw a dermatologist in October 2017 and he promptly diagnosed me with scalp psoriasis and prescribed medication and shampoos to help.

Not all of these recommendations were Curly Girl friendly, and I knew that even sulfate-free dandruff shampoos could be drying. How was I supposed to heal my scalp while maintaining my curls? Well, I did some reading and experimenting, and this is the result:

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No more rash, and I did it while still following the Curly Girl Method.

These are some tips that worked for me along the way:

(1) Condition your ends before applying dandruff shampoo to your scalp. Like I said, even sulfate free dandruff shampoos are drying, so keeping your ends moisturized is critical. Applying conditioner to your ends (also known as pre-pooing) will make it so when you rinse the dandruff shampoo out of your scalp, the shampoo won’t dry your ends out.

(2) Co-washing is a no-no. Unfortunately, scalp issues and co-washing do not go well together. For those of us with itchy scalp issues, co-washing can only make things worse. There are plenty of sulfate free shampoos on the market that won’t dry your hair out. Now, if you do insist on co-washing, you will need to use a clarifying shampoo more frequently if you have scalp issues.

(3) Tea tree and peppermint are you friends. When you get to the point where you don’t need to use the dandruff shampoo so frequently, shampoos with tea tree and peppermint oils are great for soothing itchy scalps.

(4) Deep condition regularly. This is a rule for every curly girl to follow, but especially if you have to use dandruff shampoos on a regular basis. Even if it’s just for a few minutes in the shower, use a nice thick deep conditioner on your ends to keep them moisturizing.

(5) Use any medications your dermatologist prescribes, as prescribed. My dermatologist prescribed Clobetasol to apply on the rash itself, and I usually applied it to my clean scalp before I used any styling products.

While my rash has healed for now, I know that I am still prone to getting a flareup, so I have to be mindful. I don’t have to use the medication or the dandruff shampoo as regularly, but when I feel that itch coming on, I’ll be reaching for them.

So, if you are struggling with an itchy, flaky scalp and nothing seems to be working, don’t be afraid to see a board-certified dermatologist. There are ways to treat your scalp issues and not dry your curls out.

Also remember: healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp.

When I saw my dermatologist for a followup two months after starting the treatment plan, he couldn’t find any traces of the scalp psoriasis. Woo-hoo!

If you have problems with itchy, flaky scalp or even scalp psoriasis, what have you done? Let me know!

The products I used/still use:

Clobetasol (available by prescription only)

Jason Organics Dandruff Treatment Shampoo (you can find this in health food sections and even on Amazon)

Neutrogena T-Gel (only on affected areas)

Shea Moisture African Black Soap Shampoo

Articles that helped:

How to Use Dandruff Shampoo-without drying your hair out

How to Treat Scalp Psoriasis, According to The Hair Doctor