Black Owned Beauty Brands

I found this awesome infographic that lists black owned cosmetic brands from @nyjats Twitter. A great way to support the Black Lives Matter movement right now is to shop at black owned businesses.

Two of my favorites in this list: Mielle Organics for natural hair products, they don’t generally include drying alcohol or SLS ingredients! Then there’s Pat McGrath — I have a powder eyeshadow from this brand that I LOVE but I’m terrified of using because it’s, well, it’s that good, it never rubs off and the color payout is fantastic — so I’ll probably cry if and when it runs out.

I hope that everyone finds peace and safety in this time, and remember to amplify black voices! ~A

The Best and Worst of Products for Blondes

This is my first year alive on earth of being a platinum blonde. The learning curve is steep after years of black dye, which required essentially no maintenance besides root touch up every 3-4 weeks. But now, I’m up to my ears in products that are intended to repair damage, or to tone my hair to keep the brassiness at bay. Here’s my short list of a product that really works, and one that misses the mark.

Best: Shiny Silver Ultra Conditioning Shampoo. I’ve tried many a purple and blue shampoo since bayalaging my hair, but this shampoo is the only one that’s caused me to do a double take in the mirror after my hair’s dried. It really works! It looked as though I had just re-toned it. Not only that, but the toned, silvery-blonde color actually persisted for the next few days after use, instead of reverting back to brassy by the end of the day.

Of course, the reason this product works so well is because it is super-concentrated. Despite the fact you wash this product out after 2-3 minutes, it still takes a toll on your hair — it may feel a bit rough and dry, not unlike the results of a regular toner, although to a much lesser extent (it’s recommended to keep shampooing to a minimum anyways when you bleach your hair). Another thing I don’t love about this product is that isopropyl and benzyl alcohol both make an appearance, which may also contribute to the drying effect.

Still, if you feel like your hair is in a healthy enough state and you’re ready to stamp out some brassiness without completely re-toning, I absolutely recommend this $10 buy.

Worst: It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in for Blondes. This smells nice, but does it work? Only if you love crunchy hair! Even if are a light-handed spritzer, and you comb this through your hair in hopes of distributing evenly, this will cause your hair to clump up. A leave-in conditioner should be a little bit lighter, and less waxy than this one is.

I also didn’t experience that this product neutralized any brassiness at all, of any color. In fact, I think it almost enhanced the areas where a bit of yellow was coming through, which is an issue since my end goal is white-blonde. And, since this leave-in causes so much build-up and sticks around even after you try to wash it out, it seems like this wrecks the white-blonde color long term, or at least until you tone again.

I think this might only be beneficial to users who are trying to maintain yellow blonde, and perhaps have healthier hair that allows the leave-in to permeate the hair shaft more evenly, instead of clumping up. Otherwise, I’d skip this $14 leave-in. Weirdly, though, I still stan the original non-blonde version of It’s a 10 leave-in… ~A

Mielle Organics White Peony Leave-In Conditioner

Repairing my hair in it’s current state — bleached to oblivion — is no easy feat, and like anything else, is a work-in-process requiring work and time and tears shed over the chemically burned hair falling into my sink. That said, my hair masks and leave-in conditioners have their work cut out for them. This particular leave-in has done a great job putting moisture and shine back in considering the circumstances, but has a couple downfalls that will probably cause me to not repurchase.

This is not a picture of my ends, but it might as well be

I like Mielle’s line of cosmetics conceptually, since there’s a focus on organic ingredients and leaving out the “bad stuff”. This conditioner is no exception. We’ve got argan oil, coconut oil, white peony and green tea extracts, and jojoba oil, to name a few. No parabens, no sulfates, no drying alcohols. Also, their line tends to run on the lower end of price for mid-line products, so the price is right on this conditioner for $10.

The conditioner is pretty thick — in combination with a regular-sized sprayer, this makes it somewhat difficult to cover a large expanse of hair with one or two sprays. The best way to do this is to section your hair off.

Now, the important part: comb the sections you just sprayed immediately. Although the white coloration of the conditioner will fade, the product will emulsify quickly into a goopy mat in your hair if you don’t spread it out. This is my number one gripe about the product. I would comb it through a million times and yet, somehow, in the middle of the day, I would run my fingers through my hair and find that my hair was sticking together from the conditioner. Perhaps part of this is exacerbated by the pre-existing damage in my hair, and because this is a heavy leave-in, but… still, matting together after I’d already combed it through is just not cool.

The smell is weirdly abrasive past the five minute mark. Initially, it smells light and flowery, not unlike other leave-ins. But not long after, the smell becomes overly soapy — dare I say it, close to the sterile, hospital-cleaning-supply smell. Even without over-saturating the product, the smell never quite dissipates, and lingers throughout the day.

Ok, that’s enough of the cons… The pros of this product are that it can turn any monster mess of over-processed hair into a shiny, lustrous mane! My hair feels smooth to the touch. Heck, my hair feels strong and looks shiny, even when I wake up the next morning, the day after it’s initial use. And considering the conditioner itself is so thick, this doesn’t feel heavy or greasy in my hair.

This conditioner is top-notch for fly-aways. Now, again, considering how damaged my hair is, I expected nothing less than to have my split-ends flying away in the wind, for all to see. Instead, I seem to have less fly-aways and static-y hair than ever before, even before I started bleaching my hair. I think I can attribute that to hair masks, and this leave-in.

Unfortunately, due to the smell and the conditioners tendency to clump in my hair, I’ll probably look for other leave-in products first before re-buying this one. But overall, the efficacy of this conditioner is great, and I recommend it to anyone with over-processed hair, thick or thin. Thanks to this conditioner, I’ve been able to trick people into believing my hair is still healthy. Little do they know that I step out of the shower every day looking like a bowl of ramen noodles. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 2.5/5

Joico Color Balance Blue Conditioner

Now we all know that bleaching your hair isn’t really great for hair health, but you think perhaps a conditioner would help, at minimum, albeit temporarily, soften it up a bit. This blue conditioner by Joico… well, isn’t the one to do that.

For $15 you get 10oz of this lightly-scented conditioner. As you could probably guess by the name, it’s a blue conditioner, and the liqui-cream is colored blue. Get ready for random flecks of the conditioner to stain your tub! (don’t worry, you can still scrub it out). A lot of reviews online complain that this leaves a residue, but I didn’t at all find this to be the case. In fact, I felt that it washed out far too easily, and felt like I hadn’t really applied anything to my hair.

The way blue and purple shampoos and conditioners work is that, a few times a week, you would apply the shampoo and conditioner to your hair to lift the lighter color a bit, and cancel out the brassiness. You leave it on your hair for a few minutes, then wash it out. When it dries, ideally, some of the yellow/orange/red hues of the bleached portions would be less noticeable.

Now, to be fair to the conditioner, usually it’s the blue/purple shampoos that do the bulk of the heavy lifting — hair color lifting, that is 😉 — but I’ve used other blue conditioners as stand alone products, and found that they did a better job of removing the brass than Joico did. I really didn’t notice much of a change in my hair at all.

To make matters worse, every time I used this product I felt that my hair was a bit drier that day. It misses that whole “conditioning” bit of being a conditioner, where within the first hour of two of hopping out of the shower you feel like your hair is silky smooth. That never happens with this product — instead, my hair felt itchy and wiry to touch, and I sense that this promoted breakage.

There’s a lot of chemicals in this that I am unfamiliar with that could have caused that kind of outcome with my hair. I also neglected to notice the isopropyl alcohol creeping in the third to last line of the ingredient listing, which has never been good for me personally in either skin or hair products. All in all though, this is pass from me — there are better blue and purple conditioners out there. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 1/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5

Hask Cactus Water

I picked this up at Duane Reed while travelling, after I realized that I really can’t travel without bringing a leave-in product with me! It was cheap enough ($6) where I wouldn’t regret at least trying it out with only two seconds of prior research.

And… man I’m glad this only cost $6. This is a terrible product — at least for me. This is a 5 in 1 leave in spray — none of those five things actually seemed to come to fruition with my hair. Let’s take a look:

Claim 1: “Conditions and hydrates.” Absolutely not. Hair was drier after application. I would say my hair felt brittle, in fact, and I hadn’t even used any heat that day! In a weird way, this leave-in was almost tacky — not only was it drying out my hair, but I felt like the strands were sticking together, as well. Which, in turn, made my hair feel heavy and weighed-down.

Claim 2: “Detangles.” Although my hair is straight, it is extremely knotty post-shower. This did nothing to alleviate my situation.

Claim 3: “Resists humidity and reduces frizz.” It was a balmy 65 and sunny in NYC while I was using this. Now, I don’t think I noticed extra frizz, so that’s a good thing, at least, but as I mentioned before my hair was plain ol’ brittle-feeling. If humidity was a factor in this, then this leave-in did nothing to stop it.

Claim 4: “Repairs dry hair and breakage.” Nope! Split ends seemed more split-endy than ever. My hair was super dry, itchy to my skin, and rough to the touch.

Claim 5: “Adds shine”. Nah, this didn’t happen either. Maybe after the first three minutes of spraying it on, but not so much after that.

I will say that this smells AMAZING, and the smell persists after even several hours, which is nice. There’s nothing that’s necessarily “bad” in the ingredient listing either, although I noticed dimethicone and panthenol are both present. Leave-ins that I use and like don’t generally contain these, and I can’t help but wonder if the dimethicone is what’s causing my hair to feel sticky. I’ve also read some anecdotes about how panthenol, despite being an emolliating agent to make hair seem “slippery”, is not necessarily effective for all hair types. All that said, I still wouldn’t recommend it. ~A

Perceived efficacy: 1/5

Longevity: 3/5

How much I actually like this product: 1/5R

Hair Dye and Hair Health

I used to go into my hair appointments and flat out not pay attention to what they were doing. I hardly asked any questions: they were the experts, after all, (well, most of them were, anyway…) they knew what they were doing! But that’s just it: they are the experts, why was I holding back? Why wasn’t I asking them why my hair was constantly breaking off at the end?

I’ve gotten a myriad of different answers from different stylists, but they all seem to ask the same thing: “Are you using box dye?” All through high school and college my answer was always yes. I’d insist that the leave-in conditioner that Nice n Easy provided was enough to wipe out the damage the dyes were creating, but they always shook their heads and carried on silently, letting me live in my delusion.

Now, full disclosure, my hair still isn’t perfect. I have fly-aways like crazy, due to years of damage from heat and hair dye, abrupt weather changes and unfavorable indoor climate controls. My hair still falls out, a lot, and now that I have highlights, the breakage is at an all time high (thanks, bleach!). But I saw a picture of myself from seven years ago and I realized just how much my overall hair condition has changed. I attribute it to this “one secret trick that hair dressers don’t want you to know about! (Just kidding, they probably do want you to know about it so that they don’t have to tell you 50 times to stop using box dye): Switch to mixing your own hair dye.

The chemicals that are used in box dyes are just too strong for most hair types. Most of them have at least a 30 developer strength. The darker your hair, the less developing strength you need. Personally, I only use 10. On the occasion that I’ve used 20, my hair quality has suffered. I’m not even going to talk about how most box dyes usually slip a drying alcohol into the 2nd or 3rd ingredient, whereas I couldn’t find any even listed on my separately purchased developer and hair dye.

Now, because my hair is so dark, I can’t really speak to the process for lighter colored hair. It probably still stands that you will need a 30 or 40 developer, or bleach and toner as it applies. But I’d hazard a guess and say that you’re probably still better off not buying a box kit, solely due to the unneeded and questionably stronger ingredients that get put into it. I will say that ammonia is another not-so-great feature that pops up in the hair dye that I use today — but there are ammonia free options on the market, in both box dyes and separately purchased hair dyes.

The first time mixing on your own can be a little intimidating, but fear not, as the ratio of developer to color should be 50:50. Most mixing bowls have measurements marked on them, and you don’t necessarily have to even be super precise for the color to develop and ultimately process on your hair. Sally’s Beauty has always been my go-to supplier for hair dye and accessories, but I’ll link what I can back to Amazon even if it’s just for reference.

1- Put on an old shirt that you don’t mind getting dye on. Cover your “work station” with newspaper or towels. Put on some gloves. Any non-powder latex or vinyl glove will do. Buy them online and/or in bulk: they sell ’em at Sally’s, but they’re too expensive. Here are some cool purple gloves: https://amzn.to/2I6owxY

2- Find an occlusive to put onto your skin around the hair line. This makes the dye a lot easier to “wipe off” if you accidentally get it on your skin. Elta MD’s Intense Moisture does the trick: https://amzn.to/2UClPtV

3- Get out your dye bowl and brush: https://amzn.to/2I2g3f7

4- Put the developer into the bowl first. The amount you put in the bowl will depend on the length of your hair, but just keep in mind that the ratio of the developer to the color should be about 1:1. If there are measurements on the bowl that you purchased, you could put enough developer to reach the “1” line. I use this 10 volume developer, but again the number could increase depending on the lightness of your hair: https://amzn.to/2I6p1bk

5- Put the hair dye in the bowl over top of the developer. If you have measurement markers, squeeze enough color out of the tube to reach the “2” line, or whatever will accomplish a 1:1 ratio with the developer. Throw the excess hair dye away, since breaking the seal exposes it to air and will degrade the product before you can use it for your next color. I use this hair dye by Zotos: https://amzn.to/2WWhoI3

6- Now all the same rules apply as regular hair dye! Alternate between mixing the product, and sitting and waiting until the color has started to develop. Once the color is showing, you can go ahead and use your brush to apply. Wait 25-60 minutes, and then wash off. ~A

Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray

Now that I have medium length hair and bayalage highlights, what better thing to do then to copy every girl on Pinterest by putting small waves into my hair? I figured maybe instead of subjecting my hair to the straightener-turned-curler every day, this product would just, ya know, do all the work for me.

This was really cheap, about $4 for a good amount of product. It comes in a spray bottle, and has a fresh baby-powder smell when you spray it. It does smell and taste (oops, hair in my mouth!) salty, more noticeably after a few hours have passed with the product on. Here are a few of my observations, based on the condition of my hair when spraying:

Wet hair: the “tease” factor didn’t really stick around once my wet hair had dried with this product on it, although it did make my hair strands separate and looking stringier. Not really the desired effect without any texture, though.

Dry, straight hair: made my hair stick together, even after spreading the product throughout and texturizing with my fingers. This didn’t really produce much of a “stringy” effect as it did with the wet hair, so the end result was just giant clumps of hair sticking together unfashionably.

Dry hair with waves already in it via straightener: now THIS is what the product was meant for, I think. If you’ve already got a few waves going on and then spritz this stuff in, it will 100% legitimatize the Pinterest “wave” look you’re trying to go for. You have to be careful because too much of the product will weigh the initial waves down, but if you aim it toward the ends of the hair follicle, your hair strands will start to split out from one another, creating the jagged, stylishly messy texture.

I was really impressed by the hold-time of this spray. Even though I would probably term it as a light-medium hold, I was impressed by how long it seemed to hold the texture up, at least 10 hours at my longest stretch.

This is a neat little buy for such a cheap price. No, it’s not an instant hairstyle in a bottle as I would have hoped, but it’s an awesome additive if you already have waves in your hair. ~A

To get those coveted beachy waves, click here:https://amzn.to/2OnAvHM

Perceived efficacy: 4/5

Longevity: 5/5

How much I actually like this product: 4/5

Eva NYC Mane Magic 10-in-1 Primer

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not super well-versed in hair products. For a long time I was always a big fan of air-dry and go, but things have changed in the past two years: I like straighteners and hairdryers, and heat.  That said, I needed a thermal protectant — but I also now use this on days I don’t style my hair, and I’ve noticed an overall increase in my hair quality.

This comes in a spray bottle — when you pull the trigger, a very fine mist will come out of the bottle, enough to cover a pretty big portion of your hair. Obviously the amount you use is dependent on your hair thickness and length, but I don’t feel that I need to use a lot of it to get the full effect. The smell is very pleasant and not overpowering. It smells like a lot of other argan oil products I’ve used — I’ve also been informed that my hair “smells like a dryer sheet” when I’ve used it. I’m going to chalk that up as a good thing, I guess.

This really does do everything it says it will. It works great as a detangler. My straight hair is extremely knotty right out of the shower, and it’s easy to push a comb through once I’ve spritzed this on. As a thermal protectant, it’s definitely doing it’s job, and the amount of split ends I’ve incurred have been reduced dramatically, had I not been using this, or had I been using another product. This is pretty good for frizz control also — not necessarily a long lasting frizz control, but certainly longer than any I’ve used in the past.

This product is NOT heavy at all, unless you go overboard with application. That was my biggest gripe with other detanglers and heat protectants: they were way too greasy! Your hair will feel silky to touch and look shiny for the first 4-5 hours, and I don’t ever lapse into that “ugh I really have to wash this out” feeling. Now again, note that I said 4-5 hours — this is really the prime window for this product in terms of “seeing the results” for all of it’s purported benefits, but even past that time frame, I can still say that the overall health and quality of my hair is increased.

Now the only thing I wanted to note about this product is that it contains the ingredient “lilial”. It can be a skin irritant for some individuals, and cause the potential for skin issues on your scalp or near your hair line.

The price point on this is pretty good — $12, and this bottle will hold up for about three months even if you’re using it daily. And for the final bonus, the very tall sprayer on this bottle has survived many unintentional drops on the ground, and didn’t break. Tresemme Thermal Creations had failed me many times in this regard 🙂 ~A

Buy this hair primer on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/2U5ONim

Perceived efficacy: 5/5

Longevity: 3.5/5

How much I actually like this product: 5/5