Pittsburgh Curly

A Curly Girl in da ‘Burgh

Wow, it’s getting long.

Posted by pittsburghcurly on July 25, 2009

You think I would know this. But, it just kind of caught me by surprise. I never really pay attention to the back of my head. I arrange the curls after I get out of the shower, and that is about it. I’m a lazy styler if I’m leaving my hair down. Since I don’t see the back of my head, I guess I just don’t bother to look at it much.

Last week, I noticed that my hair was getting in my way when it normally didn’t. Then I actually paid attention and noticed that it gained some length that I didn’t really notice. I also had better curl formation than I previously had the last time I was this length, so something is working!

I also suck at back-of-the head photo shots, but I did manage do snap one half-decent one.

So, here is my current length in the back.



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The Battle of Trichorrhexis Nodosa

Posted by pittsburghcurly on July 5, 2009

White dot on hair - magnified

White dot on hair - magnified

Trichorrhexis nodosa. To me, the term sounds like something out of Spartan history. I see the term  and think of the Battle of Thermopylae and the never ending chiseled abs seen in “300.”

But alas, I am not writing about male chiseled abs. I am writing about white dots, which is a more user-friendly term than saying trichorrhexis nodosa all the time.

For a medical description, you can click the emedicine link here.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going by the PG definition.

Trichorrhexis nodosa
This is an explosion of the cortex at a single point on the hair. It looks like a tiny white bead on the hair, and can lead to hair breakage. It is a classic sign of cosmetic and chemical over-treatment of the hair. So its appearance should always prompt the thought, ‘What is this person doing to the hair more than the rest of us are doing?

I had plenty of these white dots. I sort of enjoyed picking the ends of them off, and hearing that snap of hair. No, it wasn’t healthy, but it was sort of gratifying.

It’s not unusual for curlies, especially those with longer hair to be plagued by split ends and the white dots. I would trim them up on my own now and again. I have a pair of hair scissors that I keep around just for split end trimming. Using them for anything else would dull the blades. I don’t believe in the whole “split-end repair” hype that some products claim. Splits are broken hairs, and can be best managed by snipping them. For me, the splits and dots tangle up on neighboring hairs, causing more knots and more splits.

Previously, along with coloring my hair, I diffused it dry regularly. At my length, and with the heat and chemicals, I had the splits and dots to show it. In January, it was more than I could keep up with while doing my own mini trims, so I had a 3 inch trim with my color appointment. The ends felt much better.

After that, I decided to stop heat drying my hair. This seemed ridiculous as we had a cold winter, but, I went for it. Fortunately, I work a shift that allows plenty of drying time if I allow it.

I’ve been fairly lazy about looking for splits since that last trim. Today, while sitting out on the porch in lovely, sunny, mild weather, I decided to snip a few splits and dots. Imagine my surprise when I had maybe ten ends to trim. That’s it. I haven’t had a trim in half a year, I am still getting my hair colored, and here I am with a couple of hand-fulls of split ends. I was surprised and quite pleased.

I had worried that the coloring had been doing most of the split damage. I suppose that I was getting more damage from heat drying (chronic use) than I was from coloring (occasional use).

I’m glad to see that my decision to go to air drying has paid off with better ends. Yeah, sometimes I run around with wet looking hair, especially when heavily gelled! But, at least with gel, I have an excuse for the wet look, lol. The payoff of better ends is worth it to me. And, I can still keep coloring. 😛

If you’re getting a lots of split ends and white dots yourself, and you heat dry and heat style a lot, you may want to consider air drying part of the time to help your ends.

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Protein vs Moisture

Posted by pittsburghcurly on June 28, 2009

balanceAnyone who has spent any time at all on hair message boards will eventually run across various thoughts about protein. Some love it, some hate it, others are confused by it.

Having hair that is on the coarse side, I have a strong dislike for most proteins. When I started trying to change how I cared for my curls, I had a long process of having too much protein and too little moisture for my hair. I lost a lot of curl, my hair became quite brittle, and parts of it would just snap right off. After A LOT of trial and error, I found that to keep a proper moisture balance in my hair, I needed very little protein and fairly frequent moisture.

But, how do you know if you need protein or moisture? Well, there is already an excellent article about that. It gives great scenarios, and it teaches you how to test your own hair to see how you are on the moisture/protein balance spectrum.

Apart from the testing there, there are a couple of other things that I use to see if I need protein or moisture.

If I am having an unusual amount of frizz on my canopy (the outermost layer of hair) I usually hit it with moisture first because my hair type tends to lack moisture more often than it lacks protein. If that doesn’t help, then I may try an ACV rinse to help seal the cuticle. If I still don’t get good results, then I know I need some protein. This usually does the trick, and the canopy frizz will then be resolved. I use protein last only because I need less of it than others do.

If only my ends are crunchy, I look at it from many angles since this one can be more complicated. The ends are the oldest parts of your hair, so they can be the most moisture starved. But, they can also be the most porous, so they could also need more protein. Also, crunchy ends can just be from buildup from products and conditioners and such. Clarifying with a cleanser or shampoo of your choice should help.

The first thing I do with crunchy ends it to give them an extra hit of moisture by leaving a rich conditioner on my ends. I usually use my Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose or Curl Junkie Curl Rehab for this.

If that doesn’t help, I may try protein.

If it persists, I use a gentle shampoo on the ends (since I don’t use daily shampoo) to get whatever buildup may be on there.

Some people also have problems with hard water, and that can give you crunchy ends that none of the treatments above will fix. For that, you need a chelating shampoo, which will contain EDTA in the ingredients list. If you get frequent hard water buildup on your hair, you may want to look into a shower filter for hard water.

Those of you with finer hair will usually need more protein than those with coarse hair. Coarse hair has its own protein already built in, so it needs less of it from products. Finer hair does not have as much protein built in, and it can benefit from the strengthening properties protein can give it. But, as with everything else, there are always exceptions, so the tests provided in the link above will help you to be more precise.

Also, weather can play a role. I need very little protein in the winter, but can take more of it in the summer.

Another common question is: “How do I know if my product has a protein?”

While the list of proteins can be lengthy, there are a few simple guidelines to help you find them

If an ingredient says protein, it’s a protein. I know it seems obvious, but people do ask. 🙂

If it says “amino acid” then it will act like protein on your hair. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.

Just about any ingredient that has the word “hydrolyzed” before it will be a protein. Hydrolyzed itself does not mean protein, but hydrolyzation in conditioner world often means that a large protein has been broken down into a smaller one to make the protein more easily used by the hair. Hydrolyzed wheat, soy, and silk are common.

Plant extracts. Plants contain protein, and so do their extracts. This category is not as commonly problematic as hydrolyzed grains, but they still do bother some. One high protein treatment I have seen is essentially a long list of grass extracts!

Plant oils, when properly processed, should be protein free. Look at any nutrition label of any 100% oil. You’ll see that there is no protein. Some natural websites that sell wheat germ oil claim that wheat germ oil contains proteins. An article by the Curl Chemist addresses this.

Coconut oil. Although it does not contain protein, coconut oil has been shown to reduce protein loss in hair. For some, this acts just like having protein buildup on hair. Coconut milk contains actual protein.

Jojoba oil is technically a liquid wax and may contain small amounts of protein.

What does too much or too little protein look like?

When I had too much protein, my hair lost its curl and was dry and crunchy. Here’s a pic.

Too Much Protein

Too Much Protein

After getting rid of protein in my routine, the curl bounced back up.

Good protein/moisture balance

Good protein/moisture balance

After some time of that, I lost some curl in my roots, and the curl was just droopy overall, like this.

Needing protein

Needing protein

I found that I was able to tolerate keratin protein,  (hair is made of keratin) and it is still the only protein I can tolerate. My droopy curls perked back up after using it.

After a keratin treatment

After a keratin treatment

So, having too much or too little protein can really change the curl pattern in your hair. Learning how your hair reacts to it can be a learning process, but it becomes more automatic with time.  Keeping a proper protein/moisture balance is one of the most important issues in maintaing your curls.

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Too hot? Throw That Hair Up!

Posted by pittsburghcurly on June 15, 2009

I admit it.  I’m a wimp in hot weather. Any day that is 85 or over where it is even moderately sticky makes me miserable. My pasty butt loves fall!

Oftentimes in the summer, I don’t like wearing my hair down all the time. My neck gets sweaty, and the weight and bulk of my hair just feels all-around uncomfortable. When i start feeling like this, I resort to updos. Yes, there are times when I feel lazy and I just resort to the standard curl updo of a messy ponytail or a loose messy bun. It works. It’s easy. It keeps your hair out of the way.

But, hey, we all get bored. We want a different look. We want to go out and look decent but still have the hair up.

There are many updo tutorials out there on Youtube. Some of them help, and some are baffling. Many seem to be done on straight hair that is super long. Well, my hair isn’t straight, and, in it’s natural state, ranges from armpit length to brastrap length. Not short, but hardly super long either.

I came across the book Strictly Curls: A Step-by-Step Guide to Styling Curly Hair by Nicole Siri. It’s a handy book with updos for curly hair. The directions are pretty simple to follow, and the difficulty ranges from super easy to challenging. There is still one style in the book that I just cannot master. Many of the styles are based on making various buns of different sizes in different types of arrangements. I felt something of a “duh” moment after reading it. Of course I can make buns! I never thought of making them in varying sizes or using different placements on my head. The book is spiral bound so you can lie it flat while you are following the directions, and there is an interesting section on accessories in the back of the book.

Here’s one example of an updo done with a few buns and some hair bling. It was easy to do, but looks more complicated than it actually is.

triple bun

Or, you can do an interesting arrangement with two stacked buns.

Two stacked buns

One website that I use to get updo ideas is the Dressy Tresses style gallery. Many of those are too much for me, but I also have used some of the easier ones. I really love the Chinese Bun. It’s interesting and easy to do. If you are feeling adventurous, and have long enough hair to pull it off, there is a braided version of it also. But, be aware that how these updos look on straight haired mannequins or on straight haired people in tutorials. The styles will often look quite different on your texture.

For example, here is a Chinese Bun on first day curls.

Cinese Bun 1st day hair

Here is the same style on looser, 2nd day curls.

Chinese Bun 2nd day hair

And that same style on hair that is blown straight.

Chinese Bun straight hair

So, don’t feel as if you have to obtain the same look as you see on the straight haired model. There’s nothing at all wrong with showing your natural texture in your updos.

Hopefully this will give you a few ideas to add something besides a messy ponytail to your updo arsenal.

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Now Read This

Posted by pittsburghcurly on June 14, 2009

ExtraNewspaperBoyWe often read how natural or green is better. Is it true with hair care as well? Is natural really better? is there such a thing as natural when a chemical product is given a green name?  Will adding two drops of some magic, exotic ingredient really make a difference to you hair, or is it just making you feel better?

These types of things have been rolling around in my mind. Lo and behold, No-Poo Jillipoo posted a wonderful blog entry about it. The article is quite good, and she is interested in genuine comments on how you feel about the issue.

So, stop by and have a good read!

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New Page

Posted by pittsburghcurly on June 8, 2009

I’ve updated the dew point information to give it its own page. Since it’s a heavily trafficked post, I figured it would just be easier for people to find if it had its own page.

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Fabulous New E-book for Curly Care

Posted by pittsburghcurly on June 7, 2009

Live Curly Live Free

Live Curly Live Free

I’m a big fan of Tiffany Anderson over at naturallycurly.com.

Anyone who can break curly hair care science into easy to understand terms is A-OK in my book.

When I found out that she had published an E-book during my irits-induced ignoring of the Interwebs, I had to take a look.  After reading the overview and the introduction, I decided that it would be well worth it to spend $9.95 for the book. It promised to look like a hair geek’s dream; of course I would by it.

I was pleased with the geek content, but was also happy to see that everything was delivered in an easy to understand format that non hair geeks could understand – some easily, and some with some time to digest the material. I knew that I could refer newbie curlies to the book without worrying that it would freak them out after the initial reading had sunk in.

What I found most interesting was that her recommendations for how to care for my curls and what type of products I need pretty much fell in line with what I found out on my own. But, I took a good year of trial and error (and lots of error) to get there. If I had had this book back in 2006 when I decided to really go curly, it would have saved me much time and money!

She also has a message board on her site for people to discuss and apply the results of the book, as well as to discuss any curly haired geek related issues.

I heartily recommend the book to curly newbies and those experienced with their curls alike. It has good information for everyone!

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Ow, My Eye!!!

Posted by pittsburghcurly on May 25, 2009




After a lengthy absence, I am back.

I am dealing with a stubborn case of iritis (which even was made more interesting my getting synechiae where my pupil was shaped like a four leaf clover and a figure eight at one point) right now. It’s seems that I have a quirky sixth chromosome. For about 6 weeks, my vision was totally blurred, and the light hurt like hell. Now I am recovering. While the right side of my visual field is still a fog, partly from the inflammation and partly from near constant use of dilating drops, I find that I am getting used to functioning with just my left eye, although my close up depth perception is still off. So, after some missed worked, lots of time hiding in dark room, and lots of time not anywhere near a computer, I am glad to be back and able to post again.

I have a few topics that I would love to cover, and I hope to get back to semi-regular posting soon.

On the upside, I find that having curls did help. I couldn’t imagine trying to mess with flat irons and blow dryers during all this. Having wash and go hair really came in handy!

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Curly on a Budget

Posted by pittsburghcurly on March 5, 2009

Since the trend for 2009 seems to be cutting back, getting by with less, and being frugal, I wondered what I would do if I had a serious budget crunch and I had to rethink my hair care routine.

Seeing waves4thepoor’s new blog comment pushed me enough over the edge that I decided to post about it.

I am an admitted Product Junkie and my hair is pretty snobby. I’m the Carrie Bradshaw of hair conditioner usage. I like trying new things if I think they will work. My hair has a myriad of ingredient sensitivities, so finding a product that doesn’t have any reactive ingredients, yet actually works, can be a challenge. Right now my routine is a mix of inexpensive, moderate, and pricey.

But, what would I do if I had hours cut back at work and I couldn’t buy a $20 bottle of conditioner or fabulous hair gel?

Well, here’s what my own lineup would be if I had to go cheap. I’ll also add some things I think are good even though they won’t work with my hair. I will also limit this to things I (and a good deal of other US based curlies) can buy without ordering on line. I’m assuming budget here means no added money for shipping costs. My goal is for each item to be $10 or under, with many being $5 or under.


My hair does quite well with conditioner washing. I already use Suave’s Juicy Green Apple Conditioner, and it’s budget friendly. I often find it for about a dollar, and always less than two dollars. It has enough surfactant for me to get rid of daily grime, and it provides light moisturization.


Here is the hard part for me. I have coarse, dry, protein sensitive hair that really prefers a lot of moisture. There are plenty of inexpensive options out there, but many either have protein (which my hair cannot tolerate daily) or just aren’t rich enough for my hairtype. For me, I’d still splurge on the $10 a bottle Aubrey Organics Honeyscukle Rose conditioner or the similarly priced White Camelia  from the same company. I can get them locally at Whole Foods, and there is a store locator on the Aubrey site. If I had to stretch my budget with that, I would probably only use it with every other conditioning, or, I’d mix it with a bit of the Suave Juicy Green Apple in my hand so that I could make a little of the Aubrey last longer.

Other options for those of you with less finicky hair.

If you have a Trader Joe’s, and you are fine with a little soy protein in your conditioner, the Spa Nourish Conditioner is an inexpensive option that is actually quite a rich conditioner for the price. It runs about $2.50 or so. From the ingredients list, I’d bet it was a version of one of Giovanni’s conditioners. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s, you can look for a sale on some of the Giovanni conditioners at Target.

From Sally Beauty – GVP Conditioning Balm, which is a generic version of Matrix Biolage. I have a history with myristyl alcohol being drying on me, otherwise, I would try this myself. It runs about $6.00 and is cheaper if you have a Sally’s card.

For the protein lover, Loreal Vive Pro Nutri Gloss Conditioner, For Medium To Long, That’s Curly and Wavy Hair (long enough name eh?) is an inexpensive option that can be found at many local drugstores or larger supermarkets that have a good hair care section. Many curlies love how effective it is for the price. I know I’ve seen it at stores like Wal-Mart for less than the cost listed on the website that I linked.

For an added boost to your conditioner, some curlies like a drop or two of honey added in the palm of their hand with the conditioner they are using. This may help you, and honey is pretty inexpensive and easy to find. It also can act as a humectant, so it may not work as well for some curlies in very cold or dry conditions, but it is worth a try since you can also use it for its intended purpose as a food item.


Herbal Essences makes quite a few decent quality gels at reasonable prices. Their Set Me Up  Max Gel has worked well for me in the past, and that is what I would go to if I had to cut back. I’ve found it easily at stores like Wal-Mart and Target. Prices vary, but I’ve gotten it for $3 to $4.

Items that others like include LA Looks Sport Gel that can be found at many drugstores, and IC Fantasia Gel with Sparkle Lites that can be found at many drugstores and beauty supply stores.

Extra Items

For those of you who cannot use protein regularly but need a hit now and again, there are a few options. You can buy an inexpensive regular conditioner that has protein in it and use it every 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time you condition, or you can buy a separate protein treatment. I chose the latter only because my hair can only tolerate keratin. Some of you won’t have to go this route and can just use any of the above mentioned inexpensive conditioners. For a separate treatment, my go-to is Sally’s GVP Hair Reconstructor, which is a generic version of the very pricey Joico K-Pak treatment. I use this stuff now and love it, and would keep it if I had to be more budget conscious. I use it about twice a month and pay about $5.00 for it. My infrequent use ensures that it lasts for a decent amount of time.

Deep Treatment

I would use the Lustrasilk Cholesterol Plus that I mentioned in an earlier post as a cheap deep treatment if I had to cut back. This stuff is less than $3 for me for a big tub. It’s not what I use now for a deep treatment, but it would do quite well in a budget pinch. Others have also made their own homemade deep treatments with this conditioner by adding such household items such as olive oil, coconut milk, or honey.

Detangler, Shine Enhancer, and Porosity Control

I have been having great luck using an apple cider vinegar (acv) rinse  after my latest color treatment. Coloring my hair makes it very porous (which means that the hair cuticle is lifted) for a little while after the color. I have been using the acv to help seal the cuticle. This does wonders for me in decreasing tangles. Also, by sealing the cuticle, I hope to have my color last longer. It also adds a bit of shine. I use 1/4 cup (4T) of vinegar to 2 cups water. I use this after I condition, leave it sit in for a few minutes and then rinse. Do be careful not to get this into the eyes! Some prefer a weaker solution of about 2T to 2 cups of water. It can be used weekly, and makes a great detangler. My hair feels quite silky after using it. I use the organic unfiltered acv from Trader Joe’s for about $2.50. I’m sure that a less expensive acv can be found in Wal-Mart or your usual supermarket, but, less than $3 is cheap for organic unfiltered, so I’ll stick with that.

If any of you curlies have been having issues with high porosity or a greater than normal amount of tangles, try experimenting with acv rinses. It works, and it’s budget friendly.

So, here’s what my lineup would be. Feel free to create your own!

For Daily Use:

  • Suave Juicy Green Apple conditioner – about $1.00
  • Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose or White Camelia conditioner – about $10.00
  • Herbal Essences Set Me Up Max Hold Gel – about $3 to $5

For Weekly or Bi-Weekly use as needed.

  • Lustrasilk Shea Butter Cholesterol Plus – about $2.50
  • GVP Hair Reconstructor – about $5.00
  • ACVrinse with Trader Joe’s Organic Unfiltered apple cider vinegar – abdout $2.50

So, depending on your hair type and sensitivities, you CAN do curly on a  budget!

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Curls 101 page

Posted by pittsburghcurly on March 2, 2009

Hello all,

I’m working on a Curls101 page. It’s geared towards the beginner curly with common questions that they have. It’s a work in progress, and will probably take a few weeks to finish because I tend to only type so much at once. 🙂  Feel free to leave any comments or to ask some basic questions to cover if you’re a curly newbie.

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