Beauty Review: Hair Masks and Deep Conditioning

As I’ve mentioned before, I have quite long hair. This means that, despite the fact that my scalp can actually be a bit oily, the length of my hair must be treated considerably more gently. Think of long hair as being a bit like an antique tablecloth: it takes approximately two months to grow an inch, on average, so that by the time hair is a foot long, the ends are two years old. My hair is probably close to two feet long by now, and I have been growing it for the last four years. Now hair is something we take for granted. It grows, matures, and falls out. It’s like a disposable thing. But with long hair, we have this delicate thing that has been around for year. So treating it like an antique lace table cloth isn’t a bad way to think about it (Full disclosure: this was a sentiment I first learned on The Long Hair Community when I joined about eight years ago).

And so, despite the fact that my hair is straight, normal, and relatively resilient under normal conditions, I rely on deep conditioners and hair masks as part of my regular hair routine, rather than using less potent formulations. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve taken to washing my hair in one step to reduce hair fall in the shower, and the technique relies on finding quite thick formulations of both shampoo and conditioner. Because my favorite shampoo for this method is currently Deciem’s HiF Intensive Detox, which is a clarifying cleanser, I find that I need an extra-rich conditioner to protect my length from the cleansing power of the shampoo.

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Enter Klorane’s hair masks. I’ve been intrigued by Klorane every since I stepped foot into a pharmacie in Bordeaux on holiday and saw the beautiful display. They just seemed so natural, elegant, and French, without being overly chic or expensive like Phyto. But I never managed to try them. Then, when I started frequenting Sephora’s online site, I started eyeing them again. Sadly, the shampoos all seem to have sulfate surfactants in them, which my hair seems to dislike. So I let it fall by the wayside again. Finally, I managed to get a jar of the Mask with Desert Date into my cart, thinking it would be fun to try out. I was in a “Let’s try to be French” phase of my beauty philosophy and it appealed to that.

When I got the mask and opened it up, I was pleasantly surprised. Despite the fact that I generally dislike sweet scents for beauty products, this had a lightly confectionery scent that I still found pleasant. It helps that it’s fairly light and nondistinct (i.e., not explicitly vanilla or spice or anything recognizable, just lightly sweet and warm). It has a rich, thick, creamy consistency, almost like soft caramel frosting, and clings to my hair. I generally either wash my scalp or apply shampoo to the scalp as part of the one-step method, and then coat my length with conditioner and pin it up in a bun for a few minutes while I wash the rest of me. Then I rinse. It rinses cleanly, but leaves a nice slip, despite not having any silicones. I find that I can sometimes get away without using a leave-in creme or oil after washing, too.

After the success of the mask, I wanted to try the Conditioning Balm with Desert Date because it has very similar ingredients but costs 1/3 less than the mask. Plus, it’s in a tube, which solves the one problem I have with the mask: the jar packaging is difficult to maneuver in the shower if one wants to avoid getting water in the jar. I ordered both to compare them and have found the Conditioning Balm a worthy replacement. It is just as thick, if not a bit thicker. Indeed, I sometimes find it difficult to squeeze out of the tube. But I manage and am rewarded with the same softness and manageability.

One caveat: if you are used to using conditioners with silicones and the uncanny smoothness they impart, this conditioner may be a shock to your system. Because I wash my hair gently, I like to avoid silicones, as they can build up and make my hair oily or lank looking. So I’ve gotten used to the texture of my hair without them (although I will indulge occasionally when I’m going to wear my hair down). But at first, your hair may seem more tangled or rough because you are used to the texture when smoothed down. So if you require silicones to keep your hair manageable, this is probably not for you. And, of course, check the ingredients for your particular sensitivities. It does have a couple ingredients that I know might make my skin break out, so I make sure to wash my back after rinsing the conditioner to avoid spots on my back, but I haven’t seen a problem with hairline spots since I started using this.

The bottom line is that this is my favorite conditioner right now. If I didn’t still have a few others to finish up, I would use it exclusively, price be damned.

NB: I bought these products with my own money and have not been provided any incentive to review them. All opinions are my own.

Hair Musings: Multi-Masking Technique for Washing Long Hair

A couple months ago, I wrote a review for some of the Hair is Fabric line from Deciem. In it, I mentioned that, despite the cleansing conditioners ultimately not working out for me, I felt like I was shedding/losing less hair in the shower when I used them. I’m almost certain that the main reason for this is the fact that they are a single-step product, so I only have to apply product and rinse my hair once, rather than twice. Because I have long, thick hair, I shed great clumps of hair every time I wash it, even though I’m not actually losing hair in an abnormal way. Anything I can do to minimize hair fall is not only easier on my peace of mind, but kinder to Fiancé when he uses the shower after me and I’ve forgotten to clean out the drain.

But I mentioned that the HIF cleansing conditioners were not the right fit for my particular hair. And that got me thinking: if my scalp and length require different things from products, why would I think that a single product could treat both of them? Of course, my normal washing routine is to shampoo my scalp and then condition my length. But I really try to keep shampoo mostly off my length and conditioner off my scalp. So what if I used them at the same time, like the HIF product, but with two different products?

It’s a bit like multi-masking for your face: If you have an oily T-zone and dry cheeks, you use a clay mask on the oily bits and a hydrating mask on the dry bits. Everyone is happy. So lately, I’ve been experimenting with applying shampoo on my scalp, a thick conditioner on my length, both at the same time, and then twisting it up and letting it sit while I finish my shower and rinsing both out at the same time. I actually find that I like the HIF Intensive Detox for the scalp portion of this because it’s a thick, concentrated formula that doesn’t drip down my length as I’m applying it, but I apply a rich conditioning mask like my current favorite Klorane Mask with Desert Date to my length before letting it sit. That way, I don’t have to worry about conditioner getting on my scalp when I pin it up and making my shed worse, and the conditioner will protect the length from the bits of scalp cleanser that might run down the length when I rinse.

A note on technique: Because I find it difficult to access some parts of my scalp when washing normally, I have a particular way of applying shampoo to my scalp. First, I apply a little to my hairline. Then, I flip my head upside down to apply shampoo to the rest of my scalp. My hair falls away from the scalp, leaving the inner parts a bit more accessible. Then, I flip back up, rinse my hands, gently squeeze some of the excess moisture from my length, and apply conditioner to the length (from the ears down). Then, I twist the whole thing up and secure it with an acrylic hair fork and let it sit while I wash the rest of me.

I find that when I rinse, my scalp feels clean and calm, my length feels moisturized and slick, and I still lose less hair than when I do it in two steps. I even tried skipping my usual leave-in treatment this weekend and found that my ends stayed nice and soft.

Another benefit is that rinsing my hair actually takes the most time of any part of my hair routine in the shower. I have a lot of thick hair and I need to rinse it carefully and for a long time to ensure I haven’t missed a pocket of shampoo and conditioner. By rinsing only once, I’m effectively cutting this time in half. And with as much hair as I have, anything that cuts down on my wash time is a plus.

So I’m intrigued with this and will continue experimenting. I want to see if different kinds of shampoo are better or worse. Right now, my main issue is that regular shampoo tends to drip away from my scalp, and regular conditioner isn’t thick enough to cling to the ends and withstand the shampoo running down. But I also worry about clashing scents. But for now, the idea is promising.

Musings and Ramblings

I’ve been a bit remiss about posting. Part of the reason for that are rehearsals ramping up for my next theater project: Enchanted April. I’m so excited to be playing Lady Caroline Bramble in the stage adaptation of the novel. Lady Caroline is a lovely young socialite with a troubled past and plenty of secrets. She’s very private and quiet most of the time, so it will be an interesting role. And she has a very daring and ecclectic wardrobe, which will be fun. The costumer and I have worked together before, so I’m looking forward to seeing what she pulls for me in a couple weeks.

I’ve also been spending a not-small amount of time planning out my recently-upgraded skin care routine. Because I’m waiting on packages from overseas, I have time to really spread out the testing of different products and watch for adverse reactions from each one. Because I love organization, I’ve put all this into a spread sheet. I’ve also decided to organizer my hair care routine like this as well. This past weekend, I indulged in a scalp massage with peppermint oil, a lovely scalp exfoliation with an acidic shampoo, and a deep conditioning treatment. I have a few new hair treats coming soon to add in, as well.

This weekend, I also had another opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to see a matinee of their production of Manon Lescaut. It was a gorgeous production, with sets and costumes inspired by wartime France in the 1940s, which I thought was a neat update. The singers were not only wonderful singers but also fantastic actors, and the lead tenor managed to make it through despite suffering from the flu! Having just had the dubious honor of performing with an unhealthy voice, I could hear where he really started straining and I was that much more impressed at how well he was able to maintain the strength and quality of his vocal sound.

So a whirlwind week of rehearsals, a whirlwind weekend of travel and culture, and what little time in between taken up with beauty planning means less time to plan, write, and take photos for blog posts. But I am not going anywhere for long, and I do have posts planned and photos to take for the future. Until then, I hope you will curl up with a cup of tea and wait patiently!

Custom-Blended Hair Oil from NightBlooming

Many years ago, I had quite long hair, and I spent much of my time beautifying and fussing over it. I poured over articles and researched how to wash it, condition it, pamper it, and style it. I spent rather exhorbitant amounts of money on toys to put it up most beautifully. And then, I cut most of it off and went for years with short hair. I got rid of most of my hair toys and spent very little time worrying about my hair, unless it was sticking straight up or my scalp was itchy. That said, there were some pieces I could never abandon. These came from NightBlooming.

Years ago, Melissa at NightBlooming on Etsy made the most beautiful embellished hair sticks and accessories I have ever seen. Her designs have a fantasy aesthetic, inspired by the natural world and mythologies. Wearing a NightBlooming creation makes you feel like an ethereal fairy princess goddess, and even when I had a pixie hair cut, there were sticks she made me that I just couldn’t let go.

Since then, she’s branched out and now spends much of her energy blending natural hair care products. I had tried some of her original salve and oil before cutting my hair. Indeed, her Triple Moon Anointing oil was my first foray into the world of hair oils. But she’s truly blossomed her mixology into a whole new side of her business.

Having recently returned to growing my hair long and desirous of a new hair oil, I decided to try out a new item she offers: custom-blended hair oil. I knew I wanted something that smelled amazing, but I also needed a luxurious oil. Because my skin likes lighter, high-linoleic acids, and my hair likes heavier, high-oleic acids, I had very little in my oil arsenal that was truly nice for my hair. So I had her blend me up jojoba oil fortified with argan oil, and scent it with a heady blend of florals, frankincense, and vetiver. It’s a deep, dark, old-fashioned scent, but I love it. The best part is that she offers this service for a very reasonable cost, particularly considering I probably chose all her most expensive essential oils in an expensive base oil blend.

It took her about a day to blend the oil, and another couple days for it to ship. Immediately upon seeing the package in the mail, I tore into it and opened the oil. It smelled heavenly. I rubbed one drop on my hand and kept sniffing it until the scent dissipated in an hour or so. The next time I wet my hair, I applied three drops to the ends. It absorbs nicely and locks in all that lovely moisture from the water, but doesn’t leave my hair feeling oily. I can also use a bit more if I want to pre-treat my hair before bed when I’m going to wash it the next day. I find using a bit of oil on the ends of my hair makes them feel silkier and I don’t feel the need to trim as often.

For those who are worried about blending their own oil, NightBlooming offers a monthly oil blend that she designs for specific hair needs. She keeps the blend notes around so customers can just order a monthly blend instead of dreaming up their own blend and worrying that it won’t be what they want. She’s also lovely to interact with, if you want advice about growing long, beautiful hair. She’s been growing her hair for a long time and it’s truly lovely. I highly recommend giving her shop a look.

I also ordered a packet of herbal conditioning powder, based on the herb Zizyphus Spina Christi, with aloe, nettles, and wheatgrass added in for strength. It’s supposed to be a fortifying hair treatment, similar to henna, but without any color stain. Despite the dark color of my natural hair, I’ve started avoiding things that color because I have enough silver strands that they get dingy otherwise. I plan on having a lovely “hair spa” day some coming weekend to try it out!