As if cystic acne on your face, back, or chest weren’t bad enough, there’s still your scalp you have to worry about.
Yep, if you’re an oil-producing human-being with a head, chances are, you’ve experienced or will experience painful bumps on your scalp aka “scalp pimples.” These are bumps that seem to sprout overnight, are painful or itchy to the touch, and seem impossible to get rid of. Turns out, these aren’t pimples after all, rather something call folliculitis, a common skin condition in which hair follicles become inflamed. It’s caused by bacterial or fungal infections and can spread into bigger sores if untreated.
“The scalp is unique because its ‘pores’ are the openings of the hair follicle with thick, terminal hairs growing out of them,” explains Dr. Terrance Keaney, a dermatologist who also serves as Dove Men+Care’s skincare expert. “Given the presence of scalp hair, the scalp cannot get acne like blackheads but the hair follicles can get inflamed leading to scalp folliculitis or hair can get embedded into the scalp.”
But there are simple solutions for this – and you most likely won’t have to get a prescription (or see a derm, sorry, Dr. Keaney!) to treat your head bumps. Below, are great suggestions of what to use to soothe your skin and kick those bumps to the curb.
Try tea tree oil
This powerful essential oil is a natural antibacterial and will kill bacteria and fungus while healing the skin. In a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, tea tree oil and its Terpenin-4-ol compounds was said to increase the activity of white blood cells, which help to destroy viral or bacterial invaders. In another study, 5% tea tree oil was said to be just as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide for acne.
Your hair builds gunk overtime – and that’s pretty normal. Not only does it have to shed dead skin cells (aka dandruff), excess products, and natural oil, it’s constantly trying to breathe from all that hair. That’s why it’s good to clear it out sometimes. A shampoo from Neutrogena called T/Sal Therapeutic Shampoo-Scalp Build-Up Control will do just that, while soothing the scalp and treating it at the same time. Yep, this is a multi-hyphenate. With 3% salicylic acid, to boot, it will help relieve itchy, flaking skin and get rid of your bumps in no time.
We’ve never tried this, but it’s been written about extensively on how it heals the scalp just by balancing out your pH. We cannot stress enough about how pH is essential to the health of your skin. Too acidic or alkaline and it’ll go out of wack. Using an apple cider vinegar, then, balances it out while also naturally disinfecting the area. Mix with water and gently massage into your hair.
There’s a certain population of guys out there who take care of their nose hairs with their two fingers.
They yank, they pull, their eyes water, but there’s immediate satisfaction. And then there’s a few who let it grow until it’s long enough to French braid. For the rest of us humans, nose hair growth becomes something to fear, as it’s not only embarrassing but signals poor hygiene. However you may look at it, a certain outgrowth of nose hairs hanging from one’s nostril is really unattractive. Those small sheers of spiked hairs that prick from the gaping hole is distracting.
So why do you have thick growth of nose hairs all of a sudden? It has all to do with your hormones. During childhood, your nose or ear hairs are called “vellus hairs” and are unnoticeable and thin. Once you get a little older, your hormones awaken them to grow faster, thicker and darker to better trap bacteria, viruses and fungi from getting into your system. The growth also pricks and pokes you, making for an itchy experience.
Before you go to your bathroom and decide to pluck those hairs with your thumb and pointy finger, beware. Doing so could actually cause death. Say what? Turns out that plucking them the old fashioned way could lead to infection that can make its way to your brain. Breaking your skin with your filthy hands that have been all over can cause an overgrowth of bacteria that can spread and become sepsis. In the rare occasion, it can cause some serious damage.
Okay, so we just took a dark turn. What can you do instead? Below, we’ve rounded out the best tools to chop your nose hairs in a sanitary and even more efficient manner. Here are the best we’ve come across.
(Photo courtesy Instagram.com/gret_chen_chen)
If you’re old school and want to trim your nose hairs yourself, try getting a pair of rounded scissors. It’s very important to buy a pair of rounded sheers, as it’s your nose and any wrong move could lead to puncturing yourself. Rounded sheers prevents any accidents. With these scissors, simply insert into each nostril from a 45-degree angle and slowly trim your hairs. You’ll want to start slow but once you get the hang of it, you can start going at it. After, take a piece of tissue and insert into your nostrils to ensure you get rid of any residue or leftover hairs.
We recommend getting scissors that are stainless steel. Many are nickel-plated, like this one from Tweezerman, but it’ll rust with water. That means that yes, the moisture from your very nostrils can cause rust as well.
We like this one from LIVINGO on Amazon. It’s only $10, is stainless steel, rounded sheers and an amazing price.
If you’re lazy and in need of a trimmer that’s easy to use and also quick, try these three electric nose hair trimmers. We’ve found that each is pretty effective – and affordable (seriously, no need to spend a fortune on things like nose hair trimmers, lol). Here’s what’s best, below.
This battery powered device means that you don’t need any extra charging cord. It’s a little extra in that it comes with 6 pieces, but the others are for eyebrows and your ears as well. For under $13, this is a steal.
So this nose hair trimmer may resemble uh, a device used more for sexy times, but it gets the job done. This no-fuss trimmer may not be the most sleekly designed pieces we’ve found, but for $10, it’s completely worth it. The best part is the ease of cleaning as you can simply screw off the top and safely rise with water.
This “no pull” trimmer comes in a diamond blade and ensures that you get a precision cut every time. From Conair Man, the brand best known for flatirons and blowdryers, this small contraption is great for on-the-go use. Also battery powered, it can be used for your ears, facial hair, and more.
So asked a Korean hairstylist – sternly – when I went to get my hair permed last month. Do your fingers count? I replied, to her tsk tsking and a shake of her head in disapproval.
Brushing your hair is what you’d associate with long hair or rituals before bed. Images of a young child reading a book while their mother lovingly brushes their virgin hair back come to mind. Brushing one’s hair isn’t anything new of course – it’s one that comes with centuries of tradition. The Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all had their own versions, made from steel, animal hair or wood. And in 1777 that a man named William Kent went on to patent brushes himself, creating the world’s first-ever commercial product. It’s what apparently put a brush in every person’s home, creating a brushing revolution.
As it turns out, brushing isn’t only for untangling your hair or styling it. To get a healthy scalp and/or shiny hair, you need to stimulate for circulation and good blood flow. Not only does brushing evenly distribute sebum to create shinier hair, it helps with removing dead skin cells – all which if clogged, could prevent growth. Brushing is apparently so important, one expert once told Allure that doing so daily is like working out your scalp and taking it to the gym.
I took it upon myself to start brushing my scalp after Umma A Good Hair Day In Seoul sent me one. It’s called the White Rabbit Volumizing Air Brush, a light, millennial pink brush. The White Rabbit is waterproof, plastic and can be pumped with air that goes in and out. Immediately while combing through my hair I realized just how good it felt to have the prongs gently massaging my scalp. But the real hack Umma gave me was brushing your hair in the shower. This allows your scalp to be stimulated but for it to aid in helping products get to the roots of your strands as well as to cleanse all the gunk that perhaps your fingers can’t get to.
At first, it was a little awkward – I mean, brushing your hair under water takes serious multi-tasking abilities – but when you get that cadence down of brushing, gasping for air, and being still enough not to topple over, all is well and good. Brushing inside my shower allowed my shampoo and conditioner (and all others treatments) to feel as if they seeped into my scalp while being evenly distributed. I hadn’t realized just how ineffective my own fingers could be in washing, conditioning and applying treatment especially since my hair is so thick.
The end of the month came and I was wowed when my scalp felt less oily, produced much less dandruff and my hair was completely, utterly, well, silky smooth. It’s insane how the simple act of brushing your locks can transform its health, length and sheen. Here’s to singing – and brushing – more in the shower.
7 ways to wear neon while on the Old Town Road
I’ve been using this brush in the shower and my hair is now insanely healthy.
This Kombucha toner is a refreshing summer skin saver
Here’s what to do when Mercury is in Retrograde
The one reason you’re breaking out this Hot Girl Summer
Among the campy men was none other than Cole Sprouse of Riverdale fame, who had one of the best hairstyles of the night. The actor attended the night with his off-screen girlfriend, Lili Reinhart. The 26-year old rocked a floral suit by Ferragamo accessorized by his perfectly tousled locks. But it was really his beauty look that we were impressed with. His dark hair and hint of makeup made for a timeless yet elegant overall aesthetic. All props goes to his groomer, Christine Nelli, who exclusively told Very Good Light that the actor was going for a “sleek and slicked back look” this year.
To get the hair just right, Christine tells us that she had Cole wash his hair the night before as second day hair is at its best texture to style. Though she didn’t have to do so much to his hair, she did say that she and Cole have fun with hair – “it’s always different,” she says. “I always end up doing a bit of a cut and make sure the sides of the hair around the ears and neckline are clean and sharp,” she explains.
After spraying the head with water, Christine says that she completely wet Cole’s hair. Then, she applied a dime-size of workable mousse, gently massaging it until she got to the roots. Afterwords, she used sea salt spray to add texture.
But it’s the blow dryer that she says is the magic tool. “It’s the best way to keep hold,” she tells us – even more than product alone. For this, she used House 99’s Going Strong Styling Gel to keep the hair in place. “I’ll move onto the top and do loose finger waves in the direction going away from the part using the same gel,” she says. “I’ll finish the hair by lightly spraying hairspray and then using the hairdryer once more to set everything in place so it doesn’t move.” To reiterate: The key to the waves is really tousling it with your fingers and making sure it’s blow dried in place.
Finally, for his face, Cole was using a hint of bronzer. “I love adding a bit of color to the face for guys,” she explains. She used House 99 All Bright Bronzing Gel because “it’s super light and washes of. It adds something without being obvious.
Frank Ocean’s Met Gala 2019 skin glowed as he also uplifted a black-owned grooming brand
The secret to Cole Sprouse’s Met Gala 2019 hair is this one tool
Aesop’s new facial sunscreen is here – but it’s not for everyone
Why I stopped falling for straight boys
Kpop star Henry Lau: ‘I will try my best to represent the Asian community.’
When I landed in Los Angeles, I could feel everything finally align. And it wasn’t just my spine, which I’ve been having issues with all year. That’s another story.
Last year was one that was anxiety-ridden. So stressful that I had my first pangs of a minor anxiety attack at a dinner with my uncle. I was juggling what felt like three full-time jobs simultaneously and suffocated by projects that one person definitely should not be able to handle alone.
Hard work is all great but when you realize you’ve been holding your breath for so long you end up suffocating in silence. These projects that needed so much of my time included but weren’t limited to: launching a bag (called SOON at Opening Ceremony!), working on a major project (details to come!), along with maintaining Very Good Light. Of course, I don’t regret any of these experiences – I’m extremely proud of what I’ve accomplished. But in retrospect, I’ve come to though we can do it all, why would we want to?
With 2019 came a renewed energy and a fighting spirit for change. This time, instead of punching upwards and proving my might, I started to calm my soul, promising to take care of my mind, body and soul.
To symbolize this renewal to myself, this kind gesture to my well-being, I decided to make a symbolic change. That would need to come with my hair. I’ve long heard about the breakup hair cut, the same that women usually get when they let go of their partners and also their manes in the process. For some women, it allows them to feel as if they can control one aspect of their lives.
“There’s something hugely powerful about deciding to take ownership of your looks and appearance, and making sure that whatever you do is for you,” said a writer for Glamour.
“Over the next few weeks, I grew stronger still, imbibed with the ferocity of The Freedom Haircut,” wrote my friend and Very Good Light contributor, Gigi Engle.
Since my hair was already pretty short and a buzzcut was not an option, I decided I’d do something equally as dramatic. Instead of a cut, someone suggested a curl. So instead of snipping away pain, this perm would be all about curtailing bad vibes. I call it a “premonition perm,” one that can pre-empt good vibes and actively work towards positivity for the year.
Perms for guys, of course, aren’t anything new. Whether it’s for adding bounce in your coiff, straightening it or making it more manageable, perms allow for ease – or expression – of hair. Mine came in the form of both. Having super straight, thick Asian hair means that actually styling it becomes extremely difficult. Without any semblance of a wave or texture means that you have to either make curls with a flat iron, or not do your hair at all. Don’t get me wrong, Asian hair in its thick glory is amazing. It has a natural sheen, it’s tough and you probably won’t ever go bald. But with it comes a stubborn personality, one that does not take direction from nobody.
I went to a salon in LA called SSOONIE, one that I’d seen on my Kpop friend Lydia Paek’s Instagram stories. It’s kind of a hole in the wall place in K-town and there’s nothing overtly fancy about it. My stylist, a blonde-haired man from Seoul, told me he’d done so many men’s perms that he could do it blindfold.
It’s typical for Korean men to do perms, he informed me. In fact, most Korean men get perms not only for style but for practicality. As Asian hair is super difficult to style, perms allow it to maintain texture and to stay put.
There are two main types of perms Koreans typically get. One is a slight wave, the other is what Korean refer to as a “down perm.” The latter’s sole purpose is to relax an Asian guy’s side hairs so that they don’t poke out and keep it “down,” hence the name. The down perm prevents your hair from staying down, even after getting your hair wet or washing it.
The stylist suggested to go for both and told me it’d only take two hours.
The process starts with the stylist snipping away split ends and giving your hair shape and texture. He then douses your sides with a relaxer, adds a waxy paper on top and allows it to dry. Twenty minutes later, your down perm is complete and you never have to think about your side hairs again until they grow out. Super easy.
The top wave perm is a little more complicated. The stylist put an intense chemical concoction and soaked my hair strands. This allows the pores to be open for change. Then, he put curlers into my hair – about 20 in total – and wrapped saran wrap over my hair. This allows the moisture to seep deeply into each strand and permanently keep its curly form. After putting curlers in, I went under a heater for 25 minutes so my hair could keep its new form. The stylists then add wooden sticks so that the curls grow out in a specific way, which I thought was truly weird, but actually very smart. It’s like what they use for plants, I mused.
After washing it out, my hair was complete. All I needed to do was rinse out the chemicals and dry my hair. About 20 minutes later, I was out the door.
The cost: $100 for two types of perms and a cut. My new attitude on life: priceless.
What happened in the remaining few hours and days after was more dramatic than my curls. This new “premonition perm” was truly was a gift from the universe. Not only did it allow me free my mind from stressing about my morning hair, it provided me with time to do more important things like, uh, eat. Most importantly, it gave me a renewed outlook on life and the confidence to know that change could be made by my own will.
I had felt so small going into the new year and completely drained of all energy. For weeks I was so encumbered with my projects and fearing future failure that I wasn’t able to live in the moment. But this premonition perm allowed me to find confidence in the quiet moments again, seeking comfort in silence and reveling in solitude. It reminded me that good things were coming and to fulfill it, I’d have to be happy in the present.
The biggest lesson of all: it taught me that happiness could be achieved if you will it to. Just like a perm, happiness is something you have to actively seek. Sometimes you have to wrap in your hands and will it to change, like curlers to your hair. Other times, you have to add sticks in it so that it grows in a way that you want it to. Either way, you’re in control.
Every product I'm obsessed with for spring
I got a dramatic perm and an even more dramatic outlook on life
Patrick Ta dedicated his beauty brand to all the girls he loved before
You’re recycling your beauty products all wrong
This $7 acne gel destroys your cystic bumps in a day
While we’re all mentally manifesting the end of winter, the reality is we still have a few more weeks of cold, snow flurries, prematurely dark evenings and dryness ahead. But really, it’s that last bit that’s really getting to us.
If dewiness and hydration is next to godliness, dryness is complete hell. And for those of us with natural hair, it’s always an uphill battle. During these colder months, our scalps crave plenty of moisture and, honestly, a little humidity to achieve those peak hair days.
Fortunately, Felicia Leatherwood – the hair guru behind Insecure star Issa Rae’s endless and iconic natural hair looks – is here to exclusively spill the tea tree oil with Very Good Light on all the ins and outs of natural hair care in winter. We’ve got her tips and product picks (plus some of our own VGL faves) to keep your curls poppin’ and prospering during the Polar Vortex of doom.
“Deep conditioning is a huge part of taking care of your hair in the winter,” Felicia tells Very Good Light. “In the winter it’s cold and the water feels harder on the hair, which dries it out quicker. There’s no humidity to help keep the hair hydrated.” Make sure you have the time to give it your all, too. No skimping. “You want to deep condition at least twice a month for 30 minutes or more. You can sit under the dryer, put a plastic cap on or do an overnight situation.” Basically, Netflix and nourish for a little bit.
Laying your edges properly requires the perfect edge control. That often comes in the form of gel. But what works in summer won’t work in winter, Felicia warns. “A lot of people like to wash and go in the summer, shampooing your hair, putting a little leave-in in there and putting gel on it while the hair is soaking wet, right? In the wintertime, that wash-and-go situation is a little challenging, depending on where you live,” she says. “A gel is going to dry your hair out.” No need to worry though, just switch your thinking a little bit. “It’s better to use a cream-based product because it will seal in the moisture better. It gives you that gel that holds the texture, but it also has this cream base that provides hydration.”
Because natural hair is dense and moisture-hungry, piling on the product is not an issue like it is for our fine-haired friends. In fact, Felicia says that during the winter months, adding leave-in conditioner to your product list is a must. “When the hair is wet, the cuticle is open and that’s when you get all of the good stuff in there. When it closes, it seals it in. Use a leave-in conditioner at the ends to seal in that moisture.” And her favorite leave-in from Curls’ Blueberry Bliss line works like a champ – even on slightly damp locks. “You can T-shirt dry your hair, put that on and it will still penetrate the cuticle,” she explains.
Cutting down on your morning routine during the winter can help your natural hair, too. When you rock protective styles like braids, twists, hair added to lock your hair down, it stays put for 4-6 weeks. “You don’t have to think about it, but make sure that you are hydrating the scalp by applying natural or organic oils.” Surprisingly, however, Felicia is not a fan of on-trend favorite coconut oil. “It actually dries a lot of people’s hair out – and their skin and their face. It’s not the holy grail.” Which oils are actually natural hair-friendly then? “Jojoba oil is great, carrot oil is excellent, argan. Castor oil is very good. It’s a serum so you don’t need a lot, and it helps to stimulate the follicle and grow the hair. So for people who have issues with their edges thinning, especially if they have protective styles, castor oil is great for fertilizing the follicle.”
Co-washing is nothing new, but sticking with it throughout winter is key to maintaining in the cold. “Shampoo will strip the hair down and dry it out, especially if you’re a texture 3c or 4,” the hair guru tells us. “I don’t want people to think shampoo is bad, but it will strip out everything and your hair can tangle and break easily, so it’s better to do co-washing,” Felicia advises.
Winter headgear doesn’t immediately come to mind when thinking about styling natural hair, but Felicia warns that wool, cashmere, felt and other friction-inducing fabrics can do damage. “If you’re going to wear a hat, look into the ones that have satin linings. A lot of times the dryness comes from the hats and scarves – the things we put on our heads and that are touching the nape of the neck – that’s breaking the hair off.” Instead, go with lining that’s super smooth, like satin or silk-lined caps.
Whether it’s thick and stick straight, kinky and curly, wavy and super soft, big and voluminous, hair is the unsung hero to your entire vibe. And that’s why we take hair so seriously at Very Good Light. This year, we’ve added many diverse categories to serve most, if not all of our readers. We hope that this very methodical list full of creams, pomades, hair gels, oils and masks, will truly represent most of you guys. It’s a list we stand behind and know you will, too.
Sure, this shampoo is technically formulated for dandruff, but it has benefits for everyone. After all, a healthy scalp means healthy hair, right? The formula has salicylic acid (yes the same kind as in your acne cleanser) so it gently cleans your hair but also helps preserve the skin underneath. That’s something we could all use.
The hero ingredient in this conditioner is Moringa Oil, which hydrates and smoothes your strands but doesn’t weigh them down. For a formula this moisturizing, it’s not heavy which makes it ideal for even fine or thin hair. Added UV protection from Sunflower Seed Oil and strengthening from Quinoa protein only add to it’s appeal for every body.
A hair mask that requires the use of a plastic shower cap seems so extra, but this is by far the most effective mask I tried. If you have dry or colored hair, the repairing properties of the mask can’t be argued with (thanks to the argan oil, panthenol and biotin in the formula). You can leave it on for at least fifteen minutes, but the full hour left my hair feeling like it had never even heard the word “dry.”
Picking a grooming cream is a little like being Goldilocks: too much hold, not enough hold. This version is just right. Not only does it smooth and hydrate your hair, but there is enough hold to keep your style locked in but natural-looking. It’s the best way I’ve found to get that perfect balance between polished and woke-up-like-this.
It’s hard to argue with the appeal of a classic shiny look and the most important part of that is a shiny pomade. This version works for a corporate playboy or a rebellious greaser look, but bucks tradition by giving you shine with none of the shellacked feeling you get from the old guard.
Matte pomades tend to make already dry hair feel even dryer, but not this one. It has enough oil that it’s not only easy to put on without forming clumps, but it won’t leave your hair rough. You get a natural look with a matte finish and just enough hold. It even has a faint scent of roses which is surprisingly nice in a hair product.
Have you ever spent what felt like an hour trying to warm up hair clay in your hands so you could actually get it into your hair? I have, but I won’t ever need to again. This clay comes in a tube so it’s ready to put in straight from the container, but gives you just as much texture and hold as the traditional kind, great for getting a piecey look.
Cream pomades tend to fall flat and weigh down fine hair. The sea salt in this formula solves that problem by adding texture and volume the same way your hair always looks better after a day at the beach. I would have never thought to add salt to a cream pomade, but I’m sure glad someone else did.
I know gel gets a bad rep, but it’s mostly because it’s so easy to use too much of it (hello, crunchy curls). This version is light and clean, meaning if you want that gelled look you can get it, but it’s not the default. It’s especially effective on wet hair, which helps hold your style without crispiness.
If you’ve ever been on a photo shoot or backstage of a fashion show, chances are the hairstylist is using this hair spray. There’s a reason it’s been the professional go-to for decades – it just can’t be beat. It delivers exceptional hold without any of the crunchiness or stickiness of other versions and lasts all day until you brush it out (easily).
Why do surfers have such enviable hair? It’s the salt. A sea salt spray can deliver that same textured look without the surfboard, especially on fine or thin hair. While some can leave your hair feeling rough and dry, this formula has coconut oil to keep your strand moisturized (which also helps with the summery scent).
Forget the crunchy, heavy mousse that your grandmother used to lock in her curls. This new modern formula is velvety smooth and adds volume and curl without weighing down your hair or giving you helmet head. My curls held their shape hours after I used it but still felt smooth and moisturized.
The problem with dry shampoos is that even if they soak up oil and clean well without water, they can leave your hair feeling (and worse, looking) powdery. This magical version doesn’t use aerosol and instead comes in the form of a mist, so it doesn’t have that same overly-powdery feeling. It’s also easier to target problem areas like your hairline and natural part, where you want the oil-absorbing qualities without risking the rest of your style.
You don’t have to have dry hair to reap the benefits from hair oil. Good oils can not only smooth and shine, but help control overly aggressive oil glands. But it’s easy to go overboard. Not with this formula though, since the mist makes it easy to get full coverage with just a few spritzes without weighing down your locks.
Sure, it looks like something out of a science fiction movie, but it’s actually one of the most advanced hair dryers ever. It uses turmaline ions to smooth hair, has a touchscreen to easily change between the multiple speed and heat settings and had one of the quietest motors I tried. On top of all that, it was one of the few that came with a diffuser in the box, which makes it suited for all hair types straight away.
Overwashing fine or color treated hair can do more damage than good, so using a hair rinse can improve the health of your hair while still giving it a cleaning. The apple cider vinegar in this formula gives it its distinct scent (which goes away with a rinse) but also it’s oil-neutralizing and cleansing properties.
Co-washing seems counterintuitive (washing with a conditioner?) but the benefits if your hair are prone to dryness or frizz can be huge. It’s especially good for curls and this is the best one I tried for mine. It cleans just enough and never leaves my hair feeling stripped or “too clean,” instead it retains its moisture and natural oils.
For the same reason you use a mud mask on your face, this scalp cleansing paste uses rassoul clay to draw damaging impurities out of your scalp. A healthy scalp means healthy hair and this scrub can help control excess oil, curb dandruff and volumize fine or thinning hair.
Taking care of damaged hair takes more than just the deep conditioner you get at the salon. Using this two-part weekly treatment not only helps strengthen and repair damaged strands, but also seal in the color so it won’t fade as fast. Think of it as a protecting your investment.
If you are prone to dry or over-styled damaged hair, leave-in conditioner is a must. Using this gorgeous smelling formula on damp hair helps retain moisture and add shine without adding weight. It does double duty as a protectant against heat too, so use it before you blow dry to keep your hair looking its best.
If you didn’t know that shampoo can strip natural hair of moisture, now you do. That means a good co-wash should always be lining your shower shelf. Hairfood is our tried-and-true winner that detangles, moisturizes and leaves hair noticeably softer after each wash.
Curls: Naturally, natural hair needs a good thorough washing every so often to get rid of product buildup, oil, etc. and a good moisturizing shampoo is key. Curls has hit it out of the park with its activated charcoal Hair Bath that smells great, feels fab and lathers into a perfect cloud of clean leaving fragile natural hair soft, not squeaky.
Hell hath no fury like untamed edges. Fortunately, this actual gem is out there to help us slick back and tamp down in all weather, all seasons and for all occasions. We don’t throw this around lightly, but Creme of Nature is, perhaps, the G.O.A.T.!
Wash day got a shake up when we discovered this genius little jar of wonder that helps prep moisture-seeking natural hair for the weekly deluge. Slather it on from root to tips about 15 minutes before your shower and then let it work its magic before rinsing out. Pretty sure we’ll never wash our hair again without hitting that B & b balm first.
Cantu: We bow down at the altar of this ultra-moisturizing, grease-free, sweet-scented mousse that’s become a must-have for our flexi sets, twistouts and 2nd (well, let’s be honest, 3rd, 4th and 5th) day curl refresher routines. It’s the kind of drugstore favorite we’re willing to call/beg the manufacturer for if they ever make the cruel mistake of discontinuing. (Please don’t!)
Environmental moisture + natural hair = Actual nightmare. Jennifer Aniston fave Living Proof is a surprise champ – and it gets the job done. A few sprays help tame any existing frizz while also creating a shield that protects in even the most oppressively disgusting weather.
“Money Maker” is simply the G.O.A.T. when it comes to hairspray that doesn’t flake, crunch or leave annoying residue behind. It provides crazy hold — whether you’re natural or blown out — that’s soft to the touch and features Drybar’s signature scent. Total 100 from top to bottom. No contest. Doubt it? @ me.
How many times have you gone to a professional hairdresser and had them tell you your hair is WAY too clean?
I, for one, have run into so many issues of professionals telling me that my hair needed to have leftover product, extra oils and be super dirty so that I can get my best hair possible. Of course, I’ve been adhering to their advice and try not to wash my hair so often. But in the summer months, I can’t help but realize how sweat and oil mixed together makes my scalp really itch. Like, ~really~ itch, to the point where I feel having good hair isn’t worth the annoyance of having to scratch my head every two seconds.
Itching is really normal because there’s so much going on under your hair, says Dr. Terrence Keaney, a dermatologist and men’s skin expert with Dove Men+Care. “The scalp is a unique surface,” he tells Very Good Light. “It protects your head from UV rays and sun from your hair but also, because it has so much hair, it’s the oiliest part of your body.” It does so, he says, to keep it supple and hydrated. But unlike your face, where skin cells turn over quickly, the oil actually traps dead skin cells and worse, provides a food source for bacteria and yeast to grow.
If this sounds like a horror movie of some sludge-like creature taking over your body, it’s because it is. Not washing your hair often enough will allow “certain bacteria and yeast to overgrow,” Dr. Keaney repeats to me over the phone. That can lead to things like flakiness, which we know as dandruff.
Dandruff is the dry, white flakes of skin that come from your head. The common misconception is that we produce dandruff because or actual scalp is dry. This couldn’t be further from the truth. “The quite the opposite,” Dr. Keaney says. “It’s the least dry part of your body. That’s the yeast component I’m talking about.” Skin cells grow and die too quickly from an unhealthy head leads to dandruff, which is why Dr. Keaney says there needs to be more shampoo-ing during the week.
(Fact: There could be an overgrowth of yeast and bacteria on your scalp. now. eeps! Photo by Carolyn Teston/Very Good Light)
Over 51% of men have dandruff, Dr. Keaney says, and a big contributor is that guys just aren’t shampooing enough. I, for one, have been guilty of that. More than anything else, it’s more of a vanity-type thing for me. Shampooing, I feel, strips my head of its natural oils and overdries it, leaving me with hair that seems dead and difficult to style.
“The problem is your hair doesn’t feel great when it feels dry,” he agree with me (for once!). “That’s what people complain about. We’re talking scalp health and hydration. You’re right when you say your scalp can get super dry with cleansing. But that’s when you learn what works for you, whether it’s cleansing daily or a few times a week.”
I suppose the doctor has a point. Just as we’d wash our faces twice a day, it does make sense that we’d also cleanse our faces. After all, scalp skin and face skin are right next to each other.
“It’s funny you want to talk face and body washes for cleansing but you don’t talk about the oiliest part, where you should clean it more than any other skin surface,” he tells me. “Thing get built up in the scalp.” Especially because hormonally, testosterone accelerates sebum and oil especially in men. Other than yeast eating your head, under-cleansing can lead to scalp acne, aka acne keloidalis nuchae. Fortunately, for most guys, your hair hides the scalp blemishes. Simply cleansing your hair more often can cure this, he says.
For those of you who are into the no ‘pooing, or for those who don’t wash your hair altogether, the news above may be difficult to swallow. Same for those who shampoo every day, leaving your scalp super dry. But scalp health is just as important as your face or any other part of your body, so we should definitely be treating it with as much love. From what Dr. Keaney says, I’ve deduced that you simply have to do what’s best for you. If your scalp has a lot of buildup from your products or natural oils, try shampooing it and scrubbing your scalp. If it’s too dry because of over-washing, give it a rest. Ultimately, it’s all about balance. That’s something that I’m definitely going to keep in mind for the fall seasons ahead.
I sat front row at my first fashion show and was nervous as ALL HELL
Is it time to wash your hair?
These CBD products actually work for anxiety
Bushwig is the world’s biggest drag festival and my literal fantasy come true
Every single beauty product I’m obsessed with for this awkward summer to fall transition season
(Could you have been styling your curly hair ALL wrong this entire time? One writer investigates.)
In my journey to acceptance, and eventually love, of my curly hair, I received advice from dozens of industry professionals – everyone from celebrity hair stylists, salon owners and traditional barbers.
The biggest thing I learned is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to any hair problem, no matter what it is, and that what works for you takes a staggering amount of trial and error. Hair care, like anything that is worthwhile, is a game of patience.
But there are, luckily, some general guidelines when learning to work with curly hair. The name of the game here is working with what you have, learning the idiosyncrasies of a type of hair that can have a mind of its own. It’s not necessarily about control, but about embracing and working with the chaos. Here is the best advice I’ve gotten to start:
Put Down the Shampoo
Losi, a stylist at Martial Vivot salon, who I met on set for a GQ photo shoot, clued me in on the importance of not washing my hair too often. When it’s short, it doesn’t matter as much, but curly hair can get frizzy and dry easily, which means those natural oils your scalp secretes are important to keep around. She told me to shampoo at most once a week.
Learn to Mix a Cocktail
Robin Capili of The Kin Room taught me about “cocktailing” products. That means mixing two products together to get the perfect look. He showed me how to mix styling cream with a little bit of gel to get extra hold. The look was great to keep my curl while my hair was a bit shorter.
My friend and barber Kevin Baker of Sposito NYC built on that conversation. He taught me how to blow dry my hair with some styling cream in it, then twist and separate sections with a clay pomade and then use the dryer to melt the clay. Finishing with a shot of dry shampoo at the roots for lift, the final result was piecey and cool, but the dry shampoo left my hair feeling course. I switched the dry shampoo for a few drops of hair oil.
Invest in a Diffuser
(A hair diffuser like this one from Con Air can style your curly hair perfectly.)
Diffusers work by displacing the air of the blow dryer and creating a sort of blanket effect. They mimic the effects of air drying, just more quickly. Sounds great, but they are shockingly hard to use and take a lot of patience. Jordan Blackmore of Three Squares Studio first used one on my hair and the result was a tighter curl than I was used to. He did, however, show me the proper way to use it (keep it a little bit away from my hair and mold the hair into place rather than using tools like a brush to control it).
Go With the Flow
Adam Livermore, a hair stylist and educator for Oribe, gave me a lesson in observation. He pointed out that I had been parting my hair toward my right, which was great if I was trying to get rid of the waves, but my hair naturally curled to the left. If I wanted to embrace my waves, I should follow the natural curl pattern. This blew my mind. WTF is a curl pattern? It’s basically the direction your hair goes when left to its own devices. Apparently knowing your curl pattern is an invaluable step into learning how to manage your hair.
Think Outside the Box
Hairstylist Patrick Kyle opened my eyes to products that I would have never otherwise considered and they ultimately changed my hair for the better. He taught me about co-washing, a way of using a conditioning cleanser (instead of traditional shampoo) to preserve your hair’s natural oils. He taught me about layering a hair balm and a salt spray to protect hydration but give a little texture. He taught me about adding more product throughout the day as my hair dried out. Hell, he even got me to buy a special Aquis hair towel to help dry my hair without hurting the natural texture with aggressive toweling.
He also got me to think about mousse.I had never once in my life considered mousse as anything other than something an old lady would use. But with these seven words, he sent me into a tailspin of mousse testing that made me realize I had discounted an entire category of products which I could benefit from immensely. Once I found one I liked, (some were a little drying), I found that having a bit of extra hold and body could maintain my curls longer without reapplying product.
(One writer finally came to terms with embracing his curly hair. But it was a journey. Illustration by Cat Baldwin/Very Good Light)
I’m going to get this humble brag out of the way: I’ve always been told that I have great hair.
When it’s long(ish), my mane is like a mass of gently ambling waves, like sunset on a South Carolina beach, somewhat wild, with natural body and curl. My entire life I’ve heard things like, “you have great texture” and “that wave!” mostly from older women, including my mom and professional hairstylists.
But I didn’t care about any of that. In fact, I would have given anything to get rid of that hair.
Culturally, our attitudes toward curly hair are muddled and steeped in dichotomy. In art and literature it can symbolize youth, innocence and freedom (think Botticelli’s angels or the greek God of beauty and youth Apollo, both typically depicted with golden curls). It can also symbolize a fall from grace, outsider status and ferality (have you ever heard the phrase “the devil’s curly hair”?). To add even more confusion, curly hair can be a depiction of courage and strength (like Hermione Granger or Merida from Disney’s Brave). Practically, curly hair is often thought of as unprofessional or unkempt, especially among men, as longer hair has for generations been frowned upon in the workplace.
Furthermore, curly hair has entered our culture vernacular as un-American. Think of the “All-American” guy or girl – they probably have straight, blonde hair the color of corn. Hollywood, too, typically uses curly hair to denote a certain kookiness. Think of the best friend to the leading lady (Judy Greer in The Wedding Planner, for instance) or the funny stoner foil to the hearthrob (Seth Rogan in almost every movie he’s in).
For decades, the fight against my hair would continue. Hair would become a symbol of my inadequacy.
I’m not saying I was thinking about all of these cultural signifiers at age 12. All I wanted was to fit in.
When I was in fifth grade, the coolest guy in my class had a bowl cut, stick straight and bright blonde. So naturally, I wanted one, too. I asked my barber for a bowl cut and instead of looking like one of the popular guys or, even better, a young Leonardo DiCaprio, I was Toad from Super Mario. It was puffy, a mushroom cloud of frizz, and my bangs certainly didn’t effortlessly fall just short of my eyes like I had pictured. It is the first memory I have of the extreme disappointment I would start to see regularly when I looked in the mirror.
I remember taking a picture of Carson Daly (then the host of TRL) to my barber a few years later. He had his bangs spiked up in the front and a short crop on the sides. I wanted to capture a little bit of his cool and thought that the style was short enough to hide my curls. My barber, who was not particularly in tune with celebrity culture, essentially gave me a buzz but left a fringe in the front. He also left the bangs too long, so when I spiked them up with LA Looks gel, they curled in on themselves, forming a jelly roll.
For decades, the fight against my hair would continue. Hair would become a symbol of my inadequacy. If I could change my hair, then maybe, just maybe I could change that feeling of otherness that I had so deep inside. Maybe for once in my life the cool group would let me sit with them at lunch or I would finally fit in with the lacrosse team or at the very least maybe they would just stop laughing at me when I walked through the hall. If I could join the ranks of the straight-haired jocks and spike-haired celebrities, then maybe I could transcend the idea that I didn’t belong.
In high school, I cycled through years of hair color experiments and copious amounts of hard gel (to spike my hair so stiffly that it couldn’t physically curl). When I moved to New York City for college I was still committed to doing everything I could to alter my hair. There was now a new world at my fingertips: a world of beauty supply stores, a Ricky’s on every corner, and the Internet.
That’s how I learned about chemical relaxer, the kind that really should only be used by professionals. I started to apply it to my strands in my small, dimly lit dorm bathroom. It was a technology that left my hair straight even in the dense humidity of a New York City summer, but also came with extreme dryness, breakage and tiny little burns along my hairline (even when I applied Vaseline beforehand, a tip I had learned from a message board). After a while my scalp became permanently scented with lye, the main ingredient in the relaxer, and it was that stench that finally got me to put down the chemicals.
Instead, I started to keep my hair very short – no need to relax hair less than half an inch long. In the summer, I would give myself buzz cuts with a cheap clipper I got on sale from Bed Bath & Beyond. I told myself it was to save money on haircuts, but really it was another way to keep the curls at bay.
After college, when I had become an assistant at a high fashion magazine, I remember my boss, referring to a colleague she didn’t get along with, saying to me, “Curly haired girls have no place in fashion.” It was a statement that burned itself into my brain forever.
When you have such internalized hate for your hair, every day can feel like a battle against the inevitable.
By then, I had learned about flat irons, and when one of the beauty editors at work gave me a tiny, one-inch thick blue one, I started to use it religiously, sometimes multiple times a day. I also kept a second one in my desk drawer in order to do touch-ups. I was terrified that my boss would find out that I was one of those curly-haired people who didn’t belong.
My work in fashion magazines, both as a fashion and grooming editor, eventually afforded me access to a stable of professionals who collectively gave me a tool belt of tricks: the best products to use, how to blow out my own hair like a professional, even complimentary straightening treatments that didn’t burn my scalp or leave my bathroom smelling like a chemical factory.
The refrain from these high-profile seasoned professionals was familiar – “look at that curl! It’s gorgeous!” But we all know that you don’t accept what you aren’t ready to hear. I insisted on styles that were best suited for straight hair, even against the advice of people I looked up to.
The metaphor (and irony) is not lost on me: a gay man, a happy and proud and married gay man at that, obsessed with making his hair straight. If hair can be the expression of your true self, a symbol of who you want to be and how you want the world to see you, it can also be a vessel that holds your deepest anxieties and fears. Our hair has the power to alter our mood, make us feel terrible or incredible, shy or invincible, scared or brave. When you have good hair, you feel like you can take on the world. But when you have such internalized hate for your hair, every day can feel like a battle against the inevitable.
But finally, something changed. I thought it was because of the recent fashion obsession with the seventies (designers like Tom Ford and Balmain showing curly-mopped models on the runway) or the much-needed conversations around inclusivity and embracing natural hair texture. I thought maybe it was the wild-child surfers and musicians I used as references for fashion stories over and over again. Basically, I thought it was a visual choice, a fashion trend I wanted to get in on.
The truth is, though, that I was tired. I am now over 30, and I am tired of running. So instead, I started to embrace the magic of my naturally, waved hair.
It was a chance encounter with editorial and celebrity stylist Patrick Kyle, who truly changed my attitude toward my hair. It helps that he has the exact hair that I want – a long-ish mane of waves and curls – and has a very similar hair texture to my own. Through his guidance and advice, I was able to put a real “face” to what I needed to do and I realized the importance of working with someone who has first-person experience with the type of hair you have. There is nothing that can compare to personal experience and his advice to me, based on his own hair, became invaluable.
He also told me something that would eventually replace that curly hair put-down from my old boss: “Nothing will ever look as good as your natural texture.” Mic drop. Once I started using this as my hair mantra, it was like the world opened to me.
Since I started this process, an interesting thing has started to happen. The “good hair” compliments started to come back in droves – and this time I’m actually listening to them. For the first time in my life, I have allowed them in, instead of dismissing them, and by doing so the self-critical voice has started to get a little quieter. I’ve not only embraced my hair but I’ve taken on the challenge of learning something new by listening to people that know more than me.
The road to self-acceptance can be long and the road to self-love even longer. But now with an open mind, and a supportive network of friends, I’m going to go with the flow and see where this wave takes me.
This jelly-pudding sleeping mask is like memory foam for your face
I finally learned to love my curly hair
Bright On is so committable you’ll want to introduce it to your parents
Self-care products to keep in mind when you’re transitioning