Where you should buy beauty products

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There are many ways to get professional grade beauty products. The most common are from a local convenience store, online, and from a beauty professional. One of the most troubling problems with products in the beauty industry is divergence.
Divergence is when products made for use or sale by licensed professionals only find their way onto eBay or in the beauty isle at your local Walmart. A budget conscious shopper might feel that they are getting a better deal on their products by shopping online or in Walmart but often the items sold in these venues are either expired, illegally sold, or both.

Professional products found in grocery stores are often sold by a sales rep for that company with bad faith, meaning that they have knowledge that the products will not be sold in accordance with the company’s guildlines. Once these products are in the purchaser’s hands they are usually stored in a warehouse, sometimes for years, until the product’s bar codes cycle out of use. New bar code stickers are created and then the products are sold to any willing buyer.

This kind of practice leads to clients unwittingly using expired products.

Most people assuming that if they are getting their products from Target or Walmart that it is also cheaper than what they would pay at a salon. Most often than not, you will actually pay $2-$3 more for the expired product!

Buying items online through eBay and Amazon is also on the rise. This again follows a similar story line with a sales rep- but sometimes its the sales rep themselves profiting from the online sales. I’ve actually done searches on eBay and Amazon for a product line that I use and turned the seller’s information to their legal departments. During my search I found a lot of products that I wasn’t familiar with, I asked one of the company’s educators about them and she told me some of those had been discontinued 3-4 years earlier. All of those products were labeled as new and/or never opened.

When ever you are considering a purchase, consider where you are. Is the shampoo/conditioner giant bottle bundle really worth the asking price? If getting a ‘deal’ on a product means more to you than the quality of what’s in the bottle is it really worth it to buy professional brands at all?
It can be hard to buy professional products with a small budget but wouldn’t it be better to talk to your stylist about your budget and get their help finding a solution than to buy something expired? If it was me, I’d drop my commission just to make sure you were getting a better quality product. I probably wouldn’t do it for a client that only seemed to want to nickel and dime me but I’d have no hesitation to do it for someone who was genuinely struggling with a budget factor. Then once they see how great a fresh batch of product is I’m sure they’d realize the little bit of money this product costs saves them more in the long run on hair cuts, color treatments, ect.

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Are you paying enough for your services?

The economy has been bad for a few years now, everyone is looking to save a buck any way they can and often this means fewer visits to your beauty professionals. In response to this some beauty professionals have dropped prices or created bundling specials, others have stopped raising their prices, while others have held steady and are waiting the recession out.

What determines the price for your service:

For every kind of service there is a standard cost. This cost is determined by the cost of the supplies, labor/time, and the experience/education of the service provider.

The cost of the supplies can make a huge difference in price for some services. Extensions come to my mind first- the better quality the hair the more expensive the service, specially if the procedure of installing the hair requires expensive specialty tools.

Labor/time can make a big difference in the cost of a service, and labor/time costs can vary from stylist to stylist. Some stylists set their prices based on how long it takes them to complete the service. For example a perm might not have expensive supply costs, but if it is not a service the stylist does on a regular basis it will take them much longer to complete- so they will charge more. Even if a service is fast to complete but labor intensive for the beauty professional the price can be affected- pedicures often cost more than a manicure because the body position of the nail professional is crouched down and more taxing on the body than a manicure.

Most commonly a factor in the cost of hair services, experience/education can be a huge cost factor. A study was recently done by a morning news show that compared hair cuts at varied costs- one was a low end cut at around $15, another around $40, then one at $80 and a fourth at nearly $200. When strangers were asked which cut looked more expensive or better the $40 look won. This is not to say that big price tags are not worth the investment. Like I said there are a lot of factors that create prices for services, many salons impose pricing standards and dictate when, and how much a stylist can raise their prices. Sometimes the criteria for raising prices is how long the stylist has been with the company, how many classes/training courses they have attended, or how many clients they have. I feel this $40 cut won the popular vote because of the finishing this stylist put into their cut.

This stylists passion for their work out shined the other cuts, it is passion that greatly determines the outcome of any service. Everyone has a budget but take a stylists passion into account. Talk to the stylists before getting a service and find the one who you feel best understands what you’re looking for or the one you feel asks the right questions. These ‘right’ questions will be different for every one but they should all be a variation of ‘what do you want from your hair?’. Whether its about how much time youll spend on styling, your lifestyle, it should be more than just the basics of how long or short you want it.

Tipping

The industry ‘standard’ is between 15-20% of the cost of the service but is all too often skipped or under done. Even if you are not 100% satisfied with the results there is a reason a stylist stops the service. It could be any number of reasons but always make sure you talk with them to find out why they finished their service the way they did.

For example, I read a lot about women being unsatisfied with a coloring service. Most often I hear of them having dyed black hair but now want it blonde and are unsatisfied with the reddish brown hair they leave with. As a cosmetologist 3 things come to my mind that justify this move by their stylists 1) Their hair would have become fried if the stylist tried to bleach the hair up that much and 2) Predicting how long it will take for hair to lift is a tricky thing to estimate- everyone’s hair is different and the stylist did not have enough time scheduled to complete the service to the clients desires 3) the labor of the service is more than they can handle in one sitting-it takes about 3 hours to bleach my hair up and while I might feel a little stiff at the end of it I know my stylist is exhausted by the end of the service from constantly moving.

There is a huge difference between a professional who is plain lazy and another who is taking the well being of your hair into consideration- this should be your basis for tipping!

How To Use Your Tools

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All too often I see some ladies admire a picture for the styling and think a hair cut is what will make their hair look like the model’s. That might be a part of getting the style you desire but most often how you use your tools is much more important.

CURLING IRONS

The type of curl or wave pattern is determined by the angle that the hair is wrapped around the iron, how you hold your iron, and how it cools.

By taking a flat section of your hair and flatly wrapping it around your curling iron you will get a softer look when it is brushed out, its great for an old Hollywood look or beach waves. Another option is to twist the hair as your wrap it around the iron, this makes the sections stay more divided and more like a curled rather than wavy texture.

The angle you hold your iron is also very important for the final results. For an old Hollywood wave I use my iron in a vertical fashion, with a slight tilt (almost parallel to the outer half of my eyebrow) in the front sections. When I want more of a Marilyn Monroe type of curl I hold the iron horizontally.

Finally, the cooling position of the hair is the most under used and highly important step of the whole service. If you’re hair is notorious for loosing its curl completely or not holding the shape you want for more than an hour this is the step that will change your life. For old Hollywood waves I don’t pin my hair, but I will hold a curl for about 30 seconds after removing the iron. The Marilyn look needs to be pinned to the roots until it goes ice cold. If you have extremely difficult hair this will take some practice before it looks perfect. You not only have to train your hands to do what they need to do but your hair needs to learn how to hold the shape as well. Ask a naturally curly friend of yours who straightens their hair daily- they’ll tell you that their hair isn’t as curly or as hard to keep straightened as it used to be. It’s because their hair and their hands have learned to do what they practiced doing!

FLAT IRONS

Sectioning is important for all kinds of styling but I really feel that with straightening it can make or break a styling. The angle of the sections and their size are the most important things to keep in mind.

When I had my hair in a forward bob, longer in the front and short in the back, I found diagonal sections with the hair directed towards my face worked best.

As far as sizing goes, it should be proportionate to the size of the iron. If you use a mini iron your sections will be much shorter than if you use a larger iron, however the thickness of each section should never be more than one inch! Taking sections larger than an inch are not evenly distributing heat to your hair, and if your hair is curly you’ll spend more time going over your hair again and again to get every bit of it straight than if you just take smaller sections to begin with. By taking less hair in each section you’re going to get more control of how each section looks.

Some styles can be done multiple ways so try things out and find what works best for you.

FINAL THOUGHTS

For more styling guidance please also read my other post What Tools You Should Be Using.

Lengths like Rapunzel

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While many celebrities and hairstylists are claiming that cutting it all off is the summer trend I can bet that most of us dreamed of having long, lush hair at least once in our lives. Why does it seem to take an eternity for our locks to reach those lengths? Well here I will explain the basics of hair growth rate and what you can do to make the most of it.

HAIR GROWTH

Hair grows at a set length, it will vary for each person, but on average only about 1/2 an inch a month. At 6 inches a year it will be a slow process to reach those mermaid lengths, but they are attainable! The chart below is my favorite illustration of hair’s growth rate from bald to waist length.

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Hair also has 3 stages of growth: anagen, catagen, and telogen. In the anagen phase the root of the hair is actively being fed by proteins in your blood and is actively growing. These hairs will hurt when they are pulled out accidentally. The catagen phase is when the root begins to detach from the blood supply, the hair will no longer be receiving protein and the root will begin to shrink- these hairs are the ones that you find most often in your hair brush. Eventually the hair will fall out completely. The telogen phase is the resting period between a hair falling out and when a new hair begins to grow. The image below illustrates the 3 stages.

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SAVING LENGTH

There are a few things to keep in mind when growing out your locks, some might sound counter productive, but they are your best chance at reaching the length you are looking for.

Trim Regularly: Cut your hair to grow it. Like I said- some things will sound counter productive but I promise they’re not! Keeping your hair split end free will allow it to grow longer than if you never trimmed your hair. Hair is dead by definition- if it was alive we would feel pain when it gets trimmed. That being said, split ends are like mummified bodies- dried out, empty, and easily broken. To keep that ‘mummified’ texture from spreading up to the rest of your hair shaft the hair must be cut. Skipping trims can lead to hair breaking off or causing more hair to be cut off later! The trick with trims is to get them done as soon as they are needed. For most people that will mean a salon visit every 6-8 weeks.

Style Smartly: Using styling tools are beneficial now, but the damage they could be doing can cause your hair to require more frequent trims and more time to reach your desired length. Make sure you are using your tools correctly and at the right settings! No-heat styling should be your new best friend. Read my post about what tools to use, and how to use them here.

Moisturize me: Keep your hair moisture rich- this means conditioning treatments. Spending major bucks at a salon for this is not required but not discredited either. I definitely recommend having your hair analyzed by a professional from time to time. Hair types vary, just like skin types, some people are prone to dry hair and others are not. If you are prone to dry hair then conditioning treatments are something you should be considering at least once a week. If you are lucky enough to be one of those annoyingly perfect hair types of people (cough) then conditioning treatments should still be something you do from time to time but not nearly as frequently as dry hair types.

MIRACLE TREATMENTS

Anything that you can get over the counter that claims to increase your hair’s rate of growth is lying. Nothing applied topically (shampoos or serums) or taken orally (pills and vitamins) will have any affect on your rate of growth. If there was truly a miracle product it would make major headlines and infomercials would be unnecessary.

That being said, they can’t hurt either. Hair needs protein and blood flow to grow. If a shampoo or scalp serum has an ingredient that increases blood flow, then it can encourage hair to grow. A pill or vitamin might not provide the exact protein that your body needs to produce hair, but it can encourage the absorption of these proteins. The important thing to keep in mind when considering these ‘miracle’ products is to remember that growing hair takes more patience than most of us would like, and this product will not get your hair to the length you want over night.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Growing long locks is a slow process but maintaining healthy hair will get you there. You have already educated yourself about how hair grows so now you can make better decisions about how to style, trim, and condition your hair. True ‘miracle’ products might not exist, but now you are better equipped to weed out the gimmicks and find products that really can encourage your hair to grow at the fastest rate possible.

Whatever length you’re at right now, don’t lose hope! Just think about how great you will feel once you reach your dream length and push on!

Save Or Splurge

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There are a lot of differing opinions about seeking professional help for hair and beauty services vs doing them at home for cheaper. I hope to present an as unbiased as possible review of several services to help best guide you towards investing smartly in your appearance.

COLORING HAIR

This all really depends on what the final look will be like compared to the look your hair currently has. If it’s a simple all over color with only a small hue difference from your current color- go for it. Just buy smartly. Box color might turn out fine every once and a while but I HIGHLY recommend visiting a beauty supply and buying color and developer on your own. Some beauty supply stores will have licensed cosmetologists on staff who can help you find what you need but don’t assume they know what products will work for what you want to accomplish if they are not licensed. If you are going to take the time to dye your own hair do a little research and educate your self about the basics of hair dye.

If you have plans to lighten your hair with bleach or if you have ever dyed your hair before it is very important for you to visit a professional. Color cannot lift color and bleach is a very volatile product which can permanently damage your scalp or hair if you do not understand the basics of bleaching.

If you are trying to cut costs I suggest doing a mix of salon and at home. Go to your stylist for the bleaching and finish the color at home, just realize that you are risking spending more if you need to return to the salon to have the color fixed. You also might have difficulty getting your color formula from your colorist, many colorists will keep these secret to avoid loosing business or to prevent you from taking it to another stylist. This is a bit of a standoff in the industry- some colorists feel their service is about more than the formula its about the connection and luxury while others feel like constructing formulas is what separates colorists from box dye. If your colorist has a problem giving you the color formula don’t take it personally, instead maybe consider a color that will grow out in a more flattering manner so that you can skip a visit with out your roots looking like a nightmare when you return.

SKIN CARE

At home facials are easy enough, but have you objectively examined your skin type and correctly chosen products for it? This is one service that I think you need to only do a few times in your life. As long as you’re paying attention and asking all the right questions you will be able to fend for yourself for longer than you’d think.

There are 3 stages of life that most affect the skin that I think are important to be aware of – teenager, adult, and post-menopause. Teenage years are of coarse everyone’s favorite, your body is full of hormones as your body goes through its changes from girl to woman and your face looks like a war zone. Adulthood for skin is reached mid to late 20’s which can be just as difficult as teenage years, or at least I feel so. Nothing is worse as a beauty professional than giving clients advice about skin care when your own is clearly not behaving. Finally the last stage is post-menopause, I think this is when skin type can change the most. The majority of my older clients have experienced very dry and thinning skin at this point which can be a nice break for those who were previously of an oily skin type but left unaware of how to care for their new skin type.

If you are in between one of these points of your life and your current routine is working well for you then stick to what you’re doing. What works for you works- so don’t let any one or thing change your mind.

EYEBROWS

I am currently working as an eyebrow threader so this will be a little less unbiased. I believe in having a shape that is specifically crafted for your facial features. As a threading artist I use your bone structure and natural growth pattern to determine the best shape of eyebrow for you. If you have a well balanced shape from your own tweezing then there is no real need for you to get them professionally done.  If you have any doubts or questions about your eyebrow shape then I highly recommend you find an eyebrow expert near you.

If you’re going to take the time and money to see a ‘professional’ do your homework on them too! Far too many ‘professionals’ in the cosmetology industry do not take eyebrow shaping seriously and all too often that includes rules and regulations about sanitation. Go somewhere that is know for doing eyebrows- just about every hair salon will offer it but not all of them will be skilled in it. It might cost you a little more for these places but it will be worth it.

Of coarse I truly believe threading is the best kind of experience you could have for eyebrow maintenance but to each their own. Check reviews of their work no matter what you choose- not all threaders are created equal! Eyebrows have the ability to change your face dramatically so only trust it to someone who will make you look amazing.

CHEMICAL STRAIGHTENING

This can be another tricky service that’s best to start off in a salon. There are 2 main types of straightening products: thio and sodium hydroxide. It is imperative to know which one is right for you. The wrong kind can either have little effect on your hair or leave you completely bald for life- literally.

If you start at a salon with a thio then doing your regrowth is less of a hazard but there is still a risk. Be extremely mindful about time and I highly recommend having a friend assist you with it. Your regrowth will take less time to treat than your initial visit did and it can be difficult to coordinate areas on the back of your head.

However if you are using a sodium hydroxide I do not believe that is something that should ever be done outside of a salon. Thios are much gentler and easier to manage but sodium hydroxide can have immediate scarring effects on your scalp. Sodium hydroxide is one of the main ingredients in Drain-o, it is safe to use in the right hands but if you wouldn’t imagine doing your own heart surgery I definitely advise against doing your own SH relaxer! There have been cases of scalps melting even in salon settings so this is not something to take lightly.

If you’re unsure of what kind of straightening system you had done, ask your stylist.

CONCLUSION

*Another cost saving option is to visit a cosmetology school, their prices might not be rock bottom but you will be giving a student a real client to work on and even if they don’t have much experience their instructors do and will watch over them closely. Personally I feel that community colleges are the best option, private cosmo schools are great but some will hire newly licensed cosmetologists as instructors or have students mentor other students instead of employing more instructors with more experience. Private schools have their benefits over community colleges but the instructor program for colleges is much more rigorous and often the instructors there will have quite a few more years of in-salon experience and teacher training.

So there are my as unbiased as possible tips about when to see a professional for beauty treatments! As always do your research before doing any service at home and don’t be afraid to talk to your stylist/colorist/esthetician about how do successfully do it. They will give you the best advice for what will work best for you, although slightly more biased, and can help guide you to safe savings.

Products to Tame and Tousle All Tresses

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So I’ve talked about how to wash and style hair and now I am going to introduce you to some simple products. I will name the specific brands that I use but what works for me might not work for you so  don’t be discouraged if that brand doesn’t give you the results you want- try, try again!

Lottabody Setting Lotion   ($5.19 on sallybeauty.com)

I love this stuff for naturally curly hair. I recently gave the last of mine to a friend for her toddlers tight curled blonde hair and she loves it. Setting lotion was originally made for wet sets, which is when you put wet hair up in rollers and comb it our after it dries. This can work great for naturally straight hair but you MUST use heat to dry AND allow the hair to go cold before removing the rollers- if not your hair will be fabulously shiny but loose its voluminous curls through out the day. Personally I think it works best for curly tresses because it will battle frizz while leaving your hair baby soft. In my opinion, no other product can come close to the softness of setting lotion while holding va-va-voom appeal. This is the kind of stuff you grandmother (or great grandmother) would have used to create the lovely hairstyles of the 1940’s and 1950’s. The best way to get roller sets dry are with a hood dryer, these can be hard to find outside of beauty supply stores and not the most affordable (cheapest I’ve ever seen are for $100). However if you really enjoy soft glamorous hair on a daily basis this might be another tool for you to consider investing in. Before taking the financial leap I suggest doing a trial run to see if it would be a smart buy. Complete a roller set and visiting your salon on a calm day to use their hood dryer, I’m sure if you called ahead they would have no issue with you using it.

White Sands Curl Up In Silk Firm Mousse   ($17.91 on amazon.com)

This is another great product for all hair types. I LOVE the smell of this stuff in my hair! It might not be as cheap as setting lotions but this is by far worth the investment. It would be great to use for the same kind of styling as roller sets can, like how I described above but using curling irons instead. This might be easier for the hair styling virgins, I think in this day and age most of use are used hot tools, right?

Dove Invigorating Dry Shampoo   ($ 3.94 on amazon.com)

Another great smelling product is this Dove dry shampoo. For me, if I don’t like the way something sells I can’t use it no matter how well it works. Dry shampoo is also one of those products that works for everyone for all kinds of reasons. I use this at least 3 times a week on my day old roots, I hate washing my hair everyday and with my job as an eyebrow threader I constantly have layers of lotion and hand sanitizer on my hands which always ends up making my roots look greasy by the end of my shift. Dry shampoo is also amazing with thin, fine hair. Using this on your hair will give it more girth and make it appear fuller. It also gives clean hair a grittier coating but keeps hair light which creates better teasing so this is also great to use for formal styles instead of trying to fluff up greasy day old hair.

Coconut Oil   (Found in the oil isle at any grocery store from $6-$10)

This is another favorite of mine for adding a little shine to your hair. This also does wonders as a conditioning treatment! I will occasionally use a small amount of this to give the lower 3rd of my hair a little more shine. A small amount really goes a long way too so thin,fine hair will need to keep an eye on using as little as possible.

That’s it! These products can work wonders for any hair type and I hope they inspire you to do that hair style you always wanted!

What Tools You Should Be Using

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A non-ventilated ball tipped brush (this kind should be used on dry hair)

Just about every one I know are using the wrong kind of tools for their hair type. You might not realize how much damage you are causing with them!

WET HAIR

The best tool for wet hair, specially when you have curly hair, is a comb. Wet hair will stretch more than dry hair and is easier to damage. It is very important to work out knots from the tips up to the roots. Combs with out ball tipped ends are the gentlest.

WHILE BLOW DRYING

Ventilated brushes are just as important as using a blow dryer instead of a blow torch. In fact, if you’re not using a ventilated brush your blow dryer is effecting your hair more like a blow torch! The open spaces in ventilated brushes allow the heated air to easily pass through the brush and around your hair, this allows hair to dry faster and more evenly. A solid backed brush will not allow air to flow through your hair and will most likely only dry the front layer. Attempting to dry the entire section at once will result in burning the front layer. There are several different kinds of ventilated brushes for different effects- round brushes will help give your hair body whereas a flat panel brush will help keep your hair straight.

USING HOT TOOLS

Flat and curling irons can also help create different hair effects but be mindful not to use tolls on a setting too high for your hair type. It is very important to have a tool with some kind of temperature control, preferably in degrees, so that you can best monitor the health of your hair. To properly assess your hair I suggest asking your stylist what hair type you have so that you can be sure to use the correct amount of heat.

Below is a general guideline to give you a starting point, but find the range that works best for you.

Thin/Fine

< 360

Normal/Medium

360-380

Thick/Coarse

380-410

How You Should Be Washing Your Hair

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How to properly wash your hair

All too often I hear complaints from friends and relatives about how their hair is too this, too that, or cant do this. And often I’m finding the true root of their problem is with how they wash their hair!

You may think it’s silly of me to dedicate an entire post over washing hair but because it is the first building block to any hair style it has the potential to make and break the final look.

KNOW YOUR PRODUCTS

Make sure you are using the right kinds of products for your hair. If you’re an artificial platinum blonde your products will be wildly different from a natural platinum blonde’s! Curly hair has different demands than straight hair and chemically treated hair will need different things from virgin hair. Your best bet is to ask your hairstylist next time you get a service.

Another big thing for me is to not skimp out on the quality. I know how tempting it can be to buy whatever smells good when you’re in the grocery store but the ‘name brands’ sold in these places are NOT the same products you will get in a salon. Many companies will often sell out the rights to other bigger companies after they reach a level of popularity. These bigger companies will then use the same or similar ingredients- but of a lower quality to lower their bottom line, when this happens your hair is no longer getting the full benefit of the brand names original formula.

The most common substitute in conditioners are various forms of wax. Wax is cheap and coats the hair in a way that makes if feel like it has been repaired but do not be fooled- your hair is not any healthier. Truthfully your hair is worse off because not only is it over coated in waxy build up but the wax will also muddy your hair color and give you a false sense of strength in your hair. Without a realistic sense of how strong your hair is it is very easy to over work it and damage it beyond all hope of repair.

And as a general rule any product that is a 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner isn’t worth the cost to bottle it. Nothing that removes dirt from your hair can deposit a conditioner at the same time- if you mixed a shampoo and conditioner in the shower they would cancel each other out and leave you with one messed up looking head.

HOW TO SHAMPOO

Knowing how much product to use is key, too much and you could end up with dry hair or end up with an oily nape (the portion above the back of your neck) if you use too little. The exact amount will depend on the product and how much hair you have.  What ever amount you are using it should be enough to cover the first 2 inches of all your roots with a sudsy goodness. If its more or less than the first 2 inches that’s a good indication you’re using the wrong amount.

The act of shampooing should be in one of two motions: back and forth or in small circular motions. If you have curly hair I’d recommend using small back and forth motions to avoid over tangling your locks. Using these movements deposit the shampoo evenly starting at the top of your head and moving towards your nape. while you are moving from one area of your head to the next make sure to have as little of your length between your shampoo covered hands and the roots of your hair- this will probably mean picking up your locks with the back of your hands to slide them into place.

Shampooing your hair from roots to tips will cause more tangles than necessary, don’t worry about the main body of your hair that will be cleansed when you rinse out the shampoo. If you are worried about all of your hair not being product or oil free the first time you switch to this new routine just shampoo rinse and repeat.

HOW TO CONDITION

Shampoo is for your roots and conditioner is for your tips. Using an appropriate amount for your hair spread the conditioner between your hands and run your hands from the bottom towards the nape. After reaching the nape you should comb through your hair with your finger tips, again from the bottom up to the top of your head. by the time your fingers reach the roots of the top of your head there should be only a small amount of conditioner left. Finally, using the same motions you used to shampoo, thoroughly rinse the roots free of conditioner but leaving some in the main body and the tips.

That’s it! Hopefully this can help some of you attain better looking hair! Next week I will be going over some basic tools and tips for styling that I hope will also help you create fabulous hair! Please feel free to leave comments, questions, and suggestions below!