Ask Allie: All About Hair

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Hi Allie,
I am a regular reader of your blog. My hair is very similar to yours in texture and I love the way you do your hair. I love wearing my hair straight but I now live in a very humid part of India. Could you tell me if Elnett would work to keep frizz at bay?
Thanks so much, Praveena
Dear Alison, would you please write a post on how you deal with your hair? I think we have similar hair – not thick, not curly, not straight. I say my hair is like my daughter’s and she’s 4. Soft but hard to manage and full of cowlicks. How do you get your hair to look so thick and controlled?
Thanks, Becca
Hi Allie
I was wondering whether you would do a post on your hair; from what I can tell, we have EXACTLY the same hair. Mine is similarly a combination of curly/wavy in parts and straightish in others. It is also on the fine side, which yours seems to be too. I have been struggling with mine for a while – it’s easy to blow dry it straight, but difficult to keep it that way. If I leave it to dry naturally, it’s a mess and not something I can wear to work. Even on days I manage to curl bits to get a neat wavy look, once I sleep on it, it’s a mess and I don't have time to spend more than 10 minutes on it each morning. I would love your tips on how you look after and style yours. In particular, how often you wash and when.


I am NOT a hair expert. For years I did DIY haircuts and color; late nights of bleaching into oblivion (as seen above – yeppers, I'm the one on the left) and then dying it red the next week, cutting bangs with nail scissors, and even once cut off a side ponytail for an asymmetrical ‘do. I finally decided around the time of my wedding (and turning 30) that I was getting too old for gray dye stains on my neck and crooked bangs and started going to a salon on a regular basis. Kathleen my stylist seems to understand my hair and know how to cut it to get it to curl, straighten, and lay properly; she also has kept my grays at bay without looking dowdy for the past six years. When I am on schedule, I see Kathleen every 6-10 weeks for a trim, maybe a slight change to the cut, and either a color touch-up or a slight change. I used to be far more daring with my hair color, but with my current position at my job I find it makes sense to keep my hair pretty neutral.

For the past several years I have relied on Pureology shampoo and conditioner, nothing else compares for my hair. The line really extends my color, and my hair feels so soft and looks so shiny. I use the Hydrating collection – I have switched to the Volumizing collection in the past but it didn’t work as well for my hair. I was my hair every 2-3 days, keeping the shampoo close to the scalp and the conditioner close to the ends so my oily-prone hair doesn’t get too weighed down. I always do a cool rinse after my shower – I don’t know if it really helps with shine but it feels good and wakes me up. I shower often in the morning because the house is asleep and it wakes me up, but if I know I want to go curly or wavy or know I’ll have an early workday, I’ll wash at night and let it dry while I sleep.

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I used to do hot oil, deep conditioning masks, and even homemade hydration treatments on my hair, but in the past few months it has just left my hair looking really greasy and heavy. However, out of all the products I have used the best is regular olive oil. On a lazy Sunday I will warm up olive oil in the microwave, apply to dry hair, then wrap in Saran wrap and then a towel and wear it for a few hours. I then wash it out completely and it will leave my hair very soft and not nearly as greasy as popular products like Moroccan Oil.

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As for styling products, I have used several things in the past, but right now I usually don’t a lot of product at all. I recently was sent FrizzEase Sheer Solution to try out and it’s pretty great for fine hair. You shake the bottle, dribble out 10 drops in your palm and spread through your hair. Let hair air dry (or use a diffuser) for soft waves and curls, or blow dry to get hair extra-straight. Unlike regular straightening serums, this doesn’t make my hair greasy or heavy; I also think it makes my hair dry faster. The only problem is that it makes my hair look limp on Day 2.

I occasionally use Jonathan Silky Dirt on damp hair if I want texture once dry. I emulsify a pea-sized amount in my palms and rub through the bottom half of my hair and dry as usual. It makes hair look a bit rougher, a bit dirty yet not greasy. A tiny bit more on dry hair will separate layers and keep sideswept bangs in place.

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Usually when I make my hair straight, I use no product at all. I usually let my hair air dry overnight and then the next day use my flat iron to smooth. I will tackle the bangs first with a dryer and paddle brush – I swing the bags side to side with the dryer on it so they don’t have a cowlick or separate. I then go over the whole head with the flat iron. I keep the iron at 350 degrees so it doesn’t get it bone-straight, just smooth.  To extend this look I use dry shampoo – I have used a few different brands but right now I'm digging Klorane (as long as I have the ability to brush out the white – not good for curly or wavy looks).

alison gary curly hair

When I make my hair curly, I add either the FrizzEase Sheer Solution or some Bumble and Bumble Styling Creme and try to let it air dry as much as possible – either I will let it dry overnight, or get up early, shower, and then putz around the house until it dries. My hair doesn’t react well to a diffuser so I only use it when absolutely necessary. Once dry, I take a curling iron to it to smooth out frizz and/or bedhead. I usually curl towards the back of the head so it looks natural and a bit windswept. I’ll then hit it with a fine mist of Elnett, let it dry and cool completely and then use my fingers to separate the curls.

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When I have to go out after work or am out on the town for a long day, I’ll use a bit of body lotion to smooth hair – I’ll moisturize my hands and then the leftover I will use to smooth. If I have a special event to attend, I will tuck my flat iron into my purse to revive my bangs and the under part that curls up with heat. I really should get a mini iron to keep in my desk or bag!

Come summer, I usually use more product in my hair and go wavy or curly. The combination of product, waves, and DC humidity work in my favor for a more casual beachy look. This past summer I used Frederic Fekkai’s Luscious Curls. I would put in wet hair, scrunch, let the dogs out, scrunch, eat breakfast, scrunch, check email, scrunch, get dressed. Usually my hair was at least 80% dry by that point and I would then use a curling iron just to adjust the bangs and deal with that one point on the left side of my head that doesn’t wave or curl as well as the rest.  This method will work for a couple of days – I will revive with my curling iron and use some tinted dry shampoo to keep the roots fresh.

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A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Wow!  You really went into great detail about your products and styling techniques, providing great detail for each one of your readers’ questions and more!  I plan to look for the dry shampoo that you mentioned more than once.  Incidentally, I love the new banner on the blog!  Happy holidays!

  2. LOL I’m pretty long winded in my posts!  The Salon Grafix dry shampoo is great for hiding roots, but do know it makes you hair feel a bit weird (like a wig) and if you scratch your head you’ll get brown under your nails.  But a great bargain shampoo and super great for hiding roots!

  3. I’m so glad I took the time to read whole post. I’m another one with hair very similar to yours. I’ve got the styling down but was looking for something to touch up my roots between colorings. For some odd reason, my hair is growing so fast that even with salon visits every four weeks (I used to go every 6 weeks) my grey roots are pretty obvious that last week. I’m definitely going to try that tinted dry shampoo. Thanks!

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