Real Girl Beauty

For every girl who's imagined herself as Lucky Magazine's "Lucky Girl." Or who's conquered her addiction to the bitchier-than-thou forums. Or who reacts every day to her Daily Candy email with the same: "Who can afford that?" Here are some heartfelt health and beauty tips from one Real Girl to another.

Monday, December 12, 2005

What You Want: Part 2

Girls (and boys?), I am a tired one tonight. You know the time of year—so crisp and frigid outside but so toasty warm inside, bundled in sweatpants and a high-necked sweater, cuddling a mug of cocoa and a furry feline. No, December does not scream glamour, with its chapping winds and endless Christmas specials. (I was waiting for A Very Merry Prison Break, with Michael devising a plan for Baby Jesus to escape the manger, but alas twas not to be.)

So in honor of the season of giving (which is, hello, every season here at Real Girl Beauty), I’m going to try and tip my amateur hat at some hair questions—with a heap of help from expert Julie.

First up comes this excellent question from Melissa:

Hey there,

I am curious as to your thoughts about at-home hair dyes. As someone who just got married AND moved out of state AND has to do holiday shopping now, going to a good salon for my coloring just isn’t in the budget until at least after the holidays. But with the whole 28 and grey thing happening, I need to do something. Do you have any suggestions / recommendations? I don’t expect to get pretty pretty highlights out of a box, I don’t need miracles. However, I would like halfway decent color without killing my hair. Any ideas you have would be appreciated.

Your blog is great, thanks for it.

Hi Melissa!

Well, congrats on your recent changes—and what better way to celebrate than with a sexy new hair color. I confess I haven’t home hair-dyed since I was about 16. My first salon henna was at 17. (There’s a story about that—it involves getting sassy red highlights the day before the SATs. During the test I made sure to sit near a window so the sun could dapple my darling new ‘do, and I could ooh and ahhh over my dazzling color. No single SAT-taker has ever been in a better mood than I was that day. Honestly? I credit my highlights with getting me the highest scores in my class. So trust me, I feel you on the importance of a good color. Ohhhh, I feel you.)

But first! These incredibly sage words of warning from Chere Julie, who TOTALLY knows her stuff when it comes to La Color:

[This is] a tough one. Since I have never used any of the over-the-counter hair coloring kits, I have no idea what to tell someone to buy to use on their own hair. My only advice is to be careful, because if they use some random over the counter color they can really mess their color up if they make the wrong choice. Which means it will cost them 3 times as much to get it fixed by a professional. So in the long run, they will not be saving money at all.

The most cautious thing to do is for her to talk to her stylist/colorist and see what she thinks she should do, since her stylist/colorist knows her hair color history. Because we don't know what is on her hair right now or what is underneath the color she has now. People tend to leave out the fact that they once had their hair black at one time, and then bleached it up to blonde, and then colored it red, and then black again, and so on and so on. It is a very hard call, especially over the internet.

So Melissa! If you don’t have “virgin” hair, beware my dear, beware. Also? With the fancy and the highlights and the lowlights? Best leave that to the pros.

But let’s say your current hair hasn’t popped its cherry yet. I’ve been doing some internet research as well as some consumer research (involving very scientifically peering at women buying hair color in drugstores, getting as close as I could without them alerting security) and here are my empirical results:

It’s a case of oldie but goodie: Clairol Hydrience. Let’s go easy on the tone, however. Like, say, the in-your-face brassy red you might see on this very link? Not so cute. Beware of reds in general, I would say.

Perhaps you’d like a less ultra-permanent color to start, however, as I would recommend. Clairol Hydrience is a “level 3,” but a good “level 2” option would be the easier to take Clairol Natural Instincts. Desert Sunrise doesn’t look so bad, does it? Even if the name screams "Lifetime Television"?

Another popular option would be L'Oreal Preference, which--according to the box in the link--aims to be the home hair color for the Carol Bradys of the world. But it's not like they're home-cutting your hair, right?

I wish I had a meatier, better-informed answer for you, but I’m hoping the brilliant Real Girlettes (not to be confused with “Gillette,” although—yes—both are “the best a man can get”) commenters will help a beauty sister out here.

Which brings us swiftly to…Question 2! From long-time reader Erin:

Dearest Real Girl,

I know you haven't done an "ask real girl" in awhile, but I have a
question about flat irons. I just got a cut that requires a bit more
maintenance than I am used to and necessitates the purchase of a flat
iron. I know ceramic is best, but how do I choose from there? target
has prices ranging from 16 to 60 dollars, but my friend's flat iron
cost like a hundred.

also, heat protectant? what?

feel free to ignore this one - you have beautiful curly hair that you
probably don't have to torture in this manner :)

Poor Erin. She asked me this question, like, a month ago and probably has already bought her flat iron and heat protectant, and I suck. But you know who totally doesn’t? JULIE! So let’s hear first from the expert.

Hmmmm, flatirons!!!

I am still using the same flatiron that I purchased 10 years ago for $150. However I have heard lots of good things about the ceramic irons, but have never used one. But I would reccomend spending the extra cash on a good one, since it will last a hella lot longer than the cheaper ones. The cheper ones might not get hot enough or worse....they can get too hot and damage the hair.

I have heard lots of good things about the GHD (Good Hair Day) flat irons from other stylists. They can cost about $200, I think.

I prefer an iron that has a beveled edge. A beveled edge gives you the choice of kicking the ends out, turning them under, or just zipping it straight down the hair shaft to make it pin straight.

Your girls sure hit you with some tough questions. I could just imagine what they ask about skincare, jeesh.

I know! But who doesn’t love a challenge?

Umm….yeah. So it turns out? Ceramic flat irons are totally expensive. But here are some possibilities I found by researching on the all-encompassing Internet:

1. I would be remiss if I didn’t include the GHD Flat Iron mentioned by Awesome Julie.
2. One of the best-rated cheapies was: Ceramic Tools Professional Flat Iron.
3. This puppy was popular hair e-retailer’s best rated option, at $125.
4. And here’s a nicely priced $85 Solia that’s also one of’s 10 best.

SOME KEY TIPS: It's healthiest for your hair if you flat iron when it's completely dry--heated water can rupture your hair shaft. Also, keep the iron moving. If you let it rest on one section of hair, that section will fry like Victoria Gotti on a tanning bed.

Not so cute.

Oh, Real Girlettes. I’ve been writing for so long now, and the eyelids, they are so very heavy.

SO I may have to save heat protectant for next week. But please! Help our intrepid gal pals with home color and ceramic (or other!) flat irons.

And next week we’ll gab about heat protectant, which can help us ALL, and which I actually have something to say about. I’ve just found a new one that I heart! I’m such a friggin’ tease.

But I’m also your,
warm and sleepy,
Real Girl