Accutane for Mild but Persistent Acne: Final Update

After eight long months, I can finally say: I’M DONE WITH ACCUTANE! If you’ve been following along my journey, you’ll know why I decided to take Accutane (or Zenatane, to be more specific) for my mild but persistent acne, and how I felt about it a few months into the experience. I had originally filmed a seven-month update, but for some reason, it got flagged on YouTube. Say what? *shrugs* Who knows? Anyway, I am so glad I finally got around to filming and uploading my final thoughts on the whole process! I was on the prescription from May-December 2014, even though I was originally supposed to take it for about six months. The two additional months were necessary, however, and I’m glad I stuck with it.

Though to most people around me, the results are not all that noticeable, to me, they are definitely significant. I can’t believe that not even a year ago, I had cystic-like acne, especially on my chin, and blemishes that never really seemed to go away no matter what I tried. No amount of makeup seemed to make a difference. I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to give Isotretinoin a try. Of course, it’s certainly not for everyone, but for me, it was a good and worthwhile treatment.

Fingers crossed that for the long-term, this treatment continues to be a more permanent solution. I know I’ll still have blemishes here and there and that I can still work on improving the quality of my skin, but CHEERS for overall clear skin and confidence! Thank you to all who stuck around and supported me through the long (and annoying) process.

My Top 10 Wavy and Curly Hair Essentials

Despite the fact that the majority of people I know tend to have some sort of wave or curl to their hair (whether they admit it or not), there is still not a ton of knowledge to be found in one place for curly-haired people. And because every single curly has his or her own unique curl type that seems to have its own personality, it can be even more difficult to sift through curly hair resources to find information that is pertinent to you. It’s no wonder that so many curlies have resorted to using a straightener every single day. While I enjoy and appreciate straight hair (even for myself on occasion), I am a firm believer in embracing your waves and curls! Since discovering my waves once I hit puberty, it has been an uphill battle to find the products and techniques that work on my wavy curls. While I don’t think the journey will ever end, I feel confident in my research and experience that I have found a nice list of essentials that my curls could not do without.

It’s important to note that while these things work for me, they may not work for you and your curl type. If you’re going by the Curly Girl method, I have 3B/2C/2B curls and waves–somewhere between “wavy curvy,” “wavy whirly,” and “curly twirly.” Yes, it’s totally normal to have multiple curl types on one head. When I was in late elementary/early middle school, my best friend Chrissy always called my curls “wavy woos.” I think it works well. Even though you may not have the same hair type as me, a lot of these essentials can still apply to other wavys and curlies. While pricey and time-consuming, the best thing you can do for your curls is just to try different products and techniques until you find something that works. (And often times, you’ll continually have to adjust this routine as time goes on and your pattern evolves.)

Without further ado, here are my top 10 wavy curly hair essentials. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to enter in a very special curly giveaway!

My Top 10 Wavy and Curly Hair Essentials

1. Curly Girl: The Handbook (2nd edition)

If there was one “manual” out there that I would recommend for curlies, it would be this. Written by the fabulous Lorraine Massey, this book outlines in detail the various curl types, best hair cut techniques, recommended products for each texture, recipes for homemade treatments, and more. I received this book back in high school and it changed my understanding and perspective of curly hair dramatically. I’ve read another handbook of sorts (Curl Talk by Ouidad) and while it was informative, I still much prefer the CG Handbook and revisit it whenever I’m in a curly hair rut. And if you’re a curly girl, you know that happens cyclically and it’s important to have a go-to to rely on. (Stick around to the end of the post for an opportunity to win your own copy!)

Curly Girl The Handbook is my #1 Wavy and Curly Hair Essentialvia

2. A Curly Hair Artist/Stylist

A few months ago, I talked about my extremely positive experience with the lovely Kelly Elaine Inc., a specialized curly hair salon in Pittsburgh. Kelly and Victoria have been instrumental in making my curls more manageable and beautiful. Once you find a stylist who truly understands curly hair, you can finally relax when you go to the salon! Kelly recommends you look for a stylist who is part of Curly Hair Artistry. Founded by Scott Musgrave, this group of talented stylists regularly train and learn about curly hair cutting and styling techniques. Click here for a current Global Stylist Listing. Before you get a cut, ask your stylist if he or she cuts curls dry and what education they have to get a good feel of how they might work with your own curls. Read more of my interview with Kelly for more tips and advice for finding your perfect curly hair artist.

A Custom Curly Hair Cut and Review Kelly Elaine Inc

3. NaturallyCurly.com

In addition to having the Curly Girl Handbook, it’s equally as important to have a place to turn to for articles, product reviews, and forums. NaturallyCurly.com is one of my favorite resources to consult regularly. I mostly use it to look up products I come across at Target or see online and it is really helpful to see reviews from others who have the same curl type as you. You can also look up salons in your area that are “curly hair certified” and read reviews on them. You may have seen my review of Kelly Elaine, Inc. back in 2011 on there! There’s also some pretty cool giveaways and testimonials to check out.

4. Your Holy Grail Products

I am of the belief that you may never find your “holy grail” products, but you’re in luck if you come relatively close. For me, these products have changed over time, but right now I have had the most consistent results with the DevaCurl products. Here’s what I’m using these days:

In the Shower

Raked Through Soaking Wet Hair and then Scrunched Gently

I’m hoping to do a more detailed post about styling in the future, but this is the trickiest area when it comes to curls. Some curlies can achieve perfect coils with mousse and hairspray, while others require carefully distributed creams and gels. There is a big debate when it comes to ingredients, but typically try to avoid sulfates, parabens, and silicones–although not all silicones and other “no-nos” are bad for certain curls. I’ve been a huge fan of Curls Rock by Tigi (the original blue pump, not the new black pump) in the past and it is full of silicones. Trial and effort, people!

Tip: Don’t give up on a product until you’ve tried it both on soaking wet and towel-dried hair. I have had the best luck with soaking wet hair right out of the shower, but this may not work with certain products.

5. A Microfiber Towel

Please note that while I am recommending a towel, I am NOT recommending you pile your hair in it and wear it as a turban. This will promote frizz and disrupt your curl pattern greatly! Instead, I am recommending a smooth, absorbent towel (i.e. microfiber, not terry cloth) to use for scrunching out excess moisture. For me, this is the last step in the styling process before heat drying. For some of you, this may be before you apply products. Again, try out variations and see what works best for you.

6. A Diffuser Attachment

If you aren’t using a diffuser to blow dry your hair and you’re not getting frizz, you MUST spill your secrets. While I think air drying is very important, sometimes most often there is not enough time to wait three hours for your hair to dry (I’m not even exaggerating with how much hair I have.) AND I achieve more bounce factor when applying heat. To illustrate, check out this Instagram from a few months ago:

The Difference a Diffuser Makes on Wavy Curls@themodernausten

While I am actually on the search for a new diffuser, I have found that I’ve had the best luck with diffusers that have prongs to reach into the roots of your hair, rather than just the bell-shaped or “sock” variations. I’ll report back when I find some good options.

Tip: Don’t start using heat until your hair has partially dried on its own. I usually style my hair right out of the shower and then go get dressed, put on makeup, etc. before finishing up. Keep your hair dryer on low while using the diffuser to prevent frizz.

7. Metal Hair Clips

Curly hair can often be weighed down while wet, especially with product loaded in. Clip up your roots using sturdy metal clips like these to achieve lift and to help the drying process move faster. Try to clip your roots in a rainbow pattern, as Kelly demonstrates here.

Using Metal Clips to Achieve Lift at the Roots for Curly Hair

I used to swear by the “plopping” method for lifted roots, but I find I have a little more control with clips. I still think plopping* is a great option when you need to get hair out of your way or if you really need to take a nap or lay down in between styling and drying time.

*Plopping is using a t-shirt to pile your hair on top of your head, wearing the neck of the shirt as a “headband” and tying the sleeves together to hold it all in. It elevates the hair to provide volume and lift and discourages playing or messing with your hair, a common culprit of frizz and loose texture. (You know we’re close when I’m willing to “plop” my hair in front of you!)

8. A Hair Buff

I have the worst second (and third) day hair ever when it comes to my curls. Some curlies are lucky and their curl pattern gets better or less frizzy as days pass. My hair, unfortunately, looses its curl after a long day and it’s a big stringy mess after it’s been laid on at night. Things like “pineappling” haven’t been effective for me either, though they may work great for others. So far, the closest I’ve come to success has been because I used a Buff at night. Here, one of Kelly’s clients demonstrates the best way to use a hair buff for night-time to ensure great second (or third) day hair.

Even though I’m still fine-tuning the process, I still love using my half-sized Buff for all sorts of things! It functions as the best workout headband I’ve ever owned because it doesn’t fall off and it can be adjusted to take care of those shorter pieces of hair that fall out of my messy bun. Additionally, it’s perfect for keeping my hair out of my face when I’m doing my makeup, cleaning up around the house, or just need it out-of-the-way. Every time I wear it, I think how much more effective it would’ve been to wear a Buff during Girl Scouts back in the day rather than wearing a bandana while around the fire pit!

It comes in two sizes (I wear the half version, but if my hair was past my shoulders, I probably would’ve gotten the full size).  Kelly thinks one of you might want a Buff too…keep scrolling!

9. A Wide-Tooth Comb

Throw away all of your combs and brushes. The only comb you need is a cheap wide-tooth comb (preferably with a handle) that you can find at the dollar store. The trick? You’ll ONLY use this in the shower when you apply your conditioner. (Some of you may use it to distribute product, too, but I haven’t found this to work well for me, as I have to many waves prone to pulling straight with brushes and combs.)

10. A Spray Bottle

It seems silly to put a spray bottle on this list when you could so easily splash and scrunch water on your hair to revive it, but a spray bottle will do a much better job at distributing the moisture and minimize the amount of interfering you’ll do with your hands. Spritz your hair when you need a little pick-me-up or make your own spray gel to evenly distribute gel during styling.

What would you add to this list, curly guys and girls? Share you top picks in the comments below!

A special surprise

Wavy and Curly Hair Essentials Giveaway

Because Kelly Elaine Inc. is so incredibly awesome, Kelly has given me the opportunity to reward two of my curliest readers! We already gave away two product kits a few months ago, and now it is time to give away two of my favorite essentials!

Prize #1: Curly Girl: The Handbook (2nd Edition) – valued at $13.95

Prize #2: Original Full Buff – valued at $20

Giveaway is open to Continental U.S. residents only. Winners’ entries will be verified and contacted via email. First winner randomly chosen will have the choice between the two prizes. Giveaway runs from 12/11- 12/18 at midnight. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Kelly graciously provided me these items to giveaway in exchange for the review I posted a few months ago. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting the brands that make The Modern Austen possible!

Custom Curly Hair Cut with Kelly Elaine Inc. + GIVEAWAY

A Custom Curly Hair Cut and Review Kelly Elaine Inc

Ever since I hit puberty back in 5th and 6th grade and discovered I actually had curly/wavy hair, I have struggled to find the right hairstylist for my crazy thick hair. For over 8 years, I was never able to walk out of a salon and head straight to my next event without having to come home and wash and style it myself first. Seriously. Isn’t the point of getting your hair done so that hair experts can make it look better? I had decent hair cuts (though I’ll never understand why I’ve had to grow out one section of my hair for the past 4+ years because it kept getting cut shorter than the rest to compensate for its heaviness), but no one really understood how to style or shape my type of curls. After spending so much money at the salon, I was always disappointed in my experiences, but never really had another choice. I tried salon after salon and found the same results.

I am also a self-proclaimed hair product junkie. I’ve tried it all–drug store and salon-quality–and I have poured over NaturallyCurly.Com‘s product forums. In many ways, I’ve self-taught myself how to care for my sometimes straight, sometimes curly waves. I know pineapple-ing doesn’t work for me, I prefer No-Poo, and I really can’t believe I haven’t purchased a satin pillowcase yet. You know I’m comfortable around you if I’ve “plopped” my hair in front of you and you’ll often find me with metal clips in my roots while I’m using those big scary diffusers to slowly dry my hair. (Have I gone over your head yet? I’ll explain those processes another day.) I’ve learned that so much of your hair’s results lies in its care.

But the secret to really great curls starts with a really great cut. 

I am so excited to share that after many years of searching, I have discovered a salon that understands my curls AND knows how to shape them to twirl their best: Kelly Elaine Inc.

A Pittsburgh Curly Hair Salon Kelly Elaine Inc

Kelly Elaine Inc. is Pittsburgh’s premiere curly hair salon and the only hair salon specially trained in the Deva Curl cutting and styling method with the Pintura color technique. The Greater Pittsburgh Area has a few salons who do Deva Curl cuts (trust me, I’ve tried them), but I have not had the same personalization and custom attention anywhere else. These other salons are also not curl-specific and I’ve found that these stylists are not 100% committed to the technique.

Kelly and Victoria are members of Curly Hair Artistry, founded by Scott Musgrave, and regularly meet up and train with curly hair experts all around the world. They are dedicated to constantly improving their craft, which I admire since my hair is always changing and it’s so necessary to adapt to changes with new concepts and techniques. Check to see if your stylist is a part of this group.

I first came across Kelly Elaine Inc. back in 2011 when I was still in college. I wrote my first raving review of her salon on NaturallyCurly.Com:

First Kelly Elaine Inc Review on Naturally Curly

Since then, she and her other stylist Victoria have received 5/5 ratings from dozens of satisfied curlies.  And there’s even more on Facebook and on her website! When I moved away for a little under two years right out of school, I had to go to a new stylist and it just never lived up to the quality of cuts I receive regularly from Kelly and Victoria. When I moved back to Pittsburgh eight months ago, one of the first things I thought about was how I could now get great haircuts again!

Kelly Elaine Inc Premiere Pittsburgh Curly Hair Salon

While I’m at the salon, I always feel like my needs are being met and that my concerns are being heard. I completely trust both Victoria and Kelly with my hair, which I have not been able to say with any other stylist in the past. We start every appointment with a consultation and then they cut my hair dry, which may be a foreign concept for some of you! Then, it’s off to washing and styling. Throughout it all, we laugh, talk curls, and relax.

In an effort to share more of my custom experience with all of you, I asked Kelly a few questions that may help any curly/wavy girl (or guy!) next time she or he heads to the salon:

What should you mention to your stylist during a consultation? What questions should you ask? 

First off, for Kelly Elaine Inc., the consultation starts on the phone, so it is just continued once the guest is in the chair. We request the guest send us pictures of their hair before they come so we can already get a feel for what they need and then we can customize the consultation from there. Discuss your daily routine, the style you would like, if you are growing your length or going for a big chop! One should always ask if the stylist performs a dry cut! Research and see what education the stylist has before you go ask to speak to them or stop in the salon. Even if they are busy you can get a feel for if curls are their passion and their curly hair beliefs are in line with what makes sense to you. Seeking out stylists from Curly Hair Artistry is beneficial because we are a very specialized international group that is highly trained and passionate about curls! Starting there will also help you achieve the best consultation once you find your curly oasis. 

Why do you cut curls dry? 

We choose to cut curls dry in order to take into consideration how much spring factor in in each curl and, besides, we wear our hair dry not wet! 

Do you recommend any inexpensive alternatives for curly hair products? If so, what are they?

A super inexpensive popular alternative to curly hair products is homemade flax-seed gel. I see people having great results with that. There are tons of recipes available with a quick Google search. (Hmmm…I sense a future blog post coming on.)

How do you know which products to mix for a “curly cocktail?”

The “Curly Cocktail” or product infusion decisions are based solely on good ol’ trial and error. It’s interesting how sometimes a product can layer well but doesn’t always mix well in the palm of your hand. What works on some may not work on others. One of the latest infusions we are loving in CHA Curly Hair Artistry is DevaCurl Frizz Free Volumizing Foam or the new Raw Curls Mousse applied to the hair first then some Jessicurl Spiralicious layered on top. This is suggested for our finer haired guests, but like I said before it’s great to experiment within Curly Girl friendly product lines!

Kelly Elaine Inc Custom Curly Hair Cut on 3A Waves and Curls

During my last trip to the salon, Victoria added highlights using the Pintura technique and toned my hair perfectly. She’s cut my hair in the past (as you can see, my “before” pictures aren’t really so bad! That’s because my hair was growing out from my last awesome cut. You probably saw my previous before/after on Instagram!) For this particular style, Kelly tried a new curly cocktail, layering Briogeo, followed by Deva Curl Ultra Defining Gel mixed with Deva Curl Set it Free, and sealing it off with Jessicurl Spiralicious. I’ll share another post about application and styling in the future!

In the spirit of transparency, you should note that a trip to Kelly Elaine Inc. is a pricey one. It’s definitely the most expensive hair cut I’ve ever had, but it’s also the best I’ve ever had. Not only is the experience so much fun (Kelly and Victoria are HILARIOUS and there’s always a glass of wine to enjoy), but the educational investment is well-worth the time and money spent. I always walk away with the knowledge of how to take better care of my hair and now I am enjoying my curls more than ever. I would definitely recommend any wavy or curly-haired individual to schedule an appointment with Kelly Elaine Inc.! If you call to make an appointment, make sure you tell her Marissa sent you :)

If you want to see other curly before/afters (especially if you have a different curl type than mine), check out their incredible transformation board on Pinterest or check out their frequently-updated Instagram.

Pittsburgh Custom Curly Hair Cuts at Kelly Elaine Inc

But wait, there’s more! Kelly has so generously offered FOUR lucky readers an amazing curly-haired surprise. I’ll be giving away two of the four prizes in today’s giveaway, so stayed tuned for the last two prizes in a future post!

Here’s what you can win:

Kelly Elaine Inc The Modern Austen giveaway

Prize #1: DevaCurl Trial and Travel Kit ($29.95 value) + four colorful elastic hair ties ($2.50 value)

Includes: (4) 3 fl oz. bottles of No-Poo, One Condition, Light Defining Gel, and Set it Free

This is what I use on a regular basis for my curls!

Prize #2: Jessicurl Light and Luminous Collection ($36.00 value) + four colorful elastic hair ties ($2.50 value)

Includes: (6) 2 fl oz. bottles of Gentle Lather Shampoo, Aloeba Daily Conditioner, Too Shea! Ultra Moisturizing Conditioner, Gelebration Spray, Confident Coils, and Awe Inspiraling

A fantastic curly hair line that I definitely want to look more into.

Details: Giveaway is open to Continental U.S. residents only. Winners’ entries will be verified and contacted via email. First winner randomly chosen will have the choice between the two prizes. Giveaway will be open until 10/22 at midnight!

Click to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I was provided a free hair cut in exchange for posting this review. As always, my opinions are my own and I have and will continue to pay for Kelly Elaine Inc.’s services. There are also some affiliate links in this post. Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Modern Austen possible!

Accutane for Mild But Persistent Acne: 3-Month Update

A few months ago, I invited you all along my skin care journey. I took a big risk and decided to pursue Accutane (or more specifically, Zenatane) for my mild but persistent acne and, in my first video, I explained my reasoning and how important it is to research before beginning such a serious treatment.

I’m currently wrapping up month four and am finally able to post my three-month update with all of you! In this video, you’ll hear about my dosage, process for obtaining prescriptions each month, improvement, and side effects. It appears that I may have to do about seven months of treatment, which totally bites, but I’ll take it for clear skin for the rest of my days!

Again, if you have any questions or comments, please share them below! I certainly am not an expert, nor do I recommend this treatment for everyone, but it might be a viable option for some people who have tried everything and can’t catch a break. Right now, this is working for me and I am hoping it turns out well in the long-run.

Thanks for your support! Here’s to building confidence and continuing to persevere.