I have had a ton of customers and friends ask for curly hair tips, so today I decided to put all of my best tips and suggestions into one blog post, for all of the other curly headed folks out there who are trying to make their natural curls work for them!
First: story time. When I was a child, I had pretty straight hair and those big bangs that made the late 80s and early 90s so much fun! Maybe a little wavy right after getting out of the pool and such, but definitely not curly by any means.
My mother always had the most beautiful long, dark curly hair when I was growing up.I remember asking her at around age 10 or 11 if I could get my hair professionally permed. Of course, she rightfully said no, because she didn't want me to damage my hair. And just like a storybook fairytale, one night I went to bed with wet hair...and woke up with a head full of curls. I remember not wanting to shower because i was so afraid the magic would wash out with my shampoo...but somewhere around the time I started my period and first needed a bra, my hair became forever curly.
At first I was in my glory! Who knew?? These stick straight locks were just waiting for the chance to party; like a little genetic time bomb, but the GOOD kind. Throughout the rest of my adolescence, I struggled with learning how to make my curls work for me. I went from long hair, to super short, to stick straight again when hair straighteners became an easy thing to come by, when I got into high school. (Before that: it was lay your locks down on the ironing board and try not to burn your face off as you straightened that shit). And once I had my first Chi straightener my senior year, it was rare that I would rock my natural curls. Straightening was just so much easier, so much "cooler" and made me look like the other millennial gals of the 2000s, with low rise flare jeans and Justin Timberlake blaring on their iPod Nanos.
This year, while home with too much time on my hands, I decided to give my curls another try. I did a lot of research about curly hair management. I read reviews of a ton of different product lines made for curly hair (some of which cost as much as my monthly car payment it seems...SHEESH). I started my new hair care regimen in October, and in just one month, I am seeing a HUGE improvement in my curls! They have much more definition, a lot less frizz and honestly: I have never loved my hair more!
I will tell you off the bat what this blog post will NOT contain: it will NOT have any specific recommended products (though I will include links for everything I use, for your reference)...for the simple fact that I am still experimenting to find the right product line up for my hair! I have tried more products over the years than I can count...and truthfully, I don't think the products you use matter as much as the routine you maintain.
I changed my ENTIRE hair care routine in October, and as you can see in the pictures above, it has made a HUGE difference in the definition and volume of my curls. I am going to break down a step by step routine that seems to work well for me, and then I encourage you all to put on your scientist caps and experiment! Give it some time, have patience and see how it works out!
#1) DO NOT WASH EVERY DAY
This is one I always followed anyways; for all of my adult life, I have washed my hair at least every other day, if not every three days. Washing your hair everyday, for most hair types, is serious overkill. It strips your hair of natural moisture, which leads to breakage and a lot more frizz. Curly hair is ALWAYS needing moisture, and you much more easily run the risk of under moisturizing than the alternative. "But my hair gets so oily if I don't wash everyday..." Yes. I've heard that from tons of people. For the moms out there who breastfed or pumped milk: the experts would always say the more you nurse/pump, the more milk your body produces to keep up with demand, right? It's a supply/demand kind of bodily system. Same thing with your hair: the more you strip your natural moisture, the more oil your scalp will produce to keep up! So over time, for most people, as you ease up on the washing and start skipping days between washes, your scalp adjusts to this routine and starts to adjust your natural oils accordingly.
#2) GET A SATIN PILLOW CASE
I'll get into specifics about wash days in a few...but first, the other major change I made was to purchase an inexpensive satin pillowcase. The satin is much gentler on your hair as you sleep, creating less friction (aka FRIZZ) as well as allowing the hair to retain its natural moisture rather than being absorbed into the fabric as you sleep. You can find satin pillowcases fairly easily online on Amazon or any other major department store.
#3) PINEAPPLE YOUR HAIR
Yes, I said pineapple! If you Google "pineapple your hair", you will find a slew of YouTube tutorials and articles with different ways to do this. For me: I take a silky scrunchy and I flip my head upside down. I gather my curls into a loose ponytail at the crown of my head, and I sleep that way, on my satin pillow case. Some of the curls fall out at night, but when I wake up in the morning, I gently pull the scrunchy out and toss my hair around before styling!
#4) WASH ROUTINE
So in addition to making those hair care routine changes mentioned above, I have changed the way that I wash and dry my hair. As I mentioned above, I do not wash my hair everyday. Right now, washing every third day seems to be working well to keep my hair from getting too dried out and frizzy. When I get into the shower, before applying any products to my hair, I start with a nice long scalp massage using my finger tips (not your nails; pads of your fingers only!) Once that is done, I apply my shampoo. As I said, I don't have any solid product recommendations as of yet, as I am still figuring it out myself. I have been finding that my inexpensive Suave Clarifying Shampoo has been working well lately to help offset all of the products I add to my hair after washing. I try to focus most of the shampoo at the roots and then gently massage through my curls and rinse well.
After I shampoo, I add my in-shower conditioner. Right now, I am using the Shea Moisture Curl and Shine Conditioner and I have been liking it thus far. It is a very thick conditioner. I work it into my hair with my fingers first; and then I use a wide tooth comb to work it through my hair, making sure each strand is moisturized. I let the conditioner sit in my hair while I wash my body/shave etc. Then, I rinse it out completely, gently squeeze the excess water from my hair and get out of the shower. I finish the rest of my routine with my head flipped over the tub.
DO NOT TOWEL DRY YOUR HAIR! This was a habit I had to break. I would always flip my hair upside down, rub my towel on my hair to get the excess water out before styling. This is actually one of the worst things you can do to curly hair. Right there, you are guaranteeing frizz. Instead, apply product to soaking wet hair, and then wrap your hair up in a microfiber towel wrap (these are pretty cheap: I use one with a button like this one).
MY PREFERRED PRODUCT COMBO: I have been experimenting with a few different brands, but so far I have found that my hair looks best when use a specific blend of products. 1) I use a leave in conditioner (I've been using Shea Moisture Curl Smoothie and I love it). The leave in conditioner is the first product I apply to soaking wet hair. I distribute it evenly with my fingers, and then I "squish to condish" aka, scrunch the product into the hair. This helps to start defining your curls, and it also ensures that your hair is equally moisturized by the product.
2) I add some type of curl cream. I was originally using the curl milk by Shea Moisture, but I think it is not the best choice for my hair. I was finding my hair felt very heavy the day after wash day, rather than soft and bouncy. This last wash day, I used a bit of the Moroccanoil Curl Cream I had in my bathroom closet from awhile back (hint- it smells amazing!) I am MUCH happier with the results, and I think I will be using it more in the future. Last step is 3) I add about a half dollar size amount of styling gel. Again, I don't think the specific brand really matters as much as the technique, but my go-to hair gel for years has been Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Styling Gel and that is what I plan to keep using because it works well for me. I scrunch the gel into my whole head of hair, and take an extra minute to keep scrunching and make sure the products are all evenly distributed. After applying all of my products, I throw my hair up in the microfiber towel for a bit, until I am ready for my final wash day step!
#5) DIFFUSE YOUR BLUES AWAY
Ever put a ton of effort into styling your curly hair and then it dries wonky and doesn't "set" right? Yeah, me too. It was my main issue with my routine. So I decided to buy a new hairdryer with a large diffuser attachment! I got an inexpensive Conair dryer (look how PURTY she is) and decided, once again, to experiment. I Googled "how to diffuse your hair" and found a couple of great tutorials with different techniques. I played around with it until I found a routine that led to minimal frizz and faster drying. I diffuse it most of the way dry and then let it air dry for the last bit. IMPORTANT: DO NOT touch your hair until it is completely dry! The more you touch while it is drying (especially if air drying) the more frizz you will have to deal with. Once it is completely dry, you can "scrunch the crunch out", literally scrunching your hair to soften the hard cast created by the dried products in your hair.
And that, my friends, is what I do to make the BEST of what mother nature (and my momma) gave me: a head full of bouncy, healthy curls. And an overall feeling of authenticity in my physical appearance. Thats a strange thing to feel...more YOU. But that is exactly how I feel with my curls: I feel like it is another way to honor my own natural beauty, without feeling the need to conform to the unrealistic beauty standards of our society. I'm a rebel like that...and it has helped me to fall in love with my hair for the first time in my life!!!
This is by far not an end all/be all hair care routine. But it is what works for me! Got questions, comments, product recommendations? Leave them below in the comments! And rock on curly friends!