Rally your curls and listen up good.
Oh, how I love caring and talking about hair. Anybody who has unruly curls has a special place in my heart. I credit my sweet camp co-co Alex with teaching me the ways of hair. She had a box of maaaybe 20 different hair products in our little cabin and was very passionate about educating other campers on the importance of MOISTURE and GENTLENESS (which apply to all hair, not just curly heads). So big shout-out to Alex. Here’s my 5-step approach regarding how to treat your curly hair well.
Step 1. Get over your so-called grease & shampoo rarely.
Your hair is frizzy because you’re shampooing it to death. Read that again you MONSTER. Shampoo does not necessarily equal clean hair: most shampoos contain sulphates, used in other serious household soaps and cleaners. It’s what helps your shampoo lather up into impressive suds and makes you imagine that you are doing good things for your head. Sulphates grab oils and dirt and makes sure it gets outta there. Good for dishes, not so good for your head, which is an oil factory on purpose. Oils coat your hair and keep it safe from weather, breakage and brittleness. Like your nose makes boogers to trap bad things. So stop saying you’re greasy because you’re not. The word greasy was invented by marketers to sell you a thing in a bottle which really isn’t any different than all the other things in bottles.
My personal revolution: I use only conditioner in my daily showers, use a cowash (cleansing conditioner — light on the cleaning, heavy on the moisture) about twice a week for scalp buildup — I like Renpure‘s in Rosemary Mint — and a bit of thick, coconut oil, sulphate-free shampoo from Palmer’s once every two weeks or for when I really need it. If you’ve got thicker hair, you may want to just get a giant Costco-sized tub of a good cowash and use it daily to keep the oil levels reasonable.
If shininess is a pet peeve of yours and you still can’t get over it, dust your scalp with powdered *not store-bought* dry shampoo (easily homemade with cornstarch and cocoa powder, arrowroot powder, or talcum powder). It’ll take away the sheen without also destroying your beautiful hair. Powders are also useful if you have thin, limp hair for volume. Only use it at the roots.
Step 2. Condition often, upside-down, and dry with a t-shirt.
First thing to do when you get in the shower: flip your hair upside down, get it soaked, then turn away from the water. Pump a bit of conditioner — I swear by Everyday Shea Lavender, which is 10 bucks for a giant bottle at Whole Foods, and it’s fair trade — into your hands and work it into the ends of your hair, gently untangling as you go. Little by little, keep adding pumps and untangling a few more inches up until your hair is completely untangled and covered in conditioner. Twist your hair lightly (don’t squeeze conditioner out ya dumdum) and secure with a tie on top of your head. Do all your other shower things.
Right before you turn off the water and step out, rinse out about 75% of the conditioner. Scrunch — don’t wring ahhh!! — your hair to get most of the water out. Then grab your t-shirt off the floor and dry your scalp very lightly; the cotton is a lot less frizz-inducing than a thick terry towel. Wrap your hair up in the t-shirt to dry. Add a few drops of oil or conditioner to your ends and scrunch upside down when you’re ready to let the rest air dry. Don’t rake your fingers through your curls — this creates frizz and makes your ringlets fluffy/wiry instead of thick and glorious.
If you’re a night shower-er, you should definitely test the magic that is plopping. Terrible name, great concept.
Step 3. Keep conditioning. (Did I tell you to stop?? NO)
Curly girls, put the basket of nasty goop products down. I’m going to shatter your universe.
Style with a thick leave-in conditioner as if it is gel or mousse. Use things with “butter” and “oil” in the title and main ingredients.
Where to find this kind of stuff? My advice is to avoid the usual (read: white people) hair product section (sulphates and cyclopentasiloxane and vinyl chloride, oh my!) of your drugstore or grocery and make a beeline for natural hair (read: Latina and black hair) products. The goods on those shelves are usually chock-full of the better ingredients like argan oil. I’m happy using my daily lavender conditioner but have liked using Africa’s Best Olive Oil leave-in before.
If you’re gooooing to grab something cheaper off the usual shelf at Walmart, your best bet is the goods from Garnier’s Sleek & Shine line. Their Argan Oil treatment and Leave-In Conditioner will only set you back about $3 each. The conditioner in particular is pretty much perfect for all kinds of hair (black, Latina, Indian, white, from my experience with friends) which I think is *sniff* kind of beautiful.
Step 4. Oil. is. good.
Oil is so great. See Step 1. Your hair craves it, kind of like how I’m craving mint ice cream right now. I regularly use Beautiful Curls oil as a frizz serum. When my hair is half-dry, I part it as I usually do, work a few drops (you don’t need much) in my palms and press down on the crown of my head where most of my frizz appears (about 2-4 inches from the roots).
Oil treatments are another way to nourish your hair. It’s the juicing of the trendy-hippie hair world. You can just use food-grade coconut oil (go to an international market and look in the Caribbean aisle) or good-quality olive oil from the grocery store. Melt a bunch in a mug in the microwave, comb it through your hair, and wrap your head in a t-shirt. (I usually do this while I take a bath and watch a movie. I am a woman of LUXURY.) Shampoo it out an hour or two later and condition as usual for silky-soft locks for the next few days. Yogurt apparently has the same effect but I prefer to eat yogurt, not put it upon my head.
Step 5. Use other styling products and brushes in moderation or not at all.
Are you using gel still? Throw it out. It dries out your hair and the wet-crunchy curl look is on the way out anyway. Let it go. Mousse? Same. Aerosol = drying your hair out. Stop hurting your hair my dudes. 😦 😦 😦 The stay-there curl look you’re trying to achieve can be had with less chemically things. And the stay-there look was just invented by the people who sell mousse. You are BERTIFUL just the way you frizzily are. [If you have short hair or want those super-tight ringlets, use thick paste or wax like this to sculpt the curls.]
Styling regimen: I pretty much just load up my hair with conditioner in the morning and let it air dry, with light scrunching. That’s it. I just keep it conditioned and let the humid Southern weather alter it how it will.
If I have time at night, I put on an episode of Parks and Rec (featuring a very different Chris Pratt than the one on the right), lightly wet my hair, work in a little bit more conditioner (surprise) and gently untangle my hair with my fingers, then loosely braid it to sleep in. I comb in a good amount of my curl oil right at the last inch or two of the braid to protect from split ends. This keeps my hair happy when I know I won’t have time to really do a lot with it in the morning.
Watch out: brushes and bobby pins can be brutal to thin, dry hair [like mine]. Stick to untangling your wet hair with fingers and hold your hair back with less-damaging plastic clips whenever possible. And never, ever brush your hair dry. It’s like running a lawnmower through a dry yard when you should be turning on the sprinklers. That metaphor is FREE o CHARGE folks.
Need hair advice? Shoot me a comment! Any other curly hair tips? I know some people do egg shampoos or tie their ringlets with foam curlers…Share them!