Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tips and Tricks For Naturally Curly Hair

Any curly ladies out there? Frustrated with your hair? So am I. Constantly. But after living with this hair for my entire life, I've been around the block a couple times when it comes to a curly hair regime. This is by no means an expert post, nor a comprehensive guide to curly hair care, just some tips and tricks that I've learned throughout the years to help you tame your mane. Or set it free. Whichever paradigm you prefer. Ever since I've been able to embrace my curly hair I've cut down my heat styling nearly entirely and my hair has never been healthier! 

First of all, this is from my experience. I have thin, curly hair. It is thickly dispersed, but the strands themselves are thin. I am prone to frizz, and if I run my hands through my hair enough (a symptom of grad school reading) it will wave out. So, my curls are loose, not tight, and not kinky. In order to get them looking good I have to do a lot of coaxing. 

So, here are some tips and tricks from washing, daily routines, heat styling, and even hair appointments! 

1. Embrace your curl: You have a fabulous head of hair, even if society tells you otherwise. Your curls, no matter what they look like, are GORGEOUS. The more you work with your hair rather than against it, the more happier and healthier you and your hair will be. How we style our hair is completely culturally determined. We grow up with the notion that certain ways of grooming are more acceptable, and more beautiful than others. Beauty is a social construct. There is nothing inherently more beautiful about stick-straight locks than curly hair. I will save that rant for another day, and don't get me wrong it's fun to style hair in different ways, but don't let anyone, even you, tell you your curly hair isn't beautiful. You should decide what is beautiful, not society! 

2. Quit washing your hair: Wet your hair often, wash you hair as little as you can. You heard me. Over-shampooing can strip your hair of its natural oils. Go for a co-wash or moisturizing shampoo and use a clarifying shampoo every week or so to get all the gunk out of your hair. This is especially important if you use a lot of styling products to bring out your curls like I do. This good hair practice for anyone, but especially curly ladies. If you find that your hair is overproducing oils and you have to shampoo every day, start with co-washing every day and clarifying once a week. Cut it down week by week. You may have some oily days, but there are some creative hairstyles to hid the oils while your scalp adjusts. Braids and buns are a curly girls best friend!

3. Moisturize: I've found that leaving in my conditioner for at least 3 minutes helps my hair get moisturized. If you must comb your hair, do it in the shower while you have conditioner on it to prevent breakage. Go ahead and part your hair in the shower as you normally would. I usually try to put on a curl-defining cream as soon as I get out of the shower and my hair is still wet. I also prefer to squeeze out the water by hand and just leave it, rather than agitate the hair with fabric. I would really discourage you from using a towel, with its harsh fibers, that can bring out frizziness in the hair. If you have to use a fabric to get the water out, lightly wrap your hair in a soft cotton t-shirt. 

4. Stay away from the comb: Like I mentioned, combing your hair in the shower while it has conditioner on is the best way to avoid damage and keep your curl pattern intact. Avoid combing and brushing your hair outside of the shower as much as you can, even if your hair is wet. If you are going to comb your hair out of the shower, do use a leave-in conditioner and comb it wet. You are going to risk separating your curl pattern and ending up with a strange frizzy mess, so proceed with caution. Never brush your hair dry. If you have to, spritz on some leave-in conditioner and work GENTLY from the ends to the root. Brush like a Disney Princess. 

5. Avoid the crunch: I prefer to air-dry my hair (it's faster and less harmful), adding in mousse or gel after my curl cream to define my curls. Don't overscrunch your hair if you use that method to boost your volume and curl. Overscrunching can separate the curl and cause extra frizziness. The less you touch it, the better. 

6. Avoid the damage: If you do have the time to style it, diffuser attachments for hairdryers are great and these days usually come with most hairdryers. Always use a low-speed, low-heat setting. The ends of your hair will dry the fastest and are always more likely to frizz, so focus your efforts on the crown of your head and stay away from those ends! If you still have some frizzy bits left, clamp-less curling irons are a popular method to turn uncooperative curls into manageable ringlets. Dyeing your hair and heat-styling will both damage your hair, which probably isn't news, but curly hair often has porous strands that can especially be damaged. I've given up dyeing my hair and try to straighten it as little as possible. 

7. Know your products: Experiment with curly-focused and non-curly focused products. I have many products in my rotation including: curl-defining cream, gel, leave-in conditioner, heat protectant, and styling mousse. I also love a good balm like Lush's R&B cream (I've had a sample pot for nearly a year now, that's how long it lasts!) to tame the ends and combat static in the winter months. I have tried serums in the past but usually they are too much for my thin strands. I like to look for products that specify they are for curly hair, and also thin hair, since they won't weigh me down. In order to avoid the "crunch," go easy on your products or emulsify them with a little water to avoid using too much. Sometimes it's just trial and error, so keep track of what works and what doesn't. Curly hair is never predictable! Many drugstore products will work as well as high end, but do be aware that they may contain silicones, parabens and sulphates. So, know your priorities and your budget, just as with any beauty product. 

8. Salons can be rough: I know. Always try to ask for someone who is confident with curly hair, or browse online forums to find curly experts specific to your city. Often, curly-haired people know curly hair the best or a salon will make sure that a person is hired that knows their stuff when it comes to curls, and across all price points. If you are getting color done, be sure to stress what shape your hair is in. I know that salons have a system and a certain time that they allot to coloring appointments, but when I used to get my hair highlighted it would take double the time because of my dense head of hair and they wouldn't allow for as much time as I needed and we would all end up stressed, customer, stylist and manager. Color also takes differently on curly hair, and I can't tell you how many times I turned out too platinum because the color took to my hair too quickly, though I warned the stylist in advance. I actually quit dyeing my hair because it dried it out, was expensive, and stylists never understood the time and care it took to put color on curly hair. My biggest advice is that you are your best advocate, so always always be sure that the stylist listens to you, even if you have to be firm. 

9. Cut it dry: This may be my most important tip: ask how the stylist would cut your hair. If they state "oh, you know, the usual shampoo, then cut," you probably shouldn't go to them. Though that manner of cutting is great to get even layers when your hair is straightened, if you plan on wearing your hair naturally most of the time the layers may not translate well. People are also likely to cut more off when your hair is wet and straight, and then *shock* you come out with hair much shorter than intended because it bounced up when styled. Always make sure your stylist is comfortable cutting curly hair dry. A dry cut enables the stylist to see where your hair naturally wants to go, and can always be altered once shampooed and styled. I also find it so comforting when stylists automatically go to style my hair curly, rather than straight. They really understand the beauty of curls and obviously love to see it styled, rather than killing those beautiful curly babies with a straightener because it's the "thing to do."  

10. Water is your friend: Morning showers are easiest for curly hair, as sleeping on wet hair at night can mess up your style. Re-wetting your hair throughout the day is a great way to keep the frizz down, and I'll even touch up using sink water in public restrooms if it's an especially frizzy day. 

11. SILK PILLOWCASES: I see this tip everywhere, and it's so true. Cotton can irritate the natural curl, leaving you with a frizzy mess. If you want to keep a style going, there are many googlable ways to do so, but the easiest is to sleep on a silk pillowcase and refresh with a spritz of water in the morning. Spray-bottles full of water are my hero. 

12. Braid saves the day: A sneaky trip if your hair is air-drying and you notice it's not quite curling like you'd like it. Braid or plait your hair into loose pig-tail braids while you're eating breakfast or getting ready. This is is best done while your hair is still mostly wet. Unbraid your hair once it's dried and you'll have lovely curls that stick to a pattern and don't frizz apart. 

Well, that's a lot for now, so I'll go ahead and leave you with those tips! Have more curly hair tips? Agree or disagree with some of my findings? Go ahead and comment away with all your curly tips! is a great resource to figure out what's going on with your curl (of all types, from wavy to coily) and connect with other curly ladies. Not a sponsor, I'm just a huge fan of their site! If you find yourself between hair types, try mixing their recommendations until you find something that works for you. It's all about trial and error! 

xoxo, Kels

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