Initially this post was going to be about my top curly haircare products and how to get the best out of your curly hair. However, the road to tip top curls is a long one and the truth is I’ve only just started.
Maybe you already know how to look after your curls, maybe you’re like me and just starting your journey or maybe you’re here reading this post and can’t relate at all. Whatever the situation, I want to start a discussion, exchange tips and really get you thinking about your relationship with your hair. Because, this isn’t just about curly hair, it’s about how to get the best out of it and instead of working against you, actively helps you be the most confident version of yourself. Plus non-curly people, you never know when a friend, family member or future child may need some curls SOS.
So let’s go back to the beginning. My curly girl story. Complete with some photos of me through the years, please be kind!
When people with curls say they have a love hate relationship with their hair, as Jeffree Star would say, can’t relate. I’ve always hated it. Even on good days, when miraculously it would dry just so, I still hated it. As a child, the only memories I have of my hair are of my mum attacking it with a brush, struggling against a mass of tangles and breaking a few combs along the way. When I was old enough to start looking after it myself, I would plait it straight out of the shower, hair still soaking wet, in an attempt to beat my curls into submission. What I usually ended up with was a damp frizzy mess.
In high school, being maybe one out of five non-white people in the whole building, I was constantly confronted with gorgeous straight locks and easy to style manes and I desperately wanted to have the same. I wanted to fit in. My lack of knowledge on how to deal with my curls, along with little to no people around me for guidance, I did the only thing that made sense, I straightened it. This is when my love affair with my GHDs started. I sizzled and fried every single hair on my head, twice a week (1.5 hours each time!) for 15 solid years. That’s half of my life and hours lost all so I didn’t feel different. The extra madness is, I’d straighten it then curl it with tongs!!
It wasn’t until Summer 2019 that finally something clicked in my brain. It was a combination of things, ones that if they hadn’t occurred, I have no doubt in my mind I’d still be setting myself up in front of the tv on a Sunday night, straighteners in hand, to iron the curls (well frizz) away.
The first thing to happen was a big work conference in Olean, New York. The weather was hot, much hotter than us Brits had experienced in a while and my hair was not happy about it. The constant sun, my lack of curly haircare as well as my need to look “presentable”, meant my hair felt and looked like straw. Honestly, I think it could have set on fire given half the chance, it was that dry.
When I got home, for the first time in my life, I left it curly after a shower. I was exhausted and with the prospect of moving house in just a few weeks, I didn’t see the point in trying to manage my mane.
Suddenly that was it. I was ready. How was I going to even LIKE my natural hair, when I never gave it a chance? You know when you moan about something for so long but never really do anything about it and then one day you just sort it out? That was me with my curls. I was tired of doing the same thing and expecting to get a different result and straightening my hair wasn’t working.
Apart from two or three occasions where I’ve straightened my hair, I’ve now worn it curly for six months. This is a BIG deal and one that has not exactly gone smoothly (pun intended). One of the first things I’ve had to come to terms with is accepting my hair for exactly how it is. Believe me this is very hard, maybe the hardest thing about this new hair, new me deal. It’s not just straight hair I envy but every other type of curl out there. Gentle waves to bouncy coils, I’m jealous of them all and in the beginning I kept trying to get my hair to look like that, when the reality is, it physically won’t. What I need to do is get the best of my hair. Easy right? LOL
My curls lie in between a very strong wave to almost ringlets. On a good day, each one is so defined you can count them but one thing goes wrong and I can get limp frizzy strands in minutes. I have watched countless videos on the Curly Girl Method, read umpteen articles about how to wash, style and dry your hair. Bought many products and spent a lot of money trying to figure this curly life out and the easiest way I can explain it all is to write a list.
There are curl types BUT don’t stick to these religiously. Chances are you have a combination and things like porosity and thickness also play important roles. Hair types: 1=straight, 2A,2B,2C=wavy, 3A,3B,3C=curly and 4A,4B,4C=kinky/coily. I’m roughly a 3B, not always ringlet curls but thick, chunky “S” like waves with a lot of texture.
What works for one curl type may not work for you. For example, 2C-3A curl methods do not work for me. It can be very frustrating watching videos of people explaining curly hair tips like, DUH you just do this, apply this and bam perfect frizz free curls. Now I know it’s not their fault, so please don’t come at me (I’m just jelly) but I want to reiterate the point of not getting upset when your hair doesn’t do what others does. For example, I can’t keep running product through my hair using my fingers as combs as it breaks up my curls too much. I’ve learnt to spread the product across my palms and run my hands either side of my hair like it’s the filling of a sandwich. Yes, their hair may be more manageable but what mine lacks in ease, I certainly make up for in volume. Swings and roundabouts guys.
Get regular haircuts but try not to stress. ARHHHH, this is definitely easier said than done. I have been to salon openings and the stylists go suddenly quiet and “look busy” when I walk over and tbh I don’t blame them! Cutting curly hair is a task and if you don’t have the experience I don’t want you cutting my hair anyway. Simply going somewhere, where they specialise in curly cuts is not always feasible either. The best thing to do, is find someone you trust or is willing to really listen to what you say about your hair. For me, I’m planning on finding someone local, sticking with it and let us learn together over time. Maybe the first few cuts won’t be exactly what I want but getting regular trims will do wonders for the overall look of your curls.
You can’t have “protein overload” or “moisture overload”. What you LACK is either protein or moisture. It may be pedantic but when you understand the difference you can learn how to treat your hair better. When your hair feels dry and crunchy, it lacks moisture. It doesn’t have too much protein and vice versa, it’s all about LACKING.
Finger combing doesn’t work for everyone. I have actually cried over this point. Reading that using your fingers is gentler to detangle your hair when wet, should come with a warning. I tried, ONCE. It freaking hurt. Maybe my hair isn’t ready for it yet but the tangles are too deep to get my fingers through easily and that’s ok. I will stick to my Tangle Teezer and gently comb out the knots.
Use Sulphate free shampoo. This is a big one and should be considered by all not just those with curls. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and it’s similar compounds, are put into shampoo to help break up dirt and clean your hair and scalp. Fine, it makes sense but they can be huge irritants and make frizz worse. We use it in the lab at work… in lysis buffers. It’s function is to literally burst/breakdown cells so the DNA comes out. Need I say more?
CO-washing doesn’t suit everyone. Co-washing or washing with a conditioner is not always the best for your hair. First of all, you have to really massage it into your hair and scalp to effectively clean. It can be too much if you have fine curls that get greasy very quickly. Although I have a lot of hair, my hair is actually quite fine and conditioner on my scalp makes my hair feel dirty. Instead I use a clarifying shampoo that feels gentle and moisturising but still cleans.
Moisture is KEY. Condition, condition and condition some more. I always use a really nourishing conditioner every time I wash my hair and lots of it. None of this 50p size rubbish, if there are parts that feel dry and knotty, slap that conditioner on and don’t forget to LOC.
LOC method. Liquid/Leave-in, Oil then Cream. This is a new point I am trying so there’s still some confusion as to whether the L stands for liquid as in water or leave-in as in conditioner as I have seen both. Maybe it doesn’t matter too much? Basically, the first step is to add the moisture in the form of a liquid, lock the moisture in with an oil and then finish with a cream to hold the curls in place and add style. On that note…
Oil does not moisturise. You know when you make a balsamic vinegar dressing and the oil stay firmly separate from the vinegar? That’s because it is immiscible and will always form a separate layer. We can use this to our advantage by creating a barrier on our hair, helping keep the moisture inside but it won’t add anything itself.
Always have soaking wet hair when styling. This ties in with the LOC method as unless you have wet hair, you’re not trapping in any moisture when you add the oil and cream. Water is moisture and you’ll find it much easier to layer and distribute product when it’s properly wet. Side-note. Don’t worry about diluting your product. As long as you apply a fair amount, it will work and won’t leave you with an overly crunchy texture.
Don’t dry your hair with a terry towel. The fibres are too rough. I’d say use a t-shirt and “plop” your hair to get rid of the excess water but I’ve read cotton shirts aren’t that great either. Microfibre towels are supposed to be the best and I’ve just bought one so will let you know how I get on. Whatever you do, don’t rub dry as this will not really aid the drying except create more frizz.
Air drying is best but if you want to use a hair dryer, keep the heat low and be patient. When you dry your hair, how often do you move around the diffuser? Loads I’ll bet. Constantly moving the dryer round your head not only disturbs the hair causing more frizz but means each part is heating up and cooling down rapidly several times when it’s not fully dry. Hair is weakest when wet, so be patient and stick to sections as long as you can until more or less fully dry.
Sleep in a silk headscarf. Just buy silk pillows is what all these article say but seriously have you seen how pricey they are!? My headscarf from Silke was pricey too at £50 but it WORKS and I only had to buy one. I pop it on before bed (as often as I can anyway because I feel silly wearing it in front of my boyfriend but that’s a whole separate story of being a curly girl) and when I wake up, all the curls are still intact. It’s genius.
These are the main points I know have worked for me without fail. That being said I still have a lot of questions and trying out different methods.
How to get better Day 2, Day 3 hair? I’ve started spritzing with a water bottle until slightly damp and then applying some hair oil. It seems to work but is there something better?
Should I use a hair pik? I’ve seen people get great results with a long-toothed comb to add volume at the root of the hair. Right on top where my parting is where I’d love to create a bit more oomph.
What haircare products are the best? So far I have two maybe three products that I think are solid winners. I have tried many and thought they were the ones to actually realise they did nothing for me. With all the Deva Curl drama atm as well, it’s hard to know what to use so recommendations are always welcome.
Finally, as I’ve said many times before, this is a long journey. I can’t undo 15 years of mistreatment in six months, probably not even a year. I had it dyed back in September and I can seen the two new inches of growth is so healthy, soft and smooth that with time and care, hopefully it will all be like that but for now it’s getting the best out of what I have and STICKING WITH IT!
Congrats if you made it to the end of this very, very long post. There was a lot to say and more that still needs to be said but for now, I need to carry on trying to be a curly girl in a not so curly world! Love, B x