This topic is one that I get questions on pretty regularly (because curly hair is an interesting beast) so I thought I would create a post for you curly girls that has all the deets on products and curl care. Remember, we are in this together.
I have tried just about every trick in the book and every product on the shelves. From expensive name-brand items to cheap drugstore knock-offs, they have all been lathered, smeared and sprayed on my hair. So trust me when I give you these tips. They are tried and true!
With that being said, no two curls are the same. Everyone's curls look different, which is what make it so hard to tame them! Just for reference, my curls naturally aren't corkscrew tight but they are not loose waves either. They tend to be more on the dry side, so hydration is a big deal for me. Hopefully this will help you understand why I use the products that I do and help you find your perfect hair routine. So let's get to it shall we?
AVOID AT ALL COSTS: Strong-hold gels and mousse.
It took me 18 years to learn these lessons. While gel and mousse have their place in the hair care world, it's not for us. It always leaves my hair feeling wet and crunchy. Even when it is dry, it looks stiff and greasy. I tried using less of the product to decrease the shiny, slick look but then it would be feathery and frizzy. All around, I find gels and mousses to be a no-go for curly girls.
Regular Hair Dryers
Gurl lemme introduce you to my friend named Diffuser. She will always have your back. Those regular hair dryers do not have your best interest at heart. Kick them to the curb before your curls get their feelings hurt.
This is a more recent discovery for me. I have found that a regular large, flat brush with bristles separates my curls and makes them more stringy when they dry. Ditch the brush and I'll hook you up with the best comb a girl could ever have.
GET TO KNOW: Creams, mists
The less you can put on your curls, the better. I love that creams and mists are more lightweight. They wont weigh your curls down and they don't leave them crunchy or sticky. If a gel says "light gel" then it miiiiight can sit with us, but that is to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis ;)
Proud user of No More Tangles since I was old enough to have hair.
Combs and Diffusers
YAAAAAS these are my go-to items. Never let a hair dryer point your way if it doesn't have diffuser on the end. This part is easy...COMB > BRUSH.
So those are my general tricks of the trade, accumulated over 23 years of pain and suffering. Now, if you can hang with me, I would love to take you through my step-by-step process for bouncy and (sometimes) beautiful everyday curls!
A lot of people with curly hair only wash it a few times a week. I can't make that system work for myself because I sweat almost everyday. So generally, I wash my hair everyday. But, if you can get away with washing it every other day, I would recommend that!
I use the Deva Curl No-Poo and One Condition. The No-Poo is really interesting because it is a conditioning cleanser (kinda like shampoo, but not) that DOES NOT LATHER. It feels so wrong when you are washing your hair with it, but it helps keep your curls light and fresh. The idea behind #QuittingShampoo (as Deva Curl puts it) is that it does not strip away the natural oils your hair produces, which keep your hair super hydrated. It is a peppermint and grape seed oil formula that smells fab and keeps the curls bouncing. I don't know as much about the conditioner tbh, but it came in a set so I use it and have liked it a lot! You can find these at Ulta, Walmart and a lot of Salons. Or, just order online at the link above.
After I use the conditioner, I will either use my fingers or a wet comb to come through my hair while I am still in the shower. I just step out from underneath the water and comb through my hair, parting it the way I regularly would. If I try to comb my hair when it isn't soaking wet then it hurts and pulls. I comb it every other time that I shower. I have learned that if you can leave your curls as natural as possible, they will behave better. So only comb when it is tangled. I use the comb below (the less bristles the better!). You can find it here. A comb makes it easy for me to part my hair, but if you prefer to brush with your fingers then that works as well!
2. The Drying Process (pt.1)
This part is more important than you think! If you have time to let you hair air dry, I always prefer that. But on days when I am going to work or getting dressed on a time-crunch, my Deva Curl diffuser is my right hand. It is pricey, but it is so worth it to me. If you just want a standard diffuser, here and here are a few good ones.
When I get out of the shower, I wrap my hair in a towel. I have heard wrapping it in a cotton t-shirt instead of a terry cloth towel helps reduce frizz, but I haven't tried it yet! I will leave it in the towel for about 10 minutes (until most of the water is out) and then I will remove the towel. As soon as you remove it, some type of product should go in your hair while it is still damp.
3. The Products
While it is STILL DAMP (major key alert!) you should use a cream or a spray. If you wait too long and your hair is closer to being dry, it will make your curls crunchy. Lately I have been switching out between a few products. When I don't plan on blow drying my hair, I have been using the L'Oreal Air Dry It Un-done Style Cream. All I do is use about a quarter size amount, flip my head over and work it in by scrunching my hair. I try to focus more on the ends than on the roots, since they get frizzy faster.
I REALLY like this cream because it leaves my curls super soft. I am planning on trying the Wave Swept Spray next. I'll keep you posted!
When I plan on using a blow dryer, I like a product with a little more hold to it. A curl defining cream usually works best under heat for me. This Bumble and Bumble Cream has become a go-to. I apply this the same way as the other cream. I just flip my head, use about a quarter size amount and scrunch it into my hair. If any pieces look dry or frizzy then I will apply more to those areas. I make sure to fluff the hair around my face so that it doesn't stick flat to my head.
4. The Drying Process (pt.2)
So here comes the diffuser. I try to let my hair air dry more often then not, because the curls hold better when I do. On days when I don't have time for that I break out the "big green claw" as my friends call it. I always blow dry with my head flipped over to keep hair from being flat. The good thing about my Deva Curl diffuser is that it has holes on the top and bottom of it, so you are blow drying your hair twice as fast. Mind blowing. I Only use the diffuser for the roots and the bottom layer of hair. Those areas take the longest to try. I do not directly apply heat to the top layer. I find that when I tried applying heat all over, the curls on top look frizzy and dry.
5. The Finishing Touches
After your luscious locks are dry, it's time to lock it all in. If you want soft, sweet curls and not crunchy, hard ones then I suggest getting a hairspray with light to medium hold. I prefer Moroccan Oil Luminous Hairspray in Medium. The smell is out of this WORLD. It is the only medium hold hair spray I have found that still packs a major punch. I will mist this all over the top layer of my hair. Even if I plan on wearing my hair styled (half up, braid, pony, bun, etc.) I spray it before I style it. I have found that my curls need to have a fair amount of product in them before I start playing with them. If I style before the hairspray step, then they tend to pull apart and look stringy. Apply one light coat of spray after you style and hit the road!
General Curl Maintenance
If you color your hair, I recommend doing Balayage and only getting it colored when absolutely necessary. When I have color in my hair, I only get it touched up once every 4 months. This will keep it from drying out and looking frizzy.
I like to deep condition once every two weeks or so. I should probably do it more, but to be honest, I forget! This is a good deep conditioner that I like to use.
Layers, layers, layers. I didn't learn this rule until like junior year of high school. When you get a haircut, try to ask your stylist for tapered layers. Especially around your face. If your curls are all one length, the top will be flattened out from the weight of your hair and you'll get the lampshade look...not your best. So try out layers and see if that gives your hair the dimension you are looking for.
Hopefully with these tips and a little trial and error, we can go from Mia Thermopolis (pre-princess) to Shakira.