This is my not so serious guide to curly hair care and the ‘curly girl’ method (which isn’t really gender specific, men can have lustrous curly locks too).
As touched upon briefly in my fashion rules post, I am the owner of some hella awkward hair, though it often feels more like my head is just the place it decided to settle upon as a perch (see below).
A year or two ago I was tipped off about the curly girl method by a friend, who ironically has the straightest, shiniest, frizz free hair that has always made me envious. Basically the curly girl method is a shampoo free, or ‘poo free’ as it’s termed in internet hair geek lingo, method for taking care of curly and wavy hair. Some swear by it, others don’t get on with it. I follow it, but not to the letter and really do think it does wonders for my hair.
What no shampoo?
No shampoo sounds bizarre, borderline unhygienic and just a bit weird. But stick with it. The idea hinges on the theory that the harsh sulfates needed to remove the build up of silicones found in many hair products, especially those for frizzy hair, actually damage the hair by over drying it and stripping it of the natural oils thus making it frizz out even more. I have found my hair and scalp are much better off without sulfates, I seldom get itchy, flaky scalp anymore and my dry skin is better now I use sulfate free shower gel too (top tip look for baby wash stuff, but read the ingredients some still has sulfates in). I guess I’m just dry like my wit.
So yes you wash your hair with conditioner. A silicone free conditioner or one of the fancier cleansing creme things on the market (essentially still a sulfate free conditioner but posh labelling n all) actually does clean your hair very well. You need to get into the habit of doing a good scalp massage, which is good for the scalp and stimulates hair growth apparently, it’s also relaxing. For ‘co washing’ one of my favourite products is Inecto pure coconut conditioner, which is cheap and widely available in the UK, it’s also good as a leave in or on dry hair when it needs calming down a bit, basically it’s good at everything. I also rather like Curl Junkie’s ‘Daily Fix’ which is neither cheap nor widely available.
The top tip here is DETANGLE WITH CONDITIONER ON YOUR HAIR. How any curly manages to do it any other way without causing extreme pain is beyond me. I have a favourite brush, a denman one, I use that gives nice ‘clumpy’ curls, as in they’re nice and thick and not weird spindly little things. A wooden comb once snapped in two when I was combing my hair once, do not leave those in the shower.
If you have dry hair it’s worth using a deep conditioner too, at least every week or so. Some wavy haired folk or those with finer hair find too much conditioner can leave things looking a bit limp, but personally my hair is dry enough to start it’s own campfire if left unconditioned. The trouble is you won’t know what suits your hair until you’ve experimented a bit.
So now you have shiny, clean hair what do you do? To define your curls and make them last as curls as opposed to frizzing out into an ill defined mane of poofiness/the 80s you’re gonna need some products. This is where it can get addictive. I will happily admit to being a hair product junkie. My current routine involves a ‘layering’ technique of about 3 or 4 or more products. I panic at packing light for holidays.
If I had to recommend any hair product it would be Kinky Curly Curling Custard. I adore this stuff. It’s expensive, but it works. I have tried other products from other expensive and hyped to cheap and not very cheerful. This stuff will be prized from my cold, dead hands. But again not everything will work for everyone so look out for trial size baby pots or be prepared to make an expensive mistake and cultivate a graveyard of failed hair products in your bathroom.
Then I use a gel, for extra hold, and maybe a silicone free serum for more gloss. James Brown (sadly not THAT James Brown) does a nice one. Then you have the styling options, do you scrunch, twist, diffuse, etc etc etc. Do what you like, using an old t shirt instead of a towel is gentler on your hair than a normal towell and cheaper than a fancy overpriced micro fibre towel . You can also fashion a rather nifty t shirt turban thing (if you use along sleeved t you can use the arms to of it round your head) to wear for a while as your hair dries . My hair looks best when left to dry naturally, however it takes hours and unless it’s a lovely summer day on which I can laze outside in the sunshine this is a bit impractical,so I often use a diffuser which gives me less defined, skinnier curls and more frizz but it does save time. That said it still takes bloody ages. I have also been known to hide my hair under a hat whilst it dries, which takes even longer but it gets cold out and I don’t want ici-curls.
Unless you wash your hair every day, which I don’t as I don’t need to and it’s not gross, I can go up to a week without washing and my hair is fine and not pongy or greasy or anything so shut up overly soaped folk. Plus you know, effort. You will come to face the horror known as ‘second day hair’ or third day hair or fourth day hair or whatever day hair. This is the inevitable realisation that no matter what you do to try and protect your hair in your sleep (I have a comedy old lady hairnet I whip out now and then, some people swear by silk or satin pillowcases, cute little satin bonnets or an old pair of tights) it will never look that good the next day. However hope is not lost, the pic to the left shows me rocking some 3 or 4 day hair which looks vaguely decent. I have amassed a large selection of various hair fixes, to revive the curl and kill the frizzes, which are also good for stashing in your bag for when one has to go outside and face ‘weather’ and all it’s hair ruining qualities. Aloe Vera gel is a good one, as are various types of hair balm/pomade/butter things Sheabutter cottage do some lovely hair pomadey things and use fairtrade shea and cocoa butter from a women’s co-op. Kiehl’s Deeply restorative Argan oil dry oil spray thingy is also good for a quick fix as are plain ol’ pure argan oil, coconut oil, jojoba or olive oil (though this can lead to smelling a bit like a salad) or any oil really, but look out for sneaky silicones and cheap mineral oil in many ‘natural’ oil products. Oil is also good for your skin too. It’s also not very good for dry hair really because of the alcohol but a good quick fix is perfume, a few sprays really can work wonders. Failing that I have developed a cute hairstyle involving shoving most of it under a hat and having only a little victory roll thingy poke out the front.
Another key is what you do with your hair when you sleep, especially if you’re a wriggly fidget like me. The pineapple works well as do braids or twists, esp after about day 2 when my curls have gone a bit meh but I don’t need to/cba to wash my hair as they really perk up poofed out, dropped curls!
I never sleep with my hair loose anymore, unless I’m drunk. It just leads to disaster along the lines of Robert Smith, which unless you are Robert Smith is tricky to carry off.
It is all a bit of a faff, but I have come to terms with having awkward hair that just doesn’t do ‘low maintenance’. Now I know how to deal with it I have hair that looks good and often (occasionally) causes glances of envy. Big hair is awesome and I no longer wish for, straight, smooth hair. Ok so maybe sometimes it’d be nice to have hair I could just ‘wash n go’, but genetics bestowed me this unruly mane so I’m making the most of it. I keep telling myself smooth, silken blonde locks are overrated.