caring for curls

Recently, while I was out of town for a family event, I was approached by a woman who asked me what I do to make my hair look the way it does.  It wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question, and I always stumble over how to respond because a.) I assume most people will think I am crazy when I tell them how I style my hair, and b.)  it could potentially take a very long time to explain.  I have blogged about my hair-care process before, but it’s been awhile since I’ve talked or thought much about it.  It’s kind of just become part of my daily grind.  So, if I’m going to share my methods with her (via facebook and this blog) I figured I’d better update my routine and break it down as simply as I can.  All of this can sound very complicated and time-consuming (and I did spend a lot of time researching different methods and trying out different products), but once you figure out what works best for you, it becomes pretty quick and easy.  So, I’ve compiled some simple steps and rules to follow for taking care of curly hair.

Stop “washing” your hair.  This probably sounds kind of gross to some people, but shampoo contains harsh detergents that strip all of the natural oil off of your hair, making it dry.  One of the reasons that hair becomes frizzy in humid conditions is because it’s seeking moisture and the little strands just start “reaching” out for some hydration.  Hair that is already well-hydrated is less likely to fuzz out.  I use conditioner and the friction from my fingertips to massage my scalp and then rinse it well with warm water.  If my hair starts to feel dull or gets build-up on it, I mix a little baking soda into some conditioner to make a paste and massage it into my scalp, leave it on for a few minutes and rinse.

Boycott silicones.  Silicones can coat your hair, build-up, and weigh it down…and they are found in just about every hair care product out there, including all the ones that claim to tame the frizz.  You have to really check the ingredients on the conditioner you buy.  The most popular silicone you’ll see is dimethicone, but any ingredient ending in -cone can be an offender.  My absolute favorite silicone-free conditioner is Giovanni’s Tea Tree Triple Treat, but right now I’m just using good old Suave Naturals Coconut.  I’ve also used Tresemme Naturals and L’oreal Eversleek.

conditioner

Learn how to plop (or plunk).  Plopping (aka plunking) has made a drastic difference in my hair.  Basically, you use a towel to place your hair in a permanent scrunch and leave it for several minutes (I leave it while I’m getting dressed and putting on my makeup).  It’s really hard to explain how to do it, but you can find tons of tutorials on YouTube.  Styling my hair upside down is also really helpful in creating a little lift at the roots.  In the shower, I rinse out my conditioner with my head upside down and then scrunch my curls while it’s still sopping wet before plopping it.

Throw away your combs and brushes.  I never use a comb or brush on my hair.  I only use my fingers to detangle while my hair is wet and coated with conditioner and once it’s dry…don’t touch your hair!  Well, except maybe to fluff it a little to give it some body.  I flip my head upside down and scrunch it up toward my scalp to give it a little volume after it’s dried, but I never run my fingers through it.

Flax Seed Gel.  I posted my recipe pretty recently, so click here to get it.  If you are a visual learner like me there are lots of tutorials on youtube for making this awesome styling product.  I love this stuff because it’s so cheap to make, but also because it’s not sticky.  There is nothing worse than touching your hair (I know, I told you not to do that, didn’t I?) and then having sticky hands.  The product gets on everything…your steering wheel, keyboard at work, telephone, blech…I hate that.  With flax seed gel, that doesn’t happen.  You also won’t have “the wet look” or crunchy hair, which I also hate.  Your hair might feel a little stiff after it dries, but you can soften it up by giving it a light scrunch.

Ditch the blow dryer.  Ok, this is not a requirement, but I just prefer to let my hair dry naturally.  I find that blow drying (even with a diffuser) makes my hair frizzier.  But, a lot of curlies use a blow dryer with a diffuser and have great success, so I guess it’s just a personal preference.

Well, that’s about it.  It seems a little complicated, but it’s really very easy and it takes me only a few minutes to style my hair, which is so important to me since I have an 18-month-old toddling around.  Her hair is curly too, by the way, and I apply some of the same principles to styling her hair.  So here’s the result. (Sorry for the bad lighting, bathroom self-portrait):

20130526-154650.jpg

diy: natural styling gel for curls

I love my curls. Most people tell me they love my hair and then ask me if I hate it. I guess most people assume that we always want what we don’t have (in my case, straight hair), but that is not the case for me at all. I suppose there was a time when I struggled with my curly hair. I got teased in school and it took me a long time, testing a zillion products (all claiming to tame the frizz) to finally find a routine that works. I don’t even want to think about the amount of money I spent.

20120809-202304.jpg

I prefer not to beat my hair into submission. Spending hours with a blow dryer and flat iron does not seem like a good time to me…and well, I have better things to do. I run into so many seemingly straight-haired girls who tell me that they have natural curls, but if they let their hair go curly it would never look like mine. Well, ok, it probably wouldn’t look exactly like mine because we’re all different, right? That’s what makes the world an interesting place. But, I would argue that your curls can look awesome with a few simple tricks. One of mine is flax seed gel.

I learned how to make it a few years ago when I used to frequent the boards of naturallycurly.com.

It’s really pretty easy.  Go grab the following:

  • a small saucepan and spoon
  • a fine mesh strainer
  • flax seeds
  • water
  • a container for storage
  • *optional*: citric acid, essential oil

Ok, have you gathered all your supplies?  Good.  Let’s get started.

  1. First, boil about 2 cups of water on the stovetop.
  2. Once the water is boiling, add about 1/2 cup of flax seeds and turn the heat down to med-low.
  3. Simmer the flax seeds for up to 10 minutes.  DON’T walk away!  You really gotta watch this stuff once it starts simmering.  It can get thick pretty quickly and if you cook it too long you won’t be able to strain it.
  4. It’s ready when the liquid thickens, sticks to your spoon, and has a snotty consistency.  Sorry, I can’t really think of a better comparison.  It really does look like snot.
  5. Once you think it’s ready, strain out the seeds with the fine mesh strainer and collect your gel in a storage container.
  6. Now you have a few options.  This stuff will go rancid (and stinky) if it’s left on the shelf.  You can either store it in the refrigerator or add about 1/4 tsp of citric acid to act as a preservative.  You can also add a few drops of essential oil to add fragrance.  I prefer to store mine in the fridge because it stays thicker.  I’ve found that if I add citric acid and keep it on the shelf, it tends to get runny, but this method is good if you want to travel with it and don’t have access to a fridge.

Ok, now you have your amazing curly hair gel.  Next, the trick is applying it.  One of my favorite things about this stuff is that it doesn’t make your hair crunchy or sticky.  To get the best results, you have to use a lot of it.  Don’t be afraid to use too much.  I use it in combination with a technique called plopping.  Once I’ve plopped for about 10 minutes, I just scrunch a couple of palms full of this gel into my hair.  It’s ok if your hair feels a little slimy.  Now let your hair air dry and when it’s dry or almost dry, you can turn your head upside-down and scrunch it a little to soften any crunchiness that might have formed.  You could blow-dry with a diffuser, but I rarely do this.

Viola!  You are going to have awesome curls!

So, do you have natural curls?  Do you embrace them or fight them?  What do you do to tame the little beasties?

diy: flax seed gel for curls

curls

I love my curls. Most people tell me they love my hair and then ask me if I hate it. I guess most people assume that we always want what we don’t have (in my case, straight hair), but that is not the case for me at all. I suppose there was a time when I struggled with my curly hair. I got teased in school and it took me a long time, testing a zillion products (all claiming to tame the frizz) to finally find a routine that works. I don’t even want to think about the amount of money I spent.

I prefer not to beat my hair into submission. Spending hours with a blow dryer and flat iron does not seem like a good time to me…and well, I have better things to do. I run into so many seemingly straight-haired girls who tell me that they have natural curls, but if they let their hair go curly it would never look like mine. Well, ok, it probably wouldn’t look exactly like mine because we’re all different, right? That’s what makes the world an interesting place. But, I would argue that your curls can look awesome with a few simple tricks. One of mine is flax seed gel.

I learned how to make it a few years ago when I used to frequent the boards of naturallycurly.com.

It’s really pretty easy.  Go grab the following:

  • a small saucepan and spoon
  • a fine mesh strainer
  • flax seeds
  • water
  • a container for storage
  • *optional*: citric acid, essential oil

Ok, have you gathered all your supplies?  Good.  Let’s get started.

  1. First, boil about 2 cups of water on the stovetop.
  2. Once the water is boiling, add about 1/2 cup of flax seeds and turn the heat down to med-low.
  3. Simmer the flax seeds for up to 10 minutes.  DON’T walk away!  You really gotta watch this stuff once it starts simmering.  It can get thick pretty quickly and if you cook it too long you won’t be able to strain it.
  4. It’s ready when the liquid thickens, sticks to your spoon, and has a snotty consistency.  Sorry, I can’t really think of a better comparison.  It really does look like snot.
  5. Once you think it’s ready, strain out the seeds with the fine mesh strainer and collect your gel in a storage container.
  6. Now you have a few options.  This stuff will go rancid (and stinky) if it’s left on the shelf.  You can either store it in the refrigerator or add about 1/4 tsp of citric acid to act as a preservative.  You can also add a few drops of essential oil to add fragrance.  I prefer to store mine in the fridge because it stays thicker.  I’ve found that if I add citric acid and keep it on the shelf, it tends to get runny, but this method is good if you want to travel with it and don’t have access to a fridge.

Ok, now you have your amazing curly hair gel.  Next, the trick is applying it.  One of my favorite things about this stuff is that it doesn’t make your hair crunchy or sticky.  To get the best results, you have to use a lot of it.  Don’t be afraid to use too much.  I use it in combination with a technique called plopping.  Once I’ve plopped for about 10 minutes, I just scrunch a couple of palms full of this gel into my hair.  It’s ok if your hair feels a little slimy.  Now let your hair air dry and when it’s dry or almost dry, you can turn your head upside-down and scrunch it a little to soften any crunchiness that might have formed.  You could blow-dry with a diffuser, but I rarely do this.

Viola!  You are going to have awesome curls!

So, do you have natural curls?  Do you embrace them or fight them?  What do you do to tame the little beasties?