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.


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):