It took decades to love my super thick curly hair. When I was younger, stylists assured my mom that a shorter length was better, thinning shears were a must and a perm would help “control the curls”. Lies, all lies. Looking back at pictures from high school, it’s no wonder I stayed a virgin as long I did. Luckily, after years of using harsh chemical straighteners that have nothing in common with the high-tech keratin treatments of today, I managed to grow my hair out long enough that the weight of it helped form actual curls instead of frizz. And all the “straight hair” products I was using to maintain my half-assed blowouts actually made it soft and manageable, instead of crunchy and wet looking, the way curly hair mousses and gels left it. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the products, tools and techniques it takes to love your curls. And while this looks exhausting to read all this information, my hair routine takes less than an hour once a week and 5 minutes daily. Though what works for my thickness and texture may vary for yours, there are some universal truths we can all embrace. I call them the 10 commandments of curly hair.
- Thou shalt not fight your true nature
You are blessed, not stuck, with curly hair. It’s unique and exuberant. It’s the real you. Yes, straighteners and blowouts mean even the curliest among us can have Jen Anniston hair. And that’s ok every now and then but why live a lie? I say put down the flat iron and learn to work with, not against your curls. Rock what the good Lord gave you.
- Thou shalt not over-wash
Curly hair is thirsty hair, and thirsty hair is frizzy hair. Your natural oils, plus a ton of conditioner help give your curls their shape and shine. Plus every time you wash you have to reform your curls, which is why curly hair gets a bad rap for being high maintenance. I wash once a week. My hair is thick and never gets greasy. Find out the minimum amount of times you can wash and stick with that.
“But what about working out?” you ask. “What about it?” I counter. Yes, letting sweat dry in your hair sounds gross. But if I were to tell you I use an all natural, organic salt spray on my curls, you’ d be intrigued, right? It just so happens that my all natural, organic salt spray is sweat. Let it dry either naturally or with a diffuser and live your life.
As for how to wash, shampoo your scalp only and condition roots to ends. Or use a co-wash instead of shampoo. And don’t stand under the shower spray which can flatten your roots. Bend at the waist and throw your hair forward or use a handheld shower attachment like I do. Also, don’t vigorously towel your head like the asshole jock in some afterschool special. Use a t-shirt or a microfiber towel and squeeze the moisture out.
- Keep thy hands to thyself
When your hair is dry, don’t touch your curls too much as the moisture from your hands can make them frizzy or lose their shape. There are, of course exceptions: When you need to reshape your curls when dry, I like to rub a little Moroccan Oil Styling Cream between my fingers and run it down a curl, twirling as I go. When my roots are flat I fluff, by bending at the waist, sliding my hands onto my scalp and gently ruffling my roots as if I were scratching my head with the pads of my fingers rather than my nails.
Other than that, hands off. And that goes for your boyfriend, too.
- Thou shall find your perfect moisture level
Here are the products I use in and out of the shower to maintain a good moisture level. My six-product regimen may seem pricy (but you can find most of this cheaper on Amazon) but again I only use most of these once a week so everything lasts three to five months or more. Again, from shower to dried hair (spending a few minutes with the curling iron where needed), this whole process takes about an hour.
Moisture is everything and you’ll have to find the products that control your curls without making them limp or greasy. I co-wash with Aveda Be Curly Co-wash once a week.
I deep condition with some sort of hair masque and this one smells yummy. I leave it on for three minutes while I do my other shower business. If your hair is thin or tends to get greasy, you can skip this step.
I finish up with this conditioner.
Once I’m out of the shower, I squeeze out the water with a microfiber towel and use a blob of DevaCurl SuperCream. I’ve only been using this product for two months and LOVE IT!!!! It’s amazing and gives you shiny, beautifully defined curls. Highly recommend. Another great product is Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding.
Next I start twisting tiny locks of hair all over my head to form my curls. To do this, I rub little Moroccan oil between my fingers and working section by section, I pick up tiny locks and twist them toward my face. (Tiny locks turn into bigger curls when dry.) I do this all over my head. Then I scrunch and blow dry with a defuser, scrunching more as I go.
I also just started using the DEVAFUSER recently, which is that crazy hand-like attachment. I love it because it doesn’t fly off (once I got it on my damn dryer – it takes some muscle power.) You can also slide it only your scalp and fluff up your roots, especially when they’re soaked with that organic salt spray I mentioned.
- Thou shall use the right tools
I’ve already mentioned some of these but I recommend you dry with a microfiber towel or an old T-shirt. Also you’ll need hair picks instead of a brush, a diffuser if you’re not drying naturally (which I generally never have time for) and a curling iron to use in moderation. (Seriously, overdo it with the curling iron and you get Toddler’s and Tiara curls.) Also recommended: a detachable shower attachment or a shower cap so you don’t make frizz in the shower. No cap? I put my hair in a loose top knot.
- Thou shall layer strategically
Longer layers give your hair weight without bulk. A good stylist can help you find the right cut for your texture. Embrace big hair though. It’s your birthright.
- Thou shalt not go anywhere near thinning shears
Thinning shears seem like a good idea but no… just no. They create frizz and keep your curls from clumping. Do it very sparingly, if at all.
- Thou shall interrogate your stylist
Make sure your stylist has experience with curly hair. Have a consultation with dry hair before every cut. EVERY cut. Make sure he or she takes into account shrinkage. And give them major side eye if they pick up thinning shears. The stylist’s chair is no place to be bashful, not when your curls are at stake.
- Thou shall sleep responsibly
When your curls are formed and you want them to stay that way, sleep with your hair in a scarf, loose top knot or loose high pony. And/or sleep on a satin pillowcase. I generally sleep with a high pony (just pulling it once through the elastic) on a satin pillow case. In the morning I shake my hair out, arrange the curls, use the curling iron sparingly if at all, then rub Moroccan Oil Styling cream down some of the locks, re-twisting if they need it.
- Thou shalt never forgive Anne Hathaway
In the Princess Diaries, Anne Hathaway straightened her curly hair and somehow became a pretty princess. She did something similar in The Devi Wears Prada. She’s basically dead to me.
Whew, that all took longer to type and read than I spend on my hair in a week, I promise. So don’t get discouraged. Find the products, tools and techniques that help you embrace your curls. Once it becomes second nature, you’ll see that living with your natural hair can be quite liberating.
Do you agree with our 10 commandments of curly hair? Any you want to add? What are your favorite products?