I've always had a love/hate relationship with my curls. As a child, my mom and I fought and wrestled them, trying to tame my ridiculously thick, wiry locks with not much luck. Mom has fine, wavy hair so she was at a loss as to how to care for my locks, especially back in the eighties and nineties when people didn't understand that curly hair has to be treated differently than straight hair. It wasn't until I was in ninth grade and went to Great Clips for a regular haircut that the stylist told me my hair felt like straw and just needed to be moisturized. Then, things started to turn around! No longer did I fight my curls, but learned how to care for them and accept them as a beautiful part of myself, and not a deformity!
So, after 30 years of experimentation, trial and error, pain, tears, and eventually compliments and smiles, I have finally figured out how to keep my locks happy. My true curly hair awakening started with the book, Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey (where to buy).
This is a must-have for any curly girl. It teaches you about your curls so you can learn how to care for them, including all-natural homemade products.
Choose a Stylist Who Specializes in Curly Hair (Deva Trained)
I was always jealous of my straight haired friends' – how they'd go to the salon and leave with gleaming, shiny hair that's perfectly coiffed. Whenever I'd leave the salon, I looked like a lion who'd gotten in a fight with a hair dryer and it was obvious who'd won. I just got used to going straight home after the salon, washing out all the yucky, sticky products and redoing it myself, only to be disappointed again when it dried as it stuck out like a triangle.
Once I was in my twenties, I came across a Canadian stylist who specialized in curly hair, and for the first time in my life, I left the salon actually liking the way my hair felt and looked. She had a patent for her “C cut” where she cut curly hair curl by curl along the C of the curl. Gone was the triangle effect, a.k.a. Mount Everest, and my hair really started looking beautiful.
Once you understand how your curls work, the next step is to find a stylist who understands curls. In my experience, all hair stylists say they know how to cut curly hair, and 99% of them don't. I don't wanna offend anyone, but it's just a fact. Hair stylists who understand curls DO NOT cut them the same way they cut straight hair, for instance, my hair is cut dry since it is a totally different length when wet.
I found an awesome salon from naturallycurly.com in my area (Salon Bliss) and the stylists are all Deva trained, which I've found to be the best training program out there for curly hair. Use the Deva salon finder to find a stylist near you!
Questions to ask the salon to see if they are truly trained on how to cut curls: (taken from https://www.mydevacurl.com/curly_stylist_finder)
- Is the stylist skilled at cutting curly hair?
- Does the stylist cut curly hair while it’s dry?
- Will the stylist see me for a consultation before a curly cut?
- Does the salon offer hooded dryers and diffusers as an alternative to blow drying wet hair?
- What products does the salon use?
Use Gentle, Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Moisturizing Conditioner
Deva products are specially designed for curly hair, and almost all are mostly poo-free (no harsh synthetic detergents, or sulfates). I have used their products for years, including the DevaCurl No-Poo, and DevaCare Conditioner. That is until I started creating my own shampoo and conditioner from baking soda and apple cider vinegar (see my post on how to do it)! This has been the best thing I've ever done for my hair. My curls have never been happier – they are now truly healthy from the inside out. UPDATE – 2012 – I now go back and forth between using aloe vera/glycerine shampoo and nothing as a conditioner, and using Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap to wash, and apple cider vinegar to condition. My hair started to get very dry after a year of using baking soda, but it was perfect to transition off of shampoo.
More Tips and Tricks
Here are more things in my curly hair routine that have made a big difference in the health and beauty of my hair.
- I have a $35 Culligan shower head filter (where to buy) to soften the water. This has made a huge difference in my skin and hair because we have very hard water, and the ]filter is only $11 (where to buy) and has to be changed every 6 months. Pretty cheap!
- I wash my hair every 3-4 days. In between washings, I spray my hair with filtered water mixed with 10-15 drops of Lavender for scent to freshen up the curls and reduce the frizz, then do a little finger combing. I never ever comb my hair dry – a big no no for curly hair!
- Then, and most importantly, I do not towel dry my hair. My DevaCurl-trained hairdresser taught me this. Right after I get out of the shower, I flip my head upside down and I take my TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock gel and scrunch it into my soaking wet hair.(This is NOT organic or natural. I have tried homemade flax seed gel, oils, aloe vera and many other natural things and all leave my hair frizzy and matted. I love being natural, but haven't found a decent alternative that works for my hair yet.) This way, the gel can lock in the water, ensuring that my hair holds in the moisture. Then, I take an old t-shirt and scrunch the water out, then air dry. If I have to go somewhere, I will blow dry my hair with a diffuser, but only until damp, not completely dry.
- Another idea for an all-natural hair gel that one of my readers suggested is to use Aloe Vera Gel, which you can buy organic and raw, so it is a chemical-free, safe option.
- I also take Fish Oil (where to buy) and Fermented Cod Liver Fish Oil on a daily basis, and regularly drink herbal tea with gelatin (where to buy) in it, all of which helps with numerous things like my heart, cholesterol, and digestion, but also improves the condition of my skin and hair.