When your hair is wet, it is beautiful. Then it dries. It poofs up, gets frizzy, and can’t do anything but put it back in a pony-tail. This is the curly struggle.
This was my life for far too long. I am biracial (half black, half white) and was overwhelmed with my hair. My mom did an amazing job when I was young, but once I had to take the reins myself, I had no clue how to take care of my hair or where to start. No salon knew how to cut my hair in a flattering style and they all wanted to straighten it.
Having a daughter of my own with hair even curlier than mine motivated me to get to the bottom of the best and healthiest way to care for our hair.
A couple of things before we start. There is a plethora of information so we will be covering JUST the basics in this post. You could literally write a book with all the information out there. In fact, a lovely woman already has. Check out Loraine Massey’s book, Curly Girl: The Handbook. Just take things one step at a time. Once you figure out what works well for the hair, it’s pretty life-changing.
You’re going to see a lot of links in this post. Any products I recommend are products I personally use and love. No funny stuff here, folks. Alright, let’s get started.
The first thing you should know about curls is this: they dry out easily. The natural oils from the scalp are GOOD for curls, so shampooing regularly is absolutely not necessary. In fact, it’s better to skip it. Yes, you heard correctly, take that shampoo and put it away. Far, far away. I personally prefer to use a no-poo or apple cider vinegar rinse most of the time and “real” shampoo maybe once a month.
Conditioner, however, is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of taking care of curls. Slather it on, massage the scalp for 5-7 minutes, rinse. Put some more on, comb through the hair with your fingers or wide tooth comb (I love this one because it has a hook on the end so I can keep it in the shower). Leave in as little or as much conditioner as you want. Generally, the more you leave in, the better. You might feel like you are using too much conditioner, but you want the hair to feel nice and slick.
Okay, so which conditioner should you use? Especially considering you may go through it fairly quickly, we want to keep things relatively inexpensive. Here are three of my favorite conditioners.
- I LOVE this tea tree conditioner from Trader Joes. It’s only about 4 dollars and a little goes a long way. It also smells good and minty and tingles your scalp when you rub it in.
- If you want to go even cheaper than that, I have good news. The VO5 Herbal Escapes line also makes a nice light conditioner perfect for leaving in and I have seen it for as little as $0.75 at the drugstore.
- My all-time favorite conditioner is a little pricier, though — around 10 dollars. But, it is well worth it in my opinion. It smells wonderful and it’s free from all the stuff that curls hate. My and my daughter’s hair love it, and you can find it almost anywhere that sells hair products.
After you are finished conditioning, leave in however much you’d like, and gently towel dry the hair. Make sure you squeeze the hair dry instead of vigorously rubbing. Friction=frizz and the goal here is to make it stop dripping, not actually dry it with the towel.
Now that you’ve conditioned and towel dried the hair to the point where it’s not dripping wet anymore, it’s time to bring out your styling product(s).
Your styling products are super important, especially now that you know the no-poo secret. You want to avoid products that contain sulfates, silicones, and waxes that build up on top of the hair since you aren’t using the harsh shampoos anymore to strip them away. Dimethicone seems to be the ingredient that quickly eliminates many products from our styling arsenal. Again, I am really trying to keep this simple because the rabbit hole of information you can go down can become overwhelming very quickly. If you aren’t going to give up shampooing altogether, I really don’t see the need to scrutinize every single product you use, but staying away from things that quickly build up on your hair is a good idea in general.
The Shea Moisture curling milk is nice and light for those curls that seem to get weighed down easily. If you are styling curls that seem to drink up conditioner or product, the Cantu Beauty line would probably be a good fit. You can find either of these at Walmart or Target. Both Shea Moisture and Cantu have kids’ products as well, and both of their detanglers are fantastic.
The key to finding a good product match is to keep things simple. Use a leave-in conditioner and one other styling product. Take note of how the hair responds and change things up a little. Have fun with this. Take notes. Experiment.
Okay, so you’ve conditioned, gently dried with a towel, and put styling product in while the hair is still wet. I think you’re ready. Prepare to meet my absolute favorite curly-girl find.
This thing looks a little bit like a torture device, but trust me, it’s pure magic. Maybe a little much if you have small curly-kid, but eventually that child will grow and will love having this thing around. Love your diffuser. Name your diffuser. Rosada and I are close friends (I bet you can guess what color she is, by her name). She helps me feel fabulous and I make her quite useful. It’s a beautiful friendship.
Sleep & Refresh
There are a few ways to protect curls while sleeping. You can braid the hair, wrap it up in a buff, or use a silk pillowcase.
In the morning, simply spray the hair with water, style it, and go on with your day. There is no need to detangle curls every single day, but if things are looking rough, make sure you wet the hair before finger combing. You should never detangle curly hair while dry.
You should be able to refresh the hair 3-5 days with the spray bottle before having to do the whole no-poo/conditioning process again.
I hope you found this a bit helpful in caring for curly or multiracial hair. If you would like more information, the website Naturally Curly is a great place to read more on different curl types, product suggestions and different techniques to care for those gorgeous curls.
Remember, your mentality is everything. It’s not your job to “tame” or “calm down” curly hair. Please don’t perpetuate the lie that curls are unmanageable when in reality, you only need the right tools and information on how to care for it. Get the tools, learn how to use them, and embrace the curly life!