June 05, 2023 5 min read 2 Comments
There is a shared story amongst those of us with curly hair. It all begins with not knowing what to do with our crazy, unique textures. If we brush it like our friends, it ends up poofy instead of sleek and shiny. If we just let it air dry, the results are erratic. In an attempt to appear well-kept, we end up throwing it into a ponytail.
I talk with many people who didn't even know they had curly hair until adulthood. Like me, they just thought they had damaged, unmanageable hair.
I didn't learn to embrace my curls until I was in my twenties. Growing up, my hair never looked presentable. My mother would brush it while it air-dried to try and "straighten" it, but it would end up with weird waves and kinks. As I got older and started taking care of my own hair, I would spend so much time blow drying it and straightening it with a flat iron to try and achieve that sleek, straight look popular in the 90s. In a matter of hours, it would begin to poof out and I would end up with a mess that just got thrown into a ponytail.
One day, I was swimming at a friend's house, and she noticed my wet hair forming into curly clumps. She told me, "Hey, you have curly hair! Why don't you ever wear it that way?" I dismissed her claim, assuring her my hair was not curly, just a frizzy mess. She insisted, though, and convinced me to try styling it with a mousse and letting it air dry.
I did. I remember seeing a consistent wave throughout my hair that I didn't completely hate. I went through a phase of having crunchy curly-ish hair that was more like what I knew it was supposed to be, but nowhere near what it looks like today. I began my curly hair journey, learning about the products I needed to keep my hair healthy. Through trial and error, I developed a routine to bring out my best curl pattern.
When you begin your curly hair journey, it is easy to be overwhelmed with all the different information. You will find articles about the "Curly Girl Method" and online social media groups and accounts that will tell you all the rules for managing your curly hair. It will seem like A LOT!
Like anything new, take it one step at a time. If you have been neglecting your curls, using harsh hair care products and/or heat styling tools, it will take time to replenish your hair and coax it into its very best pattern.
This article is part of a series rolling out over the next few months. We will focus first on things to stop doing to your hair immediately to begin your curly hair journey.
1. DO NOT Use a regular, loop-weave towel on your hair.
It's the typical step for just-showered and gettin'-ready: A bath towel wrapped around freshly washed hair to soak up water while you do other things in your daily routine. The problem with this is that most bath towels have a fluffy texture made with little loops that will cause friction on your hair and increase frizz. Even worse, many of us dry our hair vigorously with these towels. This extra friciton exacerbates the problem. A big part of caring for your curls is paying extra attention to how you treat them when it is wet.
Instead, use a microfiber towel or 100% cotton t-shirt to gently absorb excess water. These two types of fabric are smooth and won't pull at the hair. You can gently remove excess water with either of these options.
I use a microfiber lined satin hair wrap to "plop" my hair after styling. We will discuss this method in later articles.
2. DO NOT Sleep on wet hair.
If your schedule is such that you must wash your hair at night, I can totally understand the temptation to put it up and go to sleep. However, this can cause damage to your hair and increase the risk of developing scalp issues. Hair is weakest when wet, and when you sleep on it in this state, it stretches out individual hairs and can cause breakage. Putting it up in a ponytail or a towel to sleep can also lead to scalp issues because it is wet for too long. Mold and bacteria thrive in warm, wet environments. This is not what you want to create on your scalp.
Instead, use a diffuser to dry your hair before going to bed. It may take some extra planning, but go ahead and style and dry your hair completely if you must shower at night. There are a few options for preserving your curls overnight, which will be covered in a future article.
3. DO NOT touch it while it is wet.
Of course, you have to touch your hair to style and apply product. While it is still pretty wet, this will not harm it. But, especially if you are air drying, do not touch it as it is in the drying process. Touching your hair while wet will increase frizz and break up the curl pattern.
Instead, learn how to diffuse dry your hair to decrease the how long it is wet. This will give you less opportunity to touch it while it's wet and will keep your scalp dry and happy. I use a simple diffuser attachment on a regular hair dryer. I've been using the same one for 15 years. I do recommend using the low heat setting to avoid too much heat.
If you like air drying your hair, make sure it is completely dry before you dig your fingers in.
4. DO NOT wash infrequently.
One of the most common suggestions to those beginning their curly hair journey is to stop washing their hair with shampoo and use only a conditioner. While co-washing has merit, I feel it is an advanced technique for only certain hair types. Washing infrequently (or co-washing without proper technique) will weigh your hair down because buildup will accumulate.
Buildup happens along the hair strands from all sorts of things; styling products, natural oils produced by your scalp and skin, minerals in our water, and other environmental factors. We wash our hair to remove this buildup so that our conditioner can actually hydrate and replenish the inside of the hair shaft. If we don't remove the buildup frequently, our hair will remain dry (even if we are "washing" with conditioner), and our curl pattern will be distorted and resistant to clumping together.
Instead, I suggest washing frequently with a mild, sulfate-free shampoo that is a good fit for your hair and following with a conditioner with the correct hydration level for your hair needs. Our solid shampoos are made with mild, coconut-derived cleansers that effectively cleanse your hair and scalp without causing damage like sulfate-containing shampoos. Our conditioners are made with curly hair needs in mind, so there are many options to fit your hair goals. Read Which Shampoo is Right for Me? and Which Conditioner is Right for Me? to find the best set for your hair type.
While this article is not comprehensive, I hope it serves as a starting point in your curly hair journey. If you are already well on your way, I hope you learned a new tip!
For the experienced curly-haired individuals, I'd love to hear your best tip for what to STOP doing right now to treat your curls better. Leave a comment or send me an email!
Alchemist and Owner
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