Since I was as young as I can remember, my hair has been getting steadily thicker– and curlier. I didn’t care much about my hair when I was younger, although I resented my mother often straightening it. But eventually the only way to brush it without ripping through it was to straighten it or french braid it until dry. By the time I actually cared about how my hair looked–mainly due to opinions that it looked like a mop in a ponytail– braiding helped nothing, and straightening took hours.
In fact, I didn’t even know my hair was curly at that point. I literally thought that my natural hair was just a poofball. I honestly did not know that you weren’t supposed to brush it, if you preferred segmented curls to overall poof, and it took an amazingly long time to figure that out, even with the desperate research I engaged in just to make it presentable. I’m sure most people have probably figured out how the heck to work their mane how they want it, but I’ve compiled some tips I wish I’d seen when I was first figuring it out.
First of all, learn what YOU want your hair to be, not what you think it’s expected to be. Say you have crazy poofball hair: even if you get more rude comments than compliments, but you love it? Rock it. If you prefer it straightened and are willing to put up with the time and expenses that may come with it? Keep at it, because while you probably look great with it natural as well, you do what YOU like. This is important, because too many hair tips are focused around what you shouldn’t do– with no given reason other than a supposedly undesirable look.
Time to learn how to work with the hair you were born with. As I was unable to realize, if you want your hair in individual curls, waves, kinks, or whatever you have, you will probably want to trash the brush, at least for styling purposes. Naturally Curly has plenty of tips, as well as forums to ask specific questions if you find yourself in a hair-related crisis. In fact, many of the tips I’ll mention probably originated from there.
Figure out products. Naturally Curly is huge on the idea of going shampoo free– or at least sulfate and silicone free. Sulfates are found in most shampoos, and also in dish detergent. Basically, they strip your hair of oil and moisture, which can be terrible for dry hair, or even oily, as your scalp often combats the sudden dryness with an onslaught of natural oils. But sulfates are also necessary to prevent the build-up of silicone, which is found in many shampoos and most conditioners. Silicone often hides damage in hair and creates a smooth shine, while also trapping out moisture (and, of course, requiring sulfates to be removed).
Avoiding these two ingredients will allow moisture to reach your hair, and stay in. This can be done with cone-free products and a sulfate-free shampoo, or you can even wash your hair with conditioner. The complications that can arise in getting used to it– or, if it doesn’t work at all– can of course be dissuading, in which case, learn what works for you. Even just washing or shampooing your hair a little less often can be beneficial, if dryness is a problem. However, this does not work universally, and if getting it to work is too difficult, expensive, or pointless to you? That’s OK.
Gel can also be a huge help. Mousse is often recommended for curlies, but it can often be drying. With a gel that works for your hair, it will keep your curls in place and defined as they dry, and once dry, you can simply squeeze your hair to remove the hard, crunchy feeling– leaving soft, natural looking curls.
Moisturizes are probably also a necessity, at least to some point. A strong conditioner for your shower may be satisfactory, but some people might want to add a leave-in as well. Many leave-in conditioners are just watered down versions of the kind you use in your shower, so don’t just look at labels– look at ingredients. If it works, it works.
Cutting curly hair. A haircut can help a LOT, but unlike many hairdressers seem to think, curly hair generally requires a different strategy than straight or slightly wavy. Anyone who has ever cut my hair has wet it, combed it and pulled it straight, and cut it like that. The problem? That’s not how I wear my hair. Sure, for some people, it might work out. But your hair lengthens when wet, and shortens when curly, often unevenly throughout the hair– so the end result is often not what you were hoping for. In fact, the best way to cut curly hair is to cut it in it’s natural state, each individual curl at a time while already dry.
Another thing that’s been difficult for me is trying to get a haircut that I actually want. I usually want to go for something that seems edgy, but most people think that doing anything risky with curly hair is a no-go. Honestly? There is probably a modified version of any haircut for curly hair that works for you. Want it as a mohawk? Look no further. Think you can’t cut it short? I did.
On a budget. Everything I’ve done with my hair, I’ve had to do with as little cash as possible, considering I live with my parents and rely on them for the finances. Even if I were making my own money, who really wants –or is able– to spend a fortune on hair products?
For a start, haircuts are often even more expensive when your hair is curly– strange, considering they cut it the same as if it were straight. But for trims that have made no change to my hair, it’s cost me around $50 for a single haircut. If possible, cutting your own hair isn’t as risky as it may seem. While curly hair being uneven can make it difficult to get a perfect cut, it can also make an imperfect cut work. When my hair was longer, I cut the length with this easy method, and trimmed the upper layers manually (by cutting each curl individually while dry).
Products can also rack up costs, especially if if takes handfuls each application. Fancy products are probably not your friend, but luckily, they’re not the only ones that work. Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition is a silicone-free conditioner (and also comes in a deep conditioner) that works fabulously, and is generally $3-$5 depending on the size or the container and where it’s bought. L.A. Looks Sport Look Gel (or various other L.A. Looks) is $2-$3 for a bottle that will last quite awhile, and is actually pretty dang good.
So, curly hair is difficult, yada yada, but if you’re like me and too woefully lazy to change it, or alternatively much more comfortable in your natural locks, finding out what works best for you can be fun and effective. And trust me, you’ll look amazing.
Written by Sarah Gay