It took me forever to accept that I had curly hair. I hated my hair texture growing up, but when I got older and learned how to style it, I love my curls. After following sage advice from my hairdresser over the years and reading Curly Girl: The Handbook, my curls have never been healthier! While I don’t follow the curly girl method to a “t”, here’s what I do follow that you can follow too, even if you don’t have curly hair.
Know your hair type
Not all curly hair products are the same. Curly hair can be described as having waves, curls, coils, etc. I have a mix of 2c/3a curly hair, so I have a mix of waves and spiral curls depending on how my hair decides to style on a given day. This great quiz from Naturally Curly helped determine not only your hair type but also your hair texture, hair porosity, and thickness. The more you know about your hair, the better you’ll be able to take care of it.
Not washing your hair every day
When I first embraced my curly hair, I was using shampoo and conditioner every day. It turns out, I was damaging my hair further by washing it every day because I wasn’t letting my curls do their thing. Your scalp was not meant to be washed with shampoo every day. Now, I wash my hair on average every 2-3 days, usually by co-washing (see below). Over time, you will know what your scalp needs.
Going back to washing my hair, my secret is co-washing. Co-washing is using a sulfate-free/silicone-free conditioner to act as both shampoo and conditioner. I like co-washing because it helps break up any leftover product in my hair without it being too harsh. Suave’s Essential Conditioner line is popular not only for how effective it is, but also for being cost-efficient. It usually takes me 8-10 months to go through a 30 oz., so it lasts long and it’s affordable!
Looking at ingredients
One of the biggest steps in the Curly Girl Method is making sure your products are #curlygirlapproved. This means the products you use do not contain sulfates, parabens, or silicones. Why are these ingredients bad? See below:
Sulfates strip the scalp of natural oils. These oils are necessary to protect your hair and scalp. Not only are sulfates detrimental to your hair’s health, but they also damage the environment. Look for the following terms in the ingredients list to see if a product is sulfate-free:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
When in doubt, be cautious of an ingredient that ends with “sulfate”.
Silicones are actually meant to repel water and aren’t biodegradable. They prevent the hair from absorbing moisture properly. In addition, silicones can weigh down your curls and can prevent their natural shape from forming. Look for the following terms in the ingredients list to see if a product is silicone-free:
When in doubt, be cautious of an ingredient that ends with “cone”, “conol”, “xane”, “col”, or “cane”.
Parabens are used to prevent the growth of bacteria, most commonly used in makeup. There’s been recent controversy whether or not parabens are actually safe, but most curl-friendly products no longer contain parabens. Look for the following terms in the ingredients list to see if a product is paraben-free:
If you’re not able to find a product you like that doesn’t contain sulfates, silicones or parabens, look at the ingredients and see what number they fall on the list of ingredients. If a sulfate, silicone or paraben is listed further down the list and not included in the first five ingredients, it’s okay to use. Just make sure the product doesn’t list a sulfate, silicone, or paraben as one of the top ingredients. Even if a label says “for curly hair” or “free of sulfates/silicones/parabens”, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s curly girl approved.
Protecting your hair while you sleep
Your hair is most vulnerable to breakage and frizz at night while you’re sleeping. You want to protect your curls as much as you can before you go to sleep so your beauty sleep does not ruin your hair! The best tips I can give you is a) don’t sleep with your hair wet and b) don’t sleep with your hair down. I use the pineapple method to plop my curls on my head so they’re not where I lay my head on my pillow. In addition, I also have a silk scarf I can use to wrap my head to protect my hair. You should also be mindful of the surface you’re sleeping on; I use a silk pillowcase to help prevent acne and protect my hair while I sleep.
Be mindful of the surfaces that touch your hair
As mentioned above, it’s important to protect your hair not only while you sleep, but also while it dries. I used to use a bath towel whenever I was drying my hair after I showered, but the texture of the towel was too rough on my hair. Most bath towels are made of cotton, which can dry out hair and cause more friction/frizz. To dry my hair, I use the following two options: a microfiber towel wrap and the plopping method. Microfiber is gentler on the hair so it won’t cause friction/frizz like a cotton towel. YouTube personality Penny Tovar has a wonderful video tutorial on plopping hair:
Not brushing my hair
The biggest takeaway was learning about what a brush can do curl patterns. By brushing your hair, especially dry, you’re breaking the pattern of the curl and encouraging frizz. If you have tangles in your hair, the method recommends you try to get them out using a wide-tooth comb while your hair is wet. If your hair is not detangling while wet, you can also use some conditioner to help break the tangle.
Limit the use of heat
I used to straighten my hair every other week before I embraced my curls. Then, it dwindled down to once a month, and eventually, maybe once or twice a year. Not only can heat make your hair dry, but it can cause damage to your hair that may not be reversible. This includes the use of a hairdryer. The method suggests you use little to no heat and let your curls air dry, but if you need to dry your hair fast, you can use a diffuser attachment with a hairdryer set to low/medium heat.