The Low Maintenance Woman’s Guide to Curly Hair

Guest post by Ellen

The author with short hair, dressed as a red crayon

The author with short hair, dressed as a red crayon

For much of my childhood I had very short hair. I got mistaken for a boy a lot, but I didn’t mind it, and it made being in the pool easy – I didn’t have to wear a swim cap. Granted, my hair was also the texture of straw, but it didn’t bother me.

However, once I got to sixth grade, I decided I’d had enough of both being mistaken for a boy and short hair, and I grew it out. Somewhat to my surprise, it was curly. My response to this was to wear it in a clip (sixth grade) and then side barrettes (seventh grade through eighth grade), and then came the grunge era – enough said.

I never quite knew what to do with my curly hair, and, because I am lazy, have stuck mostly to just washing it and letting it air dry. However, whenever I went to get it cut, the stylist would lobby for straightening it. One: I am lazy and don’t even use a blow dryer most of the time. Two: I have very fine hair and live in humid climes, so all the work would be undone within minutes of exposure to the weather.

For my last haircut, I went to a stylist who specializes in curly hair and discovered that the system she uses is based on a book called Curly Girl, which I had actually perused a while back. Since that haircut, I’ve been happier with my curly hair than ever – it’s been holding the curl and hasn’t been frizzy, even in the considerable humidity of the Gulf Coast region. I’ve found that having had hair care made into a system with discrete steps has made it much easier for me to understand.

The author in seventh grade, with omnipresent barettes

The author in seventh grade, with omnipresent barettes

Here are the basics of the Curly Girl method, as gleaned from my stylist, a perusal of the Curly Girl book, and various curly hair websites:

-Most products designed to hold curl, reduce frizz, etc., do this by using silicone, which is heavy and not great for the hair.
-To remove silicone residue, you need sulfates in your shampoo. Sulfates are not good for anyone’s hair, but they’re especially damaging to curly hair becuase of its structure.

According to the curly girl method, if you respect the structure of curly hair and keep it healthy and adequately moisturized, it will naturally reduce frizz. How to do this?

-Avoid sulfates, silicones, and parabens.
-Don’t shampoo. Cleanse instead.
-Use a non-silicone conditioner.
-Use a non-silicone gel/curl volumizer.

If you google this, you’ll find guides about following this method in 15 simple steps, but (as I’m lazy) I’ve reduced it to three, which I will explain here. I’m going to tell you the specific products I’m using (as my stylist was trained by a specific system) but if you read the book no specific products are mentioned and a quick googling of the method pulls up lists of other products that meet the criteria.

Step One: No more shampoo. Say what?

I thought this was totally gross, but it turns out you’re not just going to leave your scalp and hair greasy. Instead of shampooing you are going to cleanse (yes, semantics are at play here). It turns out that the lather in shampoo is mostly there for psychological reasons and isn’t really doing much. As a result, you don’t really need it.

The non-shampoo I now use is Deva Curls Low-Poo, which does have some lather, but there is another, No-Poo, which doesn’t. There is some difference in the pH or somesuch that made her recommend the former. When you cleanse, you’re going to be focusing on your scalp, not your hair. Use the pads of your fingers to massage the scalp. Rinse as usual.

Step Two: Condition

You want to use a rich, silicone-free conditioner. The one I use is Deva Curls One Condition, which is the only conditioner they make. What you are going to do with this conditioner is comb it (with your fingers) through your hair. As you do this, bring your fingers together (my stylist calls this “noodling”) so you can feel the texture of your hair. You want to do this until your hair feels smooth. When you’re working on the right side of your head, turn your hair to the right, and so on. Rinse.

Step Three: Gel

Do this while you’re still in the shower. “Noodle” it through your hair, then drizzle just a little water over your hair and re-noodle. You’re done with the shower part. The one I use is called B’Leave In, but there are several others available.

There’s no need to comb your hair, since you’ve noodled it thoroughly. To dry your hair, lean over and scrunch the water out with a towel. You want to lean to the side you’re scrunching. Then, if you’re lazy like me, let it air dry. Those of you who are less lazy or who live in climes where leaving the house with damp hair won’t work, blow dry with a diffuser. There are additional hair products you can add – what I’ve outlined seems to be enough for me.

Videos on this method are available from the Deva Curls website: http://www.mydevacurl.com/

Again, this is the brand I have experience with but any products that meet the no sulfates, silicones, and parabens criteria should work.

I really recommend that if you are a curly girl you try getting your hair cut by a stylist who is trained specifically for curls.

The author with self-styled hair, present day

The author with self-styled hair, present day

Ellen is from New Jersey and spent enough time in Boston to be a die-hard Red Sox fan. After becoming a librarian, Ellen moved to Mobile Alabama where her most important role is to make sure that Beckett, a golden lab, is properly entertained. Beckett would like you to know that while he likes chicken, he would never ever drink beer in the club house. Ellen likes pie, geology, mathematics, books and baseball.

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