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There are several misconceptions associated with curly hair. Sometimes there’s a perception that curly girls wake up and their hair is automatically done. Or, it can be the complete reverse and seen as a chore or involving lots of hard work. Caring for and styling curly hair can take longer but I wouldn’t say it’s difficult – it’s just about finding what works for you. I love all sorts of curly hair textures and how versatile natural hair can be.
I’ve made plenty of hair mistakes in my time –mainly trying to force my hair to be anything other than what it is naturally. I’m all for experimentation and people should have the freedom to explore different styles, but there’s something so freeing about accepting your hair for what it is. Embrace the curls, the frizz, hair defying gravity and all that comes with it. I spent a lot of time fighting my hair and it was so exhausting.
Moisture is so important for curls. The way our hair naturally bends prevents the natural oils (sebum) on our scalp from travelling down the hair shaft – which explains why it tends to be drier than straighter hair textures. A daily moisturiser will help and can be something as simple as a leave-in spray, cream or butter if your hair needs something a little heavier. I also find conditioning regularly or adding a deep conditioner to your routine is a great way to keep the hair hydrated. Another tip would be to avoid drying your hair too much after wash day. Instead, use towels that gently wick away moisture and if you do use heat, try a lower temperature setting to maintain moisture.
For long haired girls, I recommend shampooing once or twice a week – which is what I used to do. Cleanse thoroughly and condition deeply, then style your hair with a leave-in product and add additional styling products for hold. Throughout the week, spritz on or add in creams to refresh the curls in between washes.
My routine has changed a little recently. After developing hair loss because of a stress-induced condition, I decided to cut my hair much shorter, so I tend to wash it daily or every other day. Shorter hair loses its shape quicker, so my washes are more frequent but it’s much quicker to style. The main thing that’s changed is I’m using less product. It’s tempting to be complacent as there’s less hair to manage but consistency is key – keep caring for it as you would longer hair. Deep conditioner doesn’t feel as necessary, but I still use a mask now and then, and condition my hair every time I wash it. Before I used to use a leave-in product, a styling gel and maybe a cream throughout the week but now I just use a gel or mousse for a bit of definition.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ with curly hair. Experimentation is key to find what works for you. The ‘hero’ products depend on your curl type, thickness, density, and porosity – as well as how you like your hair to look and feel. Personally, I think every curly-haired girl should have a clarifying shampoo in their routine. A lot of the conditioning products can leave a bit of a build-up behind, so a deep cleanse is a good idea now and then. I’d also recommend a gentler shampoo for those times when a deeper cleanse isn’t needed, plus a hydrating or deep conditioner, as well as a strengthening product if you heat style or colour your hair. Then, use an oil for softness and shine.
Understanding your hair texture is so crucial. For example, my hair is tightly coiled, fine but dense and has low porosity. I therefore prefer products that aren’t too oily – so they don’t just sit on top of my hair. I also like my hair to be quite defined, so I like mousses and gels to add definition. Some products I’ve been enjoying are the Kérastase Curl Manifesto Refresh Absolu, Pattern Beauty Strong Hold Gel, Living Proof Curl Styling Gel and Mielle Organics Babassu Brazilian Curl Mousse.
I’ve used a lot of DIY remedies in the past. A few years ago, when I was chemically straightening my hair, I took an Ayurvedic approach and used lots of potent natural oils and herbs like rose water and body art quality henna to strengthen my hair and give it a beautiful red tint. There are lots of benefits to using natural ingredients in your haircare. It can really promote growth – I managed to grow my hair down to my waist using a lot of natural products, despite it being chemically treated.
There are some frizz-friendly products worth knowing about. Silicones are often found in anti-frizz products and while they’re worth avoiding in shampoo and conditioner – since they can weigh the hair down – they can be quite beneficial and effective when it comes to control frizz. For example, if I’m heat styling my hair, I always use a heat protection spray or serum that contains silicone to maintain the style for longer. I like the Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Leave-In Treatment, Colour Wow Dream Coat or the Living Proof Triple Bond Complex which doesn’t contain silicones but smooths the surface of the hair and rebuilds bonds for a similar frizz-free finish.
Protect your curls while you’re sleeping. For longer hair, a simple pineapple works well (so tying hair up loosely and placing it on top on your head) but it does help to either wear a bonnet or scarf to prevent the bed sheets sucking out any moisture. Most of the time I just use a silk or satin pillowcase.
Adjust your haircare seasonally. During the warmer months, I can get away with doing less to my hair. My routine doesn’t have to be as rigid but there might be more of an emphasis on protecting it from UV rays and humidity. During the winter, my hair tends to be at its driest, so I’ll take more steps to keep it healthy and moisturised.
There are a few ways to protect your curl definition. I tend to need products with a lot of hold as my hair is fluffier without any product – so I use mousses and gels. Other curly-haired people might find they can use simple leave-in sprays and milks, or maybe even butters to achieve the definition they require. Outside of styling hair curly, I really like protective styles like twists and braids as they can be a useful way to give your hair a break from daily styling.
Shrinkage can be tricky. I find that if I use heavier products that add weight, this helps elongate the curls. It can also really help to physically stretch the hair when drying or diffusing. For example, you could hold down sections at the root or use clips until it’s set in place.
Embracing your natural hair can be difficult – especially if you live in an environment where maybe you don’t see curls as often, or perhaps people are discriminatory. For me, it’s something I pushed myself to work at over the years. I always had chemically treated hair when I was younger and I got to a point where I didn’t understand why I was making that choice. I knew my hair was always going to grow curly, so it started with acceptance and once I started experiencing my curls every day, I grew to love them more and more. The thing that helped me the most was social media – sharing my curls and following people that had hair like mine.
A lot of self-worth can be placed on hair. It’s what made me obsess over perfection for far too long. I had a lot of negative feelings about my hair in the past, always wanting it to be anything other than what it was naturally. As someone who has tried different lengths and styles, it’s really changed my perspective on how I view my hair and myself. I learned to embrace the fact that my curls weren’t perfectly uniform, which then gave me the space to learn to love them. I eventually learnt to not put so much pressure on myself or to chase perfection in all areas of my life.
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