Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What to do with Curly Hair

I recently got a comment from someone who said she still didn't know what to do with her curly hair and it made me remember that I've been meaning to do a post on this very subject.

Curly hair is both an art AND a science.

MOST people do not know the proper formula to making curly hair look nice. After decades of trying, I think I've figured it out. Now maybe this only works on my hair, but I have conversed with ChawAlissa about it, who also has lovely curly hair, and our systems are very similar so I think we are onto something.

First off...let's embrace the curly hair. Yeah, I know, we spent the whole first half of our lives (if not more) pleading with God to give us shiny, straight, glossy hair that was easily cut and styled. If you are like me, you spent almost every morning in high school, round brush in one hand and hairdryer in the other, praying that you would flip your head up to see smooth, unfrizzy hair lying flat down your back.

This was before the day of the almighty Chi obviously, but screw the Chi. You can still get one if you must, but I will not. Curly hair rocks, anyone who thinks otherwise is jealous or doing it wrong.

First, let's talk about cut. This is what tortures those of us with curly hair. Because we want hairstyles too. We want to be a part of the Jennifer Aniston trend or the Posh Beckham trend or whatever trend everyone is currently into. Unfortunately, this almost always means daily straightening and leaving the salon that first day sobbing.

There is a certain length that must be avoided at all costs, and this is right around the shoulder range. You do not, I repeat, do NOT want to look like a triangle head. If you have curly hair, you've probably gone into the triangle head zone before.

If you're going to go shortish, there has to be decent clearance between shoulder tops and hair bottom. If you're going to go longish, it has to be at least two inches below the shoulders. And that's dry. Don't forget that curly hair dries up shorter and don't assume a hairstylist knows this. They should, but if they don't have curly hair and you're paying less than $60 for a haircut, they probably don't care.

Mine is a little past the middle of my back, the longest it ever gets before looking scraggly and weighed down. It is currently in need of a trim, something I only bother with every 6 months or so, but since it's kind of all wild looking anyway and my last trim was end of November, it looks fine across the back. Some bitch hairdresser at my salon told me if it was up to her she wouldn't let me leave without letting her cut four inches know what that's called?

A jealous, chubby, middle aged has been with stick straight hair wanting to ruin mine.

1 inch? Definitely 2 inches? Maybe 4 inches?? You're fucking crazy and I am tattling on you next time I go to the salon, and my hairdresser, aka the franchise owner's daughter, will be HELLA-pissed at you because A) your unsolicited advice was rude B) it was wrong.

My hairdresser would be letting me know if I needed 4 inches taken off, she has gathered it into a ponytail, taken scissors and hacked off the bottom before and wouldn't hesitate to tell me she was doing it again. She calls me her walking billboard, she's not letting me wander around with 4 extra inches of scraggly hair.

This is an interesting phenomenon with women. They are always urging each other to hack all their hair off. There are two reasons for this:

1. Remember that weird frienemy you had in highschool that would insist that too tight lime green shirt and purple puffy skirt looked great on you? And she would seem sincere but you always knew that she didn't want you looking good?

Yeah, those girls are still out there.

I see this on Babycenter all the time. Someone posts a picture and asks what to do about their hair and get the equivalent of "ohhh a pixie cut would look great!" or "a mullet would really frame your face nicely." Um, no.

2. Short hair is more stylish. Unfortunately, many people can't pull off the newest cutting edge look. Also, a lot of people do long hair wrong. I'm not going to go into that now, but that's possible too. Long, lank and just hanging there is also not good.

But...who are we trying to impress? Those jealous bitches? or their men? Because men like longer hair.

Okay, now that we've got the haircut down (longer with a light layer in the back), let's get in the shower! Woo-hoo, bend over and reach me that soap, will ya?

Assuming you shower every day (I believe I've made it clear that I do not), you should NOT be shampooing every day. Oh no, no, no. Shampoo is bad, mmmmkay?

Shampoo every other day and just use a little bit of shampoo and massage your scalp with it and rinse. Then grab your industrial sized conditioner, because there is no reason to buy it any other way, and pour gobs and gobs of it into your hands and work it into your hair from the bottom up. When you think you have too much, you need two more gobs. Don't get a whole lot on your roots though, just comb the leftovers through with your fingers up there.

On your non shampoo days, just use the conditioner. It has cleansing properties too and your hair is just not that dirty.

Now do all your other showering stuff, letting the conditioner marinate on there a little. Rinse it out, follow with a quick cool water rinse to get rid of frizz (I know it sucks but it's good for you) and get out of the shower.

Use your towel to squeeze most of the water out of your hair. Don't go getting all nuts and vigorously rubbing or anything. No need for that. Also, don't wrap your hair up into your towel. I know that sucks, but this is critical curling time. Just squeeze excess water out.

Now take a wide tooth comb and comb it all out. You may need a little bit of leave in conditioner to get through the thick parts. DO NOT put it near your roots, just near the bottom.

Now take your towel again and gently grab handfuls of hair and scrunch more wetness out. Make sure to get the back and underside of your hair well and don't mess around with the front a whole lot, that is a sure fire disaster in the making.

Get your product in hand, I either use Fructis mousse (cheap and awesome, no crunchy curls...1 golf ball sized dollop) or some leave in conditioner (1 dime sized bit), flip your head upside down, and sort of rake it through your hair leaving the majority of it at the ends. Then scrunch and sort of wave your hands all around in there to sort of separate the curls.

Flip your head right side up, gently arrange any rogue curls and DO NOT TOUCH IT AGAIN. NO MATTER WHAT. It's a done deal at this point until it is dry, any further attempts are futile, if you are convinced you have a bad hair day in the must walk away and just consider putting it up when it is dry. Even if you were crazy enough to get in the shower and start from the beginning, it's probably just screwed. I don't know why. I do know that if you keep touching it, it will just be worse and it will be frizzy. So don't touch it. At all.

Now on days that I want really big, really sexy hair (maybe one time a year, MAYBE), I get out the hairdryer with the diffuser, turn the heat OFF and the hairdryer on LOW and blow dry my hair upside down, just sort of gathering it up in the diffuser and holding it near my head and stopping before it's all the way dry.

Seriously, it's so easy.

My hairdresser doesn't really cut hair so I end up with whoever is good and available that day and everyone wants to do mine because I make them hand me the comb, the mousse and the towel once I'm done, do my thing, pull it up in a clip and leave with damp hair.

About a year ago the guy who did it begged me to let him flat iron it since they had never seen it straight and spent an hour doing it in teeny one inch strips, making it geisha girl straight...and taking away everything interesting about me. No thanks. BOR-ING. Even they agreed.

So stop hating on curly hair. I saw Millionaire Matchmaker tell some girl with gorgeous curly hair to straighten it because she doesn't like curly hair and I thought that was just beyond insane and totally not in tune with what men like.

With the right techniques and the right products and the right haircut, curly hair rocks. It even looks halfway okay frizzy, which is imperative in Florida humidity.

So stop listening to girls that don't like you, grow your hair longer and stop fighting the curls.

They'll win in the long run anyway.

For additional information, please read this
brilliant post where I discuss my favorite things, among them Wen conditioner.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have spent 35 years fighting my naturally curly hair and, in the past two years have grown it out. It's still realitively short - I've done the triangle thing before - UGH! Everyone I know is always complimentary and tells me how great it looks. I only have one friend who is never too nice or too positive about the comments she makes...........hhhmmmmm...

Becky said...

I am fighting the urge to send this to my sister-in-law...I am tired of looking at the frizzy, rat's-nest-looking cloud of hair she's sporting!

Ashley said...

That was seriously long. And detailed. Yet very informative. Will this method work with hair that is just wavy? Mine is so in between. If I let it dry naturally it is very wavy with a few spirals stuck in here and there, yet it can be Chi'd (yes I have one) and still look rockin cause its got body.

Oh yeah, and what about the Cashman's hair? It is just ringlets and I have no idea what to do with it. Any suggestions for a 2 year old boy with curly hair? Maybe BK could help.

Melodie said...

You just made me wish I had curly hair even more! Luckily for me, my straight hair is pretty easy to take care of, too. I pretty much do the same thing as you, except for the scrunching part.

Anonymous said...

Now I love my curly hair again! And I was about to get up and flat iron it, but now I think I'm gonna wet it, and embrace the curls!

4dogmomma said...

Amen sister! I am right there with you. Who is that triangle haired HR chick on Dilbert? I live in fear of her. (Reminds me of when I was about 10 trying to get Farrah Fawacett hair. Those were dark days.)

And that thing about don't touch your hair - completely 100% my down fall.

(Can you tell I too have curly hair?)

Great post!

Love it!

Unknown said...

Ashley is a genius!

I agree curly hair rocks! Mine is the in-between kind and unless I work it I look more crazy then curly. However, I have taken your advice on the only conditioner no shampoo ala Wen and this is the secret to good hair. It works with Suave even. Just conditioner and my hair looks and smells clean and my frizzies are gone!

AFRo said...

I have boring straight hair. But, no real complaints on maintaining it because I've had friends with the curly stuff and my God I'm grateful not to have to deal with that everyday. No offense, but seriously, I could see where it'd be a royal pain in the arse.

Anonymous said...

I was also wondering about having just wavy hair..and not necessarily curly. said straight was boring, but I think straight is also when it's shiny and shit? No? Am I wrong? When I actually take the time to straighten my hair (which is basically never) it looks you see on makeover shows. No? You still not feeling it??

I love this post by the way!

Leah said...

Where were you at when i was in high school!! I wish I would have read this back then!! I totally did the whole round brush/blow dryer deal. I am just glad i embraced the curly hair soon after high school, saving me years of styling hell. It is sooo much easier to let it do what it does naturally and just help it out with some product! It is nice to know that I am not the only on out there that put myself through all that every morning! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

what do you think about perms??

my hair is too short right now, but i was thinking of when it grew out long enough about getting one.

NOT a poodle perm, but something a little more than a body wave.


Slacker Mama said...

My sister has gorgeous curls. She gets comments on them all the time. However, this did not stop her from *perming* her hair in the 7th grade and cutting it in a chin length bob. She looked like Rosanne Rosannadana. Sadly, I still had worse-looking hair as I sported a permed mullet. I shiver thinking about it.

She has a Chi and I hate it when she uses it. She doesn't look like herself and her personality seems flattened right along with her hair.

Anonymous said...

Caitlin--seriously a perm?! You must be joking, I didn't even know they did perms anymore...except on African American people and then that's a WHOLE different kind of perm. SO unless you are AA I say NO way to the perm--sorry I know you didn't ask but I felt it my duty to step in and take some action.
xo Catfish

Anonymous said...

I have curly hair but I had to bite the bullet and get a real haircut. I was tired of ponytails and really when you are out of your 20's longer hair tends to make you look older. I have a slightly layered asymmetrical bob that I Chi and I love it. I get lots of compliments on my hair and I just hand over one of my stylist's cards. She has curly hair just like me and knows how to work with it. I love her.

Anonymous said...

I seriously saw someone getting a perm at the salon last weekend. I was shocked!

My hair is that in between crap that you HAVE to fix. It's not quite curly, not quite straight. I'm rockin' the frizz over here.

Anonymous said...

Well having curly hair, and on top of that, extremely THICK hair (LOTS of it) I can't cut my hair short, or it will make me look like Don King.

I do the whole wash thing, brush, then use spray gel to get all of the hair covered, and scrunch it with a towel. I've noticed that it doesn't frizz my hair. I actually have had people ask me how I get it into the ringlets, and well... I like to tell them it's the towel. lol

Hey it works. My hair is 3/4 of the way down my back, and I think I need some stock in Suave Spray Gel as my husband says. :D

Anonymous said...

Yes, perms are still happening. You couldn't pay me enough money in the world to get one (I still have flashbacks to the one I rocked in 8th grade), but some people actually ARE paying money for a perm!

I actually talked to my hairdresser about it about 2 weeks ago. I have that in-between hair. Fortunately for me, my hairdresser is AWESOME and can cut my hair to go with my natural style and it enhances it. LOVE HER. Anyway, she says perms have changed a lot since the 80's. Not sure how. But I'll take her word for it. I still won't get one though.

Jazz said...

Another curly one here too! I wish I had learned to embrace my curls years ago.

Fu*king with the front of my hair is my downfall too!

Great post!

p.s. When are you gonna get your ass back over to BTBBC?

Missives From Suburbia said...

I have wavy hair that can be coaxed into fun when I'm in the mood. For the most part, I'm grateful for my semi-straight hair, but I love it when a girl with curly hair rocks it. Just like when a curvy girl rocks her curves. You gotta love what you have!

Denim and Pearls said...

Oh Ashley, I wish I could benefit more from this post, especially since I'm the girl who is still figuring out how to deal with her curly hair! Unfortunately, I'm one of the rare curly-haired girls with very fine, thin hair that gets greasy after 24 hours. If I could go more than one day without washing it, I would but I look like I've been dipped in oil. Not something anyone wants to see, trust me! I am trying to grow my hair out though, it's just getting past the shoulder-length stage and at my last trim, I refused to let the girl take off more than one inch! I am going to try to stick to your do not touch rule from now on, I always know I shouldn't play when it's drying - but it's so hard to resist!!

so tired said...

I've got in between. I can make it super curly with some work or iron it flat. But I never wear it completely down. It drives me crazy down.

If I curl it I wear it in a low ponytail like Oprah's been doing. I like that the curl on top of my head gives me some height. But I also do the tight pull back too.

I guess you could say... I go both ways!

Miss V. said...

lol did you steal my hair?! Seriously thats exactly how I do my mane of curly hair every day!

Ok 90% of the time it ends up in a ponytail by the time its dry because its so long and thick, but whatever!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ashley! You're my hero. I have curly hair and have my own routine every morning, but I'm going to try yours. It seems much better than mine!

Elizabeth & Chad said...

Yes, YEs, YES(when harry met Sally style)! Everything you just said about Curly hair is totally correct, especially the "how to in the morning section!" I spent the first 18 years of my life battling the curl and I'm about 5 years into embracing it! Please let me know what city you live in and the name of your hair stylist,I am always in search of a good person!
Thanks Again!

Unknown said...

I've also got the inbetween hair, but with the right product, it curls up nicely. Except for the back. Pretty straight. Ah, well.

I highly recommend this stuff: Sunsilk Captivating Curls Gel & Cream Twist

Anonymous said...

I am still loving Oprah's curls lately. So here is a curly hair solution that she/we could tout...MIXED CHICKS. These products were created by two women who consider themselves mixed chicks. They couldn't find products without mixing and matching so the mixed the right formula and what they came up with is really simple. The system is three easy steps:

1. Shampoo
2. Deep condition
3. Work the leave-in conditioner through wet hair and air dry (no towel or blow needed)

The system does not leave your hair sticky like some products. Mixed Chicks taught me this morning ritual, and I will not look back. And here is a trick...don't shampoo too often. Instead, use the deep conditioner to cleanse.

A few of the Mixed Chicks rules:

I do not shampoo more than twice a week.
I do not brush my hair when dry.
I apply my finishing product while my hair is wet.
If I must blow my hair dry, I use a diffuser or sit under a dryer.
I love who I I love my curls!
When I do striaghten, I blow or iron...never chemically relax.

Can Oprah get these two women on her show...I am a diehard Oprah fan, and now, a MIxed Chicks follower. Girl Power!


Unknown said...

I know this post is over two years old, but reading it makes me love my curly hair! I used to brush it and braid it every morning and evening, never letting it be curly. And now, I usually leave it in a ponytail because when wet it's down to my rear and when dry curls to mid-back with lots of body. Thanks for all this advice, I sure needed it! I learned the hard way that touching it after it's dryed is such a no-no because it ruins everything and totally frizzes my hair.
Thanks again!
~Simply Jen

Anonymous said...

Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi! Interesting and fun post, and helpful, too. Glad to hear you embrace your curls. I have wavy hair that is closet curly hair. It has been having growing pains since I moved to a humid climate with hard water. So I've been looking up tips online. Thank you for yours!

You might be interested: I gave up shampoo and conditioner over a year ago. Nothing has been better for my hair than shampooing (when I do shampoo, every other day) with a mixture of water and baking soda, scalp only. The *best* and cheapest conditioner is one of the following: either raw, organic apple cider diluted with water (the vinegar smell goes away when dried); or, *before* you shower, rub a very, very--I mean VERY--small amount of organic coconut oil on your hands then through only the ends/drier parts of your hair. It is so good for your hair, avoids harsh chemicals, makes your hair feel and look healthier than you can imagine. There's information about it online. Just sharing an idea since you so generously shared your hair tips and pride in your curls.

Have fun rocking the curls,

Anonymous said...

I'm Glad you posted this. Could help a lot! the only problem is, how can i deal with it on the spot? i mean like i got out of the shower and its kinda dry.. So i'm afraid if i leave it out it'll get unbelievably frizzy, i mean that's happened to me before.. not pretty!
Anyway, Thanks for posting.. i'll be trying out you method sounds good :))

Anonymous said...

I just got a perm for the second time and I love it I hate my straight hair. Perms are great for people who have straight hair like me and want curly scrunchable hair.

Anonymous said...

Perms are amazing you should definitely get one! But yea wait til your hair is longer it looks a ton better!

Anonymous said...

I tried this just now, but the top part of my hair went all frizzy -.- maybe I'm just having a bad hair day?

Kati said...

Trying this out right now! So far so good! I'm young and I really don't feel right using the straightening iron--and I hate that I've had to use the curling iron to make pretty curls!!
Men sure do love curly hair, though :-) Feeling blessed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you soooooo much! This page is so great. I found this very helpful (and quite entertaining I might add!)

Anonymous said...

One question: I really want to grow my hair longer, and its really curly, but whenever it gets to a little above my shoulders, it starts to poof out really really big and it looks like an Afro! What do I do to "de-poof" it?

Unknown said...

Anonymous, you need to find a hairdresser that specifically cuts curly hair, look for someone WITH curly hair. They need to shape it in a way so it doesn't poof out, but be careful with layers.

I'm reluctant to admit that I've been having Keratin done to my hair and it's now straight. And so easy to deal with. So I'm a traitor!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I have been wondering what to do about my hair for years. Thanks to you I'm out of that rut! I have tried straightening my hair before, but it would literally take hours to do it all! I'm sure your hair looks great!