Getting Great Curls
I have curly hair, and for the first 18 years of my life I had no idea what to do with it. It was frizzy and puffy, so I just globbed on the gel in an attempt to tame it. In middle school I was frustrated that I didn’t have the smooth hair that all my friends had, and there was no way that I was going to have the nice bangs that were “in” in the 90s. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I was introduced to mousse and a diffuser. Things got better, but I still struggled with frizz and lack of curl definition – and I was still going through a lot of product. Since then I have tried so many products, and I thought I was never going to find anything that really worked. Last year I decided to do some real research – because I loved my curls and I wanted them to be beautiful. I watched lots of videos and read tons of product reviews. After all that, this is what I ended up with, and so far it has worked great for me. The product brands aren’t necessarily important. I just tried these brands after some recommendations and have liked them so far. One of the biggest things that I learned is that every curly head is different. I have been doing this for several months now and though this has worked wonders for me, you just have to figure out what will work for you.
If you have straight hair, this might sound gross, but I would imagine most people with curly hair will understand. I only wash my hair once a week, usually on Sunday afternoon so I have enough time for my hair to air dry before I go to bed. I don’t use regular shampoo because it dries my hair out. Instead, I use baking soda and Apple Cider Vinegar. I first saw this idea on Pinterest, but then found this great video on YouTube by AshleysGreenLife: How To Wash with the No-Poo Method.
I definitely agree with the transition period she was talking about in the video. Our hair is so used to all the chemicals that we put on it that it needs time to get back to a more natural state. Before I saw this video, I was just putting the mixtures into cups and pouring it over my head, but I immediately went out and bought some small spray bottles after seeing this. The Apple Cider Vinegar part is very important, so don’t skip it in fear of your head smelling like vinegar – I promise it will not have any residual smell. The ACV not only helps to condition, but it helps to balance the high pH levels that the baking soda causes. There is a whole science to it, but I am an English teacher and all I know is that it works. I have heard that the organic ACV is better, so I am going to look into that.
Step #2: Deep Conditioning
Now for the deep conditioner. Although the Apple Cider Vinegar is supposed to act as a conditioner, the winter weather in New England can suck the moisture right out of your hair. For this reason, I have chosen to do a deep conditioning every week. Right now I am using the Curls Curl Ecstasy Hair Tea Conditioner. This is a heat activated deep conditioner, but I don’t put any heat on it. After rinsing out the ACV, I run my hair under some hot water to open up the follicles, ring it out, and then I apply a quarter-size glob of conditioner – running it through my hair with my fingers. Though I focus mostly on the ends, I do make sure that it gets distributed throughout my hair. I put my hair up into a high bun and put on a shower cap, followed by a towel. This keeps the moisture and the heat in a little longer. Like I said before, I usually do all of this on Sunday afternoon, so by this time I am usually ready to just relax. So, I put on a movie (or TV show) and let the conditioner sit for about 2 hours. When you rinse it out, it is important to use water that is as cold as you can stand it. This will make the follicles close and hold in the moisture.
I bought this deep conditioner on Amazon, and since I get free shipping it comes out cheaper than buying it from the company’s website. The bottle is only 14 fl oz, and I was afraid that I would go through it pretty quickly; however, it has been several months now and I have only used half the bottle. You really don’t need that much as long as you work it through your hair. I love how bouncy and shiny my hair is after these first two steps.
Step #3: Moisturizing
This is the part that is really going to help your hair lock in the moisture, especially during the winter. It is called the LOC method and I discovered it on YouTube: Winterizing Curly Hair by SunKissAlba. It looks like she applies it to dry hair, but I do this right after I have deep conditioned my hair. I usually scrunch-dry my hair to make sure all the extra water is out – you don’t want it completely dry, just not dripping wet.
- L is for Leave in Conditioner – right now I go back and forth between MilkShake Leave In Conditioner and EDEN BodyWorks All Natural Coconut Shea Leave In Conditioner. I bought both of these on Amazon. I usually dilute the Milkshake (which smells like vanilla cupcakes) 50% with water to make it last longer, since I do go through the spray more quickly than the cream leave in conditioner.
- O is for Oil – I am using 100% Extra Virgin Coconut Oil by Viva Labs. I just bought this one and don’t like the smell of it as much as I did the Barleans’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, but it works just as well. I use about the same amount as she does in the video, but I have a lot of hair. You don’t want to use too much so your hair looks oily. Then I run my fingers through it.
- C is for Cream – This is a styling cream to help pronounce the curls. Currently, I am using Curl Energizing Cream by Phyto Pro (which is currently not available on Amazon though that is where I bought it). I am almost out and will probably try a cream product from Curls because I really like their deep conditioner.
I don’t think I would use all of these products all year, but I can see that my hair is definitely more moisturized during this cold winter. I will just have to see how it is when the weather changes and adjust the routine as needed.
Step #4: Night & Morning Routine
On Sunday night after I have deep conditioned my hair and added my LOC, I usually just let my hair air dry and try not to touch it until it is completely dry. If I go to bed with it too wet, it will still be wet in the morning. When I am ready to go to bed I wear a satin night cap to prevent frizzing. I have tried putting my hair in a pineapple (as SunKissAlba describes in her Re-Style Curly Hair the Next Day video) but it either doesn’t stay up or it dents my hair. I just flip my head upside down and pile all of my hair into the cap – I have thought of buying some satin pillow cases, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Usually the next day my hair is ready to go.
On the other nights between Sundays, I have a spray bottle that has water with a little of the All Natural Coconut Shea Leave In Conditioner by EDEN BodyWorks mixed in. I just squirt some of it into the bottle and shake it up. (You could probably also use regular conditioner). This is the only thing I use for the rest of the week. Monday through Saturday night, I just let all the hair down, shake it a little, and spritz the ends and any dented or frizzed areas. Run my fingers through it gently, but not too much because it will frizz. And I try to remember to wear the satin cap every night. If for some reason I need to completely soak my hair during the week, I will add some Milkshake Integrity Nourishing Conditioner and run a comb through it – again letting it air dry. Then I put on my satin night cap again and get some sleep. When I take a take a shower, I wear a shower cap to keep it dry. Other than that, I just shake it out and usually throw it into a high bun or side pony.
Curl Type: 3B
Ethnicity: 25% Italian / 25% Portuguese / 50% ???
Overall it took a couple weeks for my hair to adjust to the new routine, but I have been so please with the results. The ends curl again and it is shiny and so bouncy. I don’t use a hairdryer anymore – even if I do end up rinsing my hair out during the week. The heat really damaged it. But if you do use a hairdryer, it is important to use a diffuser. My favorite is the EuroAir Diffuser – with Styling Fingers by Sunbeam. Had my first one for ten years!
The best advise I can give is to embrace what you have. If you are frustrated with your curls, try some of the things suggested and tweak it to what works for you. Once you get the hang of the process, it really is worth it.
Product & Hair Update:
December 2015: It has been 10 months since I wrote this post, and I am still in love with this method. Though I am still using baking soda and apple cider vinegar, I have changed up some of the products that I use for the LOC method and deep conditioning. For the LOC method, right now I am using Hello Curlies products: Leave-In Conditioner and Fluffy Soft Styler. I am on my second bottle of each and really like how light weight they are. For deep conditioner, I am using Shea Moisture’s 10-in-1 Renewal System. I bought mine at Wal*Mart for $10. I really like the way it smells and is very moisturizing. Last month I finally decided to chop off my locks for this stylish new look. It has taken me weeks to get used to not being able to just throw it up in a bun, but I love it.