Curly Hair Public Service Announcement

October 11, 2012

Okey dokey.  I’m going to talk about my hair.  This is not a vanity project.  I am not going to tell you how gorgeous my hair is and how amazing I am at styling it.  There will be no beautiful photos of me and my hair, no how-to-step-by-step shots of me from wet to dry.  This is a public service announcement for those of us who have curly hair and struggle with it.  You may be a curly haired person who has already gone down this path and if so, you are wondering how did I not figure this all out sooner?  I have no idea.

Also, please let me say that if you are looking for better visuals, more verbose directions, specific product endorsements, just google “curly girl method” and you will be amazed by what is out there.  I am at the beginning of this journey and I just wanted to lay out what is working for me.  We all hear claims by companies that some product or method will Totally Change Your Life!!!  I have fallen prey to various claims over the years, especially with skin care and/or makeup, and my life has never been totally changed.  Nor has my skin.  This new way of relating to and caring for my hair has not changed my life, of course.  But it has changed my hair and my feelings about it.  Enough so that I want to share.  This post is not sponsored by anyone other than me.  I’ve linked to a few things that I have used and liked.  I just want to make it easier for you.

I’ve had curly hair all my life.  Straight haired people, say it with me, “Oh I love your hair!  I’ve always wanted curly hair!”  Really?  If so many staight-haired people wanted curly hair, then why are there places to get your hair blown out straight cropping up left and right?  These are things I don’t understand.  Curly hair is a challenge.  It never looks the same from day to day.  It tends to frizz.  It misbehaves in humidity.  It can be awkward and bed-head can be terrifying.

The history of my hair is that it was mostly short as a young child, mostly long as a teenager and into my 20’s, and mostly short as an adult.  I think, overall, I look better with short hair.  My curl is medium to quite curly.  Somewhere during my big hair phase (it was the 80’s and it was big), I realized that I am a relatively small person and I have a lot of hair and the proportion was just off.  I waited a few years until I had the confidence to cut it off and spent the rest of my adult life with it short.

This new way of being all started soon after our move to Oakland.  I live in Rockridge.  There are about 20 hair places in Rockridge.  I’m not kidding.  Because of this, I suddenly became aware that there are whole product lines devoted to curly hair.  How did I not know this before?  They must be in Seattle too but I was not aware of them.  I had never googled “curly girl method”.  I just used what I used and dealt with my hair on a day by day basis.  About 80% of the time I didn’t like how it looked and 20% of the time, I did.  I was in the midst of a slight grow-out with a giant chop looming in the future because of that 80/20 and now I’m feeling like I might even grow it long.  Ish.  I walked into one of those 20 salons in my neighborhood, one that had a giant advertisement in the window for curly hair products and asked some questions.  The next day, I liked my hair.  Four weeks later, I still like it.   I think, all in all, my hair looks different because a convergence of things.  Products, method, cut, and a dryer climate doesn’t hurt.  Let me break it down for you.

1.  The Cut.  There are a million people out there who cut hair.  See someone who is good at cutting curly hair.  Preferably someone who has curly hair themselves.  Some curly haired people will tell you that you must see someone who will cut your hair dry.  I’ve never had my hair cut dry and I’ve gotten a lot of good haircuts.  I think the person and their understanding of curly hair is more important than the method.  Most reputable places will allow you to do a consult, often for free, before deciding on a stylist.

2.  The Washing.  Up until very recently, I washed my hair everyday.  Always.  And now not anymore.  I guess in general no one should wash their hair everyday because it is unnecessarily drying and throws off the natural oils that the scalp produces.  My stylist told me I should wash my hair once or twice a week and that it would take a couple of weeks for my hair to readjust.  I have to admit, this was a hard one for me.  I have long struggled with my scalp and at first it was almost unbearably itchy.  Now I am washing my hair every third day and it seems to be going well.   I wet it and condition it everyday and it does not look greasy.  My hair is twice as soft as it used to be and is not frizzy.  And I’m not itchy anymore.  Added benefit, you don’t use as much shampoo and if you color your hair, the color does not fade as much.

3.  The Products.  If you have curly hair, you will want to buy products for specifically for curly hair.  Two months ago, I might have scoffed at this advice.  Shampoo is shampoo and conditioner is conditioner, right?  If I had not seen a complete change in the look and feel of my hair, I would agree with that statement.  Again, I think it is a combination of things that is making my hair look and feel better but the products are an important part.  This may take a bit of time to find what you like.  The place I walked into recommended Jessicurl and just needing a place to start, I went with it.  I’ve been using the shampoo and the conditioner and as soon as I started, my hair changed.  Downside: they have a flat and slightly funky smell and I get Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl stuck in my head every morning in the shower.  I’ve been using a great gel, Seasilk Oil Gel, from my pre-ephihany days and I continue to use and love it.  If you have a beauty supply place near you, I would say that is a good place to start as they tend to carry lots of different lines and sometimes have samples for you to try.  Yes, you will have to invest a bit.  The products I’m using are about $17 each.  I’ve always felt that it was important to use good shampoo so this was not a shock to me.  If you have been using Suave, you might get a bit of sticker shock.  But good products do make a (huge) difference.  It’s a small price to pay in the long run.

4.  The Drying.  If you are taking a terry cloth towel to your hair post shower and vigorously rubbing your hair and blowing it dry, you are not doing your curly hair any favors.  I’ve long known that the brush and the hair dryer are the enemies of curly hair (frizz and frizz!) but I thought all towels were created equal.  Nope.  You will want to either buy a special microfiber towel (DevaCurl makes a good one) or use a long sleeve t-shirt.  I have both and I like the t-shirt method better.  The towel is quicker so if you don’t want to walk around your house for 15 minutes with a t-shirt on your head, I would advise buying the towel.  Either way, you are starting with your hair sopping wet.  Turn off the shower and use your hands to squeeze a bit of water out of your hair but that’s it. 

For the towel: Turn your head upside down and, using the towel, start squeezing the water out of your hair but scrunching it up toward the scalp.  Stop and turn your head right side up and repeat.  Style immediately.  You still want your hair very wet but not dripping when you put the product in.

For the t-shirt: You employ a method called “plopping“.  I know this sounds ridiculous but it works.  My hair is still relatively short but I would imagine this is a necessity for longer hair.  Basically you are lowering your hair, while your head is upside down, onto the t-shirt.  This scrunches the curl against your head and totally eliminates frizz.  While your head is still upside down, you secure the shirt on your head using the sleeves.  I’m not very good at this but the most important thing is that all your hair is covered by the shirt.  I leave mine on for 10-15 minutes.  Take it off, give your head a good shake to loosen the curls from your head, and style immediately.  I always put most of the product in while my head is upside down, and then just a bit more while it is right side up.  You should use more product than you think you need.  Then don’t touch your hair until it is mostly or completely dry.  Then it is all right to use your hands to scrunch your curls.  This will make it look more natural and eliminate any “crunch” from your product.

All right, your turn.  Any tips, tricks, product loves?


  1. ever since I switched over to sulfate free shampoos, I finally have NO frizz in my curls.
    I LOVE my bumble & bumble deep conditioner for very dry hair days, sadly this is not sulfate free. But I’ve learned the key is to really have sulfate free shampoo

    Comment by vanillasugarblog — October 11, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

  2. You are right, your hair always looks amazing! Gorgeous curls. I stopped brushing my hair whenever I remember not to do it. It looks much better when I wash it in the morning than when I wash it at night and sleep on it. My biggest struggle is what to do with the hair on day 2 and 3 and 4 since I don’t like to wash it daily (even with just conditioner).I found a cream that I like and use exclusively now, but can’t think of the name at the moment.

    Comment by Anna @snackingkitchen — October 11, 2012 @ 10:54 pm

  3. You’re right….this is revelatory advice. I’ve always thought your hair was AMAZING…but those photos. Wow. I’m buying this Jessicurl business.

    Comment by Joanne — October 12, 2012 @ 1:36 am

  4. All I know is that my hair is a lot happier in California. I blame Seattle :-)

    Comment by tea_austen — October 12, 2012 @ 4:28 am

  5. I am pleased and amused to see that the technique I landed on by myself over the years is the recomended approach for curly hair (generally). I can’t stress the importance of not shampooing everyday and of NOT touching your hair until it is dry. I don’t use the t-shirt, just a quick upside down wrap with a towel, but it sounds like it amounts to nearly the same thing. I guess the t-shirt leaves you with slightly less wet hair when you leave the house, which is the one downside of curly hair unless you’re a morning person. I will add some people say you should only ever finger comb curly hair, but I use a wide toothed comb once with conditioner and once more when my hair is sopping wet and hasn’t been dried yet–to part it and get it a bit off of my scalp–and it works well. Also, a good leave-in conditioner when my hair is still sopping wet and then a finishing cream (I like Kiehl’s silk and groom) once I’ve toweled it off work for me.

    Comment by Susie — October 12, 2012 @ 8:46 am

  6. Two words: sock bun. I have very long curly hair, which I let air dry until slightly damp and then I roll it up in a sock bun overnight. It controlls my curls and I put in a touch of moroccan oil or aloe vera gel as my product. Lemon grass oil also works well, especially in the summer since it is also a natural insect repellent.

    Comment by Angie — October 12, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

  7. What rock have I been living under? I had no idea about the microfiber towel and now have to get one asap. A few years ago, I discovered the John Masters Organics line of hair products. I really like the honey and hibiscus hair reconstructor as a leave-in conditioner. And, I never believe those straight-haired girls who say “I wish I had curly hair.” ;)

    Comment by lisaiscooking — October 15, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

  8. Can you talk a little about your cut, such as layering lengths, etc. I have medium curly hair and my hairdresser leaves it kind of long on top and blows it smooth on top. It looks great when she styles but it sometimes looks “bozo-ish” when I do.

    Comment by Kim Weigand — October 16, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

  9. Kim, I’m not sure I can speak directly to cut. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve seen people who “get” my hair. But if you feel like your cut is not working with your hair type, I would seek out a person who cuts it dry. That way, they can really see what it does when it is dry rather than wet and well behaved. :) For the record. My hair is currently in kind of bob with longer front and shorter back. I do have a lot of layers.

    Comment by dana — October 17, 2012 @ 3:50 am

  10. Thanks Dana! I have been using my hairdresser for about 8 years and she does a really great job. The last few years (I’m 52), my hair has really gotten curly. I’m thinking a lot of layers might be the answer. I love your hair, in fact, when I first started following your blog(about a year ago), I noticed it right away and loved it. It appears you have shorter layers on top where mine are longer. I also have a bob, shorter in back and longer in front. I had her cut it shorter a couple of weeks and live it but think I also want it shorter on top.

    Comment by Kim Weigand — October 17, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

  11. I have curly hair.but it does not grow’s medium curl.can u help me with growing it longer please? Coz i luv long curls.

    Comment by Mohona — October 18, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

  12. Hi,

    from another curly over here, I have a good stylist in sf if you need one, otherwise I am really into the Bamboo Anti Frizz line by Alterna for shampoo and conditioner, they sell it at Sephora as well to make life easier. like the plopping tip, im going to have to try that one!

    Comment by Sara — October 18, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

  13. SO happy to see this post and read about your epiphany! I have thick, curly, frizzy hair and sometimes the only way to tame it is to flat iron! Love the sulfate-free suggestion. What helps me is massaging my hair with warm coconut oil and letting it sit for 45 mins before washing. It really conditions the curls.

    Comment by Veggie Belly — October 22, 2012 @ 7:07 pm

  14. FOrgive me to intrude, my hair is not curly, but it is wavy – and the best tip I ever got agrees with one of yours: do not wash it every day.

    I use only very hot water on the “non-washing days” and it is amazing how much smoother and pliable my hair is, just from skipping the shampoo.

    great post, Dana!

    Comment by SallyBR — October 22, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

  15. I read a book about 9 years ago…don’t wash curly hair.
    I rarely wash my hair(: Just conditioner and I think it
    also helps if you a have a problem with thinning hair.

    I love, love, love Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger. It
    smells GREAT and changes the texture of my hair immediately.

    The only difference is, I keep the product in first, than put
    my hair in the t-shirt. Also, when it comes out I spray with Paul Mitchell Freeze and Shine. I get tons of compliments on my hair and how good I smell and I always tell them, “It’s my hairspray!”

    Comment by Kelly — October 24, 2012 @ 4:04 am

  16. What a fabulously useful post! I think the most important one is having a button on each page and below each post.Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Aliza likes curly hair products — October 29, 2012 @ 4:56 am

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