How I Deal With Curly Hair

Posted on January 4, 2022 by Jacob Walters

This page details my current hair routine and how I came about to it. Hair changes from person to person, so products that may work for me won’t necessarily work for you. With that being said, I hope the general advice here can help you find balance in your own curls.

I’ve had curly hair for as long as I can remember, but I’ve only learned how to effectively work with it after growing it out over lockdown in 2020. My hair previously was very dry and frizzy, and simply didn’t ever stay in the style I wanted. Thanks to the /r/curlyhair/ communityI know, taking hygiene/fashion advice from redditors. I was as skeptical as you are.

I’ve sinced managed to change that.

What is Frizz?

If you know your enemy and yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
Sun Tzu, or someone

Frizz is the separation of strands of hair from others nearby, and is usually caused by a lack of moisture in your hair. If your hair is “poofy” or generally undefined, it’s probably due to frizz.

What you may not realise is that the products you apply to your hair may be the cause of this lack of moisture!

Silicones and Sulfates

Silicones, in themselves, are not a bad thing for your hair. They’re effectively a lubricant, and coat the hair shaft to provide a soft, smooth feel to your hair. The problem is that a large amount of them are insoluble in water.

This means that over time, they will build up in your hair, blocking other nourishing ingredients from entering the follicle. This will eventually lead to dryness and dullness. So silicones need to be removed.

Enter sulphates.

Sulfates strip the hair of silicones, allowing them to be washed away with water as normal.They’re also responsible for the bubbly lather in shampoo!

However, they strip away the natural oils in your hair, which causes curly hair to dry out much quicker than it otherwise would. It’s this that I found to cause my frizz.It’s worth noting that there are some silicones that are water soluble, and therefore don’t build up as much. These are perfectly fine to use with curly hair! To check if a certain silicone is good or bad, use one of the tools listed later on.

So from here, we know to avoid sulphates and (most) silicones. But we can’t just quit shampoo cold-turkey, we need to remove the silicones that are already in our hair.

De-cone your dome

We need to do what’s called a “reset wash”. This consists of using a specific type of shampoo, that contains sulphates but NOT silicones. This allows the residual silicones to be stripped away, without adding any more to your hair.

This might sound like it’s hard to find, but it’s actually fairly easy to find these in the UK these days - I got my current one from my closest Morrison’s.Admittedly it’s a big Morrison’s.

After using that for a couple of days, (I usually go for three) your hair should be free of insoluble silicones. Now, you can move onto your new routine.

Co-washing

The categorical dual of washing! Co-washing is short for “conditioner washing,” which largely does what it says on the tin. The idea is that you wash with conditioner instead of shampoo. Why? Conditioners tend to be less harsh on your hair and scalp, which leads to less damage and thus to less frizz.

You largely apply it the same way you would shampoo: emulsify some into your hands, and work it in to your scalp, massaging rigorously as you work your way backwards. You want ideally total coverage of all your hair roots, so you may need to apply more than you first realise.A common theme I found. Make sure to get a cheap conditioner!

Then, rinse it out under water while still massaging your scalp to ensure it all gets washed out.

Co-washing doesn’t work for everyone, and if you find that your hair isn’t getting cleaned properly using just conditionerI’d first make sure it’s not just the specific product you’re using, different conditioners clean differently.

then I would suggest using instead a “low-poo,” shampoo that is free of sulphates and silicones.

Conditioning

Conditioner is to hair as moisturiser is to skin. It prevents damage and split ends, and keeps it together, meaning no frizz and no tangling! It’s the single most important step in maintaining curly hair, in my opinion.

“But I already use conditioner and it doesn’t do any of that!”, I hear you say. The trick is to get the correct balance of water to conditioner in your hair. If your hair is too wet, it dilutes the conditioner, and it doesn’t have as strong of an effect.

To combat this, I use the “squish-to-condish” method. The general gist is, - Apply a lot of conditioner to your hair. Like, a lot. I use a solid palmful or two for roughly shoulder-length hair. Smoosh it in until your hair is slippery.

  • Comb through the strands. You can do this with a wide-toothed comb, or just your fingers. Never use a bristled brush on curly hair.

  • Scoop water into your hair and squish it in. You should head a squelching sound, almost like a rubber duck. If you don’t, add more conditioner. It’s easiest to do this with your hair upside down, I find.

  • Repeat the previous step until the conditioner is fully washed out.

Once you get the hang of it, this is really easy to do and gives great results, since it pretty much finds the correct water-conditioner balance for you.

Gel

Hair gel is commonly associated with hardcore and Brendan Fraser, and might not be the first thing you’d expect to find in a routine guide for curly hair. However, gels exist specifically to use with curly hair, and I find they’re really good for maintaining definition.

Gel should be applied to wet hair at the end of your routine. Take a large amount, and scrunch it into your hair, focusing on the ends. Wait for it to dry completely, then scrunch your hair to break the gel cast. This should get rid of the wet look, leaving you with soft, shiny curls.

If you find that gel weighs your hair down too much, consider using a mousse instead. They’re lighter and will usually give similar effects.

My Routine

I try to keep this up to date with the current products I use. They’re all verified to have the right ingredients for the job, so you can rest easy if you wish to use them.

I wash my hair once every two to three days. This consists of using Faith in Nature with the above methods. They’re ethically sourced, smell great, and leave my hair with a lovely texture. They have a good dozen or so flavours, and even sell it in gallon jugs!

Once a week or so, I’ll use a deep conditioner. This gets deeper into the cuticle than regular conditioner, and keeps your hair healthier for longer. You should thus give it more time to soak in. I currently use Camille Rose - Algae Renew. Smells lovely, and works really well. Do note that it’s quite expensive from their site, so shop around.

Every month or two I do another reset wash. I currently use a Pantene branded shampoo, but will most likely switch to another Faith in Nature when it runs out. These don’t matter as much as long as they have sulfates and no silicones really, as you’re not going to be using them often.

For my gel, I currently use Camille Rose - Curl Maker Jelly, which seems to work alright. I don’t like the dispenser cap on it though, since you need a lot of pumps to get anywhere near enough gel out. This might change one day.

Drying

I use a microfibre towel to dry my hair. The fabric in standard Terry towels separates my curls in the drying process and makes eveyrthing super frizzy. Microfibres tend to keep things together, dry faster, and are much lighter and compact compared to normal towels. There’s loads of different ones being sold on Amazon for under £10, so as an easy trick to improving hair defintion, definitely try this.

Other Things That Help

I find using a silk pillowcase does wonders for keeping hair intact overnight. They’re also super good for your skin!

As I said before, a microfibre towel is a must. You can use an old t-shirt if you need to, but towels aren’t that expensive and are a lot nicer to use.

How to Find Products

As mentioned, Finding the right combination of products is largely just trial and error. You may wish to start off with similar products to the ones I use, but if they don’t work for you feel free to change them.

The hard part about finding products is that you need them with or without certain ingredients, and the ones you find online are never in the shops (at least in my experience). I usually order mine online because of this, which is also how I shop around for new products. You can copy the ingredient list for a product straight into curlsbot, which will tell you if there are any evil ingredients, and why you don’t want them. It’s a very useful tool!