Curly hair: let's learn to love it, shall we? by Jessica

Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Hey team! My name is Jessica. (You've seen me on the blog before here and here.) And, I am a self-proclaimed curly hair missionary. For all my curly-haired friends (and not-yet-friends), I will try to convert you to wearing your hair curly on a consistent basis. I will strive to do my best to get you to love your hair. How, you might ask, do I plan to do such a thing? Three steps:  show you the curly hair bible, teach you why your curly hair is the way it is, and teach you how to take care of it.

Step 1:  Your Curly Hair Bible

As a curly hair missionary, I have to share my bible. And, here it is:

Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey

If you want to know why your hair is the way it is, how to take care of it, and how to love it, then this is your bible. This is your guide through the process of throwing away your round brushes and straightening irons, the process of finding the right products for your hair, and the process of finding a way to love your hair even on those days when you sorta hate it.

Go here for the accompanying website with tons of helpful videos, product resources, and links for a specially trained stylist in your area.

Step 2:  Why is Your Hair Curly?

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Lorraine explains the reason that curly hair is the way it is. It basically comes down to this:  curly hair is different from straight hair. It is fundamentally different because each strand has a completely different structure than a strand of straight hair. Curly hair is more dry because people with curly hair actually have fewer strands of hair on their head, and therefore fewer hair follicles, and therefore less oil is produced, which means that curly hair is naturally more dry. So what does curly hair need? More moisture!

Step 3:  How to Take Care of Your Hair!

Me before changing my hair care methods (2007)

Hair is stringy and curls aren't very full.

Me a month or so after changing my hair care methods (December 2007)
(I must really like you guys, because this picture is terrible.)

Curls have a lot more bounce and aren't so stringy.

Me last year after taking care of my curly hair the "right way" for about three years.
(This picture is so much better. Just sayin'.)

Curls have definition and body and limited frizz.

First, stop brushing your hair. Just stop. Stop using a comb to detangle your hair in the shower. This will keep your curls from looking stringy. It will keep your curls bouncy and full. Use your fingers as much as possible to detangle your hair while your conditioner is in.

Second, stop using harsh shampoos. Look for a cleanser and conditioner that do not contain sulfates, silicones, or parabens. These chemicals will dry out your hair and scalp and coat your curls and make them look dull. Would you use your shampoo to wash your face? Probably not. Your scalp is an extension of your face, and the skin is just as delicate and deserves to be treated with great care.

Try this for a while:  only use conditioner to cleanse your hair or find a great creamy cleanser. When you get your hair wet in the shower, make sure to rinse it really well to get the product out. And, like Monica talked about in this post, make sure to massage your scalp really well. Your scalp produces oil, which is sterile at the beginning, but then dirt attaches itself and your scalp gets yucky. So, massage the scalp gently with the pads of your fingers. Then, use conditioner on all of your hair except for the inch nearest your scalp. You will have to let your scalp adjust to not getting dried out all the time (it gets dried out because of all the washing and then it over-produces oil, which isn't good for you). It will take some time for your hair to adjust to all the moisture. It will take some time for your scalp to produce oil in the way that it should. BE PATIENT!

Third, apply your products. While your hair is still wet, put a quarter-size dollop of conditioner in your palm, flip your hair upside down and scrunch the conditioner into your hair from the ends. Your hair needs this extra moisture, especially initially. You may be able to phase it out eventually. Then, using an old t-shirt that you don't care about, scrunch the extra water from your hair from ends to roots. DO NOT use a towel. DO NOT be rough with your hair. Be gentle. This will help prevent frizz. Next, apply gel in that same upward scrunching motion. Make sure to apply the majority of the products to the outer layers of your hair. This hair gets the most damage, and therefore needs the most care. (Here's a great link to a video that shows you how to apply product to your hair.)

Fourth, figure out how to get your hair dry. There are two options:  air-drying or drying with a blow dryer with a diffuser attached. Blow drying your hair without a diffuser is not an option, unless you want to turn into a giant frizz ball, which I'm guessing you don't, right?

The moral of the story? CURLY HAIR ROCKS! How many times have you been wearing your hair curly and people say they love it? I know it's happened to me and I'm pretty sure it's happened to you. Embrace what you've got and make it work for you. Will you still have some "bad" hair days? Sure, we all do. But as you learn to take care of your hair I hope you'll learn to love it the same way I've learned to love mine.


  1. Every curly haired girl I know battles with her hair! I'll be sure to share this post with a few of them.


  2. wait..just wash with conditioner for how long then back to shampoo?

  3. Jessica!! HA! I just saw your link on my friends blog... what a small world! I was your roomate at the U. I married Joe Widdison. Anyways, thought that was funny!


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  5. Jessica, this was such a wonderful post!!! Thanks so much!!

  6. So I am sort of embarassed to admit this, but I have wanted to and tried to do the no shampoo thing in the past. However, my problem comes in the form of dandruff (not just dry scalp unfortunately). If I try to just use a conditioner and not an anti-dandruff shapmoo, I get flakes. I try to only wash it twice a week, but I'm not sure if that is too much for this method to work. Do you have any tips or advice on how to combat this? I love my curly hair and would love it more if I could get it like yours I think, but I'm hesistant to stop using this shampoo again...

  7. Jessica: (great name, by the way). I never straighten my hair. It's been years since I've owned a brush or a comb. It's definitely a change, but your hair will thank you. Because my mom has curly hair, I've talked about it my whole life. But I have plenty of friends who don't have that reference point and didn't know where to turn! I'm so glad this post was helpful to you. Enjoy the process of your transition!

  8. Isn't it wonderful, Barbie? So great to just love your hair as it is, right?

  9. Aw. Thanks, man.

  10. You are the queen of curls and my heart! Great job! Go curls!

  11. AWESOME!!!! good to know someone else on the internet is like this :) my friend has the book and "converted" me to the curly way of life :p it's great :)

  12. I'm going to get that book right now. you never straighten your hair?? Just wondering. Thank you so much for this post! I feel like I've never had anyone tell me how to take care of my hair. I can feel my curls getting cuter now as my brush goes in the trash :)

  13. Dani: it can definitely be scary. I currently have two co-workers who have started the transition into wearing their hair curly. They've been straightening their hair for years, and yet it's amazing to see how quickly the hair "bounces back" and starts to look so healthy and fantastic! I'd suggest checking out the book. It's actually very educational and kind of inspiring. :)

  14. Bethany: isn't that t-shirt tip fantastic? It's been so helpful for me. I use these:

    They are made out of t-shirt material, but they look cuter in my bathroom. :)

  15. Emily, so glad to hear that you love your curly hair! I think we are all guilty of some sins against our curly hair, especially in high school. I'm glad that you were able to find products that work for you so you can love the hair you have.

  16. Susan, there is actually an entire section of the book that discusses how to identify your type of curl (including wavy) and then specific instructions on how to care for it. I'd recommend you check out the book and see what you think. It might be a fun change!

  17. I also love my curly hair. I was terrible with it in high school - flat ironing and getting highlights... hair-ties with the metal clasps on them... RUBBER BANDS... blah!! But as a young adult (with a paycheck), I realized that quality product (which can be expensive) is WORTH IT. No more highlights, rare use of the flat iron, and it's 110% healthier and happier. And the curls look better. Thank goodness!!

  18. I love my curly hair although it took me some time. Great tips - the best tip I ever got was to dry my hair with a tshirt. It really makes a difference!

  19. Oh gosh this whole idea scares me! I have definitely near-ruined my curls with brushing, heat styling, and trying to manipulate my hair into something it isn't. I think I've ever trained my hair to pretend it ISN'T curly haha. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to go natural! ;)

  20. I have dandruff too, and did a no-poo method for years and years. Then I chopped my hair into a great little pixie 'do, and have been able to get back to a (sulfate- and paraben-free) shampoo. I, too, have a flaky scalp, and I have good results with one of Loreal's new Everpure shampoos (can't think of which one off-hand). Previously, though, I used a rinse with baking soda and a rinse with apple cider vinegar, and it was the best for keeping the flakes mostly away! Far better than any dandruff shampoo I used to use, anyway. Better than my Loreal shampoo now, too, but for the pixie I just can't bring myself to use the rinse method because it's slower, and I also now have a child.

    The rinses are:
    - 1 Tbsp baking soda dissolved into 1 cup warm/hot water. Pour it on your head, and massage it in with the pads of your fingers. Rinse.
    - 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (ACV) and 1 cup cool/warm water. Pour it on your head, and massage it in with the pads of your fingers. Rinse.
    - Follow with conditioner, if necessary.

    Vary the mixture proportions as necessary. Eventually I stopped measuring altogether, because my scalp and hair didn't seem to care how much or how little of the ingredients I used; it was happy no matter what, as long as I used those and not some stupid shampoo. Apparently the ACV has properties that help keep away flakes. Oh, and don't worry about the scent of vinegar following you around all day; it never did for me, after I rinsed it out. (My husband, who hates the smell of vinegar, will vouch for this, even though he thought I was crazy when I first started washing my hair with food!) But if you're worried about it, follow it with a conditioner that smells good, and you're golden.

    Good luck!

  21. I so SO want to believe you. But my hair is wavy more than curly....and I have very short hair...and I'm over 50. Not sure if I could do it. But OK, sometime I'll give it a whirl.

  22. Thanks!! I will check it out...I kind of feel excited about trying that.