As you all know, I’m vain about my poliotic and curly hair. After suffering the frizzy mess of a wig I had in junior high, I’ve kept it short for most of my adult life since I never really felt like I looked decent in long hair. That’s because once it got more than two inches long, my hair went curly and I didn’t know how to take care of curly hair.
A little over six years ago, I undertook the task of embracing a more feminine look. And, today, some of my curls had straightened in the back (we’ve had some dry weather) and I got to see just how long it has gotten. So, I thought I’d give you all a “before” and “after” peek and then do something that is pretty uncharacteristic of me: talk beauty tips.
Sorry for the crappy short-haired pic. It’s a picture of my bus pass from September, 2000, and it was the day after my last short haircut.
So, I get a lot of compliments on my curls, and some folks have asked what my secrets are for keeping it so fabulous. And since nobody explained this stuff to me and could have saved me lots of adolescent embarrassment if they had, I’m passing along what I’ve learned. BTW, if your hair is really straight and you don’t have at least some natural wave, none of this stuff will make it otherwise and reading the rest of this post will likely just annoy you with my vanity. Spare yourself.
- How to feed and water curly hair
1. Cut it in layers. Unlayered curly hair looks like a big triangle. And nobody is going to notice your piercing eyes or sparkling smile if they are framed in triangular bird’s nest. Stylists who know how to read curly hair and know what to do with it are more rare than you’d think. When you see a woman in your neighborhood who has curly hair that looks good, go up and get her stylist’s name.
2. Cut it with a razor, not with scissors. If you have super curly hair, this doesn’t matter so much. If you have some straight or simply wavy hair, a razor cut will encourage it to curl.
3. Every set of locks curl differently. And not all locks on the same head curl the same. I have some nearly straight pieces (annoyingly positioned in the front) and some that clot into ringlets every time. And as your hair grows, some curls will flip and start curling in the other direction (e.g., right into your eyes or sticking up like a Cheeto-shaped antennae), while others will just fall out straight from the weight. So, cut for the length that makes your hair curl in the right places. These may or may not end up as the same snips as if you just wet your hair and pull it straight and cut along a straight vertical, layering line. You and your stylist can play around with this. Eventually you’ll know which pieces might need to be cut shorter than would seem right.
4. If you don’t cut your own hair, don’t be afraid to try. Especially to keep the curls around your face at the right length in between salon cuts. Personally, the only reason I would need to pay for a hair cut on the recommended 6 week interval is to keep the top pieces from growing out of their optimum curl zone (see #3). So, go get yourselves a fine toothed comb, a cutting razor or hair scissors if you prefer (they are easier to wield). If you have thick hair, pick up some thinning scissors too. Now, as long as you go slow, say 1/2″ at a time, and cut your hair wet, you’ll be fine. Curly hair hides mistakes well. Don’t pass judgment until you see the final product washed and dried. Leave the back to a professional unless you want a trip to the chiropractor afterwards. You’ll know when it’s time because happy curly hairs naturally want to join their neighbors in forming ringlets. Split hairs have a more matted look day after day, like a rat’s nest.
5. With #4, you may find yourselves saving $30 a month or so. The only reason I pay to get a hair cut is to get the split ends taken off. If you get split ends, don’t consider it a personal failure. A split end is simply the end of a hair that has failed to close back down after shampooing or some kind of distress. (Shampoo opens the hair. Conditioner closes it back down.) And curly hair ends don’t close back down as easily as straight hair ends. This is where hair care products come in. Check out Redken’s Fresh Curls line. More on that later. (I know some folks have a no-shampoo method for this too. More power to them. My skin is too prone to zits for this one to work for me.)
6. When you shampoo, by God, you better condition. (See #4.)
7. When you rinse, don’t stand under hot water. Hot = distress = split ends = eventual frizz. Seriously. Turn the hot dial down, bend over and rinse your hair in lukewarm water. That’ll keep the rest of your body from having to suffer temperatures colder than you like. Afterwards, you can put your hair up (in a shower cap, or some heads of hair will stay piled on top fine on its own) or at least pull it out of the way and then you can stand in that scalding hot water as long as you like. If you can forego washing your hair every day, go for it. Your hair will thank you.
8. Rotate your shampoos. This is probably a bigger deal for me than most because I tend to overwash my hair. (If my hair gets the slightest bit greasy, I get zits.) If you use the same products all of the time, you’ll get build-up and that’ll weigh down your hair and take the life out of your curls. I rotate through three different shampoos and conditioners. One is a protein builder (to help repair any distress), one is an in-between day shampoo specially formulated for curly hair (a bit heavier, more residue, but at least does a better job of closing the ends back down), and one is a stripper (to clean off the residue). Some people prefer to just wash their hair in apple cider vinegar instead of using an industrial strength stripper. Personally, I hate the smell. Here are some of my personal endorsements. Click on the images for the details.
9. Spare your hair as much rough handling as possible. So, before you grab that towel, get as much water out as you can first. Flip your head upside down and grab clumps of hair and gently squeeze and release, all of the way down to the end. Don’t squeeze and pull. Just squeeze and let gravity do its thing.
10. Now do the same thing with the towel. Scrunch it. No rough stuff.
11. Lastly, do not, except for on special occasions when you feel its absolutely necessary, blow dry or brush your hair. You are only taking out your natural curl and weakening the hair and breaking off the ends at the same time. If you can’t help yourself and you have to brush it, get a big fat pick-like comb. Under no circumstances use one of those rounded brushes with bristles that have fat tips. That’s a great way to break your hair. Now, if you have been brushing and blow drying in order to get your curls to cooperate, you’re probably wondering how to get your curls to cooperate without all that structure. Again, try to get as much water out as possible after a shower. The water weighs the curls down and gets in the way of them forming a shape to maximize their sass and bounce. Then, while your hair is air drying, take your fingers and scrunch clumps of hair up in your fists from time to time. Be gentle. Don’t pull. Just scrunch. It’ll encourage the lift and curl. If you don’t want to screw with this, do it once right after you take it out of the towel and then the hair spray it. If you find that your hair is still too heavy to curl right, perhaps you need to thin your hair with some thinning scissors. And if the weather is so dry that you start to frizz on the outer layers, try some of that spin control stuff from Revlon, or some other leave-in conditioner.
And now you have all my secrets.
Now, can someone tell me how to shrink the pores on my nose?