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?

13 thoughts on “Hair

    • Thanks! I really appreciate you saying that about looking good both ways. I had a complex for a long time about my appearance, and it wasn’t until about age 33 that I started really getting compliments on my looks.

      Before then, I couldn’t decided whether I looked better in long hair or short. So, I’d keep it short and then run across an old picture of it long and decide I looked pretty good there. So, I’d start growing it long, and it would get to that in-between mushroom-head stage and I’d shave it down again.

      But I’m really liking the girly look. They say that the keys to a women’s easy passage in life is good looks from ages 18-30 and a good personality from 30-45. But I think I got by more on my personality in my 20’s and my hair and dimples became moreso my passport in my 30’s. I hope that bodes well for my aging. πŸ™‚

  1. As a curly haired male. I concur on most of your points. Save for the product, it’s natures gate shampoo and conditioner. Does wonders, for well,.. at least my hair. Also, I can’t agree more about no blow dryer, and air dry. When my hair was long, if I wanted it to really be full of ringlets, it went into a rasta tam. (Insert laugh here) And, sat there for a good hour or 2 before unleashing upon the masses. Also,.. cooler water for rinsing is tres’ important. All of these things I learned the hard way too.. Oh yeah.. as for cutting?? I never cut my hair. ever. I just let it grow for 4 years. Sure, it got in my eyes when it was near my eyes.. but after awhile, it went away as those pieces of hair grew longer. And, my hair was never in a triangle. (Not sure how you managed that) I subscribe to the school of ‘let it grow, nature bro’ when it comes to hair care.

    • The triangle was at its worse during that in-between growing out stage. After that, I made the mistake of brushing it, I think. So, I looked kinda like light brown-haired version of Rosanna Rosannadanna.

      Yours really was quite a enviable mane. That’s very cool that you didn’t have to cut yours all that time. Perhaps as a female, I just end up more compulsively primping and preening.

      • ahh.. thanks for the compliment. As for the pores, my girlfriend can hook you up with great product. I can check her schedule and send you down to Nordstrom when she’s working.

  2. I love the short hair – I’d try it myself if radical hair changes weren’t such a monstrous professional move.

    And yes, all great tips. I love Ouidad products – they’re made especially for curly hair. I use that or the Redken (they had a spray in that line that I LOVED until they discontinued it), with Neutrogena thrown in occasionally.

    As for nose pores… I’ve recently found something that seems to work wonders. It’s a line called Trilogy. It’s very natural, simple, the most calming stuff I’ve ever used. In summer, the only moisturizer I need is the Rosehip Oil. It scared me, because I have very acne-prone, sensitive skin, and that has ‘Oil’ right in the name – but it’s the best stuff I’ve ever used, and a $20 bottle lasts for months. Lately because the air has been so dry, I’ve been using the Face Lotion… And I just started using the Cream Cleanser, which is think is the key. I have a mental block against cleansers that don’t lather, but I think the cause of the large pores is my skin overproducing oil because I’m stripping it every time I wash. The Cream Cleanser combined with simple moisturizer is a friggin’ MIRACLE. My pores are TINY.

  3. Confession

    Many moons ago, you posted something about rotating hair products to keep your sassy, bouncy thang going on. Ever since that time, I have been thinking I wanted to ask you for specifics, but it just seemed so mundane, so trivial, so shallow. So I’m totally digging this post and responses! I guess I haven’t completely given myself permission to be into having a body.

    My daughter has huge pores. I’m borrowing that advice, too.

    I have never been able to grow fingernails. The break and chip at the slightest provocation – like picking up my purse or grabbing the seatbelt. Often they break down into the quick! Ouch! My stylist turned me on to a product: the company is “Jingles” and the product is a hair finishing gloss. I rubbed it on my fingernails twice a day (kept it by the computer keyboard to make it easy to remember) and miracle of miracles! I had nails! Not dragon lady nails, but white tips about half again the size of the bases, which is right where I like them. So naturally they discontinued the product before I’d finished the first jar.

    The ingredients are/were petrolatum, stearamide DEA, lanolin alcohol, and D&C red no. 17 (which I wouldn’t include except wouldn’t it be a gas if that had something to do with why it worked so well?)

    I haven’t been able to find another product with the stearamide DEA blend like that. I mean, one can get petrolatum and lanolin, and I have, but it doesn’t do the same thing.

    Does anybody have wisdom for me?

  4. You are 1000% correct on all of those tips, in my opinion.

    I remember those days… back when I conditioned and rinsed cold and towel-scrunched and finger-combed. πŸ˜‰

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