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People have complimented me on my curly hair for as long as I can remember, as well as proceed to tell me how lucky I am, and how jealous they are. Ha. Jokes on them because curly hair is so difficult! I cannot sleep on my hair and then expect it to look presentable the next morning, it undergoes a whole new look after laying on it, even with silk pillowcases.
Fun fact: curly hair strands are flat like ribbon, which is why they curl. Straight hair is round, like a rope. Wavy hair is a blend of the two.
A clean hair care routine is probably most beneficial for curly hair compared to any other hair type. This is because it is prone to breakage, dryness, and sensitivity. Conventional products mask these issues instead of working to soothe them or correct them. If you are making the switch, the detox period WILL be hellacious. It can take awhile too. Once the coating wears off of the hair strands, the strands will be desperate for moisture. It will get worse before it gets better. It took me several months to get over that detox hump.
Determining your hair porosity is good place to start in determining the proper approach to curly hair care. Hair porosity refers to how porous the hair shaft is. If the outer cuticle of the strand is open, then it allows moisture to easily be absorbed and lost. If the cuticle is closed, then moisture cannot easily enter or escape.
There are several tests to determine porosity, but many claim that they are not accurate. There is the:
- Sinking test- place a clean strand of hair in a cup of water, if it floats after 10 minutes, you have low porosity; if it sinks, then high porosity
- the slip ‘n slide test- move your fingers up the hair shaft, if it feels rough: you have high porosity hair; if it feels smooth: low porosity, OR
- you can determine porosity based on how your hair feels when slightly wet- if it feels rough or straw-like: low porosity; if it feels sticky: high porosity.
From my experience, however, the more fly-aways and frizz you have, then you likely have high porosity. I say this, because if your hair is well hydrated and the cuticle is sealed (naturally or with the help of product), then the hair should look the same when it is dry as it is when it is wet! This was mind blowing to me when I read it.
If you have high porosity, you need a product (see leave-in conditioner req below!) to seal the cuticle and to insert some serious hydration into the hair shaft.
Curly hair is notoriously sensitive and dry because it is more difficult for sebum (the moisturizing oil produced by the scalp) to migrate down the hair shaft. You can help move the sebum by brushing your hair with a boar bristle brush, but that also leads to a frizzy mess. Still, your hair will benefit from using a boar bristle brush.
Washing too frequently or with a product that really strips the hair of oil will cause your scalp to secrete more sebum in order to lubricate the hair. After adapting to a gentler routine and detoxing your scalp, you should be able to lengthen the amount of time between washes. Of course dry shampoo is a huge help in this department too but you don’t want to coat the scalp too much between washings. You can apply dry shampoo 1-2 times and then it’s time to wash.
I have found that a hair mask does wonders for inserting some serious moisture into the hair. A good conditioner will help to maintain the moisture, but a mask is best when you need a lot a moisture, fast. I use a mask in the winter pretty often (once a week), and very rarely in the summer. It all depends on how my hair is managing though.
I generally go for the lowest maintenance approach to styling. Styling really can be minimal if the hair is properly moisturized and sealed. I have even recently had the fortune of not needing to apply any styling product because my hair has been so happy with my conditioning routine! Now THAT is a feat that I am proud of as a curly girl.
When I want to straighten my hair, I have found that the famed Revlon One-Step Styler and Volumizer really lives up to the hype! It takes me about 20-30 minutes to [methodically] blow dry/straighten my hair. With a straightening iron it would take 1.5 hours. (-_-)
Products I Love
Anything Innersense Organic Beauty is going to be the absolute best for curly hair (that I have tried thus far), though their products are an investment. From time to time I try other products while I’m working within a budget.
I recently learned about the EVOLVh brand, which also looks fantastic and is slightly more affordable than Innersense. I just repurchased some new products so when I get a chance to test out EVOLVh I will make updates here!
Hair Towel – Hubalou Hair Wrap. This wrap is made of sustainable bamboo fibers. These fibers are soft and do not damage or break the hair strands (unlike microfiber). It is great for letting hair incubate to further absorb water into the strands and gently pull excess moisture out.
Shampoo – Currently, I am using Aleavia Body Wash as a shampoo to help with my scalp health. It is not a soap and is full of prebiotic goodness so it doesn’t fully strip the hair, which is extremely beneficial. If not Aleavia I would use Innersense Hydrating Hairbath or EVOLVh’s curly line
Conditioner – Innersense Hydrating Conditioner, Innersense Sweet Spirit Leave-In Conditioner. This conditioner is thick and full of goodness. My hair is so happy with this conditioner. I tried to skimp on it for awhile for budget’s sake and there is a clear difference in how dry and fluffy my hair is without this stuff. The Innersense conditioner is very rich, so be sure to thoroughly rinse it out, otherwise it will make your hair oily. The leave-in conditioner is a MUST for people with high-porosity! It is a porosity neutralizer. Apply it to soaking wet hair to seal in the moisture.
Deep conditioner / mask – Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Masque. In the winter I will skip using a conditioner altogether and use this mask instead. I use it once a week and liberally apply after mixing it with water. Water is where the real hydration is at so make sure to mix it in your products! The steam from your shower is good for furthering absorption. It is very rich though so be sure to thoroughly rinse it out, otherwise it will make your hair oily.
Detangler – Shea Moisture Detangling Spray. I find it strange that detanglers are mainly associated with children. My best friend (who also has curly hair) suggested a detangler and it was an aha! moment. This particular type of detangler has marshmallow root extract, nettle leaves, and slippery elm, which all help in gently and safely coating the hair to make it more slippery.
Styling – Innersense Quiet Curl Calm (cream), I Create Hold (gel), I Create Volume (gel), or Pura D’or Curl Cream. The Quiet Curl Calm is amazing for curly hair and is a great heat protectant. The I Create Hold gel is made primarily of aloe which is amazing for your hair and scalp. Apply Innersense styling products to SOAKING WET hair and then put in a hair wrap or diffuse to dry. This has been a game changer step for me! I am new to the Pura D’or curl styling cream but so far, so good. It has clean [enough] ingredients and is very affordable. I like to add a few drops of oil (like jojoba or argan) to thin out the styling cream and add a boost of moisture.
Dry Shampoo – Innersense Dry Shampoo Foam or Beauty by Earth Dry Shampoo Powder. I am actually not a connoisseur of dry shampoo. I rarely use it, but when I do need to use it, either of these two are my top choice. They are both volumizing, though the Innersense one is foam. I find the foam harder to apply when my hair is curly compared to when I straighten it.