**AS A DISCLAIMER** I am not a hair stylist, I am not a pro, I just have curly hair and I know what works best for MY hair. I am not saying that any one product is bad or that you should all jump on the band wagon- I am just sharing my opinion and experience.
OK, So I have referenced the Curly Girl Method before in previous posts and I have had many questions about it so I thought that I would touch on what it is and how I have adapted and modified it for me. First of all, The Curly Girl Method is a book written all about curly hair, what its special needs are and how to properly take care and manage curly hair. I mainly heard about it from my sisters of color who choose to wear their hair natural rather than relaxing or weaving their hair. I wont be going into details of the book itself but I will tell you about my hair care regimine.
I have black brown dry scalp, dry hair that is thick, thick, thick and very wavy and quite curly in spots. (Duncan calls it fuzzy hair) I decided to start wearing my hair in its natural state because I decided to grow it out. It takes a LOT of effort for me to straighten my hair out on a regular basis. I have dry scalp so I was using a dandruff shampoo, then my hair would get SUPER dried out from the harsh detergents, so I would slather it in a silicone based conditioner. I would slather straightening serum and tons of heat protectant on it, blow dry the crud out of it over a round brush and then follow up with a flat iron. Phew, I'm exhausted just typing that out. It would take me well over an hour from start to finish and if the humidity rose or if I worked out, my results were all for not.
The theory behind Curly Girl as I understand it is to keep the hair super moisturized and to really baby the heck out of it. You want to stop using anything drying which includes shampoo. Shampoo strips your hair- which is its purpose- to cleanse the hair. You can choose what works best for you. Some people use only sulfate free shampoo, some only co-wash (wash only with conditioner) some only use baking soda and apple cider vinegar. You can also use products like WEN that are cleansing with essential oils. They are pricey though...be warned.
It takes some time for your hair to get used to any new routine. I would say to expect it to take about two to three weeks for your hair to respond positively and to feel like you know what you are doing. I experimented A LOT at the beginning to find out what my hair likes and doesn't like. My hair hates silicon, sulfates and protein. Silicon builds up and needs a detergent to remove it from the hair shaft. If you use silicon and no sulfate, your hair will feel weighed down. If you have waves and not tight curl, you don't want your hair weighed down- or it wont look curly, which is the point of this right?!
Sulfates are excellent cleaners. That's what they were designed to do. My scalp is very dry and because I cant comb my hair out when its curly, the hair gets dry on the ends because natural oils cant travel down the shaft. I eliminated all sulfates and within a week my scalp was healed. No more flakes. Like EVER. It was a MIRACLE. My curls were formed better and the ends weren't nearly as hashed.
Protein is amazing for strengthening your hair. I know a LOT of people who swear by protein and have AMAZING results from it. My hair doesn't care for it. It gets almost brittle and coarse when I use it. I have used soy proteins primarily and never had good results so I just quit using it. You may want to try it out- maybe you will have awesome results with it. I hope you do! I want strong hair...
So for ME, I stocked up on a silicone free conditioner (which is becoming harder and harder to find). I did some research and found that the two most commonly recommended are VO5 and Suave! I can do that, they are typically under a $1 a bottle! (and you really want to stock up on like 3 bottles- you will FLY through this stuff) I also bought a wide tooth comb, alcohol free gel, leave in conditioner, Moroccan Oil and Aveda Anti Humecant Pomade. I also purchased one SMALL bottle of clarifying shampoo and one bottle of sulfate free shampoo.
I started the process by using my clarifying shampoo. I really scrubbed the heck out of it. I wanted to make sure all product build up was gone. I HATED this part. My hair felt like straw. I then put on about 1/5th a bottle of VO5 conditioner (I think that it was the strawberry one) and rubbed it in like shampoo, root to tip. I massaged the crud out of it and made sure that the ends were super saturated. I was SHOCKED and worried about this conditioner. I had always used a quarter size of SUPER thick heavy conditioner. This is WATERY. I was really concerned that I was not going to get results with it. I then took my wide tooth comb and GENTLY combed out all tangles. This is the only time my hair touches a brush or a comb.
Rinse out ALL of the conditioner and then the final step that I had to learn on my own is to do the final rinse with your head flipped over. Gently squeeze out the bulk of the water and then wrap your hair in a turban. I get out of the shower and get all dressed and then return to my hair care routine. I flip my head back over to remove my turban. Finger comb through the curls and kind of shake them out. I then spray on leave in conditioner and then use some gel to scrunch- all while my head is upside down. Make sure to scrunch the gel in really well and DON'T BRUSH or COMB your hair!! You will have a frizz ball. Your fingers are your only styling tool at this point.
Flip your head over and gently move your curls to where you want them. You can then air dry or you can diffuse at this point. It depends on the weather and how much time on my hands. If I have to run, air dry is best- if I have 10 extra minutes, I will diffuse. If I diffuse, I ALWAYS spray heat protectant just in case. I turn on my drier to medium heat on low and I don't touch my hair. I use the bowl of the diffuser. I gently pile as much as I can in and then let the drier do its work. I only let it sit on my hair until my scalp feels warm. I do four sections. The top of my head, each side and then a back section. After I have done heat, I turn the heat off and have a cool drier on low and go back over the same sections. That LOCKS my curls in SO SO SO much better. I then kind of place stray hairs away and then the key- DON'T TOUCH IT. When you break up the curl structure, you create frizz. About 20 minutes later, when my hair is completely dry, I lightly scrunch one last time to ensure that the gel doesn't look hard or crusty. AND THATS IT!
My maintenance routine from there is conditioner only. I know people are confused how my hair is clean without shampoo- but it works I tell you! I co- wash unless I feel like I may have put too much oil or pomade in- then I will a bit of sulfate free shampoo. That is SUPER seldom....like once every two or three weeks. The key is to use a generous amount of conditioner each and every time. You might feel like your hair feels worse before it feels better- but within a week- you should really start to FEEL and SEE the difference. Within a week, my scalp was flake free and my hair was easier to handle.
BE WARNED- if you choose to straighten out your hair, it will be a little harder than it once was. You hair will get trained to stay in its natural state after a while, and straightening it out may be a little more difficult. It just encourages me to keep it curly- and it takes a 10th of the time to do too!! The added benefit is that my hair has NEVER been this healthy. I am still growing my hair out and I probably have two more years to go. I can easily go four to six MONTHS between cuts because my hair isn't fried and my ends aren't split. I'm not brushing, using heat and drying it out- so it stays pristine.
OH! And find a stylist that is specially trained in curly hair. That is probably the most important thing for having a good shape. You cant cut curly hair wet! It is TOTALLY different wet than dry- and it will shrink up considerably once its been dried. So take your time to find someone who is trained specially on curly hair. Don't be afraid to ask questions BEFORE you make an appointment. Ask them how they cut curly hair, do THEY have curly hair, have they had any specialty training like Diva Curl Training? You will also get a feel for their personality and their professionalism at the same time. Expect to pay more for a good curly hair cut. Its a LOT more work than a straight cut. The benefit is if you are taking great care of your hair, you wont need to go in every six to eight weeks- so your really stretching your dollar.
Phew, there you have it mon cheri! My curly hair manifesto. I hope its answered any questions you might have had. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask! I LOVE my curly hair! I constantly get asked how I got my hair to look the way it does. When I tell them its my natural hair, they are shocked. It's very bohemian, very beachy, very natural....and very easy!