I have my father’s hair. For the first 11 or so years of my life, I thought I had my mother’s hair: medium brown, fine, and straight. Barrettes were clipped in with ease. I could pull off bangs. I used Pert Plus 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner and thought I was really killing it.
But, around middle school, my hair changed (as did so many other things). It didn’t happen overnight, but as my hair grew out of my little-girl, chin-length bob and started creeping down my back, curls began to appear.
Tight little spirals that caught the light and boing-ed when my girlfriends lightly tugged them. Frizzy, split-ended tendrils that never laid the same way two days in a row.
My dad seemed pleased and perplexed that his hair had suddenly appeared on his daughter’s head. Because he had worn his hair short his whole life, he didn’t really have any tips for how to take care of our long, curly locks; plus, grooming was really more of a mom’s department. But her fine, straight hair didn’t offer much insight, either.
My new, breakage-prone hair was confusing. Some days, it looked lovely–shiny with defined curls. Most days, it looked more like a home for some pretty badly-behaved birds.
My first day of high school deepened my hair horror. So many of the other girls had long, straight, shiny hair. I decided I needed a flat iron so that I could be just like them.
What I thought all the cool girls with long, straight hair looked like:
What I thought I looked like:
But flat-ironing, as was all the rage in the early 2000’s, was really bad for your hair. Like, really bad. My thin, raggedy hair could not take it. So, I took to tying it up into a messy bun; this was basically my trademark hairstyle (if it can be called a hairstyle) for years.
In college, I tried bangs (never again). In grad school, I cut my hair short, just above the shoulder (meh). I even consulted the odd hair stylist here and there–and always left the salon looking like a poodle (no thank you).
It seemed like no one knew what to do with my hair……..and I definitely didn’t know what to do with it.
For most of my twenties, my hair sat atop and around my head, growing longer and longer and doing very little else. But, little by little, we developed a sort of easy peace. I began to research what curly hair actually needs, rather than ignoring it and hoping it would take care of itself.
So, here are some of my curly hair love go-tos:
Balance Shampooing with Co-Washing
Co-washing, which comes from the phrase “conditioner washing,” just means that you skip the shampoo. Shampoo can strip your hair of its natural oils, and for curly girls like me, I need my hair to hang on to every little bit of moisture it can. I only use shampoo on my hair once a week, and co-wash every other day.
Everyone’s body chemistry is different, though. Try out different combinations of co-washing and shampooing until you find one that works for you. I mean, no one is really going to see your somewhat greasy hair right now, are they? Might as well give it a try. 🙂
Use Marshmallow Root to Smooth and Soothe
Sounds weird to put marshmallow into your hair, I know, but this plant can really add definition and “slippery-ness” to your curls, making them easier to detangle and giving you that perfect boing action we’re all looking for.
The smart folks over at Camille Rose have integrated marshmallow root into their Curl Maker. I use my fingers to add a small amount to my hair when it’s still wet and simply air-dry my way to calm, happy curls.
Let Your Curls Breathe
Okay, so I just said it right up there, but if you’re not already air-drying your hair, it’s officially time to toss your blow-dryer into the trash. Or, at least tuck it away into the back of your closet. Blasting your delicate curls with hot air is only going to lead to more frizz, more breakage, and more split ends.
Instead, lightly dry your hair with an old t-shirt (the soft fabric won’t put any strain on your hair) and then let it air dry. My sister swears by this trick. Sometimes a classic claw-clip can help provide some loose hold that doesn’t strangle curls as they dry, if you need a way to keep sodden locks out of your face.
Restore Frayed Ends with a Hair Mask
You can easily add a hair mask to your beauty routine. I do mine on Monday mornings. While I make my tea, I take a few teaspoons of coconut oil and rub it on the ends of my hair. Then, I rinse out the coconut oil in the shower (this is the one time a week I use shampoo and don’t just co-wash).
You can also use avocado oil, jojoba oil, or yogurt for a quick hair mask. The kitchen is full of curly hair helpers.
Trim Your Own Ends: Unicorn Style
For some reason, hair stylists have always done my hair wrong. And, when I was in graduate school, I couldn’t afford to pay someone to cut my hair anyway. So, I learned to trim my own hair.
I used to just go at my split ends as best as I could, but then I discovered the Unicorn Ponytail Method. By gathering your hair up at the front of your head (where your unicorn horn would be) and trimming the ends, you can trim while still maintaining your layers.
My hair and I are getting along pretty well these days, thanks to just the little bit of extra love and attention I give it each week. I think I even have a decent hair flip now. 💁♀️