Not so fast! I see you trying to sneak away, thinking you can just skip this one because your hair is all straight and silky and doesn’t look like a tumbleweed on a humid day. You need to hear me out. How else are you going to know the lengths I go to avoid scaring you? 😉
Curly hair is complex. We love it and hate it at the same time. My hair is temperamental, moody and overreacts at the slightest provocation, but those words can also be used to describe some people in my life and I still love them.
I wasn’t always a curly girl. I started out life with medium fine hair that with just the slightest wave and the tendency to be fluffy – much like my daughter Eva’s. But then at 12, I woke up and it was curly. Virtually overnight. Naturally I cut it all off. And naturally, I cried. Back in the day, curly hair options were few, and my mom spent oodles of money on Jhirmack and Silkience and Nexxus in the quest to tame my curls. And then, one summer, I heard John Frieda talk about Frizz Ease on Oprah, and my world changed. Gulp. There were other girls with curls? The previous lack of curly hair products on the market had led me to feel that I was truly alone, and now there was this miraculous product in an annoyingly tiny, glass dropper bottle called a serum. I ran to Eckerd Drugs to buy some. It rocked my world.
The last couple of decades have been a tireless quest to discover exactly the right cocktail of hair products required to guarantee (or as close as a curly haired Floridian girl can get to it) good hair days. I have tried everything. And I mean everything.
In the end, though, I keep going back to a college find that accidentally worked and has been working ever since. I’ve got to warn you, though. It’s not glamorous. It’s not green. But it’s cheap, it’s readily available, and it’s the most surefire way I’ve found to get my hair to behave, day in and day out. Read on to find out what it is!
Along the way, I’ve even discovered that I actually like my hair curly. It’s become my trademark, and it suits me. It’s like God said: “See that little person. I’m going to give her tons of hair, and it’s just going to kind of work because I put it there.” Thank you, God, for Your wisdom. (I would like to discuss my bony knees though).
It’s hard to put the full extent of my hair’s length/thickness into words. You have to see it to believe it. So I decided to show you in my tub. In my old Juicy bathing suit, that’s a little saggy at the top. You’re welcome.
(Sort-of related tangent: I have had the privilege of meeting with curly hair guru Ouidad and having my hair done at her salon, and it was exactly like those shampoo commercials where you walk out of a salon with your hair all bouncy and shiny. I was amazed. Unfortunately, her technique takes a bit more time than I have on an average weekday, but one of these days, I will show my version of that technique in another tutorial.)
So here is my cheap, quick curly hair tutorial, followed by specifics about the steps and my list of the 10 best products for curly hair.
Step 1: Shampoo
In my experience, it doesn’t really matter which one you use (although I list a couple of favorites below!), or how often you use it. (Within reason, of course, but I do try to skip every other shampoo and just go straight for the conditioner.)
Step 2: Condition
Next, you need a really good detangling conditioner. There must be something they put in the drugstore versions that wins out over the fancy brands for this. I don’t know what it is, but nothing detangles my hair like Pantene. They change the name pretty much every time I buy a bottle, but I always just go for one of these keywords: smoothing, moisturizing, long hair, dry hair, colored hair, frizzy hair, curly hair. You get the picture. Anything that implies moisture! I put a lot of it in (see the video – don’t skimp on this step if your hair is thick enough to handle it!), do something else for a minute, and then detangle with a that wide tooth comb. Then I leave it in. Seriously. Don’t rinse! That’s just the first layer of frizz-fighting, curl-promoting gunk that your hair needs to be shiny and bouncy.
Step 3: Style
I use this term loosely, because I don’t do anything to style my hair except apply more product. This is where that Aussie 3 Minute Miracle comes in. I put it in my palm, and smooth it over my hair trying to evenly distribute it throughout. I rake through my hair with my fingers and make sure I cover my hair with it, but if I skip a spot, at least I have that base layer of Pantene. Then, if I have time I will squirt on some smoothing lotion, or serum, or a cream, or a cream gel hybrid, or whatever I have next to my bath, for a little added shine. Sometimes, if it’s not convenient or I’m in a real hurry, I skip it. Then I put my hair into a huge bun at the top of my head (you know all those cute topknots clogging your Instagram feed? Well, this isn’t one of those.) This is just to get it out of my way so I can get dressed with as little sopping wet hair in my way as possible. After I’m dressed, if I have time, I will stick a big on the top of my head to add a tiny bit of volume at the very crown, where it gets flat. And that’s it.
I usually do my hair at night, so if I’m going to bed, I’ll just leave it up in that chic little topknot of mine. My husband lovesssss it. He also loves it when I run from the bathroom screaming after I spot a spider that turns out to be a clump of hair. We call those shower creatures.
Step 4: Hug People
This isn’t mandatory, but it is fun. I hug as many people as possible with my hair dripping wet and slick from the conditioner. They really seem to enjoy it. A lot. Sure, I could dry my hair, but then how would everyone know I just washed it?
Of course, I have other reasons for not drying my hair. Time. Heat damage. Time. And I’m totally convinced that anything more than a short blast with a diffuser makes my curls get frizzy faster. Instead of 3 days, I’m down to 2. Plus, my hair dries just fine on it’s own. By the next day, it’s, like, 90% dry.
Anytime I start to feel a little bitter about all of the hair and the hair product and the hair maintenance, I remind myself that my hair is wash and wear. Truly. All of the work happens in the bath or shower. After that, I’m done.
And now, as promised, the 10 Best Products for Curly Hair, in no particular order.
1. Aussie 3 Minute Miracle
You’ve heard it before, but this really is an amazing leave-in for curly hair. My weapon against frizz! (Any of the formulas work. I really haven’t detected a difference between Moist or Color or Deep or whatever!)
2. Ouidad Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel
Lightweight and non-sticky, this really helps keep your curls shined and defined.
3. Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Conditioner
This is cheap, easy to find and makes detangling my hair much less of a chore. Plus, the smell is light and fresh. (Any of the moisturizing formulas work – so I buy whatever I can find!).
4. TIGI Bedhead Control Freak
This isn’t a typical serum, but more like a hybrid between a serum and a lightweight gel. It offers light shine and hold. Tried and true for me!
5. Davines Love Hair Smoother
This whole line is just amazing. The shampoo, for example, is divine and feels like no shampoo I’ve ever tried before. Just love it. And this smoother is light and creamy and gets rid of frizz without any evidence it was there.
6. John Frieda Frizz-Ease Extra Strength Serum
The original and still the standard in serums, now offered without the tiny glass bottle.
7. Komenuka Bijin Shampoo & Conditioner
I’m pretty sure there’s something very illegal in these products – that’s how good they are, but unfortunately, they are the opposite of convenient. They really seem to strengthen hair and make it soft and shiny. Amazing. (Don’t know why I always love Japanese and Korean beauty products, but I do!) If you’re ordering, also try the Facial Cleansing Powder with Rice Bran. Just used my last packet and may have to reorder!
8. Kerastase Oleo-Relax Nutritive Serum
This golden potion is a longtime beauty editor favorite. It’s luxurious, silkening and French. I can even use an occasional travel size from this line )travel sizes are usually too small for me!) because it’s so concentrated.
9. Leonor Greyl Masque a L’Orchidee
This is so decadent and French and smells more like a perfume than a hair product. It truly transforms hair and makes it silky soft. and a little goes a long way. Even on my hair, which is pretty amazing.
10. Queen Helene Cholesterol Hair Conditioning Cream
I first discovered this product when it was used on me at the very posh Oscar Blandi salon before my wedding. It’s the opposite of glamorous, and the smell is a little stale, but if your hair has taken a real beating, there’s nothing like this to whip it back into shape. A budget version of the fancy French hair masque, without the pretty perfume.
So that’s it! This is why my hair looks so awesome, every single day. (On days it doesn’t look awesome (rain happens!) please take me aside and remind me to repeat the above steps, stat, before I discredit myself as the curly hair guru I claim to be.)
Straight haired and made it this far? I’d like to give you a hug, but I’m too busy doing my hair while you lounge somewhere, frizz-free, blissfully unaware of how easy you have it. And now you know. 😉