Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Using Curly Girl Method for my Wavy Hair

For about 10 years, I've been wearing my hair up and frizzy in the summer, and then in the winter I straighten it with product and blow dryer and wear it down. For the last few years, I've had to fight it considerably to get it straight in the winter.  After reading Jennifer's post, Rebecca texted me:  "your hair would do that!"  So I bought some new products, poked around on the Curly Girl website (totally overwhelming!), checked the Curly Girl book out of the library (less overwhelming), and tried some things.

Here's what I've been doing for 3 weeks now.

To wash my hair, I put a quarter-size amount of sulfate-free shampoo on my fingertips and put it only on my roots.  I scrub my scalp with my fingertips and ignore the rest of my hair.  I rinse it well with cool water by standing under the stream of water and just lifting and scrunching my hair to get all the soapy parts rinsed. I usually count to 60 to make sure I'm really getting it rinsed.  I do not swirl, rub, or otherwise roughly disturb my hair.  My reasons:  shampoo, even sulfate-free, can still be drying to hair and curly hair needs so much more moisture than I ever imagined. Cool water is less drying than hot water. Even while wet, curly hair is trying to keep its curl pattern, so I don't want to mess it up unduly.

Then I squirt apple cider vinegar directly on my scalp and give it a quick rinse. My reasons: my scalp likes to get itchy and flaky quickly, and the vinegar helps to disrupt that pattern.  Plus, it removes any product build-up on my hair.

To condition, I use a half-dollar size amount of sulfate-free conditioner.  This time, I ignore my scalp and scrunch it through my ends, getting to within an inch or two of my head. Then, I run my hands lightly over the top of my head, to hit the "hair canopy" where most of the frizz would be. I let the conditioner soak in for the rest of my shower ablutions. Then I stand under the water, cool again, for just a few quick rinses. My reasons: conditioner is going to moisturize my hair, not my scalp.

Just done putting on gel: drowned rat look.
As soon as I'm out of the shower, I squeeze the ends of my hair in a towel - no rubbing whatsoever! But no special towel, either, as Curly Girl would have me use.  I just blot the water out of the ends. 

Immediately, I flip over my head and scrunch DevaCurl Light Defining Gel through the ends and up to about an inch from my scalp. I stand up and ignore my hair as much as possible until it's thoroughly dry, several hours. It will look fairly crunchy and 1980s gelled, which is a scary look, but Curly Girl calls this a "gel cast" and says you can break it by shaking your head and shuffling the roots.  I find that just general living with kids breaks my gel cast before I get around to it.

The next two days, in the morning, I spray my hair generously with water with a few drops of lavender essential oil in it.  When it's quite wet and the curls are springing back, I flip my head over and scrunch in One and Only Argan Oil Styling Cream. Then let it alone completely until it dries.

Some issues, notes, and questions I have:
1. Lorraine Massey (Curly Girl method) says frizz is just parched hair reaching out into the atmosphere for moisture; it's a curl-in-waiting.  My hair is hardly frizzy at all anymore!

2. I'm not sure if I actually love how my hair looks.  I can see it's healthier and I'm not fighting its natural wave, but do I actually like it?  Thinking this might be a reason to seek out a Deva salon to get a good cut.

3. Apparently my wavy hair will adjust and develop more the longer I stay on this routine.  I'm curious to see if I like the looks more, or if it gets more curly?  I know it will be more curly in the summer humidity.

4. If sulfates are so drying for hair, should I ditch all the sudsy sulfate shampoos in our house?

5. My scalp is less itchy, but more flaky than pre-Curly Girl method.  Not sure I have the stamina to brave the Curly Girl forums and do research.

Please chime in with what you know about curly hair, wavy hair, or hair care in general.


Jennifer Jo said...

And....(drumroll)...another curly girl is unleashed!

Your hair looks great, and it was so fun to read about your method! I'm still in transition (growing out bangs), and I, too, am not always sure how I feel about the new look.

Also, I miss brushing my hair and the smooth feel of still-warm, freshly-straightened hair.

ALSO, I have also been surprised by how terribly dry my hair was and how NOT dry it is now. That part sure is lovely!

kay saylor said...

Basically I have a similar routine. I only wash once a week, even though I shower more often than that (and the world is grateful ;)). For the in between showers I just add a small amount of conditioner and rinse thoroughly. Instead of a fancy towel I use an old t-shirt to pat dry my hair. If my hair needs reviving between showers I have a spray bottle filled with water and a healthy squirt of conditioner. I spray with the mixture and scrunch.

It's not perfect, but it is better than all of the frizz and frankly all of the time spent trying to force it to behave.

MamaMunchy said...

Be careful of how much vinegar you use and how often you use it. It can have a detrimental effect on your hair over the long run. I have a curly hair daughter who is starting to do her own hair so this was a good article to share with her. Thank you!

AmyK said...

I love this. I started wearing my hair similarly about 3 or so years ago. My hair has always been thick and so drying it and straightening it takes so long. Sometime after having my second baby, I realized that my hair was curlier than it used to be. So I experimented with washing it, applying some gel and then letting it air dry. I've kept my hair mostly above shoulder length so it is lighter and curls don't get weighed down too much.

When I wear it curly I tend to pin a few strands back wit a bobby pin or two- so it won't look quite so fly-away. When I put the gel on I tend to scrunch it too, to encourage this loose curls. I use shampoo once or twice a week at most.

I ike the suggestions for moisturizing the scalp and hair between washes. I may need to try that. My scalp tends to be on the dry side.

I think your hair looks nice! I definitely recommend a good hair cut too. If you let the stylist know how you are styling your hair now, she can cut it to maximize those curls. Have fun spending less time with the dryer and straightener!

Margo said...

MamaMunchy, I'd be interested to know more about what detrimental effects apple cider vinegar can have on hair. I've only found benefits when I did online research: balances scalp pH, closes cuticle of hair, disrupts cycle of dandruff. . .
What should I know??

Lana said...

My daughter has gorgeously curly hair and she fought it until she was 32 when she decided to embrace the curl. She shampoos with nonsulfate shampoo every two to three days and just scrunches it with her hands and lets it dry. She does not do anything but shampoo. with a house full of toddlers and being a missionary wife in Germany she does not have time or access to all those products.

Becky said...

Good cuts make a big difference. My hair acts like it wants to pretend it has wave, but when I accommodate the wave, it goes stick pin straight. When I straighten it, the wave pops up. And the volume of my hair noticeably increases in humid weather. I just get a good cut and then no matter what I do with my hair, it behaves about as much as it's going to.
As far as washing and products, I've started using products geared towards grey hair - I do have a fair amount of it, but it blends in with the blonde. I wash my hair about 2x a week, otherwise it gets very brittle.

e said...

I'm a wash and wear kind of gal. If it's not easy, I'm not doing it. That's when the cut is important! My hair is wavy, not curly, but now it's so short that it doesn't matter.

One thing I did learn, over the years of having long hair and a daughter with long hair, is the importance of the wide tooth comb. Wash, gently squeeze out water, wide tooth comb, done. Other things could happen after it was dry.

If I were going to write a coda to your post it would be: How to work with your cowlicks. Lol.

Anonymous said...

Margo, I like your new look, though I thought your hair also looks lovely in your hair clip tutorial.
I'm a (lazy) curly girl who was recently thinking I need to add a styling product for definition and frizz- fighting. I have had oily- ish hair always fighting a flaky scalp.

I had a hair revelation several years ago when I broke several bones in my foot,
and couldn't readily shower full body For the better part of a week. I had used an inexpensive shampoo forever (frugal to a fault). Surprisingly, washing my hair less thst first week really slowed the oil production. I did a little reading and learned how shampoos with laurel sulfate perpetuate flaky scalp by stripping oils, subsequently your scalp responds by going into oil production overdrive, while your hair itself is stripped of oil.
I washed with baking soda and vinegar rinse only for several weeks and-wow! My dandruff resolved and my hair was so soft!

After awhile I realized I just needed something a little more than baking soda, so I found a great shampoo and conditioner without laurel sulfates (Trader Joe's tea tree peppermint shampoo) A bonus is that it's $ 2.99
My hair is still fuzzy as opposed to all defined curls, but my dry scalp and flakes are totally gone, and my hair is curlier than it was using the cheap shampoo.
I think I'll going to buy the hair product you use this week. I'm ready to up
My hair game! Thanks for this post!

- Kim from Philadelphia

Wendy Janzen said...

I have curly hair that I've mostly just washed and let air dry most of my life. I don't the patience for straightening and found that it would end up wanting to curly again with any humidity so I just don't bother fighting it.

I admit this to very few people, but 2 1/2 years ago I said goodbye to shampoo completely! I don't use it at all! I just condition and rinse. I also use a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse about twice a month. (I use about a 1:5 ratio of vinegar to water. I've heard that full strength vinegar is too harsh.)

About a year ago I found a local stylist who specializes in curly hair and does dry cuts. I've found that has made a big difference in how my curls sit.

In the winter I gently blot the excess water with our microfiber camping towel (already owned this - I didn't go out and buy it especially for my hair!). I smooth in a pea-sized drop of conditioner, and a bit of liquid gel (I don't use any Deeva Curl products). Because I don't want to leave the house with wet hair in freezing temperatures (I live in Canada), I turn my head upside down and dry with a diffuser until about 70% dry.

This has worked well for me, and my hair is healthy and shiny looking with very little frizz.

I do find the second or third days between "washes" tricky sometimes. Sometimes the curls survive the night, sometimes they look aweful. I often just put it up in a ponytail and ignore it.

Sarah Barry said...

This totally inspires me to experiment with my hair. It is wavy/frizzy, and I have been lost as to how to make it look it's best. I have some good, sulfate free shampoo and conditioner, but have been drying it straight.

I think your hair looks so pretty this way, soft, natural and healthy!

Susan said...

Courtney Whipple at Salon 717 on Harrisburg Pike is a certified DevaCurl curly-cutter! I highly recommend her :)

Melanie said...

Lovely! I’ve been down thr Curly Girl rabbit hole for about 2 years now. It does change over time as you experiment and find what works for you.

I agree with others that getting the right cut - from someone who really knows what they’re doing - makes s huge difference. I only get my hair cut 2x/year so don’t mind the expense (I’d never shell out that much every 6 weeks).

Also - I encourage you to try toweling with non-terrycloth. I can’t believe the difference it makes. I use one of my husband’s cotton undershirts. Look up “plopping hair” on YouTube and give it a try. I put the gel in, scrunch, then plop while I do a few other things (brush teeth, pick clothes, etc). Easy and really does seem to make a difference.

Sharon Nolt said...

Hi Margaret, I love that you are having fun with your waves! I've been doing the curly girl thing for 7 years, maybe. There's a lot of experimenting, for sure. I stopped shampooing and used a baking soda/water combo for cleansing, then a vinegar/water mix (50/50) for conditioning. My hair is pretty dry from highlights and grey, and I've found not rinsing the conditioner is best for my hair. Yep, leave the ACV right on. No smell after it dries! I've used Deva products (gel, conditioner, creme), but found the gel is very drying. I also found some less expensive brands for black hair (cremes) at Target that I like also. If I switch from brand to brand, I am more satisfied with the outcome. The last couple of years I've been using a shampoo bar from Simple Life Mom that I love. I wash about 2x a week, depending on season and frequency of exercise. Really, I think you'll find that your hair needs will keep you guessing often, and on the good hair days, just try to remember which product you used and what your routine was! Of course the weather plays a role too. Naturally! Another note-- I still drive to Lancaster to get my curly girl cut; I love my stylist, but her technique has strayed from Lorainne Massey's training. It's all about communication with the stylist to get good results!

Emily said...

Baby shampoos are good to nourishing your hair as they are mild by nature and are soothing too.

jenny_o said...

Sorry I'm so late for this! Just thought I'd add that hair is affected by home humidity as well. It should be about 50%, and in our house (with electric heat) that means I run a steam humidifier on each floor of our house almost all the time. (It's made a big difference in my sinus problems as well, but that is off the topic :))

Sarah said...

In the spirit of thrift: homemade flaxseed gel is the best gel I’ve ever used for my curls, and by far the least expensive! A batch typically only lasts two weeks in the fridge, but the gel can also be frozen. And the flaxseeds can be reused! The texture can be a little surprising - not unlike putting egg whites or slime on your hair. But the results! My curls clump together and hold better, while still having a nice soft finish.

Margo said...

Sarah, this sounds so weird I have to try it! I paid a mint for the bottle of gel I have now. Do you have a recipe for the gel to recommend??

Sarah said...


This one here does a great job of walking through the steps. I often use a mesh strainer instead of the recommended stockings, but only because I didn’t have stockings on hand. I don’t add anything else to my gel, but a lot of people add tea tree oil to extend the life of it. I also have never tried reusing the flaxseeds. I’ve heard they can only be reused once, and even then the resulting gel is not as strong.

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