How to Care for Curly Hair
Tips from Ruth (Wagschal) Jankowitz
For those of us with straight or wavy hair, it is hard to understand how difficult it is to keep curly hair in shape. I have noticed that many mothers who do not have curly hair themselves have a hard time managing their daughter’s curls. I was once at a friend’s house and watched her brushing out her daughter’s curly hair until it was frizzed up into a puffball (or as some call it, a “Jewfro”). I cringed and gave her advice on how to properly care for her daughter’s curls, so that they would always look as great as they do when wet, even when her hair is dry. These are the tips I gave her and that I give to all my clients with naturally curly hair. I hope you will learn something new, and you choose to embrace your beautiful curls with love!
The number one secret that everyone who cares for curls should know, is that they are constantly seeking moisture/hydration (from oil and water). Frizz is a sure sign that a person’s curly hair does not have enough moisture to maintain its shape. This is why curly hair always looks amazing when it’s wet or with conditioner in it, but tends to frizz up once it is dry. Many people get frizzy hair in the summer, because their hair is seeking the humidity in the air, and their hair gets full of static in the winter, due to the dry central heating. The number one way to get luscious, defined curls is by making sure you are keeping them properly hydrated. But how? The best ways to do that are as follows:
1) Do not over-shampoo. A commonly heard refrain is: “Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.” Nooo! That is just the shampoo company trying to get you to buy more shampoo! Shampoo dries out hair and strips the strands of the natural oils your scalp produces to keep the hair hydrated and strong, so it doesn't break easily. A girl with curly hair should only use shampoo if she has hair styling products built up in her hair, or it looks greasy (not in a good way). The shampoo should be sulfate-free, as sulfates, (which are what makes products super foamy and lather easily) strip the hair of all natural oils.
2) Conditioner is your best friend. (Conditioner will still clean the hair and make it smell nice.) You can use it every day, even without shampoo. I recommend getting a Wet Brush, which is great for detangling the hair gently, and keep it in the shower (hence the name), so you can use it to comb the conditioner through your hair, evenly distributing it before rinsing.
3) If your hair is still dry after a conditioning, you can use additional leave-in-conditioners or a serum. Or even better, experiment with oils that you already have in the house before going out to buy expensive hair products. Olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, argon oil, really almost any oil you have can work. The key is to start with a pea-size amount, rub your hands together to warm it up like you’re massaging in hand cream, and then apply the leave-in-conditioner or oil from the ends of the hair and work your way up the hair strand, so that most of the oil or serum is applied mid-strands to ends. This will keep you from looking like you have a greasy scalp. The scalp naturally produces oils that nourish the hair closest to it, but it is the mid-shafts to ends of the hair that get easily dried out, so that is the area that should be concentrated on.
4) When you style your hair, only brush it when it is wet. One more time. Don't brush curly hair when it's dry. If you need to brush it and it's dry, wet it first. Curly hair naturally patterns itself in different directions, so brushing it when it is dry will frizz it out.
5) When getting a haircut, make sure you go to someone who has experience cutting curly hair. If you get the curls cut when they are wet, take into consideration that they will look shorter when dry, and longer when straightened with a flat iron. There is a big variance in curls, but “shrinkage” is a real thing that you and your stylist need to take into account when contemplating a haircut. If you plan on using a flat iron to straighten your hair when it is dry, you should let your stylist know, so she can make sure it is cut in such a way that it will look even, both when it's curly and straight. Curly hair is naturally inconsistent and very forgiving so cutting it evenly when it's in its natural state, will actually look “uneven” when it’s straightened. Going to a stylist who is experienced with cutting curls is important, because not all stylists are trained in cutting curly hair.
6) Shop smart. Labels can be confusing, but don't be fooled into thinking you have to spend a lot of money or that you need an arsenal of beauty products for curly hair. If you are a crunchy, granola hair snob, like myself, and only want top-of-the-line, salon-quality products, then come to my salon and you can buy Oway brand shampoo, conditioner, and styling products, designed for curly hair. However, there's lots of inexpensive drugstore brands that you can buy that will likely still be an improvement. Again, look for shampoos that are advertised as sulfate free and styling products with no alcohol listed in the ingredients list (it's also naturally drying).
In summary, shampoo less, condition more. Keep hair hydrated! Brush wet. Use a curl enhancing cream, serum, gloss, leave-in-conditioner or spray, and apply to wet hair. Then Scrunch. Scrunch. Scrunch, and use your fingers to twirl and twist curls according to their natural growth patterns. Last but not least, look at your handiwork and admire those beautiful curls! You got this!
is a licensed cosmetologist and stylist at Beauty and Beyond Salon in Baltimore. She is also a mom of 3 boys and 1 baby girl. If you have any questions about her article, or to schedule an appointment, please call her at 410-935-2063 or visit her online at www.RuthJankowitz.com