Tips for Curly Hair

Updated on May 01, 2010
S.D. asks from Seattle, WA
22 answers

I have had straight, thick hair most of my life. In the last few years it has gotten curly! Started out getting a little wavey, but getting more curly and unmanageable! I find that I have to use a flat iron or curling iron. It has become very high mainatence. I see women with beautiful natural curls with no frizz. How do you do that? If I just wash and go, it get's really frizzy, even with products. My hair is long (about down to my bra strap in the back), and I don't want to cut it short. Thanks for any advice!

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answers from Portland on

Hi S.,

Have you checked out the book Curly Girl? I'm sure you've heard about the no shampoo haircare before but let me tell you from personal experience it is unbe--frickin-lievable!

I used to work with a woman who was kind of hippie and had a little frizz ball of hair. One day she came into my office and her hair was completely transformed to these beautiful shiny smooth locks of curls. Assuming she had found a new product I grilled her and was astonished to learn that this was her new "wash and go" hair and that she'd adopted the Curly Girl haircare techniques.

I started following and my hair also became amazingly soft and smooth (I have wavy hair that is slightly curly). I'm sure there are plenty of products out there that can have the same effect but this is by far cheaper, easier and fool proof (who cares if it suddenly starts raining!!).

Lastly, a good haircut is worth it's weight in gold. Find someone who is really good with curls and go in with your hair air dried so they can see what your hair naturally "does". Spending the money on a good cut equals good hair days and fewer required cuts (since it typically grows out well). Good hair also equals confidence so spend the money girl! It's worth it!

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

LOL... "beautiful natural curls" are, plain and simple, high maintenance.

1) Cut. Not as in cut off... but the "right" kind of cut. Salon Divine in Wedgewood near the UW has a wonderful stylist for curly hair. It took me 2 years to find a good person when my last one retired. :) At "only" around $50 I even get to save 20-40 bucks from going to Gene Juarez.

2) Start in the shower. Never brush your hair dry, if you're "going curly". (I go straight 1/2 the time and curly 1/2 the time). Brush your hair out, with conditioner in it still in the shower.

3) Product or a hat/umbrella.

If you're going straight... but have curly hair there's not enough product in the world to keep your hair straight and glossy if it gets wet. Including the misty, drizzles that happen in Seattle... AS WELL AS sweat, if you're doing anything physical. CURLS however, will stay glossy and together in the damp as long as they've been saturated in product before forming. If I'm going straight, I keep my hair covered when I'm outside. Typically I twist it up and stick it under a hat. If I'm going curly, I don't have to worry. But straight means even from the car to the grocery store (10 feet), it has to be kept from the damp. What keeps CURLS from frizzing though, is product. And a LOT of it.

4) More on Product

There are a gazillion different types of product that range from $3 a week to $25 a week if you're using it every day. Unfortunately, because curly hair has different "curl patterns" meaning how strong the curl is... you really have to try out different ones to see which works best for your hair. This is when single serving "travel sizes" come in handy, or samples from salons. Because regardless of type... you have to use a LOT. Enough that a person with straight hair looks at you like you've just had a lobotomy. With curly hair, you're not touching up (like with straight) but saturating.

As an example:

With my SHOULDER length curly hair (i have to use double when it's down to my bra strap)... I use a PALM SIZED amount of gel, OR a NAVEL ORANGE sized ball o' foam if I'm using mousse. Unless it's expensive gel (like Bumble & Bumble, or Gene Juarez type), I prefer a $3 bottle of Garnier Fructis Curl Construct mousse. Because ya have to use so durn much of it, regardless of what brand. 1-2 weeks and the bottle is empty. The only exception is laminates gel, and then you have to "cut" it with a different kind of gel, or it builds up in your hair. Cheap gel leaves curls shiny and formed but crunchy, expensive gel leaves curls shiny and formed but soft. Sheesh... gotten confusing yet?

5) Still more on product:

To apply product, you have to slather and scrunch. AKA NO COMBS, BRUSHES, PICS, FINGERS, ANYTHING ANYTHING ANYTHING that's going to separate the curls into even smaller curls. Every hair for itself = frizz no matter how much product is in it. They'll just be glossy frizz, instead of glossy curls. Ugh. So you "style" in the shower (aka shove your hair around basically how you want it, ring it out CAREFULLY... or DAB with a towel), and then slather and scrunch.

At this point you have 2 options:

Dryer or air dry.

Dryer: Either way, the idea is to not let the curls blow apart. For a dryer you have 2 options :
- Diffuse (takes forever)
- Hold a DAMP towel behind the curls and dry on low (takes forever)
(When I say takes forever, think 20-30 minutes for either if you want to be completely dry)

You also have 2 choices on how you dry. To have big bouncy curls, dry your hair upside down. Yup. Bent over at the waist upside down. To control the volume, dry your hair rightside up.

To air dry, you still want to protect the curls from being knocked about/ blown apart, etc. Sigh. So you twist a few curls around your finger to separated them (5 or 6, from the crown), and then PILE all of your hair into a ponytail/bun. Don't pull or brush. Just pile and lasso. If you thought half an hour with a dryer was a long time... in Seattle damp, it can take days to dry this way (aka, don't do this on rainy days, but sunny ones). On a sunny day, it takes 4 or 5 hours for the curls to start feeling "crisp" (aka they'll hold together). Then you take the hair tie out, shake and scrunch a little, and it takes another hour or two for them to completely dry.

Yeah. Curly hair is the absolute definition of high maintenance hair.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

My hair turned curly too and all of these suggestions are great. I wanted to add to experiment with different products. I use a spray conditioner, a glaze, mousse (frizz ease), and spray gel for curly hair (pantene). I had to experiment to get it right though. I think everyone's hair is different. They have a ton of products for curly hair now. I also try to wash my hair every other day.

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answers from Dallas on

I'm a hairstylist and can help.

To get those frizz free curls, do not comb your hair. Some say use a pick, and that's best, to start at the ends and very lightly work your way up to the scalp, but really, not combing it all all is the best.

After you shampoo, use a deep conditioning conditioner since curly hair is usually drier than straight hair and needs more moisture.

After the shower, towel dry your hair by softly wringing it in the towel and gently pressing the towel against the hair. The more you mess with it or are rough with the towel, the more frizz and breakage it will get.

Then, I recommend Sebastions Potion number 9 as a leave in product when your hair is still damp. Apply it throughout starting at the back first.

Then, use your mouse or styling lotion avoid gels that dry and harden the curls).

Air dry while slightly scrunching with your hand and lightly twisting the curls together, or blow dry by using the curl attachment. Place the curls on the attachment and blow dry it on a low/medium setting while gently pushing the dryer towards your scalp.

Curly hair also looks best if it isn't washed for a day or two. If you have an oily scalp/skin and can't do this, you can use a little bit of witch hazel on a cotton ball and run it through your scalp to pick up the oil.

Have fun with it, it takes practice and trial and error to see what works for your hair, but once you get it, it's easy.

Also, get a good cut, take a bit off the bottom and have some light layers added in to remove bulk and allow the curls to fall more evenly and staggered to avoid that triangle head look. And never ever let someone use a razor or slide cutting on your hair as it will shred the curl formations and cause more frizz.

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answers from Seattle on

I too had thick straight, little wave in the back hair and since pregnancy I now have frizzy, curly hair. I have been trying this method and its working so far for me. I have a girl friend with corkscrew curly, coarse hair and its what she has been doing for years.

Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I have found that my answer is Wen hair care products. It is a whole new idea for me, you don't shampoo. It is a cleansing conditioner, leave-in treatment product. You remove dirt by friction from rubbing with your fingers as you give yourself a scalp massage. It works wonderfully for me! I also use their styling cream, and hair & body oil. I can blow dry my hair with a diffuser if I need to or I can let air dry. My hair looks good both ways. I have also finally been able to not cleanse my hair everyday. My dh actually likes my curls better the 2nd day. Never before would I have ever been able to do that.
Good luck! And you might want to search deva cut technique, which is a program to teach stylists to cut curly hair completely differently than straight hair. You can even find stylists that have been certified via their website.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Hi S.,
I struggled with my curly hair for years and posted my plea for help a few weeks ago. A couple of moms recommend Ouidad. They have a product to control frizz and humidy problems. You can find it online and it may tell you were there is a shop near you.
I sure wish I had known about it before.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

Hi S. ~ I have had natural curly hair most of my life. I keep it longer, about the same as yours, just to keep the curls looser. I use a product called Curls Rock and it's a cream, not a mousse or gel, that I put on after my shower. It helps to "tame" the frizz. Also, use a diffuser when blow drying and scrunch your hair as you blow dry. Makes for nice curls :)



answers from Portland on

Ouidad, honey, visit All the styling products at the stores are [email protected] Order yourself a sample pack of product and play around. Welcome to being a curly girl!



answers from New York on

I agree - you need to get a curly can still keep the length, but she will give you long layers.

Also, get a diffuser to put on the end of your hairdryer. It allows you to still dry your hair but the air doesn't come out as forcefully.

I usually comb out my hair while my conditioner is in. When I get out of the shower I scrunch my hair with the towel to get as much water out as possible (I don't brush as I combed it in the shower). Add product, then flip my head up side down and dry with the diffuser.

Good luck!



answers from Portland on

My daughter has curly hair, and what I do with hers is brush it while it's wet, after a bath, and then put coconut oil in it. Not the coconut oil grease you get in the hair aisle at the grocery store, though sometimes we do use that. But that is more for people who want grease in their hair. Use pure coconut oil that you would get in a health food store, probably next to the olive and other oils in the grocery section. It's solid up to 76 degrees, so I just take a little (quarter teaspoon) and soften it between my fingers (which are warm, so it starts to melt) and then just rub it gently into her hair, like you would put in mouse or gel. If I put it in wet, it leaves it with a bit of a wet look, like gel, but it's all natural and healthy and doesn't make her hair as greasy as other oils or grease would. It tames the frizz very nicely. I also put it into dry hair, and whenever there are any tangles, a tiny bit of coconut oil rubbed into the tangles loosens them very, very easily.

So that's what I would try. It's natural, smells delicious (you really could eat it too, if you want--it's supposed to boost the metabolism), and is good for your hair. And skin. So try it and see if it helps!



answers from Portland on

Put Redkins' Rough Paste 12 in your hair after it is mostly dry. Manages to tame my curls.



answers from Portland on

I had thick, long curly hair, so does my 5 year old daughter. I straighten mine sometimes, but when I wear it curly I dont comb or brush it. I dont comb or brush my daughter's hair either. Instead I use my fingers to pick apart the tangles. When our hair is wet - I put in a really good leave in conditioner, sometimes even use regular conditioner, then roll it up as a bun for a little while and let it dry slowly. When I let it down - I try had not to touch or pull at the curls - It can be really easy - easier than when I wear my hair straight. Just cant mess with it.



answers from Kansas City on

It's all about the haircut, sister! You HAVE to find someone that knows how to cut curly hair. They have to taper the ends and "de-bulk" some of that hair, so you will have definition! Good luck!
(I had to learn this stuff later in life as my hair turned curly, too! Isn't it weird?!?!)



answers from Seattle on

1. Find a hair stylist who knows how to cut curly hair--harder than you think. Don't ever let the stylist "thin" it out. Disaster if you do.

2. Get good shampoo and conditioner. Don't ever wash all of the conditioner out. I have stopped blow drying my hair, and that is something as my hair takes 3-4 hours to dry in the winter, but only 2 hours in the summer. My curls are much more gentle and attractive that way.

3. Don't wash your hair every day.

I have thick curly hair that is getting curlier every day, so I know how much you want it to calm down and be just right.

If I want it straighter I use a curling iron. If I want it curly, I wash it and put barrettes to hold some of it back from my face and in place.



answers from Seattle on

I've always had naturally curly hair. I can't say mine has no frizz, but I've found some ways to manage it and it depends on the season. In the winter, it tends to have a little frizz, in the spring and summer, not so much. My hair is also down to my bra on my back. It's not thick so you'll need to find what works for you, but here's some of my tips.

1. use a leave-in conditioner every day (I like Aveda elixor- 1/8th teaspoon)
2. use a little liquid gel (I like Aveda confixor- 2-3 drops)
3. find a curl enhancer (I like Aveda be curly- about 2-3 peas worth)

I mix two of the three in my palm and then get it generally styled. Then I put a little of the third in my palm and work it through a little. I normally do 1 and 2 first so the gel gets distributed and "softened" better.

never, ever, ever use a comb on your hair. Your fingers are your best styling tool. Use a pick here and there if needed before shampooing, but after it's washed, just use your fingers. I never blow dry and rarely (3-4x/year) flat iron.

When styling, one tip I was given from my stylist, is to twirl a few little curls. Let them lay in your hand. If they curl nice, let them be. If they're funky, twist them the other way (clockwise vs. counterclockwise). This might not make sense to read, but when you try it, you'll see exactly what I mean. Don't do too many or do them too big because it looks weird, but a few adds a nice definition.

My hair is driving me super crazy right now, so another option is to cut it closer to shoulder length and donate the rest. Then it's still long enough to play with, but not so overwhelming. You might also find that if it's a bit shorter that the texture comes out more and is a bit more bouncy.



answers from Seattle on

Lots and lots and lots of product!! Get yourself some leave-in conditioner and then something to enhance the curl - a gel, a mousse, something like that. With curly hair I find I have to try a lot of products out before I get the right one. Also, different things work at different times of the year - mousse in the winter and gel in the summer, for example. Start with your hairdresser and ask what he/she recommends, but try and buy samples before you spend a fortune for something that won't work for your hair.


answers from Eugene on

I don't know how old you are or when your family gets grey hair. Grey hair is thicker with more curl to it. I love my extremely curly hair. It is wash and wear. I just get a good cut from someone who knows about curly hair. I keep it short in the front and long in the back. Bangs and sideburns.
Accept it. Otherwise you'll be using straighteners and other toxic substances to maintain a look you used to have.
Our bodies change over our lifetimes. Better curly hair than a chronic illness to deal with.
Just because stick straight hair is in right now does not mean you must wear it. In a few years tight curly wild hair will be back and you will fit right in.



answers from Seattle on

I wash my hair maybe once a week. I condition everytime I shower. I use Tigi self absorbed (I think). My big find has been L'oreal Studio Curl boosting curls spray gel. I get it at Fred Meyer for aroung $3 per bottle (there are even coupons sometimes). I used to use the expensive designer stuff. I asked a stranger with great frizz free curl what she was using and she reccommended this. I just spray it in when my hair is wet and either let it air dry or dry it a bit with a hairdryer. It doesn't make my hair "hard" and does decrease the frizz. I can't say that it is perfect every day but it is most days.
I have also read the book "Curly Girl." I got it from the Seattle Public Library. Somebody who has experience with cutting curly hair is also a must. I go to Rebecca at WINK hairstudio on Queen Anne.
good luck. It seems you have gotten a lot of great suggestions. This may be a cheap experiment for you.



answers from Portland on

I use a barrage of products (I've always had curly hair) and let it dry in a very particular way. Not washing it too often is important to keep your natural oils in good shape--I only wash mine about once every week or two! My hairdresser recommends this. Lots of good conditioner, and no blow drying w/o a good diffuser. I don't blow dry; can't seem to get it right w/o frizz so I just gave up and air dry...good luck!

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