Pittsburgh Curly

A Curly Girl in da ‘Burgh

Curly on a Budget

Posted by pittsburghcurly on March 5, 2009

Since the trend for 2009 seems to be cutting back, getting by with less, and being frugal, I wondered what I would do if I had a serious budget crunch and I had to rethink my hair care routine.

Seeing waves4thepoor’s new blog comment pushed me enough over the edge that I decided to post about it.

I am an admitted Product Junkie and my hair is pretty snobby. I’m the Carrie Bradshaw of hair conditioner usage. I like trying new things if I think they will work. My hair has a myriad of ingredient sensitivities, so finding a product that doesn’t have any reactive ingredients, yet actually works, can be a challenge. Right now my routine is a mix of inexpensive, moderate, and pricey.

But, what would I do if I had hours cut back at work and I couldn’t buy a $20 bottle of conditioner or fabulous hair gel?

Well, here’s what my own lineup would be if I had to go cheap. I’ll also add some things I think are good even though they won’t work with my hair. I will also limit this to things I (and a good deal of other US based curlies) can buy without ordering on line. I’m assuming budget here means no added money for shipping costs. My goal is for each item to be $10 or under, with many being $5 or under.


My hair does quite well with conditioner washing. I already use Suave’s Juicy Green Apple Conditioner, and it’s budget friendly. I often find it for about a dollar, and always less than two dollars. It has enough surfactant for me to get rid of daily grime, and it provides light moisturization.


Here is the hard part for me. I have coarse, dry, protein sensitive hair that really prefers a lot of moisture. There are plenty of inexpensive options out there, but many either have protein (which my hair cannot tolerate daily) or just aren’t rich enough for my hairtype. For me, I’d still splurge on the $10 a bottle Aubrey Organics Honeyscukle Rose conditioner or the similarly priced White Camelia  from the same company. I can get them locally at Whole Foods, and there is a store locator on the Aubrey site. If I had to stretch my budget with that, I would probably only use it with every other conditioning, or, I’d mix it with a bit of the Suave Juicy Green Apple in my hand so that I could make a little of the Aubrey last longer.

Other options for those of you with less finicky hair.

If you have a Trader Joe’s, and you are fine with a little soy protein in your conditioner, the Spa Nourish Conditioner is an inexpensive option that is actually quite a rich conditioner for the price. It runs about $2.50 or so. From the ingredients list, I’d bet it was a version of one of Giovanni’s conditioners. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s, you can look for a sale on some of the Giovanni conditioners at Target.

From Sally Beauty – GVP Conditioning Balm, which is a generic version of Matrix Biolage. I have a history with myristyl alcohol being drying on me, otherwise, I would try this myself. It runs about $6.00 and is cheaper if you have a Sally’s card.

For the protein lover, Loreal Vive Pro Nutri Gloss Conditioner, For Medium To Long, That’s Curly and Wavy Hair (long enough name eh?) is an inexpensive option that can be found at many local drugstores or larger supermarkets that have a good hair care section. Many curlies love how effective it is for the price. I know I’ve seen it at stores like Wal-Mart for less than the cost listed on the website that I linked.

For an added boost to your conditioner, some curlies like a drop or two of honey added in the palm of their hand with the conditioner they are using. This may help you, and honey is pretty inexpensive and easy to find. It also can act as a humectant, so it may not work as well for some curlies in very cold or dry conditions, but it is worth a try since you can also use it for its intended purpose as a food item.


Herbal Essences makes quite a few decent quality gels at reasonable prices. Their Set Me Up  Max Gel has worked well for me in the past, and that is what I would go to if I had to cut back. I’ve found it easily at stores like Wal-Mart and Target. Prices vary, but I’ve gotten it for $3 to $4.

Items that others like include LA Looks Sport Gel that can be found at many drugstores, and IC Fantasia Gel with Sparkle Lites that can be found at many drugstores and beauty supply stores.

Extra Items

For those of you who cannot use protein regularly but need a hit now and again, there are a few options. You can buy an inexpensive regular conditioner that has protein in it and use it every 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time you condition, or you can buy a separate protein treatment. I chose the latter only because my hair can only tolerate keratin. Some of you won’t have to go this route and can just use any of the above mentioned inexpensive conditioners. For a separate treatment, my go-to is Sally’s GVP Hair Reconstructor, which is a generic version of the very pricey Joico K-Pak treatment. I use this stuff now and love it, and would keep it if I had to be more budget conscious. I use it about twice a month and pay about $5.00 for it. My infrequent use ensures that it lasts for a decent amount of time.

Deep Treatment

I would use the Lustrasilk Cholesterol Plus that I mentioned in an earlier post as a cheap deep treatment if I had to cut back. This stuff is less than $3 for me for a big tub. It’s not what I use now for a deep treatment, but it would do quite well in a budget pinch. Others have also made their own homemade deep treatments with this conditioner by adding such household items such as olive oil, coconut milk, or honey.

Detangler, Shine Enhancer, and Porosity Control

I have been having great luck using an apple cider vinegar (acv) rinse  after my latest color treatment. Coloring my hair makes it very porous (which means that the hair cuticle is lifted) for a little while after the color. I have been using the acv to help seal the cuticle. This does wonders for me in decreasing tangles. Also, by sealing the cuticle, I hope to have my color last longer. It also adds a bit of shine. I use 1/4 cup (4T) of vinegar to 2 cups water. I use this after I condition, leave it sit in for a few minutes and then rinse. Do be careful not to get this into the eyes! Some prefer a weaker solution of about 2T to 2 cups of water. It can be used weekly, and makes a great detangler. My hair feels quite silky after using it. I use the organic unfiltered acv from Trader Joe’s for about $2.50. I’m sure that a less expensive acv can be found in Wal-Mart or your usual supermarket, but, less than $3 is cheap for organic unfiltered, so I’ll stick with that.

If any of you curlies have been having issues with high porosity or a greater than normal amount of tangles, try experimenting with acv rinses. It works, and it’s budget friendly.

So, here’s what my lineup would be. Feel free to create your own!

For Daily Use:

  • Suave Juicy Green Apple conditioner – about $1.00
  • Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose or White Camelia conditioner – about $10.00
  • Herbal Essences Set Me Up Max Hold Gel – about $3 to $5

For Weekly or Bi-Weekly use as needed.

  • Lustrasilk Shea Butter Cholesterol Plus – about $2.50
  • GVP Hair Reconstructor – about $5.00
  • ACVrinse with Trader Joe’s Organic Unfiltered apple cider vinegar – abdout $2.50

So, depending on your hair type and sensitivities, you CAN do curly on a  budget!


7 Responses to “Curly on a Budget”

  1. masa_inn said

    May I ask how you use GVP Reconsrtuctor – just according to the package directions? I’ve read that some curlies add indirect heat to protein treatments.

    You can tell I’m all over your blog 🙂 Hope I’m not too annoying with my questions.

  2. pittsburghcurly said

    Hey, I’m happy that someone is reading!

    I just use the GVP according to the package directions.

  3. masa_inn said

    I finally got AOHR from vitacost and did a DT with it. Boy, I love the results: shiny, bouncy curls, virtually frizz-free. Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. ~Back to Curly~ said

    Great Post! I’ve been a certified PJ for a while, but even I’ve decided to spend sparingly lately

  5. […] And the entire line of Suave Naturals is completely silicone-free. Check out this list and this blog post by Pittsburgh Curly for more budget-conscious […]

  6. Anny said

    I love Jessicurl Too Shea conditioner. It’s extremely rich (and a great alternative when the AO conditioners are too heavy) and doesn’t have protein in it. I like to buy it in bulk, which drops the price dramatically.

  7. Trini Girl said

    Thank you so much for this post! It’s helped me to skip the painful part of testing and jump straight into softer summer curls. The (longish) short story is that I straightened my hair for most of my (adult) life and after growing it out for a year, BC-ed in Feb’09. Come to find out… I have no idea how to take care of curly hair. So I’ve been scouring the web, trying to learn about ingredients and porosity and all the sage advice out there but it’s been a LOT to try to absorb. Well this list has been a GOD SEND! Especially since I found my hair reacting so much differently as the dew points rose (and they rise really quickly here in Texas) and all the products I’d found working in the cooler months started to lose their effectiveness or serve up unwelcome side effects (like crispiness…yuck). Anyhow, next up: ACV rinses.
    Please keep blogging! You’ve certainly helped one struggling curly.

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