So, you have curly hair that you been straightening, whether through heat or chemicals. Or, maybe you’re the straight haired Mom (or Mum) or any other caretaker of a little curly, and all of that boinginess has made you wonder what to do. While chemically relaxed hair may require its own special needs, those of you who heat straighten will probably notice a difference in curl pattern while using the method below. Those who are chemically relaxed go through a longer transition process, unless you just decide to do the big chop and start with a fresh head of hair. Those of you who are transitioning will find lots of support from this thread, and from curlynikki’s blog. Those of you who are already curly, but looking for help will find a little bit here, with links to give you more help.
This in an evolving page (because it will take some time to do) on the basics of dealing with curly hair. You may have seen curly haired sites and curly haired blogs and been flabbergasted by all of the crazy terms, wondering why some people are freaking out about silicone, others about protein, and others about humectants. Hopefully this will give you a place to start in your adventures in Curly World.
When dealing with curly hair, one of the most common hair care methods you will run into will be the Curly Girl method which is also known as CG, or no-poo. No, this doesn’t mean you no longer need the toilet, but that you may choose to no longer use conventional sulfate shampoos. In avoiding sulfate shampoos, there are also other ingredients that you may need to avoid. These will eventually all be covered. For a short review, check this nc.com link.
Curly Girl is a book by Lorraine Massey, a British born curly who used her own experience as a curly along with her hair training (and it seems that training in the UK is more comprehensive than training in the US) to start anew and forge her own way of taking care of curly hair. She also has her own line of hair care products and founded the curl friendly Devachan Salon. Like many other curlies, her book made me think about what type of care curly hair needs, and how those needs won’t be met by caring for my hair in the same way that I had been for over three decades. After that, I found naturallycurly.com, which led me into the depths of curl care issues, but, more importantly, gave me access to a whole world of others like me who were also dealing with our sometimes unruly hair.
Is shampoo really bad for you or not?
The first premise of the CG method is that sulfates are bad for most curly hair. Curly hair is often more dry than other hairtypes, and sulfates can just be too harsh for dry, delicate curls. The prime culrpits in this are Sodium Lauyl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. It’s interesting to note that these detergents are also found in many liquid dish detergents. Since most of us do not have hair that is as greasy as our pots and pans, this seems to be a bit of overkill. But, they do produce lots of lather, and we are all taught that lather is good and luxurious, that lather means that we’re getting the dirt off. Bah. For the most part, you won’t need these sulfates, and even those of you who do end up liking a sulfate here and there will not need one daily.
If I don’t use shampoo, how do I wash my hair?
If you are not using regular shampoos to wash your hair, what DO you use? Conditioner. Seriously. Conditioner. When I first read this, I thought it was nuts. I thought that I would have dirty, smelly, lanky, greasy hair. But, I started using conditioner to wash my hair. I had about a month of transition where my hair and scalp were a bit weird, but, then, bam, I started sporting curls that looked like curls, and not a huge mass of frizz. They also felt more like hair and less like dead grass. Many scalps seem to suffer from a low grade irritation from sulfates, and the scalp needs time to heal. The hair shaft is often dry in those who have been using sulfates frequently, and it takes some time for your hair to get proper moisture restored.
So, you really can wash your hair with conditioner. Many inexpensive condtioners (the Suave and Vo5 lines come to mind) contain cetrimonium chloride, which is a conditioning agent, but is also a surfactant, which means that normal sweat, dust, and environmental dirt can be removed with this. The key is that you do have to pay some attention to your scalp and rub. After all, most people don’t wash their faces and bodies by slapping on some bodywash and just leaving it there. The scalp is no different.
So, how do I wash my hair with conditioner?
If I am using a conditioner to wash my scalp and hair, this is what I do. I get my hair wet, and squish in a few blobs of conditioner into my hair and ends. How many blobs you need depends on the length and thickness of your hair. I work out the large tangles with my fingers, and then use a seamless, wide toothed combed to comb out any other tangles. I then apply another quarter sized blob to my scalp and scrub with the pads of my fingers. I use enough pressure to get off the dirt and gunk, but not so hard as to irritate my scalp and traumatize my roots. Then, I rinse throughly to get all of the loosened dust and grime out of my hair. Some choose to not rinse all the way, but leave a little conditioner in. I prefer to totally rinse becuase I want all of the dirt rinsed out. I don’t mind adding more conditioner later.
I always follow this up with a stronger, more moisturizing conditioner, but my hair is somewhat coarse, and pretty thick. Those with finer, thinner curls may notice that their hair feels moisturized enough after the initial wash and detangling.
When you are first transitioning from a shampoo to a no-poo routine, you may need daily, or every other day scalp scrubs. As time goes on, you may notice that your scalp only needs scrubbed one or twice a week. Even though the scalp may be fine, many curlies still wet and condition the length of their hair daily or every other day. Some just prefer the looks of fresh curls, some need daily moisture, and others aren’t able to go to sleep and then wake up with decent curls unless they fully wet their head first. Others are fine with a daily misting to re-set the curl pattern without getting the whole head wet. After some trial and error, you’ll find what works best for you, and this may change with the seasons.
After some time, some curlies notice that they want something a bit stronger to clean their scalps, or to remove product residues from their gels or curl creams. If this is the case, try to look for cleansers with cocobetaine or cocamidopropyl betaine. DevaCurl Low-poo uses these, and many curlies seem to do well with it. These are gentle cleansers that some use monthly or weekly for an extra cleansing. Others have hardier scalps and hair and can use these with every scalp wash. While I do feel that most curlies can benefit by going their first month on conditioners alone, every curly head is different, and you’ll have to go by what your scalp and hair are telling you. There are also many sulfate free shampoos out there on the market. Just be careful. Many feel just as drying on your hair as sulfate shampoo, so your milegae may vary on that one.
In my next update, I’ll be adding info about silicones and other ingredients that you may or may not need to avoid if you are not using sulfates