A lot of people are surprised to learn that I have not always embraced my curls. In fact, I have only worn my hair consistently curly for about 6 years. Embracing my natural hair texture has been one of the best decisions I’ve made when it comes to my beauty routine. My hair is shinier, more voluminous, bouncier, and all-around healthier since going natural. I am all about encouraging other people to embrace their natural hair, and I’ve learned some tips from my own experience and from getting my hair did by curly hair specialists. I’m happy to share some of my biggest curl tips to help you through transitioning, cutting, and styling your natural hair!
BE PATIENT DURING THE TRANSITION PERIOD
photo credit @hispaneek on IG
If you’ve been regularly using heat tools or chemical straightening treatments, expect that your hair will go through a transition phase where your damaged, straighter hair will grow out and your natural, curlier texture will gradually grow in. Many people with tighter curl patterns choose to do the “big chop” when they’re midway through their transition phase, when they make the decision to cut off most or all of their damaged length, leaving behind only their natural texture and a shorter haircut. This way, their hair has one consistent curl pattern and looks much better overall. If you have a looser curl pattern, you likely won’t need to go through the big chop, but you can expect that your hair will have more inconsistencies in its curl pattern for a while and will probably change as you continue to grow out your natural texture.
A PROPER CURLY HAIR CUT IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST
photo credits @mahrithemaven @Sara.parker.does.hair @windybirdrvahair
I say that 50% of good-looking curly hair is a good cut, and the other 50% is the right products and method for cleansing and styling. Not all hairstylists are created equal. If you don’t already have one, look for a stylist that specializes in curly hair. Yes, that is a thing. Curly haircuts should always begin with a dry cut so the stylist can see how your curls lay and behave and shape accordingly. The vast majority of your curly haircut will happen before the stylist washes and dries your hair. After the dry cut, a good curly stylist will wash and condition your hair and then either use a diffuser OR sit you under one of the old-fashioned dome 1950s hair dryers. Depending on your curl pattern and hair type, they might put little metal clips around the crown of the head to provide some lift and volume to your curls as they dry. Once dry again, they will do a touch-up shape of any scraggly or rebellious curls that weren’t shaped during the first phase of your cut.
photo credits @stefanieraehair @featherandsage_rva @hungryheartrva
If you’re in Richmond, VA the two best salons & stylists for curly girls are:
- Parlor Salon in the Arts District
- Mahri Jones (@mahrithemaven)
- Sara Parker (@sara.parker.does.hair)
- Wendy Bouldin (@windybirdrvahair)
- Belle & Beau Co. in the Fan
- Stefanie Rae (@stefanieraehair)
- Erin Pfefferkorn (@featherandsage_rva)
- Kate Montgomery (@hungryheartrva)
If you’re not in RVA, here’s a super easy tip to decide if a stylist you’ve found is truly a curl expert: check out their Instagram and look at the hair textures that they’ve cut! And of course if they’ve got a website, peruse that, too.
THE RIGHT PRODUCTS
Just like hair stylists, not all curly hair products are created equal. Here’s what you should look for:
- For cleansers: look for products that are sulfate-free and low to no-suds. Also look for products that contain little to no drying alcohols. Stripping moisture is a big no-no for natural hair. Natural oils are not inherently your enemy, it’s a matter of how much oil is on your scalp and hair. Find a cleanser that has naturally hydrating ingredients like aloe and other botanical hydrosols. Check out our Oat & Aloe Curly Hair Cleansers, which uses gluten-free oat water & organic homemade aloe vera gel as its base. It also uses epsom salt to provide both lightweight moisture and a little boost of cleansing power.
- For conditioners: it’s really important to understand that oil and butter-based ingredients will seal in moisture, but they alone are not enough to properly moisturize and hydrate the hair and scalp – you need products that are primarily water-based with the support of a few key oil and/or butter-based ingredients. Yep, you heard me – straight up oils are NOT conditioner. Trust me on this one. As much as possible, look for silicone-free conditioners. In general, silicones are film-forming and weigh down your hair. Conditioners heavy on silicones are generally not conducive to bouncy, lightweight, voluminous curls, especially if your curl pattern loves when you don’t wash out all of your conditioner. Also, look for conditioners free of drying alcohols which are often used as “penetration enhancers.” Check out our Nourishing Curl Conditioner, which uses organic aloe vera gel & organic homemade coconut milk for its water-soluble base, a lightweight and moisturizing fatty alcohol (which behaves like an oil, not like an alcohol) as well as smaller amounts of safflower oil, castor oil, and coconut oil.
- For masks & treatments: Just like cleansers & conditioners, look for sulfate-free and silicone-free options. And again, make sure that they have a higher concentration of water-soluble vs. oil-soluble ingredients. Make sure that they are pH balanced on the acidic side (ideally between 4 and 7) to fully close the hair cuticle, add shine, and protect from damage. Some mask and treatment products are on the alkaline/basic side and while they might provide a super deep clean, they will also weaken the hair cuticle. Check out our Clay Detox Mask for Curly Hair which provides both a deep clean and deep condition, and it’s meant to be followed up with our Post-Wash Herbal Lemon Rinse which closes the cuticle and breaks through product buildup.
- For styling products: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – silicone-free and alcohol-free are the way to go, and look for products that have a higher concentration of water-soluble vs. oil-soluble ingredients. For your best curls, look for products that will offer both moisture and definition. For additional texture and hold, look for alcohol-free spray options. Check out our bestselling Flaxseed & Oat Protein Curly Hair Gel, Moisture Locking Curl Spray, and Salt Texturizing Hair Spray.
THE RIGHT METHOD
This is where we’re gonna get nitty gritty, y’all! Now of course there are additional tips for specific curl patterns, but this is the general how-to for all you curly peeps out there.
- Cleansing. Soak your hair, then put your curl-friendly cleanser (like our Oat & Aloe Curly Hair Cleanser) into your palms, then dot it around your scalp to help distribute product evenly without having to use a ton. Use your fingers to work the cleanser around your scalp and roots. Once you’ve massaged it all over, thoroughly rinse, and make sure your hair is soaked.
- Conditioning & Rinsing. With your hair super saturated with water, take your conditioner (like our Nourishing Curl Conditioner) and finger-comb from the middle to the ends of your hair. For coarser and/or denser curl patterns, you can work your conditioner closer to your scalp if needed. Then, squeeze the conditioned hair in sections – it should make that good mac ‘n cheese squelchy noise. Let sit for 1-2 minutes.
Water water water & more water is so important to achieving moisture in curly hair #squishthatconditionerin 🚿 Work your water soluble conditioner in soaking wet hair, & to encourage curl clumping use your fingers to detangle your hair. If you are using a high quality conditioner there is no need for an actual leave in conditioner in your styling routine✌🏽 Curlfriend: Rafael @skimaskraf 🌻• • • • • #hairbysunflowersandscissors #curlspecialist #loveyourcurls #fairycurlmother #curls #curlyhair #naturalhair #hairbrained_official #devacurl #curlyguys #menwithcurls #curlymen #buzzfeed #esteticamagazine #hairvideos #devacurl #cosmoprofbeauty #devacurlpro #hairtips #curlyhaircare #naturallycurly #curlynaturalhair
How much you rinse out depends on your hair type and curl pattern – coarser, denser, thicker, and/or tighter curls benefit from leaving in more conditioner, while hair that is finer with looser curls usually does better with washing out at least some.
Now, the Bright Body method is a little different in that we have our Post-Wash Herbal Lemon Rinse for use after Conditioner or even alone in-between full wash days. The benefit of our Rinse is that it uses pH to nourish your scalp, fully close the hair cuticle, protect your hair from damage, add shine, reduce buildup, and gently clean without stripping. If you love to leave in your conditioner, try the Rinse before the Conditioner. If you’re a conditioner washer-outer, try the Rinse after the Conditioner.
- Styling on Wash Days. While your hair is soaking wet, take your gel or cream styling product (like our Flaxseed & Oat Protein Curly Hair Gel) and put it in your palm and gently rub your hands together.
Turn your head upside down and scrunch the product into your hair in sections. Again, you should hear that good mac ‘n cheese squelch. Once you’ve got the product throughout your hair, use an old cotton T-shirt - never, ever a terry cloth towel – and scrunch your hair upwards in small sections to remove excess water and help distribute product evenly.
Flip your head right side up again, and use your fingers to part your hair and lay your curls out as you would like them to dry. If you have a looser curl pattern, you might like placing some small alligator clips (like these) at the root of the hair around your crown to create more volume and lift. Let air dry or diffuse.
Diffusing curls with the proper settings & using the right technique when using it is key to big & beautiful curls 🌻 The diffuser attachment is from my fave @xtavaofficial 🌻• • • • • #hairbysunflowersandscissors #curlspecialist #loveyourcurls #fairycurlmother #curlyhair #wavyhair #hairbrained #cosmoprofbeauty #naturalcurlyhair #naturalhair #curlyhairstylist #hairstylistlife #curls #hairtips
- Styling between Wash Days. When you wake up in the morning with smooshed, frizzy hair, you’ve got a couple options for how to revive your curls:
OPTION 1. Use a leave-in conditioner product (like our Moisture Locking Curl Spray) and apply from the mid to ends of your hair. Lightly mist water over your hair as you separate and move the curls where you would like them to lay. For additional texture, mist a texturizing product (like our Salt Texturizing Hair Spray) over your hair. Let air dry or diffuse.
OPTION 2. This slightly unorthodox method is a favorite of my curly stylist, Kate Montgomery. Use a wide-tooth comb or brush to, yes, brush out your curls. Then use a leave-in conditioner product (like our Moisture Locking Curl Spray) and apply from the mid to ends of your hair. Lightly mist water over your hair as you separate and move the curls where you would like them to lay. For additional texture, mist a texturizing product (like our Salt Texturizing Hair Spray) over your hair. Let air dry or diffuse.