Around the time when I turned 30, my straight hair became wavier and now, it’s definitely curly. This means that I’ve had to change not just hair products but hair care routines as well, and there’s been a learning curve. (This is made harder by the fact that somehow, curly hair has become a statement and mainstream product lines just aren’t helpful, not to talk of hairdressers!) Now that I mostly know what I’m doing, I figured I’d share some resources in case it helps other people out there. (Some of these links are affiliate links, which means that as long as my Amazon store is up and running, if you use it to make a purchase, I’ll get some money off my next purchase.)
I started reading online about care for curly hair, especially the Curly Girl method (more on that in a moment) – namely cowashing more often, and eliminating sulfates (too drying for curly hair) and silicone (too heavy for curls) from hair products. But even with the proper technique, some products work better than others. In the spirit of thorough reviewing, I’ll name-check products I tried even if I didn’t end up liking them; feel free to skip ahead to the paragraph where I get back to the Curly Girl method (in bold font).
Up until last fall, I was using a lot of Organix products – specifically the Quenching + Coconut Curls shampoo and conditioner, along with my trusty argan oil Defining Cream. (For some reason, though, the Curling Hair Butter never really did it for me, as it was either too heavy if I left it in or not enough if I rinsed it out.) I still like those products, though I realize now that they sometimes leave my hair frizzy, perhaps because they contain alcohol.
I mentioned Moroccanoil here, but I actually first heard of it there. I started using their Original Treatment with argan oil on my now-curly hair, to tame frizz. I really liked it, but I’ve since decided that it’s not necessarily any better than the Biosilk Silk Therapy Original Serum I’d been using on my straight hair, and that one is certainly less expensive, so I think I’ll stick to that for now. (For the record, the Moroccanoil Frizz Control spray was no help whatsoever.) I still have more frizz than I’d like, but at least this helps a lot on dry hair.
I tried Herbal Essences Naked Cleansing Conditioner, which was fine but a bit unremarkable. I wanted to love L’Oréal’s EverCurl Cleansing Balm, but even though I liked the results, I wasn’t crazy about the smell. I also tried Joico Co+Wash Curl, but I felt like my hair was too dry after using it (maybe because it contains alcohol?), and I find pressurized canisters impractical (they don’t travel well, for example, and it’s hard to gauge how much product is left at any given time).
Then I focused on hydrating my hair. I haven’t had luck with hydrating masks; I tried Garnier Whole Blends Hydrating Mask (coconut water and vanilla milk formula), but it felt too heavy for my hair. The next step would be a homemade mask with something like coconut oil, but I’ve been putting that off because it sounds messy – I’ll get around to it eventually, I guess. As a post-shower hair gel, I tried but actually did not like Kérastase K Curl Fever – it was hard to dose and I usually ended up with crunchy hair, which I hate even if the curls are decent – and Dippity Do’s Girls With Curls Curl Defining Cream – also less than ideal, and contains alcohol so leaves some frizz. In any event, I’ve now found something that works even better for my hair.
Enter Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey et al., which seriously changed my life (I know it sounds trite, but I really mean it). The corresponding website is DevaCurl.com. I had read a lot online about how to care for curly hair before that. There are other websites that provide both information and products, like NaturallyCurly.Com, but despite my best intentions, I could never figure out if I was a 2B or another kind of 2. But now, with the Curly Girl handbook, I know I have wavy hair and I have clear instructions to follow for my specific hair type. I couldn’t implement everything all at once, but every time I changed one thing in my routine to follow these instructions, my hair got better. I used their technique to squeeze water out of my hair, and the curls were so much nicer already! I switched to a cotton knit instead of a terry cloth towel, and my curls were even nicer (I ended up buying jersey knit pillowcases in colors that match my terry cloth bath towels and use those on my hair). And I know what to look for in hair products. The book also has chapters for men and children, as well as white/grey curly hair, plus tips on cutting and styling curly hair. I strongly recommend it if your hair is curly and you’re not sure how to care for it!
The products that I found and liked enough to use are from two collections. First, from the DevaCurl line for wavy hair, the ”low-poo” cleanser, conditioner, and anti-frizz styling cream. These are on the pricier side, but packages tend to be cheaper (I got one as a gift and bought a second during a 25%-off sale). On the lower-price end of things is the Hair Milk collection by Carol’s Daughter. Predictably, the leave-in moisturizer is too heavy for my wavy curls, but the cleansing conditioner, the (alcohol-free) styling gel, and the cream-to-serum lotion are working out really well. (Sadly, they seem outrageously expensive to procure in Canada…)
As far as hair style goes, I had grown out my bangs already, since with hair as thick as mine and curly to boot, I felt like they were too much to maintain. (It’s actually funny how many people have a love/hate relationship with their bangs!) That being said, my otherwise very nice hairdresser didn’t know how to cut curly hair, despite having naturally curly hair herself (she always straightened hers). So I used the DevaCurl website to find a stylist who could cut curly hair, and I am thrilled with my new hairdresser! It’s amazing how much of a difference the proper technique can make. For the record, she used Redken’s Frizz Dismiss line on me, and I particularly liked the hair mask. I haven’t found the time to go see her since the Fox was born, but I’ve booked an appointment for next month and can’t wait!
Hopefully this post will help some curly-haired people out there love their hair again!
[Update, August 2018: I wanted to add a few products to this list. First, as a less-expensive alternative to Deva’s no-poo and conditioner, I recommend Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle shampoo and conditioner. The tea tree smell is nice, though it’s obviously not the same as the grapefruit I enjoyed so much in Deva’s no-poo. Since neither was easily attainable in Canada, though, I started using Live Clean products and am really enjoying them. I still use Dippity Do’s Girls with Curls Curl Defining Cream, but I also like Whole Blends’ Smoothing Oil with coconut oil and cocoa oil on wet hair. The occasional coconut oil hair mask doesn’t hurt, either.]
[Update, February 2019: More products that I enjoy! From the DevaCurl line; the Melt Into Moisture Matcha Green Tea Butter Conditioning Mask instead of (or after) cleansing and conditioning; the Supercream Coconut Curl Styler on wet hair; and the Set It Free Moisture Lock Finishing Spray, as a refresher on day 2. That being said, DevaCurl products are expensive – I only get them on sale, and even then, it seems like a lot of money. Enter Curls’ Crème Brule Whipped Curl Cream, which I use on wet hair and let air dry. It helps tame frizz while keeping my hair soft, and the smell is unobtrusive. I buy it at Target, and it’s much more affordable than DevaCurl! I also quite like this cleansing conditioner, but ended up getting rid of this styling gel that made my hair too stiff.]
[Update, August 2019: I tried Felix Hair Care Repair Mask, which I leave on while I shower and then rinse off, and it’s great at taming frizz! It leaves my hair soft and doesn’t have a strong fragrance. Plus, it’s made in Montreal.]
[Update, January 2020: I tried CurlMix, but despite taking the quiz to figure out what line I should use, the products were too much for my hair. I then tried LUS, which is a Canadian brand that you can have delivered in the U.S. as well. I started with the travel kit and loved it so much that I’m now using the full-size 3-step system. I use it no more than once a week, because of the price, and rely on the Carol’s Daughter and Trader Joe’s mentioned above.]