As a South-American, curls have been an inevitable part of my life. Truth be told, embracing my curls has not been easy. I’ve gone through periods where I would straighten my hair every day, or simply pin it up to avoid the unwanted look of frizzy, unruly curls.
But it is part of human nature to want what we don’t have, and I’ve had girls with beautiful straight hair tell me several times that they wish they had my curls. So I decided to be true to myself and honor my natural traits.
Looking for a simple, natural solution to the woes of wavy locks took me through a round of experiments, which finally resulted in a recipe for curl care that I’m happy to share. First, let’s start fresh with a washing:
Washing your curls
Since curly hair tends to be drier, it may be helpful to reduce washing to once a week. Your natural oils begin to benefit your hair if you stop stripping them away, although you still need to wash regularly to remove built up products, oils and particles. Take your time and let your scalp adjust gradually to a new washing schedule.
Using a shampoo with natural moisturizing properties and following with conditioner can also help keep your curls healthy, and detangling is much easier when a conditioner is used.
When choosing your conditioner, try to look for one with natural ingredients such as argan or avocado oil, aloe vera, coconut oil or shea butter. To prevent an oily look on the scalp, conditioner should be applied from just above the middle of your hair strands to the ends.
Tip 1: Massage the conditioner in to cover each strand, and let it sit for at least three minutes. It is a common mistake to rinse conditioner out too soon.
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Tip 2: Before getting out of the shower, try to remove as much water as possible from your hair by patting and squeezing with a damp washcloth. Avoid twisting your hair as this can damage or weaken it.
Tip 3: Untangle your hair while still wet, with a wide-tooth comb.
Tip 4: Using the right towel will prevent damage to vulnerable, wet hair. While many suggest microfiber towels, a more environmentally friendly option is a cotton knit — anything from an old T-shirt to a specially designed T-shirt Hair Towel Wrap will do. To encourage wave formation, press the curls towards the head rather than rubbing.
Style your curls naturally
In exploring natural curl care products, I found that an oil-based curl cream offers well-defined curls while reducing frizz, yet the finish is dulled. Water-based curl gel, however, keeps curls shiny and provides extra hold. For the best of both worlds, I combined them:
First, you need to make an important ingredient: Flaxseed gel
- 2 cups of water
- ¼ cup of whole flax seeds
- Bring water to a boil.
- Add the flax seeds.
- Stir and boil for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens.
- Remove from heat and strain out the seeds.
- Let the gel stand for about 30 minutes until completely cooled.
(You will end up with much more than enough for one recipe — use the extra to refresh your curls between wash days.)
DIY product: combo curl care
Ingredients: (for about 1.5 ounces, enough for two applications)
- 2 tsp of refined shea butter (raw is too grainy and has a not-always-pleasant odor)
- ¼ tsp coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp of flaxseed gel
- 1 Tbsp of pure aloe vera
- Warm the shea butter and coconut oil in a double boiler or instant pot until a homogeneous liquid is obtained.
- Remove the mixture from the heat, and while it is still liquid, add the flaxseed gel and the pure aloe vera.
- Add some drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)
- Whisk until the mixture becomes white in color and creamy in consistency.
This combined recipe gives both the shiny hold from a gel, plus the body and supplements from a cream. Separately, neither was entirely satisfying; yet this recipe has reliably pleasing results — it leaves curls shiny and moisturized, without being stiff or heavy at all.
Styling and drying your curls
The best time to apply combo curl care is right after showering when the hair is wet. A good application of combo curl care on wash day will ensure easier styling between wash days.
Divide the hair into manageable sections with clips, then rub the product between the palms of your hands until it becomes clear and fluid. Apply the product in one section at a time.
Tip 1: If your hair tends to be oily, avoid applying combo curl care to the roots. An inch or two from the scalp is a good starting point.
Tip 2: When applying combo curl care, start pressing the curls towards the head to make them take shape. Pressing the curls from different angles can give them more volume. After applying the product to each section, bend the body to both sides, allowing the hair to fall freely and then pressing the curls again.
Tip 3: Let the hair air dry or use a diffuser on low to medium heat. A diffuser helps to preserve the curl pattern without the damaging heat and air flow of a normal blow dryer.
Protect your curls during sleep
Curly girls know that curls can go from perfect to shapeless overnight. This is mostly due to friction with our pillowcase.
There are three ways to prevent curls from getting frizzy and squashed:
- Pineapple updo: Tie up your hair in a loose ponytail on top of your head tol prevent your curls from getting flat. Make sure you don’t tie it too tightly, as this can result in mis-shapen curls.
- Fabric wrap: A wide headband or scarf adds extra protection to pinned up hair, keeping curls in place and preventing the frizz caused by friction.
- Sleep in silk: Silk, a smoother and less porous material than cotton, can help both with reducing frizz and maintaining hydration. Cover your pineapple updo with a silk bonnet or scarf, or invest in a silk pillowcase, which will benefit your skin as well!
Refreshing your curls between wash days
To restore your curls to the perfect shape they had before you went to bed, some moisture is needed. There are two ways to approach this.
- Water or leave-in conditioner: If you applied plenty of combo curl care on wash day, a simple splash of water on your curls will reactivate the product and allow you to reshape them. For lasting moisture, use a leave-in conditioner. To ensure good coverage, divide your hair into manageable sections and mist each one, gently reshaping and pressing your curls as you go.
- Add more combo curl care: If your initial application was light and your curls need help, another application may be necessary for reshaping curls (moistened first, as suggested above).
Above all: cultivate inner beauty
In the process of taming your unruly waves, remember that your own conduct and demeanor affect your appearance in a profound way, while physical beauty is inherently impermanent and prone to fade over time. Writer Maya Angelou once said:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If your heart is good and kind, your inner beauty – a timeless and eternal trait – will naturally manifest itself on the outside.