My Hair Journey and How I Manage and Style My Curly Hair (#LoveYourCurls)

I was inspired to do a post about styling and loving my curls after viewing Dove’s “Love Your Curls” video:

I get teary eyed every time I watch it.  I wish I could talk to the school-age me and convince myself that curls are absolutely beautiful and that they mirror my personality – springy, happy, fun and a little bit crazy.  I think it’s important for all curly-haired girls to grow up knowing that curls are something to be proud of. My mom was always a fan of the curls, but I think it’s important for curly girls to have a father-figure who gives them positive feedback on their curly hair.  My beautiful niece has been blessed with a full head of curls and I complement her as much as I can whenever I get the chance to see her.  I know her dad and mom do the same.  I hope she doesn’t struggle the way I did…her curls are just SO perfect, it would be awful if she was ashamed and tried to hide them!  Here she is…these are real, folks!: Cady Curls3 Growing up, I loathed my hair.  It was huge, frizzy and out of control.  I remember sometimes losing hair clips, bobby pins and ponytails in my curls, only to find them the next day in the shower.  That’s how insane it was.  As you can see, I’ve had wild hair for quite a while:

Crazy Baby Hair

Because I wanted straight, straight, straight hair, I began getting it relaxed in salons.  The relaxing process got rid of a lot of the frizz, but it also got rid of A LOT of the curl, too.  Even with this relatively straight hair, I still pulled it back into a TIGHT ponytail…I’m talking so tight my head would hurt at the end of the day.  Come to think of it, my mom kept taking me back to the eye doctor because I had constant headaches and I’m beginning to think it must’ve been because my hair was SOOO tight.  I stopped getting it relaxed in salons after one of the hairstylists left some of the relaxer on my head and it burned my scalp.  I have a permanent bald patch on the back of my head now.  You’d think that would have been the wakeup call I needed to let my hair be what nature intended it to be, but no!  I relaxed my hair for years after that  The look was pretty, but it was a hassle, it damaged my hair, and it wasn’t me:

Straight Hair

In college, I finally got to the point where I didn’t leave the relaxer on for the full time it specified.  In doing so, I was able to keep a bit of the curl.  I had a bob, like the pictures above, for several years and when I was too lazy to straighten it out, I would leave it wet and then go back and curl any strands that were too straight.  I’d end up with something like this, which looks a lot like the way my hair looks now:

Slow Transition

I think doing this eased me into the logic that curls are okay.  It also helped that my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) liked my curly hair…he has curly hair himself, I call it prince-y hair because he looks like some kind of prince charming with it.  Once I moved to Houston in 2009, I finally decided to throw the relaxers away and grow it out naturally.  My hair grew pretty darn fast and I had a full head of natural curls for my wedding:

Wedding Curls

Once again, my lack of self-confidence reared it’s ugly head.  While getting a haircut, I mentioned to the stylist that the Houston humidity did a number on my hair; I’d walk outside to check the mail and then come back in with Troll hair.  He mentioned that he could do a Keratin straightening treatment that day, if I was interested.  I decided to go for it, and in the end, I was pleased with the results.  It still had some curl to it, but when it was blown straight, it was stick-straight.  I could wear my hair wavy or straight, it was easier to comb through, and it was supposed to keep my hair healthy.  It was great for a while, but my hair grew so fast with the keratin sealant that before long I had an inch or two of new growth…growth that was EXTREMELY curly and frizzy.  So, even if I straightened my hair, the roots would re-poof as soon as I stepped outdoors.  It was such a hot mess that I turned to what I knew best – relaxers.  I followed the directions and relaxed the new growth and then 5 minutes before the timer went off, I placed the remaining straightener on the rest of my hair.  After washing it, I realized my hair was now COMPLETELY straight.  No curl whatsoever.  I was a little shocked, but I’d finally achieved what I always wanted, right?

Straight Hair Keratin

Not so much.  It was great for a few months.  I went to Cancun with my new hair and I visited company headquarters shortly after that, and it was nice to be able to ditch the straightener for a little bit.  But I was completely out of my element.  I’d always had some kind of wave or curl, and now that there wasn’t anything, I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t know how to style it, I didn’t know which products to use, and on top of that, I was back in the routine of relaxing my hair every 6 weeks.  My hair was once again damaged.  I had split ends.  My hair was limp.  For the first time, I had to figure out how to make my hair seem more voluminous.  It sucked.  So I made a decision – I needed to grow my hair out again, which meant I would need to deal with my crazy afro roots and stick-straight ends until the afro roots were long enough for me to cut the straight stuff off.  It took a long time and before long I got frustrated and tired of waiting, so I cut about a foot off and dealt with the two inches of straight hair at the end of my curly strands.  I just recently cut off the last of the straight pieces.  It’s a long process, but I’m so glad I did it.  Having absolutely STRAIGHT, NO-CURL hair was such a bad experience for me; I truly, and finally, realized that it wasn’t all that I thought it would be.  I missed my curls so much, I was willing to stick it out and to learn how to truly manage and love my hair.

My mom sent me a link to http://www.naturallycurly.com/.  I explored the site and they had a lot of good tips, product suggestions, curl quizzes, discussion boards, and how-to videos and links.  The three most important things I learned were that frizzy, dry hair can be repaired by changing a few key things:

  1. Switch from shampoo to a cleansing conditioner (a.k.a. the “curly girl method”, “co-washing” or “conditioner washing”).  Learn more here.
  2. Combing/brushing dry hair…I get the dreaded Triangle Hair, or as the Naturally Curly site calls it, “Pyramid Head”, whenever I do this.
  3. You use a regular bath towel to dry your hair.  I switched to the Turbie Twist.  You can buy them here.  They’re also available at CVS, Kroger, Bed, Bath & Beyond, etc.

You can check out the full list of no-no’s here.  They even had a great article on transitioning hair that has been relaxed, Brazilian blow-outed, or Japanese-straightened, back to its natural state.  Check it out here.

It’s been a year since I made the big cut, and my hair is finally back to normal.  As I mentioned in my first post, it’s still wild sometimes and it has a mind of its own, but I’m seriously happy with it.  Since I did the big cut, I haven’t straightened it once.  I can wash my hair, throw some mousse on it, stick a clip on top and I’m good to go.  It dries incredibly fast now, so I can walk out of the house with somewhat wet hair and it’ll air dry in half an hour, or less.

Here are the steps I follow to get my hair just right:

In the shower, I use a regular conditioner or a co-wash conditioner, such as this one here, to clean my hair following the Naturally Curly – Curly Girl Method.  After the co-washing, I usually put in another conditioner but don’t rinse it out.  Lately, I’ve been using the Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Replenishing Conditioner (smells like citrus), Dr. Miracle’s “Feel It” Formula Intensive Spot Serum Hair & Scalp Treatment (which isn’t really a conditioner, but I treat it like one…smells like peppermint), Kinky Curly’s Knot Today Conditioner, or SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie (smells SO good).

Curly Conditioners

Once I get out of the shower, I comb out my hair with a wide tooth comb and then place it into a Turbie Twist.  I leave the Turbie Twist on there until I’m ready to style my hair, which is usually about 10 minutes after I get out of the shower.

Then, I use some mousse – I like Herbal Essences’ Totally Twisted Curl Boosting Mousse (holds hair, but leaves it feeling soft), or some gel – I like Kinky-Curly Curling Custard (works really well, but doesn’t leave hair feeling super crunchy).  I let my hair air-dry, which may not be ideal for everyone, but it works really well for me and doesn’t damage my hair.  If I’m in a hurry, I’ll do my makeup in a room with an overhead fan so that my hair dries faster or just leave the house with damp hair…my hair usually dries rather quickly if I’m going outside, roll the windows down in my car and/or turn the AC up on high.  If you do decide to blow-dry, I recommend using a diffuser.

Curly Gel and Mousse

This is what my hair looks like with just the mousse and conditioner in it:

Curly Hair Front

If I don’t have the time to let my hair dry and style it afterwards, then I usually twist the front pieces of my hair back and place it in clip or two.  If I can style it afterwards, I usually do the following:

I do the routine above and air dry my hair.  Once it’s dry, I’m left with mostly curls in the back and on the sides, but a bit of frizziness or fluff in the front.

Curly Hair Side and Back

You can spray the areas you plan on heat styling with a heat protectant product, but since I don’t often style my hair with heat, I usually don’t have any on hand.  I plug in and turn on a ½ barrel curling iron and/or a ¼ inch barrel curling iron.  I grab a somewhat small section of hair, or a section that looks like it wanted to be a ringlet but didn’t quite get there, and spray it with hair spray OR place a thin layer of the Kinky-Curly Curling Custard gel onto the section.  Before it dries completely, I determine the direction the curl or wave pattern appears to be going in, and then curl the section in that direction until the heat from the iron dries the hair.  In my experience, curling the hair in the direction it naturally wants to curl in keeps the curl intact longer than going in the opposite direction.  Once dry, I unravel the hair from the iron and then grab another section.

Curl Steps Collage 1

Pointing out the frizziness in the front part of my hair.  Selecting the first piece of hair to curl.  Curling it (after hair spraying it first).  Holding out a piece of hair to be hair sprayed. 

Curl Steps Collage 2

Holding out a piece of hair to be hair sprayed.  Curling that piece and finding more frizzy sections.

Curl Steps Collage 3

Demonstrating how my natural curls are similar in size to the curling-iron curls.  Finding a few stray frizzies in the back and curling them.

I like to curl the hair on top of my head, too, if my roots have fallen a bit flat and I need some balance between the volume at the bottom of my head and the volume at the top.

Curl Steps Collage 4

If you find that your curls are sticking together and are too spirally, simply twist it a bit in the direction the curl is going in while slowly pull on it at the end. Curls Stuck Together

I like to curl the front of my hair, which is shorter than the rest of my hair, in curly bangs…I am a huge fan of the movie Dirty Dancing, and love Jennifer Grey’s curly bangs in the movie.  Although this might not work for everyone, I think it looks really cute!  Plus, it hides my rather large forehead and this Angeline Jolie-like vein I have going down the center of it…I should feel lucky that anything on my body resembles hers, but it’s a real pain in the butt to try to cover that sucker up…I’ll save that for another post. J. Grey and Angie

That’s pretty much it!  To make it look more natural, you can alternate between the ½ barrel and the ¼ barrel so that your hair has curls in more than one size.  I think the key to making it look really good is making sure it blends in with the rest of your curls.  Since the natural ringlets I had on the side and the back of my head were around ½ in diameter, then the styled, ½ inch heat styled curls don’t look out of place.  Here’s the final look:

Final Hair

I hope you all like it and find my suggestions useful.  Everyone’s hair is different, so some of these products and techniques may not be the best fit for your type of curls, but you shouldn’t give up!  There are a ton of products out there, and since the natural curl-community is growing, I expect more products to come onto the market in the future.  If you have any personal tips, tricks, or stories,  please leave a message in the comments section!  I’d love to hear from you.

Take care,

Lauren

12 thoughts on “My Hair Journey and How I Manage and Style My Curly Hair (#LoveYourCurls)

  1. Great tips for curly haired girls! As I don’t have ANY curls, I have always been a bit envious of you girls who do. I guess we always think the grass is greener on the other side…personally I think your curls are gorgeous and you have absolutely no reason to straighten them! I am betting that your personality is just as fun as your curls!!☺️

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    • Thank you, Mary, for the sweet note! I’d be curious if any of the products or techniques help straight haired girls achieve the curly look. Let me know if you try anything out!!

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  2. I am so glad you have learned to embrace your curls. I remember how tight you used to wear your ponies and how long you would obsess over them. Those curls are so beautiful. I am jealous with this baby fine straight as a rail hair. In all these pictures with curls, you look so much like your mom. Just beautiful. I love you and your curls. Aunt Val.

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    • Awww!!!! Thank you so much, Aunt Val!!! I love you, too! I was just saying the same thing to mom the other day. It doesn’t matter what position I put my head in, I always see her in every picture. It’s so crazy!!…but good. 🙂

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  3. Hi Lauren, thanks for the tips and products. My hair is wavy curly. Straighter in dry climates, frizzy in damp climates. My mom loved to fix my hair when I was little but I was not an easy “client”, I wouldn’t sit still. I was in my late teens before I figured out how to use a wide tooth comb instead of a brush. Right now I wear my hair pulled back. I had to laugh when you told how you did that. I can relate. I mostly do it because I don’t know what else to do with it. I’m looking for products to try as I plan to cut it soon so it’s just collar length, loose and curly. Yea.

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    • Hi Chris! Thanks so much for your note!!! I think a lot of curly girls resort to the pony because we’re just at a loss for what to do with our hair. I still pull my hair up in a ponytail when I’m in a hurry or if it’s just going bonkers, but I’m slowly trying to break that habit. Having short hair helps a lot, since its harder to pull up into a pony. I realized that I was more concerned about other people’s perception of me and my hair than I was about what I liked or was comfortable with. It’s a long road to self/hair acceptance, but I guarantee you’ll feel liberated, happy, and simply yourself when you reach your full curl potential. Please keep me posted on your journey!!! I’d love to hear what works or doesn’t work for you. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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  4. I can so relate! I have had a love/hate relationship with my curls for as long as I can remember. On top of afro like curls, I was an extremely tenderheaded child…I would sob when my mother would COMB not brush, ugh…comb my hair so badly that she cut all of my hair off at an early age into a pixie! YUCK! However, it did make getting ready for school less stressful for all…=/
    As an older preteen/teen I had control over my own head and let it grow. Which during the 80’s was perfect because BIG hair was in style! hahaha And boy oh boy, did I have BIG hair! As an adult, I experimented with lots of cuts, but must say I’ve learned to embrace & appreciated my curls. The wilder looking, the better.
    I, too have used every product known to man…my current favorites are DevaCurl products. They aren’t heavy at all and really work! I have bouncy curls that don’t look (for feel) wet and crunchy! lol They smell wonderful, too!
    I love your hair, Buffy! The cut/style is sooo cute on you!!! I haven’t tried aiding my curls with the curling iron, but will try that this weekend. My hair is very afro-esque and I really like it, but I think using the curling iron and defining the curls will give me a more polished/sophisticated look…and I probably need that. =]
    I so enjoy your blog! Love you!
    xoxo,
    Metra

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    • Oh my gravy!!! I’ve ALWAYS loved your hair. It’s PERFECT! I was just thinking exactly the same thing the other day about the 80s. If I’d been born just a bit earlier, maybe I wouldn’t have been so bent on making it straight. But growing up in the 90’s and 00’s, EVERYONE had straight hair…I felt like stick straight hair was “in” for like 15 years, and we’re just now getting out of that mentality. I will definitely try the DevaCurl products. I’ve heard good things about them in the past on the naturallycurly.com website. I’ll keep you posted! Love you! 🙂

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  5. That video brought tears to my eyes! So sad to hear those beautiful little girls talk about their hair that way! I was the girl with straight hair who got perms as soon as my mom decided I was old enough, so that I could have curly hair! They didn’t always take so well and left me with some curly/frizzy hair and a lot of straight strands! We always seem to want what we don’t have. For the record, your hair is BEAUTIFUL! I’m loving your blog!

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    • Silvana!!!!! Thanks so much for reading! I know EXACTLY what you mean…it just breaks my heart to hear those tiny girls say all those sad things about their hair! I agree with you – we do always seem to want what we don’t have…It’s such a shame to be 28 and now just realizing that what I had all along wasn’t half bad. I’m so glad you like my blog and I hope you continue to read!! 🙂 🙂

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  6. Ugh- I would love to have your curls. I have the complete opposite problem with my stickstraight hair that is a battle to get to do anything. Also? Your husband looks like John Mayer.

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    • Thank you, Deena! LOL about the husband comment. My sister says the same thing! Your hair looks lovely, Deena! I think the most important thing is loving your hair the way it is naturally. 🙂

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