Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ask Design Mom — Curly Hair



Ask Design Mom Question:

I have to know about your hair! I have naturally curly hair as well and I NEED to know what products you use in your hair. (Shampoo, Conditioner, Gel or Mousse... seems so personal but all of these things affect the result.) I have wasted tons of money on so many products and they all give different results. Also, do you air dry or diffuse? Thanks, Missy

Design Mom Answer:
Thanks for the question, Missy. I actually find this question in my inbox frequently. And then I totally nod my head in sympathy because as a fellow curly headed person I totally know the frustration of figuring out a hair process and knowing how to deal with curls in all sorts of situations (like humid New York vs. bone dry Denver).

Here's the basic process that works for me: In the shower, I shampoo lightly and then heavily condition and let the conditioner soak in for a few minutes while I'm soaping up. I'm fairly relaxed about products — something luxurious from the salon is always a treat, but I'm equally satisfied with a variety of drugstore brands. Right now, my favorite is Infusium because the conditioner is really thick.

After the shower, I gently(!) towel dry my hair. I don't run my fingers through it or brush or comb it — the key is to not separate the curls. Next, I fill my palm with a mix of leave-in conditioner and hair gel — again, I'm not too particular about brands — and work the combo through my hair. (Note: don't brush or comb or pull your fingers through your hair to work in the product, just kind of moosh/scrunch it in everywhere.)

Then I let my hair air-dry till it's about 75% dry — while I put on my makeup and get dressed. Finally I flip my head upside down and use a hair-dryer with a diffuser to finish drying the roots. Diffusing with my hair upside down gives more lift at the roots so the curls don't look like they're dragging.


Last two tips: 1) I only get my hair fully wet every 3rd or 4th day. For showers during non-shampoo days, I just pull it up into a bun so it doesn't get wet. 2) At hair appointments, I make sure to keep my layers trimmed — especially around my face. Otherwise the curls get too heavy and my hair forms a gigantic triangle.

And that's it. The book Curly Girl helped me quite a bit in how I approach my hair. I don't follow all of its guidelines, but it's definitely a great place to start if you're frustrated with your curls (or your child's curls). In fact, if you like it, you could totally give a copy to your hairdresser.

What about you Fellow Curly Girls? Do you have any favorite haircare products or haircare tips?

Images of curly haired peeps from Bumble & Bumble.

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33 Comments:

Anonymous Monica said...

I use a smoothing balm in my hair when it's wetand then let it air dry. I also take some of the pieces in the front and twist around my finger so atleast those face framing curls look nice. My hair is straighter at the roots and curlier underneath so this really helps. I like the MOP brand curly hair products, especially the next day curl revive spray since I also only wash every few days.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 12:11:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Ali said...

My sister and I both have naturally curly hair and get asked the same question. How do we do it? Our secret is mousse and air dry. And you are right about no combs or finger seperating. Just scrunch. The brands we like are Herbal Essence and Garnier. yup!The cheap stuff. Also, if you have a good hairdresser layering is key (to avoid the dreaded triangle hair!)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 12:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jaime said...

I am Curly Girl all the say -- no shampoo or silicones for me! I use Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee and Kinky-Curly Curling Custard. Only Suave Naturals conditioner for washing and conditioning.

Occasionally, I will use the Suave Naturals or Clarifying shampoo if I feel extra dirty :)

I can't live without my diffuser.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 12:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jolena said...

I love TRESemme's curl boost mousse and air drying. I have super thick hair, so diffusing is just annoying because it takes forever. I usually comb my hair before I put the mousse in and scrunch it, but I'll have to try not doing that and see what happens. The great thing about curls is they do something different and interesting every day. Roll with it! All the straight-haired girls wish their hair would do that!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 12:39:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nancy said...

Mousse for curly hair (and sometimes some creamy leave in conditioner) and diffuser are my choices :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 12:41:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anne said...

Using volumizer at my roots changed my life. OK, not really, but it does keep away the dreaded triangle look.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 12:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger kaitlin said...

i'm with ya on the fact that i don't wash it every day...every 3 or 4 days works for me. and even then i don't use shampoo unless it feels extra gross.

i just use regular drug store gel, herbal essence, and put it in when its wet.

my hair is CRAZY curly, like black girl curly and so i haven't cut it in years. i'm too scared! i once cut off just a LITTLE bit but a little bit makes such a huge difference because of the weight difference! that's my problem, is the hair cut. haven't figured out how to master that yet!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 1:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger channing said...

One of the best tips for curly hair - when you're gently pat-drying your hair just out of the shower, use an old t-shirt rather than a towel. MUCH less friction means MUCH less frizz.

And if you're using product, you can scrunch it in before squishing with the t-shirt. works great.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 1:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Erica said...

I use moussse and the air dry/upside-down dry to give it some volume. I tried to not brush my hair after my shower but it made my hair frizzier! So first thing I do when I'm done with the shower is to brush my hair with a soaking wet brush. I spritz my hair the days I don't wash it because it gets flat from sleep.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 1:23:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Cyn said...

I wash my hair once a week, but condition whenever I'm in the shower with Mint 365 from Whole Foods. For styling, I use a wide tooth comb and put on Beyond the Zone Noodle Head Noodle Head Curling Cream, then air dry.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 2:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Design Mom said...

So many great ideas! I'm taking notes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 2:28:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read the Curly Girl book too and thought it provided some good advice (don't shampoo every day). Ouidad.com also provides some advice. I once received their ouidad haircut. I thought it was kind of expensive for the cut (~$70), though the stylist did provide good tips as to how to obtain a defined curl. However, the curls looked "wet" eventhough my hair was dry, which I didn't like so much. How much does everyone else typically spend on a haircut?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 2:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger LinnieBell said...

Triangle hair! I hate when that happens! My most favorite curl product is Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancing Lotion...I always have some on hand and have used it for years. Love it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 2:38:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous adrienne breaux said...

Curly hair unite! My life changed the day I discovered volumizing moose. I use that almost exclusively when I get out of the shower, scrunch while my hair is drying, and then use a thin anti-frizz cream to top it all off. And I never shampoo, like ever. Conditioner only every few days or so. Whoo!

-adrienne
http://wearegoodkin.com/

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 2:50:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Autumn said...

Mousse leaves mine too fluffy with no control. Gel leaves it too crunchy. I swear by Curls Rock. (I think its product #5, shampoo is 1, conditioner 2, etc.) Blue container. AWESOME results. I've used it for 10 years and will probably never change. A little goes a long way. Recently discovered that buying it on amazon.com is cheaper if you buy in bulk. (Normally $14 per bottle, 30% off when you buy 4 or more.)

Oh, and I comb when wet and always diffuse. I've heard that microfiber towels help the shape of the curls (cotton breaks the hair strand.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 3:34:00 PM EDT  
Blogger andrea.d said...

Aah, these tips are great! As the pin-straight-haired mama of a curly-haired girl, I'm still on the steep part of the learning curve. We generally only shampoo when her hair is filthy with food or mud or something (she's 2) and have been having good luck with the Cynthia Sylvia Stout from Lush. We just buy the tiny bottle and it lasts a good long while. I'll have to try out some of the conditioners listed here since we haven't found the perfect one yet. I've noticed her hair looks the best after being left to air-dry after her bath, so of course it looks great at night before bed but is a birds nest by morning. Any tips on reviving the curls on day 2 (or 3)?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 4:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Shelly said...

I too am struggling to find a stylist that can really cut curly hair. Actually, my hair is very wavy. If I let it air dry it is just a big ball of frizz but w/ the help of Nioxin Silk Elixir (the best leave in conditioner I've ever found), Curls Rock & my trusty diffuser it looks presentable. Questions: 1) How do you avoid the 2nd day frizz on top? and 2) If anyone lives near Denver and has a recommendation for a stylist, I'd be forever grateful. We moved about a year ago and I'm yet to find someone.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 5:23:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Monkey Business said...

After generations of women with identical pin-straight thin hair - my daughter shocked us all with beautiful spiral curls!
I have found using conditioner both in the tub and leave in conditioner after are a big help. I also keep a spray bottle of water handy and in the mornings I spray her hair until it is pretty damp and the curls spring back and lose their frizz. When it is too cold for that, we go ponytails and braids!
Thanks for the tips!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 5:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Azúcar said...

I spend about $50 w/tip for my curly cuts. I've paid less, and always been unhappy with the results. Go to someone who knows curly hair.

I use a curl cream or curl spray gel as soon as I get out of the shower. I don't towel dry, a t-shirt works better. And then? LEAVE YOUR HAIR ALONE. Don't touch it until it's almost dry. Usually about 1.5 hours. A little diffuser helps with lift, or when the hair is wet, use duck bill clips to encourage volume at the crown by pinning the curls higher. I love the Garnier brand, it's cheap, but it really works well for my curls. I use the curl cream, the spray gel, and their shine pomade.

After my hair is almost dry I use a shine pomade all over to reduce frizz and give hair a little volume. Day two is even better. Dampen or re-wet hair, re-spray with spray gel, and let dry. Finish with pomade. Same thing with the 3rd day. My hair needs to be redampened to reset the curl.

I only shampoo it every 3-4 days. I comb it in the shower and then wash out the comb marks so that the curl clumps properly and doesn't turn me into Slash from Guns and Roses.

The more you mess around with your hair when it's wet the more frizzy it will get.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 5:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Bri (like the cheese) said...

I am NOT curly. I'm mildly wavy with pin-straight top layer. I have to flat iron my hair because it won't hold a curl for ANYTHING no matter what I try. EXCEPT for when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had amazing curly hair for a glorious 9 months, one week, and 5 days, but who's counting. Anyway, now SHE has the glorious curly hair. Right now, it forms amazing golden ringlets with no help other than Johnson's tangle-free baby shampoo for curly hair. But I can appreciate all the suggestions because I can see what we will be up against when the little one reaches her teen years!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 7:03:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous samantha bobo said...

i am so grateful for reading your blog today! i have curly hair. i was born in the south which has the perfect humidity for my golden locks. huge hair, perfect spirals-the only benefit to 99% humidity! cut to moving to denver and having another baby, it's limp and lifeless. thank you, thank you, thank you to you an ALL the extra comments. i can't wait to try all the great tips

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 7:47:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous meg @ fairfieldcountychild.com said...

usually i blow out my naturally curly hair to make it more wavy than curly. i wish i could embrace the curly hair look but i feel like it just doesn't work for me, except in the summer when i can let it dry naturally and i'm all tan and going for that beachy look. one product i really am liking for both the curly and wavy look is BUMBLE & BUMBLE powder (essentially a dry shampoo). it comes in colors to match any haircolor and it let's me go days without washing. bonus - it also adds tons of volume at the roots. it's a little sticky but i don't mind http://www.bumbleandbumble.com/product/spp.tmpl?CATEGORY_ID=CAT72&PRODUCT_ID=177
thanks for the great post and ideas from all of you!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger David and Kirby said...

I have curly girl hair and Bumble and Bumble's curl girl curling cream changed my hair's life! It's the best stuff ever. (Note:not the styling cream, but the curling cream! it comes in two types, one for thick hair (mine) and one for thinner curls!) Find the one that works for you, it's amazing stuff, both here in NC and there in CO!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 10:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Tauni said...

After years of purchasing super expensive products for use on my moisture deprived curls (I live in Utah), I purchased a "cheap" product to use in a pinch while on vacation. The product was Garnier Fructis - Curl Sculpting Cream. Now, I never use anything else. I work it through my hair after the shower and just air dry...it's a dream.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 1:23:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have super curly hair. And I am a hair dresser. A tip for cutting: Since curly hair shrinks. Instead of a hair cut just request getting the tips tooken off. Also I find if the the hair dresser cuts it shorter in the crown, you will have amazing volume. I tend to stay away from layers through out my over all style. Instead I prefer the hair to be twisted and cut into with the scissors just on random piece all over my head. Avoid getting to close to the roots though.
Have never payed more then $30 for a h/c.(live in small town) Don't be scared to tell your hairdresser how you want your hair cut. It all about the consultation:) MH

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 3:14:00 AM EDT  
Blogger tharon000 said...

All I have to say is, Moroccanoil! It is the best stuff ever! Not the shampoo and conditioner - just the "oil" and curl cream. It seems expensive when you look at the price (and the term "oil" sounds scary, I know) but one bottle of each lasts me over a year. My hair is finer, and tends to be curlier on top, straighter underneath. Have moved from NY to Montana and am still looking for a good hairstylist 4 years later...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 9:13:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Katharine said...

I use DevaCurl AnGell and plop with a microfiber towel. After 15 mins in the towel I use a diffuser til my hair is about 75% dry. And the key is NOT to touch it! I add Set It Free in the summer since Houston is so humid! It also helps to have a stylist that knows what she is doing!!!! Naturallycurly.com has a list a stylist that actually know how to cut curly hair....DRY CUT!!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 11:05:00 AM EDT  
Blogger MarshelleP said...

So many types of curls, so many different products and methods that work. I loved the Curly Girl book, and using the author's products, DevaCare "shampoo," conditioner, and gel, has made me love my curls. But everyone seems to love different products. Oh, and I NEVER rinse out the conditioner. My super-frizzy curls need the extra weight.

Finding a stylist is an entirely other issue. If you'll forgive mentioning another site, there is a salon finder on naturallycurly.com. (I'm not affiliated with the site, just a reader.) I found THE BEST stylist in my area by reading through reviews.

Just be sure to follow the regular process of scheduling a consultation first--I had my hair cut by a different recommended stylist on the site, and she was awful. Then I got smart, found the 2 or 3 stylists with the most gushing reviews, set up consultations, and have literally never, ever been happier with a cut! I didn't know you COULD walk out of the salon liking your hair--I was so used to crying about another bad haircut on the way home!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 12:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Miss Tiff said...

Conditioner and leave-in is key for me and my curls. I use to relax it straight, now I lurvvvve my curlies and reading about fellow curlies. Thanks for the book tip.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 12:36:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Cheryl said...

Talk about bad haircuts... I once went to a very cheap salon (you know... $12 for a haircut). The lady was confused when my hair wasn't curling (like it was when I walked into the salon). I told her I usually use a diffuser. She took a diffuser and started grinding it into my roots. Eventually she handed me the dryer... and there I was standing in the middle of the hair salon, drying my own hair!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 12:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kelly said...

First, for Andrea D., straight-haired mom to a curly: for 2nd (or 3rd) day hair, just wet/spray it with a water bottle...don't soak it, but just get it wet enough to style the curls by hand. Finger comb, or scrunch up a bit w/ a little bit of product. I had (still have) very curly, thick hair as a child and my mom & grandma BRUSHED it daily. ARGH. And since that was a mess, they opted to cut it very short for years. Oh the horrors, documented in years of school pictures.

My hair is very, very thick --- my stylists says it's the thickest, or close to, that they've ever encountered. I don't do diffusers, the last thing I need is more volume. Just getting back on board w/ the "Curly Girl" system, which means no silicones, dimethicones, etc. in my products. Those are hard to find, as most products intended for curlies contain some type of silicones. We'll see...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 1:44:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i used to use mousse - nothing fancy, just cheap. but i found i was so dependent on it and also became dependent on a diffuser - otherwise air drying was too flat. and i couldn't get my curls right without mousse and a diffuser. which is especially frustrating when you travel and sometimes get stuck.

last fall, i switched to deva curl. i use their shampoo and conditioner and follow up with either the angell or the set it free spray. i have found i am less dependent on using a diffuser - sometimes i air dry and the curls turn out just as well (but a microfiber towel is a must!). i also find i am less dependent on using an after product - i use the gel or spray but not nearly as much as i used to use when i used mousse. and on occasion, i have gone without either and my hair was manageable!

i also use their heaven in hair treatment whenever i need an extra boost - and it truly is like heaven in hair.

i have heard good things about curlisto. it was on my list to try but i have been so happy with deva curl that i haven't felt the need to try it yet.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 2:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Allison said...

I'm bookmarking this post - my daughter inherited curly hair from her father (I just have wispy straight hair) and we went through a long period where getting out "dreadlocks" took us almost a half hour -- a very painful half hour -- each morning. And I have no idea what to tell her when she gets older and wants more style - so thanks!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 3:20:00 PM EDT  

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