The Care and Keeping of Your Naturally Curly Hair (and Your Pale, Irish Skin)

I think they took this picture out of one of my mom's photo albums.

When I was a kid, my older cousins said I looked like the girl from “Curly Sue.” Having never seen the movie, I wasn’t sure what they were talking about, but it turns out they were pretty dead on in their comparison. I’ve always had very curly hair, and by the time I was about three or four, I resembled a very young Shirley Temple, complete with the precociousness and the need to perform for everyone at every chance I got. As I reached that super-awkward period from 4th to 8th grade, I found myself making questionable fashion choices and not really knowing what to do with my hair. For a while, I kept my hair shoulder length and would brush it out, leaving it all in a big poof, which I would push back with one of those headbands with comb-like teeth that clipped in the back. You know what I’m talking about. I think it was in the 10th grade that I discovered the power of the straightening iron, and spend a good deal of time trying to take my impossible-to-manage curly locks to poker straight. If you know anything about naturally curly hair, you know that even a little bit of humidity will lay to waste the hour or so it took to straighten your hair. Throughout college, I alternated between straight and curly hair, finally figuring out that I should blow dry my hair out with a barrel brush if I wanted to straighten it. (It became a multi-hour process.) It wasn’t until I started dating Brian that I really appreciated my curliness. Everyone had always said how lucky I was to have such naturally curly hair, but for the longest time, all I wanted was glossy, thick, straight hair. Brian told me that he loved my curly hair, and that I shouldn’t flatiron it anymore, so… I just kinda stopped. Now, I’ve more or less phased my flat iron out, and I can’t remember the last time I used it. Recently, I decided that I really want to own my curly mane. (Fun fact: I’ve never, ever colored my hair, either. I don’t want to until it’s absolutely necessary either, but I’ve got my own Stacy London growing in…) I want to take good care of my curls because I feel like they’re one of my most unique characteristics. Sarah wrote a fantastic post about ensuring that you always have a polished, professional look by warding off split ends, and she listed some great tips to try. I’ve scoured Pinterest for more tips on the care and keeping of fabulously curly hair — these are the best of what I’ve found:

- Never get your curly hair cut while it’s wet. 2 inches of wet, straight hair could equal 4 or 5 inches of dry, curly hair. Try to find someone who has experience cutting curly hair and knows how to cut it while it’s dry. Read this article before you get your next hair cut!
- Stop using a terry cloth towel to dry your hair. Use a t-shirt, it doesn’t have the rough texture that can ruin the structure of your curls. I’ve been doing this for the last couple of months or so and it really helps.
- This blog has the best tips by far. Curly girls shouldn’t use products that have sulfates in them, and like Joni, I’m paying a lot more attention to what I’m putting in my hair now. Also, don’t wash your hair every day. Full disclosure: my mom picked up a lovely floral shower cap for me, and I have used it.

After all of that, I thought I’d share my routine with all of you lovelies. Here’s what I’ve been using on my hair to work on my curls. It’d be nice if I could just use products from one line, but after years of hits and misses, I think I’ve found a good combination that works for me.

the dream team

From left to right: Pantene Moisture Renewal Conditioner for Curly Hair, Suave Kids Detangling Spray, Tresemme Bouncy Curls Extra Hold Defining Gel, and Suave Healthy Curls Scrunching Mousse

I use a basic cleansing shampoo to wash my hair, and then I follow it up with a healthy amount of Pantene Moisture Renewal Conditioner for Curly Hair. Before I get out of the shower, I use a liberal amount of Suave Kids Detangling Spray, which doubles as a leave-in conditioner, and then I comb it out with my fingers.

St. Ive's Naturally Clear Apricot Scrub with Blemish and Blackhead Control, Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser for Sensitive Skin

While I have my hair up in a t-shirt, I break out my tried and true face products. I’ve been using St. Ive’s Naturally Clear Apricot Scrub and Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser since high school, and I’ve never had a bad break out. After I’m done, I love how it leaves my pale, Irish skin looking smooth and glowing. The St. Ive’s scrub has repeatedly named Allure’s People’s Choice for Best Scrub, and it’s definitely a winner in my book.

Ah-tractive.

See that painting behind me? Brian did it. It's my favorite of his.

It's like I'm a brunette lion. I love my mane. (And yes, I know lady lions don't have manes.)

Before and after. The t-shirt wrap look is kinda cute, right? No? Ok, I won’t wear it in public. When I take it out of the t-shirt, I take a few minutes to arrange it, because however it’s laying when it dries is how it will look when it is dry. Curls are fickle like that. Sometimes I’ll use the Suave Healthy Curls Scrunching Mousse if I think my hair needs a boost, but I haven’t used it in quite a while. Usually after my hair is completely dry, I work a nickel-size dollop of Tresemme’s Bouncy Curls Defining Gel through my hair by flipping my hair over and lightly combing it through. Recently, I found another great product to help moisturize my hair: Pantene Curly Hair Series Deep Moisturizing Treatment. I use it once a week to help revitalize the shape of my curls after seven days of sleeping on it. I know I’m in need of a trim to get rid of some dead ends and add some shape to my hair. Curly hair needs layers to help create a lovely frame around your face. It’ll probably help tame my frizz, too. Until then, I’ll just flip it around till it looks ok.