Hey heads up... I'm a wavy haired person, so this is more for people who are like...do I have curls!? Than for those who are super curly. :)
The follicular awakening and texture acceptance.
About a year and a half ago I went deep into a YouTube rabbithole, only to emerge in an indignant rage, as only a person who has been living a lie for 35+ years can. As it turns out, my needs were not being met by Big Hair Inc, and little did I know but my life would be changed forever.
You see, up until that fateful day when I spent hours Googling and watching people plop, scrunch, squeeze and squish their hair and decree the evils of shampoo, I thought I knew how to take care of my hair. Apparently I was wrong. For days I listened to curly haired goddesses spew complicated acronyms and code names like they were all members of the same special services agency (they kinda are!), meticulously apply about 82 different products to their strands in a *very* specific order and method, then oh-so gently flip their sopping wet heads upside down and spend the rest of their well-coiffed lives drying their hair. I was enraptured. I was horrified. I was hooked. I threw all my money at my computer, and created a huge collection of mostly useless-to-me products.
Until the spring of 2018, I lived most of my life knowing I have wavy hair, yet treating it like it was straight (but not straight enough). I dreamt of having super curly hair yet never embraced the curl I do have. As a result, I would only airdry my hair if it were in a bun or else "it looked crazy" or I would straighten my hair with a curling iron, and then, get this, CURL it with said iron to get waves. Waves I already had and had just crushed the life out of. So stupid. But this is what most people with longer hair do, and then we wonder why the state of our hair is so poor. So what would I do? Use very heavy, nourishing shampoos and conditioners that were pretty good at conditioning my thirsty hair, but weighed it down so much that I would end up over-washing my hair, drying it out further, so I also over-used "nourishing" oils and stylers. When I would try switching to lighter, volumizing formulas, my hair would just become extremely large, puffy and somewhat angry looking as all my fuzzy bits tried to suck moisture from the air. So, I'd blame my "frizzy" hair once again (oh no, not curly! Just evil, not good looking frizz.) and use defrizzing serums and what not, just to look kinda wet in the end. Thus, I lived in topknots.
Up until my Great Awakening of 2018, I just thought my hair sucked. I shoved it in the same part of my mind with my wide hips and funny looking knees and other disatisfactory bits, that place I go to when I need to feel sad about my body. (Which should be a place I burn to the ground, alas I'm working on it.)
I blame my husband (naturally!) for what happened in 2018. I should say "thank", but the first few months of that dark hair tunnel I went down weren't too pretty (and were super expensive!). You see, he has a glorious mane of juicy, bouncy coils that magically grow about a foot per week, so of course he came to his product-savvy wife for hair care recommendations since "our hair is basically the same". I was reverse insulted that he'd think that ME, with my fine, too-silky or too-poofy, sad half-waves could be compared to his awesome curly curly coif. And yet here he was, standing in front of me with his hair in a tangled man-bun, looking all sad and lost and forlorn and cute and so I jumped onto the Google FOR SCIENCE and honestly didn't re-emerge for weeks.
As it turns out, Husband had a point. My silky noodles were on the curly spectrum too, and I had been treating my hair completely wrong, forever. And so, I tried it ALL. I've taken courses and gone to conferences and watched about a thousand or more videos and have tried all the ingredients, all the products. Or nearly. I made myself insane learning about curly hair, and honestly? The whole Curly Girl thing is blown waaaaaay outta proportion. But we'll get to that.
But let's take a step back, to when I was fighting my texture. I just needed to let my hair BE itself, and nurture it to do so. I just had to stop fighting who it wanted to be! From the very first day I tried my new curly routine, I knew I'd never go back. Interestingly enough, a few months into my journey when I sort of knew too much and was trying to force my hair to be curlier and felt the lack of consistency was a fail, I had to go back to that beginners mind and remind myself that the goal actually isn't to get curlier and curlier.
The GOAL is to have healthy hair that you accept as it is, day by day.
Now, here's basically everything I learned about wavy hair, how to care for it and how to let it (and you) live it's best life.
So let's begin at the very beginning. How do you know if you have curly or wavy hair? Well, if you have to ask, then you aren't curly. Now, don't get your imposter-syndrome hackles up! Wavy hair is a *type* of curl, and isn't better or worse, just different. Wavy hair can have big, loose loops and tight little coils living side by side (like my hair). It can change season by season, as your hair grows, depending on the products you use. It isn't consistent, but it's never the same which can be kinda fun.
Which leads me to....
Accept your hair/self for what it really is!
You've been fighting it for this long, right? Straightening it and otherwise trying to manipulate the pattern and texture of your hair? Ok, its time to let that shit go and that goes all ways. What we are aiming for is encouraging our hair to be be itself, but that means being wavy if you're wavy, curly if you're curly, coily if you're coily, kinky if you're kinky, and so on. Just be yourself already! Whoever brainwashed us into thinking we need a different texture than what we have needs to have their toenails pulled out slowly, one by one. Burn that mutha DOWN, and enjoy your hair! (It's so much easier than hating on it, once you get the hang of it.) Whatever age you are at, whatever season of your life you are entering, today is a good day to embrace YOU. And that goes for hair texture too. Don't ask me why, but consistently people who embark on letting their hair go natural find a deep sense of relief of uncovering another layer of their true selves. Which leads me to...
WAVY HAIR IS NOT FAILED CURLY HAIR!
If you're a wavy like me, you'll be surprised to hear your brain tell you this over and over... good hair days are the curliest days, wavy days are fails, and because your hair easily gets stretched out, you'll think of your hair as fake-curly or as failed curly. LIES, BRAIN, BECAUSE THIS IS NOT SO. It's just different! My husband's super curly hair is not better than my wavy hair (mine is easier to take care of, I can detangle easily and I don't lose a clump of hair in the shower like he does, so there's plus and minuses to all things hair/life.) He may be more consistently curly, but I've got variety! And big, beautiful kinky hair is the goal when it comes to volume and style, but washing and drying might be way harder! We always want what we don't have, so maybe we can try just appreciating what we do have.
Ok, I had to get that out of the way because pushing our hair to be what it isn't just doesn't WORK in the long run, and is a waste of time and of your hair's health.
The nitty gritty tips.
Ok, now that we have accepted our hair, ourselves, our bodies and all our glorious imperfections (or you know... maybe not but we'd at least LIKE to.) let's move onto the more technical side of things.
Except not. You see, part of going down the curly hair rabbithole that became a little painful for me (and others, clearly) is that the technical side to curly hair can really, really stress people out. There are all these RULES when it comes to protein and moisture, acronyms, to plop or not, and multiple step systems, what the hair needs, when it's been overdone... I know of curly hair enthusiasts who literally keep detailed records and, get this, GRAPHS about their hair. That's just...no. If you have no intention of making hair your #1 hobby and/or your job, then do NOT do as the curly hair Instgrammers do. Just be a normal person, with good hair. And zero stress!
From all the pros I have had the pleasure of speaking with, hanging out with, and courses I've taken, it all comes down to CHILLING THE EFF OUT. I am not even kidding. This is what they tell us to do... they can't believe how the curly community has over-complicated things and they just shake their well-coiffed heads in dismay.
If it's complicated, then it's missing the point.
Also, expect that you wont have the best hair day EVERY SINGLE DAY. You just won't and you know what? You'll survive, I promise.
Follow a basic routine like...
Flip coat scrunch is what Atoya Bass teaches, and if your routine is much more complicated than that to achieve at least a wave or curl, then well, you may have straight hair (and that's ok!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and so a curly or wavy routine isn't for you. The idea is that after washing and conditioning your hair, you flip your head to apply product, coat your hair in product using quick, light motions, then scrunch it in all over, at every angle. Flip your head back over and let it dry! (either air dry or diffuse). Atoya, by the way, I met in Dallas (see below) and she gave me a little hair trim (!!!), and let me tell you, she's awesome and so, so chill which is how she likes hair routines to be, as well.
Now, with time you'll figure out what your hair likes (gel? mousse? cream?) which is personal, how much to scrunch and particular areas of your head to focus on, and if you prefer air drying or diffusing. But honestly, that should be the gist of your routine. And when in doubt, find yourself a good alcohol-free gel. Everyone with a pattern in their hair needs a gel in their lives.
I've taken a couple courses from different curly hair specialists, and it really comes down to that... wet hair, lip, apply product, smush smush smush, leave it alone while it dries.
Hair is an antique silk scarf.
I went to a curly/wavy hair conference in Dallas in May of 2019 and stood up in front of the entire crowd to deliver this "Ted Talk" when someone asked whether hair is dead or not.
Here's what I say (and said), your scalp is alive and is complicated skin that gets ignored. Treat it well. Cleanse it regularly with SLS free shampoo and treat it with kindness as it is what grows your hair. Hair, on the other hand, is dead... which is kind of dramatic, but it's true. It's just keratin hanging around from your scalp. Treat hair like a fine, antique silk scarf. It needs to be gently cleaned, gently dried and gently cared for but it's care shouldn't be over-complicated, because it's just fabric. Be careful with heat and stylers. Be careful when you use products with lots of alcohol (ok once in a while, say when you go to a wedding, but not for everyday use!!). Keep in mind that the finer you hair is, the easier it gets weighed down. Keep it light and airy. Which leads us to...
Don't stop shampooing
Gross gross gross gross. But that's just my own gross-scalp phobias showing. One reason I'm not talking much about the classic Curly Girl Method is because it's not into the whole you know, shampooing thing. Instead, CGM usually suggest co-washing, which is cleansing hair with conditioner which could be worth a try once in a while, but doesn't replace a shampoo IMO. Your scalp needs to be regularly cleansed with a gentle shampoo, and I stand by my opinion.
But in reality, your wash schedule and style might be pretty different than mine. I feel 2x a week is right for my hair, and sometimes a water rinse thrown in for good measure (especially in the summer or after a big sweat). Your schedule to keep your scalp clean and healthy could be 1x a week or 5x a week, it's really just about finding what works best for you, your hair and scalp. Which is really vague, I know, but if one thing worked for every human head then we wouldn't really have anything to discuss here, would we? And speaking of...
Listen to your hair.
Remember how I used to talk a lot about "skin-listening" (yes? no? I need to revisit this concept with y'all) Well, consistency may be important to get to know your hair, but it's also important to switch things up when the seasons change, during travel or when you're consistently having bad hair days. Your hair and scalp can get a buildup of products that once worked AMAZINGLY for you (they will again!), the weather and humidity might have changed or who knows... the product itself may have aged and changed. Hey, it happens. I find rotating a small collection of products works best for me.
But when your hair feels dirty? Wash it. When it's dry? Use a little more leave in conditioner or a hair mask. Not as curly as it was 3 weeks ago? Don't stress. You haven't broken it! Hair is a climate barometer, and you can't change the weather, it just changes your hair (and skin). The point is, take a good look at your hair, decide what it needs, do that, move on. It may or may not be a huge success, but that's what updos and hats are for. Not every day will be a winner.
However! When all hell breaks loose with hair there's a MAGIC RESET BUTTON!!!
The Magic Reset Button.
Now... here's a secret that's really not a secret: when your hair sucks, clarify it! You know those shampoos that are called "clarifying"? They clarify your hair! Wow! Mind blown! DO NOT USE THESE DAILY OR WEEKLY. They are way too intense for regular use, and this goes for regular cheapo drugstore stuff or high-end or green brands. If the company means what they say, anything clarifying is meant to give your hair a bit of a stripping, to rid your strands of built-up butters, oils, polyquats, gums and gels and other styling ingredients. One of my favourites that is very inexpensive is the Apple Cider Vinegar shampoo by LiveClean (actually found it at the Dollar Store once!). It has lasted me over a year and still going strong. It's a good idea to use a very moisturizing (not necessarily heavy) conditioner on your hair afterwards. This shouldn't be done more than once a month. Oh, which reminds me...
Use products for YOUR hair type!
My favourite mistake that I seem to enjoy repeating is using products that are meant to much drier, coarser and heavier hair than my own. As my hair is fine and wavy and I don't want to weight it down, I need virtually weightless products and stylers. Which means butters are a no-go in my hair, as are most oils (with exception of my own Tendril as it was designed for my hair types, huur huhr huhr). Lately, I have been using a popular JessiCurl conditioner in my hair, which makes my hair feel so glossy and strong, but takes away almost all my waves because they get weighed down! The funny thing is though, is that it's only doing this now that my hair is a little longer, just past my shoulders. When it was shorter, the same conditioner defined my waves and only elongated them a little. SO you really can't get married to doing the exact same thing for too long, because conditions change.
The rule of thumb is that if the product's texture is heavy (creams and balms) then it weighs hair down. Is that a good idea for your hair? (that's not rhetorical...I can't answer that for you!) Products that are light, like gels and foams are better for finer hair, or can be used for coarser hair, but mixed in with a heavier leave-in conditioner.
Of course, there's more than that. There's curl training and protein masks and hair porosity and all kinds of things but all that actually doesn't matter so much.The point with embracing hair textures is to revel in the simplicity, and to uncover a hidden, natural side of yourself. If it's becoming too contrived then it's missing the point (unless you're happy doing a whole lot of extra, so of course, you do you!)