“Hair style is the final tip-off whether or not a woman really knows herself.” Hubert de Givenchy, Vogue, July 1985.
WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW, CAN FRIZZ YOU.
Let me start by saying I am guilty of every Curly Hair Crime known to womankind.
I’ve fried my hair with lye, blasted it with blowdryers and broken it with too-tight barrettes.
And those were just the crimes I knew about. Turns out, I was doing damage on a daily basis – by washing, styling and drying my curls in the completely wrong way.
The result was a vicious cycle of curl-hating. The frizzier my hair looked, the more I tried to fix it. The more I tried to fix it, the frizzier it became.
Well, no wonder. While 65 percent of the women in the world have curly hair, we live in a world where swingy, straight hair is the beauty standard – and where the majority of stylists, magazine articles and even shampoos are just simply wrong for us.
It was only when I set out to research and write this article that I discovered how to release my curls from frizz bondage so they could bounce and shine and look like hair — as opposed to some furry, lopsided animal that had crawled onto my head.
Straight talk about curls
“Curly hair doesn’t want to be fixed, it wants to be understood,” says Lorraine Massey, founder of NYC’s Devachan Salon, and author of “Curly Girl,” a book you may soon find indispensable.
The first thing to understand is that frizz is not inevitable. It is the result of dry, damaged hair seeking water. The more humidity in the air, the more your parched frizz will stand out from your head.
“It’s like a plant trying to grow towards the sun,” Massey says.
Curly hair tends to be dry for three reasons.
1) Since curly hair is often thinner than straight hair, there are fewer hair follicles – hence, fewer oil-producing glands.
2) Those natural oils that are produced have a hard time travelling the curly, winding road from root to end.
3) The twists and bends of curly hair make the surface of the hair (the cuticle) susceptible to breakage. A broken cuticle exposes the delicate inner layer, causing even more moisture to escape.
“The key to keeping curls looking good in humid air is to make sure the cuticle of the hair is already “filled” with moisture and proteins before you step out the door,” according to Ouidad (pronounced “wee dad”), author of “Curl Care” and owner of NYC’s Ouidad salon. “Doing so makes the cuticle unable to soak in any additional mositure that is in the air, which can cause frizz.”
The moral of this story is moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Fortunately, you don’t need a shelf full of leave-in conditioners. Rinse-out conditioners are richer and therefore better at maintaining moisturized, defined curls. Simply leave some in after rinsing your scalp. Or sleek some through wet hair before stepping out of the shower.
Hand wash on delicate cycle.
“Curly hair is very fine to begin with,” Massey says. “Each beautiful strand is three times more fragile than a strand of cotton, and you know how easily that breaks. Think of your hair as a priceless fabric and touch it with great respect.”
You wouldn’t scrub your favorite cashmere sweater with detergent and then toss it in a baking hot dryer. But how different is that, really, from using shampoo (the vast majority are detergent-based) and blow drying your hair on the high setting?
According to Massey, you can cleanse your scalp and hair quite effectively with a good conditioner. (If the idea of skipping shampoo alarms you, remember how many women with dry skin shun soap in favor of a gentle cleanser.)
After a final rinse of cool water to close the cuticle, pat your hair dry with soft, scrunching motions. (Again, think cashmere. Blot. Dab. Don’t rub.) Apply a clear, alcohol-free gel, arrange your curls, and secure them where necessary with small clips so they can “set” themselves. Be sure to place several clips on top, perpendicular to your scalp, right near the root, to give your hair lift and prevent pyramid-head. Then, STEP AWAY FROM THE MIRROR!!!
The more you touch, the more you’ll frizz.
Ouidad cautions her clients to stop playing with their curls when wet, damp or dry. “Remember my saying, ‘Less is More’,” she says. “The less you manipulate the hair, the better results you will have.”
Jonathan Torch, of The Curl Institute, explains, “the trick to controlling the frizz in curly hair is to allow the cuticles to dry in a closed position. You will notice when your hair is wet it is never frizzy, as water easily fills the open cuticle gaps and immediately stops the frizz.”
A good moisturizer and gel will help seal the cuticle and make even damaged hair look smoother and shinier — provided you don’t break the “gel cast” by touching your hair as it dries.
Air drying is best, but if you must hasten the process, use a diffuser on your dryer’s lowest setting.
CURLY DOS AND DON’TS
Wash with conditioner. Rinse with cool water.
Gently blot hair dry with a towel, or wrap it in a microfiber turban.
Leave in your rinse-out conditioner. It’s richer and more moisturizing than “leave ins.”
Apply clear gel containing the ingredients PVP or PVP/VA.
Arrange your hair, pin it in place, and leave it alone.
Wash with detergent-based shampoos or very warm water.
Toss your hair forward and rub it with a towel. This just disturbs the curl pattern and roughs up the cuticle. It’s like an invitation to frizz.
Comb or brush your curls, especially when wet.
Use hair spray. If you MUST use it to keep your hair out of your eyes, apply it sparingly, at the roots.
Fuss and touch your hair before it dries.
HOT WEATHER STYLING TIPS
Here’s any easy, in-style look for curly hair both short and long: wind-blown beach hair secured by a headband or scarf.
Wash and condition your hair, being sure to leave in plenty of conditioner. Throw on a wide scarf or headband at your front hair line and let your hair dry naturally into big sexy curls.
“Messy knots are great for curly hair because they stay in place easily yet still show off some fabulous curls,” Ouidad says. She recommends a half-bun version that begins with a low ponytail (the newest and best look like elastic, but are made of fabric to prevent bends and breakage). Pull the ponytail back up through the band, but stop halfway, allowing curls to spill over the top.
A romantic loop is a nice variation on this style. Part your hair on the side, and sleek it back into a low ponytail at the nape of your neck. Twist and loop the ponytail back through the ponytail holder.
The effortless cascade. Pull long hair back loosely to the nape using one scrunchy. Your curls will look loose and cascading but will feel cool and controlled.
A curly crown. “Bobby pins are the ultimate hair accessory,” says Ouidad. “Simply pin back your hair in 5 sections by using 5 bobby pins that match your hair color. This will create beautiful flowing curls from the crown of the hair downward and manage to keep the pattern for a simple but beautiful hairstyle.”
If your hair is long, you can simply tie it in a knot. Secure it with a wooden pick or chopstick for a breezy summer style.
PRODUCTS TO CURL UP WITH
Ouidad Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel. This stuff is amazing. It prevents frizz by absorbing moisture from the air to hydrate curls. Hey, if you can’t beat the heat, put it to work for your hair! Link
DevaCurl No-Poo and Angell. The first is a non-detergent cleanser with Peppermint and Turkish Rose. The second, an extremely light gel that crystallizes curls without getting stiff. Link
Magic Move. Not a gel, not a pomade, but a genuine curly hair dressing. It moisturizes and gives light control, while keeping hair “piece-y” and soft.
Miss Jessie’s Curly Buttercreme™
Moisturizing Butter coats, plumps and protects your curls, kinks and waves.
Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding™
An emulsion that promises to “turn kinks to curls.”