A photo of Camen in front of lake devo

Carmen’s Curly Hair Journey

A photo of Carmen at age 17
Me, at 17, on my curly hair journey

Almost everyone who has curly hair goes through a phase of hating it; I went through this phase when I was younger.  It was extremely frizzy and to the point of being uncontrollable.  I hated wearing my hair down unless it was straight.  The only problem was that because it was so thick, it took hours to straighten.  Even when it was tied up, I would run into obstacles.  At the start of the day when my hair was tied up it would be bearable, but by the end of the day a bunch of frizz would form at my hairline.    

One day I decided to google search “curly hair care,” and I found many blogs, videos, and websites where people used products that were only available in the US or really expensive in Canada.  This led me to feel helpless.  I thought that there was nothing I could do about my hair, and so I accepted my ringlet-less and severely frizzy fate.  

In my last year of high school, my friend (who also has curly hair) recommended that I try getting my haircut at the The Curl Ambassadors Curly Hair Salon in Toronto.  She had recently gotten a really nice haircut by a stylist there who was very knowledgeable about how to cut and care for curly hair.

A photo of Carmen at age 22
Me, now, age 22

When I left the salon after getting my haircut there, my hair looked better than it ever had!  My hair had just the right amount of volume and had nice ringlets.  This was the first time I came out of a salon feeling confident about my hair.  Everything around me seemed brighter and happier.  The stylist who had cut my hair gave me a pamphlet on what types of ingredients to avoid when looking for hair products to use.  When I got home I looked at the ingredients in all my hair products and found that unfortunately the gel, shampoo, and conditioner I was using all had these harmful chemicals.  This marked the beginning of my search for reasonably priced non-chemical products, and a solid hair care routine.  After a couple years of learning from research, others, and experimenting with products, these are the 13 tips that I keep in mind when I’m caring for my hair:

  1. Sleep with a satin scarf over your hair or pillowcase to avoid unnecessary frizz.
    Frizzy hair is created through the friction of your non-satin pillowcase rubbing against your hair as you sleep.  For years I would wake up with frizzy hair and have to condition my hair or tie it up in a bun in order to manage it.  Now that I use a satin scarf I am able to avoid morning frizz and replace the time I would spend showering and trying to obtain the perfect bun with extra sleep.
  2. Tie your hair in a loose high ponytail to create volume and avoid split ends.
    If you sleep with your hair out, it is likely to get really tangled in some areas and flat in other areas. Then again, having your hair constantly tied up tightly throughout the day and while you sleep can cause your hair to break from the pressure it receives.  Your hair needs time to breathe.
  3. Don’t use drugstore products on your hair.
    Just because a product in the drugstore says it’s for curly hair, it doesn’t mean it will really work with curly hair! Many of these products are full of chemicals that will damage your hair.  It is best to do your research on products, and look at reviews of the products from people who have your hair type, to see if you should purchase them.
  4. Don’t use conditioner as a substitute to leave-in conditioner.
    During my first years of University I was too lazy to buy leave-in conditioner and used a bit of conditioner instead, which made my hair really crunchy and greasy. Don’t do that! Use leave-in!
  5. Wash your hair with shampoo once a week, but wash your hair with water the other days of the week. This will help you to avoid dry and frizzy hair.
    I used to wash my hair every other day, which made my hair frizzy and dry. Now, I scrub my scalp and rinse out my hair with water to avoid product build up, as well as smelly and sweaty hair.  It is likely that your hair will be a bit greasy at the beginning of only washing it once a week, but don’t worry! After a while it won’t be! Your hair just needs time to be trained.
  6. Use a hair mask once a week, and make sure to wash your hair right after to avoid having greasy hair.
    A hair mask keeps your hair nice and soft, especially during the winter when the air is dry! The hair mask is heavy and cannot be washed out just with water, so shampoo is needed.  I once tried to wash it out with just water and my hair ended up being really greasy afterwards.  It was a really unpleasant experience.
  7. Use both a leave in conditioner and gel for your hair, not one or the other.
    In high school I just used gel on my hair, which was not effective because it made my hair frizzy and crunchy.  Then up until a  year ago I only used leave in conditioner, which caused my hair to go frizzy by the end of the day because gel wasn’t there to hold it in place. Two is better than one!
  8. Edge control can help your hairstyle look neater.
    Using edge control can catch the tiny frizzy hairs that your leave in conditioner and gel don’t catch.  Using a toothbrush to smooth these tiny hairs down is helpful.
  9. Use products without drying chemicals, such as sulfate and alcohol.
    These ingredients strip your hair of its’ natural oils, causing your hair to be continuously dry. It takes your hair a while to repair from the damage these chemicals have caused.  It is best to switch to natural products.
  10. Use a microfiber towel or T-shirt to dry your hair.
    Dry your hair with one of these before you style your hair, to avoid frizz.  But, don’t dry your hair with one of these after you put product in your hair. Many times I have thought my hair was going to be too greasy after I put the product in so I used a T-shirt to take some of the product out, but this just gave my hair unnecessary frizz.  Scrunching your hair from the bottom up after putting product in your hair can be helpful for creating and enhancing curls.
  11. Air dry your hair instead of blow-drying it.
    The heat from the blow dryer can cause your hair to frizz.  Many people suggest that you blow-dry your hair on cold and/or use a diffuser attachment to avoid less damage, but I wouldn’t suggest that.  Although air-drying takes longer, I find it to be more effective in avoiding frizz.
  12. Finger comb your hair while it’s wet and don’t use a brush to detangle.
    Detangling with your fingers can prevent breakage, which makes frizz less likely to occur. Detangling your hair while it’s dry will cause your hair to have too much volume and frizz.
  13. Section your hair when applying product, combining the product through your hair with your fingers.
    Sectioning your hair will help you avoid putting too much product in your hair, and making it greasy.  Combing the product through your hair with your fingers will help evenly distribute the product through your hair, avoiding having some pieces of your hair coated with product and some not.

Are you overwhelmed with this information? Worried that following these steps will be too pricey for your student budget?  Do not worry!  Although some brands have some great products they will cause a major dent in your wallet.  Products from Shea Moisture are the way to go! Clore Beauty Supply in Toronto right outside of Dufferin station has a wide selection of Shea Moisture products for your specific hair needs (e.g. dry hair, colour protection, dandruff control etc.).  Gels, leave-in conditioners, shampoos, hair masks, styling milks, and conditioners are all under or around $20 at Clore Beauty supply.  I know you may be thinking, “that is still so expensive!” but there is a catch.  When you buy Shea Moisture’s products you are essentially buying in bulk.  The gels, hair masks, leave in conditioners, and styling milks come in 12-13 oz containers and last for 6 plus months, because a little goes a long way.  As for the shampoo and conditioners of Shea Moisture, it’s best to get a separate container and dilute them in water because they are thick and creamy in consistency.

Learning to tame your curls is a continuous process.  In some points of your life you will think you have entirely mastered your hair, but trust me, there will always be a bunch of other things you have yet to learn, or an amazing product that you have recently discovered that makes your hair look even more amazing than it already is.  What is your hair routine like? Are you on your curly hair journey or has it just begun?