hair is a fickle thing
April 17, 2010 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I've got naturally curly/wavy very fine, long, color-treated hair, and I know neither what to wash it with nor what to style it with.

So, above is a description of my hair. It falls several inches past my shoulders. I like the length, and the cut is okay. I've been self-dyeing it some shade of red every 4-6 months for the last few years.

I've never really been happy with any shampoo or conditioner that I've ever used. Even if it's good at first, by the time I'm more than halfway through the bottle, my hair starts to seem drab and doesn't hold curls well. I don't have tight curls - my hair is more like half-wave half-curl. I guess I would say my curl type is sort of like this or this, and again my hair is very fine and prone to frizz. I'm having trouble keeping the curls looking good as it gets longer.

I've read that curly-haired folks shouldn't shampoo more than twice a week, use gentle shampoo, and otherwise use only conditioner. Is that right? And beyond that, any specific recommendations for shampoo and conditioner, as well as a leave-in styling product for air-drying (I never blow dry), are really what I'm looking for, specifically for my hair type. I've seen other posts here about curly hair stuff, but the fineness and length of my hair seems to change things quite a bit.

I don't care if it's general drug store stuff or fancier stuff. A Ricky's just opened up in my neighborhood and they've got a huge selection of intriguing hair care products, but I'd like recommendations/warnings before plunking $10-20 down on something that isn't recommended for my hair type.
posted by wondermouse to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Two suggestions I would make are to check out the book Curly Girl, and to use Neutrogena shampoo (the pale yellow kind in the small rectagularish bottle, not sure what's its called) every once in a while to wash out the build-up from other shampoos that may be weighing down your hair.
posted by amro at 12:45 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's the Neutrogena shampoo to which I was referring.
posted by amro at 12:46 PM on April 17, 2010

You should check out, specifically the forums. Lots and lots and lots of opinions about curly hair. There are specific rules that many of those ladies (and I) follow - no sulfates, no silicones, no parabens, etc etc etc, and so that rules out most mainstream shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. I "shampoo" by scrubbing my scalp with a cheap VO5 conditioner, then condition and style with Devacurl.

Here's more about the no-poo routine, and here's a chart of hair types, for help navigating the forums.

You're lucky to be near a Ricky's, they carry loads of good curly stuff including the Devacurl products, which I love, and Kinky-Curly's Curling Custard, which I also use a lot. It depends on your exact hair type, though, so look at reviews in the naturallycurly store, and on the forums.
posted by alphasunhat at 12:50 PM on April 17, 2010

I've been doing the DevaCare thing for years, and by now I probably use No-Poo (their no-lather cleanser) once every couple of weeks and the conditioner every day. They have a line of products for color-treated red hair. I also never use a brush -- I just finger-comb my hair while it has conditioner in it.
posted by amarynth at 12:56 PM on April 17, 2010

I have your exact hair, right down to the length and dye.

I only use shampoo once or twice a week. I use Bumble & Bumble Color support extra mild shampoo for reds. It's very gentle on the hair. I also use the complimentary conditioner - the trick to the conditioner is that I put a bit in my hair after washing, but I don't rinse it out. Not a lot, just a little. It's kind of expensive but since I don't use it every day, it lasts awhile.

For styling, I use Rusk Mousse which seems to hold the curl well and help eliminate frizz nicely. I comb my still-wet hair with a wide tooth comb (this is key), then run the mousse through my damp hair and let it air dry. Getting the right amount is important. Too much and your hair can be dull or sticky, too little and you have frizz.

For rainy or high humidity days I use Fx Curl Booster Fixative Gel. I can't recommend this stuff enough. The bottle states "Instantly Tightens Limp, Lifeless... all day curls." I got that at the drug store for under $10 and it works great - it doesn't make your hair crunchy at all and doesn't leave flakes. I get nice, soft but tight curls, even on foggy days when using this stuff.

Hope that helps.
posted by crayon at 12:56 PM on April 17, 2010

Nthing the Curly Girl/ recommendation. Here's a succinct getting-started guide. In a nutshell: nothing containing sulfates, nothing containing silicone/dimethicone. I wash with Suave Naturals Coconut conditioner, and condition with Garnier Triple Nutrition, and it works pretty well for me.

Curl-friendly products are gaining in popularity, too: the other week I was in Target and found an end display of products intended for curly hair (and most, if not all, were sulfate and silicone free). I picked up the SheaMoisture masque and I really like it.

You hear a lot of success stories from people who go CG and go from limp frizzy waves to magic shiny springy curls in a matter of weeks. Personally, I've been following the routine for about two months, and my hair hasn't undergone any dramatic transformation (my hair's chin-length and a little wavy). But it's just as good as anything else I've done with my hair, so I'm happy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:33 PM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have similar hair and I use shampoo very, very rarely, maybe once a month. When I do use it, it does a good job of getting the residue off, but if I use it more frequently it just makes it dry. This has been true no matter what brand I use.

One thing I've noticed is that how I dry my hair makes a big difference. If I let it drip dry to damp before putting in a product, or don't use a product at all, my hair will tend to be frizzy. If I put product in when it's still fairly wet and then put it back up in a towel, the frizz is minimized.

I wasn't aware of Curly Girl but now I'm totally going to try it!
posted by lunasol at 3:09 PM on April 17, 2010

I have hair that is similar to yours in every way, except my curls are less tight and regular than the pictures you linked to. Mine is more like the blonde woman's here, or this one, except really fine and thin. As I'm sure you're aware, red dye is very unstable, and prone to washing out. I changed over to brown color a few years ago because I got tired of my hair color going orange.

I'm very happy with my hair right now and this is my routine:

Thermafuse ColorCare shampoo, about once a week. Nourish Spa conditioner from Trader Joe's for the rest of the week, when I wash my hair only with conditioner. I get out of the shower and gently towel off some moisture. I comb my hair out with a wide-tooth comb and work in some Loma Imply molding creme. If the weather is humid, some Thermafuse Straight for my bangs.

Then I blow-dry the hair at the crown of my head, lifting in sections, and blow my bangs out straight. I'm really aiming here to get volume at the top of my head, and a good shape to my hair overall. I leave the sides and back wet. Then if I want really defined curls, I'll spin sections of the sides and back into spirals using more molding creme. If I'm going more natural, I'll just scrunch the sides and back and re-wet any areas that appear too dry and frizzy. Top everything off with some hairspray and let air dry.

This has made all the difference for air drying my curls - I almost never end up with limp, frizzy blah anymore. Also, the woman who cuts my hair is a genius and gives me a cut that works both curly and straight.

I've also recently been experimenting with a 1" curling iron on dry hair on days when I shower but don't wet my hair. I get nice bouncy ends, and eliminate the frizz from sleeping on my hair.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:20 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've never really been happy with any shampoo or conditioner that I've ever used. Even if it's good at first, by the time I'm more than halfway through the bottle, my hair starts to seem drab and doesn't hold curls well.

Have you tried alternating different good shampoos (maybe weekly?) When you stick with the same one, it can build up in your hair, weighing it down, and switching to a different shampoo can clean all that gunk out. more info.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:47 PM on April 17, 2010

Devachan's products are amazing. I use their one curl conditioner and arcangel gel with my curly, thin, color-treated hair, and it looks better than ever before in my life. If you get your hair cut once at the Devachan salon, they'll give you the full explanation on how to use their products, and it's really helpdul. I have to admit, after years of trying various unhelpful products, I'm a total convert. And no, I don't work for them - I pay them, not vice-versa.
posted by Eshkol at 5:43 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

AVEDA.... I have a lot of hair, curly and fine. I use the cheaper Pantene shampoo, the frizz control, and their conditioner too. But the products out of the shower are the most important! So once you get out of the shower, wait until your hair is somewhat damp, then take quarter sized combos of Aveda Confixor and Be Curly, combine it in your hands, and gently push it into your hair. I have A LOT of hair, so I end up doing this about 4-6 times to get product all the way through and around my hair. Then I flip my head over and use a dryer on low/hot setting with a diffuser for about 5 min - moving it around very gently and pushing the hair up and into the diffuser. Once the hair is nearly dry, I use either Be Curly finisher or Brilliant oil depending on the humidity and how my hair actually looks. I finish off with whatever hair spray I have - just to set the top higher so it's not like a giant triangle of curls.

Hope this helps....
posted by lucydriving at 7:34 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bumble and Bumble Brilliantine is a tube of stuff that doesn't do anything architectural, but it does keep my curly hair looking normal, instead of frizzy. and lets it hold the effects of combing or brushing a bit longer.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:34 PM on April 17, 2010

Seconding rotate shampoos. Apparently three shampoos is the sweet spot, but I only alternate between two, and it definitely helps. I switch for every shampoo, but switching every 2-3 shampoos also works.
posted by anaelith at 6:13 AM on April 18, 2010

Thanks everyone! I read that Curly Girl page and am going to try following that advice and avoid silicones and sulfates in general. To start, I bought the Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo to use once a week, as well as Sauve Naturals Coconut conditioner for my daily no-shampoo wash, and I just went to Ricky's and bought DevaCurl's One Condition to use as my primary conditioner. To start I'm going to do my last sulfate-wash with the anti-residue stuff, then wash with the Suave stuff, and then condition with the DevaCurl stuff. We'll see how this goes!
posted by wondermouse at 11:17 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

You have my hair! Exactly! Except mine isn't colored or chemically treated at all. Still dry, though, and acts like it's damaged.

Can't help you on the shampoo/conditioner thing (though I will say Curly Girl did not work very well for me, but good luck to you!) but product made *all* the difference for me. I can totally change my hair depending on what I comb through it while it's still wet. Usually, it's aussie catch the wave leave in conditioner + mousse , which makes look all soft and mermaid-y but curlier, if that makes any sense. Sometimes I do a leave in conditioner that I got in Europe that is supped to be light and not weigh down hair, but doesn't have any hold. It skews my hair more toward the wavy end, but I still like it. Occasionally, I just comb through some gel, which makes it crunchier but a different sort of pretty wavy thing. Or I just go au naturel which makes it curliest of all (though I can scrunch in some hold product, usually a spray in gel, once it's dry or at least semi-dry for addl curl)

Anyways, that's my routine. Trying new products and actually making sure to product it every day has changed my life. Good luck with curly girl, though.
posted by R a c h e l at 10:28 PM on April 18, 2010

Oh, and I also use a really great clarifying shampoo once in a while to take out buildup. Mine's super de super strong, so I only use the tiniest amount. It's pureology, which is actually meant for colored hair, but the best stylist I ever went to recommended it for me, so I'm sticking with that. It's this one (I think, though they might have changed since I got it. Definitely the green bottle though)
posted by R a c h e l at 10:32 PM on April 18, 2010

OK, I've added a final wildcard item because I've had recurrent oily scalp build-up issues and I'm afraid that my weekly clarifying shampoo won't cut it if I'm only washing with conditioner otherwise. I bought a little container of Dr. Bronner's tea tree liquid castile soap for use at least once a week, I'm thinking mid-week, between doses of the anti-residue. I've used stuff like this in my hair before, specifically a liquid peppermint oil-based castile soap, and it definitely seems to clarify and is really intense (i.e. I wouldn't want to use it more than once a week). I'll report back in a week or so, if anyone's following this.
posted by wondermouse at 5:32 PM on April 19, 2010

have you tried the bumble and bumble curl conscious line?
posted by fillsthepews at 5:52 PM on April 19, 2010

fillsthepews, I have used one of the leave-ins from B&B's Curl Conscious line. I liked it, but I still ran into the problem of my hair eventually getting that drab look to it. I'm hoping if I can solve the shampoo/conditioner issue then I can settle on a good leave-in and stop switching around so much.

I've also had good results with Giovanni's Direct Leave-in Conditioner, but it doesn't do as well when my hair gets as long as it is now. The B&B stuff would probably be better at this point.
posted by wondermouse at 7:17 PM on April 19, 2010

OK, so far it has been a week, and I'm pretty happy with how it's going. Today I used the Neutrogena anti-residue shampoo for the second time (it's pretty much my Sunday shampoo), followed by the DevaCurl One Condition, which I wash out thoroughly. After the shower, I briefly blot my hair with my towel and then put in a relatively small amount of the Giovanni Direct Leave-in Conditioner, combing it through my hair using my fingers. Then just let it air dry from there. Right now my hair looks better than it has in weeks, and I was even just walking outside in misty rain for a while. I've got lovely, loose banana curls all over the back of my head that formed there naturally, and my hair in front looks slightly tousled, but together and healthy, not the formless mass it had been.

So the biggest changes in my routine have been avoiding shampoo except for this once a week clarifying thing, avoiding all silicones in my conditioning/styling products, and no longer using a comb. Previously I'd been averse to not using a comb because I thought my hair would look flat and messy with just the finger styling, but I've gotten a lot better at it and now it looks good.

When it's not Sunday clarifying day, about every other day I add a little bit of the Dr. Bronner's tea tree liquid castile soap to my Suave coconut co-wash and massage that into my scalp. Then I use the co-wash by itself for the rest of my hair, then wash all that out, and then use the DevaCurl conditioner. And on the other days, I wash with the Suave conditioner without adding the tea tree stuff, and then use the DevaCurl conditioner.

Another styling product I picked up is Herbal Essences Tousle Me Softly mousse, which is decent and doesn't contain silicones, but I haven't mastered how much to use of it yet. I prefer the texture of my hair with the Giovanni leave-in conditioner, so I'll probably keep going back and forth and see which one more reliably gives me the look I want. The Giovanni is great today, but it's been unpredictable in the past with my curls. I'm hoping now it'll be more predictable.

Overall.. yay! thanks for your advice everyone.
posted by wondermouse at 1:28 PM on April 25, 2010

ha, okay, one week later, I've decided that I need shampoo in my life. My best hair day by far in the last two weeks was when I used the clarifying Neutrogena shampoo, and the days where I only washed with conditioner my hair was healthy looking but flat. This'll probably be the last time I update this thread, but here's what I've got now, and think I'm good at this point:

Shampoo - Redken Fresh Curls (used daily)
Conditioner - DevaCurl One Condition (used daily)
Clarifying Shampoo - Neutrogena Anti-Residue (used once a week)
Leave-in Conditioner - Aubrey Sea Buckthorn Leave-In Conditioner & Curl Activator (sprayed a few times in hand and worked through hair)
Mousse - Herbal Essences Tousle Me Softly mousse (applied over the Aubrey stuff)
Comb with fingers
Air Dry

The Aubrey Sea Buckthorn stuff is weird. It's got a lot of horrible reviews online, mostly because it smells like egg - it contains egg protein. Sad because in the container I really like the smell of it, but the nice fragrance goes away as soon as it's in the hair, and you're left with that eggy, somewhat doggy smell. But I liked how soft it made my hair feel. The Herbal Essences stuff has a strong fragrance and is better for styling than the Aubrey, so that's where I got the idea of using HE over the Aubrey.

Oh and I had to stop using the Giovanni Leave-In because the bottle I bought recently was foul. Something is severely wrong with their product line, and at this point I've gotten one too many "off" bottles from them. I don't know what's going on, but no more Giovanni products for me.

I've been doing this for the last few days and my hair is back to looking nice and wavy/curly again, so I think this is going to stick. phew! I'm sure Ricky's is pleased to have me as a customer. If I catch my hair looking dried out I'll try the co-wash thing, so I'm keeping the Suave conditioner on-hand for that.
posted by wondermouse at 8:24 AM on May 1, 2010

If anyone ends up coming across this question, I have an update: I believe I've found the perfect conditioner and leave-ins for me, and those are...

Conditioner: Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner
Leave-in Conditioner: BWC

I have been consistently pleased with the quality of my curls/waves when I use these things. Shampoo I'm still undecided about. I've decided that the Redken Fresh Curls tends to leave my hair kind of frizzy and meh if I use it more than one day in a row, but using the Suave Coconut Conditioner as a shampoo isn't quite cleansing enough and my hair gets flat when I do much of that. I'm hoping one of the shampoos from the Aubrey line will do it for me. I do still like the Neutrogena clarifying shampoo.
posted by wondermouse at 4:12 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

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