curly hair help
March 11, 2011 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Please help me take care of my wavy/frizzy on top, curly below, very thin hair.

My hair is a little longer than shoulder length dry, and a couple inches longer wet. The bottom layers are corkscrew curly. The top layers are wavy/frizzy. In this photograph I'm leaning over so you can see both parts of my hair. I have fine hair and it's very thin - my ponytail is about the diameter of my thumb. Many products for curly hair weigh it down too much.

I wash with a tiny bit of Burt's Bees SLS-free shampoo about twice a week, and use lots and lots of Trader Joe's conditioner. I only comb my hair in the shower with conditioner in. I always lose a lot of hair in the shower. I let my hair air dry. I don't use any styling products because I've never found anything that works for me.

I tried the no-poo/curly-girl method for a month, and my hair just got too oily for that to work. If you have a suggestion for how to make it work for me, I am open to it.

I am looking for advice on how to take care of my hair, products I can try, and how to use them. I am willing to try cheap or expensive products. I could get my hair cut (I can afford maybe $70 tip included, I'm in Los Angeles), but I would like to keep it as long as possible.

Ideally, I would like ALL my hair - top layers included - to curl. I would be okay with anything that looks nice though - currently my hair is just a mess all the time and I have no idea what to do with it.

I did check the tags but all the curly hair questions were from people with different hair types than I have

posted by insectosaurus to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Can you make a list of the styling products you've tried and what you didn't like about them? That will help us to narrow down the problems you're having, as well as avoid frustrating you by suggesting stuff that you know doesn't work for you.
posted by decathecting at 9:55 AM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: Good idea decathecting - I haven't tried very many products though.

Garneir Fructis cream-gel: made my hair crunchy, did not help the top layers curl
John Frieda Frizz Ease serum: weighed down my hair/made it seem greasy
Some random mousse: made my hair a little crunchy, did not help the top layers curl
Something similar to this anti-frizz "milk": didn't do anything
posted by insectosaurus at 10:01 AM on March 11, 2011

For drying hair into a more even curl, there's a technique called plopping that I've had some success with.
posted by muddgirl at 10:05 AM on March 11, 2011

I've never heard it called "plopping" before, but that technique works well for me when I want to encourage my wavy hair into more defined curls. The type of towel is important - instead of a regular terry bath towel try a microfiber towel like this (I have seem similar ones for sale at Bed Bath and Beyond too).

Also, I know you said you didn't like no-poo, but how about low-poo? I also like some of the Deva styling products like AnGel and Mister Right (despite the corny names).
posted by bobafet at 10:19 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have this hair. I'm tried a number of products, but the best seems to be less-frequent shampoo and no products.
posted by orthogonality at 10:28 AM on March 11, 2011

Every time a variant on this question comes up, I pimp out Devachan salon and products. Today is no exception! I don't work for them; I'm just a blissfully satisfied customer. I use their one conditioner and their arc angel gel every day, and their no poo once every few months, and it has caused me to love the way my hair looks like never before.
posted by Eshkol at 11:09 AM on March 11, 2011

Your hair description sounds a LOT like mine, right down to the battle with oiliness and seeming to loose a lot of hair in the shower. Here's what I started doing last year:

Conditioner: Honeysuckle Rose by Aubrey - I use this every day. It's really thick and you don't need to use a ton of it.

Shampoo: Not sure if I've found a standout favorite, but currently I alternate Aubrey's Blue Chamomile hydrating shampoo with Neutrogena's anti-residue shampoo that comes in a box (I use the anti-residue once or twice a week)

Leave-in Conditioner: I absolutely need this unless I don't plan on leaving the house all day. Depending on the texture and feel I'm going for, I'll use either BWC's leave-in conditioner (for a softer, more low-key texture) or DevaCurl's AnGell (for a bigger, curlier texture). I get the excess water out of my hair with a towel, then apply maybe a quarter-sized amount of either and use a wide-toothed comb to distribute throughout my hair. My hair is a little longer than yours so you'd probably have to use less. Then I give it all a little scrunch and do my best to leave it alone until it dries.

I personally don't think our hair type is meant to get curly on the top. I think because it's so fine, it just won't hold the curls because it get pulled down against our heads. So my goal is just to get it so it isn't all frizzy on top, and then I get nice curls in the hair that isn't touching my head.
posted by wondermouse at 11:09 AM on March 11, 2011

Oh, and - the best way to get curls on top is to go for a layered haircut. A shorter top layer will curl up more and cover the flatter top bits of the long hairs beneath.
posted by Eshkol at 11:32 AM on March 11, 2011

I've read (on that some people have had good results with Nioxin. But also that the results only last as long as one uses it, and that the stuff's expensive.

I've also heard good things about Moroccan Oil, but it may be too heavy for you (and it has silicones in it; not sure whether that's a great idea for your scalp, if that's part of it, which we don't know... Argan oil is its bid-deal ingredient, you could try that. Though have also read that the argan tree is endangered. All this less than helpful, sorry.).

Question, though - has the frizz and thinning always been an issue, or is it a recent development? If the latter's true, there could be a number of medical reasons (which I'm not prepared to speculate upon); might be worth a visit to the doctor. (Have also heard that pregnancy can do weird things to hair.)

While I can't see how your hair is styled, shorter cuts with clever layering are generally flattering for thinner hair.
posted by nelljie at 11:33 AM on March 11, 2011

This might be unhelpful, but I used to have very curly hair, but much more manageable than yours. Still I hated it because it was thin and if it got longer than ear length I would get triangle head. So I got the Keratin straightening treatment and now I have manageable straight nonfrizzy hair always, don't even need much product.
posted by sweetkid at 11:57 AM on March 11, 2011

Best answer: My hair is also very fine, wavy on top, and more corkscrewy underneath.

Plopping doesn't work for me (leaves a dent in the hair), and lots of products are too heavy for my hair type. The few I've had luck with include some of the lighter Garnier Fructis sprays (including an anti-humidity spray), and Ouidad's Climate Control gel.

Assuming your hair is in good condition (no brushing, little combing, little heat, little pulling and tugging with your fingertips or a round brush, so not much breakage or dryness), most of the frizz you get won't be because this hair type is so prone to it, but because your curls are divided up: If like curls don't clump together with all the hairs around it of the same shape, you'll get frizz. (And if individual clumps are too thick, your hairdresser should be able to divide them or thin them out.)

A good hairdresser is critical to having good hair with this hair type. Unfortunately, many stylists claim to know how to cut curly hair, but instead cut your hair as though it were straight. Avoid these people. Also beware of stylists who *only* cut curly hair. They generally have learned the Deva or Ouidad methods. These methods aren't always terrible (especially Ouidad), but they're really geared toward thick dense corkscrew curls, not thin wavy-curlies, so they're not necessarily going to be able to cut or style your hair to maximum benefit for your hair type.

Stylists who really know what they're doing will give you very thin vertical or "hidden" layers, cutting according to the weight and volume of the curl in any given section. (Understand that doing this completely defies conventional training for hairdressers, so Yelp reviews for folks like this, especially the best ones, will often include words like "sculptural," because your hair and its angles are determining the shape of the cut as much as anything.) These types of stylists also tend to be very aware of scissor quality too, which makes sense, as very thin vertical layers require very sharp scissors.

Apart from this, if you want really curly hair on top, you probably want more layers, and when you are hand-scrunching it to dry, making sure not to break up the clumps (so it doesn't get frizzy), you'll want to use a good gel or maybe even a mousse to help it hold.

Note that, for me, I've found a not-quite-scrunch makes it curly and a gentle lift from below makes it wavy.

For me, I find my hair looks better, and is easier to manage, if I wear it wavy instead. So I try to muss it up as little as possible when washing and conditioning. Then when I get out of the shower, I comb it with a narrow-toothed comb, wrap it gently with a curly cloth to get rid of the extra moisture, and work some Ouidad gel in. Then I gently comb it back into waves behind my ears, letting it dangle in little curls in the back, and making sure it doesn't get too flat on top, by lifting up my hair a little hair and there, so it dries with volume. After it's dry, if I need more pouf up top, I lift up a few sections in the front and back, and spritz with hairspray.

This is probably the easiest and most graceful hair style I've ever had, and Lord Knows I've tested a whole bunch.
posted by Violet Blue at 12:24 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Similar hair; products I like: nexuss verastyler (diluted about 50/50 with water in a spray bottle to control frizz in lieu of hairspray, full strength it feels crunchy to me); vo5 conditioning hairdressing (used when hair is dry prior to shampooing works as a good cheap deep conditioning treatment); if I'm actually blow-drying loreal textureline smoothing serum (harder to find).
posted by ejaned8 at 3:18 PM on March 11, 2011

Best answer: A lot of good ideas in here. One of my simple solutions is to just get a small-barreled curling iron and curl that straighter top layer myself. It tends to look a lot better when I do it that way anyway.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 5:02 PM on March 11, 2011

Best answer: Here's my $.02 on all of the issues above for my thin, curly hair

*I too use a SLS free shampoo. When I am feeling flush I splurge for the DevaCurl Low Poo, but the one you're using also sounds fine.

* You can use any conditioner you want, but make sure it DOES NOT have silicone in it. I alternate between Biolage Conditioning Balm and a cheaper conditioner from Kiss My Face. I put maybe a teaspoon in as a leave-in conditioner

* The no silicone rule is especially important for styling gel. This will weigh your hair down. No John Freida or anything like that.

* I really like the Devacurl AnGell stuff, but I switched to this gel about two years ago and LOVE it. It's made especially for "fine" curly hair. I bought an enormous bottle on Ebay that has kept me in gel for over a year.

*Every good hairdresser I've had uses the method they use at the Devachan salon of creating curls by wrapping small bits of hair around there finger and letting the curls set that way. It seems that this is a great solution for the "top" part of your hair. Because your hair is curly by nature, your hair will hold the curl from those twirly curls. It's a little time-consuming, so I only do the front and very top of my hair.
posted by picklebird at 5:37 PM on March 11, 2011

Okay, here's the rest of my nickel. Can't resist.

More on frizz and the weather: Where you live counts. The only time I was able to go completely product-free in my entire adult life was when I was getting great haircuts in the very humid south. Up north, I always have to use product because my hair flattens more easily due to winter heating systems. This can quickly make my hair dry out, and when this happens I'm more prone to fussing with it, and it breaks. I mention this because the waves in the front of your hair look not just disconnected, but also a bit dry.

This brings me to the whole silicone question. Paula Begoun wrote a book about hair products. In that book, and elsewhere, she discusses silicones. In her opinion, silicones are the best thing to happen to hair conditioning in the last twenty years. She also notes that there are several types of silicones; many are water soluable. And, having gone for several months silicone-free, and then having reintroduced silicones, I think she's pretty much right. When used in conditioners, silicones can smoothe out hair like nothing else. In fact, my absolute favorite conditioner, Neutrogena's Triple Moisture in a jar, has a lot of silicone in it, as well as a variety of plant oils. It's wonderful stuff. When my hair gets a little dried out, it can help revive the body; one of our hair type's greatest strengths. Having said that, though, I'll also note that in Paula Begoun's reviews, she also notes when products build up, and many silicone products do. In those cases, all you have to do is switch products for a wash.

She also makes the distinction between sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. The latter can be a harsh irritant and she advises against. The former, however, she thinks is just fine. I generally just go with that, too. No-poo worked for me for about a month and then my hair just stopped looking or feeling right. One very good hairdresser told me it's really only effective on thick curlies, not thin wavies.

For more on haircare, it's probably worth reading Begoun's book, the Deva book, and Ouidad's book since they are informing much of the conversation on these matters, they represent a lot of approaches to haircare, and there's definitely much that's useful from all three, even if they barely deal with our specific hairtype at all. For my money, probably the most useful of all is Begoun on products and Ouidad's online haircare/styling guide, which unlike Deva's, is big on air-drying with clips for top volume.

Also useful to me was Ouidad's main concept that curls should look "fluid." Curls should not look dry (bad care); layers should not leave a shelf (bad haircut); hair should not be pouffy or triangular (bad styling, haircut, or care; bad haircut). YMMV, but in my case, that's exactly right. When my hair looks its finest, fluid is exactly how it looks.
posted by Violet Blue at 1:57 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have thin, dry bra strap length coloured hair that hairdressers euphemistically describe as 'textured' - if I really encourage it, it will go wavy, and I have fat ringlets around the nape of my neck, but if I comb it out after showering it will dry straightish with a bit of bend. At the moment I'm quite happy with my hair - I've got frizz under control, and feel like I can get it to what I want it to. Here are my points:

- Do you know what's causing your hair to thin? In my case, I'm convinced it's caused by my birth control (Implanon). I usually have a good relationship with my GP, but when I went with him with my concerns about hair loss he was quite dismissive. Unfortunately, though it is really startling to see a lot of hair come out when you wash it, washing your hair less won't do anything about the thinning. I feel like my thinning has slowed, and my scalp is much happier, when I began doing two things: one, I started a prenatal multivitamin (for the higher-than-average amount of folate - I took methotrexate for years to manage my arthritis), and, two, I began taking the time to massage my scalp really regularly to stimulate circulation. If I'm just sitting around watching TV I'll get right in there with my fingertips and try to gently, but firmly, get the circulation going. I also brush with a boar bristle brush, which feels much gentler to both my scalp and hair and also gets circulation going.

- Coconut oil!! Coconut oil is great for hair, and also for your scalp. Once a week (on a sunday, usually) I'll massage as much coconut oil as I can into my hair and scalp. It's solid at room temperature, so I'll take a little into the palms of my hands, rub my hands together to melt, then work it into hair and scalp. I'll do this until my hair is basically saturated. I braid it and clip back my fringe to keep the oily hair out of my face. I let it sit for an hour or two - I usually clean the house or go for a run. I then shampoo it out with my shampoo of choice (Elvive Smooth Intense - I quite like it). I'll often mix about a tablespoon of bicarb into that shampoo to remove any build up. I then condition with two or three palmfuls of conditioner applied to the ends and comb through. Because my hair is quite long I oil my lengths and ends nearly every day - I split my hair in half, one half hanging either side of my neck, then scrape out a fingernail sized quantity of coconut oil and melt it between the palms of my hands and run it through the ends. This has very much helped the condition of my hair, and it's super cheap.

- I tried going silicone and sulphate free, and it really wasn't for me. Despite all my co-washing efforts, my hair snarled and tangled like nobody's business. Also, I found there's nothing better for controlling frizz than a silicone serum (think John Frieda's Frizz Ease). I totally agree with Violet Blue - silicone and sulphate free suits some people, but you might want to try them again. A better shampoo might also help with the oiliness. With my fine, thin hair I just can't leave it unwashed for too long - I wash ever two to three days. If I get oily roots in between I use a dry shampoo.

- I actually co-wash if my ends are feeling crispy and my roots oily. The trick is to use as much conditioner as humanly possible. Actually, something that really helped me was to take a quantity-not-quality approach to conditioners. I use a cheapo Andrelon conditioner to co-wash, and condition on shampoo days with Elvive Smooth Intense deep treatment.

- Try a silicone serum to style with. Srsly, they're amazing.

- If I need my hair to look decent, I swear by hot rollers, yes, really. The heat is far gentler on my hair than a blow drier or curling iron, and they're kind of idiot proof. I wash my hair at night, work in a leave-in conditioner and sometimes some mousse, then let it air dry overnight. In the morning I brush my hair out, spray it all with hairspray (I love Elnett), then use about five big, big rollers. I get on with the rest of my morning, then right before I leave take them out, give it a shake and head out. I find this really, really helps with frizz and texture.

Whoa, this turned into a long post. Best of luck!
posted by nerdfish at 6:25 AM on March 12, 2011

Here's a list of silicone-free conditioners. I just got a bottle of Nature's Gate Organics Fruit Blend Mandarin Orange and Patchouli conditioner, which smells amazing.
Also, I recommend Southland Soap shampoo bars. They don't have tons of garbage in them and they last a long time. I have thin hair and a hurty scalp, so I'm picky about what I use.

Good luck with your hair!
posted by thymelord at 12:35 PM on March 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all for the advice. My hair is looking a LOT better these days.

I'm using either TIGI Curls Rock, or DevaCurl AnGell (they seem to work equally well), and planning to try the Bumble & Bumble Curl Conscious creme. I'm a lot more careful with how I dry my hair (t-shirt instead of towel - I still need to buy a microfiber towel, careful scrunching, then no touching until it's dry). I'm also planning to get a haircut.

Again, thanks for all the advice!
posted by insectosaurus at 9:11 AM on March 31, 2011

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