How can I make my curly hair fabulous for cheap (and how do I embrace it)?
May 26, 2011 6:59 PM   Subscribe

Hair Filter: Help a grad student living frugally to make her curly hair fabulous. Moral support for going curly would also be appreciated!

I'm 20-something Caucasian girl with very long dark brown hair, and have been taming my curls since I was about 14. I've blown out, flat-ironed, and slathered biosilk on my hair for the past four years, or just put it in a frizzy ponytail with tons of bobby pins. It's very soft, thick hair that coils into narrow spiral ringlets (not waves) when I do nothing to it, with the bottom layers being a lot less curly unless I use a diffuser. When wearing my hair curly, I'll use a Frizz-Ease serum and run mousse through it after combing it out. I'll scrunch it a few times and it'll air dry into its flatter-on-top formation, with fine short frizz emerging as it dries. Any way I dry it, I have this "halo" of fine flyaway frizz that floats (so many "f"s!) around my head, which makes my hair look messy. I cannot love my curls because of this.

Fellow curly Metafi-ites, give me your feedback on whether it's worth it to keep spending an hour every day wrestling it into unnatural smoothness. At least that would be free (for now), since I have all kinds of straightening balms and smoothing serums.

Alternatively, I could read the "Curly Girl" book, buy a bunch of salon products ($$), and go to this expert curly hair stylist in town and get what must be the Rolls Royce of haircuts for $50+. Honestly, I got to SuperCuts for $15 trims usually. Is all of this necessary (the book, the co-washing, low-pooing, rinse out conditioner, deep conditioner, leave-in conditioner, and styling gel and creme, AG:Recoil, the plopping/pineapple-ing/duck clips for volume) to have great curly hair? I'm trying to save up the money I have left from a previous lab job, but if this stuff will save me time in the morning, I'll go all out and make the investment. Please advise me in this respect!

1. Is taking care of curls just as time consuming as blowing out my hair, and is it even more expensive? If not, give me reasonably-priced products and basic steps, please!

2. I look awesome with straight hair. I get good reactions from men, and a part of me is afraid that I wouldn't be maximizing my potential with the curls. I don't personally find that straight hair is any more/less beautiful or polished, but admittedly, I feel like my curls don't look as sexy or even as "professional" and well-groomed as curly hair. How do I learn to love these locks, ladies (and gentlemen)?
posted by sunnychef88 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (41 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I did a stint in an Aveda Institute years ago, and I struggled with clients who's locks were like yours. I'm not sure I have much advice, other than to get yourself a good wide-toothed comb and make sure you're using the right product for the weather, ie antihumectant or humectant. Obviously avoiding over-washing and using high quality products will keep the frizz at bay, but it sounds like you already know that. Curly hair is gorgeous in my opinion, being a pin-straight gal. I envy the voluminous curly beauties out there. I have to tease the heck out of mine! Rock it and love it.
posted by JeSuisLibre at 7:14 PM on May 26, 2011

You want the forums at They are the ones who can tell you how to give it an honest try, and they can give you the same info as is in the book, but for free and more tailored to your situation. Also super-nice people and some drop-dead-gorgeous hair pictures.

All of the stuff you're talking about doesn't have to be expensive. You can go no-poo and condition-wash with Suave or other super-cheap drugstore brands, if you read the labels and avoid -cone ingredients. Drugstore gels can definitely do for styling, too.

And you might be pleasantly surprised at how much time you save getting ready... your hair may even look better the second and third days after you wash it than it did the same day. If your hair is long enough to pineapple, you might be able to take a shower before bed, go to sleep with wet hair in a pony on the top of your head, and just do two minutes of scrunching and spritzing on your way out the door.
posted by Andrhia at 7:17 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Using these accordingly will tame the "halo." Also, avoid taking a dryer to your hair as much as possible, let it air dry or use a diffuser AND product while drying. Moisturized curly hair is tame-able hair.
posted by JeSuisLibre at 7:18 PM on May 26, 2011

I have a different curly hair type from yours (mine is very fine and somewhere between curly and wavy depending on the day - it is pretty long though), but in the last year I've found stuff that works for me and really doesn't take much time nor cost much money. For me, the diciest thing is the actual cut so I don't look like a mushroom or a lion or some otherwise weird choppy thing. Everything else I can manage on my own. I found that cutting out silicones and sulfates has made a big difference, but the alternative products don't cost much.

Really the most important thing is combing and styling it while it's wet, and then not touching it ever again. Once a week, use a nice clarifying shampoo like Neutrogena's anti-residue shampoo. This works for me.

The halo of frizz sounds like it's because your hair breaks a lot. This might be because of damage inflicted by heat styling.
posted by wondermouse at 7:20 PM on May 26, 2011

I do the curly girl hair with the products in this article. I get them all at walmart or kmart or target for cheap cheap. She says to start out with those and move on to fancier things but I've been happily using the cheap stuff for a year. My daughter's hair is more oily than mine and she uses $5 Whole Foods 365 brand sulfate free shampoo. It has definitely reduced the frizziness of our hair.
posted by artychoke at 7:22 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "I could read the "Curly Girl" book, buy a bunch of salon products ($$), and go to this expert curly hair stylist in town and get what must be the Rolls Royce of haircuts for $50+. "

Um, no. Read the Curly Girl book, learn you only need moisturizing conditioner (I use Herbal Essences moisturizing, personally), no more shampoo, no more product (except for special occasions) and all you REALLY need is to part the hair in the middle and blunt cut in a straight line (layers tend to add poof and frizz to curly hair; if you want FANCY trendy curly hair, you need a spendy stylist who knows how to cut curls, which is more or less "one at a time.") But my simply-cut curls do everything I need them to do. To be quite honest, I make my husband cut it. Don't blow-dry. At all.

My frizz dropped dramatically when I quit using product and shampoo, btw. I don't really have to mess with leave-ins and anti-frizz and all that stuff, though I do have a spray leave-in for very humid days. Again, drugstore brand, nothing fancy.

As for clippies, I like to put my hair up in a French twist with clippy claws for business-type stuff, while it's still wet. It stays pretty smooth and sleek most of the day that way. (Though the knot is usually still wet 10 hours later.) Hem clips purchased for a couple bucks at the craft store work fine for most of the fancier "styling" she shows you in Curly Girl. You can also get great curl and volume by hanging your head off the edge of the bed upside down while your hair dries for a few minutes, so the roots are nice and lifted while the hair dries (which is the point of the hem clips and so on in the styling section). But, again, no real significant spending frenzy.

Most days I spend all of 10 minutes on my hair: condition, comb with wide-toothed comb, twist into french twist, put in scrunchied pony-tail, or part and leave alone to dry curly and loose.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:22 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

(BTW, my hair is quite similar to yours, except curlier at the ends than the top, and reading Curly Girl CHANGED MY LIFE. I literally cried while reading it because someone finally understood my hair. At least get it from the library and check it out.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:24 PM on May 26, 2011

I don't brush or comb my curls at all. Use your fingers. Something about natural distribution of oils or something, I guess, but my hair frizzes as soon as I use something which isn't my hand through it.

The only product I need is a leave-in conditioner for the bottom-half. (I use Pantene but a lot of people don't like it.)

Next time you see someone on the street with curly hair that looks good, ask where they get it cut. That's happened to me a couple of times and I took it as a huge compliment. Come to think of it, that's how I started to embrace my curls, when I asked a curly-haired friend for a recommendation and got my first decent haircut from someone who knew how to cut curly hair well. Make an appointment at that salon and go to the appointment with freshly-washed dry un-producted hair, so the stylist understands how your hair behaves.

Finally, embrace it. I fought my curls up until my mid-30's, and I regret wasting all that time trying to make my hair do something it didn't want to do!

PS: In my experience, men love curls. I've been told how sexy it is when I absent-mindedly scrunch my hair to make it curlier and, um, bouncier.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 7:31 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Our hair sounds very similar but I love my curls and am much too lazy to spend time straightening my hair. I was surprised at the number of products for stopping frizzy hair I saw in stores when I moved to the USA, until I found out that most people over here wash and blow dry their hair everyday.

My main tips would be don't wash your hair everyday and don't blow dry, let your hair air dry. I wash my hair every 4 days or so depending on the weather and how sweaty I've gotten, I wash it with a very gentle (no cone) shampoo and then put in lots of conditioner and let it sit for 3 minutes and then rinse almost all of it out. I find if I leave a little in there it helps stop the fly aways and frizzies. I use only cheap supermarket brand shampoos and conditioners, avoid all the "cones" in my hair products I can.

If I really want to add to the curl I might add in a curl enhancing serum, but most times I'm too lazy.

The one place I don't like to skimp with my hair is my hair cuts. Get a good haircut, its worth paying for, and I'm a big old cheapskate. Just make sure your stylist knows you are going to be wearing you hair curly. There are different ways of cutting hair so it sits nicely depending on if its straight or curly.

TL;DR Don't wash everyday. Don't blowdry, air dry. Save money on products and spend it on a great haircut.
posted by wwax at 7:32 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have the same hair type. Good conditioner and LA Looks gel. It looks fantastic
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:33 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't use a blow-dry - towel dry and then leave the rest to naturally dry.

Wash your hair infrequently (shampoo/condition) - like once a week at the most. I usually do once a fortnight.

All I use is Redken's Real Control Crema Care. Have never ever had any luck with anti-frizz products.

Always use a comb, never a brush.
posted by mleigh at 7:33 PM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the styling tips, all. I see that there's definitely a budget-friendly way to do it. Just feeling a bit frightened, as silly as that sounds, of giving up straight locks. I've seen those magazine surveys that say men are more attracted to straight hair, and it's a bit discouraging since I want to start dating guys at this point in life. I know it's shallow, yada yada, but it's hard to not think this way since curls in the media seemed to have gone out with the 90s. Please reassure me that it's not a turn off or something. And don't judge me for asking for a pep talk. Gracias. :D
posted by sunnychef88 at 7:36 PM on May 26, 2011

Response by poster: Also, the names of specific products (those cheap products you are talking about) would be very helpful, since the drugstore shelves can be overwhelming. It's inspiring to hear that the cheap stuff works well, too!
posted by sunnychef88 at 7:40 PM on May 26, 2011

My husband loves my curls (and before him all my boyfriends did). I have coloured my hair red since I was 17 and have always gotten lots of compliments about my hair. I don't think curls have gone out of fashion. I do think they stand out more and can be dramatic and eye catching and very very feminine, what guy doesn't love that sort of thing Think Kate Winslet in Titanic (am I showing my age there?), Julia Roberts, Taylor Swift, Kate Hudson or Beyonce.
posted by wwax at 7:50 PM on May 26, 2011

I hated my hair until I got a decent stylist when I was 16; before that, it was all Dorothy Hamill inspired horrors. Until six months ago, when I stopped shampooing almost entirely (like once a month now), I groused about how thin and fine it was. Until last month, when my current stylist and friend was bored and he ironed it flat, I HAD NO IDEA how much time other women spend on their hair every day. Seriously: i comb it in the shower, and sort of tousle it when I get out, and that is it. It's never looked better. Free yourself and your hair!

Plently of men will still look.
posted by mimi at 7:53 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've seen those magazine surveys that say men are more attracted to straight hair, and it's a bit discouraging since I want to start dating guys at this point in life.

Magazines and the media in general are stupid crap that you don't need to listen to. Curly haired women all over the world have boyfriends and husbands. Hell, downright unattractive people get married all the time! It's not because of their hair style, I'll tell you that. I myself have had several boyfriends in my life. Not one of them ever suggested that I straighten my hair, and I think it is safe to say it played no part in the ups and downs of our relationships.
posted by wondermouse at 7:55 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

First, congrats on giving up the hair-self-hate! It's a battle, especially when we see so few examples of fabulous naturally curly hair in the media. (Curly, yes. Naturally, no.) Once I got to feeling comfortable with my hair, it became more of a personal style trademark than something I had to fight with and feel bad about. That confidence does a lot for picking up the guys! (And oh, the '90s were so not a good time for curlies in the media. Look what they did to Chelsea Clinton.)

Second, is indeed gonna be your friend, but it is a ton of information to sort through. This is why Curly Girl is a useful read -- it's a quick primer on how the whole thing works, and is pretty darn empowering. You can probably get it from a local library, so that part's potentially free. Have a look at some of the other similar books, too. I haven't had as much luck with the methods they suggest, but it's interesting to compare and you might get some good techniques from them.

Nthing all the folks suggesting the cheaper products. That part's not so bad. I've experimented with more expensive mail-order curly hair stuff when I've had extra income, but I don't think it's really worth the money for the most part. Nice, but I'm back to the under-$5 for a big bottle stuff now. Some brands names for conditioner (don't even bother with anything labeled shampoo, it's not worth your time, and if you want to ease into it while still using shampoo, just dilute whatever you've got left): Suave Naturals (the coconut one is the best smelling), Tresemme whatever-the-one-is-with-no-silicones-on-the-label (it smells good and detangles really well). Gels: well, I'm looking for a new one since they upped the price on BioSilk Rock Hard Gelee. Check for ideas, there's always a cheap products thread active. And wide-toothed combs are cheap.

Haircuts are troublesome. I've gone without for a while since going to the only stylists I trust in this area is expensive (but the cuts are good and do last quite a while, and also a good curly-care regimen will keep your hair looking good longer on its own). It's absolutely worth it getting my hair cut dry, by someone who doesn't need to have the "yes, I wear my hair curly" thing explained to them as though they've never heard of different hair textures before. That just gets depressing (and insulting, when they start going on about how great I'd look if I spent an hour a few times a week straightening it). I advise checking the stylist reviews on; it's generally a good guide for finding someone with a clue.

Good luck! I'll say that even on bad hair days (or days when I'm too lazy to wash it [by this I mean get it wet; shampoo has no place in my hair unless I've been playing in the mud] and it's not looking so hot), it'll look better pulled into a ponytail or clip than it would if I were trying to straighten it. It definitely feels better.

... And I really typed that much about hair.
posted by asperity at 7:56 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

One thing I learned at the NaturallyCurly forums was that a trick that helps with the flyaways is to not just avoid the hairdryer on the days when you wash your hair but use a towel made of tshirt material (I just use an old tshirt) and scrunch instead of rubbing to dry. Something about the nap on terrycloth towels, I guess. You can also use paper towels in a pinch.

Also, I did the cheapo haircuts for YEARS and was never very happy with my hair; the stylist would always comb it out completely straight and then end up cutting in the center of the waves, making it stick out in all directions. I ended up finding a stylist who had good reviews on NaturallyCurly but does NOT specifically do expensive "curly cuts" and am much happier (and people have started complimenting my hair even when it's up in a ponytail; tell your stylist if you want to be able to wear your hair up). As others have said, with a good haircut you can go longer between cuts without your hair looking messy, so it might end up costing you about the same amount in the long run.
posted by camyram at 8:02 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm seriously surprised at the variety of responses this is getting. It's kind of fun reading all the different ways to deal with curly hair.

As for me, I wash my hair most days because I'm really active. I'd say I wash it around three or four times a week, and sometimes I'll rinse it and just use conditioner. Usually, I wash with shampoo and then slather on conditioner and leave it in my hair for the rest of my shower (about 5 minutes). Towel-dry without vigorously rubbing your hair, more like squeezing or wiping dry. I sometimes use a leave-in moisturizer (right now I have Catwalk Curls Rock Leave-in but I've had good experiences with Neutrogena and Redken (gold bottle, don't remember what it was called)) leave-ins as well. Then I use Suave Professional Captivating Curls Whipped Cream Mousse, which works just as well as a more expensive mousse-y curl defining cream I used to use. Scrunch a bit, maybe let it dry a few minutes, and blow-dry with a diffuser. I touch my hair a good bit, scrunching it up to give it body and reshape it throughout the day, and I don't find it terribly frizzy. I agree with what someone alluded to a little earlier that once you stop blow-drying everyday and get your hair really well-moisturized, the frizz problem might not be as bad. As you can see, I use mainly all drug-store brands these days. It's just a matter of finding out what works best for you, but you definitely do not need to buy expensive products just because your hair is curly.

Also important, if possible, I'll try to give my hair a break from washing and blow-drying whenever I can. If I don't need to be particularly presentable for a few days, I'll just let it be dirty for a bit. As someone said earlier, sometimes it even looks better on the second or third day.

Cuts are important, and I like to get mine cut in a way that works curly or straight, so I go for long layers, with layers around my face. The right cut has never been a huge issue for me.

As for looking professional, I've found that a loose bun with a few wavy pieces surrounding my face is just as lovely and office-appropriate-looking as long straight hair worn down. (Although I know that curly hair is no less "professional" than straight hair, I understand your feeling that it's a little less...tamed. When I worked in a super-professional environment, I usually pulled it up loosely to keep it in check without damaging it.) I get a TON of compliments from women on this style. I started wearing my hair curly in my mid-twenties and I still sometimes straighten just to shake things up, but I never, never get as compliments on it straight as I do with it curly. I think you'll be surprised (in a good way) by people's reactions.
posted by alittlecloser at 8:05 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

"I've seen those magazine surveys that say men are more attracted to straight hair"

Magazine surveys exist to sell magazines, which exist to sell products. Magazines are not very interested in you celebrating your natural beauty. You don't need products for that. Magazines want you to pay to achieve complicated, unnatural styles and looks.

I've always gotten a great deal of masculine attention for my curls, especially at times when the media is showing nothing-but-flatironed-hair. It stands out more at those times. I mean, attention to my curls to the point that I'm like, "Hello? My face is down HERE!" (No, but seriously, sometimes it was like, "Yeah, I have great hair, I get it, every guy in the universe points it out, new topic?")

As you try out less-expensive products, see what you can find in the trial-size section. Many drugstore brands do some in trial sizes, just take a peek at a few different stores you frequent, see what they have in trial size. That way you don't have to use a whole entire bottle of some conditioner you end up hating the smell of.

(Product preferences, as you requested: Herbal Essences moisturizing conditioner; Infusium 23 leave-in (but did it just get discontinued?); for shampoo when needed, I use Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo, watered down, which I have on hand anyway for my toddler. It's more drying than if I got a dedicated me-shampoo, but I go through so little I didn't get around to bothering. I've also had good luck with Suave products in the past.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:12 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

just wanted to say, i it's totally worth it to get a good cut for curly hair. saves me so much time/effort in the morning. also when you get a good cut, you can wait longer in between cuts without looking ridiculous.

my hair is different than yours, but i love Frizzease smoothing creme. it's about $7 and you can put it on dry hair which is nice.
posted by nanhey at 8:20 PM on May 26, 2011

I think my hair is very similar to yours. I tried the no-poo method and, to be honest, I didn't like the results. (And it wasn't for lack of effort -- I tried it for several months.) It's worth giving it a shot since everyone else seems to love it so much, but if it doesn't work for you, don't give up!

Ouidad's Climate Control gel has been my go-to product for the past decade. If they ever discontinue it I will have to shave my head. It's somewhat expensive, but the ~8oz bottle lasts me almost a full year. I use the swirly purple Herbal Essences shampoo (washing every other day or so), and on days when my hair doesn't have to be perfect I use the matching Herbal Essences conditioner. On days when I want my hair to look especially nice, I use Ouidad's Curl Quencher conditioner, which is like some kind of miracle cream (but more expensive than the Herbal Essences, hence my limited usage). And because the water in Chicago is ridiculously hard, I use Ouidad's Water Works shampoo once every two weeks or so to get all the gunk out of my hair. The routine: shampoo, condition, pat dry with a towel, rub a bit of Climate Control in my palms and smooth it over my hair like I'm gathering it in a ponytail, run a wide-tooth comb through it, then rub some more Climate Control in my palms and scrunch from all directions. (Then try to avoid playing with your hair at all costs, but fail miserably because curls are just so much fun to play with!)

Also, consider cutting your "very long" hair a bit shorter. I think women with curly hair tend to look best with shorter haircuts (like shorter than shoulder length) -- the curls are bouncier and there's less hair weighing down the roots and making your hair look flat on top. Plus it takes way less time to air dry!
posted by enlarged to show texture at 8:33 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've got the same hair as yours, the same trouble you have, and the same worries. I never really knew much about taking care of curly hair until a few months ago when I started reading I ended up going and getting a dry curly girl cut, which is a MUST if you have curly hair. My stylist literally cut my hair curl by curl, when they were dry. Don't ever get wet cuts ever again! Get curly girl dry cuts!

The other thing I did was try the Deva Curl products for a while and did the no-poo thing, but I couldn't afford the Deva products. What I'm doing now, which helps control the frizz, is use the Dove Extra Moisture line of products. I slather my hair with the conditioner and leave most of it in in the shower, I don't really rinse it much. I then scrunch it and add some leave-in conditioner and let it air-dry. This keeps frizz way under control.

But yea, go read the Curly Girl book and browse around, although word of warning - the website itself is a nightmare to navigate.
posted by carmel at 8:37 PM on May 26, 2011

I have a friend with hair that is a lot like yours from the sound of it, and I've always thought it was just the most beautiful thing - soft, and voluminous but light at the same time, and with these gorgeous little ringlets.... I believe she uses a big conditioner to shampoo ratio, and cuts it herself.

Granted, if it's male attention you're after, then the opinion of this envious-straight-girl-with-boring-straight-hair-that-still-manages-to-be-unruly-somehow might not be very relevant. But just so you know, some people think curly hair's awesome.
posted by one little who at 8:53 PM on May 26, 2011

I ended up going and getting a dry curly girl cut, which is a MUST if you have curly hair. My stylist literally cut my hair curl by curl, when they were dry. Don't ever get wet cuts ever again! Get curly girl dry cuts!

To respectfully disagree with carmel, there are no MUSTS when it comes to curly hair. What works for one person may or may not work for you. It makes things difficult, to be sure. I hated, hated, hated the curly girl cut. I think that the curly girl method seems to generate alot of people with exactly the same hair, that looks greasy and like a spiral perm from the 80s. But that's just my opinion!

You do need a good cut, though, that is true. It can make a big difference in how presentable your curls are. The naturallycurly site is good for finding stylists in your area that are known for handling curly hair well.

I personally use the DevaCurl No Poo and One Condition every other day. I use Giovianni Tea Tree Triple Treat shampoo about once a month to change things up. For styling, I use Aveda Confixor or something I get at Walgreens in a curvy yellow bottle. I finger style some of the curls and let it air-dry. I don't own a hairbrush.
posted by cabingirl at 9:00 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Leave-in conditioner changed my life (hair-wise, anyhow). If you can find one that works for you (I just fell in love with "Beautiful Curls" at Whole Foods, it's not the cheapest but it's not in the Deva-curl range either) - you can even use a regular conditioner you like diluted with water as a leave-in - that lets you wash less frequently, which seems to increase the bounciness. I wash my hair about once every 2-3 days, but use the leave-in even on the days I don't. A super-hold hairspray (any brand) keeps everything in place once I'm happy.

Nthing don't use a blow dryer or a brush. If your hair's prone to tangles, detangle when you condition in the shower, then re-scrunch when you use your leave-in.

My best piece of advice is, if you see a woman on the street or at work with curly hair like yours that looks great, ask her what she does. While not everything works on every head of hair, there's a lot of good advice out there because there's so many possibilities.
posted by Mchelly at 9:05 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also have curly hair, and have only recently learned to embrace it (within the last year).

I wash my hair once a month using a really great-smelling Burt's Bees shampoo. It cost $8 for the bottle, which seems expensive for shampoo, but at the rate I use it I'll have it for at least a few years.

I condition daily using Tresemme Naturals moisture conditioner. It costs about $3.50 for the bottle, which is gigantic. I go through a bottle every 3-4 months.

Basically, I just avoid all -cone products; that has really improved my frizz situation and hair health. I rarely use heat and don't use products at all.

If I want my curls to look super fancy, I do this really nifty trick that I picked up in another Metafilter thread about curly hair: right out of the shower, when my hair is sopping wet, I wrap it in a lint-free static-free cloth (I just use a soft men's teeshirt, 100% cotton) and let it dry that way. This video taught me how to wrap it properly. It takes 1-2 hours but my curls always look amazing when I do this. I seriously only do this like once every six months but it's worth it for special occasions.
posted by k8lin at 10:49 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, honey, that BS about men being more attracted to straight hair is a sales job!

Back in the day, when I was in high school, magazines were selling straight hair. Good ol' Twiggy made my curly life hell with her thin, straight hair (and stick-skinny bod.) When my youngest daughter was in high school, the 'it' girls were wearing long curly hair, and she rocked them with the most amazing long super curls, thanks to the 'rents genetics. Now magazines are back to selling straight hair, and she's still rockin' them with her (medium length) super curls. Men look twice and have even just asked to touch her hair. She has women coming up to her on the street to ask her where she gets her hair done/products she uses, etc. (I'm telling you, this girl's hair turns heads!)

The daughter likes fancy stuff, but while she was in law school, she just used inexpensive drug store brands. No silicones, and never a hair dryer. For maximum curl and shine, we both wash our hair about every four days, unless we're around cigarette smoke, which we hate. We both have at least two, if not three, brands of shampoo open and in rotation. Conditioning is done on an 'as needed' basis, rather than every wash. You can get a good $15 cut if you're willing to try different people. I've paid big buck$ for cuts and had cheap ones, but one of the best stylists I ever used was located in Great Clips. She did a fast razor cut that was amazing, and I followed her around to different locations until she moved out of state :( My daughter refused to cut her hair for three years until she moved back to NM and her favorite $40 stylist.

If a magazine tells women that straight hair is in, then some women believe them. But if they tell women that men are more attracted to straight hair, then most women will run to the hairdressers and start throwing money across the sales counter. Advertisers are what keep magazines in business. Magazines sell 'The Look,' and 'The Look' sells goods and services for their advertisers. Ignore the magazines.

Men are attracted to soft, shiny touchable hair, whether it's curly or straight--although I think curly has an edge. They like long hair, too, but a short curly cap on a CONFIDENT sexy woman will get 'em, too. Go out there with your lovely curls held high and WoW 'em!
posted by BlueHorse at 10:56 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Natural Haircare: Using Bentonite Clay
I found this video while researching fuller's earth as a body cleanser.
posted by hortense at 11:27 PM on May 26, 2011

Congratulations, you have fairy princess hair! It's a good thing... roll with it.

To give your hair the best chance to be what it actually is, throw out the blow dryer and use only a wide tooth comb on wet hair. Use Aveda's Be Curly. A tiny bit of coconut oil on dry hair will help tame fly-aways caused by heat and over-producting your hair while it recovers.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:13 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh it's much cheaper going curly! I have thick curly hair and use only drugstore shampoo and conditioner on it. I never bother with expensive serums, and I don't even OWN a hairbrush or comb.

The one investment you have to make is a good haircut, with lots of layers to give it shape and prevent it from going into the dreaded A-shape (flat on top, big on the bottom). But I get my hair cut very infrequently, because the layers make it grow out well.

I wash my hair with normal shampoo, and when I come out of the shower I comb through it with my fingers while it is still dripping wet, then put a ton of conditioner on it, concentrating on the ends; then tie it up in a towel, go about the rest of the getting-ready process, then unwind it. Then add a little more conditioner to the ends and scrunch or twist depending on the direction of the curls I want. Then I just forget about it. This is really important. I never touch it as it's drying. It dries in a few hours but you can blast it with your hair dryer (being careful not to touch it with your fingers) if it needs to dry out faster.

I've never heard of the whole "men are more attracted to girls with straight hair" thing, and to be honest that doesn't hold true for me; the first thing guys say when they're trying to chat me up is something about how great my hair is. :)

There's nothing wrong with straightening your hair and it does look good but it's quite bad for your hair in the long run. I used to be like you and hate my curly hair. But that was before I learned to take care of it properly. Now I would never consider going straight.

Good luck! :)
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:46 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

A good haircut has been invaluable for me BUT they don't have to be expensive.

I found my hairdresser through other friends with curly hair similar to mine. She was expensive for my then student budget, but compared to what seem like going NYC prices (even not for curly hair), she's a bargain.

She does not cut it dry. She does not cut it one curl at a time. Those gimmicky curly hair things... I guess they work well for some people but they are not essential. She herself has very similar curly hair.

(Just go up to women with curly hair that seems like yours and looks good and ask them about their hairdresser. We've all been through this. I've spoken with tons of strangers this way and every single one of them has been glad to either share her tips with me or commiserate with me. Eventually you'll find a hairdresser in your area and price range).

I've recently started using some Ouidad products and love them, though they're expensive. For years I used "Curl Keeper" which is cheaper and goes a long way.

Love your hair! Curly hair is great! And wouldn't the world be boring if we all looked the same!
posted by Salamandrous at 5:28 AM on May 27, 2011

Also - consider going short! It's so easy. SO nice. For some faces it really is more flattering (I think that even on my best long hair day, my face looks better with short hair than long hair).

And... if curly hair is THE physical feature that makes you worried about getting dates... that's a really good indication that you have nothing to worry about, and finding dates (for you) will be about your approach, style, attitude, openness, and venue. Worrying about your hair may just distract you from addressing other issues that may actually be getting in your way.

If only women who looked like magazine models were getting dates and love lives, the population would be a lot smaller (and more homogenous!) than it is now.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:34 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have the ringlets as well. I read Curly Girl and remain opposed to the idea of not using shampoo. I know how frizzy my hair gets when I don't put product on it, and frankly I don't buy the book's arguments that that's because it's covered with horrible, unnatural chemicals even when it's clean. I have "fried" my hair with chemicals before, through excessive dyeing, and that's completely different from everyday frizz. To be fair, what the book recommends is no brushing of any kind, organic cleaning products on selected areas during showering, and occasional treatments with herbs and food products. But I live in the south like you and I simply can't believe that abandoning chemicals is going to win the frizz battle in all this humidity.

If you feel the same way, you might be okay with my routine. I keep a brush like this one in the shower and gently brush my hair straight before washing. If you start at the bottom and work your way up once it's all thoroughly wet, tangles are no problem. Then I use Pert shampoo-conditioner. When I get out I briefly wrap my hair in a towel, then brush through Infusium, which prevents split ends, heat damage and breakage, and is beloved by many Mefites. I then apply cheapo hair gel (you know, that brightly colored stuff that they always have for 99 cents on the bottom shelf), brush that through, and divide my hair into locks with my fingers. I let it air dry. The biggest thing is not to overdry before adding product. I keep the towel on only for a minute, and my hair is still a little drippy when I brush it out.

I do have a diffuser for situations where I need dry hair right away, but my hair comes out noticeably fluffier when I use it. I wash my hair about 4 times a week and that's just because it usually looks great even after I sleep on it. And I'm lazy. If I want it to look especially awesome in the morning and be dry early, I do all that before going to bed and lay my hair out on the pillow so I don't even sleep on it. That makes those curls amazingly shiny and extra curly because they haven't had their own weight pulling them down or my body heat drying them.

Looks like I'm the dissenting voice on haircuts. I got an expensive haircut once, and the stylist did all this undercutting to create a specific shape that was a disaster once it grew out. That was the first and last time I did not cut my own hair or have a friend cut it for me. When you have long curly hair, there is room for mistakes that no one will see. If I'm going to cut it, after a shower I divide it into narrow vertical sections around my head, and comb each section out away from my head. Then I cut each one at an angle so that it comes out slightly shorter on top, but still even. After it dries, give those straighter locks near the neck a trim. It's not too difficult and doesn't end up A-shaped that way. There are websites that can show you how to cut your own hair if you have anxiety about trying that.

I used to use Frizz Ease and it never did me any good. What helped was reading a book years ago that scientifically analyzed and reviewed every hair care product on the market. The gist of it was that if you buy a shampoo or conditioner, that's all you're getting no matter what you pay. The big names and high prices add nothing. The only product the book endorsed as fulfilling the promises of its advertising was Infusium, and I've used it ever since. If that stuff ever goes off the market, I will buy up every bottle I can find.

I used to iron my hair. Sometimes I would sleep with it in can-sized curlers. I even owned one of those hooded dryers and lugged it through a dozen apartments over the years. As a kid I kept it very short and then when I was in high school, growing it out, I was known as the white girl with an afro. So I feel your annoyance. Sometimes I am still jealous of women with straight hair because I imagine they put forth no effort to have "normal-looking" hair. Over the years though, I have come to realize how much attention, admiration and even jealousy lovely natural curls can inspire! Sorry for the novel, but transitioning from straight to curly was a big deal for me, because I had never had strangers who weren't creepy complimenting my looks before.

And hey, curls are fun to play with. Every guy I've been with loved them and protested loudly every time I talked about cutting them all off. I can't tell you if it's more expensive to have curls, but it's infinitely less effort than trying to look like you don't, and people love them, and now I love them too. No matter what we all tell you, chances are good that you will have to do your own experimenting to find a routine that works for you and gives you the results that you want. But yes, it is worth it.
posted by heatvision at 8:24 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have pretty curly hair. I am most satisfied when I pay to have it straightened. They do it at the local hair school, although it takes a long time. But it does last a pretty long time because the roots don't show curl for a bit.

I don't want to be negative, it's just that I spent until my 30s trying to love the curls... And then finally accepted that I don't. That's ok too!
posted by miss tea at 9:01 AM on May 27, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, so many responses with great advice. Hugs and free cars for everyone!

Miss Tea, I've gotten chemical relaxing done. Your hair doesn't look parched at all? It doesn't save me any time since it's still very curly, honestly. Are you talking about thermal reconditioning? I heard something about formaldehyde toxicity from those Brazilian hair treatments, recently, which has me thinking it's not worth it to be inhaling all those chemicals.

Andrhia, I appreciate your suggestion for starting to post at the naturallycurly forums. However, my ADD brain went kind of nuts on that side, and 3 hours later I felt myself completely overwhelmed by all of the information. I couldn't locate a step by step plan for 3b hair, including products and whether protein treatments is necessary for my damaged "high porosity" hair, or whether living in a high humidity climate meant anti-humectants are necessary. The site layout is crazy town!

Some very helpful posters have suggested that I need to try out various products for myself - I get that. At this point, I'm trying to nickel and dime it with basic tried and true stuff and not waste money (which I'm easily prone to doing - see my cosmetics case!) or too much time obsessing over hair. Going to try some products that are reasonably priced for now, and hope they do the trick.

Here's the list of stuff to try after looking at Target--

1. Suave Natural conditioner for daily washing/scalp scrubbing
2. Tresemme Naturals Conditioner for conditioning
3. Garnier Triple Moisture conditioning spray
4. LA Looks gel for gelling
Yogurt/honey mask for protein restructuring (do the natural remedies actually work?)

The curly forums seem to mention Curly Custard, Knot Today Leave in Conditioner, Curl Keeper, and AG Recoil at lot. Will one of these do something really magical to my curls, making it work the $16? I can bite the bullet and get one if it's necessary.

You guys have made me so excited to go curly. It is special, and it is fairy princess hair! Thank you THANK YOU for the pep talk. I feel freer already!
posted by sunnychef88 at 9:28 AM on May 27, 2011

Nthing everyone upthread who mentioned stopping local, awesome curly heads on the street and asking who cuts their hair. I've done this in multiple new locales, including overseas. I once did this in an ER where I was bleeding like mad and getting stitched up by a curly-headed doc whose hair was like mine!

IMO, conditioner left on wet hair, plus gel, is the way to go . . . for me. I have a helluva time convincing new stylists of this no-conditioner rule of mine, unless they too have curly hair. Mane & Tail is my leave-on conditioner choice--dirt cheap.

I wash my hair with any old shampoo that doesn't contain conditioner, put on the conditioner, leave it on, then kind of style it wet and flat in the direction I want it to go and walk around with a wet head. (I work at home so I can look dorky.) NO HAIR DRYERS OR DIFFUSERS, which just pouf out curly hair. I generally walk out of a salon with a wet head, even in winter, unless it has heat lamps. Then I use my fingers to bring out the curls once my hair is completely dry.

Sad to say a rather clueless male friend once said in front of me that he didn't care for curly hair on women. The correct reaction could have been: "Well, I don't like bald guys," but that would have been similarly clueless/mean, and a lie, because I love bald guys who don't say what he said!
posted by Elsie at 9:34 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Honestly the most important thing is to NEVER EVER brush your hair. I don't even own a hairbrush. Only comb it in the shower to get the tangles out. And ideally, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR HAIR ONCE IT IS DRY. Something about your hands creates major frizz. The only people I let touch my hair is my (non-existent at the moment) boyfriend.

Secondly, use sulfate free shampoos if you can afford it. So much better for your hair. I use Oyin Head to Toe honey wash just for my hair, and Honey Hemp Conditioner. God it's so good and the combination of the two always makes me want to eat my hair. But! Before I started using sulfate free, I used Garnier Fructis shampoo/conditioner, which are much less expensive and available at your local drugstore/whatever.

After I get done washing it, I wrap it in an old towel for 10-30 minutes to soak up most of the moisture. When I use the Honey Hemp Conditioner, I DO NOT rinse it out, but leave it in, and so I don't have much moisture to soak up -- 10 minutes max. When I used GF products which I rinsed out, 25-30 minutes.

Then after MOST but NOT all moisture is soaked up, I style it. I use Herbal Essences: Totally Twisted mousse on most of my hair, HE: TT gel on the bottoms (since that's where my frizzies tend to come from, you might want to use it around your crown), and finish it all with my secret weapon: Garnier Fructis Anti-Humidity Hairspray (Flexible Control). That stuff IS THE BOMB. It works in all weather, all the time, even if you get fucking rained on. No frizz from humidity! I promise!

This styling routine will last for two days of gorgeous curls, satisfaction guaranteed (by me, who has no money, so don't sue me).

Unfortunately this traditional styling routine tends to leave my hair slightly crunchy, which I'm not a huge fan of but I live with it since no one is ever touching my hair anyway. IF I have an important date or something, I skip all of the other styling products and use Garnier Fructis curl sculpting cream-gel, because that shit does not leave your hair crunchy AT ALL. BUT. It only lasts for one day, then the curls frizz out when I sleep. (Probably because I don't have silk pillowcases, as I am Cheap.)

As for haircuts... I cut my own hair. Again, I am Cheap, and growing my hair out, so I don't need a cute cut. But the best hair cut I ever got was at a salon called Textures; it was 80 dollars and worth every penny.

(This is the hair I'm talking about.)
posted by saveyoursanity at 9:46 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh that's a good idea, here's a picture of me. Looking smug. About my luscious hair.
posted by heatvision at 10:00 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I absolutely love this product - it's about $14 at the drugstore.

Here is a picture of my hair dried naturally, no product. And here is a picture of my hair dried with just the Tigi Curls Rock product in it & being extra-careful not to touch it as it dries. It's pretty dramatically different!
posted by insectosaurus at 8:01 AM on May 28, 2011

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