Last time I did this it got wider than my shoulders but it never fell down.
June 13, 2011 8:52 AM   Subscribe

How do I get my curly hair to come down?

I have some seriously thick and curly hair, and while I've come to love it over the years I've always kinda wished that I could get it to come down in ringlets around my shoulders. However, despite past efforts it only ever seems to want to grow up and out no matter how long I go between cuttings.

At the behest of my girlfriend I am trying again to grow it out and get it to fall down, but I'm starting to get a bit impatient. My locks are currently about five inches long when stretched out, but shows no sign of succumbing to gravity anytime soon. I am therefore wondering if there is any way I can cheat.

I'm looking for some simple and ideally inexpensive product or technique that will get my hair to relax enough (or make it heavy enough) that it will want to stretch out a bit. I am definitely not looking to straighten my hair! I like the curls and want to keep them, I just want to try and convince them to curl downward instead of every whichaway.

I don't want to just go trying various products all willy-nilly as I'm worried about damaging my hair, overstraightening it, or just wasting money on something that doesn't work the way I want it to. So I'm hoping that somebody out here has experience with this situation and knows just what to do!
posted by Scientist to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you opposed to having it professionally relaxed? I used to do that when I was a teenager. It would be pin strait for a day, and then go back to being curly (but not super tight curls) after I took a shower.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:55 AM on June 13, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry, I knew I was forgetting something! I'd much rather be able to do this at home if at all possible, but if folks think that this is a job for a professional then I'd love to know more about that, e.g. what sort of procedure I'd be looking for, how much it might cost, what sorts of pitfalls to expect over time, and how I might suss out a good stylist to get it done right.
posted by Scientist at 9:00 AM on June 13, 2011

I have really thick, curly hair that likes to turn into a frizzy afro. Have you tried never shampooing ever and just using conditioner? That, plus letting it grow a bit longer than I would have thought, has made my hair much more manageable.

Also, I found a one-time "Ouidad" haircut to be useful--but I would get it on the sides and be careful with the top. Since I don't have girl-length hair, it made the top too limp and flat, but it was great for making the sides not too puffy. YMMV.
posted by zeek321 at 9:02 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

(If you never shampoo ever, when you start you have to give it a week or two for oil to move down the hair shaft. Brushing *wet* hair helps this happen. I no longer use any products. I wash my hair with shampoo every couple months and I have a few days of frizz before everything re-oils. When you stop using shampoo, your hair may be simultaneously frizzy and oily for a few weeks until your scalp calms down and stops producing extra oil. When your hair is evenly coated, it stops looking nasty.)
posted by zeek321 at 9:06 AM on June 13, 2011

Five inches long, for my hair, is way, way, way too short for gravity to have the slightest effect. YMMV, but you need to keep growing first.

The only solution that reliably works for me is to rinse with water, then use heavy conditioner (I like this weird minty ABBA something or other, but there are lots of options -- look into hair stuff for the Black community, too) which I do not wash out. When it is dry, I have ringlets.
posted by jeather at 9:21 AM on June 13, 2011

My hair has started forming ringlets since I a) found a new hairdresser and b) switched to Aveda's Be Curly shampoo and conditioner.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:29 AM on June 13, 2011

(Around six or seven inches is when super-curly hair seems to finally start weighing itself down.)
posted by zeek321 at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2011

A (female) friend of mine has hair that sounds similar to yours, and she got very helpful advice on products, treatments, cuts and styling by going to a beauty supply store that carried stuff primarily for black people.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on June 13, 2011

Ringlets, cheap and simple: right after washing your hair, coat fingertips in a little coconut oil and finger-comb, mostly on the ends, none on your scalp. jeather is probably right, though, that you'll need to grow it out some before it hangs down. Washing with just conditioner is a good idea too.
posted by clavicle at 9:59 AM on June 13, 2011

When my daughter was little she had hair that sounds similar to yours. While her hair was still damp I would section it off like I was going to curl it with a curling iron but instead of the iron I would just wrap the section of hair around my fingers for a few seconds. If I unwrapped it carefully it would hang in little ringlets. Sometimes I could get her hair to do this when it was dry too. Just brush your hair section straight, then wrap it around your finger. Ask your girlfriend for help if you don't know what I mean. You might not have enough length yet, and you'll probably have to experiment with the size of the sections of hair.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:14 AM on June 13, 2011

See my link here with the link to the videos.

To that I would add a suggestion to leave some conditioner in (I use it normally - 2-3 minutes! - then rinse, then slick my hands with more and run it through and leave it as I move on to the rest of the routine).

But ringlets take up a lot of hair. My hair is probably 3+ inches longer wet than dry. I think you just need to keep going, and find a curl specialist to give you a good growing-out cut.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:37 AM on June 13, 2011

Five inches long, for my hair, is way, way, way too short for gravity to have the slightest effect.

Me too, and my hair's just wavy. You'll probably need at the very least a good eight to twelve inches of length before it droops, or possibly much more, depending on how tight your curls are.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:51 AM on June 13, 2011

Hie thee to a stylist who has been trained in what to do with curly hair. Curly hair is totally different than straight hair, and if you try to use technique, product, or really anything from one side on the other it won't work and it'll be terrible. If you can find one near you, go to a Deva-trained stylist. If you can't, ask about stylists' experience with curly hair. Ask specific questions that you already know the answer to -- for example:

When you cut my hair, how will the cut start? The correct answer is that they should be cutting your hair dry. This will let them cut and shape the curls, which will keep you from getting triangle head.

Is there anything special about the products you'll be using on my hair? No sulfates in shampoos, no silicones in conditioner or gels/mousses/etc. Those things are fine for straight-haired people because their hair's cuticles lie flat. Curly cuticles are open, which exposes the hair shaft and makes sulfates too harsh. Silicones can only be removed by sulfates.

There's a lot of great information for curlies, male and female, at Curltalk
posted by Concolora at 10:59 AM on June 13, 2011

My husband (who is sacked out next to me with a headache and has given me the OK to respond on his behalf) has curly hair that always went bushy (and dandruffy) when it got more than two inches long. "I let my hair grow all summer between junior year and senior year in high school," he told me. "It turned into an Afro. I looked like Link from the Mod Squad. I couldn't get my football helmet on over it when practice started."

And then a little over a year ago we both went shampoo-free (aka "no-poo"). At this point, he's not even using conditioner or an apple cider vinegar rinse or any of the usual no-poo techniques, he just gives himself a scalp massage with warm water, then towel-dries, runs a few drops of jojoba oil through it, combs it into place, and lets it air dry. His hair is currently four, maybe five inches on top and is doing the glossy ringlet thing — very flattering. To his surprise, the dandruff problem also seems to have cleared up.
posted by Lexica at 8:28 PM on June 13, 2011

Yes, I agree it has to be much, much longer. But be patient -- it will be worth the wait! I LOVE this site about curly hair (there's also a book) -- her solution is just to use loads of conditioner (not the leave in kind, the regular kind) and not rinse it out. It's more complicated than that, but she explains it all on the site.
posted by caoimhe at 4:37 PM on June 21, 2011

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