help me learn to make the best of my hair!
December 6, 2011 5:33 PM   Subscribe

until now, i've been a roll-out-of-bed-into-the-shower, go-to-work-with-wet-hair, throw-it-into-a-tight-ponytail-by-midday type. i'm now trying hard to put juuust a little more effort into how i present myself to the world. any suggestions for working with my hair type? (details below)

i have medium thickness hair that is not straight and not quite wavy.

-if i brush it out while wet and air dry it, it has some body but no real consistent wave.
-if i brush it out and blow dry, it is pretty straight but slightly more voluminous, at least for a few hours.
-if i don't brush it and let it air dry, it has significant more wave and body, but gets tangled and eventually the wave mostly falls out.

right now it's medium length and i don't use any product. i shampoo it and condition the ends daily and it's greasy by that night/next morning.

what i'm looking for are suggestions about products, techniques, anything that might help me harness the little wave i have, or control the way it looks in general for a more consistent and better look. also interested in washing my hair less often, but wondering how long it takes it to adjust and dial down the oil, and what to do in the meantime.
posted by carlypennylane to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've stopped using shampoo and gone with the using a baking soda/water mix for shampoo and a vinegar/water mix as a rinse.

I started using it on my daughter too. We can both go a week between washes and there was no transition period. I just stopped using shampoo on her and started this instead. I used to have to wash her hair at least three times a week, not anymore.

I experimented with a bunch of things before I started using that system so I can't tell you about my transition time. I can tell you that I've never loved any product I've tried as much as I love this simple stuff. I save a ton of money and my hair has never looked better. It even has a reddish tint that I never knew I had before because my hair always looked so dull. It always feels really soft too.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:44 PM on December 6, 2011 [6 favorites]

Do you get regular haircuts? That helps me the most. I use a little product, mostly to tame cowlicks, but getting regular cuts helps it looks nice with minimal fuss. I also keep it at about chin length which, because of my hair type, seems to be the best length for it. Next time you get a cut you could ask the stylist what he/she recommends. I ended up with my hair after telling the girl basically what I wanted and let her do her thing.
posted by fromageball at 5:56 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have hair pretty similar to yours and I do one of three things:

1) Air dry with wave and use a bit of volume powder,
2) Blow dry and use straight iron/curling iron with Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine (works really well, costs like $4)
3) Wash, add Biomega mousse, blow dry with diffuser.

Then I get the wavy, straight, and curly looks on demand. Regular haircuts are really key, though.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:02 PM on December 6, 2011

This is a neat little video I found for my sister. She has similar hair issues to you.
posted by Petrot at 6:04 PM on December 6, 2011

1) don't brush your hair while it's wet! you're damaging it!

2) sounds counterintuitive but: try washing your hair every two days instead of every day.

3) try switching to a no sulfate & no paraben shampoo.

4) oh! no blowdrying wet hair, as that just fries it. if you must, blowdry dry, and use a heat protecting protect.

between 3) and 2), my hair is the healthiest and prettiest it's ever been. i have waves too, and all i do now is air dry and maybe use a little bit of product for shine.
posted by lia at 6:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my experience, with what I would similarly say is semi-wavy medium thick hair, is that the right haircut- which for me is a choppy below the chin/above the shoulder bob- works with what my hair naturally wants to do. I go about with a pleasantly tousled look. I use some product for fly aways, but don't bother with blowdrying it sleek unless I'm going out on the town. This seems to work for my face shape.
posted by abirdinthehand at 6:11 PM on December 6, 2011

Best answer: We have sort of similar hair type (mine got greasy by the end of the day too and I washed and conditioned daily) except mine's probably straighter, and I only just recently made the switch to washing less often (with the bonus that I no longer use conditioner, which means my hair has more body). There definitely was a transition period--I'd plan for 2 weeks where the days you're not washing it you don't need to impress anyone because your hair might look a bit ick. But once my hair got used to it (and I go to the gym 3x a week and sweat my ass off and it's no big) I marveled at how much better my hair looks. It looks like it did when I was a little kid, super shiny with natural volume, no sad fried ends (and I never used product either, I guess as I got older I was just washing it too much). I switched from every single day to 3x a week. I'm really happy with it. I make sure to wash just my scalp and I don't use too much, less than a nickel-sized bit.

One thing I had to do, maybe you won't if you start washing less but I did, was get shower caps for the days I wasn't washing my hair but still showering. I don't know why but when my hair gets wet it gets greasy no matter how not-greasy it seemed when dry. I maybe could see if I don't need the shower cap anymore now that my hair's calmed down to the point it's not greasy at all on off-days, but on the other hand it's nice not having to dry it or do anything on those off-days.
posted by ifjuly at 6:12 PM on December 6, 2011

Best answer: Sometimes to get a consistent wave going, when my hair is towel-dried damp, I rub in a little bit of the TRESemme curl hydration lotion creme (the BEST!), and then wrap sections of my hair around a finger into quick ringlets. After my hair dries to barely damp or I need to look presentable in front of other people, I scrunch them up and then run my fingers through them.

I have permed, medium-thick Asian hair, but I did this when I had a very, very loose wave going on, and it helped a lot. I don't ever blow-dry my hair, nor have I brushed it out with a hairbrush since getting a perm. I love my hair.

Good luck!
posted by sums at 6:13 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I meant to say too that washing less often has brought out the red highlights in my hair, which is a bonus too, and I guess similar to what people who do the no-poo thing experience where something about mainstream shampoo strips that away normally.
posted by ifjuly at 6:14 PM on December 6, 2011

My hair is a very similar type to yours, and I used to wash it daily as well, constantly leaving the house with slightly wet hair. It sucked. And trying to style hair that's just been washed is a nightmare. Even if you blowdry it thoroughly, it's still usually way too soft to hold a style for more than a couple of hours.

Last year I did five plays/musicals in a row that required me to have my hair curled. On show days I'd wake up in the morning, wash my hair, go to uni/work, get to the theatre at about 5 and curl my hair. Then, the next morning I'd wake up with awesome soft curls/waves. I was amazed at how I could wake up with nice hair. Which I believe happened for two reasons:

1. Curly styles don't get destroyed in bed. Whereas my previous layered, straight hair would appear in the mornings to be sticking out in all directions, sleeping on curls just sort of gave them more volume; and

2. I was washing and styling my hair at different times, so the styling was able to 'stick' and still look decent the next day.

So yeah, start washing your hair every two days. And if there are any curly styles that you like, give them a go, because as far as second-day styles go, I think they work the best. It honestly doesn't take that long for the slight second-day oiliness to go away. Maybe two weeks. If in doubt, start the process in winter and embrace berets and headbands.
posted by lovedbymarylane at 6:21 PM on December 6, 2011

Response by poster: thanks everyone for all the suggestions! any further really specific details would be helpful, too - like, should i just finger-comb it when i get out of the shower or wait until it's dry to brush it out? how do i achieve a wavy or curly style when my hair only a little inconsistent natural wave (specific products, curling irons, something else)? i realize i need to do a lot of experimenting, but i feel like that will take forever, so these suggestions so far are helping me with a place to start!
posted by carlypennylane at 6:33 PM on December 6, 2011

I really love hot rollers. I can take a picture of the specific set that I use for getting waves and body, and email it to you.

I spray each strand with hairspray before I roll it up. Otherwise, your hair must be absolutely bone dry before rolling. If you want to use mousse, put it in, blow dry, and then curl when totally dry. Sometimes I remember to use Queen for a Day which is made by, uh, BedHead maybe? In the past 4 months I've curled my hair maybe 5 times, but I am looking forward to not being such a depressed shlub, so that I can have better hair more days.

Varying the angle of the roller changes the nature of the curl, and once you are practiced at getting them in, you can set your whole head in minutes, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, put on pants or whatever, and then here's what I do: Spray the whole head of curlers with the hairspray. Check one last time to make sure they're cool. Then take them out one at a time, just unwrapping the hair from the roller. Don't disturb the curls yet. Once the rollers are all out, flip your head. Spray again, hitting the roots. Now, head back up, comb into shape. Feel free to comb the curls most of the way out, but be warned they'll probably fall the rest of the way out soon-ish. Experiment each day. If there are any strands that really just did not take any curl, pop it back into a hot roller and wait some more for that one to set.

Now, you probably want to practice with rollers at night for a few reasons.

1. it does have a learning curve.

2. if you get it all set and sprayed and sprayed again, you may decide you want to wash it and start over. Not absolutely necessary, but making a clean slate is awfully tempting to me when I've really botched the hair job.

Anyway, rollers are great because they're not super super hot like a curling iron, and you don't have to hold the iron in your hair for however long it takes each curl to set. You just wind it up, pin it, and then put your arms down.

I'm not a big fan of the rollers with the velvet, I just use a conair set that was pretty cheap. Some people have really super loyal feelings toward their equipment.
posted by bilabial at 7:00 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

OP, my hair only has a slight/inconsistent wave as well, but here's my curly hair method:

1) wash hair
2) apply Biomega Behave styling elixir, about a quarter-dollop worth, first to tips and working toward roots (recommended by stylist)
3) comb elixir through hair, part hair
4) blow-dry upside down while scrunching with diffuser (diffuser = very important)
5) comb through slightly to desired look

My hair gets quite curly this way, though you wouldn't expect it from seeing it unstyled. I will warn that this is not really good for your hair, in the sense that lia's suggestions are, but I keep my hair mediumish length and I haven't noticed substantial long-term damage. It works best on shorter hair.

I've heard my friends rave about hot rollers. I use a curling iron, because I never mastered the art of not burning my fingers on the rubber things, but I'm thinking about buying a set of hot rollers soon. Right now I curl it in layers, and spray the Sleek and Shine on each section before I curl. It really makes a difference-- it's almost like spraying with hair spray, but it makes my hair much shinier.

lovedbymarylane, what was your curling method? The idea of waking up with well-styled hair is entrancing.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:25 PM on December 6, 2011

I know it seems counter-intuitive ("What? Spend MORE time dealing with my hair?") - but on the days I don't wash my hair, I make up time by taking a short shower, then spraying in a little dry shampoo (I like: Kenra Dry Shampoo) and then doing a very fast, very all-over hit with my curling iron (a larger-barrel iron, like the one I have: Hot Tools 1 1/4" might work well). Sometimes I finish with a light spray of hairspray (Pureology) - which is actually optional.

It's surprisingly fast to do and lasts a surprisingly long time - sometimes all day!
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:01 PM on December 6, 2011

Your hair sounds a lot like mine. Some things I've done that have made me MUCH happier with my hair:

- Try out different stylists until I found one who does a good job of giving me a cut that continues to look good as my hair grows out

- Try out different shampoos and conditioners until I found one that doesn't give me that greasy-within-twelve-hours feeling; for me, Garnier Fructis is greasy, but John Frieda's Brilliant (insert hair colour here) line and the L'Oreal products in hot pink bottles (not sure exactly what they're called in the US) don't cause greasiness

- Always use a pick on my hair (or a wide-toothed comb) -- never brush wet hair, as this can lead to breakage

- If I want my hair to be straight, I use a generous dollop of L'Oreal Hot Straight on my hair while it's damp, not soaking (again, the name might be different in the US, but it's also in a hot pink bottle), then blow dry with a round brush and straighten with a very hot flat iron (you don't necessarily need to drop cash on a CHI, but quality does matter when you buy a flat iron -- one that doesn't get hot enough will just drive you crazy)

- I never thought my hair was consistently wavy enough for me to not straighten it, but I've very recently learned how to make it work. I pick out my hair so there are no tangles, let it air dry for like 15-20 minutes, then spray on a small amount of Fekkai Oceanique spray and scrunch a bit. This, combined with a good haircut and long enough hair, gives me waves that actually look like they're done on purpose. Length has been key for me, as I don't think it would work if my hair was above my shoulders. Several companies make these sort of "beachy wave" products -- I can go without the spray but I think it helps prevent wave-fallout as the day goes on.
posted by neushoorn at 1:38 AM on December 7, 2011

I use a wide toothed comb while my hair is wet. Then I let my hair air dry.

I'm a pretty casual gal, so I usually just pull my hair up in a ponytail or some kind of knot. I don't use product, so I don't have any recommendations for you in that area.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:50 AM on December 7, 2011

I have medium/thick mostly wavy (but not curly) hair that is down my back (past the bra strap) and here's what I do:

1) I have to shampoo, but I try to do it every other day if I can pull it off. Put light conditioner (vo5/etc) on the ends while I shampoo to protect it from getting dry (i.e., shampoo scalp and down to ears only, everything else only sees conditioner)

2) "heavy" conditioner (currently messing with Sally Beauty's Argan oil line) on the ends, light conditioner on the scalp (again, VO5 Kiwi Lime is the best here) to avoid build up

3) Only comb (never brush wet hair!) after getting out of the shower, gently, using a wooden wide-toothed comb (wooden doesn't have the plastic jagged edges and rips the hair less). Let it air dry a bit...

4a) If I need to be more "wash and go" (meaning 99% of the time), I throw some Aussie Sprunch Spray in it and sprunch away. This is the only curl-making product I have found that has enough hold but doesn't turn my hair into a knotted mess by the end of the day.

4b) Otherwise, leave in conditioner, heat protectant, and blow it dry (preferably air dry if I have time) and then (ugh) flat iron or curl it. (This is special occasions only, haha!)
posted by getawaysticks at 5:44 AM on December 7, 2011

I have similar hair to yours. Two things I didn't see mentioned upthread:

To boost the waves you have: shower, gently towel dry (Pat/squeeze the water out, don't rub), and then scrunch with a dollop of Kerastase Oleo Curl. This stuff is A. MAZE. ING. For day two hair, you can probably rinse your hair in the shower (no need to shampoo) and apply a smidge more oleo to reset the curls.

To go straight: CHI. (On preview, I disagree with the above poster -- in my experience you really do get what you pay for with a CHI). Start with dry hair, work in small sections, and voila. So much better than any other so-called flat iron. Worth every penny.
posted by somanyamys at 5:52 AM on December 7, 2011

If you can switch up washing your hair to the night before, sock bun curls work really well.
posted by meevo at 5:59 AM on December 7, 2011

my hair has a little more wave than you and is really fine. nthing the good haircut (my stylist has figured out I'm low-maintenance and only go in for a cut every 8-10 weeks and has adjusted accordingly; I tip her well since I don't come in as often). the cheap products that work for me are garnier frutcis pure clean. I use a little gel when my hair is wet to scruch, and use my fingers or wide tooth comb. I let it dry a bit, eat breakfast. then I use a tiny bit of the smoothing clean to fix up any fuzzies after I eat breakfast.
posted by ejaned8 at 6:38 AM on December 7, 2011

I have medium length hair and used to wash it daily and get frustrated about how quickly it would get greasy. I now wash it every other day, sometimes every three days, and it feels much better between washes now. I know people who only wash their (really long!) hair once a week. I'm intrigued by this but don't think I could bear the grime while my hair got into the swing of things. I'd definitely try every other day though. Imagine the time you'll save in the morning!
posted by lizabeth at 9:04 AM on December 7, 2011

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