I am THIS CLOSE to going back to straight hair
August 27, 2014 10:56 AM   Subscribe

For the first time in my life I am trying to rock my natural curls. This is not going well. Please help me make this work. I think I'm doing this all wrong and making dumbass decisions because damn....

I have curly-ish hair. After decades of daily blow drying and straightening I have decided to try to rock the natural curls to try to reduce the amount of damage and to speed up my morning routine. It has been three months since I abandoned my flat iron, and the results are... varied. And very frustrating. My under-hair curls perfectly in nice fat ringlets with little to no effort. The top hair needs a significant coaxing to curl. Some days it cooperates and my hair looks nice, other days it is a horrific laugh-worthy disaster (like this.. taken just now). I have some friends saying how people pay money to have volume like mine, and other people saying how the 80's called and they want their hair back.

Double extra negative (and possibly unrelated to the switch to curly, but still) I have started to have problems with dandruff, which is gross and annoying, but it also seems to necessitate that I shampoo every day. I have been using Head and Shoulders, which has not really helped. I'm going to abandon that starting tomorrow, going back to Infusium, but now starting to use Nizoral twice a week to see if that doesn't fix things.

So, my question is:
How the eff do I coax my hair in to curling better? Why can't I keep the frizzies at bay?! Why won't my hair on top cooperate?!?!? I want to stop being an 80's music video reject and just a nice, normal looking curly hair'd lady. And frankly, I feel like I MUST be doing something wrong since so many sources on the interwebs describe curly haired people being able to wash their hair only a couple times a week instead of daily. How the eff do they get away with that??

And just for reference, here is what I do now:
0. Wake up every morning with something akin to a rat's nest. Frizzy floofy hair everywhere despite having tied it up in a folded ponytail to sleep in.
1. shower every morning, shampooing roots, rinse thoroughly.
2. condition entire length of hair. To rinse out conditioner I flip my head upside down and rinse it out that way, combing it with a wide tooth shower comb, just to get everything in line, if you know what I mean.
3. turn off water then gently scrunch up hair with some leave in conditioner on my hands. Mostly I'm just squeezing some of the excess water out. Hair now in big clumps of curls.
4. Out of the shower, head still upside town, I gently scrunch in some hair pudding and then "plop" (lay my upside down hair on a towel then sort of collect the rest of the towel so that it keeps my hair in place.
5. Hair stays "plopped" in my towel while I get dressed and eat breakfast. Probably 15 minutes at the most.
6. head upside down again, towel off, I use a diffuser and try to dry my hair out a bit, scrunching very gently while I do this. My hair is still in the big curl clumps at this point.
7. Once my hair is semi-dry in the clumps I give my head a bit of a shake/flip which then breaks the clumps in to numerous smaller curls. I then diffuse some more, scrunching carefully again.
8. The end.

- tried the no-poo. Epic badness. My scalp freaked the fuck out and I frankly just didn't feel clean.
- tried different towel types for the plopping - terry, microfiber, t-shirt - but didn't notice much of a difference
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (47 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Try a different cut. Any decent stylist should have ideas on how to do a cut that fits your face and enhances your natural curls.

posted by Billiken at 11:01 AM on August 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

I have fine, curly hair and I alternate shampooing with Head & Shoulders (which my hairdresser gives me NO END of grief about) and Alterna Caviar. I use a microfiber towel that has a little button on it so it fastens onto my head like a turban. It absorbs a ton of water, which seems to help with frizz. I walk around in the hair towel for maybe ten minutes, then I put Alterna CC Cream in it and let it air dry.

This method serves me well and it usually looks good, unless it's really humid, in which case my hair grows exponentially and I can do almost nothing to control the frizz.

FWIW, Infusium gave me WICKED dandruff when I tried using it years ago. I would advise trying a different shampoo.
posted by bedhead at 11:03 AM on August 27, 2014

Squish to condish!
posted by Dragonness at 11:03 AM on August 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

For me, the answer has been to shampoo only every other day or so, and keep my hair short-ish. I have never been able to have long, nice looking curls. YMMV.
posted by PrettyKnitty at 11:05 AM on August 27, 2014

Try a lighter leave-in conditioner, maybe? A spray instead of a creamy lotiony thing.

It's hard to tell from the photos if you have significant layering or not, but that tends to help with maintaining curly hair neatly.
posted by elizardbits at 11:05 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're not using any products, are you? (I read and re-read, but I still might have missed it.) My hair is slightly more curly than yours, but I love Intelligent Nutrients Curly Hair Serum. It's spendy but you don't use a lot, and in return I get really nice curls.

Also, it looks like your top layers are too long.

I don't know the secret w/r/t not showering every day; my second day hair is very obviously second day, so I use a salt spray on it and just run with the scrubby look.
posted by punchtothehead at 11:09 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check your products - are they too harsh and drying, not moisturizing enough? I have hair a bit curlier than yours and mine likes the Giovanni 50/50 or Smooth as Silk or Alba's sleek. When I use something harsher my hair feels like straw. Ymmv

My routine is similar to yours minus the towel and the diffuser. I guess if you're washing in the morning and you don't want to leave the house with wet hair you need it, but it breaks up the curl and roughs up the cuticle of the hair. Less heat, less scrunching and flipping, less handling. Try duckbill clips while you air dry or diffuse but otherwise do not touch your hair at all while it dries if you can.

Do you have highlights? Or is that natural? If you have hair color that can mess with your natural curl pattern.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:14 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have the same hair, like, exactly the same hair!

- Get a different haircut. Those short layers around your face aren't good for curls. You want to find someone who is a curly hair specialist. I have had luck finding hairdressers on the naturallycurly.com forums.

- Oh, dandruff. That dandruff shampoo is NOT friendly for curls. Ask me how I know! I stopped using it last winter and instead started conditioning my scalp and applying hair oil directly to the roots of my hair. I do have to wash more often but I don't need to do it every day. Every three days works ok, especially if I wear it up on the last day so that my greasy roots don't show. Every other is ideal but sometimes I'm lazy.

- I am obsessed with this shampoo from Davines.

- I am similarly obsessed with this conditioner from Fekkai, which I apply from root to tip.

- Ok, here is my weird routine that always gives me lovely curls and is minimal effort: I wash the roots of my hair. I condition from root to tip. Sometimes I add an intense conditioner just to the tips because I get lots of fairy knots for some reason. I rinse the conditioner out. I use a cotton teeshirt to towel-dry my hair. Then, I apply Kerastase Elixir from root to tip (this is something I started about a month ago and the results are so good; I used to hate oil, but now I'm a total convert). Then I take one of these claws and I create a topknot and I clip it into place. About an hour or so later, I remove the claw, shake my head, and let it air-dry the rest of the way.

The biggest part of this for me is the twisting into a topknot and clipping with the claw. I can use a lot of different products in my hair - gel, mousse, pudding, leave-in conditioner, oil - and it usually ends up looking about the same with this method. I don't like to double up on products so I'm usually just using one at any given time. It's the oil now, but for awhile it was gel.

Finally, your current routine isn't doing you much help in terms of damage because you're washing a lot and you're using heat styling. Try to get away from the dryer as much as you can! Even with a diffuser it's still not great for your locks.
posted by sockermom at 11:14 AM on August 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't have advice for your question exactly, since my hair is similar to yours and I think yours looks fine in both pictures, but rinsing my scalp with vinegar keeps my dandruff at bay without requiring daily washing.
posted by metasarah at 11:16 AM on August 27, 2014

2nding Squish to Condish.

Also suggesting more moisture not less. I actually use a milder conditioner to wash my hair, massaging the scalp to break up deadskin etc to wash away, then squish to condish with devacurl conditioner.

Air drying really is your friend, but it's hard to do if you wash everyday. Try plopping your hair into an old tshirt instead of a towel, the texture of a towel frizzes my hair follicles scarily. I just tie the longsleved tshirt around and let it absorb the excess moisture while I get the rest of me ready, then air dry. Do not towel off, you want the follicles to stay smooth not get ruffed up and frizz. This is the main thing that worked for me. Squish to condish & how I dried my hair.

Check out the curly girl sub reddit thingy they have a lot of good advice.
posted by wwax at 11:21 AM on August 27, 2014

Strongly seconding the recommendation for Davine's Love shampoo (I also use their conditioner). Seriously, I didn't use it today (running low) and my hair is noticeably more frizzy than it was any other day in the last week.
posted by leesh at 11:22 AM on August 27, 2014

This book will change your life. Curly Girl: The Handbook .
Seriously, most of the women (including me) in my social group have curly hair. They all swear by this book.

Fly-by-basics: You cannot wash your hair everyday. Your curly hair needs the oils your scalp produces, once every...three days I think is the max recommended.

Sulfates kill curls, if possible, you need to get a sulfate free shampoo. The book actually advocates only using conditioner, but some people aren't comfortable with that.

Don't wring your hair out.

DO NOT brush it out, this kills your curls.

Much more advice in the book, which I just borrowed, so I don't remember every little thing. I can't see your pictures while at work, but I have super thick slightly curly hair, and when I use the method outlined in the book, I can rock some wicked curls.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 11:23 AM on August 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Go to Amazon. Order Deva Curl No-Poo Shampoo, Deva Curl One Condition, and Deva Curl Light Defining Gel. If you need to comb your hair, do so in the shower while it's still sopping wet. After you're out of the shower, scrunch your hair gently with a soft microfiber towel (Deva Curl also has one for sale.) Apply gel and let air-dry. Try not to disturb your curl pattern by combing, touching, finger-raking, etc.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 11:25 AM on August 27, 2014

I don't have curly hair but I do have dandruff-ish issues. One thing that might help your situation is to think of dandruff shampoo not as "shampoo" but as "wash-out medicated scalp treatment." Although they market them as shampoos they're generally not great at the shampoo part.

My dermatologist recommended first shampooing my hair with regular shampoo, rinsing, then putting the dandruff shampoo just on my scalp, massaging it in, let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse that out. I mean some dandruff shampoo will get on your hair but it's better than using it *as* shampoo.

Also it takes some trial and error to find a dandruff shampoo that works for you. I alternate between T-Sal and a prescription called Loprox (cicloporox).
posted by radioamy at 11:26 AM on August 27, 2014

I can't do no-poo at that length - my scalp turns disgusting. I have to wash my scalp with vigor but I only do it twice a week and can mostly get away with this.

I think you need a cut - I see the same floppiness I get when my ends just need maintenance, even if I don't remove any length/weight. But, I also have lengths at which my hair is just flumpy and you might be at yours and either need to go shorter or longer.

It also looks like you have at least two of the 3 kinds of type-3 curl, which just requires more trimming, I think, since they become different "lengths" so fast.

The only things I do substantially different from you are:

I "squish to condish" instead of combing wet hair. My hair only gets brushed immediately before I get in the shower to get it wet.

I scrunch in product (mine is Jessicurl Rockin Ringlets, I am a pretty hardcore Jessicurl fan but she's a small business and really devoted to this one thing so I like giving her my money anyway) while sopping wet and then gently turban with my giant flour sack towel (I can't plop well, I'm too uncoordinated) so I can then rinse off the product I just got on my back and shoulders.

After 5-10 minutes I switch to a new dry flour sack as the first one is soaked. I let that one draw water for another 10 minutes while I fart around. Then I use the dry end of that towel to scrunch (this is where my curls seriously fatten up, and if I forget to do this I get long stringy bad perm curls), and then I scrunch in my final product (JC Spiralicious).

I do not diffuse. I go from wet to 1987 Bon Jovi (all of 'em) in about 20 seconds. I'm better off sleeping damp than diffusing, and sleeping damp is a crapshoot for me.

At shoulder or longer I have to use a little silicone defrizzer on the outer layer of my hair. I do that right after I put product in sopping hair in the shower, just before my first turban.

I usually do a "pineapple" ponytail at night. Right on the top of my head. I can get 3 days out of that if the weather doesn't change too drastically during that time. But sometimes I don't, and I just need to be sure I'm not using the roughest pillowcases I own.

Something my curl-only hairdresser taught me to live with is that there's frizz and then there's fluff, and you're always going to have some fluff after you've slept on it. You have to be careful to just use a skim of fresh product scrunched in (though some people can use a refresh steamer like the Q-Redew, which I have the first generation of and steam just doesn't do me any favors), but a little fluff is not the end of the world.

If I was having a day like yours today I'd probably hairspray it just a smidge and then finger-arrange it down and back a tiny bit.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:26 AM on August 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

After decades of daily blow drying and straightening I have decided to try to rock the natural curls to try to reduce the amount of damage and to speed up my morning routine.

There's this myth that wearing your hair in its natural texture is always lower-maintenance and therefore takes less time. I think this is true for some people with curly or wavy hair, but not true for others. When you feel like you're doing something wrong, you are probably comparing yourself to women with different hair. In my experience (my natural hair was ringlets as a child, full-on curls as a teen, half- curls/half-waves in my 20s, and is half-waves/half-straight now) it takes a lot more time to properly style and care for curls/waves. They're delicate, particular little things (as you can see from all the very specific and complex products and methods advised in this thread already) and they need stuff done right or else they will rebel in various hilarious and unattractive ways. I'm not suggesting at all that you shouldn't wear your hair curly, just that you should be aware that it might take a lot more time and care than simply straightening it every day.

That said, I think your hair actually looks good and flattering in both pics, just not entirely "professional" or "grown-up" or whatever. I think a better cut (it is really difficult to find someone good at cutting hair that's anything but straight, especially if you don't intend to straighten it) will help you a whole lot.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:38 AM on August 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Why won't my hair on top cooperate?!?!?

I have a similar problem with different sections of hair being more cooperative than others. From what I've read, it's a pretty normal thing to have.

Back when I was a young girl dying for curly hair, I used to get perms. Some sections of my hair would curl, but others came right out of the perm rods yardstick-straight.

Weirder still, afyer losing my hair to chemo, I got the experience of watching it grow back in and realizing that random patches of it actually grew in a different direction than the surrounding area.

I don't have any advice for dealing with natural curl, but from your pictures it seems like you might have a similar thing going on in the bangs area as I do, where one section really wants to just point straight to the Earth's core. The way I dealt with it was to keep the front of my hair long enough to pull back behind my ear.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:43 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm at work and I'm squeezed, but I wanted to point you to an article by Ayelet Waldman, a novelist who wrote about her curly hair regimen for Allure magazine a few years ago.

Her hair looks a lot like yours does in the "looks nice" picture, and this is how she goes about it.

Also: nthing the advice for a good haircut! If you want to stick with your current hairdresser, that's cool, but if you'd like to switch it up, here's a list (plus reviews) of stylists and salons in Canada* that work with curls. There are also questions and discussions regarding stylists in this forum.

Finally: ideas for 'dos at fyeah.shortcurlyhair.tumblr.com (couldn't resist typing out that whole URL) and www.pinterest.com/mechellerene/short-curly-hair.

* I checked out your profile -- just in case you lived somewhere near me, so I could point you to my awesome stylist! I wear my very thick, fine, dry curly hair in a stacked bob, something like this.
posted by virago at 11:44 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some thoughts:

-Pulling my hair into a ponytail kills curls rather than enhancing or preserving them. Your picture of a day when things don't go so well reminds me of how my hair looks when it's been in a ponytail for a while and then I pull it loose. Instead of tying it up, try wrapping your head in a scarf, or sleeping on a satin-y pillowcase (my mother's key to hair success). Or at least wearing a much, much looser ponytail and seeing what happens.

- You don't mention what kind of scalp you have. Determining this would help you pick out products to use and how to employ them better.

-Try a clarifying shampoo rather than an anti-dandruff shampoo. I like Lush's I Love Juicy.

-You don't mention using any product at all when drying/styling, but it sounds like if your hair would just freeze at step #6 or 7, you would be a lot happier with the way it looks. Even incorporating one product (like a gel for curls - a hairdresser can help you pick things out, or see what Garnier has in your hair care aisle) can help define and hold curls together as well as keep moisture locked in, and it won't take as long to employ as the hair dryer.

-Speaking of which, what happens if you don't use the hair dryer? Do you use it to get your hair dry before you leave the house?

-When you go to talk to a hairdresser, go to a boutique rather than a chain. My hairdresser is somewhat expensive, but he understands my hair and is not afraid of it. I see him twice a year for cuts and a few more times in between for trims, which are gratis. If you do decide to cut or change the shape of your hair (consider it!), someone who really understands curly hair is going to help you get it right. Yelp and local review sites will be your friends.
posted by koucha at 11:45 AM on August 27, 2014

A product line to consider is Mixed Chicks.
also, I would experiment with different and new cuts-- I think a shorter hair cut would look great on you.
posted by calgirl at 11:49 AM on August 27, 2014

I have wavy hair instead of curly, but it's super thick and frizzes at any opportunity! Some things I've found helpful is always always letting it air dry - which it sounds like you might be doing? And I realize might be difficult in the morning with long hair. I also switched from hairbrushes to combs. The brushes would always seem to pull and leave my hair as a big bunch of frizz.

And yes I went really short with it, chin length in front and shorter in the back. I worried it might just make my hair worse, but after I got it cut it actually behaved like real hair for the first time ever instead of a big ball of fuzz! It also makes the air drying time much shorter.
posted by Kimmalah at 11:53 AM on August 27, 2014

Response by poster: Never have I heard of "squish to condish". This I shall attempt.

To answer some questions:
- Highlights are not natural. I actually got them around the time I decided to stop straightening my hair.
- the short "layers" in the front are actually just bangs in the process of being grown out. They are awkward, annoying, and perpetually in the way.
- Getting a cut is probably a good idea. Right now it is more or less all one length (minus my growing-out bangs) which was fine and dandy when my hair was straight, but yeah, you're right.. probably not ideal for curls. I am hesitant because this is the longest my hair has ever been and it is kind of exciting and cool. Plus my husband LOVES my hair long. Cutting it seems like a shame, but I think you're right that I need to cut it a bit. Are there some guidelines or recommendation somewhere for curly-friendly haircuts that I can request? Can it be long AND curly-friendly? Curly hair hairdressers don't exist in my area. :(

what happens if you don't use the hair dryer?
It depends. If I can let it dry in the plopped position it usually ends up okay, but it takes a long time and not possible on work days. If I let it dry down my hair ends up hanging really heavily on my head but filling out at the bottom (ie.triange head). Really, the diffusing is so that I get some lift at the roots, and so I don't leave the house with wet hair and therefore arrive at work with wet hair.

I'm not suggesting at all that you shouldn't wear your hair curly, just that you should be aware that it might take a lot more time and care than simply straightening it every day.
Oh, I know, but even with all this fuss this is still taking me way less time than it took beating my hair in to submission and staying straight. Granted, I'm getting much less consistent results (I have mastered my hair straight), but I feel like I just need to fine tune my process.

A lot of great suggestions so far! Keep 'em coming!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:57 AM on August 27, 2014

My one suggestion to combat the morning frizz is to sleep on a satin pillowcase and perhaps try sleeping with your hair in braids or twists instead of a ponytail.
posted by Julnyes at 11:58 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, I think you need some product. My hair is similar to yours (thick, fine-textured, wavy-to-curly, shoulder length) and this Aveda serum is pretty great. It's not inexpensive, but lasts a long time. It tames frizz and adds shine and definition like nothing else.
posted by pantarei70 at 12:08 PM on August 27, 2014

I have hair that's really similar to yours (Today I have a Good Curl Day. Yesterday was a Bad Curl Day because I tried heat styling it, which I really ...just should not do.) Also, I am lazy, so I rarely spend more than 10-15 minutes on my hair in the mornings.

Use 2x the amount of conditioner you'd use and the regular amount of shampoo. I usually use super-hot water and shampoo to really clean out my scalp, coat the shampoo with conditioner and use my fingers to work out the knots, then rinse all of it out, lower the temperature to lukewarm/cool, and condition once more (with feeling!). I only do this 2-3 times a week. I will sometimes go conditioner-only on my in-between day to rinse out product and style my hair if I need to.

After washing my hair, I wrap it up in a microfiber towel and let it set for 10-15 minutes while I get dressed and brush my teeth. After it's no longer sopping wet, just damp, I squeeze about a quarter-sized dollop of curly-hair-gel in my palm and gently scrunch it into my hair. Then I comb it out with a wide-tooth comb, to get out the rest of the knots and distribute the product evenly.

Next, I just let my hair air dry. A diffuser might be okay, but heat just fries and frizzes my hair, so I prefer to leave it alone. My hair gets nice and curly as it dries, and there's just enough product to let the curls keep their shape and keep from frizzing. Too much product makes my hair look "crunchy."

On the days when I need my hair to "rest", to preserve the curls without a washing, I'll sleep with my hair loosely braided on a nice satin pillowcase. This usually leaves my curls in good enough shape to for Day 2 after a quick touch-up with some leave-in conditioner. If they aren't in good enough shape, or it's raining outside, I'll just braid or pin my hair up instead.

For the dandruff, I agree with trying a clarifying shampoo, especially if you use a lot of product. As for conditioners, I'd go with one to moisturize hair, and another to ease frizz. This is the combo that seems to work best at keeping my hair from drying out and frizzing.
posted by PearlRose at 12:23 PM on August 27, 2014

Don't explore anything else before finding a hair stylist in your area who specializes in curly hair. That is your mission number one. I didn't know what the hell to do with my curly hair for years and experimented up down and around with all the different methods, products, internet fora, etc. with seriously less-than-satisfying results.

Finally I yelped "curly hair stylist" and found my curly hair hero. It took a couple sessions to nail down the cut, but from the beginning she listened to me complain, asked me highly specific questions about my routine, hair, and problems and then gave me product AND styling tips specific to my situation (lazy, low-maintenance person with curly, very fine hair).

She actually shows me step-by-step what she's doing with product and how to work with my hair. She basically coached me from a hair-having novice to a person that's like "I know exactly what to do with my hair to make it look goooood."

Another benefit of finding a hair stylist hero is that you can ask him/her ANYTHING about your hair, like if you're having dandruff or scalp problems.

Seriously, I had such hair woes my entire life and I finally feel like I have lovely hair that gets compliments after I found this great stylist.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 12:25 PM on August 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've been hoping someone would ask this question so I could evangelize this topic. I've been trying to deal with my curly hair for 40+ years and it just never seemed to do what I want. It's long, about mid-back, and curls about like yours. (Here's my hair, er frizz, a few weeks ago, outside on a windy day.)

After listening to me bitch about and fight with my hair for years, my husband sent me to a hair stylist who specializes in nothing but curls. To say I was skeptical would be an understatement. When she was done with me I literally cried over the incredible results, and I'm not a particularly emo person.

Get a good cut. A stylist experienced in curls -- and by that I mean, owns them herself and has been dealing with them since birth -- will change your life.

Now my curls don't fallen apart, frizz, go flat, nothing. She used the products ohsnapdragon mentions (Deva) but all I bought that day was the Deva no-poo. I'd never tried it before, but now I'm a convert. You say you don't want to go no-poo so just shampoo daily with products that don't contain dimethicone or sulfites.

As for the top of the hair, I feel you. Same thing used to happen to me. My stylist told me to get these hair clips, then sort of push the hair at your crown up a bit until it's kind of high, clip it in place, then diffuse the hell out of it. When the hair is bone dry, take out the clips, shake, and the hair will stay full, not flat.

I was also surprised to discover that dumping a ton of gel into sopping wet hair and then shaking it out when dry (or after diffusing) make my hair look amazing. Before the cut, I was wrapping it in a microfiber towel til it was mostly dry, running a little gel or mousse through it and then diffusing or airdrying. Now I wet it to reactivate the gel or wash it (every few days) with no-poo and dump in a ton more gel. It doesn't get crunchy or stiff, it's just... perfect.

I kid you not, I have slept on the hair (piled on my head with a scrunchie), been out in the wind, played with it when nervous, had raucous sex, exercised, worn hats, stuck it in an elastic and/or a hair clip, and just generally beat on it like I usually do. It still looks freaking amazing and I haven't done a damn thing but wet it down a couple of times in the last few days. This is how it looks right now after being ignored for several days.

Get a good cut. Trust me.
posted by _Mona_ at 12:28 PM on August 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Lots of really good advice here and I don't have much to add but:
- are you certain that your problem is dandruff? I thought so once, but it turned out my scalp was dry, which is a completely different problem and worsened by the dandruff shampoos. Alternatively: for three months , I slept with Nivea in my scalp, and the problem disappeared. But there was a lot of scarf-wearing during that time, because normal washing couldn't get rid of the Nivea. But it is now 20 years gone, and I've never had "dandruff"/ dry scalp again.
- you need a really, really good hairdresser. I have no idea what "normal" hair is, but "thick, fine-textured, wavy-to-curly, shoulder length" it is not. Spend time finding the right person in your area, and don't be afraid to walk out if someone seems to not get it. Recently, someone cut bangs into my hair. She did it so fast I couldn't protest. But please?? Bangs in curly hair is just plain stupid. I fired her but I'm still struggling with the consequences.
- at this point in life, I have had my hair cut of to a bob. I may let it grow out again, but you should be aware that there is no way shoulder-length hair is going to be low maintenance, unless you always wear it up in a knot or something. Loose hair means lots of care and products, and more if it is curly/wavy
posted by mumimor at 12:28 PM on August 27, 2014

I have long wavy hair and I braid it loosely every night, mostly cause it gets caught when I toss and turn. I wash it every few days and let it dry naturally. I don't use any products at all or any tools. I'm often told it looks great. Try eliminating some of those endless steps!
posted by mareli at 12:29 PM on August 27, 2014

On the dandruff question, I have fine curly hair, and Neutrogena TGel weekly is the only thing that helps. That, and making sure to buy nice conditioner, and to buy products that aren't silicone heavy (or no silicone).

Short hair (chin length) is the only way my curly hair is low maintenance.
posted by typecloud at 12:32 PM on August 27, 2014

If you don't have any curl-friendly stylists in your area (and check Yelp for "curl" also because you may find that there's someone in town who's known by reputation for being really good but not necessarily on the Naturallycurly.com search), just start with a trim and long layers. The trick to a tidy curl is that the ends stick together, and they cannot do that if they are old/splitty/uneven.

The long layers give you a bit of a sloping edge instead of a stack of curls.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:37 PM on August 27, 2014

Yes, you can talk to a good stylist about keeping as much length as possible but making your hair more curl-friendly. It can be done! I love my current hair stylist, who actually met with me for a consultation about my cut a few days before we actually did the cut. She took the time to make sure that we were doing something that would work with my texture and my lifestyle. Look around for someone who does the same.

Your stylist will ideally also have curly hair. They get it. They've been there.

Use way more product than you think you need, too. I use four pumps of oil on my hair, which is the same length as yours. They recommend one on the bottle.
posted by sockermom at 12:40 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

A better cut will make your whole life better. I'm thinking shorter bangs, but I'm not an expert at all.
posted by amtho at 12:41 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

oh girl. You need re:coil by AG. It will turn that lovely wave you have into "just stepped out of the beach" luxury. It smells nice too.

How to use? It's sooo easy....

Towel dry hair
When damp, add 1 dime size of recoil into your palm and work into the ends of your hair
Let air dry
voila beach hair

(you will find the optimum amount but too much recoil gets your hair stiff and crunchy, too little and the waves don't de-frizz. don't add it when your hair is almost dry or it won't do anything either)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:44 PM on August 27, 2014

Nthing the suggestion for a curl-friendly cut. Deva and Ouidad both have salon finders - have you checked them?

I've become a fan of Deva styling products, including the Light Defining Gel (formerly AnGel) and Styling Cream. My hair is shorter than yours (currently chin-length) and I like the styling cream as it gets longer (YHMV).

I use a Ouidad conditioner to "co-wash" my hair. The first few days were a little weird, but now it's not a problem.

I've seen Ouidad and Deva "starter kits" at Ulta and Sephora, and I've also seen them on flash sale sites.

Good luck!
posted by mogget at 1:10 PM on August 27, 2014

I could never solve the dandruff problem until I found Scalpicin. I used it a few times a week for a while and then backed off. Now I might use it once every three months or so if I notice my scalp is a bit dry.
posted by icaicaer at 1:11 PM on August 27, 2014

For second-day hair (and third, and sometimes fourth), I scrunch with a wet washcloth; then I rub a small amount of regular conditioner between my hands (not leave-in) and scrunch that in, too. Air dries fast and clears up overnight frizzies.
posted by Andrhia at 1:13 PM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Hair oil through the lengths of your damp hair. After washing just the scalp with shampoo and after only conditioning from the chin down.

And then nthing everybody who said you need to experiment with dampening your hair and with products to help resurrect curls on the 2nd day. If I'm really short of time in the morning I've been known to head out and apply hand cream on the train. I don't rub it into my hands fully and the just use what's left on my fingers to tease curls back to life. Note that I use quite nice, rich, truly moisturising hand cream that contains a lot of oils so I figure it's only a small step away from hair oil...there are hand creams I wouldn't trust to give me nice, soft, shiny curls as opposed to crunchy mess...
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:26 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't had a chance to read through all the other responses so I may be repeating some of what's already been mentioned, but I wanted to chime in because I have very similar hair to you (including the dandruff issues and years of straightening).

Honestly, at least with my hair and probably with yours too, there's no sure fire approach that will always give perfect results, but you're probably aware of that already. However, I have some recommendations that have given me good results.

First of all, once or twice a week I've been using Neutrogena's T-Sal shampoo which contains salicylic acid to remove buildup and cut down on dandruff. I also use a "shampoo brush" which is really more like a rubber curry comb. I use it any time I'm shampooing to help break up built up oil/product residue. I usually shampoo every day, sometimes every other, but even when I don't use shampoo, I rinse with water and use the shampoo brush. This is the only way I've managed to remain relatively dandruff-free, but my scalp is particularly temperamental. Although you can find brushes specifically marketed to humans, I actually bought this one, which is marketed for dogs, but whatever, it works great, and it was cheap.

Because of my scalp's sensitivity, I mostly avoid hair products, but I am all about the Shea Moisture line of shampoo and conditioners. You'll probably want to start off with their line marketed for curly hair.

A couple additional tips:

At least once a week I coat the ends of my (dry) hair with coconut oil and let it sit for a couple hours before rinsing it off which works well as a conditioning treatment. I also dilute approximately 2 oz apple cider vinegar in 16 oz of water and spray it all over my hair after shampooing and conditioning, and then I rinse it out after letting it sit for around 15 minutes. This seems to work well as an additional step to cut down on dandruff and it makes my hair shiny. I do the vinegar rinse about once a week, as well.

I've seen good results with all of these steps as far as scalp and hair health and appearance, and my curls do look healthier and more uniform, but I have to confess that I still frequently give in and fall back on the straightening iron, but that has a lot to do with the fact that I refuse to shower in the morning if I have to wake up earlier than 9 am, and as soon as I sleep on my curly hair, there's no going back. With enough gel and hair spray you could probably get around that, but my scalp is too sensitive for anything that heavy duty.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:19 PM on August 27, 2014

Thank you for posting this thread. I love curly hair threads.

I've had curly hair all my life and it is really frustrating because sometimes you are just going to have a Bad Curl Day. Today for example I know I'm going to have a bad curl day because I got caught in the rain on the way to work. And all you can do is ride it out and resist the opportunity to touch it (you will only make it worse).

My basic method is shampoo and condition and then put on more regular (not leave-in) conditioner into my wet hair and let it air-dry. I play around with a bunch of different drying and styling methods. My hair (well, most people's) responds very much to changes in the environment such as hardness of water, humidity levels, temperature, etc.

I've had good experiences with:

(1) Not drying my hair at all - just squeezing out the water from my hair post-shower and then completing the rest of my toilette with a towel draped over my shoulders to catch the dripping. In theory this should stop your natural post-shower curls from getting disrupted thus helping them to dry frizz-free. In practice it's a bit of a pain and I usually just turban my hair and hope for the best.
(2) Sleeping with wet hair. Lie on your back, spread your hair out onto the pillow and hit the sack. Internet recommends a satin pillow but I have never used this. I always have great hair when I wake up, because the hair has dried out completely undisturbed.
(3) Vinegar rinse. This makes my hair shiny and soft and calms down my scalp.
(4) Mixing honey in with my conditioner. Be aware if you leave the honey for a long time it will lighten your hair. I never keep it in my hair for longer than 5 minutes.
(4) After putting regular conditioner in wet hair, loosely braiding it till it dries - a trick learned from this AskMe I posted.

NEVER touch while the hair is drying.

Finally, you know what, don't worry if it's not perfect everyday. If you think of your hair more as a work in progress than something that has to be perfect everyday, you will feel better about it. That's the fun of curly hair - there are plenty of different things you can do. And at least you are not subjecting your hair to all sorts of heat-inflicted damage by regular straightening.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:44 AM on August 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know a lot of people swear by "plopping" but it turns my curly hair into a huge frizzy mess if I leave it in a towel for more than 10 seconds. I've recommended this like a hundred times on Metafilter, but if you are diffusing already try the Pixie curl method - definitely keeps my frizzes at bay when I have longer hair.

If you are really committed to maintaining your curls for a second or third day, using a sleeping cap can keep everything contained. In the morning, smooth everything down with something moisturizing at the ends of your hair, and re-scrunch.
posted by fermezporte at 7:08 AM on August 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: UPDATE:
- I am currently on a quest to find someone in my area that knows how to cut curly hair. I am not optimistic but I am going to try. I am not willing to chop too much of the length off, but I agree I do need to do something.
- I tried the "swish to condish" method. Used WAY more conditioner than I normally do, but holy crap what a difference. My hair is actually soft and way less frizzy and the curls are staying together better. The hair on the top is still unhappy but I feel like I have made progress.
- Tried (again) to sleep with it but woke up with disaster hair. Fail.
- This morning I skipped the shampoo (having used Nizoral last night before my squish to condish) and just squish to condish again. My hair looks pretty darned good and, yeah, way softer. Actually got an unsolicited compliment on my hair this morning!

So already I have seen an improvement by doing the "squish to condish" thing. May try the Pixie Curl method tomorrow, just to see if that works.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:33 AM on August 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I use the giant $5 vats of Tresemme conditioner from the drugstore for squish to condish (I also shave my legs with it). I will put a fancier conditioner/treatment in first, let that soak while I do other stuff, and then rinse and re-condition with squishing the cheap stuff.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:16 AM on August 28, 2014

>Tried (again) to sleep with it but woke up with disaster hair. Fail.

A sleeping cap, as recommended by fermezporte, is key here. When I first wore one, I felt like a dork and looked like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory scene, but it made the difference between waking up looking fairly put-together and waking up looking as though I'd spent the night in a wind tunnel.

Plus: Hooray for the improvements re: "squish to condish," and good luck in your quest for a curl-friendly stylist!
posted by virago at 12:55 PM on August 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

A silk pillowcase also really improves my hair in the morning. My boyfriend has cotton pillowcases and the difference is incredibly noticable.
posted by sockermom at 1:08 PM on August 28, 2014

First, don't despair! All those years you've been straightening are years that other women have been spending trying to find the right combination of haircut, products, and styling to suit their hair. It would be astonishing if you got it right the first time!

It took me a while to find a basic process that worked and then even longer to find one that I really love.

What I'm doing now:
- good haircut. I searched yelp for 'curly hair' and found a stylist who had a lot of great reviews. I gave her a basically impossible list of requirements: long enough to pin up to look professional but short enough to feel light and easy, requires no hairdrying and minimal styling, doesn't fall into my face/looks good clipped back because I don't like the feeling of hair on my face, lasts a long time because I hate getting haircuts. She did it! (I pay good money for this, around $90 in NYC. I feel lucky to be able to afford it and it's worth it).
- Dandruff shampoo once a week and dandruff conditioner the rest of the time. I also struggle with dandruff and have since forever. I use Head & Shoulder's Dry Scalp conditioner alone most of time, and once a week or so use one of their shampoo+conditioner products.
- product: I have been through SOOOO many. Some do more harm than good. Some are decent but limited. Finally I found Curls Unleashed Curl Refresher by complete accident. I love it. It's perfect. I have no patience for long conditioning routines. This says it's a curl refresher but I use it for everything. After I shower, I put my hair in a towel until I'm otherwise ready. Then I put this product through my hair, then clip my hair back, ready to go. When I wake up in the morning, I put this product through my hair for 'second day curls.' It gets the curl back bouncy and soft without frizz. If I touched my hair too much throughout the day, I use some of this. I *love* it.

I think you will have to experiment and try different things and possibly spend silly amounts of money to find what works for you, but at least for me it has been worth it. Try products from a store that lets you return things that don't work for you, like Sephora or CVS.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:02 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, thanks for asking this. I retract all of my previous statements in this thread about hair care, except for the one about the silk pillowcase, because that really does help.

Squish to condish is the thing that my hair has been missing all its life! I've been doing it since this was posted and I'm never going back. My hair looks like celebrity curls. Julia Louis-Dreyfus hair. Carrie/Sarah Jessica Parker hair.

Thanks for asking this, and thanks to dragoness and wwax for the squish to condish links.
posted by sockermom at 8:43 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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