people expect more of you when you have naturally curly hair
November 21, 2014 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Curly-haired denizens of Metafilter, share with me your tips for achieving low-maintenance hair that is not an angry pile of frizz.

Hair dislikes being washed daily. Hair really dislikes being blow-dried daily. Schedule at the moment (baby, work, chaos) does not allow for an extra twenty minutes each morning spent drying and styling anyway. My usual approach is to wash, comb through when wet, scrunch in some anti-frizz or curl-enhancing stuff (using Aveda's 'Be Curly' at the moment), and let it dry naturally. Which works wonderfully... until I sleep on it, and then it turns into a pile of rat's tails squiggling off in all directions. Combing it too much turns it back into frizz.

I know I'm not the only curly-haired person out there whose hair does not respond well to hairdryers or being washed daily, so - what are the rest of you doing? Do you have some magic solution product that sorts hair out when it's dry, or have you cracked a washing routine that your hair likes?

Possibly relevant: hair is currently shortish, just above the top of my shoulders. I managed better with it when it was long and I'd resigned myself to frizzy waves as my lot in life, but I don't want to grow it again and I do want to encourage the curls. Not looking for advice on getting it cut (the cut's fine I think, and the curls look fantastic when they're working), just on maintaining it day-to-day. Would ideally prefer a solution that involves as little work as possible although I am prepared to put some effort and expense in to get nice-looking curls out. I have more time for lengthy washing routines in the evening than I do in the morning.
posted by Catseye to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (31 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I condition every day and rarely wash, and do the same product + air dry as you, when I can. If I don't get it thoroughly wet it turns into a rat's nest overnight (and it's not long enough to "pineapple" which can work for longer hair. I'd post a link to an explanation but am on my phone.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:22 AM on November 21, 2014

Curly girl method. I condition daily, shampoo (with sulfate-free shampoo) maybe once a month.
posted by baby beluga at 6:24 AM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I got some good tips here but I haven't tried any of them yet except for washing with a cleansing conditioner which hasn't worked yet.
posted by bleep at 6:29 AM on November 21, 2014

Put your hair up in a high, loose ponytail ("pineappling"), or multiple ponytails if your hair is too short for just one, and then wrap your hair in a silk or satin scarf while you sleep. This will reduce friction and thus frizz.
posted by sea change at 6:35 AM on November 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

The trick is to WET your hair every day, but not wash it. Like others above, I wash with a cheap conditioner daily (use lots, scrub my scalp). I then condition with a heavier conditioner, apply my product (a liquidy gel) to soaking wet hair, scrunch, and either air dry or diffuse dry partway.
posted by yawper at 6:37 AM on November 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

Have you tried a satin nightcap? Attractive... The satin keeps hair smooth, theoretically. YMMV but they are very cheap so it's worth a shot. Satin pillowcases would also serve the same purpose, and add a touch of luxury to bedtime.

I recently had a drastic haircut which has really made hair easier to manage on non-washing days. What is your haircare routine on days that you do not wash your hair? I put a glop of regular (not leave-in) conditioner into dry hair, followed by DevaCurl Set It Free spray. This helps - it doesn't look damp and the conditioner keeps hair tame while not being terribly expensive. I'm on day 3 now, curls are still good and defined.
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:44 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have my hairbrush hung on one of the shower curtain rings, and I brush hair and beard under the running shower every morning. Then I do a couple of wild-hair headbanger dance moves to flick most of the water out, and then I leave it alone to drip dry. No shampoo, no conditioner, no product of any kind, no towel dry.

This way, I get ringlets. But if I ever brush it when it's dry, it looks like I'm hanging onto a Van de Graaff generator.
posted by flabdablet at 7:05 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I work with a curly-haired person. She says she shampoos once a week and uses this product. (I just have ordinary semi-frizzy stright hair and occasionally use Aveda's beautifying oil on it to make it behave.)
posted by zadcat at 7:11 AM on November 21, 2014

Wet your hands, and add some of your curl-enhancing products. Re-scrunch your hair, and smooth down any frizzies. It never looks as good as freshly-washed hair on me, but it's enough for me to be presentable. Also, some of the frizz might be pregnancy related breakage, and you could look into styling with wide fabric headbands to keep that under control.
posted by fermezporte at 7:18 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

The squish to condish method is legendary on MetaFilter, try it.
posted by Dragonness at 7:20 AM on November 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Its gotta be up at night. You can use a wide sport/spa headband if it isn't long enough for a ponytail. Satin pillowcases may also help.

I also found that with a baby, between the hair falling out after pregnancy and how much hair-grabbing babies do, I had an unavoidable frizz halo from all the 3" long hairs that were broken off or growing in. The kids had to get a bit bigger for my poor hair to stop being so frizzy from breakage.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:29 AM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can vouch for the pineapple method mentioned by sea change above. Totally works.
posted by lindseyg at 7:38 AM on November 21, 2014

Huh--I didn't even realized I was doing "pineappling" but I was! My hair is too short to do it for real, but I use pins to mush it up to the top of my head. It's really made a huge difference.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 7:40 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you use a regular terry cloth towel to dry, try switching to a chamois cloth or even an old t-shirt, to cut friction. Yes to satin pillowcases and sleep caps!
posted by SeedStitch at 7:44 AM on November 21, 2014

I have Type 4 hair.

I wash it once a week.

Shampoo it once or twice, put on conditioner and comb it through. Let it sit for a few minutes, rinse it out. Once I get out of the shower I apply about a palmful of melted shea butter through it, and let it air dry. I alternate the rest of the week between wearing it down or in a ponytail. I sleep on a satin pillowcase and I never comb my hair when it's dry.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:30 AM on November 21, 2014

Pineappling your hair is the easiest way, I also dampen it slightly every morning with a spray bottle and let it air dry. Google curly girl method to help with frizz also look into squish to consist. It's a method off applying conditioner when you do wash I find it helps my hair be less frizz prone.
posted by wwax at 8:36 AM on November 21, 2014

My current routine, and hair, are much like yours. On the days I don't wash it, I comb through a bit with my fingers, just to separate out the biggest clumps, and then spray it with plain water (lifting up the top bits to wet the inner hair, turning my head upside down to spray the bottom, and making sure to get the ends). This is very low-effort and makes my hair nearly as presentable as it is when I've just washed it.

On the weekends I sometimes use the Curly Girl method, which is effective, but I find that once I've slept on my hair it looks the same no matter how I originally dried it. FWIW, I never blow-dry, and my anti-frizz product of choice is Schwarzkopf Gliss Kur leave-in conditioner.

people expect more of you when you have naturally curly hair

Ugh, it's so true.
posted by daisyk at 8:48 AM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's my routine: get up, go to the gym, come home, wet hair and wash with a bit of Ouidad conditioner. After shower, put hair up in a microfiber turban (aka Turbie Twist or generic version) for a few minutes. Take off turban, comb out any tangles with a wide-tooth comb (leave alone any part that's not tangled), add product, dry for a couple of minutes with diffuser. My hair is shorter than yours, around chin-length.

I use a variety of products, including: Ouidad heat & humidity gel, followed by styling gel. I also like Deva products, and some of the Bumble & Bumble products are good too; I've used the curl reactivating mist with good results. The Living Proof No Frizz products are very good as well.
posted by mogget at 9:15 AM on November 21, 2014

I condition daily. The first thing I do in the shower is wet my hair, add conditioner until its texture is close to wet seaweed, and finger comb to get rid of tangles. At the end I rinse out about 80% of the conditioner and scrunch excess water out by hand and then with a towel. I rarely if ever use shampoo.

After that I usually give my hair about 5-10 minutes to air dry while I get dressed, etc. I scrunch with a towel again then scrunch in product (I've used both Devacurl and Miss Jessie's hair gel with good results), then part with a comb and I'm good to go. I've found that combing through my hair tends to result in frizz because it separates hairs from their natural curling patterns so I only use it for styling.

My hair definitely dries out easily but it's never complained much about regular washing as long as I use lots of conditioner. I've had mixed results styling second day hair; I move a lot in my sleep so sometimes my hair is too hopelessly tangled to work with. I get my hands wet, add some hair gel and scrunch it in until the curls start to take shape again.
posted by fox problems at 9:30 AM on November 21, 2014

I have a daily AM routine and I get a lot of compliments. It takes a LOT longer to write and read this than to do it:

1. After wash and conditioning and leave-in conditioner (all Lush stuff) in shower, I use this (at end of shower while doing quick shower stall squeegee) then this (while drying the rest of me with a towel) to dry it.

2. I use a blob of this and work it through my hair, then a blob of this and do the same.

3. I take two squirts of this and work it through the hair, followed by two squirts of this and ditto.

4. Finally I spray on some spritzes of this and work it through. Then it air dries and looks great.

My hair is likewise a little longer than chin length (not stretched out.) It takes a max of 5-7 minutes to do all the above.
posted by bearwife at 10:08 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I only ever fingercomb, which I think does help with frizziness. When I need to refresh my curls on day 2 or 3 after washing, I put a small amount of my styling gel in my hands and run my hands over my hair (not really "through" it, because I find that breaks up the curls), then wet my hands and run them over my hair a couple of times, which seems to bring the curls back together enough for me.
posted by spindrifter at 10:26 AM on November 21, 2014

P.S. -- very important -- I use a wide toothed comb IN THE SHOWER to comb in my conditioner and my leave in conditioner. That's it in terms of combing or brushing or otherwise breaking up curls. "Work it through" means apply with hands and fingers without finger combing or otherwise putting anything that might cause breakup into the curls.
posted by bearwife at 10:42 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing wet it and maybe condition every day (although I don't need to do that now that I'm in this bog-swamp of the mid-atlantic), wash it every couple weeks.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:43 AM on November 21, 2014

My curls flattened overnight until I started squish to condish...amazing. That and pineappleing and a satin pillowcase and a good haircut.

I have curly hair and a new baby too.
posted by jrobin276 at 10:50 AM on November 21, 2014

Exactly the same as you except the second (and third, and occasionally fourth, but that's always a mistake) day I just lightly wet my hair and scrunch about half the normal amount of the Be Curly stuff through it.

Also, I never, ever comb. If I combed mine before squishing in the styling product then it doesn't work, so maybe try it without? Finger comb in the shower, put up with slightly more chunky ringlets for the first day and it stays together a bit better for the second day.
posted by kadia_a at 11:37 AM on November 21, 2014

I wear mine in a variety of updos when it's a mess. Which is half the time. Invest in some nice clips and learn to put your hair up attractively. Such a help
posted by fshgrl at 12:21 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

No no's: no hair dryers, no diffusers, no bushy hairbrushes, all of which poof up curly hair. Go under a heat lamp at the hair salon if it's cold out. I just leave with a wet head. Oh, and no rinse-out conditioner. Just say no.

Get a good haircut from someone who specializes or knows from curly hair. That is number one. Stop curly-haired people on the street to find the right hair cutter. I have done this in multiple locations around the world. Don't go by the salon but by the particular stylist.

My routine: I wash my well-cut curly hair with any old shampoo twice a week but rinse it in cold water. I put a blob of Mane and Tail Conditioner on it, work it into the hair, and LEAVE IT ON. Never, ever agree to getting conditioner put on and rinsed out; it softens curly hair too much. I flip my head downward and comb my hair flat to my scalp with a cheap plastic bristled roller brush so that the curls will dry upwards. I let it dry naturally or under a utility spotlight clamp lamp from Home Depot if I'm in a rush. When my hair is bone dry, I run my fingers through it. I may carefully twirl a plastic bristled roller brush through it for styling but not much. I often get stopped on the street by others of my species to ask where I get my hair cut. I've had longer conversations with curly-haired strangers than with people taking political surveys on issues that affect me.

I hate visiting humid places. The only true no-frizz cure is a dry day.
posted by Elsie at 2:16 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wash with shampoo once a week but wet it and condition every day. I use palmer's coconut hair milk, but I've also used Be Curly and the Body Shop brazilnut curl creme, they are all pretty similar. I also use oil as a leave-in treatment if my hair is frazzled. I rinse out with conditioner - I have never needed shampoo to get the excess out, but I do have very dry hair.

I sometimes use a wide-toothed comb in the shower but never never on dry hair. I finger-twirl sections into ringlets when my hair is half-dry, and if for some reason I can't wash my hair in the morning I find finger-twirling calms down most of the frizz, although tbh it doesn't look quite as good. I don't blow dry (I don't even own a hairdryer). I use a microfibre towel at the gym, and that dries my hair enough to be presentable in 45mins or so (I leave the gym with wet hair but it's ok by the time I get to work - not 100% dry, but ok). You need to protect your hair from rain and high winds at this time of year, once it's been turned into a rat's nest only washing it again will fix it.

The biggest thing out of all these changes is definitely the shampooing less, followed by moisturising more (oil, etc). Frizzy hair is thirsty hair. I used to use olive oil instead of frizz-ease (don't need either now), and you would be surprised how much neat olive oil you can put on your hair without it looking greasy - it just really drinks up moisture.
posted by tinkletown at 4:00 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was reading this in bed this morning and so I tried out the squish-to-condish method that Dragoness mentioned above. It's really only a slight variation of my normal routine (which is was no shampoo, leave-in conditioner + Aveda Confixor and a wide-toothed comb, only the slightest toweling then ignore until dry) and holy crap, do my 3a, mid-neck-length curls sproing like Tigger the Tiger. All I need is a ribbon and I could cosplay illustrations from Manfeels Park.

Never had any luck with silk pillowcases or any other method for not waking up looking wild. Either the hair gets re-doused at the sink, or I wear a hat & wee pig tails.
posted by mimi at 10:11 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have one more thing to say about working through conditioner/hair stuff in curly hair, and that is this -- my hair is thick and slow to dry, so squish to condish is just too soggy a method for me. But I get equally good results by "working through" my blobs of this and that by rubbing each blob between my palms, then applying my hands to my hair by squeezing my hair gently on each side from just below the crown to the end of the hair, with my blobbed hands. This is fast and effective and distributes product well but not heavily. Because I have pre-dried my hair with my favorite towels (linked above), my damp hair also soaks up the product and curls beautifully.
posted by bearwife at 10:54 AM on November 24, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. Squish to condish has turned it into absolutely amazing curls. Still working on getting a routine down to keep it looking even half that good, but there's enough great suggestions here that I'm confident something will work out.
posted by Catseye at 1:50 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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