Teach me how to have long, curly hair
August 16, 2018 11:30 PM   Subscribe

So I'm growing my hair out for the first time (I'm a dude). I really like it! I'd like to have long hair for a while! But...I don't really know what to do with it!

It turns out that my hair is pretty curly. At my current length (a bit past mid-neck if wet), I have a white-guy fro if I don't do anything with my hair. Right now I am using a sort of stiff semi-circular hair band (I actually don't know what they are called), but my hair is soon gonna get too long to be able to use it in the simple fashion I have (which is to put it at the base of my hairline then push back until the wild part of my hair is in the back...soon the wild part will be too long).

So I guess I need advice on two fronts!

1. How do I take care of long, curly hair?
2. What are things I can do with it? I don't want a fro, really. What other sorts of hair-tools are there...head bands? Hair pins? Pony tails? Buns? I'd love ideas, and uh, instructions. My hair isn't long enough for all of that yet but it will be by the end of the year I think and I'd love to play with it.

On the 1 front, I just want my hair to be healthy. I don't mind if it is curly or anything (I think some people do a lot of stuff to try and fight the curl...that's not my goal), I just don't want to inadvertently...damage it? Is this just shampoo commercial propaganda? I really don't know. Do I need combs? Brushes? Do I get-it-wet-but-not-shampoo? Do I not get it wet at all? I really am clueless about this. How do I avoid knots and stuff, that sort of thing...

On the 2 front, just hit me. I'm not super concerned about gendered styles though probably wouldn't do something TOO feminine... but I might try it out at home ;) This is the first time in my life I've ever had long hair and I feel it's just a cool chance to get to know this part of my body better!

Thank you!

PS For extra credit if you have any tips of what to do in semi-formal settings, that'd be great. In general I really don't care at all, and I'm a programmer, so those environments don't care...but I figure that for interviews (or weddings, etc) I could at least do a little. Something I've seen in the past is a sort of pony-tail-into-a-bun that generally looks pretty clean and tasteful. But would also appreciate tips.
posted by wooh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you want it curly:

1) shampoo (I have the best luck with the argan oil stuff)

2) condition (same)

3) squeeze some water out of hair so it’s not sopping

4) comb with fingers or very wide-tooth comb while hair is still super-wet. NO BRUSHES, BRUSHES ARE DEATH.

5) bend over and shake your head up and down until it separates into ringlets

6) smear a nickel-sized bit of your preferred curl product on your palms (lots of people like Bumble and Bumble Curl Creme or Aveda’s Be Curly- I actually don’t mind a larger amount of generic curl mousse from the drugstore). Start from the ends and scrunch it in from there- you’re trying to gently seal in the ringlets. You won’t need much near your scalp.

7) if you want, use your fingers to twirl some ringlets to show them who is boss if you think they need it

8) optional: use just your fingers to add a headband, pull back into ponytail, pull back the top half only etc.

9) that is it, you are done touching your hair for the rest of the day. Air dry.

10) if you need to do this without the full shower, wet your hair with a spray bottle of water and go from there (you may or may not need additional product)

Others will suggest more complicated options, but on a day I don’t want to fuss, this takes me approximately 90 seconds and looks great.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:13 AM on August 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

1 To take care of it google "squish to condish". A wide tooth comb when wet, don't brush it. Lots of good advice at naturallycurly.com

2 Length will weigh it down, a good haircut will help (thinned and layered).

3 Pinterest is rife with hair stiff - haircut examples, styles, tutorials, etc. Actor Sam Heughan has pretty curly hair that's longish a lot of the time for Outlander that is generally regarded as great longish sexy hair.

4 In semi formal settings I'd go with a man bun.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:16 AM on August 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

The number one thing with curls is combatting dryness. Because the hair is not straight, the natural oils your scalp makes are less inclined to travel down the shaft of the hair. This is good in some ways because you are less likely to get greasy hair. The downside is your hair is more likely to dry out. Combatting dryness involves hydrating your hair with good conditioners and good conditioning techniques, avoiding products that dry it out, and avoiding excessive heat (blasting it with a hot hairdryer etc). The frizziness you are describing is probably coming from dryness, or maybe from brushing. Most curly haired people avoid brushing their hair for this reason. Hydrating the hair will help it settle into ringlets, and stop it from frizzing.

Seconding 'squish to condish' method, there are excellent YT vids showing the process. Takes a bit longer in the shower but it works! You need a hydrating conditioner (Tresemme is a pretty good brand for this if you aren't worried about buying Unilever brand stuff) that will create good 'slip' and help you detangle it while in the shower. After my shower I scrunch some mousse or gel into my curls to help with frizz and shape etc. then fix it on top of my head with a tshirt ('plopping'). I let it down after 30mins or so, then when it has air dried I 'scrunch out the crunch' and am left with lovely shiny curls! Non-wash days, I just scrunch some warm water through my hair to refresh them, similar to what the first commenter does, and use dry shampoo on the roots. At night time I 'pineapple' my hair to try and stop my curls from being crushed while I sleep but your hair might not be long enough for this yet. I also try to avoid touching my hair when it's dry, because that just makes it dirty/oily/frizzy/a nightmare.

At this point I wouldn't worry too much about sulfates and silicones and co-washing and all that (terms you are likely to come across when reading blogs about this stuff). Everyone has their own way, which is likely dictated by time, money and how much they give a shit (I am on the low end of all of these gradients).

Agree that a good cut by someone who knows how to cut curly hair is half the battle. I used to have straight hair and find I have to get haircuts more frequently now that my hair is curly, to keep it looking nice.
posted by BeeJiddy at 12:50 AM on August 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, conditioner. I have curly hair that has varied in length from mid-back to chin-length, and the health of my hair improved dramatically when I started consistently using a real conditioner rather than the 2-in-1 shampoo-conditioner Pert Plus stuff I'd grown up with.

After you shampoo and rinse, add a smidge of conditioner only below the scalp. Let it sit for a few minutes (I use this time to shave my legs), then rinse out. Before getting out of the shower, run the water as cold as you can stand and let that run over your hair.

You don't need expensive stuff, either. I use Alberto VO5 products from the Dollar Store and it's like magic.
posted by basalganglia at 3:59 AM on August 17, 2018

No brushes, ever. I don't think you even need to comb it. I've had curly hair my whole life and have had several periods where it's been down to my waist, and I've never done anything more than finger comb with conditioner in the shower. Once you're out of the shower, you may want some kind of product to help give the curls some shape. I like mousse or hair lotion, but there are lots of options. I would suggest going to a stylist who has experience with curly hair, especially if they have experience with men's curly hair, and ask them for a style and product recommendations. Really good curly stylists typically cut the hair dry, which is a different experience, but gives you a better cut. Another recommendation for Naturallycurly.com.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:14 AM on August 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Using a soft, clean jersey tshirt to dry your curls after washing helps fight against frizzies. I bend at the waist and pat/scrunch my hair with the tshirt, as opposed to rubbing it.

Living with curly hair is like having a (hopefully mostly friendly) truce with it; it can be very forgiving, it can also be very sassy and annoying. Find what works for you specifically. Asking a hairdresser who has experience with curly hair is a great jumping off point. My curls are finer and greasy, so much of the advice to use leave-in conditioner or argan oil wont work for my particular hair. If you're on the finer side too, I really like Bumble and bumble's undressing cream. A little goes a long way, doesn't smell "feminine," I can basically work some into damp hair and let it air dry; it gives structure to my curls so they don't turn into a giant fluffy cloud.

Good luck and have fun with your follicles!
posted by Drosera at 5:21 AM on August 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

My son and I both use this leave in: Kinky Curly leave in detangler. We get it at Target. I also use a curling custard/gel for styling and hold and usually conditioner. He just uses cheap kid shampoo and that.

Experiment with your part. It can make a difference and is low cost.
posted by typecloud at 6:37 AM on August 17, 2018

If you really want to get into hardcore advice and product reviews, head over to naturally curly.

But generally: condition it every time you get it wet. Shampoo infrequently. Never brush it, just comb with a wide-toothed comb. I've been a fan of Shea Moisture products for a while now, mostly because they're way cheaper than the Aveda/salon lines. And for more formal looks you might want to check out man-buns! :D
posted by TwoStride at 7:36 AM on August 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

My uncut-for-thirteen-years hair also does the uncontrollable frizz/fro thing if I brush or comb it when it's dry.

My daily routine is to brush it straight back from my forehead under a running shower in the morning and then don't touch it; just let it drip dry down my back. No shampoo, no conditioner, just running warm water and a thorough brushing all over my scalp and then through the handfuls of wet hair at the back. Then it dries into ringlets.

If I want it to dry faster, I'll go outside and do a few fast headbanger bends that flick water all over the landscape before letting it drip. Then it dries into loose curls.

Normally I just wear it loose; pony tail and scrunchie is as close as I ever get to formal. Man bun/topknot if the weather is stinking hot and wearing it down is making me sweaty.

If the weather's been really cold or humid and the hair has been taking a very long time to dry, I will occasionally get a bit itchy right at the back under the part that stays dampest for longest. Whenever that happens, the next day I'll treat my scalp with an anti-dandruff shampoo; get the whole scalp nice and foamy, leave it that way for five minutes, then rinse out, then apply conditioner, then brush that through under running water to rinse it out, then drip dry as usual.

People who tell me I should be using a comb instead of a brush because brushes break hair are completely missing the point that yes, hair does build up in the brush as a matter of course, which is exactly why I've been able to go thirteen years without cutting it and yet it's stayed at the same quite manageable length for the last ten of those. Also, combing tugs and pulls and fails to massage or clean my scalp in a way that my nice soft cushion brush with the little balls on the tips of the bristles just doesn't. I keep the brush hanging head down with its handle stuck through one of the shower curtain rings so that it drips dry after use and doesn't get festy.

I like living in hair that doesn't get cut. Last time it was cut was when I shaved it all off entirely in the summer of 2005 and didn't let it get longer than #3 for a month. It was nice not having to maintain it but it made me miserable not having it and I never did get used to the sound of wind roaring past my ears.
posted by flabdablet at 7:53 AM on August 17, 2018

People are divided but personally I love a man bun. My cousin rocked a man bun at my wedding fwiw.

You can also look to soccer players for style ideas, it sounds like you have soccer player hair :)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:51 AM on August 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

oh no man buns are like hipster mullets. dont do it.
posted by speakeasy at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2018

Hi I am a man who has had long, curly hair for maybe a decade (currently mid-shoulder blade length) and frequently have to dress up for formal events.
1. Care is idiosyncratic - go to naturallycurly.com and experiment with methods until you find a routine that works. Definitely pineapple at night, when your hair gets long enough.
2. My preferred style for formal events is hair down. If you are taking care of your hair, which it sounds like you are, hair down can be a really striking look on a guy - just having well-taken-care-of hair sets you apart from the "always in a ponytail" type of long-haired guy, AND if you have good curls everyone regardless of sex/gender will be jealous ;-). I prefer the swept-back style, as opposed to parted. I've gone hair down in tuxedos a couple times.
For more conservative/traditional events, do a low bun or a ponytail. Low bun is the most conservative (IMO) but ponytails are the most common long hairstyle for men and are always acceptable.
I'll also like a high, loose bun (like a woman's up-do) for occasions that allow more personal expression, and I'll do a top-knot for going out casually or for workouts. Style is completely up to you, of course - you need to rock whatever you feel best wearing, because confidence really sells any stylistic choice, hair or otherwise.
posted by smokysunday at 3:13 PM on August 17, 2018

I only wash my hair about twice a week. I've noticed that I go through conditioner 3-4X as quickly as shampoo. Use a little shampoo, and don't scrub at your head. I use Pantene conditioner, but I don't care much about the shampoo type. Use a ton of conditioner, and let it soak in. (I shave while the conditioner sinks in. If you're in a place where you might feel guilty about water use, you might even turn the water off for a few minutes.) Then detangle! Start mid-way through the strand. After the bottom half of your hair is tangle-free, brush from scalp to tip. You're not going to be brushing your hair often, so this is a good opportunity to prevent knots from forming. I like to use paddle brushes because loose hair will get wrapped around the brush instead of going down the drain. If you've never had long hair before, be aware: the drain is not your friend.

Don't rub your head with a towel or anything. That will cause frizz. Squeeze out excess moisture, then add product to tamp down on frizz. I like Shea Moisture's Curl-Enhancing Smoothie. If you can, time your showers to let your hair dry naturally. I've found that if I sleep on slightly damp hair, my curls are really springy.

If your curls ever start to look really terrible, straighten your hair. Don't do it all the time -- that would damage your hair! But straighten it occasionally, and you'll be shocked by how nice the curls look afterwards. (Maybe my hair reads it as a threat?)

I find man-buns kind of charming, but be aware that they are divisive.
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:00 PM on August 17, 2018

Braids are a clean and tasteful look for semi-formal settings. Here's what I found at a quick image search.
posted by aniola at 8:27 PM on August 17, 2018

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