I'm often asked for useful tips and advice on curly hair, so I've put together my top ten tips.
1. Be patient. Curly hair needs lots of love and attention.
You probably already know this: beautiful curly hair isn't a straightforward proposition (ha ha). You need to get to know your nooks and crannies because it might be that you have more than one type of curl on your head.
Take some time to get to know your or your child's hair patterns and characteristics so that you can tailor your hair routine or find more effective oils and products. I sell a lot of really great products for hair, but not one of them is a miracle for curly hair. That takes patience and love.
My older child has 3 types of curls: loose waves at the back, a tight curl at the crown that's always wanting to go frizzball, and something in between at the front and sides. She's also got a lot more hair on the left side than on the right. By age 8, I've discovered that her hair takes a long time to drink in water or oil--she's got low porosity hair. Learning that has helped us a lot when choosing oils and knowing how to manage her hair. My younger daughter has a more even curl pattern that's less prone to tangles, her scalp gets dry and patchy if we're not careful, and it won't curl at all if it's shorter than shoulder length. They've got the same genes, but their hair is unique to them.
2. Always comb or brush curly hair when wet.
Never ever comb or brush curly hair when it's dry. Ever. It's also not a great idea to blow dry curly hair. We've got one of those ionic hair dryers with a diffuser, which I use once in a while (if hair is wet before bedtime or we're in a rush to go out) and never dry their hair completely.
At least once a week, do a proper comb out with a silicone brush or comb (Tangle Teaser is great). Saturate hair in the shower or bath and use a good amount of conditioner and comb hair through to get out ALL of the tangles. Don't rush this. If it's your child's hair, they will likely be impatient. I've done this sitting on the side of the bath and even sitting in the bath with them when they were younger. We've now graduated to sitting on the sofa and watching their favourite programme.
If hair is thick, separate into sections first. But get down to the scalp and comb every bit of hair from scalp to end while it's wet. This also is an effective scalp massage.
For styling, dampen hair with a gentle water, not British tap (it's too hard). Great choices are deionised water, spring water, charcoal-filtered drinking water, or even floral waters.
3. Smart detangling with water + oil
You will need a good detangler. A good detangler will wet hair, leave a little oil in, and do a little cleaning in the process.
There's our aloe + seaflower hair + skin tonic, of course. It's about 78% aloe vera water and the other ingredients are oils and botanical extracts made for improving hair and skin. The scent is also oil based--a blend of sweet orange and geranium leaf essential oils. When choosing a detangler, look at the ingredients and make sure there's nothing in that detangler like an emulsifier or cetearyl or cetyl alcohol. These are filler ingredients, and though benign, are not helpful in detangling products. That's why our tonic needs a good shake before use. A chemical emulsifier would have combined the water and oils, but it made the tonic sticky. No good.
4. To shampoo or not?
There's a lot of conflicting information out there about which shampoo to use or whether we should be shampooing at all. Ignore all that and figure out what's good for your hair.
Fact: Oil cleans hair; bubbles help move everything along and out of hair. Most people think that oil makes hair dirty and bubbles clean. Nope.
A shampoo with very little oil (look in the ingredients and if the oil is only at the very end of the list, avoid) and sulphate-based bubbles will only strip hair. Look for a shampoo that has vegetable oils and which is sulphate free.
Our shampoo bar is made entirely of plant-based base oils. The bubbles come from coconut oil, so there's nothing at all to strip your hair. Shampoo bars take some getting used to (I mean you and your hair), but for gentle cleansing and a zero waste footprint, they're a great choice.
We swim and dive in a chlorinated pool, so we shampoo immediately afterwards and, most weeks, a second time. It's also such a pleasant feeling to get that bubble action going and give yourself a good scalp massage.
5. Use a great conditioner.
Other times in the week, if we've not been up to much and hair just needs a little refresh, we use a conditioner rinse instead of shampooing. Because it contains oils, conditioner cleans hair. Any good conditioner will leave your hair soft without the feeling of residue when you stroke it.
Our seaflower conditioner is a light viscosity conditioner made with aloe vera, coconut oil, and sea buckthorn oil. The coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft and sea buckthorn oil delivers rich oils into the cuticle. When rinsed off, hair is left feeling soft.
But for curly heads, you can't stop there. . .
6. You need to use oils.
Not serums. Not creams. Not lotions. Oils. There's no getting around this. With serums or cream and lotion products, you may find that they work for a while, but sooner or later leave you with buildup and residue, weighing down your curls. You want a healthy, natural spring in curly hair, and for this result, you need a steady diet of nutritive oils.
Save the serums etc. for styling. As my mother says, "sense before fashion."
Hair should be clean before you apply the oil. While it's still damp, start with a little (a few drops), applying all the way from scalp to ends and massaging in. You're aiming for a healthy balance of oils in your scalp (the living cells that produce your hair) and balance on the hair itself, which needs to be protected from drying out.
We love weekly deep oil treatments. This is the exception to applying to clean hair. Before the weekend hair wash usually, everyone gets a good massage and glossing with their favourite oil and we leave it in for a few hours before washing.
Oils have varying botanical profiles and they do different things, suiting different types of hair. The blog over at Rainforest Chica does an amazing job of explaining oils for her range of fairly traded Amazonian oils (more on this later!).
I've taken some of the mystery out of the oil question by blending a couple of beneficial hair oils which will work in most types of hair, from curly to straight (yes, you need it too!). You can read about them on the blog: Which is the oil for me?
7. Take care of your scalp!
I keep mentioning it, so I'm just making sure you saw. . . you've got to nourish your scalp with oils. Keep your scalp clean, but don't go crazy shampooing or it will get dry. A therapeutic oil will balance oil production in your scalp, and you'll see better results in your hair as a reward. Most scalp irritation problems and some hair loss problems can be fixed with just a little more attention to your scalp. These living cells need to be kept healthy so that they can produce healthy hair. Use an oil and get in there at least once per week!
8. Put it up in a protective style.
If hair is long, plan on styling in plaits or buns or braids at least a few days each week. Curly hair gets dry and tangled very easily if left out all the time or for too long (or at night!). This is also a good opportunity to leave those lovely oils in and let them get to work.
When you wear it down, make sure you've got a light coating of oil in there. An easy way to do this is to apply a little oil to your hands first!
9. Change your towel . . . and be careful with textiles,
Something we don't think about so much, but it can make a huge difference. After you've washed your hair, you don't want to add lint and fluff (and quite possibly gross microbes). An old organic cotton t-shirt works well, or if you can, get yourself one of these! Bamboo is anti-bacterial and won't leave any debris in your hair.
In winter, be mindful that knit hats will leave lint behind, causing tangles. There's not much you can do about this except to take care of your hair to protect it.
10. Get a great hair cut.
Not every hair professional feels comfortable or has been trained in cutting curly hair. We are lucky that we have a family friend who knows what she's doing. I've watched her cut the girls' hair. She does it slightly differently each time, but she always takes care to measure many times before she cuts. She's also gotten to know that my eldest has 3 types of curls, for example, and that my younger daughter's waves don't curl when her hair is short. Why? we have no idea, but we go with it.
So I suppose this takes us back to number 1. Get to know your hair. It's yours or your child's for life, and it's worth developing a healthy personal relationship with it.
Still don't know where to start? I'm pointing you to the natural hair care trial pouch I've put together. It's got a few products to get you started!
Good luck! And do feel free to message me on Instagram, Facebook or by firstname.lastname@example.org if you think I can help any more.