For the first 17 years of my life, my wavy hair was the bane of my existence. Every morning before middle and high school, I would religiously wake up at 5:45 a.m. on the dot to fry my waves into a sleek, straight style that I thought looked better than my natural curls. I wasted so much time, and ultimately ended up destroying the texture of my hair. Plus, embarrassingly, it took me until 10th grade to realize that for years I had been forgetting to style the back of my head. Oops! I've come to find out that there are plenty of safe ways to style curls, but it definitely takes a while to learn what not to do to curls.
Thankfully for me and for everyone out there like me, who spent the early 2000s trying to manage their unruly manes, curly hair has come back into style in a big way in the last few years. Embracing your natural curls is gorgeous, on trend, and has made my morning routine far, far faster and easier.
I asked my personal beauty guru and former colleague, Kirby Reynolds (who has seen everything from the inside of the Glamour beauty closet to the inner workings of a prominent blow-dry bar, and is currently working at Birchbox) if she had an tips for us wavy-haired ladies. As a tress-obsessed, fellow curly girl, she of course did. One tip will leave you looking like Gisele.
1. Don't Overshampoo
Curly hair is naturally dry, and shampooing your hair too often tends to make it brittle by washing out the natural oils your curls need to stay in tact. When you do shampoo (which should be no more than a few times a week), keep the lather close to your scalp, and let the excess soapy water take care of the tresses.
Reynolds suggests trying a Co-Cleanse like No Poo or Low Poo, as these low foam options won’t dry out or strip your hair the way regular shampoo tends to do. These can be tricky to use, so she advises wetting your hair and putting a small amount of the cleanser into your palm before adding water and applying to your strands. Massage the solution into the scalp slowly, adding more product as needed. Rinse twice, the second time with cool water to close the cuticle. Hello clean, gorgeous hair.
2. Don't Blindly Choose A Stylist
First and foremost, pick a salon and a stylist who knows how to handle your curls. Ideally, curly hair should never be cut wet, because curls shrink when they dry, and you may end up with a frizzy bob when all you wanted was a trim. Curly hair should also never be cut with a razor, as it causes premature breakage and odd growth patterns.
Reynolds suggests consulting Instagram to find a salon that specializes in softer, fuller looks. Be very clear with your stylist about how you tend to wear your hair so that they know to cut accordingly. If you straighten your hair often, make sure your stylist keeps that in mind while cutting — blunt layers tend to look great with curly styles but don't translate well when flattened out.
3. Don't Be Afraid Of Product
Because curly hair is so prone to dryness, it’s important to use moisturizing products to keep your curls smooth and bouncy. For the best results, choose products that are made specifically for curly hair, and have ingredients like palm oil, coconut oil (which is great for sealing in moisture), shea butter, and avocado oil.
When consulted about products, Reynolds commands, “Don’t be the girl who is afraid to touch her hair! It's like being the girl who takes all the cheese and toppings and crust off her pizza.” Because curly girls tend to fear frizz and exaggerated volume, she suggests using a good anti-frizz serum (such as John Frieda or Living Proof) and a little oil or shaping cream to help maintain shape. Once that’s in place, feel free to tousle your hair throughout the day (seductive hair flips to attract the attention of the cutie in the coffee line are optional).
4. Don't Dry Brush Or Comb Curly Hair
Curly hair breaks easily (I know, you get it — curly hair is dry and and brittle and you need to treat it nicely), so combing it when it's not wet will lead to breakage and split ends. Also, if you’ve ever tried to comb or brush a dry head of curly hair, you know you’ll end up with a frizzy mess. Your best bet for keeping the shape maintained is to use a wide-toothed comb while you condition in the shower.
If you wake up on second-day hair with flyaways or frizz, Reynolds suggests using a fancy water spray (like Avene Eau Thermal or the ever-classic Evian) or a detangling spray (such as PARLOR by Jeff Chastain Detangling Leave-In Conditioner) to reactivate your curl. Then, use a damp brush to detangle — it will rake the curls instead of “brushing” them, and won’t fuzz you out. Apply oil (product, product, product), scrunch your curls, and let them air dry.
5. Don't go against your curly hair's wishes
If there is one thing a curly girl knows, it’s that no matter how hard you try, your hair is going to do whatever it wants. It is best, then, to just embrace it. If you tend to wear your hair curly, it was cut with this in mind, so the shape and texture generally won’t work in an ultra sleek, straightened style.
If you must flatten out your curls, Reynolds advises opting for round-brush blowouts or hot rollers instead of a straightener. These bombshell blowouts, a-la Gisele, Cindy Crawford, Brooke Shields, and Miranda Kerr, utilize your naturally curly texture to create an under-control, voluminous look. When wearing an updo, don’t try to brush out every bump or imperfection — embrace the messiness to look like the ultimate, effortless cool girl.
And Most Importantly ...
6. Don't Forget To Love Your Curls
Being the natural beauty with an I-look-like-I-just-climbed-out-of-the-ocean-but-really-I-just-woke-up-like-this hairstyle is enviable and awesome. Embrace your curls, and treat them well.