If you’ve spent days frantically researching ‘how to get my curls back’, just in case they should ever fall flat, you’re not alone. Like a lot of misguided teenagers, I spent most of my life straightening my hair with chemicals and blow dryers in an attempt to get my hair as straight as humanly possible. Now that I wear my natural curl, I couldn't imagine not having that springy texture. The cruel reality of curly hair is that preventing your hair from losing its curl pattern is much easier than getting it back.
Unfortunately, chemical treatments and overuse of heat styling can damage your curl pattern. But how do you know if that’s the case with your hair? Shelley Davis, Founder & CEO of Kinky-Curly tells Bustle, “When you have sections of hair that are straight, limp, and do not show any curl definition — no matter how much you scrunch — you know that your curl pattern is damaged.” Another sign is when your wash-and-go styles look stringy, she says, as it means your curl pattern has lost its elasticity.
Unfortunately, sometimes your hair isn’t repairable, says Davis — which means you’ll need to cut your hair and allow new growth. However, all hope isn’t lost. Bustle spoke with experts — including Dr. Christine Martey-Ochola and Anne Cheatham, co-founders of hair care brand NUELE — to get intel on the remedies and options you can take before deciding to cut your hair.
If you want to know how to get curls back, these five tips may help you do it.
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1. Don’t Over Shampoo
Sierra Kenner, curl expert at 901 Salon, explains that if you shampoo your hair too much, it may lead to stripping your curls of their natural moisture. When dry, they’ll become more susceptible to damage. Martey-Ochola also notes that when you do shampoo, you should avoid phthalates which can impact your hair’s chemistry and modify your curl pattern.
Instead of washing your hair every day, Kenner recommends doing a rinse with ingredients like apple cider vinegar, which has antimicrobial properties to help cleanse and clarify between washes.
2. Take A Break From Heat
You can tell when your curls have heat damage. The once lively curls are dry, brittle, and loose — basically, they pretty much look fried (because they are). If your curl pattern has "changed" from heat, it's not just changed, it's damaged. If you're trying to bring your springs back to life, you need to put down the blow dryer. Think of it as being grounded. You weren't responsible with the flat iron/blow dryer and now you must pay the price by never seeing it again... or, at least not for a while.
If you are going to use heat, Davis says to keep in mind that hair burns at 450 degrees so be careful with your settings. Also key? She says it’s important to always use a heat protectant before styling.
3. Give Your Hair Protein Shakes
Protein is an excellent remedy to restore your curl pattern. Not only will you be helping your pattern out, but you'll also be getting some healthy, all-natural nutrients for shine, growth, and strength. You'll need the following for this natural remedy:
- 1 egg
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup of coconut milk
- 8 drops of lavender essential oil
- 8 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
Mix all your ingredients together in a blender and then add your essential oils. This treatment is great to strengthen and moisturize each hair follicle, restoring order to those brittle curls. Keep your treatment on for at least 30 minutes and rinse well.
You could also turn to a weekly hair mask with moisturizing ingredients to help keep your pattern intact, says Kenner. Look for ingredients like aloe vera extract, avocado oil, and botanical-based butters.
4. Embrace The Wash & Go
Whether your hair is fried from heat, damaged from styling, or changing with age, experts say it’s important to give it moisture daily. “A healthy and natural curl pattern requires good hydration, good moisturization, [and] protection from heat using serums,” says Martey-Ochola. It also helps to protect your curls from dry air and cold wind, especially in the winter, by covering your hair with a silk scarf. Another tip? Reduce your curl’s moisture loss by sleeping with a silk pillowcase, she says.
5. Cut Your Ties With The Damage
The best way to restore your natural curl pattern is to cut off the damaged hair. In some cases, this could mean you'll have to do a dreaded big chop. Before you faint, scream, or refuse to read any further, remember: Your hair will grow back.
Cheatham has been there before, but was able to get her curl pattern back afterwards. “When I stopped using toxic chemicals in my hair, stopped putting on perms or keratin treatments, and started using serums, masking my hair, and diligently maintaining moisture, my curl pattern returned to normal, and has remained consistent throughout,” she tells Bustle. There’s definitely hope.
Akhtar, M, Asghar, F, Basit, A, Sadaf, S. (2018). Health improvement of human hair and their reshaping using recombinant keratin K31. Biotechnology Reports. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6218806/
Aykin, E, Budak, N, Green, A, guzel-Seydim, Z, Seydim, A (2014). Functional Properties of Vinegar. Journal of Food Science. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1750-3841.12434
Dias, M. (2015). Hair Cosmetics: An Overview. International Journal of Trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/
Shelley Davis, Founder & CEO of Kinky-Curly
Dr. Christine Martey-Ochola, Co-founder of NUELE
Anne Cheatham, Co-founder of NUELE
Sierra Kenner, stylist at Nine Zero One Salon
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