The biggest complaints I hear from curly girls are: frizz and lack of styling knowledge. It’s all pretty simple but it will take a shift in thinking to care for your curls properly and have predictably good hair days.

First let’s define curls. A curl is a group of hairs that have dried together moving in the same direction at the same time. That direction is a circle. Because of the shape of the hair follicle, each of those hairs will move in a circular shape whether they are together in a group or not. When hairs dry NOT grouped together, they take on the appearance of frizz. What that means in a practical sense is that it’s to our advantage to keep the hairs grouped together until they have dried. This will create more ringlets and less frizz. So with that knowledge, what things would you automatically change in your hair care routine?

Re-read the above definition of a curl before moving on and think about what you do when you get out of the shower.

To encourage curls, you would not wrap your hair in a towel. The reason for this is the hairs which are in contact with the towel will dry more quickly than the hairs not in contact with the towel. We need them to group together before they begin to dry.�Also, don’t rub your hair with a towel. Don’t brush or�comb your hair either. What should you do? Now that you understand the concept of encouraging the hairs to stick together until they dry, let�s talk about the routine from shower to drying.

On day one in the shower, wet your hair and apply o. Concentrate the product near your scalp and work it out towards the end.s. Some of the best shampoos for curly hair are ‘sulfate free’. The detergents in sulfate free shampoos are more gentle to the hair. Because of this, they do not lather as much as other shampoos. Put a dime sized amount in your hand, rub your hands together and apply to scalp working your way out towards the ends. These shampoos are also VERY concentrated. If you are having trouble getting good distribution, add more water, not more product. Now rinse thoroughly.

Next is conditioner. The shampoo was used to remove excess oil and build-up on your scalp, conditioners should be applied mostly to the mid shaft and ends of the hair. Think about it, the hair close to your scalp is new, it’s healthier than the mid shaft and ends and therefore needs less conditioner. Conditioners can weigh down healthy hair and cause your curls on top to be flat. Finger comb conditioner through your hair. It’s okay if some of it gets on your scalp, just don’t start there or concentrate on that area. On day one of my routine I usually condition twice, meaning apply conditioner, rinse and condition again. That is because I have dry and somewhat coarse hair. You should obviously adjust this part of the routine to your own needs. Finer hair (or short curly hair) may not need to be conditioned twice. Make sure you rinse thoroughly and can run your fingers through your hair from scalp to ends without hitting any snags before you get out of the shower.

Before I get out of the shower, I fling my head over and squeeze any excess water from my hair. Do not twist and squeeze, just squeeze while working your way down. Now take a towel and blot the water from your hair. I usually also do this upside down. Don’t rub, just blot out excess water. Sometimes a paper towel is a better choice because it absorbs more water without disrupting the shape of the curls.


Now it’s time to apply styling products. Your hair should be evenly wet but not dripping at this point. Apply leave-in conditioners first. Sometimes they are called styling creams. Even distribution is key. Come up with a method that works for you that you will remember and can replicate each time. You should be using (of course depending on hair length and texture) between a pea and a lima bean sized amount.

Next, apply your fixative. By that I mean gel or mousse. Mousse is used if you need volume, gel for durability. Most of my curly haired clients use gel. Use one or the other, not both. Again, even application is essential. Use a little more of the gel or mousse than you used of the cream. For longer hair, it should be about the size of a quarter for gel, a golf ball for mousse. You may need another application to cover all your hair but don’t try to use twice the amount at once. Apply once, then put more in your hand and apply again. Again, distribution is a key factor. Any hairs that don’t get product on them will dry and look differently that the other hairs and will probably create frizz. The products are helping the curls to stick together.

Finally, the use of a spray gel will give better curl definition. Spray liberally over your entire head. In my experience, most people aren’t using enough of their products. Play around with the amount until it’s right for you. We are layering products now. They all have different jobs. Don’t try to mix them together in your hand and apply all at once. That is called cocktailing (more about that later); what we are doing now is layering.

Even distribution of product is critical! If you use the spray gel on part of your hair and not all of it, the curls without the spray gel will not be shaped the same as the ones with it.

Now that we have layered three different products on our wet but not dripping hair, it is more wet than when we
started. This is where paper towels come in really handy. Blot (DO NOT RUB) excess moisture out of the ends. This will cut down on drying time.


Now about drying. You will need a diffuser which is concave and has fingers. I find the diffusers that come with hairdryers as an attachment are usually not deep enough. Try it to see if it works for you but a diffuser bought separately is an inexpensive investment that will be well worth it. Make sure the front of your hair is in the shape you prefer before you start. If you like it going one way or the other, make that adjustment before you start drying.

I like to start with my head upside down when drying. Know that if you fling upside down and start drying the top first you will have more volume. If the look you want is more of a vertical curl and less volume, start by leaning your head to the side. It doesn’t matter which side you start on. Using your hairdryer on high heat and high volume with the diffuser on it, start drying in sections. The reason you are leaning to one side or the other (or
are upside down) is because your hair should be hanging so you can place it in the cavity of the diffuser. In fact, the entire time you are drying, hair will simply be placed in the cavity of the diffuser and left there. Do not scrunch your hair while drying. This will separate the hairs and create frizz (or great 80’s hair). Keep your hair in the diffuser until the heat gets to be too much around your face or scalp. This will be about 10-15 seconds. Now take the dryer away and place the hair in the cavity again. Repeat this process until each section of hair is dry.

Please do not be afraid of the process. If for instance you start drying upside down, when you flip over, your hair
will be huge. Don’t freak out, don’t try to pat it down or make it flatter. Gravity still works. It works every day on everything including your hair. It will look crazy during the drying process but it will all come together in the end.


Now that your hair is dry, it’s probably big, funny shaped and crunchy. Now you may be wondering “all that work for this?” or “what do I do now?” Now that your hair is dried into curls, you can touch it without creating frizz as long as you touch it in the right way. So don’t run your fingers through your hair! Scrunch it instead.

Scrunching is rubbing your fingers against the fat part of your hand. Thumbs are not engaged. Try doing it without hair before you try it on your hair. The purpose of scrunching is to get rid of the crunchy feeling and create a shape which you like. Know that you should scrunch until your hair looks the way you want it to, and then stop. You can scrunch too much, separate the hairs and create the frizz you were trying to avoid by diffusing. This sounds like a lot of work. It might take some time when you first do it because you will be unpracticed. As you get better, it takes less time. My hair is pretty long and the whole process takes less than 15 minutes.


Now what? Go and have your day. Don’t run your fingers through your hair during the day. In fact, touch your hair as little as possible. If it starts to look too flat, fling upside down and do a little scrunching. Fling back and don’t touch it.

The beauty of well-formed curls is that they can last more than one day. Diffusing is the curly girl’s blowout. It�should last at least two, maybe three days.

The best option for sleeping is, if your hair is long enough to pull up, put it up in a ponytail or ponyball on top of your head (the very top) so it doesn’t get disturbed while you sleep. The next morning, keep it in the ball until you have showered (without wetting your hair) and done all the other getting ready things. Your hair should be the last thing to come down. Once you let your hair down, it will not have the same volume it did on day one. Actually, day one is my least favorite day with my own hair. I prefer the more relaxed curls of days two and three. There may be a line of demarcation where your hair was pulled back. Just shake it around and leave it alone, it will work itself out.

The thing that most women seem to struggle with after they have diffused their hair is trying to control it. On day two don’t wet part of your hair to calm it down or create more curls. If the definition of a curl is a bunch of hairs that have dried together in a circular shape, what will wetting part of your hair do?!? It will not create more curls, it will disturb the curl pattern. If your hair has a little frizz, just drink another cup of coffee and walk away. You forget, beautiful curls are the hair everyone else wants. Don’t obsess over a little frizz on top. You are the only one who will notice it. Everyone else is noticing how great your curls look. Don’t be so hard on yourself (or your hair).

Now all of these words have taken us up to day three. Day one was shampoo and condition then style. Days two and three are sleeping with hair up and basically doing nothing. Now we are at day four. Unless your scalp is very oily, or you have for some unknown reason, rolled in the dirt, your hair does not need to be shampooed again. Just rinse and condition and follow the styling steps in order and go three more days. Yes, that means it may be a week between shampoos. It’s OK. Some curly hair advocates say to never shampoo. I disagree with that only because I believe the scalp needs the stimulation and to be cleaned. Even if you work out every day, water and conditioner are all you need.

Wrap It Up

Now that I have described curly styling and hair care, you should know that this entire explanation takes many more words than it does when I can demonstrate it. Anyone living a reasonable distance from our salon should just come in for a styling lesson. It’s easier to demonstrate than to explain and styling lessons are not expensive (and they are free with a cut or color). If you don’t live in our area and need curly hair help, find a stylist with curly hair who wears it curly. Many stylists have curly hair but straighten it. If they aren’t wearing their own hair curly, they may not be able to help you figure out how to style yours curly.