And really, isn't it also in my best
interest for my client to look like a million bucks, 24 hours a day?
Inevitably, someone is bound to go up to her and ask her, "You have to
tell me who does your hair!" That is what is going to make me look like
a genius (and, frankly, bring me more business), not holding back on
education I firmly believe each and every one of my clients has the
right to own.
Here is everything you need to know to
keep your curls sassy, healthy and frizz-free:
There's a whole lot of screaming going
on these days about whether to shampoo or not to shampoo. In the last
several years, many girls with curls have abandoned detergent-based
shampoos in favor of non-sulfate cleansers or even simple conditioner
cleanses in an effort to minimize dryness. However, advocates of
shampooing insist that by not using detergent-based shampoo to cleanse
the scalp and hair, these individuals will start to experience scalp
issues and eventual hair loss. These shampoos, they argue, are the only
way to ensure the hair and scalp are as clean as they need to be in
order to maintain proper hair health.
Piffle, I say. Read on.
Sulfates are harsh, drying detergents
(surfactants) found in regular shampoos that are extremely damaging to
curly hair because they strip it of its natural moisture, making it
frizzy and unmanageable.
It has been my experience that discontinuing
the use of sulfate-based products will restore about 80% of the hair's
general health. Now, that's not a scientific number, merely an
observation I've made with my own clients, but I doubt there are many
non-sulfate cleanser advocates who would disagree with me—I'd bet with
confidence they've observed exactly the same thing.
Anyone who tells you not shampooing
will eventually lead to hair loss IS partially right—but they are only
giving you half the picture. If you don't cleanse your scalp properly
and your hair follicles become clogged with sebum, then yes, you
absolutely could start to experience some serious issues. Your hair
follicles can suffocate, they can become infected, and/or you can indeed
start losing your hair over time.
But it is not the sulfates in shampoo
that keep your scalp and follicles clean—movement and agitation are
what do the cleansing. Think of a washing machine: that agitator in the
middle that swishes your clothes back and forth is there for a reason.
Without it, your laundry detergent would be fairly ineffective, no
matter how many “mountain fresh” chemicals are loaded in there.
If you use a non-sulfate based or conditioner cleanser or shampoo
with an alternate surfactant once a week and give yourself a really
good, brisk scalp massage while cleansing—using your fingertips and
rubbing your scalp with a firm, energetic circular motion—you are
massaging the sebum, dirt and debris out of your hair follicles while
stimulating your sebaceous glands to maintain their proper function. The
cleanser acts as an agent to carry that oil and debris away without
damaging and drying out your hair shaft. That's the real
purpose of a cleanser, not this sulfate-based shampoo nonsense that
strips your hair of the moisture and essential oils that keep it
If, however, you use a non-sulfate or conditioner cleanser or
shampoo with an alternate surfactant once a week and you squirt a bit on
your scalp and kind of halfheartedly move it around, then rinse without
really doing any kind of work, you aren't cleansing your scalp correctly
and you may, in fact, start having problems. But it doesn't have
anything to do with the fact that you are not using shampoo. I've seen
clients who use regular shampoo and their scalp is full of dry flakes
and scales because they don't cleanse their scalp properly.
I personally believe much of the “you MUST use shampoo” screaming
is an effort to drive more product sales within the beauty industry.
Quite frankly, however, if you are doing a weekly non-sulfate cleansing
with some serious scalp massage and really focusing on getting your
scalp clean, you are doing all the right things and you should never
have any issues with clogged or damaged hair follicles (at least not
because of your cleansing routine).
The cleansing routine I recommend is this: apply a curly-friendly
cleanser to your hair and massage it into your scalp for several minutes
with a firm, circular
motion, scrunching it into the length to help activate the curl (don't
use your fingernails, just the pads of your fingers). Rinse well with
warm water, massaging your scalp to help remove the product. Then take a
bit more of your cleanser on your fingertips and perform a second, very
gentle massage on your scalp—not as long as your initial cleanse, but
just a minute or so. Rinse it out, then proceed with your routine.
You've stimulated your sebaceous glands and flushed everything out of
your follicles with the first massage, then calmed everything down,
relaxed your follicles, and slowed down your sebaceous glands with the
second one. I've found this is the most effective way to treat your
scalp and it will keep it very healthy.
You should only need to cleanse your
hair once or twice a week, depending on the hydration level of your
Moisture, moisture, moisture! It's all
about the MOISTURE level of your hair, my friends. Hair that's been
well-moisturized with products appropriate for curly hair and that has
good porosity is what leads to healthy, well-defined curls. MOISTURE is
what defines and shapes our curls, not product. MOISTURE is what chases
frizz away. Curly hair already tends to be dry naturally. Figure in the
drying, dehydrating and generally curl-unfriendly products we routinely
use and it's no wonder most of us are a dry, frizzy mess.
The biggest offender other than
sulfates? Silicones, specifically non-water soluble silicones. If
sulfates are Public Enemy #1, non-water soluble silicones occupy second
place on the FBI (Frizz Buster Identification) Most Wanted list.
Silicones are Not Our Friends
Many conditioners and styling products
on the market, both professional and drugstore brands, contain non-water
soluble silicones, which lie on top of the hair, creating an
impenetrable barrier into the hair shaft. They look like a quick fix for
frizz since they temporarily smooth the hair shaft down and make frizz
seem to disappear—but they also suck out the moisture from inside the
hair, dehydrating curly locks and creating more frizz in the long run.
Since they can't be rinsed away with water, they also build up on the
hair shaft and generally require a surfactant (detergent)-based shampoo
to remove. Yet another vicious cycle in the minefield of curly hair
You absolutely, positively must use
a conditioner that's either silicone-free or has acceptable,
water-soluble silicones in it to condition your hair. Your hair will
not form beautiful curls without frizz unless it is
well-moisturized—no ifs, ands or buts―and the conditioning step of a
good curly hair care maintenance routine is the most effective place to
get adequate moisture into your curls.
To effectively apply the conditioner to
your hair: rake it liberally all through your hair with your fingers,
scrunching it into the length, and let it sit for a few minutes so your
hair can absorb what it needs. Rinse out any excess with cool water.
Cool water, like acid-based products, will shut your cuticle down and
help keep all that healthy product inside your hair shaft where it
Pump Up the Moisture
Adding some conditioner back into your
hair as a leave-in will help to pump up the moisture in your hair even
When your hair is rinsed, bend over and
let your dripping wet hair hang free. Gently scrunch out the excess
water from your hair with your hands, but don't wring it dry—hair
products normally work much better on curly hair if it is very wet when
you apply them. Rake in a good conditioner appropriate for your hair
type with your fingers from scalp to ends until your hair feels like wet
silk. It's lack of moisture that causes frizz, so make sure your hair is
getting enough! As you become more familiar with the routine, you will
begin to automatically sense how much your hair will require at any
given time (some days, you might not even need any). Let your instincts
become your guide.
As an example: my hair is very, very
moisturized and very healthy, so I usually only need to use a dollop the
size of a quarter on my about-five-inches-below-the-shoulder (dry) hair.
If you are just starting on your odyssey to curly hair health, you will
find you might need a good palmful at first, but take heart—that amount
will gradually decrease over time as your hair becomes less dry.
Some people advocate just leaving in
some of your original conditioner rather than rinsing it all out and
applying additional product as your leave-in. I disagree with that
approach for two reasons: one, how do you gauge how much you've rinsed
out of your hair or know that you've left in enough of the conditioner
to be effective? Sticking your head under a shower head or a hand-held
sprayer doesn't exactly give you the best level of control and you may
be rinsing out more product than you should.
Two, most people with curly hair only
wash their hair once a week, but many of us do a rinse and condition
every day or every other day. And let's face it, we live in a polluted
world these days: cigarette smoke, vehicle emissions, manufacturing
pollutants—there is a ton of dirt and debris in the air that we aren't
even aware is getting in our hair. These particles are going to cling to
the conditioner you put in your hair and stay in there if you don't
rinse it out. So, don't you think you should get rid of all that mess
and put in a little fresh conditioner instead?
Speaking of leave-ins: I don't
generally have a whole lot of use for products labeled "leave-in
conditioners." I find that they are usually only watered-down versions
of regular conditioners and since we girls with curls need all the
moisture we can get, why bother? A bit of our regular conditioner as a
leave-in is a far superior (and more cost-effective) method instead.
While moisture is what defines and
shapes your curls, styling products are what provide the hold. The same
rules for conditioners apply to these products as well: dump the
non-curl friendly silicones in favor of ones that are or choose styling
products that have no silicones in them at all.
Still in the upside down position: rake
a tablespoon of gel from your scalp to your ends, distributing the
product through the length, but concentrating on the area from the roots
to the mid-shaft (this guarantees good product coverage on the top of
your head, an area not always coated well with product by only
scrunching the product into your hair). Don't forget your crown area and
the nape of your neck, two areas that are commonly neglected in styling
product application—lean side to side to reach these areas more easily,
if necessary. Then liberally scrunch a generous palmful of the gel into
the length of your hair, starting at the ends. Scrunch and squeeze your
curls in a firm, upward motion to your scalp, squeezing out as much
remaining excess water as you can while squeezing in the gel. The water
will mix with the product and form a crystalline cast over your curls,
holding them in place and preventing frizz from forming until they are
In general, I advocate the use of
styling gels over mousses and creams, but that's not to say these
products can't be effective. Remember, I live in Florida and we combat a
hellacious, sub-tropical humidity for several months out of the year, so
very strong gels tend to work better for us down here. But mousses can
often make hair look thicker―a bonus for curlies with thin, very fine
hair—and creams can prevent fine, wavy hair from looking and feeling
weighed down, so these might be better choices for you. Experiment and
play with different styling product types until you find the one that
Blot Dry and Clip
To remove the rest of the excess water
from your hair, use a cotton t-shirt, paper towels, baby diapers, or
flour sack towels—any cotton-based, absorbent product that has a
completely smooth surface
(regular towels, such as terrycloth or microfiber, are too heavy to be
used on curly hair. They can cause friction, which will ruffle the
cuticle and cause frizz). Repeat the scrunching process, cupping
“clusters” of curls in the t-shirt. Scrunch and squeeze them towards
your scalp in a firm, upward
motion, squeezing out the remaining excess water. Put some muscle into
Stand up and toss your hair back gently
(do not fling your head back!) and let your curls fall naturally to your
shoulders, shaking your head gently if necessary. Use the tail of a
rattail comb to make sure none of your curls are catching on each other
and they are falling downwards without wrapping around each other. If
you wear your hair in a part, this is the time to arrange your curls so
they are falling the way you want them when your hair is dry.
Clip up small sections of your hair on
the top and crown of your head to create more volume as your hair dries.
Pinch a small section of curl at the roots, then replace your fingers
with a flat metal clip. Make sure you keep the head of the pin clear so
the clip will not catch your curls and create frizz when it is removed.
How your hair looks now is what it will look like when it is dry, so
clip carefully to avoid any funny bumps or corners. Don't neglect the
back of your head at the crown, an area very easy to miss when you are
clipping yourself: we girls with curls have a tendency to go flat in
that area. Use a handheld mirror to view the back of your head so you
can easily spot areas that should be clipped. You can pinch the area
with one hand while looking at it in the mirror, then put the mirror
down to clip it.
Sometimes I also like to put two clips
at the sides right below the temple area to keep those side curls
falling in a downward direction, plus it helps to keep my hair from
falling into my face while I am air-drying and going about the rest of
my morning routine (I HATE wet hair in my face!).
Once you get used to clipping and find
a clip arrangement you like, you can usually clip yourself in less than
The Heat is On—Blow-Dry or
If you have the time in your routine,
it can be best to let your hair dry naturally whenever possible, without
disturbing the curls, until they are completely dry. If you have to use
a blow-dryer, however, use a diffuser and gentle heat to dry your curls
without touching them and without moving
the dryer around continually—a surefire way to set yourself up for
To diffuse your hair with a minimum of
frizz: first, dry your scalp. Keep the diffuser aimed at different
sections of your scalp for about two minutes without moving (use the
cool shot to bring down the temperature if the clips are heating up),
then move to a different section. Getting your scalp dry is the most
critical part of the process, so pay particular attention to make sure
you do a good job here.
I personally use a combination of
air-drying and diffusing to do my hair. After I clip myself up in the
morning, I let my hair air-dry while I go about the rest of my usual
routine—fixing breakfast, making beds, packing lunches, putting on my
makeup, etc. When I'm ready to go and the only thing I have left to do
is put on my shirt, I diffuse for about 10-15 minutes to finish the
drying process and I'm done. Who says doing your hair has to take a lot
of time and effort?
It should go without saying that using
a blow dryer to straighten your hair stretches and distorts your curls,
causing dry, damaged hair over time. If you are still straightening your
hair all or part of the time, please think long and hard about what you
are doing to yourself. Every time you blow-dry or flat-iron your hair,
you compromise the health and elasticity of your curls—resulting in
frayed cuticles, split ends, and brittle, porous hair. Why spend the
time using curly-friendly products in an effort to restore your hair's
luster and health, only to destroy all of your hard work with such a
brutal and curl-unfriendly process?
You and your curls
deserve so much better than that.
about "Negative Ion" Dryers
Much has been made in recent years
about negative ion dryers, whose proponents claim the negative ion air
flow will dry hair faster at lower heat settings, resulting in less
damage. As of this writing, there is a lot of talk, but not a whole lot
of science behind these claims. I have observed that my drying time and
the drying time of my clients does appear to be less with a negative ion
dryer than with a conventional one, but I can't sit here and claim I've
done a whole scientific study to prove it.
These dryers tend to be expensive, so
if you are interested in purchasing one, make sure you do your homework
and talk to friends who might already own one and can give you their
opinion before you make the investment. I have a negative ion dryer at
work and a conventional dryer at home, and I'm perfectly happy with my
results with both of them. It's all a matter of personal preference!
When your hair is completely dry,
remove the clips carefully, then shake your hair gently to set your
curls in motion. Bend over, letting your curls fall free, and gently
scrunch your curls to break up any crystallized product. You can use a
curl-friendly pomade to help scrunch out the crunch and provide an
additional level of hold if you'd like, although I typically view these
types of products as "nice to have", not "have to have." Only scrunch
your curls from the underside, to avoid creating frizz on the top of
your head. If you would like more volume, "scrub" your roots at the
scalp with your fingertips from the upside-down position to loosen the
hair from the scalp and to obtain more lift.
Stand up, shake your head again gently,
arrange your hair and then stand back and admire your beautiful curls.
POINTS TO PONDER
As you begin to get used to your new
hair care maintenance routine, here are two things you should keep in
Some people report their hair still
feels "dirty" after moving to their new no-sulfate, no non-water soluble
silicone routine. But, please—don't mistake the feeling of hydrated,
moisturized hair with dirty hair. We have been so conditioned to shampoo
“until it squeaks” that the feel of dry, stripped hair is all we know.
Learn to appreciate and love how your hair should feel:
silky, supple and full of moisture.
Additionally, your hair may seem to
freak out a little bit with the new routine—a halo of frizz may rear its
ugly head in the first week or two, leading you to wonder: what am I
doing wrong??? Relax! Your hair is having a perfectly normal reaction to
your new no-sulfate, no-silicone routine. After years of being stripped
of moisture and natural oils, your curls aren't quite sure how to react
to all this sudden hydration. It may take a couple of weeks for your
hair to regain its health and settle down. Stick with the routine, no
matter how tempted you might be to give it up, and you will be rewarded
with healthy, gorgeous, frizz-free curls in the end.