Blogging Hair

My (almost) foolproof routine for bouncy, non-frizzy, curly hair

May 1, 2016

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One of the most frequently asked questions across all of my social media channels pertains to curly hair styling. What products do I use? How do I dry it? Who cuts it for me? The sad fact of the matter is, curly girls are ill served when it comes to advice and recommendations – every magazine I remember reading as a young wan assumed its readers were straight-haired goddesses, and either advised how to get bouncy curls by means of rollers, or sleek, straight locks by way of a GHD. There was no in between.

I am not pretending to have the world’s best curls

Crucially, this isn’t me blowing smoke up my own ass by declaring my curly hair to be OMG THE BEST CURLY HAIR EV-AR. It’s definitely not, and it won’t be to everyone’s taste; I’m fond of a Flashdance-style 1980s curl, and would have a ‘fro if I could manage it. (I once got a perm, in the hopes it would give me Solange hair but, sadly, it did not.)

It’s taken me a long time, but I finally genuinely like my curly hair and, on the odd occasion when I straighten it, I simply don’t feel like myself. I credit a lot of things as being responsible for relatively newfound acceptance: the fact that I no longer have to endure my mother, brushing my curls out like nobody’s business, for one; the discovery of products designed specifically for curly hair; and listening to fellow curly hair aficionados to figure out what does and doesn’t work when your hair has a natural kink and a tendency to frizz if it ain’t treated right.

Having rambled on enough, I’ll get to it – here are the steps I take to make my curly hair look as good as it can. Most of the time.

Rosemary Mac Cabe curly hair products

Here’s my hair, diffuse-dried, using John Frieda mousse

In the shower…

I condition my hair every time I wash it – which is every day, pretty much, because having curly hair means you inevitably wake up with one side all matted and slept-on, and the other side looking great. Washing is the only way to get it back to full strength. I’m not hugely fussy about which shampoo and conditioner combo I use, but I am a big fan of the KEVIN.MURPHY Plumping range, which I get in Preen; and the Pureology* sulphate-free products are great, too.

Once I’ve put in the conditioner, I leave it in for about three minutes while scrubbing the rest of my bod – currently there’s a lot of tattoo exfoliation going on – and then comb it through using this very afro comb, from Boots. This moment – in the shower, hair wet and full of conditioner – is the only time I ever brush or comb my hair. Very important.

Immediately post-shower…

I blot what my mother would call the “big wet” from my hair with a towel. I don’t rub my hair at all; the towel goes on the hair for about 30 seconds.

Then, while my hair is still soaking wet – but not quite dripping – I put in my products. I find that, if I towel-dry my hair any more than this, it starts to frizz up. So, for me, it’s important to put the product in while it’s still really, really wet.

Rosemary Mac Cabe curly hair products

Here I am, having let my hair twist-dry naturally

The products

So, this is clearly one of the most important steps – although honestly, not towel drying your hair to oblivion will make a huge difference on its own. For starters, I use either a leave-in conditioner or a hair oil. I diffuse dry my hair a lot (more on which in a sec), so I like to add extra moisture when I can. I use TIGI Bed Head Ego Boost leave-in conditioner, or Ojon Rare Blend Oil (it smells amazing). I currently go back and forth between the two; when they run out, I think I’ll replace them both. The Ojon is really handy for travelling, as it’s so small.

Next, it’s the styling product itself and, again, I go back and forth between two, depending on how I plan to dry it. So, first off, say I’m diffusing it – which is what I do for big, bouncy, defined curls. I use John Frieda Frizz Ease Curl Reviver mousse, which I put in right after my leave-in conditioner or oil, and while the hair is still soaking wet. At first, it feels a bit weird adding product to wet hair, but trust me, the wetter the hair, the less frizz you’ll get in the end.

If I’ve decided not to diffuse, and am letting it dry naturally – which’ll net me softer, gentler curls, but still no frizz – I go for a pricier product, but one I’ve never been able to find a cheap match for, Sebastian’s Potion No 9. It’s super expensive but it lasts for ages: I use one pump – and not even a full one – on my short hair. Spread between the hands and distribute evenly.

Rosemary Mac Cabe curly hair products

Fully au naturel, with Ojon oil and Sebastian No 9

The drying process

So again, there are two different methods for this. Let’s start with diffusing – that’s the attachment for your hairdryer that looks like a weird claw with spikes coming out of it. I like a wide diffuser attachment, about the size of a side plate, with short little stubs. (I don’t have a clue why or how this works, I just know that it does.) I dry it on the highest heat, but with the lowest blow setting – basically, to mimic what happens when you’re abroad and your hair just dries in the heat! The higher the heat, the quicker it dries, but the higher the blast, the quicker it frizzes so do beware!

It’s important to diffuse hair – without touching it – until it’s bone dry. If you leave it halfway, then go out into the wind, or run your hands through it, you may as well re-wash it. It’s ruined, and will definitely go frizzy. Diffuse, diffuse, diffuse until it’s dry.

As for drying naturally, this one’s easier! Sometimes I twist-dry it, basically twisting it into weird worms, but I only do this if I’m staying in the house for about three hours, because it looks MAD. Again, it’s really important not to touch the hair until it is absolutely 100% dry, because if you break up the curl while it’s wet, it’ll turn to frizz!

Let me know if you try out my methods – and how you get on! Another friend swears by using cotton T-shirts to blot the wet from her curly hair; she says it prevents it frizzing something-something cotton blah blah. But it just feels like notions to me!

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  • Reply Elizabeth May 1, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Hi Rosemary…great post! As a fellow curly top, I can attest to your process being spot on. I follow all the same steps, but use different products. I’m a cotton t-shirt blotter, too, and it’s the only way to go. Will have to try the products you mention…

  • Reply Majella May 20, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for the product recommendations, definitely going to look into the Ojon oil and Sebastian potion.
    I condition my hair in the shower daily like you do, but only use shampoo once a week. I also try to use products without silicone/sulphates. Boots used to have a great affordable brand (Naked) but they don’t stock it anymore – boo!
    I swear by coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner and defrizzer – €4 in Tesco and a tub lasts me a year I reckon. Good for skin and nails too and apparently you can whiten your teeth with the stuff but that’s a bit much for me now 😉

  • Reply Curly August 30, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Nice hair. Awesome tip. Thank you for sharing your secret to tame those curly hair. I can’t wait to try it on mine hair.

  • Reply Marina September 11, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    I agree 100% with every one of your words, Rosemary, your method is my method!
    Never tried the Sebastian product, but it’s already in my basket 😉 My favourite product has been the Fekkai curl cream (it’s called “Luscious Curls”, look it up!) for years on end, but it’s not readily available where I live, and it’s also expensive. I always have a tube of it, but I only use it when I am in absolute need of a good hair day 🙂 I also like the MorrocanOil “Curl Defining Cream”.

  • Reply Jayla Brown December 19, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you for such an awesome article dear and from my side I want to say that i am using best soft curl cream for my hair Because this proprietary antioxidant-rich Superfruit Complex combines with certified organic Shea Butter, Marula Oil and Biotin in a multi-vitamin formula to nourish and enrich dull, lackluster waves and curls.

  • Reply Vikki Cook September 23, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    Just wondering how dragon-like your hair is to begin with? I have to ask, simply because I have always had very dry, very frizzy, curly, dragon-like hair. I’ve only met two hairdressers EVER who can blow dry it straight and shiny enough to avoid needing straighteners. Without drying it very carefully and precisely, and using GHDs to finish, it looks like someone placed a haystack on my head. I’ve just washed my hair, I’ve used a towel just pressed gently to it (no rubbing at all) to remove the excess (after combing it out in the shower before washing out conditioning treatment), I’ve smoothed through argon oil and leave-in conditioner. It’s still drying but I’m not holding my breath for it looking decent. :0( So I’m wondering how similar your hair is, because if it isn’t quite as troublesome, I’m not sure it’s worth me spending the money on (yet MORE) products that might not work…?

    • Reply Rosemary October 2, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Vikki, I’m not quite sure how to answer, given that I haven’t seen your hair so can’t REALLY compare – but if you google some pics of me you’ll probably see what it looks like when long and curly, and be able to go from there! I would rarely straighten my hair tbh, so on that front I can’t really say how mine compares!

  • Reply Nova October 15, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    It’s easy for you to have a good style with your curly hair
    But for me!!!!!! It’s a nightmare
    In this islamic country we have to wear scarfs and i don’t know how to style my hair with that stupid scarf
    And it’s even worse when i have to attend in the gym in university………..when i put off the scarf my hair is just a mess
    So i just have one way➡straighten my hair
    But I’m getting sick of it
    Wish some stylists think of a way for this problem.

  • Reply Littlehamo August 9, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Redkin Extreme Anti Snap leave in conditioner isn’t for curly hair specifically but it takes all the frizz out of mine, leaves me with really natural soft curls and a bottle is only €24 but lasts an age!! Would recommend to all my curly haired sistas and mistas out there!

    • Reply Rosemary August 9, 2018 at 11:46 am

      ooh thanks, good shout Littlehamo (lol at your username). I’ll keep an eye out for it and report back!

  • Reply Tracy August 9, 2018 at 11:04 am

    A good way to revive slept on curly hair, is to steam it. You need to hold your hair over a source of steam. I use the Kettle, really dodgey I know but it really works and you don’t frizz. Try it but be very careful

    • Reply Rosemary August 9, 2018 at 11:45 am

      omg the risk-taking Tracy! I keep a bottle of water spray in the bathroom and will usually just spritz my hair on day 2 if I’m not washing it. Revives it really well and I’m not at risk of scalding myself!

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