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