Like perhaps a lot people, I grew up thinking my curly hair was some kind of curse placed on me for the sole purpose of making my life miserable (or something similar). It used to be a source of major drama, trauma, and general depression. Whenever I talked about wanting silky smooth hair, I was always told that such things were pretty much impossible. I was told that I was stuck with frizzy hair forever, too bad, there’s nothing you can do about it, DealWithIt.gif. P.S., god hates you. Etc. So, for a lot of my life I fought against my curly hair by straightening it with irons, chemicals, and various other things that only contributed to destroying my hair further. Eventually I was inspired to stop fighting and start trying to figure this curly hair thing out. And the results have been SOOO magical. NOW I HAVE TAYLOR SWIFT CURLS, Y’ALL.
First, a little back story…
I grew up with family members (both immediate and extended) who had no idea what to do with curly hair. To give you at glimpse at our total ignorance: from the time I was born until literally I was in high school, we always brushed my hair when it was dry. I thought that was normal. This is a massive curly hair no-no of epic proportions – curly hair should always and only be combed when wet! How freaking stupid, right? Because of this, it took hours to do my hair and it suffered severe damage. I wore my hair in braids 24/7 because wearing it loose was just NOT an option.
Eventually, I started getting my hair straightened at a salon regularly with a relaxer. This probably sounds hard to believe, but relaxers have never worked on my hair. For those unfamiliar with the process, relaxing your hair involves slathering it with caustic chemicals that destroy the bonds in your hair so it stays straight. After this, that hair is straight forever.
Yeah… that never happened to me. Usually in the past when I had my hair relaxed, it would stay straight for maybe a month provided I washed it as little as possible. But eventually it would just be curly again, as if I had never relaxed it at all! And I’d have to go back to the salon. If it was humid or got wet, it would just frizz up instantly. One time I had it straightened in the morning, and by the time I went to bed that night, it was frizzy and looked like straw!
I’m not sure if it was because my stylists weren’t using strong enough relaxer, or if the universe was trying to tell me to stop that shit, but my hair just refused to stay straight. By the time I moved to Bath in 2009, I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore. I had become fed up with going to the salon all the time, I didn’t have money to keep getting my hair done, and my postgraduate coursework left me with no time to try to make my hair look straight. Most of the time I wore my hair in a bun or pony tail. Wearing it down would result in it getting really puffy.
This is how my hair used to look on a GOOD day. Most of the time, though, it was far worse. I knew trying to relax it would be just a waste of time, so I did lots of work looking online for ways to make curly hair look good. To be honest, most of the sites I came across were pretty much worthless. Seriously.
Eventually, somehow, I came across a site called TightlyCurly.com. TightlyCurly is the website for the book Curly Like Me: How to Grow Your Hair Healthy, Long, and Strong. If you don’t have money for the book, though, Teri talks about how to do her method on her site and in YouTube videos! I do a slightly modified version of her technique, so I’ll teach how to do it here. Since I started doing my hair this way, it now looks like THIS on a good day:
People come up to me and ask me where I got it done like this. AS IF you could get this done at a salon – most hair stylists don’t know jack about curly hair! I just tell them I did it myself, and you can too!
How to tame curly hair with the Tightly Curly Method
In a nutshell, the Tightly Curly method involves putting conditioner in your hair after you finish showering, and not rinsing it out. You cleanse your hair and condition it in the shower, comb it while in the shower, and then after you get out the shower and while it’s still wet, you put more conditioner in it and brush it with a Denman brush. Then after you finish brushing, you smooth your hair between your fingers. This sounds like a lot of work, but trust me it totally isn’t.
What you need
A wide tooth comb like this one
A Denman brush (DO NOT USE anything other than this exact type of brush)
Conditioner… A heavy one! no light weight stuff here. Read Part 2 to find out which conditioners are the best to use for curly hair!
Notes: You can get a Denman brush on amazon as linked above, but they also have them at Sainsbury’s and at places like Sally’s Beauty supply. The reason these types of brushes work the best is because the plastic bristles do not have little balls on the end. Those brushes with balls on the ends of the bristles suck for curly hair and will tangle your hair. I recommend getting a Denman. They have a few different sizes (7 row, 9 row, etc) – it doesn’t really matter which one you get. I have a lot of hair, and I use a 9 row one, just for reference.
How to do it
1. Get in the shower. Shampoo and condition your hair as you normally would. Use your wide tooth comb to comb out all the tangles in your hair from root to tip.
2. Just before you get out the shower, rinse your hair completely and make sure it gets soaking wet.
3. When you get out the shower, grab your conditioner and squeeze a LOT into the palm of your hand. Massage the conditioner into your hair, get all over your head and don’t forget the back! How much conditioner you use depends on your hair length. I have really long and thick hair, so I use an entire palm full (above) for EACH HALF of my head!! Obviously, if you have short hair, you may need to use less. Start off with a lot, though – you’re going to brush some of it out in the next step anyways.
4. Grab your Denman brush and with the conditioner still in your hair, brush your hair from root to tip. Your hair will look like pretty ribbons when you do this! The conditioner in your hair will probably start to foam, so it’s best to do this step over a sink so you can pause to rinse out your brush if you need to, or let the foam drip into the sink. Do NOT rinse the conditioner out of your hair.
Here’s a tip: to prevent your hair from looking flattened at the top of your head (like this), while you’re brushing it, lean forward and flip your hair over your head like this:
And brush it upside down. This will give the top of your head some volume!
5. DO NOT RINSE THE CONDITIONER OUT OF YOUR HAIR. Once you’ve brushed your hair all over and all the tangles are out of it, run your fingers over and through your hair to define your curls. I do this by simply running my hands through my hair and flattening big sections of it between my hands. Teri recommends separating your hair into strands and doing each section individually – I find this too time consuming, and not necessary for my hair type. However, my hair isn’t as curly as hers. She has a great video on doing this here.
6. Let your hair air dry if possible. Blow drying is TERRIBLE for your hair, but if you must do it, do it on the cool setting. Do not let anything rub up against or touch your hair while it’s drying. I usually cook dinner or work on blog posts while my hair is drying. If you decide to chill out on the couch while your hair is drying, don’t let the back of the couch rub against your hair, or it’ll get messed up. This may take a couple hours, but it’s worth it.
7. Important step: Protect your hair at night.
This is something my fellow curlies always forget to do and it’s basically the most important thing to maintaining good curls. You need to protect your hair when you sleep! And no, I DON’T mean sleeping on a satin pillowcase. Satin pillowcases help to a certain degree but all the satin in the entire universe won’t help you if your curls are rolling around all night.
The best way to protect your hair is to put it in a braid (plait) or two braids before you to do bed. If your hair isn’t long enough for that, you can pull it back into a bun instead or try french braiding it.
Why it works
Before you can tame your curls, padawan, it’s worth it to learn WHY your hair is frizzy and out of control in the first place. Because once you know, you realise that a lot of the stuff surrounding hair products is bullshit. If your hair is frizzy, it’s because it’s dry and needs moisture. Your hair is reaching out into the air in an attempt to grab moisture out of the air. That’s it. Most special products geared towards curly hair, or towards black women, etc – are mostly irrelevant. You just need to give your hair moisture, that is all. And that’s why leaving conditioner in your hair works – it does exactly that.
I don’t Shampoo at all. Shampooing is bad for your hair because it robs your hair of natural oils, and that includes people with straight hair too. No matter how many “special” products I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to find any shampoo that did anything other than dry out my hair. Even those ridiculously expensive professional organic salon grade shampoos hand crafted by humanoid unicorns on the astral plane, containing genuine diamond dust and the tears of Jesus Christ himself that cost a kajillion dollars a bottle do nothing but damage for my hair. So I just stopped using shampoo altogether, and its been great for me ever since. I clean my hair with cleansing conditioner or, if need be, I’ll do an apple cider vinegar rinse. If you really must shampoo, do it only once a week or once every other week.
More curly hair tips!
• DO NOT BRUSH OR COMB YOUR HAIR WHEN IT’S DRY.
• You can give your hair a moisture boost by doing a hot oil treatment every once in a while. I probably do one every month.
• Unlike with shampoo, you absolutely must condition your hair every single time you shower (i.e. every day). I’ll be getting into the best cruelty free conditioners in part two.
• Hard water and/or chlorine in your water can add to hair dryness. You can combat this by adding a filter like this one to your shower!
In part 2 I’ll show you the best cruelty free conditioners and those that work best for using the tightly curly technique! I have tried pretty much all of them, so you don’t have to!
Stay tuned (and fabulous) —