The Care and Keeping of Your Naturally Curly Hair (and Your Pale, Irish Skin)

I think they took this picture out of one of my mom's photo albums.

When I was a kid, my older cousins said I looked like the girl from “Curly Sue.” Having never seen the movie, I wasn’t sure what they were talking about, but it turns out they were pretty dead on in their comparison. I’ve always had very curly hair, and by the time I was about three or four, I resembled a very young Shirley Temple, complete with the precociousness and the need to perform for everyone at every chance I got. As I reached that super-awkward period from 4th to 8th grade, I found myself making questionable fashion choices and not really knowing what to do with my hair. For a while, I kept my hair shoulder length and would brush it out, leaving it all in a big poof, which I would push back with one of those headbands with comb-like teeth that clipped in the back. You know what I’m talking about. I think it was in the 10th grade that I discovered the power of the straightening iron, and spend a good deal of time trying to take my impossible-to-manage curly locks to poker straight. If you know anything about naturally curly hair, you know that even a little bit of humidity will lay to waste the hour or so it took to straighten your hair. Throughout college, I alternated between straight and curly hair, finally figuring out that I should blow dry my hair out with a barrel brush if I wanted to straighten it. (It became a multi-hour process.) It wasn’t until I started dating Brian that I really appreciated my curliness. Everyone had always said how lucky I was to have such naturally curly hair, but for the longest time, all I wanted was glossy, thick, straight hair. Brian told me that he loved my curly hair, and that I shouldn’t flatiron it anymore, so… I just kinda stopped. Now, I’ve more or less phased my flat iron out, and I can’t remember the last time I used it. Recently, I decided that I really want to own my curly mane. (Fun fact: I’ve never, ever colored my hair, either. I don’t want to until it’s absolutely necessary either, but I’ve got my own Stacy London growing in…) I want to take good care of my curls because I feel like they’re one of my most unique characteristics. Sarah wrote a fantastic post about ensuring that you always have a polished, professional look by warding off split ends, and she listed some great tips to try. I’ve scoured Pinterest for more tips on the care and keeping of fabulously curly hair — these are the best of what I’ve found:

– Never get your curly hair cut while it’s wet. 2 inches of wet, straight hair could equal 4 or 5 inches of dry, curly hair. Try to find someone who has experience cutting curly hair and knows how to cut it while it’s dry. Read this article before you get your next hair cut!
Stop using a terry cloth towel to dry your hair. Use a t-shirt, it doesn’t have the rough texture that can ruin the structure of your curls. I’ve been doing this for the last couple of months or so and it really helps.
This blog has the best tips by far. Curly girls shouldn’t use products that have sulfates in them, and like Joni, I’m paying a lot more attention to what I’m putting in my hair now. Also, don’t wash your hair every day. Full disclosure: my mom picked up a lovely floral shower cap for me, and I have used it.

After all of that, I thought I’d share my routine with all of you lovelies. Here’s what I’ve been using on my hair to work on my curls. It’d be nice if I could just use products from one line, but after years of hits and misses, I think I’ve found a good combination that works for me.

the dream team

From left to right: Pantene Moisture Renewal Conditioner for Curly Hair, Suave Kids Detangling Spray, Tresemme Bouncy Curls Extra Hold Defining Gel, and Suave Healthy Curls Scrunching Mousse

I use a basic cleansing shampoo to wash my hair, and then I follow it up with a healthy amount of Pantene Moisture Renewal Conditioner for Curly Hair. Before I get out of the shower, I use a liberal amount of Suave Kids Detangling Spray, which doubles as a leave-in conditioner, and then I comb it out with my fingers.

St. Ive's Naturally Clear Apricot Scrub with Blemish and Blackhead Control, Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser for Sensitive Skin

While I have my hair up in a t-shirt, I break out my tried and true face products. I’ve been using St. Ive’s Naturally Clear Apricot Scrub and Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser since high school, and I’ve never had a bad break out. After I’m done, I love how it leaves my pale, Irish skin looking smooth and glowing. The St. Ive’s scrub has repeatedly named Allure’s People’s Choice for Best Scrub, and it’s definitely a winner in my book.


See that painting behind me? Brian did it. It's my favorite of his.

It's like I'm a brunette lion. I love my mane. (And yes, I know lady lions don't have manes.)

Before and after. The t-shirt wrap look is kinda cute, right? No? Ok, I won’t wear it in public. When I take it out of the t-shirt, I take a few minutes to arrange it, because however it’s laying when it dries is how it will look when it is dry. Curls are fickle like that. Sometimes I’ll use the Suave Healthy Curls Scrunching Mousse if I think my hair needs a boost, but I haven’t used it in quite a while. Usually after my hair is completely dry, I work a nickel-size dollop of Tresemme’s Bouncy Curls Defining Gel through my hair by flipping my hair over and lightly combing it through. Recently, I found another great product to help moisturize my hair: Pantene Curly Hair Series Deep Moisturizing Treatment. I use it once a week to help revitalize the shape of my curls after seven days of sleeping on it. I know I’m in need of a trim to get rid of some dead ends and add some shape to my hair. Curly hair needs layers to help create a lovely frame around your face. It’ll probably help tame my frizz, too. Until then, I’ll just flip it around till it looks ok.

8 thoughts on “The Care and Keeping of Your Naturally Curly Hair (and Your Pale, Irish Skin)

  1. Love the post cousin! I use many of those secrets on my curls….another product I love is Garnier Fructus’ leave-in conditioner!!! Happy blogging 🙂

  2. I don’t know how I missed this post when it first came out. We have such similar curly hair products! I agree that the kids detangling spray is AWESOME… it’s so hard to find spray-in conditioner anymore. I’ll have to find myself a t-shirt to use in place of my towel.

    I never paid much attention to the shampoo I used until we bought our house… and, after a few months, I noticed that my scalp was getting really dandruffy. My scalp was CONSTANTLY itchy, and I’d scratch it, and it’d be so dry there’d be this cloud of dust and particulate matter coming off. I’ve NEVER had that problem before in any of the other places I’ve lived, so I decided it must be the water. After about six months of trying every dandruff shampoo on the shelf, I settled for good-old-Head&Shoulders. I use it twice every shower. Probably not good for my hair, but much better for my scalp.

    My husband (Trevor) has beautiful long, straight hair, and the only hair product he uses is Paul Mitchell’s “The Conditioner”, a fantastic leave-in product. I’ve taken to using it as well. I’m not sure how much it contributes to my hair… but meh. I use so many hair products it’s hard to know how much any one item matter. I am a big fan of Aussie’s 3-minute-miracle conditioner in the shower, which I use every day, often diluted with a bit of Trevor’s Pantene Pro-V (not for curls) to conserve cost while getting decent coverage.

    I’ve used that Tresemme Bouncy Curls gel before, too, several times. The only thing I didn’t like was how hard it was to get out of the bottle when you got down to the end. I tend to stay with squeeze tube gels like Herbal Essences, or sometimes Suave, though after that Pinterest article I might end up going to LA Looks. Holy cheap, batman.

    Also that Suave Mousse is the best. I use that too. I finish with Aussie Mega Hairspray to keep everything in line, and lightly dry my hair in front of a space heater so it’s not sopping wet when I head off to work.

    As far as skin goes, I also have mostly Irish roots, and I also use that Apricot scrub! I also use some bar soap… I forget what the brand was, and I couldn’t find it the last time I went shopping, so I went for something that looked similar but was moisturizing instead of acne-friendly, and I am less satisfied. My skin gets really dry (while still looking oily, I just can’t win), so I thought this moisturizing bar soap would be better. It’s not. I’ll let you know when I find the bar I want again… I think I found it at Giant Eagle. Was it Neutrogena? I can’t remember.

    Anyway, the most important facial product for me turned out to be super cheap. I mean, I’ve had acne since like 5th grade, and it used to be pretty awful. I find it’s fairly well controlled now, with only a small handful of breakouts coming up each month. They seem to be on some kind of monthly cycle, which seems totally unfair since I’m on the Implanon birth control, which should completely regulate my hormones. Oh well. Anyway, every morning when I’m done washing my face (I use a face scrubby thing too with my soap to REALLY FREAKING EXFOLIATE – I find this helps a lot to remove old acne scars), I take a cotton ball and rub my face with Hydrogen Peroxide. It’s non-drying, and kills any kind of bacteria left on your skin. I then use another cotton ball soaked with Witch Hazel and go over my face again – witch hazel is a natural astringent, and also helps to reduce redness. Then I smother my face in Clean & Clear acne-free moisturizer because, again, my face gets really dry… sometimes I even use Gold Bond hand cream around the corners of my mouth… and on goes the makeup! Then at night, instead of washing my face (which dries my skin out too much), I use another witch hazel cotton ball. I used to use peroxide at night, too, but it gets to smell too bad when you have a lot of makeup and whatnot on.

    I know I’ve used that Clean & Clear deep cleaning soap before… on your recommendation, maybe I’ll try it again if I can’t find my bar soap.

    I feel I should go back and edit this post before I submit it… but… I’m sleepy.

  3. Oh… I also cut my hair myself. Wet. Apparently a big mistake, but I hate paying people to cut my hair. It’s probably been about a year since I last had someone do it, though, so I probably should pay someone next time so they can fix all the mistakes I have no doubt made while cutting randomly in a bathroom mirror. I just kind of grab hair and snip, grab hair and snip, with no real method to my madness. I know something is wrong this time because I have pieces in the front that are longer than the pieces behind them… especially the hair around my ears. Oops.

    Oh, and I dye my hair occasionally. I hate my Laura Ingalls Wilder brown.

    • The t-shirt in place of a towel really does help, plus it gives me a use for all of those shirts we got for different things in college. I’m not a big t-shirt wearer, so this works for me. Sometimes I have to break out the H&S for my hair, but it’s mostly in the winter. I think a lot of it is due to product build-up from all the detangler I use, and the Tresemme gel. You’re lucky that your short hair allows you to take your showers in the morning, I’d have to get up at 5 everyday to make sure my hair was dry enough before I left the house.

      There’s a Dove bar that has little tiny blue exfoliating beads in it, and it helps with my “little dots” on my arms and legs. Might that be the one you’re thinking of? I used to use a generic astringent after I did my face skin care routine, but that started to dry me out, so I stopped.

      You may want to check out the Casal Aveda Institute in Austintown. It’s a school, so they only charge $10 for a haircut, with a wash and dry, and they also include a mini back and hand massage. I’ve been trying to wait until I can go to “haircut Sunday” with my boyfriend’s family. One of his uncles has his own shop, and every five weeks or so, everyone gets together and he cuts hair, for free. Until recently, though, I had no idea that I should get my hair cut while it’s dry and in the curl’s normal shape, but now that I know, it makes SOOOO much sense.

      Hope the tips help! (Also, Trevor has nicer hair than a lot of women I know. lol)

  4. It’s true what they say about having a stylist who knows how to/likes cutting curly hair. I just started going to a new salon and the first thing I said when I called to make an appointment was that I wanted someone who was good at cutting curly hair. My new stylist has been cutting her cousin’s curly hair for years. She specifically mentioned that people who aren’t familiar with curly hair don’t realize that you can cut it when it’s dry. They’re used to making sure all the lines are even and straight, when actually, with curly hair, if you cut it and dry it and there are any silly pieces that stick out weird you can just chop them off to get the shape you want! awesome!!

    Most importantly, I always make sure to go into the salon with my hair styled the way I like it so the stylist knows what the finished product is going to look like/how much my curls shorten the length of my hair.

    Thanks for the T-shirt suggestion, I’m going to try it tonight with an old Math-a-thon shirt!

    • Janet – where do you get your hair cut? They sound fabulous! I did exactly what you did by going to the salon with my hair styled the way it normally is, and I asked for a dry cut, and let’s just say that it was nearly tragic. The girl said she could do a dry cut, but instead of just trimming to the shape of my hair, she used a fine tooth comb to comb out my curls, and cut it while it was wildly frizzy. I had a momentary freak out when she got to the front of my hair and I realized what she was doing — she was making sure all the ends were perfectly even without considering how it curls up anyway. Yikes!

      • That sounds awful! Why in the heck did she think you wanted a dry cut if she was just going to brush it out?!?

        That reminds me of the time that I went to get my hair done for senior prom. I had finally realized that a silky straight up-do wasn’t going to work for me. It was going to get frizzy as soon as I started dancing and I wasn’t going to be happy. I decided to tell my stylist I just wanted her to work with my natural curls and put in some sort of half-up-do. She let my hair dry curly while pinned up and with product in it. It felt awfully crunchy to me but I was giving her the benefit of the doubt. Then she put me in the hands of another stylist to take my hair down. Before I knew it he was brushing my hair!! It became a frizzy mess with gross dried product in it and them he started using a curling iron to put curls back in. And my senior prom hair-do ended up being my worst of any other dance.
        Unfortunately my stylist is in Cleveland. Her name is Re
        ne and she works at The Studio in Ohio City.

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