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.

Managing My Curly Hair: How I Gave Up Shampoo and Became a Wen Convert

I’ve been carrying out an experiment over the last month or so. But before I tell you about it I want to assure you that it’s not as gross as the title of this post makes it sound.

First, a little background information:

If you know me personally, you most likely know that 1) I have long, extremely curly hair and that 2) I really don’t like it.

This is me, with curly hair, this summer on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. I usually wear my hair in a ponytail when it’s curly because I hate it so much and don’t feel like I can do anything with it.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my hair for a very long time. It used to be a lot worse, particularly because my hair used to be even thicker than it is now, but thankfully it isn’t as bad anymore. Mostly though, I’ve learned to finally manage it with a good hair cut, product and bobby pins.

I also try to straighten my hair as much as possible which makes it easier to handle (and I think prettier), but sometimes I just don’t have time to do it.

Overall, though, I have had little trouble with my hair (knock on wood) despite all of the bad things I do to it that you’re not supposed to – like highlight/dye it, use a flat iron, use gel, etc.

And now to the experiment:

Anyone with a television in the United States has likely seen the commercials for the product called Wen which is sold by hairstylist Chaz Dean.

For a quick explanation, Wen is a line of hair care products that use natural ingredients. The main staple of the line of products is the Wen Cleansing Conditioner that replaces your shampoo and your conditioner. Essentially, you are eliminating shampoo from your hair care routine and only using a cleansing condition that does the work of both products. Yes, no shampoo. No suds, no lather. Just conditioner. I was skeptical too, but I decided to give it a try.

These are the 32 oz bottles of the Wen Cleansing Conditioner.

The commercials seem to be on all of the time, and mostly when I see advertisements for such products I just ignore it. This time, however, the product caught my interest. If you’re like me and have curly hair, you know that there is no such thing as “brushing” your hair after it’s dry nor is there such a thing as not using copious amounts of conditioner or having tangle-free hair. Wen intrigued me, first because the thought of no longer shampooing my hair was very foreign to me. I have to wash my hair daily, unless it is straight, because my hair becomes so tangled at night.

I was thinking about trying it out, but the price on the infomercial is expensive, particularly in terms of what you receive for your money. However, about a month and a half ago, Chaz Dean was on QVC selling Wen, and the price and the amount of product you got (compared to what was sold on his infomercial) was too good to pass up.

For $50, I received 2 bottles of Wen cleansing conditioner. One 32oz and one 16oz, which is supposed to last 3 months. I also got a replenishing mist, but I’m not going to talk about it in this post because it is unrelated to my point.

I started using it the next day.

The Results:

I like Wen and I think I’m going to continue using it. I haven’t used shampoo since I started, and I am actually considering taking it with me the next time I go to the salon to have my hair highlighted.

Of course, you have to take infomercials and the promises with a grain of salt, but I have noticed differences in my hair.

1. My hair is definitely softer and easier to manage, and although there hasn’t been any kind of radical change to it I can tell that not using a chemical-based shampoo has made a difference.

2. Yes, my hair really is clean. At first I was worried that my hair would feel dirty or oily because it wasn’t being shampooed. I did have a momentary worry about that, but my hair feels and is clean.

3. My hair is also shinier and my highlights – which I pay more money than I probably should for – look better and brighter.

A caveat though: The instructions for the product suggest that you refrain from using products like gels (and buy the Wen styling product) or using a flat iron to prevent damage to your hair. Unfortunately, although I could probably find a way not to use gel, it is impossible for me to straighten my hair without a flat iron. So, my results may be slightly off.

Some Cons to Wen:

1. The Cost.

I’m not going to deny that the product isn’t cheap. If you are interested in trying it, I highly suggest you purchase it on QVC, even if you have to wait for it to be on again to get it. You will get a much better bang for your buck. If necessary, feel free to contact me for advice on what to buy to get you started.

2. The amount of product they suggest you use.

There’s really only one moderate issue that I have with the Wen product, and that is how much product you are supposed to use per application versus the amount of time one bottle is supposed to last you. The amount of product you use depends on how long your hair is. For example, for my medium-long hair (several inches below my shoulders) I’m supposed to use a total of 15 pumps of product. Doing this daily is supposed to allow my 48oz of product to last me for 3 months. However this would be impossible, and frankly, I feel that that much product is too much. I only use 8-10 pumps per application, including one pump as a leave-in conditioner. I’m nearly 2 months in and still have a small amount of my 32 oz bottle left and my entire 16 oz bottle left.

Note: If you are interested in trying Wen, I highly suggest you take a look at the Wen website, only because there are different formulas of the product for different kinds of hair. I use the Pomegranate formula, which is good for any hair type.

So, what do you think? Are you willing to give up your shampoo?