I have curly hair. And I’m over fifty. I think I’m just coming to terms with my curly tresses now after years of battling them back as best I could. In the 80s I curled them big and in one solid, curling-iron- width sausage curl. In the nineties, I had some steam curlers that I could set my layered hair on and lacquer it with hairspray. In most of the 2000s, I straightened with a straightening iron into a neatly coiffed bob (well, until it got humid, rained, or my hair was feeling temperamental about being flattened each day). I tried over the years wearing my hair in its natural texture, but I inevitably ended up with a ball of frizz. So I thought I needed to just make my hair obey my styling mandates in order to at least look decent and professional when I walked out the door.
Fast-forward to 2020. I’m getting older and my hair is starting to suffer from the abuse I’ve put it through over the years. I had two health issues in two years that resulted in me not being able to eat for a couple of weeks each time which in turn led to listless, falling out locks. My hair was at the brink of rebellion from all the flat ironing. And then the pandemic hit. I’m a teacher, so I began working from home exclusively. We have a son who is at higher risk from infection, so we have avoided going out and have opted for ordering food, groceries, and other necessities and picking them up or having them delivered instead of going out to eat or shopping. We watch our church service online. Eventually, I had to decide to leave my job to minimize the risk to my son.
So, I start thinking, why am I putting all this time into working to control my curly hair? I’m going to have to figure out a more workable solution and stop putting my hair through the damaging routine I was used to. At my age, I want to look nice but I don’t want to put endless hours into any kind of beauty regimen. I figured there were probably other people out there with the same questions. So I googled “how to style curly hair” and I was just blown away by all the information out there to help us curlies figure out our hair! So I started on a project much-beloved by any teacher: research!
I quickly realized that I would need some basic information about my hair and curl type before I could figure out what exactly to do with it. My hair is pretty dry and damaged on the top layers from all the straightening. One way hair texture can be classified is by its porosity, or ability to take in moisture. You can tell this by taking a piece of your hair and putting it in a glass of water. If it floats it is low porosity and if it sinks it is high porosity. My hair sat on the surface of the water like a miniature pool noodle. 🙂 This explains SO many of the problems I encountered over the years. I knew my hair was really dry, so I was always looking for something that would help. I tried innumerable products for dry hair, but often my hair would feel “crunchy” and I would think “what is in this stuff that they think is good for dry hair?!” Turns out with my hair type, I need tons of moisture but need to avoid protein. I always picked out products with protein because I thought they would help, but not for my hair!
Secondly, I took a look at my curl pattern. I had a few spiralish-curls and a lot of my hair is more wavy. So I figured it’s a 2B-2C-3A type. Armed with this knowledge, I set out to find some products I could use to *hopefully* get my hair happy, curly, and under control. I am amazed by the wide array of curl products out there. Here’s what I came up with, and here are the results after only TWO WEEKS of this routine. My hair still has a way to go to recover, but already it is soft and has much, much more curl than it ever did!
To be clear, I did NONE of these things before, and have only been using these products for two weeks. I somehow missed the memo about what you should actually do if you have curly hair for all these years. I’m hopeful that with more time, my hair will improve even more with its new curly routine.
Everyone has to find their own hair routine for curls, but this might work for you if like me you have:
-Multiple textures/curly and wavy hair
Step 1. Wash
A lot of curlies use a cowash and don’t shampoo their hair, but I do. My scalp needs it because it’s dry and my hair looks better shampooed. I use SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo. It’s a moisturizing shampoo that I need and also clarifying to take out buildup. While I’m shampooing, I give my scalp a good scrub with this handy brush. Because I’m not shampooing as often, I want to make sure to thoroughly clean and exfoliate when I do shampoo. After thoroughly rinsing I move on to the next step.
Step 2. Condition
I alternate between using the SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil intensive hydration masque and the SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil intensive hydration conditioner. My top layer and ends are still pretty dry, so I make sure they are fully coated. Then I put a generous amount of conditioner in the rest of my hair. No matter which conditioner I’m using, I let it soak into my hair for at least 10 minutes. While the conditioner is on my hair and just before I rinse, I detangle with this wide-tooth comb. Even though some of the styling products say you can comb them through and then style your hair, I don’t. During conditioning is the only time I comb. I tried combing while styling and for my wavy hair, it just broke up the curls too much. Once I’m finished detangling, I rinse out with coolish water.
Step 3 Dry
Actually, I don’t dry my hair, I just use this microfiber wrap to scrunch my hair up with my fingers while my hair is flipped over my head to get some of the excess water out. It’s really important that you not dry your hair with a regular terry bath towel. They can make your curly locks frizz out.
Step 4 Leave-In Conditioner
My hair loves getting a big drink of this Shea Moisture Sugarcane Extract and Meadowfoam Seed Silicone Free Miracle Styler leave-in treatment every time I wash, and I wish I would have started using a leave-in sooner. I guess I just thought that I wouldn’t want a creamy conditioner in my hair all the time. Boy, was I wrong! I squirt this into my hands and put the conditioner into my hair in sections. With my hair, I always make sure the ends and the top layers are especially well-covered. I just scrunch this through with my fingers to make sure its distributed.
Step 5 Curly Hair Custard
Step 6 Curly Hair Custard II
Here’s where a lot of people put a clear gel product on their hair to really hold the curls. Sometimes I do use the LA looks blue gel, but I’m still trying to get my hair conditioned, and for me, I find using the Aunt Jackie’s Curl La La, Lightweight Curl Defining Custard works really well for this step. I’ve tried using the MopTop alone and I’ve tried using the Aunt Jackie’s alone, but I like the way they work together for me. At this step, you definitely want to get something that will hold your hair, and a clear gel is definitely good at that. I think you just have to test out what works with your own hair.
Step 7 Air dry or diffuse
So far I have only air-dried my hair, but I may try a diffuser in the future, we’ll see. The main thing here is do not touch your curls while they are drying. Let them dry completely before you do anything else. Touching them breaks them up and adds to frizz.
Step 8 Scrunch
I put a tiny bit of this MarulaOil Rare Oil Treatment on my hands and gently scrunch my curls once they are totally dry. Starting at the end just squeeze your hair. If there’s any crunchiness left from the custard or gel, this step breaks that down. I already had this oil from when I straightened my hair to protect it. A little goes a long way!
Step 9 Sleeping on curls
I can keep the curls looking good for about three days using this method. I cover my curls with this satin cap when I’m sleeping to protect them and hold the moisture in. The next morning, I spray with a bit of water and sometimes I spray it with some Shea Moisture Coconut Hibiscus Hold & Shine Daily Moisture Mist with Silk protein & Neem Oil to revive the curls a bit.
It seems like a lot of effort has to go into a curly hair routine, but now that I’m getting used to it, I think it’s actually easier than my old heat styling ways. I don’t straighten, style, or curl my hair at all. Once I wash it and get products on, I’m done. Given our more at-home lifestyle, I find the idea of every day straightening and styling is a no go. You might think this is expensive, but I chose reasonably-priced products that work for me. Plus, I don’t need to wash and re-style as often now that I’m sporting natural curls.
After only two weeks, my hair’s natural curl pattern is emerging and my frizz has decreased by about 75%. I admit my hair isn’t as awesome as the twenty-something instagram curly girls and I still have a way to go to get my curls into shape. But I’m finally pretty happy with my own hair type and texture after fifty years, and that’s a great feeling. 🙂