Learning to Love My Curls

When I was little I had two signature looks – two braids with bobos (I don’t know the real name nor do I care to find out because this is better) or an Afro puff. The puff being my favorite, of course. For special occasions my parents would take me to a family friend’s house for a press and curl.

On those few occasions my hair was straight you could not tell me nothing! I remember the very first time seeing it and just staring at myself in the mirror in amazement. My typically shoulder length curly hair stretched down past the middle of my back. I remember instantly dreading the time when I’ll have to wash my hair to revert it back to the curls and the pulled back hairstyles.

You see, certain people wore their hair out and curly in the 1990s, but girls with hair like mine did not. Every morning I’d sit between my mother’s legs and she’d slick my hair down with a combo of Dax pomade, Pink lotion, and Jam. Looking back on the time my mom always says, “I don’t care how you came back to the house, but when you left my house your hair was slicked down and perfect”.

These days I can look back and appreciate those adorable waves my sister and I had, but back then all I felt was envy. Envy of the girls with loose fluffy curls always out and on display. Taking it a step further, I had straight hair envy as well. Why wasn’t I one of the girls with the pretty hair?

At nine, my mom started getting my hair texturized making my curls loose enough to wear down. When we switched salons, they “accidentally” put a relaxer in my hair and my curls were completely gone. I’d like to say I was devastated when I lost my curls, but I fell into wearing my hair straight regularly very easily. At the end of the day, that’s what I truly preferred.

In college, I got my curls back via an accidental big chop. I enjoyed them for a bit, but I started straightening my hair on a regular basis as soon as possible. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “I just prefer how I look when my hair is straight”.

When I went natural last summer, my plan was to go platinum blonde. It had nothing to do with reviving my curls. If anything I hoped they would not be a problem in achieving the look I wanted. Things didn’t go according to plan and I decided to grow out my hair instead of dyeing it.

Nearly a year into this grow out process I won’t lie and say it hasn’t has been trying. Learning to love my hair without a relaxer or even a texturizer in its truly natural state is lesson on how difficult self love is.

It has taken me almost a year to finally be able to say, I love my curls! Other people might have loved them, but it took me a moment to catch up. To learn to love my curls I had to learn the best way to treat them and what I was doing wrong.

There was a lot of trial and error, but I’ve found a wash day and refresh routine that really works wonders. I’ve gotten this question a lot so I figured no time like the present to share! Here are my tips and tricks.

I stopped using shampoo

I have type 4 hair (aka the tightest curl type). This means my hair sucks up moisture like a sponge, but doesn’t retain it. Shampoo (even moisturizing ones) strips your hair of moisture. So, I made a decision to stop using it. I now only co-wash my hair on wash day. If I hair is in a ponytail for a few days and has a lot of product built up then I might break out the shampoo, but only then. Co-washing does the same cleansing as shampoo except instead stripping your hair of moisture, it adds it.

I use a hair mask instead of regular conditioner

You’ll start to see a trend of me focusing on moisture. There are plenty of hydrating conditioners out there, but nothing gets the job done like a hair mask does. After co-washing, I apply a healthy amount of deep conditioner from tip to roots. After a scalp massage, I put a conditioning cap on. I finish my shower things then rinse it out. This usually adds up to 5 – 10 minutes. When necessary I do a more in depth deep conditioner with heat, but find doing my masks in the shower to be effective.

I make sure there’s no white cast

This has been the most life changing thing for my curls! Curly products go on white and dry clear. I used to always work the product through, but didn’t worry too much about remnants of white. Now that is my primary focus. I work the product in until I see my natural hair color on full display. When I’m done styling my hair is shiny and ready to go. My curls are bouncy and super hydrated. I’ve never had curls so soft. I do this on both wash and refresh days.

I stopped using gel

I come from the generation of crunchy scrunched curls. I gave up stiff curls in high school, but the thought of wearing my hair out without any gel seemed impossible. Turns out, that was a lie. Going back to the moisture issue, even the most subtle of gels, jellies, and custards (they’re marketed in different ways but it’s all the same thing) dry your hair out a little. I had a fear of frizz, but it turns out well moisturized hair doesn’t get as frizzy. The only time I use gel is for protective hairstyles like ponytails.

I make my own hair oil

There are plenty of hair oils out there that can be purchased that do the job, but I’ve found making my own yields best results. My oil is a combination of castor, olive, and almond oils with drops of tea tree, peppermint, and lavender essential oils. I apply to my scalp on wash day and as needed throughout the week. I used to apply everyday, but that was ultimately too heavy for my curl type. When I have in braids I apply generously every day though. This is why I think I get such good hair growth results with protective styles!

I started using pineapple method at bedtime

This is a new development because my hair wasn’t quite long enough to do it before! I use a satin scarf and wrap it around my head pushing my curls to the top. This is much better for me than using a bonnet because it helps keep my curls stretched. In the morning, I really just to need to touch up the sides, extreme back, and few pieces in the front. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I tend to do more, but I could get away with doing a lot less.

I never use water or liquid products

It feels like every YouTube video involves the vlogger busting out a spray bottle to refresh their curls. I thought the only way to get my curls back was by getting them wet and reapplying product. It looks nice initially, but by the end of the day my hair felt dry. So, I started applying leave-in conditioner and/or curl defining cream to my dry hair just to test a theory. The end results were curls that stay soft and shiny all day!

I’ve also realized that water ultimately makes my hair SUPER frizzy. Dry frizzy hair is not a good look. I’ve learned it’s just best to avoid water as much as possible outside of wash day.

I finish my style everyday with a hair pick and oil mist

To finish my look I pick out my roots (because shrinkage is real). I could go without picking, but second to moisture volume is so important to me. The key is to pull in an upwards motion all over. It’s tempting to tease (going up and down) but I find a singular motion to be most effective. After I’m done picking, I spray an oil mist to lock in shine.

I don’t know who originally said this, but for black women their hair is their crown. No matter how we wear it, it’s important to us that we come correct! Learning how to treat my hair so that I get the results I want regularly has led to me falling in love with my crown on a daily basis.

How do you feel about YOUR hair?