Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring clean yourself 4: Curly hair products

Let's start today with the little postcard my mother used to have hanging up in her office (in the late 1960s) before she gave it to me...

Actually, in my experience, people expect you to be: 1) artistic or 2) Jewish. The latter especially. I cannot tell you how many times people said to me, "Oh, I thought you were Jewish, I mean you have curly hair." For what it's worth, I did buy a package of matzoh last night (and the label made Matt and me laugh -- it said, "The matzoh with the taste!" Really??? What taste?).

Although I may not be Jewish, I certainly have insanely curly hair. We're not talking wavy here, folks. We're talking mind-of-their-own, source-of-some-of-my-greatest-physical-embarrassment, spiraling, frizzing, 100-percent-genuine curls. One of my greatest pet peeves in life is when people who have *maybe* wavy hair (if they're in the rainforest on the hottest and most humid day of the year and forgot their hair products) claim they have curly hair. I imagine this is how 5-feet-tall ladies feel when someone 5'6" complains about being "short," or someone 65 feels about someone 30 who complains about being "old." Trust me when I say my hair is curly, and if yours is too, I hope my wisdom gathered here from experimenting with about 760 products can guide you somehow.

And if you're a mom and you have a daughter with curly hair, please read:

1) Do not brush her hair. For the love of God, just let it be. It will be prettier that way, and she will not be subject to lots of "'fro" jokes as a child that she will still remember when she's 28.

2) Do not blow dry her hair. Air dry. Again, just let it be.

3) Do not try to straighten her hair. Teach her to love having curly hair (or at least accept it) and learn to work with what she's got.

And if you're a mom and your son or daughter is around 2 years old and still doesn't have hair: maybe your kid will be curly headed! I was totally bald until well into my third year, when the curls started to come in with no mercy!

Ok, now for the products. Let me walk you through curly hair maintenance, from shower to styling.

Product 5: Shampoo: Anything by Pureology
Pictured below: Antifade Hydrating Shampoo

This first product is actually the only one I'll mention that's not specifically designed for curly hair. But it is one amazing shampoo. I do not color my hair (except for two times four and five years ago respectively when I got my hair highlighted and I was famously told by a lady at our rehearsal dinner that I "should never not have highlights," implying that I suppose I look ugly without highlights? Oh well.). But this shampoo is high quality in that it has fewer chemicals than standard drug store varieties, and you can actually feel the difference. My hair gets smoother and physically feels cleaner with this shampoo than it has with any other shampoo.

A few months ago I was feeling like my hair was looking kind of dull and losing some of its natural highlights. My awesome hair dresser Wendy suggested I try this Pureology line, and while I rarely make spur-of-the-moment beauty purchases, I bought this one (from Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa for $27, but also available at Ulta for the same price). A little of this stuff goes a long way. I use a nickle-sized amount about twice a week. That's another piece of curly-headed advice: Do not shampoo too often!

Product 6: Conditioner: Graham Webb Making Waves Curl-Defining Conditioner

Most days when I am not washing my hair with shampoo, I at least use a tiny bit of this conditioner. I learned about Graham Webb products about three years ago when Matt and I were waiting for friends to meet us at a restaurant and I was admiring another curly-headed girl's hair while enjoying a margarita. I said out loud, "I wonder what products she uses," so Matt actually drags me to her and says, "My wife would like to ask a question about your hair," and her guy friend says, "You want to know what products she uses, don't ya?" She had great curls and, not surprisingly, gets asked that question all the time. I get this product at Ulta in the store. Full-price it's $14.95, but I never go there without a coupon --usually 20 percent off one item, or $3.50 off purchase.

Now, on to styling. First, the two styling products:

Product 7: Styling: John Frieda Frizz-Ease Hair Serum Extra-Strength Formula

Here's one you can find just about anywhere -- I usually get mine at Target or Wegmans. It's also the only product for which I can usually find a coupon in a Sunday circular. I usually paid around $5.50.

Product 8: Styling: DevaCurl AnGEL

This is another one I get at Ulta (around $17), and it's one I bought on a whim. I think I had tried all the other curl gels out there, and I was looking for one that would do its job of de-frizzing while still maintaining consistent curl shape throughout the day, and this one works as advertised (or the advertisement I saw after the fact). I also love puns, though I hate the word "diva," so I guess we're even.

When it's time to style my hair, here's what I do:
1) Taking wet hair, put two-thirds of my hair up in a big clip, leaving the bottom layer loose.

2) Put a tiny bit of the John Frieda stuff -- we're talking button-sized -- in my hand and work it into the bottom third of my hair, starting at the roots and running down to the ends.

3) Put a similarly button-sized amount of the DevaCurl stuff in my hand and work it into the bottom third of my hair, again starting at the roots and running down to the ends.

4) Reclip my hair so that the next third is loose. Repeat steps 2 and 3.

5) Take out the clip, and while applying the John Frieda and DevaCurl products, hold hair up vertically to give the top of my hair better definition/body to avoid having droopy curls.

6) Spray a little bit of hairspray (any kind will do the job).

What are the best curly-hair products you've found?

Next spring clean yourself product...puffy, dark circles under your eyes? Yeah, me too. Here's the best item I've found for that.


  1. As a Jew with a full head of crazy ass curls, I appreciate this post!!

  2. I have mad curly hair. I now find putting olive oil on for about an hour before I wash it, keeps it in really good condition.
    When it is wet I put a little vasaline on my hands and scrunch it.
    :D that is my curly hair wisdom after many years of trying many products etc

  3. I have Irish curls from my father, which I conveniently passed down to my daughter. I use Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Intensely Smooth Leave-in conditioning cream (long name) instead of gel or spray. It's cheap and it works wonders and keeps my hair from drying out and looking dull. And I do the same 1/3 clipped-up routine except I take locks individually and twist them around my finger quickly. It defines them perfectly and only takes an extra minute or two.