Try-it Tuesday: how I style my curly hair

So…it’s my birthday week. Thursday’s the “big” day. Number: 29.

I’m tempted to go on a bit of a rant about 29th birthdays…how it feels like a fake age…like a bit of a bad joke…like nothing more than a place-holder for 30. But I won’t do that to you guys. Oh, wait. Did I just…? Oops.

Aaaaanyhooo, in honor of my place-holder birthday, this week is going to have a bit of a “me” theme.

How very narcissistic of me, no? Well, yes, I suppose. After all, it’s a personal blog, which is a bit narcissistic by nature. But I know that I usually love it whenever bloggers I enjoy reading share more about their personal lives.

Assuming that you’re here because you enjoy reading what I write (still a bit of a mind-boggler!), I figured I probably wasn’t the only one who gets curious about the person behind the computer screen and also figured that birthday week was as good a time as any to blab on about myself. If you’re not interested, I won’t be offended at all. Don’t worry. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled program next week.

So, today, instead of a recipe, a craft, or a project, I’m going to answer a question I get asked on a semi-regular basis, which is: how do you style your curly hair?

This question makes me smile for two reasons:

1) I like that my hair is finally long enough again for people to be able to see that it’s actually curly rather than just flippy. After having long hair for pretty much my entire life, I hacked it all off when—you guessed it—I had kids and spent about three years wearing a variation of this ‘do (which I like, by the way; not hatin’ on the short hair):

short hair 2

This was taken two years ago on our 4th anniversary at the restaurant where we ate the night Shaun proposed (though he didn’t propose at the restaurant; I’ll tell you the whole story someday).

2) It kind of cracks me up to have people ask me how I “style” my hair because, most of the time, I really don’t. It has a bit of a mind of its own, and I often let it have its way.

Still…here are the basics (by the way, if any of my straight-haired friends out there are about to slam your laptops shut in disgust at my ignoring you, DON’T! Please. I have a few tips for you too).

My hair: it’s incredibly thick, people—the kind of thick that gets comments like, “Whoa! You scalped her!” every.single.time people see how much hair is on the floor after one of my haircuts. Then, of course, they look up, see how much hair is still on my head, and do a double take.  The only way to avoid a super-attractive “hair pyramid” is lots and lots of layers and thinning shears. When my hair was short, my stylist would attack it with a razor until half of it was gone (and I still had a normal person’s head of hair left).

My hair also defies conventional curl wisdom. Instead of springing up into ringlets when it’s cut shorter, it begins to swirl and wave. I only get the defined, ringlet-ish curls when my hair is long and all basically one length. Also, it’s very uneven in terms of texture. Some parts are kinky/coarse, and others are fine and straight(ish).

So, how do I get it to do what it does?

    • Lots of products.  To achieve anything more than a mass of frizz, I can’t use just one thing. I use a cocktail (shaken, not stirred) of these:garnier

Okay, so not that big of a cocktail, but, after many years of experimentation, I have landed on the Garnier Fructis line for curly hair as my go-to brand. It’s not like a “special” hair relationship or anything. I don’t feel guilty when I try something else, and even these products are far from foolproof, but I’ve tried more expensive brands and never found anything noticeably better.

Specifically, I use the shampoo/conditioner for curly hair or dry hair (whichever I can find at the time), the Curl Construct Mousse, and the Curl Scrunch Gel (extra strong).

    • I shampoo my hair in the shower, and sometimes I condition it too. But usually I just shampoo, rinse, then wrap my hair in a towel and get dressed/put my makeup on. NO rubbing or tousling.
    • Next, I unwrap my hair, and finger-comb about a quarter-sized glob of conditioner through my hair. I don’t rinse this out. It may not technically be made to stay in your hair, but it sure won’t hurt it, and I’ve found that this step acts as a very effective frizz-fighter.
    • Then, I distribute two decent-sized handfuls of mousse through my hair, again with my fingers
    • I squirt a quarter-sized amount of gel in my hand and gently smooth it over my hair (this step sort of seals everything else, so I try not to separate the curls)
    • Finally, I grab the towel my hair was wrapped in and carefully squeeze/scrunch sections of my hair to remove any excess moisture
    • Notice that I didn’t mention a comb at any point during this process. As my hair gets longer, I’ll have to add a wide-toothed comb to my routine, but right now, all a comb does is promote frizz.

      I’ll do a bit of arranging of strands if it looks particularly wonky once I flip my head back over. But I almost always let my hair air-dry, only drying it with a hairdryer when I’m in a hurry to get somewhere and don’t want a wet head or when I want more defined curls.

      In the case of the defined curls option, I always use a diffuser. Diffusers are a curly-girl’s best friend. If I ever use the diffuser-less dryer option, the results aren’t too pretty.

After all that, this is (more or less) what I end up with:

IMG_7375

Certainly nothing fancy, but it works for me.

And now for the part where I stop ignoring my straight-haired readers.

If you’ve ever wanted curls but despaired of ever getting so much as a wave, try this:

    • Wash your hair like usual
    • Towel it dry and rub a handful of mousse from root to tip (make sure every bit of your hair gets at least a little bit of product)
    • Flip your hair over and blow-dry it with a diffuser (when you dry your hair with a diffuser, you choose sections, stick the “fingers” of the diffuser into that section and then hold it still until that section is dry; no rough-housing!)
    • Stand up and try not to scream when you get a glimpse of your newly volumized hairdo (I hear it’s a bit traumatic to go from smooth and sleek to the wildness that curly-girls experience on a regular basis).
    • Give your hair a gentle shake to see where it falls. Tame any flyaways with just a dab of conditioner or hair-wax, and then spritz the whole thing with hairspray.

Will you have ringlets? Probably not (okay, no, if your hair truly is straight). But I’ve tried this on several friends’ hair who didn’t think they would get so much as a bend in a single strand, and they ended up with really pretty beachy waves and lots of volume (I remember one friend’s stylist saying, “How did you know her hair could do that? I had no idea!”). It depends on the person/hair, but it’s at least worth a shot, right?

And this concludes my dissertation on styling curly hair. Thank you for your attention.

So, what about you? Curly or straight…what works best for your hair? I’d love to hear your thoughts (especially on getting curly hair to straighten well; I’m usually too lazy, but I do enjoy going straight every once in a while).

Hope you have a terrific Tuesday. I’ll be back tomorrow with Thrifted or Grifted!

P.S. Don’t forget that Thursday is the first ever 5 Things Thursday linky party, and the theme is:

You don’t have to stick with a travel theme, though. The idea is just to link up a list of five things (preferably with pictures) on your mind—movies, recipes, memories, projects, paint colors…anything goes! I’ll consider it your birthday present to me if you decide to participate! ; )

Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):

28 thoughts on “Try-it Tuesday: how I style my curly hair

  1. I just found this through Pinterest and I have to say your hair sounds a lot like mine! It’s not thick, sadly, but I have the random “straightish” parts (mostly the bottom layer) and waves versus ringlets thing. I have to laugh when people ask me how I get my hair to look the way it does. Their faces when I say “Uh, I washed it?” are priceless. I haven’t tried Garnier’s products in a few years so I think I’ll have to give them a shot again once it gets warmer here; I can straighten my hair no problem in the winter, but once the Maryland humidity hits there’s no straightening until at least the end of September.

  2. FINALLY!! Someone else in the world who has “scalped” their hair off at the salon. My hair gets so heavy that I often get headaches. The curls too, I understand that one. I opted to keep it at a chin length inverted bob. At least that’s what the stylist calls it. I’ll try using the conditioner after I was my hair that way. Turning 29 last month, I have just about given up on my hair. I usually wins. Now I use hair spray and a flat iron.

  3. I have similar hair to you. When I have long hair I style it very much like you do. I use leave-in conditioner but may have to try just regular once my hair gets a little longer. As far as getting your curly hair straight goes, it starts w/ the shampoo! I use a different shampoo depending on how I want to style my hair(of course it’s a pixie now so it’s just kind of straight). I load up on volumizer(root lifter) and straightening products and blow dry w/ a round brush and then curl w/ a curling iron or use a straightener. It’s also easier to get your hair straight if you aren’t in humidity. I have not a prayer in the world in humid summers to get my hair straight! Out here in the dry Utah desert it’s pretty easy to get it straight but harder to get it curly. It’s always so interesting to know what products people use whether on their hair or skin or whatever, thanks :)

  4. Oh, and egg whites will condition and give you scrunchy curls for those w/ stick straight hair that want to try curls!

  5. So, I think we have the same hair….super-thick, curly/wavy/random straight strands. I’m growing mine out right now, and like you it just gets curlier and curlier as it grows! Thanks for the product suggestions. I’ve been having some styling issues lately and hopefully this helps! Oh, and 29? Not such a terrible number to be once you have to start telling people you’re 30, but like everyone you meet is 29 or 28. Gah! Happy birthday!

  6. I love the GF line you mentioned. I use the shampoo and conditioner AND instead of gel (I have curly, very fine hair slash a lot of it that gets weighed down with gels) I use a paper towel to lightly scrunch my hair to get the extra moisture out and then use the Garnier Fructis flexible hold hairspray and spray it on while my hair is still wet. I don’t touch it after that…turns out great and the hairspray controls the frizz!

  7. THANKS!!! I was going to email you and ask you what you used then I thought surely you had written about it before so I looked through old posts but couldn’t find anything so this is great!!! I have to flat iron mine because it is too much crazy!

  8. Oh how I feel your pain! My college roommates (long time ago, I’m 35) used to give me crap for my hair methods ;) I too use the mousse/gel combo. I usually try new products but end up going back to my old, and I love my stylist who also has crazy hair like mine ;)

    Thanks for doing this one for the curly-haired girls!! ;) Happy early birthday!!
    {michelle}

  9. Thanks for showing me the way… Unfortunately we don’t get that product here in South Africa. Man oh man would I love to have my hair looking like yours! Alas I will try and look for something similar.
    Thanks again!

  10. Loved reading this post! Just stumbled upon your blog, after seeing a picture from it posted on Pinterest. I’m a curly hair girl too, and my hair looks pretty similar to yours actually…just I have a lot more volume! I have also found some success using garnier products, but my routine now consists of air drying my hair and not using any products (besides shampoo and conditioner)…mainly due to being a busy college student haha. Surprisingly my hair stays pretty frizz-free, since I’ve started using an all-natural shampoo: Beautiful Curls, found at Whole Foods. I love it! Just a suggestion, I thought I’d post.

  11. Happened upon your blog looking for curly hair styles. Your blog is cute! :) AND I had to chime in on this one as some have said below…..read/put into practice “Curly Girl” by Lorraine Massey! It will change your curls (for the better and they’re already lovely!) and you won’t regret it! It is as much a frame of mind though as it is a “hair routine” so be ready!! It seriously has changed my life and I’ve never gotten so many compliments on my curly hair!!!

  12. I am a ‘curly girl’ as well! you should check out the book: Curly Girl the Handbook by Lorraine Massey. It’s amazing! But it sounds like you’ve got the styling down!

  13. gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous ! i am officially a new follower of your blog and your hair!!! :) lol i’ve had a fun few minutes this morning getting to know you a little! :) have a wonderful day!
    xo
    mary

  14. Happy birthday! I’m turning 29 next week (and because I look so young at that point I will begin telling people “I’m going to be 30″).

  15. I thnk your hair is GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would LOVE your hair (the grass is alwya greener syndrome). My hair is thin and a LITTLE wavy but I ahve to wash and blow dry it EVERY day or I would scare people. I also think YOU are adorable! XO, Pinky

  16. Oh yeah.. the pyramid hair.. so desirable! Thanks for the tips. My hair is similar. It likes to do one thing for a few days in a row, to get my off my guard, then switch to doing something ridiculously different. It’s kindof fun though so I don’t like to fight it!

    How do you feel about bangs with curly/wavyish hair? Cause I usually end up going with shorter but layered bangs, just a few, swooped to one side.

  17. Great tips — I need to go back to the diffuser again…I’ve started drying it, then curling it. Kind of defeats the purpose of having natural curl!

    and, um, exactly how much do you shampoo your hair? ;)

  18. Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been one of your followers that has been asking for your tips….yay! I’ve got thick wavy hair. I’ve had a short bob that I’m trying to grow out. It is about shoulder-length right now so I think layers like yours is the way to go. I also hate the pyramid-head look! I heart my diffuser….a must for curly hair! Sometimes I do straighten it, but it takes sooo long. I have to blow dry it til it is about 85% dry. Then section if off and use a huge round brush and blow dyer to work each section smooth. Then if it needs a touch up I use a flat iron. It would be way too much of a beast to try to just take the flat iron to it. Plus, I like mine w/ a bit more volume and not just stick straight and the round brush helps with that. It does take a while though, so I usually wear it for a few days (hat or headbands help). My hair really benefits from a smoothing serum and I love Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum. Smells yummy and helps with the curly or straight styles. Many thanks for your tips!! Happy early b-day – mine is the 8th! Woohoo!!

  19. My hair can be curly-ish if I make it. I never thought about putting conditioner in after my shower. I am going to try this. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  20. We just might be hair twins. Mine is naturally curly – but defies normal curly hair rules too: when it is short it barely flips out, but when it is long I get the kind of curls that make complete strangers want to touch my hair, and go on for 2 1/2 minutes about how people pay good money to get hair like mine. All this time I thought I was the only one!

    Working on growing mine out too…not fun!

  21. I have completely straight hair. It’s also fine. But I have a ton of it. I also get the same comments about how much hair I have. It doesn’t always look like it, but I like to surprise new stylists :-)

  22. I have very similar hair, but have never tried the Garnier products. I may have to.
    p.s. I think you meant narcissistic, not nihilistic :)

  23. I have hair that is mostly straight, but wavy and curly in places. I keep it short and do much better with “messier” dos. (It looks better when I don’t try to hard to make it do what I want it to do.)
    As for straightening – try a flat iron. They’re awesome.

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