In honor of my recent hair-chop (that I teased you with a hint of yesterday), I thought I’d do a repost of one of my most popular and most asked-for blogs ever. I had planned to update it with a “how I style my {short} curly hair” post. I even took all the pictures and everything, but the whole post is just not happening today (be on the lookout next week), so I thought I’d remind you of how I used to style my hair when it was long (sniff, sniff…just kidding…I’m really digging the shorter cut).

Below is a pretty typical result:

long hair5

It kind of cracks me up to have people ask me how I “style” my hair because, most of the time (as you might gather from the rather wild look in the above pic), 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. My stylist typically attacks it with a razor until half of it is gone (and I still had a normal person’s head of hair left).

My hair also defies conventional curl wisdom. I only get the defined, ringlet-ish curls when my hair is long and all basically one length (which hasn’t happened since I was 15, I think). And even that only happens on part of my head. The majority of my hair is more wavy/swirly than curly. Also, it’s very uneven in terms of texture. Some parts are kinky/coarse, and others are fine and straight(ish).

In other words, my hair could probably use a straitjacket. Barring that, though, here’s the next best fix I’ve found:

    • A variety 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 this:

{I just threw that shot of the twins in there as a bonus}

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).


  1. Hiya:
    Same hair – Hated it til I found the crearive styling genius of Devlin Salon (Aveda) Thank you Marian oh Goddess of the All Curly Strand!!
    Long Layers?

  2. Wow, your hair sounds exactly like mine! It’s so tough to find anything for unruly hair that emphasizes the curl without it being “perfect” to start. A lot of tutorials seem to be made with the expectation that your hair is cooperative and doesn’t have a mind of it’s own!!!!

    Awesome post, thanks for sharing. Also, your twins are so cute!

  3. Wow! I cant believe I found other women with hair that sounds just like mine! Very thick; I break hair-ties in 2 uses. And I has a mind of it’s own for sure. My usual routine is to only use shampoo twice a week and I always condition in the shower. I like to use what is on sale that I know is a thick creamy conditioner. It can’t be watery. I put the conditioner on and leave it on to “marinate” during my whole shower then comb it with a wide tooth comb before rinsing. My hair long, down to about the small of my back. After my shower I towel dry my hair and re-wrap in the towel. After 15 minutes or so, I put about a quarter sized amount of conditioner in my hair and finger comb it. Then a pump or two of Bed Head, Foxy Curls. Its like a curling crème. I usually air dry but sometimes I blow dry with my difuser. Then I just concentrate on the underneath and the ends and leave it kind of damp.
    Ive tried other products and I find that moouse adds too much volume and gels make it crunchy or frizzy.

  4. Hi! I finally got to read this!! If I just wash my hair and leave it alone it gets the dreaded white-trash-Walmart-wave. Please tell me you know what I mean? Haha!

    I just wash, condition, and comb mine in the shower (it’s thick but fine so it gets lots of tangles! The running water helps the combing process!) then I use either no product of mousse in it and pile it in a messy bun secured with a hair band. Then I go to sleep. Easy. All I do in the mornings is take it down and fluff it (usually still damp) and spray it with an airisol hairspray! Truly the easiest ever. I can get ready from bed to the door in about 15 minutes because of it.

  5. Thank you for this post. We sound like we have the same hair and I have always, always been frustrated by it. I’ve tried air drying, diffuser drying, etc. and in my opinion it never looks very good. I’m going to try your method as well as anonymous’ (first comment) method and see what happens. I wish there were more stylists who knew what to do with curly hair like ours… it seems they all try to blow dry it without a diffuser and it ends up a big, big mess. I also have the hardest time trying to convince them to REALLY thin it out like your stylist does.

    I love the way your hair looks so I’m excited to try your method… this weekend… when I’m at home, not work… alone… not leaving the house!! :o)


  6. I think we are kindred hair spirits. Super duper thick, must get layered and thinned, every hair texture in one – coarse, thin, you name it. Not super curly, but wavy curls. Thanks for your tips! 🙂

    I am super excited to meet you at Declare this weekend, by the way!

  7. I’m a super-curly, but also very frizzy, girl, though mine leans more to the super-fine than thick. The best tip I got was to do lots of conditioner (and rarely shampoo, as it’s not good for the curl) and while the conditioner is in is the absolutely only time a comb gets near my hair. I keep it in the shower, and just use it enough to get the conditioner through and tangles out. My other best resource is a product called Curl Keeper, which is seriously awesome at keeping away the frizz and is reactivated with a bit of water if you don’t have time to wash/condition the next day.

  8. I have wavy hair that gets pretty curly when short,
    But my go-to wavy look is rinse the conditioner out upside-down while in the shower still, then scrunch dry.
    It always ends up frizzy and weird in the back, so I’m definitely going to try your tricks!

    Thanks for the styling advice!


  9. We have the SAME hair… super thick, some ringlets at certain lengths, some straight-ish fine parts, and a whole lot of coarse and/or wavy patches. I lovingly refer to my hair as “the beast.”

    My routine is as follows:
    1. Brush & part dry hair before I jump into the shower.
    2. Shampoo, then Conditioner my hair in the shower. Rinse it all out. (Garnier, Herbal Essence, Pantene.. whatever is on sale)
    3. Grab the left side of my hair, scrunch the water out. Repeat on right side.
    4. Add a quarter-sized dollop of Garnier Fructis Calm Down Anti-Frizz Cream and scrunch both sides of my hair.
    4. Put it up in a towel for 10-15 minutes.
    5. Unleash the beast and spray it with the Garnier spray gel FOR WAVES.
    6. Air-dry!

    I haven’t strayed from my routine in years 🙂

I love hearing from you guys!