Curly hair is unique on each and every head and is effected by so many things. So it’s good to take time to understand as much as possible about its mystique.
Structure - What makes it curly?
Scientists have different opinions about what really determines curl, but many believe it is the shape of the hair shaft that effects the curliness. A very round shaft limits the amount of disulfide bonds present, meaning the bonds line up with one another resulting in straighter hair.
The flatter the hair shaft becomes the curlier the hair gets because the shape allows more cysteines to become compacted together resulting in a bent shape.
With every added disulfide bond, the hair strand becomes curlier in form. The hair follicle shape determines the curl pattern, the follicle size effects the thickness.
We classify the hair texture as straight, wavy, curly, and yes, kinky is still used to describe that tight corkscrew defined curl. Each of these textures is then classified into Fine, Medium and Coarse.
Each form of curly hair has its benefits and challenges, but they all have one thing in common. Curly hair is affected by moisture inside the hair shaft and out.
Curly hair’s twists, turns and curves create the structure that the cuticle layer must conform to. At every curve or curl, the cuticle is pushed out and upward creating a roughness and an opening on its surface. This creates an environment that lets moisture pass into and out of the cuticle. This also inhibits the natural oils movement down the hair shaft. The lifted edges of the cuticle creates a Velcro effect when it rubs against itself. Friction is increased when combing or brushing. All of this combined makes curly hair fragile if it is not properly taken care of.
As a stylist I like to help the “Curly Girl” embrace her natural locks and enhance the curl. This includes helping clients work with their unique needs. The biggest challenge that most Curly Girls face is controlling excessive volume and frizziness. Helping them create a routine that creates healthy, shiny hair while enhancing their best natural shape will encourage them to utilize and appreciate this magnificent gift.
Product usage is so important for maintaining curly hair’s natural state. When starting with a new client this is my regimen.
Curly Girl Hair Styling Tips
- Cleanse the hair with a chelating shampoo - This clarifies the hair of silicone containing products, hard water build up and environmental impurities. (Note: If you do color applications, ask that they use a chelating shampoo on their hair up to 3 days prior to this service for best results.)
- Apply a moisturizing reconstructive conditioner and aid the depth of penetration with heat. This balances the moisture and protein content in the hair.
- Rinse thoroughly and apply a non-silicone based conditioner for the specific hair type: fine, medium, or coarse. Be generous with this application to ensure even distribution. Using a wide tooth comb, work the conditioner through the strands to detangle and distribute it to the ends of the hair. This is the only time to use a comb on curly locks (detangling hair when it is dry will only result in more frizz and damage). Rinse the scalp well while detangling the ends with your fingers. Always rinse the conditioner out of the strands in cool water to close the cuticle. (For ‘at home’ maintenance, I typically recommend shampooing with a non-sulfate shampoo – and only when necessary. Routine cleansing with Conditioners as shampoos (conditioner washing or co-washing) for weekly maintenance and rewetting, will sufficiently cleanse the scalp. Use the pads of the fingers to gently but thoroughly massage the scalp as this helps loosen dead skin and excessive oil and dirt. Rinse well.)
- Shape the hair to best enhance curl and face shape. The hair cut is so important. Curls exaggerate every angle and weight line of a haircut. Take the time to work with the curl pattern to create the most flattering shape for the face and hair texture. I do not recommend razor cutting or thinning of curly hair.
This is where the final look is achieved. If you would like to use all of the natural curl, do not comb through. The hair can be detangled with the fingers. Apply a leave in conditioner to over porous ends. Stretch curls with fingers if you would like to relax the curl.
- Using paper or a micro fiber towel or even an old t-shirt, scrunch the excess moisture out of the hair. To aid in avoiding frizz, do not use a terry cloth towel.
- Apply your favorite product to define your curl. This is determined by your hair type: fine, medium, course
- Curly hair will work the best when air dried. Using a diffuser can aid in the drying process, but heat can encourage frizz. Partially drying and not “messing” with the hair while drying will minimize frizz.
Experimenting with different products will help you learn which ones to recommend. I find good results using mousses and liquid gels for fine to medium hair, while firmer gels work best for heavy, coarse hair textures. Adjusting products as the humidity changes can help control unwanted volume and frizziness.
Avoid products containing silicone as many are not soluble without detergents.
Curls are sensitive to change, so let your curly girl know that it may take a couple of weeks for her hair to adjust to the no Shampoo routine. If you are changing from straightening those curly locks to the natural state, it will certainly have an adjustment period. Hair’s natural curl will be at its best when it is not trying to go back and forth from curly to straight.
Trust in your expertise will build loyalty with these specialized locks. Becoming a Curly Girl expert can help you grow your business. For more information on Curly hair I recommend the book “Curly Girl” by Lorraine Massey.