This is a compilation of Frequently Asked Questions. The first few were written by RCC of Pittsburgh Curly, and the last few were written by CurlyNikki. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section so that we may add to this article and make it all the more comprehensive!
So, you have curly hair that you been straightening, whether through heat or chemicals. Or, maybe you’re the straight haired Mom (or Mum) or any other caretaker of a little curly, and all of that boinginess has made you wonder what to do. While chemically relaxed hair may require its own special needs, those of you who heat straighten will probably notice a difference in curl pattern while using the method below. Those who are chemically relaxed go through a longer transition process, unless you just decide to do the big chop and start with a fresh head of hair. Those of you who are transitioning will find lots of support from curlynikki’s blog. Those of you who are already curly, but looking for help will find a little bit here, with links to give you more help.
This in an evolving page (because it will take some time to do) on the basics of dealing with curly hair. You may have seen curly haired sites and curly haired blogs and been flabbergasted by all of the crazy terms, wondering why some people are freaking out about silicone, others about protein, and others about humectants. Hopefully this will give you a place to start in your adventures in Curly World.
When dealing with curly hair, one of the most common hair care methods you will run into will be the Curly Girl method which is also known as CG, or no-poo. No, this doesn’t mean you no longer need the toilet, but that you may choose to no longer use conventional sulfate shampoos. In avoiding sulfate shampoos, there are also other ingredients that you may need to avoid. These will eventually all be covered. For a short review, check this nc.com link.
Curly Girl is a book by Lorraine Massey, a British born curly who used her own experience as a curly along with her hair training (and it seems that training in the UK is more comprehensive than training in the US) to start anew and forge her own way of taking care of curly hair. She also has her own line of hair care products and founded the curl friendly Devachan Salon. Like many other curlies, her book made me think about what type of care curly hair needs, and how those needs won’t be met by caring for my hair in the same way that I had been for over three decades. After that, I found naturallycurly.com, which led me into the depths of curl care issues, but, more importantly, gave me access to a whole world of others like me who were also dealing with our sometimes unruly hair.
Is shampoo really bad for you or not?
The first premise of the CG method is that sulfates are bad for most curly hair. Curly hair is often more dry than other hairtypes, and sulfates can just be too harsh for dry, delicate curls. The prime culrpits in this are Sodium Lauyl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. It’s interesting to note that these detergents are also found in many liquid dish detergents. Since most of us do not have hair that is as greasy as our pots and pans, this seems to be a bit of overkill. But, they do produce lots of lather, and we are all taught that lather is good and luxurious, that lather means that we’re getting the dirt off. Bah. For the most part, you won’t need these sulfates, and even those of you who do end up liking a sulfate here and there will not need one daily.
If I don’t use shampoo, how do I wash my hair?
If you are not using regular shampoos to wash your hair, what DO you use? Conditioner. Seriously. Conditioner. When I first read this, I thought it was nuts. I thought that I would have dirty, smelly, lanky, greasy hair. But, I started using conditioner to wash my hair. I had about a month of transition where my hair and scalp were a bit weird, but, then, bam, I started sporting curls that looked like curls, and not a huge mass of frizz. They also felt more like hair and less like dead grass. Many scalps seem to suffer from a low grade irritation from sulfates, and the scalp needs time to heal. The hair shaft is often dry in those who have been using sulfates frequently, and it takes some time for your hair to get proper moisture restored.
So, you really can wash your hair with conditioner. Many inexpensive condtioners (the Suave and Vo5 lines come to mind) contain cetrimonium chloride, which is a conditioning agent, but is also a surfactant, which means that normal sweat, dust, and environmental dirt can be removed with this. The key is that you do have to pay some attention to your scalp and rub. After all, most people don’t wash their faces and bodies by slapping on some bodywash and just leaving it there. The scalp is no different.
So, how do I wash my hair with conditioner?
If I am using a conditioner to wash my scalp and hair, this is what I do. I get my hair wet, and squish in a few blobs of conditioner into my hair and ends. How many blobs you need depends on the length and thickness of your hair. I work out the large tangles with my fingers, and then use a seamless, wide toothed combed to comb out any other tangles. I then apply another quarter sized blob to my scalp and scrub with the pads of my fingers. I use enough pressure to get off the dirt and gunk, but not so hard as to irritate my scalp and traumatize my roots. Then, I rinse throughly to get all of the loosened dust and grime out of my hair. Some choose to not rinse all the way, but leave a little conditioner in. I prefer to totally rinse becuase I want all of the dirt rinsed out. I don’t mind adding more conditioner later.
I always follow this up with a stronger, more moisturizing conditioner, but my hair is somewhat coarse, and pretty thick. Those with finer, thinner curls may notice that their hair feels moisturized enough after the initial wash and detangling.
When you are first transitioning from a shampoo to a no-poo routine, you may need daily, or every other day scalp scrubs. As time goes on, you may notice that your scalp only needs scrubbed one or twice a week. Even though the scalp may be fine, many curlies still wet and condition the length of their hair daily or every other day. Some just prefer the looks of fresh curls, some need daily moisture, and others aren’t able to go to sleep and then wake up with decent curls unless they fully wet their head first. Others are fine with a daily misting to re-set the curl pattern without getting the whole head wet. After some trial and error, you’ll find what works best for you, and this may change with the seasons.
After some time, some curlies notice that they want something a bit stronger to clean their scalps, or to remove product residues from their gels or curl creams. If this is the case, try to look for cleansers with cocobetaine or cocamidopropyl betaine. DevaCurl Low-poo uses these, and many curlies seem to do well with it. These are gentle cleansers that some use monthly or weekly for an extra cleansing. Others have hardier scalps and hair and can use these with every scalp wash. While I do feel that most curlies can benefit by going their first month on conditioners alone, every curly head is different, and you’ll have to go by what your scalp and hair are telling you. There are also many sulfate free shampoos out there on the market. Just be careful. Many feel just as drying on your hair as sulfate shampoo, so your milegae may vary on that one.
What are all the weird Natural Hair abbreviations (TWA, BSL, AOHSR, EVOO)?
Check out our Natural Hair Dictionary for clarification 🙂 The jargon can be difficult to detangle at times. I hope that helps!
Is there a right or wrong way to transition?
No ma’am. As with everything else in life, you must do what is right for you. Big Chopping before you’re mentally and physically prepared can be disastrous. Take your time, research, and decide what route (long or short term transition) is right for you.
I’ve decided to transition, what hair styles should I try?
Luckily, many of the styles you will wear as a natural, you can start wearing now! Check out the following:
Flexi Rod Set
No Heat Roller Set
Curly Fro 1
Curly Fro 2
Dry Braid-n-Curl 2
Bantu Knot-Out 2
Messy Side Bun
High Bun– The same basic steps found in THIS VIDEO, but done on dry, previously twisted hair.
Double Buns- Princess Leia
Is there a safe way to flat iron?
One hundred percent protection from heat damage with protectant products simply doesn’t exist. Period. Many flat and curling irons can reach excesses of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no way to prevent that kind of heat from causing some form of damage to your hair. Paula Begoun said it best, “Could you imagine protecting skin from that kind of heat with a hair-care product?” Right…it’s not gonna happen.
So, please my curly divas, heat style with caution- definitely utilize a heat protectant, but know that you’re not completely protected. Also, use the coolest temperature possible to achieve results, and don’t pass the iron through each section of your hair more than once. And the most important tip- save heat styling for special occasions, it shouldn’t be your go-to hairstyle on regular days. Take it from a past abuser…heat is nothing to play with.
How can I restore curl to heat damaged ends?
Unfortunately there is no way to restore curl to heat damaged hair…it sucks, but its true.
You have two options:
1. Chop the ends all at once
2. Chop a little bit over the next year—so that its not a drastic loss of length. During this time you could wear bantu knot outs, flexi rod sets, and twist-n-curls to help the ends along.
Some people report that a protein treatment followed by a moisturizing DT has restored some of the curl…you can give that a try too.
Are all alcohols drying?
Simply put… no. All alcohols are not created equally.
Here’s a list of the ‘okay’ or ‘fatty’ alcohols:
Fatty alcohols provide an emollient effect, and bind water and oil to give our favorite conditioners their slip and creaminess.
Cetyl and/or Sterayl alcohols are present in most of my favorite products (Pantene R&N Breakage Defense Mask, Herbal Essence Hello Hydration, DevaCare One C). I found the following descrptions on Treasured Locks:
* Cetyl Alcohol- This is a fatty alcohol that is derived from coconut and palm oils. Far from drying, this alcohol is actually an emollient (makes hair and skin softer).
* Stearyl Alcohol- another fatty alcohol. It is nothing like ethanol, it is is actually a white solid and is insoluble in water. Stearyl alcohol is often used in conditioners and shampoos and acts as an emollient (softener).
Which alcohols should I avoid?
Short chain alcohols– SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, Alcohol denat, Propanol, Propyl alcohol and Isopropyl alcohol.
What’s the difference between yellow and white/gray Shea Butter? How can I tell if it is refined?
The color of unrefined Shea Butter depends on the Shea Nut itself. The color can vary from off-white/beige to medium yellow. I’ve now tried Shea of both the beige and yellow varieties and can detect no discernible difference. As far as benefits are concerned, there is no difference between the various colors yielded by the different Shea nuts. Which means that yellow Shea is no better than beige. In spite of this fact, one can still quickly distinguish unrefined Shea Butter from bleached or processed Shea Butter, because refined Shea Butter is usually odorless, white, and creamy in texture. It looks completely different that unrefined Shea, and is usually more costly.
How do I identify proteins on a product label?
Protein treatments are often used for porous or damaged hair. Make sure to use a moisturizing deep treatment afterward!
Look for the following:
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed casein
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyorl hydrolyzed collagen
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed hair keratin
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed keratin
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed rice protein
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed silk
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl silk amino acids
Cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
Cocoyl hydrolyzed keratin
Hydrolyzed oat flour
Hydrolyzed silk protein
Hydrolyzed soy protein
Hydrolyzed wheat protein
Hydrolyzed wheat protein
Potassium cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
TEA-cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein
How do I know if I’m protein sensitive?
The red flag for me was hard brittle hair. After using certain products, namely Sebastian Potion 9, my hair would look good, but feel very hard and dry to the touch. Eventually I realized that my hair only reacted that way, when I used products containing hydrolized wheat protein and soy protein. Now, I avoid it like the plague! To test my own theory, I revisited Sebastian Potion 9 last year, and needless to say, my hair looked great, but felt horrible. Bottom line- listen to your hair.
How do I identify humectants on a product label?
Humectants are included in many hair care product formulations to promote moisture retention within the hair shaft by absorbing water from the atmosphere. Great for humid and/or tropical climates.
Look for the following:
Phytantriol — enhances moisture-retention, increases absorption of vitamins, panthenol, and amino acids into hair shaft, imparts gloss
Isoceteth-(3-10, 20, 30)
Isolaureth-(3-10, 20, 30)
What ingredients act as anti-humectants?
According to Tanya of NaturallyCurly.com— The most common ingredient in anti-humectant formulations are silicones. This is because they not only perform the anti-humectant duties in a superior manner, but they also provide excellent lubrication of the hair and add a high degree of gloss (shine). Esters (such as isopropyl palmitate) are another category of ingredient used for their water-resistant properties in products designed to function well in high humidity climates. There are also many natural ingredients that work well for this purpose, such as hydrogenated castor oil, beeswax, and plant triglycerides such as coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, and shea butter.
Are all silicones bad?
There are few product ingredient subjects that inspire as much debate as silicones. Silicones are polymers used used to coat the hair shaft to provide a smoothing effect. All silicones, however, are not created equal. Check out the following article:
Many curlies avoid them like the plague, but my curls seem to thrive with them. A routine devoid of cones results in dry, brittle hair for me. So no, I’m not a CG’er… I tried it, but it didn’t work for me. I consider myself a modified Curly Girl– I use some silicones, co-wash regularly, and wash with shampoo twice a month. As always, experiment and see what works best for you.
“Nik,I just want to make sure I have this right! silicones always end in “cone”, but what about products that end in “one”? Are they silicones too? I need to know what needs to be shampooed out.”
Silicones do not always end in -cone. They can also end in -xane or -conol.
An ingredient ending in -one is not necessarily a silicone. Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone are two preservatives that are commonly mistaken as cones. They usually appear together like that, and toward the end of the ingredient list. They are simply preservatives, and can be found in conditioners such as Herbal Essence Hello Hydration, and Body Envy conditioners.
Some water soluble cones (can be easily removed with conditioner and water) are:
Lauryl methicone copolyol
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane
Cones that start with PEG-
What is an ACV rinse?
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinses are one of most cost-effective and beneficial ways in existence to improve hair health. A good ACV rinse can remove product buildup, restore the pH balance of the scalp and hair, promote blood circulation in the scalp–which can stimulate new hair growth–and give the hair a soft, healthy sheen.
Where do you buy your shea butter?
I purchase organic, unrefined shea butter from Butters-n-Bars.com
Any good homemade spritz recipes?
Check out this article!
Any good homemade deep treatment recipes?
Check out this article!
What is henna?
Henna, lawsonia inermis, is a plant. It is a large bush, or small tree, that grows in hot, dry climates. There is evidence from Egypt that henna was regularly used to dye hair five thousand years ago, and may have been used in Jericho as early as eight thousand years ago. Henna was used to keep hair healthy and to color gray hair. Source.
The dye inside this plant produces a red/brown stain on skin and various hues of red on hair. Henna can’t lighten your hair, ever. On some colors of hair it may appear to brighten it, but you should count on any color you get with henna, being darker than what is already on your head.
Can henna lighten your hair color?
No henna does not lift color. I know it sounds weird, but the color changes you will experience with henna actually depend on the setting. It’s sort of like a rinse…a transparent copper-y rinse. Imagine drawing with an orange crayon on black construction paper- under most indoor lighting, the paper still looks black (albeit shinier), but if held under the light, just right, you’ll catch a glimpse of orange. Outdoors, in sunlight, my hair glows auburn, so much so that my sis and hubby call me ‘red head’, but indoors it’s a rich black. There are some instances (back lighting, etc.) where you can really see the red indoors, but I can never really catch it on camera.
With that said, if your hair is lighter than mine naturally (sandy brown, etc) the henna red will be very evident–your hair may appear auburn in most lighting conditions.
Many women use a two step indigo treatment to cover stubborn grays and dye the hair a rich, shiny, blue-black. I’ve never used indigo and don’t plan to, but the results I’ve seen look gorgeous. Hope this helps!
How has henna changed your hair texture?
If anything, henna has made my hair smoother and THICKER. My waves are slightly looser, but only noticeably so, the week after henna. After a couple of weeks or so, it bounces back, but the frizz control and strength remain. Again, the major difference (besides the auburn glow in the sun!), is smoother, heavier hair 😀
Where do you buy your henna?
I love bridal art quality Jamila henna from Mehandi.
What is porosity and why is it important?
Porosity is the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. Porosity is a critically important factor in determining one’s curly hair care. Since moisture is what defines and shapes our curls, the inability to keep moisture within the hair shaft will defeat the most valiant efforts to maximize curl potential. Check out this article– The Curl Whisperer on Porosity.
Do hair growth serums work?
In the cyber world, there are several concoctions and magical serums floating around that promise to swiftly grow your hair to great lengths. I’m not in the position to review any of them…not even Boundless Tresses, which I used intermittently for 2 weeks. I believe that growth happens from the inside out…Obviously, we can’t override our genes, but we can MOST CERTAINLY maximize our growing potential!
The truth is, TLC and patience, are the only sure things. However, from my personal experiences, I’ve learned that the following were correlated with faster than average (and/or healthier) hair growth:
1. Physical Exercise-Running or any other moderate/high intensity exercise (yay for Cardio) increases the blood flow to your scalp. Increased blood flow means that more nutrients are brought to your hair follicle. I purchased a treadmill last year, and used it regularly for 5 months. I’d put in a Deep Treatment (DT), don a plastic cap, and walk briskly (I don’t run, lol) for 30-45 minutes, 3 days a week. Killed two birds with one stone!Between the cardio, and the frequent DTs, my hair flourished!
2. Healthy Diet– Hair consists of protein, so it is essential that you consume enough. Incorporate foods from all the groups – especially protein. Nuts, poultry, vegetables, fruits, grains, eggs, etc. All contribute to healthy, growing hair.
3. Dietary Supplements– Biotin and MSM are ingredients every hair vitamin should contain. Biotin promotes cell growth, the production of fatty acids, and metabolism of fats. MSM lengthens the hair growth phase (which means that you keep more hair on your head). Using a combination of the two is beneficial for healthy hair. This winning combo, plus a quality Multivitamin will definitely aid in the hair growing process. Check out this article.
4.Henna- If you do a search for ‘henna + hair growth’ on the hennaforhair.com forum, you’ll see that many women truly believe that henna has resulted in increased hair growth. I’m a believer too! My jump from shoulder length to APL last year was directly preceded by my first henna applications. Some ladies think that the actual process of applying henna stimulates the scalp (which we now know, aids in hair growth). One could argue that henna stretches the curl, and gives the illusion of longer hair….whatever the mechanisms are, for me, it produced faster hair growth.
5. Scalp Massages– Nightly scalp massages increase blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles. 5 minutes should suffice.
Of course, hair growth is nothing without an understanding of retention. Protective styling, moisturizing and sealing, frequent deep treatments, and delicate handling all aid in retaining the length you’ve worked so hard for!
Is sweat damaging my hair?
Yes and no. The lactic acid in sweat can break down the cuticle of the hair shaft, but only in great quantities. Water rinsing or co-washing after exercise sessions is recommended but many curlies (myself included) get along fine without it.
Check out THIS ARTICLE!
Nikki, how do you fluff your hair to create volume?
I’ve slowly come to the realization that allowing my hair to ‘just be’, allows it to fluff up naturally with minimal frizz. The day after my styling session (usually a Twist-n-Curl), I remove the curlers and gently unravel the twists. Since the twists are so chunky, I sometimes break them apart to help it look more natural, but that’s all I do… no finger combing, picking, or massaging the roots. This no fluffing routine gets me to four day hair, which I greatly appreciate.
The problem is that my hair is fine, and walking around for a day with a flat TnC drives me insane- it’s scalpy, and overly defined. However, come day two, it’s twice as big, still chunky, defined, and frizz free!
There are times when I need it to be the three F’s (funky, fabulous, and flyy) on day 1, so I do the following:
- Remove the curlers
- Unravel the twists
- Break twisted sections apart (turning 1 crinkle into two and so on)
- Spread my fingers and use them as a pick/comb to gently break up the roots
- Sometimes I’ll flip my head over, still using my fingers as a pick… running them from my roots to 1/4 down the strands
- Massage the roots at the crown to help hide any parts
- I never use combs or any other tools to fluff… just my fingers
Finally, for easier fluffing and bigger hair, remember to use less product! Preferably no styler (gel/mousse, curl cream), and only a silver dollar sized amount of your ‘styling conditioner’.
What’s the best detangling method?
Over the years I’ve tried many detangling methods– dry, wet, with a paddle brush, using a denman, fingers only, in sections, under the water stream, hell, I’ve even tried oil rinsing! I’ve done it all, but with my current length and density, the following works best for me:
* I get in the shower with loose, dry hair (usually an old Twist-n-Curl).
* I wet it down, apply loads of conditioner, and let it marinate.
* I then split my hair down the middle, and start with the left side.
* I section out the back (pinning the rest of the left side up and out of the way) and detangle with my fingers and Ouidad comb under the shower stream.
* I two strand twist that section and repeat with the other two sections on that side (one above my ear, and one by my face).
* Repeat with the right side.
* I end up with three product free, thoroughly detangled, twisted sections on each side– 6 total.
* I then get out of the shower,and blot dry. I take down one twisted section at a time, and apply my leave-in/styler prior to re-twisting it (I usually turn one twisted section into two twists).
This routine allows me to slowly and gently detangle small sections at a time, resulting in fewer hairs loss. Twisting the detangled sections keeps my curls from knotting back up (I used to skip this step, making my efforts futile), and makes for a much quicker styling session.
Know that what works for some won’t work for all. Browse the site to check out others detangling routines.
What’s the difference in the results between a braid-out and a twist-out?
Honestly, *wet set* braid-outs and twist-outs yield astonishingly similar results on my hair. The difference is so minute, that I prefer to twist, due to my terrible braiding skills (I hate braiding wet hair, it takes me twice as long and has more of a tendency to frizz upon take down). If I’m styling dry hair, a braid-out is the only set that will hold. For me, the curl definition is all about the products used and the size of the twists or braids. I have observed, however, that some naturals get very different results from twisting (s curls) versus braiding (zig zags). For responses to this question from the CN community, CLICK HERE!
What is the Twist-n-Curl?
This video explains it all. Basically, it’s a twist-out with rollers on the end. I now use flexi-rods instead of magnetic rollers.
How can I achieve smooth edges?
Check out this article!
How do you trim?
Check out this article!
How can I achieve the perfect Twist-out?
Check out this article!
How can I achieve the perfect Bantu knot-out?
Check out this article!
Best rollers for natural hair?
Check out this article!