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Curly Nikki

Back to School on a Budget!

By January 27th, 202130 Comments
Back to School on a Budget!by Elle of Party Over Hair

Unfortunately the summer is almost over, and now it’s time for many college students to head back to campus and prepare for yet another academic year. During my college years, I attended the University of Connecticut, in which I lived on campus. Although I wasn’t natural yet, it was usually around this time that I would start preparing a list of all the things I needed to get before heading back. I basically spent my college years wearing weaves, so I never really had to incorporate buying hair products into my list. Now we all know buying hair products eventually can become a little costly, and being a college student, that can pose as a major problem. Well, good news. I’m here to help. I figured I would compose a Back to School List of hair products for my college girls on a budget. The last thing you want to do is spend over $50 for hair products when you know you’re going to have to buy textbooks soon. So hopefully this little list helps, I’d love to hear from some of college naturals and what they think should be added to the list.

Also, I’m a big fan of Target & Walgreens. So I tried to get the best value price between both stores, as well as helping you get more bang for your buck! You can follow this list for the best prices, or just go to either store because both of them do carry all the products I will be listing!


A cheap conditioner for co-washing can go a long way. Plus, you can always add some oils & other natural ingredients to your own deep condition treatment!

  • Clairol Herbal Essence Hello Hydration Moisturizing Conditioners, 23.7oz – $3.89 [Walgreens]
  • Aussie Moist Conditioner, 33.8oz – $6.49 [Walgreens]
  • Suave Professionals Moisturizing Conditioner – Almond & Shea Butter, 28.0 oz – $3.49 [Walgreens]


A cheap alternative to leave-in conditioners is just using the conditioners you co-wash with. Some people may question this method, but I assure you it’s perfectly fine.

  • Giovanni Direct Leave In Conditioner, 8.5 oz – $7.99 [Target]
  • Cantu Shea Butter Leave In Conditioning Repair Cream, 16 oz – $4.99 [Walgreens]


For deep conditioners, to be cost efficient, I’d recommend just using your current conditioner & add some ingredients, such as EVOO & honey. No need to go out in purchase anything!


You really don’t need to purchase any products for a pre-poo treatment. You’re better off using some of your conditioner or oils, or both as a pre-poo.


For the first four months of my natural hair journey, I didn’t use shampoo at all. Instead of using shampoo at the time, I just purchased the cheapest bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar I found & called it a day. Whenever my scalp felt like I had build up, I just did a ACV wash. You obviously know your hair better than I do, so this can act as another cost efficient substitute.

  • Suave Professionals Moisturizing Shampoo – Almond & Shea Butter, 28 oz – $3.49 [Walgreens]


For styling, I personally think you can’t go wrong if you use either Eco Styler or Shea Moisture. EcoStyler works amazing for TWAs, as well as long hair & Shea Moisture is just all around a great product to have.

  • EcoStyler Gel w. Olive Oil, 16 oz – $2.99 [Walgreens]
  • Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Conditioning Milk, 8 oz. $9.99
  • Shea Moisture Organic Curl Enhancing Smooth, 12.oz $9.99


Aside from your conditioner, I think Oils are one of the essential products you’ll want to have available at all times. Oils can be added to any of your products to give it an extra HUMPH and they work great for DC & Pre-Poos. Plus, if you have access to a microwave, you can warm oil up for about 12-15 seconds & give yourself a nice oil massage!

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Look for the cheapest, biggest bottle you can find at your local grocery store!
  • Extra Virgin Coconut Oil


There may be times when you want to give your hair a special treatment without going broke. I personally like walking around my kitchen finding ingredients that I can throw in my hair, so I feel you’ll never go wrong if you have some everyday kitchen ingredients around. These are some basic ingredients that can help spice up your DCs or when used together work great as Protein Treatments.

  • Honey
  • Mayonnaise
  • Bananas or Organic Banana Baby Food
  • Eggs


These are things that you definitely will need to have, along with all your products!

  • Satin Scarf, Bonnet or Pillowcase
  • Wide Tooth Comb
  • Sheer Stockings [To use as hair ties]
  • Plastics Caps
  • Hard Bristle Brush

Is there anything you’d add to the list?


  • Anonymous says:

    Just because its low budget doesn't make it bad for your hair. Check the product ingredients. There are water soluble ' cones that are fine for your hair. There are milder surfactants that are recommended instead of sulfates. I look at the ingredient list and decide. Also I have fine hair and found DC left it hard and brittle. Fine hair needs protein even if it is curly. I am back to using protein products and my hair is soft and manageable again.

  • Anonymous says:

    I was thinking the same thing Anonymous September 16, 2011 10:09 PM

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm a little confused by this article being posted on Curly Nikki's site. She always promotes the Curly Girl method which calls for sulfate-free, low silicone products. In fact it was this site in conjunction with that convinced me budget products were creating build-up which causes dry, frizzy curls, and that for as much money as I was saving, I was slowly destroying the health of my hair. I'm all for budget products, but as this article is posted on a site, which is hosted by a site, that both promote the necessity of using what are all essentially non-budget products, I am a little confused by the discrepancy.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hey Blacklove316…I'm rockin a TWA as well (big chopped 2 months ago)and I'm seeming to have some good results thus far. Here's my routine:Co-wash with Yes to Carrots, Giovanni leave-in, EVOO, and style with Eco Styler or Aloe Vera Gel. And at night I massage my scalp and hair with some EVCO. I just bought some Castor Oil today so I'm going to try a scalp massage with that tonight!!

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with all

  • Blacklove316 says:

    Am still in my TWA stage, however I'am using a lot if not all of these products in my routine but my hair still seem hard and brittle. Is this normal or is there a process that I may be missing.

  • cutie617 says:

    An old 100% cotton t shirt or hair drying clothes although this is a budget list so an old cotton t shirt you can't go wrong it absorbs excess moisture without the frizz I use it weekly after I wash my hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Natural Hair Love Affair says:

    A Natural Hair Emergency Kit!

  • Jo Somebody says:

    Such a lovely picture!

  • Nadine says:

    Can someone please explain all the abbreviations for me?…I new to the site and I am trying to get all the info I can to maintain my daughters newly natural hair..i am trying to get it curly so I am reading all blogs for help……

  • Anonymous says:

    I knew you looked familiar lol ! Husky '08 !

  • DancinBeledi says:

    I think this was a great article. I have super thick hair and when it's due for a relaxer it's out of control! I take a spray bottle of water, whatever left over conditioners I have nearing empty and a teaspoon or two of glycerin. Shake up to blend, spray and use a wide tooth comb to tame those messy tresses when they are particularly nappy. Makes life easier and allows you to stretch out time between relaxers while adding much needed moisture! Seal with your favorite oil and you're good to go.

  • eve says:

    even though i like to experiment, i really only need a shampoo (any one is fine), that huge thing of Aussie Moist (comes with a pump!!) some OH Hair Dew and a shea/coconut oil mix.

    and supplies: don't forget bobby pins! oh and butterfly clips to section off wet hair in the shower! saved my life
    great post!

  • L. Providence says:

    @Anonymous 1:23P — After co-washing, I typically apply my leave in conditioner, followed by my oil spritz and KCCC if it's a wash & go. Or a Shea Moisture product if I'm doing a two strand twist.

  • mangomadness says:

    @Anonymous August 17, 2011 1:58 PM: Good tip! I just bought a hair turban so I can air-dry my hair in twists/braids/bands/etc while studying. I'm gonna get some cute, cheap scarves for that purpose as well.

  • Anonymous says:

    I suggest getting a cute hat or scarf that you can use to hide bad hair days or when you are too tired from studying to do your hair. Good Luck!

  • Anonymous says:

    Mel B — I would like to know is there a specific order in which to use the products. (what I mean is) say after you co-wash what product do you use next?

  • Anonymous says:

    And don't forget a hair stopper for the drain when your releasing those shedded hairs!!!

  • L. Providence says:

    @Anonymous 10:19A — I personally have never tried using my leave in conditioner as a DC. I have only used my Aussie Moist since it's just a conditioner & then I'll add my oils into it & Voila!

    @Mangomadness — I've been looking for good African & Indian stores to stare incorporating more soaps & ayurvedic herbs into my regimen. Since I really don't know how much these items cost I couldn't incorporate them into this budget this time!

    @CollegeGirl — My best friend works at TJ Maxx & has been telling me to come there for hair products. I haven't gotten around to it yet, but after you getting a LITER of Giovanni for 10 bucks? I'm on it!

  • Anonymous says:

    Natural Haven has an article on using regular conditioner as a leave-in. I've done it and have not had any problems., I think.

  • CollegeGirl says:

    I would tell people to look in TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or Ross for expensive conditioners on the cheap! I got a liter of Giovanni for about 10 bucks once, and Yes to Tomatoes for $1.99.

  • Anonymous says:

    actually it is not good to use regular conditioner as a leave. it will be best to utilize the condish for what it is intended. Leave in for leave in and regular condish for co-wash or deep condish

  • Anonymous says:

    '07 in the house

  • IcyLillies says:

    lol, thank you! It's funny because I finished all my conditioners and shampoos and stylers, so I need some new stuff and I was just thinking about what to use. I'm thinking of the Gardnier Frutis line since I really liked their shampoo, but I'm not too sure yet.

    Also, to respond to anonymous 9:38, you can pretty much use any conditioner as a leave-in, but some work better for your hair than others. I personally loved using Tresseme naturals and Pantene curly leave in. Try it and see what happens. You're hair shouldn't fall out. However, I am still wondering if I should check out an actual daily leave in conditioner Oo

  • mangomadness says:

    I'd like to add aloe vera gel (drugstore kind or food-grade kind) as well as coconut milk (canned or powdered form) to the list. You can mix the aloe vera gel in everything (pre-poos, leave-ins, butter mixes, etc) and use the coconut milk for (pre-poos, deep treatments, henna mixes, etc).

    I'd also like to say that you can find African black soap and shea butter in African and Carribean stores. You can also find oils, ayurvedic herbs (amla, brahimi, etc)and henna in Indian grocery stores.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great list! Would you use Aussie moist or Giovanni deep conditioner as a leave in? I didn't know it was ok to do that? Thanks for the tip. Then why do some specify leave-in, deep conditioner and rinse out?

  • Anonymous says:

    I love this list ! definitely a list i wouldve came up with myself but all the college prep to do and buy list is driving me insane ! thank a bunch !

  • Cassandra (C.) says:

    i believe the 33.8 oz bottle of aussie moist is approx. $5 at Walmart.

    And dont forget: Bobby pins and/or hair pins

  • Shay M says:

    ouchless hair ties
    headbands(they can save any hairstyle)
    Also a soft boar brush!! (for edges and whatnot)

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