My Current Curly Hair Staples…and Why

Curly Hair Staples

Sorry some of these bottles look a little funky; I use them all the time!

Let me start by saying that I don’t consider myself a “product junkie.” I’m not even sure what the definition of a product junkie is, but I imagine it to be someone to buys new products before their old ones run out. As more women embrace their natural curls, more cosmetic companies are creating products specially formulated for textured hair, and let’s face it – it’s tempting. But it’s also expensive, so I try very hard to use up what I have before trying new things. There are, however, a few products I’ve grown to love over the last year, and I buy them again and again.

Coconut Oil
If I had to throw out everything in my cabinet except one hair product, this would be the one left standing. There is ALWAYS coconut oil in my hair. There always HAS been coconut oil in my hair. My mother has been using this on my hair since I can remember. Lately, I prefer unrefined virgin coconut oil. It’s pure, lightweight, and has all kinds of nourishing ingredients.  Applied wet or dry, my hair soaks it right up, resulting in moisturized, smooth, shiny locks. I also use it for my hot oil treatments and as a serum to eliminate frizz.

Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo
I haven’t used a sulfate shampoo in months, except occasionally when I need one to break down heavy silicones or oils in my hair. Shampoo is very important to me. I’ve tried shampoos that strip my hair of so much moisture that it literally feels like straw while wet. I’ve also tried co-washing with an inexpensive conditioner like Suave naturals, but the oils built up and my hair got very heavy. I’ve also used “moisturizing” shampoos that leave a thick coating of something on my hair. Yuck. Shea Moisture’s shampoo is all natural with healthy ingredients like shea butter (obviously), coconut oil, silk protein and neem oil. It lathers on my scalp, which I do like, but it doesn’t strip my hair at all. My hair feels so moisturized after using this shampoo I could almost detangle it.

TRESemmé Naturals Nourishing Moisture Conditioner
As all curly girls know, conditioner is right up there with water in terms of moisturizers we can’t live without. Also as we know, we can run through three bottles of conditioner before we finish one bottle of shampoo. So at about $5 a pop, this conditioner has been my best bet. It’s silicone-free with moisturizing ingredients like aloe vera and avocado, and it has incredible slip for detangling. I’ve noticed TRESemmé changed the formula recently, and I actually prefer the old one (it was a bit thicker), but the new one still works wonderfully.

Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
The Shea Moisture development team really hit the nail on the head when they made this product. Like all their products, it’s free of parabens, sulfates and mineral oil, it’s thick, super-moisturizing, and a little goes a very long way. I rake this through my hair to coat all the strands and define my curls, it leaves my hair so soft, and it smells amazing. I mainly use this product for my wash-and-gos.

Giovanni Direct Leave-In Weightless Moisture Conditioner
I’d heard so much about this leave-in that I broke my rule and bought it before I ran out of my Curl Enhancing Smoothie. And I’m glad I did! Like the bottle claims, this is a very light-weight conditioner that still delivers moisture with ingredients like aloe vera juice and sunflower seed oil. I’ve been using this product whenever I do my french braid-out, since it dries quickly and doesn’t leave my hair heavy when I take out the braids. I do use a bit of coconut oil over this product to tame the bit of frizz it leaves.

L’Oréal EverStyle Curl Defining Gel
Gel, oh gel. I have such a tenuous relationship with thee. OK, I know that gel makes my hair super defined and frizz free, but I cannot STAND how it feels once it dries. So I don’t buy or use much of it. During one of my 20-minute visits to the hair section at Tar-jay, I saw this and thought I’d give it a try. It’s alcohol-free, but what really convinced me is that it contains orange peel oil, and my hair loves a good, lightweight oil. Lo and behold, it wasn’t bad! I use it very sparingly, just a light coating over the crown of my hair while it’s still wet, and it dries crunch-free and fights the frizz. For a gel, I give it a thumbs-up.

diffused curly hairThis is it – what I use in my hair every time I wash it, and so far they’re doing a great job. Of course, there are a TON of products I want to try, but I guess we’ll have to wait until I run out of something!



Creating Volume for Fine Curly Hair

Creating Volume for Fine Curly Hair

My hair has a split personality. When the weather is hot and humid, it can swell up to a beautiful size without my having to do much but step outside. However, when the weather turns cool and the humidity drops, it just gets kind of… limp. I could use clips, bobby pins and hair spray to help it defy gravity, but I don’t like using these on a daily basis. My hair is thick, but the actual strands are fine, and when there’s no humidity to lift them up, they lay flat at the root and twirl down, forming curls at the ends. So my hair can get very bottom heavy, resulting in flat locks.

There are ways, however, to give fine curly hair the illusion of volume. Here’s what I do when I want big hair:

Cut hair into layers
If you have medium-length hair or longer, be sure to have it cut into layers throughout, rather than just long layers. For example, if your hair hits mid-back, your first layer may start somewhere between your chin and collarbone, depending on your curl pattern. Be sure to have layers cut in the back of the hair as well. You don’t want lots of volume in the front and a flat back.

Go light on the styling products
Heavy-handed use of products will weigh down your hair, preventing you from getting the lift you’re looking for. Personally, I use a small amount of a very moisturizing leave-in, usually Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, and maybe a touch of an alcohol-free gel like L’Oreal EverStyle Curl Defining Gel. Also, I never apply styling products to the root. If your hair is heavy at the root, the rest will invariably follow suite.

Diffuse upside down
When I have time, I love letting my hair air dry. The curls are more defined and I have less frizz than when I diffuse, but when I want volume, I have to put curl definition on the back burner. My favorite way of diffusing is to let my hair air dry about half-way, then use the diffuser on the low heat setting. The key is diffusing your hair upside down, since this dries the roots in the opposite direction of the way they grow. I dry in sections, gathering one at a time in the diffuser cup, bringing it up to the root and holding it there for a few seconds. If I’m diffusing completely wet hair, I use the high setting or else it takes forever to dry. Once  dry, I always blast my hair with the cool setting to help seal the cuticle.

Creating Volume for FIne Curly HairThe photo above is actually second day hair. After sleeping with my hair in a pineapple, I flipped my hair upside down, shook the curls loose from the root, and used Ouidad’s Botanical Boost Refreshing Spray to spruce them up. Another trick I learned recently to create volume is to use a pick. Yep, an afro pick. It works great on fine hair because you can lift the root and separate the curls without causing a lot of frizz. Again, I find I get the most volume if I flip my hair upside down and lift from the root. A pick is also a great tool if you want to achieve the classic Diana Ross look.

If you have any tricks for achieving volume on fine curly hair, please let me know!


Caring for Chemically Lightened Curls

bleach and unbleached curls

My actual curls.

Sad. Lifeless. Limp. But BLONDE. These are the words to describe those sections of my hair that I highlighted last Fall. We all know, we’re always told, that bleach kills your curls, but many of us do it anyway because of the way the color makes our curls pop. I’m definitely guilty. When I get bored with my hair, I either cut or color, and you can only cut but so much and still have hair. So when I can’t fight the mighty light (color), here’s what I do to beat the bleach.

What Bleach Does to Hair

First, let’s look at how bleach actually affects hair (I did some research on this one).  When bleach comes into contact with the hair shaft, it causes causes the protective cuticle scales to lift and separate, allowing the chemical to enter the cortex and remove pigment. The longer you leave bleach on your hair, the more your cuticle is lifted, and the more pigment is removed. This causes hair to become more porous, and the cuticle is no longer able to do its job and lock moisture in. That’s why hair becomes so dry and brittle after using bleach. Curly hair is already more porous (and dryer) than straight hair, so the process is even more damaging to curly locks, and it’s irreversible. But it looks good!

Protein Treatments
Hair is composed mostly of protein, and when you put bleach on your hair, it breaks down the proteins to remove pigment. So it is ESSENTIAL to try and replace the lost protein in order to regain hair strength and prevent breakage. Personally, my favorite protein treatment is
Palmers Coconut Oil Protein Pack

Image source:

Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula Deep Conditioning Protein Pack. I used this 1-2 times per month, in addition to my hot oil treatments, which I’ll discuss in a minute. I use this product because 1) I trust the Palmer’s brand,  2) it’s affordable, and 3) my hair loves coconut oil. It only costs $2-$3 a pack, and with the amount of hair I have, I use two at a time. There are a ton of other protein treatments out there, ranging from ApHogee reconstructive treatment for severely damaged hair (I haven’t tried this yet, but I hear good things about it, with the exception of the smell), to all-natural egg or avocado mixtures (there are many, many recipes on the web).  The point is, put protein back in your hair – regularly!

Hot Oil Treatments
coconut oil on naturally curly hair

Image source:

We’ve already discussed how bleached hair is unable to retain moisture because of the lifted cuticle, so we’ve got to lend our hair a hand. The only true moisturizer is water, which curly hair tries to grab from the air (hello frizz), but we can help it by coating our strands with a nutrient-rich, natural oil that strengthens hair and helps prevent water from escaping. My hands-down favorite hot oil treatment is done with coconut oil. Its small molecular structure allows the fatty acids and vitamins to penetrate the hair shaft so your hair can absorb all the goodness (can you tell I’ve been studying this?). My second favorite oil to use is extra virgin olive oil; it’s just as good on your hair as it is in your body.

Protect Those Ends
From experience, most of us know that the ends of the hair are the oldest, most fragile, and most prone to breakage. Split or thinning ends will ruin your curls, so they must be protected like the life of your hair depends on it (well, it does). I always put extra moisturizer and oil on my ends, I NEVER brush my hair in its dry curly state, and I ALWAYS re-moisturize my ends at night and tuck them away in a pineapple or loose bun. I’m a lot more relaxed about this when I don’t have highlights, but when I do, I’m militant!
Those are my basic bleach-battling techniques. What are yours?

Ouidad Hair Product Review | Part 1

Ouidad Ultimate Gift Set

The Ouidad Ultimate Gift Set included eight products, a set of clips and a tote.

It’s here! The loot of hair products I won in the Ouidad Unfurl Your Curl contest has arrived, and I feel like a kid in a candy store. I was expecting trial size bottles, but the Ultimate Gift Set included 8.5 oz sizes of everything except the repair treatment. Thank you Ouidad! Of course, I wasted no time, and set out almost immediately to sample the goods. Because I received eight products from the line, I’m going to review them in batches. In this post, I’ll review the following:

Ouidad Clear and Gentle Essential Daily ShampooClear & Gentle Essential Daily Shampoo
To begin, this product, as they all do, smells very clean. I love a fresh, clean smell, which is especially important if you have a lot of hair that you don’t wash daily. I jumped in the shower, thoroughly wet my hair, then applied a silver dollar size amount to my scalp and worked it in. A little goes a long way! This shampoo is a low pH cleanser, and the description claims that it’s a low foaming formula, but it foamed right up on my hair, which I liked. My scalp tends to get oily and weigh my hair down, so I like a bit of lather. I used a tiny bit more for the rest of my hair and worked it through. I’ve been using a sulfate-free shampoo for the last few months, so I wondered if this would leave my hair feeling stripped. It didn’t.  It did, however, give me that “squeaky clean” feeling, which I like after I’ve used silicone-based products, or if my hair is really dirty, but not necessarily on a daily basis. I’d definitely use this again when my hair needs a thorough cleansing, but not daily.

Ouidad Balancing Rinse Essential Daily ConditionerBalancing Rise Essential Daily Conditioner
Conditioner is probably the most important product I use, next to a leave-in. My hair is a beast to detangle, so I like products with lots of slip and nourishing ingredients so I don’t have to apply a ton of styling products afterward. Like the others, this product smells wonderful. Even better, it works wonderfully! It claims to “provide the proper protein balance” and make hair easy to detangle, and I’d have to agree with both. I always divide my hair into two sections to condition, applying a LOT of product, working my way up from the bottom to the top. I used about a fourth of the 8.5 oz bottle. I was surprised that this conditioner had some foam action to it, but even more surprised when it “plumped” my hair! It actually made my hair expand as it filled the shaft with moisture and protein. I’d started with pretty tangled hair, but detangling was easy with a wide tooth comb. I left the conditioner in for 10-15 minutes, then rinsed it all out, though the directions say you can leave some at the ends as a leave-in. I really liked this conditioner; however, I was surprised when I rinsed it completely out and my hair had a bit of that “squeaky” feeling leftover. It didn’t feel dry, but I’m not a big fan of squeaky feeling hair after I’ve conditioned.  It was GREAT at detangling so I’ll definitely use it again; next time I just won’t rinse it out completely.

Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-In ConditionerMoisture Lock™ Leave-In Conditioner
Of all the products, this one smells the best to me – a light baby powder scent. As far as application, this was my favorite product of the four! I really don’t have anything critical to say about this product. It felt light, smooth and conditioning as I raked it through, and I could see the curls and waves starting to form. A little goes a long way; I applied about a nickel size amount to each of two sections. Although I used this leave-in with a gel this time, next time I’ll use it by itself to see what the difference is.

Ouidad Tress Effects Styling GelTress Effects Styling Gel
This is the product I was most hesitant to use, because I rarely apply gel throughout my hair. I like a lot of volume, and most times I can’t achieve that with a lot of gel. I do use it; I just smooth a little over the crown and scrunch it into the ends, but rarely do I section my hair and apply it throughout. But I was determined to use the product according to the directions, so I sectioned my hair into four, and applied about a nickel size amount to each. I even attempted Ouidad’s Rake & Shake method! (Yes, I was feeling fancy.) The gel was very light and not too sticky. I was curious to see what kind of hold this would give me, or if it would dry stiff and crunchy, as most gels do. Here’s what my hair looked like with all the products applied:

Review of Ouidad hair products

(L) Hair after applying leave-in and gel; (R) Curls starting to form

The Results
I probably should have chosen a better day to test these products, because it was raining and my hair was taking forever to dry. So after air drying for five hours, I finally diffused it dry. As it dried, it did feel stiff from the gel, but not overly so, and it was just the product doing its job and locking in the curl. Once I diffused and moved my hair around the crunch came out. Here are the results:

Ouidad product review

Sorry for the low lighting in these pics. My hair took so long to dry I ran out of good light! Overall, I really liked the results; my curls were super defined and shiny without sacrificing too much volume. To the touch, they were pretty soft; I felt only a tiny bit of the dryness that gel usually causes. A little bit of coconut oil will probably take care of that.

Ouidad hair product results

Shout out to my “photographer” aka… husband.

Results from Ouidad hair products

What am I looking at?

In summary, I will be using all of these products again, though some I will use differently now that I know how they work. I’d like to also try the shampoo and conditioner from their Curl Quencher line; I think the extra moisturizing ingredients would take care of the slight dryness I felt.  Another review for another day!

Have you ever tried Ouidad products? Which ones work for you?


French Braids to Achieve Full, Wavy Hair

French braids

I’ve been wearing my hair in two french braids all summer for two reasons: 1) I am growing out bangs from a long, straight style I had over the winter, and 2) it’s HOT! When the temps push 100 degrees and the humidity is no joke, I look for any way to get hair off my face and neck, and two french braids have been doing the job!

Braids are great for those with natural curls who want to change up their look or curl pattern from time to time. Fewer braids will result in bigger, looser waves, while more braids will give you waves closer to your natural curl pattern. It’s perfect for a work or evening style, and when you’re done, braid it right back up and you’ll have next-day hair.

Here’s how I achieved the look:

  1. Washed and conditioned hair using Shea Moisture Curl & Shine Shampoo and TRESemmé Naturals Nourishing Moisture Conditioner.
  2. Parted hair down the middle and combed out all tangles.
  3. Applied Giovanni Direct Leave-In Weightless Moisture Conditioner throughout hair (this is a very light leave-in, which is perfect for fine hair since it will moisturize without weighing hair down) and coconut oil to the ends and over dry areas.
  4. French braided wet hair close to the hairline and secured ends with hair bands.
  5. When completely dry (almost a day later), I unbraided hair, flipped my head upside down, and gently shook hair at the root to loosen waves and create volume. I took care not to run my fingers all the way through hair, as this causes more frizz.
  6. To tame any frizzies, I lightly coated my hands with coconut oil and smoothed over hair.

Here is how it turned out:

braidout on long natural curls

Personally, I like volume, but If you prefer the look of sleek waves, just don’t flip and shake.  I always twist my bangs back in this style since they tend to look straggly fresh out of the braids. What do you think? Do braidouts work for you?