How to (naturally) Maintain Curly Hair

If you were to tell me a few years ago that I would like my curly hair, I’d probably have laughed.  I was the girl that straightened her hair (even chemically!) or avoided taking pictures as all cost.  The idea that I would ever accept, much less like, what I was actually given was such a foreign concept to me for most of my life.

Over the past two years, I have radically changed how I care for my hair…and it has made all the difference in the world.


Stop Straightening Your Hair

Even straightening your hair with a hot iron isn’t exactly good for it.  It’s not as bad as chemical straightening treatments, but the constant heat and stress of the hot iron on your hair eventually breaks down the hair protein, leaving it brittle and dry.  Hence the abundance of split ends and constant need for trims.

Granted, there are still days where I straighten it with a ceramic hot iron, but those days are few and far between, and way less damaging since they are so infrequent.

My main concern when it comes to straightening curly hair is with permanent, chemical treatments, such as keratin and thermal reconditioning (Japanese straightening).

Thermal reconditioning treatments use one of three chemicals: sodium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide, or ammonium thioglycolate.  These chemicals are highly alkaline, which can strip the hair of it’s acidic sebum that fights bacteria;  sodium hydroxide, the strongest type of relaxer, has a pH level between 10 and 14, while guanidine hydroxide has a pH of between 9 and 9.5.  Ammonium thioglycolate has a high pH level, as well, and is classified as a skin irritant and can damage the respiratory organs, eventually leading to asthma.

Furthermore, these treatments permanently change and damage the structure of your hair.  I admittedly subjected myself to thermal reconditioning about five years ago, not knowing how damaging it would be and trying, blindly, to achieve a low maintenance but glamorous look.  But my hair didn’t feel sleek or shiny, it was limp and texture-less.  It also grew out curly…which looked pretty ridiculous for about two whole years.

Even Keratin treatments, which market themselves as less permanent and damaging, are formulated using formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.

Ultimately, no matter which treatment you use, you’re basically giving yourself a chemical haircut.

Get Rid of Toxic Hair Care Products

Without straightening treatments or the daily use of an iron to make curly hair manageable, we often rely on curly-hair products to de-volumize, prevent frizz, and add shine.  They claim claim to smooth and soften hair, when we know all too well that after a few uses, we’re stuck with frizzy, heavy, pyramid style curly hair once again.

For years I was stuck in the vicious cycle of searching for products to fix what the previous one caused…and it never worked.

That’s because these products are made with silicone.  Silicone (and siloxanes) are used in hair products to add moisture and leave hair silky smooth.  Despite what they claim to do, silicones do the exact opposite over time.  They are not water soluble, which means they never wash out, leading to product buildup and limp, unhealthy hair.  They create a chemical mask around your hair, rendering gels and sprays absolutely useless and a waste of money.

If you’re using products that contain silicone (look for ingredients ending in ‘cone’), I recommend washing with a clarifying shampoo to “detox” your hair and beginning a hair regimen of non-toxic products immediately.

Currently, I wash with a no-poo conditioning cleanser, adding in an organic clarifying shampoo about once a week, and scrunch my hair with an all natural gel.  That’s it.  I spend significantly less time and money on my hair and I get the results that I always wanted – no product build up, no frizz, just light, healthy hair.

IMG_4726Other Tips and Tricks

Switching to an all natural product line is most of the battle, but it’s not 100%.

My life changed when I went to a curly hair specialist.  Yeah, I didn’t know these existed either, until a friend told me she was getting her hair shaped and I had to see what it was all about.  Curly hair specialists cut your hair dry so they can cut each curly spiral in the proper position so it falls without looking like a pyramid.  This also helps with split ends.

When I got my first curly hair cut, I took home so many simple, but great tips that I really feel have made such a tremendous difference, such as eating foods with healthy fats and lots of vitamins.

I stopped wrapping my hair in a towel.  Wrapping goes against the shape of the natural curl and can actually break it.  Instead, after a shower, I scrunch with a microfiber towel to absorb some of the water then immediately style my hair when it’s wet.  Wetter hair will hold the gel better – you’ll want to hear the scrunch.  I either dry my hair with a diffuser on low or turn the heat up in my car until it dries.  It’s probably the easiest hair routine ever.

I also don’t wash my hair every day.  Not even close.  The style routine I currently use will hold for two days, and in the summer or on lazy weekends I wear it pulled back with no product at all.

Love What You Were Given

I don’t know why straight hair has become the desired look.  I used to fall for it myself, but curly hair can be just as sexy and beautiful if it’s cared for naturally.  Good products, a good diet, and a good cut can make all the difference.  I challenge you to try it!




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