I only avoid four ingredients in my hair products: sulfates, silicones, drying alcohols, and mineral oil. If you read this post, then you know why.
You may notice that parabens are not on that list of things I avoid.
I don’t avoid parabens because avoiding sulfates, silicones, drying alcohols, and mineral oil is more important to me. I’ve picked up many a bottle of “paraben free” shampoo and conditioner only to put them back on the shelf because they had sulfates and/or silicones in them.
Now, I don’t go completely out of my way to avoid “paraben free” products because the term is so ubiquitous now, especially in curly hair products. But if a product has parabens but is otherwise free of the four ingredients I try to avoid, then I’ll probably try it out. Bonus points if it smells amazing.
There are a lot of people who choose to avoid parabens because of some poorly understood/poorly designed studies claiming they are hormone disruptors and could cause cancer. Lab Muffin has an amazing blog post about this where she explains it all better than I ever could.
At this point in time, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that parabens are harmful, especially at the tiny, tiny amounts they are used. They are effective preservatives and they are actually natural because get this, they are naturally occuring in….FRUITS AND PLANTS!!!! That’s right, fruits and plants. I was pretty surprised when I found this out.
Now, if you want to avoid parabens, that is a perfectly valid choice to make. Just know that it may be difficult to avoid them completely because they are *everywhere*, maybe even in products that market themselves as being paraben free.
Of course, there is such a thing as being allergic or sensitive to parabens. It is extremely rare, but it does exist. If you are one of those few people who are allergic to products with parabens, then of course you must avoid them! I have a daughter who is severely allergic to cashews, but I’m not going around telling everyone not to eat cashews because of it.
If you want to read more about the safety of parabens, check out these other blog posts. Some of them also include links to studies 🙂
Ask anyone who remembers me as a toddler, and you know what they would say first?
“Oh, she was the little girl with beautiful curls!”
According to my mom, I was famous for my ringlets and how they bounced when I ran and hopped. I allegedly caused many mothers to put rollers in their girls’ hair.
I started losing those ringlets when I was 3-4 years old, and instead I had THICK, wavy-ish hair from about 4-10.
Even then hairdressers were stumped about my hair.They weren’t used to little kids having so much hair, apparently.
The year I entered fourth grade, my hair started curling again. I was thrilled to have curly hair again, but that joy was short-lived.
Near the end of my fifth grade year, a hairdresser promised that a certain haircut would help enhance my curls.
Unfortunately, the final results were big, poofy hair that was even too short to pull back in a ponytail. Back in the late 1990s, big hair was a big no-no. And unfortunately, fifth graders can be mean:
“Hey Laura! Would you consider your hair a bush or a tree?”
“Oh, your hair isn’t a bush or a tree. It’s more like a tropical rain forest!
Those insults were just the beginning of the hair trauma. People usually referred to me as “the girl with the big hair” or “the bushy haired girl” and the like. It was awful.
As soon as my hair was long enough, I pulled it back in some fashion almost daily. Every time I tried to wear it down, it just looked like a big, frizzy mess.
It was around this time when hair straighteners and straightening treatments became ubiquitous. Every hairdresser I went to see would almost inevitably give me a blowout.
Being inspired by all the popular makeover shows in the 2000s, well-intentioned friends with hair straighteners were determined to give me their own makeovers. My frizzy hair and general lack of fashion sense made me a popular target.
Whenever I had straight hair, I got so many compliments. Those compliments made me hate my natural texture even more.
The summer before my senior year of high school, an unscrupulous hairdresser convinced my mom (who also has thick, wavy hair) and me to have our hair chemically relaxed. He said that it was the only way our frizzy hair could be managed.
It would be one of the biggest hair mistakes I ever made.
I had breakage. My hair became weak and brittle. Yet, I continued getting these expensive relaxers because I thought it was the only way I could manage my hair. Did I mention it was expensive too?
If you are considering having your hair chemically relaxed, let me offer this advice: DON’T DO IT!
Chemically relaxing can be damaging and expensive to maintain in the long run. It’s better and healthier to learn how to take care of the hair you already have.
After I left for college, my mom stopped going to that hairdresser because she wasn’t happy with the relaxers and because of some inappropriate remarks he made. She found a new hairdresser–one who had curly hair himself and who knew how to cut it.
My mom took me to him when I was home on break, singing his praises. Of course, I was skeptical after all the bad hair experiences I already had.
It was after neat a year of regular trims when one haircut finished with CURLS!
I was in complete shock. CURLS! I had CURLS!
Not only did that hairdresser bring out my curls, he taught me to love them and care for them. Even after I got married, I still came back to visit him and have him work his magic on my hair.
Sadly, he became a victim of domestic violence a month before I had my first child. We had not only lost a wonderful hairdresser, we had lost a good friend.
After I had my daughter, hair care kind of fell by the wayside with the craziness of new motherhood. My hair pretty much stayed in a ponytail.
I finally found a new hairdresser I liked, but then she moved out of state, was only back every few months, and our schedules just never lined up.
Then I started seeing a Deva stylist, which was when I jumped head first into the Curly Girl Method. However, she was far away and expensive.
My sister-in-law (who also has curly hair) told me about her stylist who did dry cuts. This stylist was also pretty close by and had very reasonable prices. I decided, what the heck?
Her name was Lauren and while she doesn’t have curly hair, she loves learning about it. She cuts curls with a technique called “bonsai” cutting. It’s a type of dry cutting, that’s all I can really say about it in writing.
I feel like my hair has been growing so nicely with her magic haircutting ways, and what’s more, I feel like I’m visiting a good friend when I get a haircut from her. Win. Win.
My curls are a big part of who I am. Heck, I would even say that they’re my trademark (ha!). I haven’t had my hair straightened in so long that I’ve forgotten how long it has been. I won’t ever straighten it again.
While I have learned much on my journey, I know there is much more to learn, and I love sharing new things I’ve learned with my friends (you!).
What is your curl story? Let me know in the comments below 🙂
If you’re new to the Curly Girl Method and you’ve been watching videos or reading articles, you’re probably really overwhelmed.
Co-washing? Low poo? LOC method? LCO? LCEG? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? WHERE DO I BEGIN?
Before you go out and raid your local hair care aisle, let me offer some advice.
You only need to start with THREE items.
This is just to get your hair wet with the curly girl method.
See what I did? Get your hair wet, not feet. Ha ha, I crack myself up.
Will you use these products forever? Maybe, maybe not. You will probably do a lot of trial and error, and that’s okay.
But wait, which products should I get? How can I be sure what I’m getting is curly girl friendly?
There are four ingredients I personally avoid: sulfates, silicones (non water soluble specifically), drying alcohols, and mineral oil. I go into more detail in this post.
While I will make my own recommendations, keep in mind that these work for MY hair, which is wavy-curly, thick, somewhat coarse, and very dry.
Sulfate free shampoo
This will probably be the product you’ll spend the most on out of the three. The companies that produce sulfate-free shampoos are usually catering to a specialty market.
My personal favorite budget friendly shampoos have come from Shea Moisture.
ALL Shea Moisture shampoos are completely sulfate free and are otherwise curly girl friendly. There are so many product lines from Shea Moisture that there can be a shampoo for any kind of curly.
My current favorite is the Kukui Nut and Grapeseed Oil Damage Rehab Shampoo. It’s in the purple bottle (did I mention that I love purple?). I also like the African Black Soap shampoo for when I want a deeper clean.
While you can find Shea Moisture products almost anywhere, you might be limited in your selection depending on the store, at least where I live. I personally have to do a fair bit of online shopping.
Other budget friendly brands that carry sulfate free shampoos include: Cantu, Maui Moisture, Renpure, Hask, Burt’s Bees, Say Yes2 (most often found at Target), As I Am, Eden Bodyworks, By Made Beautiful, etc.
Although this may be the most expensive product you buy, the good news is that it may last a while because you really only need to use the shampoo on your scalp.
It’s actually pretty easy to find a CG-friendly conditioner for cheap. Which is good, because if you’re anything like me, you go through A LOT of conditioner.
For now, I’ll focus on normal rinse-out conditioners. I’ll talk about leave-in conditioners and deep conditioners another time.
Suave Essentials conditioners are all silicone free and at 94 cents a bottle, cannot be beat. The V05 Herbal Escapes conditioners are also less than a dollar as well. Bonus: they are EVERYWHERE
Tresseme Botanique Nourish and Replenish (not the detox or curls conditioners) conditioner is $4 for a huge bottle. The Garnier Pure Clean Conditioner is also CG-friendly.
If you want to go to Sally Beauty Supply, they have a generic version of Matrix Biolage Conditioning Balm. It’s under the name Generic Value Products (GVP) Conditioning Balm. The bottles are black and white.
Having difficulty keeping track? Here’s a list:
Suave Essentials conditioner
V05 Naturals conditioner
Tresseme Botanique Nourish and Replenish
Garnier Fructis Pure Clean
GVP Conditioning Balm.
The brands I mentioned in the shampoo section also have CG-friendly conditioner.
Gel (or mousse if you prefer) is what helps keep your curls defined and protected. I prefer a hard hold gel myself, and you want to be sure it’s free of drying alcohols and non-water soluble silicones.
Some good inexpensive CG-friendly gels include
ECO Styling Gels
Aussie Instant Freeze
Herbal Essence Totally Twisted (mousse too)
Herbal Essence Set Me Up (and mousse)
Garnier Pure Clean (and mousse)
I will list others when I remember them.
Once you get out if the shower, squeeze some gel into your hand, rub your palms together, and gently scrunch the gel into your hair. Scrunch in more gel as needed.
Then I like to squeeze the excess moisture out with a t-shirt.
“But, the gel crunch! I want soft curls!”
That crunch you’re referring to is called a cast, and it’s actually a good sign that your hair is getting enough hold. The other good news is that you don’t have to walk around with that crunchy, gelled look. There is a trick that you will swear is like magic.
Wait until your hair is 100 percent dry to do what I’m about to tell you. If your curls are even the slightest bit wet, you’ll have frizz.
Ask me how I know.
So, once your hair is totally dry, flip your head upside down, and gently scrunch your hair with your hands until you break the cast. It may take a few minutes, so be patient!
This is called scrunching out the crunch, and it has saved many curlies from a crunchy, wet-looking fate.
Then you’ll have beautiful, soft, defined, non-crunchy curls.
So there you have it! Some product and brand ideas for starting your curly hair journey! There will be much trial and error along the way, but with patience and persistence, it will all be worthwhile!
Have you heard about the Curly Girl Method? You haven’t? To sum up, it’s a way to enhance your curls, waves, coils…whatever you have. It comes from the book The Curly Girl Handbookby Lorraine Massey.
So, where do you begin?
Toss the terrycloth towel
This t-shirt was for a Halloween costume years ago. I now use it for my hair.
Here’s the deal: using the terrycloth towel will actually make frizz worse. But, what will I dry myself with? You can still use the towel to dry the rest of yourself off, just not your hair. What do you use for your hair? You have many options, but the possibly cheapest option is using…an old t-shirt. Most of us have at least one or two hanging around. I’ve been known to use t-shirts from my husband’s old jobs that he doesn’t wear anymore–he actually doesn’t mind. When you get out of the shower, just use one to squeeze the excess water out of your hair (or after you apply styling products)
If your old t-shirt is a prized possession that you don’t want to use on your hair, there are other options. Flour sack towels are nice and big and smooth. You can find them with washcloths at Wal-Mart, Target, or wherever you shop. Amazon isn’t a bad place to look either. Microfiber towels are also popular with curly girls–Deva Curl sells some, but I know you can find some in housewares if you don’t want to spend that much money.
If you have babies, chances are, you have burp cloths. Burp cloths actually work great for curly hair towels.
You can even use paper towels if you’re really in a pinch.
Point is, keep the terrycloth away from your hair. Your curls will thank you for it, believe me
Banish the Brush
Wide-tooth combs are your friend, but only when your hair is wet.
Brushing curly hair (ESPECIALLY when dry) is a recipe for disaster. Actually, using pretty much anything on dry hair is a bad idea.
Trade your brush for a wide-tooth comb, but only use it to detangle your hair when WET, like when you’re washing your hair. But proceed gently.
You can also use your fingers to detangle when you’re washing as well.
One exception to the no brushing rule: the Wet Brush is fine to use, but ONLY on wet hair (see a theme?). The Denman brush is also popular with other curlies, though I haven’t tried it myself yet.
Want more? Keep reading.
Sleep on satin
Me and my satin cap (also called a bonnet in some circles)
When curly hair meets a cotton pillowcase, bad things happen. They fight each other, and the curls often lose the battle. The friction that happens between curls and the cotton pillowcase when we’re sleeping is just not optimal. But, when you sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase, curls are happier because they have a nice, smooth surface to rest on.
If you don’t want to buy a satin or silk pillowcase, you can get similar results from wearing a satin cap or bonnet to bed. You can get them very inexpensively at your local drugstore I think I spent less than three bucks on them. You can also find sleeping caps at Sally Beauty Supply or another beauty supply shop.
I do both–I have a silky pillowcase and I wear a satin cap. You can also pile your hair into a HIGH ponytail on top of your head and sleep that way–it’s called the “pineapple”. I don’t always pineapple but lots of curlies do 🙂
Just say “no” to sulfates and silicones
Sulfates are great for getting grime off of dishes, not so great for your hair.
Sulfates dry the hair out while silicones coat the hair and cause buildup, and then you have to wash the silicones out with a sulfate shampoo. It’s a nasty cycle.
So, just look for a sulfate-free and silicone-free shampoo, right?
If only it were so easy.
Most of the shampoos and conditioners in your local big box store have sulfates and silicones. I cover all of that in this post.
Does all this seem overwhelming to you?
That’s okay, you don’t have to follow all of this advice at once. Pick one that seems the easiest to do now, and work from there. I actually tried to put this list in order from easiest to hardest, but you can pick whichever one start on. Whatever you decide to focus on, I promise it will make a difference!
If you’re just getting started at the curly girl method, keeping track of everything to avoid is overwhelming, especially if you’ve got a tight budget. I know it was for me! Plenty of curly girls may end up spending more money than they want to or else they give up altogether.
Now, if you’re wondering what I’m talking about when I refer to the “curly girl method”, it’s the method outline in Lorraine Massey’s book The Curly Girl Handbook. Now, some parts of her method I think are a bit extreme (especially if you’re on a tight budget) like avoiding parabens and phthlatates. Now, if you want to avoid parabens and phthlatates, that is totally cool, but be aware that it could be expensive.
While there are some higher end products that I *love*, I firmly believe that you can find good quality products without having to choose between buying groceries or having good hair days.
These are the four ingredients I actively try to avoid while still finding affordable products:
If one of the first ingredients on that label is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, etc…put it back on the shelf NOW! Unfortunately most mainstream shampoos in drugstores will have sulfates. Why avoid sulfates? Well, curly girls already have naturally dry hair and these sulfates only make the problem worse. If you have an oily scalp, sulfates will strip too much oil away and cause your scalp to produce too much oil. Basically, you can’t win either way with sulfates.
So, how does a curly girl get her hair clean without sulfates? You have a few options. A popular one is forgoing shampoo altogether and using a silicone-free (more on that below) conditioner, also known as co-washing. A popular one is the Suave Essentials conditioner line (NOT the shampoos, they have sulfates). The bonus here is that Suave is cheap and available everywhere. There are also dedicated co-washes available, but they can be a little expensive (all for the “co-wash” marketing, really). But BE CAREFUL because some products marketed as co-washes in drugstores can contain silicones.
However, co-washing doesn’t really work for me, so I tend to spend just a little extra on sulfate-free shampoos. Yes, they exist, and yes, the right ones can get your hair clean. The ones I’ve been able to easily find and that aren’t too expensive are Shea Moisture, Maui Moisture, Kinky Curly, some products from the HASK line, Made Beautiful, Burts Bees, the Say Yes 2 line (most commonly found in Target).
Is that Dimethicone up high in the ingredient list? Amodimethicone? Is it a really weird word that ends with -xane or -cone? Put it back. Unless it is accompanied by PEG because that means it’s water soluble.
Silicones are popular in hair products because initially, they are great at making the hair look shiny and feel silky. Key word: initially. Over time, using silicones can cause buildup (making you think you have dandruff) and weigh your hair down. The only way to get these silicones out is with a sulfate shampoo…thus perpetuating the sulfate-silicone cycle.
Basically, these will dry your hair out and curly girls are already prone to dryness. Drying alcohols include: Alcohol Denat., Ethanol, Isopropyl alcohol, SD Alcohol 40, etc. Now, this doesn’t mean avoid ALL alcohols, just the drying ones. Wait, there’s more than one type of alcohol? Indeed there is! Fatty alcohols are the ones you WANT because they are moisturizing. Cetyl Alcohol, Ceateryl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Lauryl Alcohol, and Behenyl Alcohol.
Now Mineral Oil is something I personally avoid because for *me* it doesn’t do anything good for my hair. It just sits on my hair and causes buildup. For others, this may not be the case.
I know this all sounds confusing and overwhelming; believe me, I was where you are when I started the “curly girl” journey. I promise though, that it is all doable and it is totally worth it. My next post will be a more comprehensive list of curly girl friendly products.