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 🙂
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!