It’s a temperamental hair type, but it can look absolutely luscious when treated properly. Rachel Marie Walsh explains how to care for curls.
A trichologist once told me to think of the scalp as earth: what grows from it is only as healthy as the soil itself. Your scalp is covered with skin and so requires gentle care to stay healthy. Avoid shampoos containing sodium lauryl sulfate (this is both a salt and a detergent, effective but harsh) and irritating extracts like mint and rosemary. Choose fragrance-free or minimally fragranced shampoo, such as Philip Kingsley No Scent No Colour, €15.94. If anti-dandruff shampoo doesn’t cure a flaky scalp, try massaging it with fragrance-free moisturiser the night before washing. Shampoo curls every third day at most, unless your roots are very greasy. A daily rinse and condition is OK but go easy on the cleansing! The process is hard on hair. Don’t shampoo twice in one shower. Concentrate on the roots and remember that lather is not what cleans your hair but a sign that there is no build-up left to clear. Do not start to scrub harder when you see suds.
There are all manner of rich conditioner and masks that hydrate your hair but if you wash them out after two minutes, their benefits flow down the drain. The longer you leave them, the more moisturised your locks. Wear a mask like Amazonia Preciosa Ucuuba Hair Mask, €11.50, overnight. Consider smoothing a small amount of your usual conditioner through the ends before styling. Curly is the driest, most vulnerable hair type (especially if coloured) so choose conditioners for dry/damaged hair. These generally contain the same ingredients as curly hair products, with added emollients. You should only be applying it to the lengths, which is dead hair unaffected by irritants.
Frizz takes shape as soon as hair starts to dry. Beat it by applying styling products before getting out of the shower. Gently squeeze excess water from the lengths and apply a curl-definer like label.m Curl Cream, €15.60. If hair is fine, use a silicone spray like John Frieda 100% Shine Glossing Mist, €7.19. Blot hair with a towel. Excessive heat disrupts natural curls. If you cannot let them dry naturally, use a diffuser head on your dryer (label.m Professional Universal Salon Diffuser, €11, works on most models) to boost volume and shape. Diffuse from the roots to mid-length, gently lifting and scrunching as you go. Tongs and rollers define curls quickly but shouldn’t be used daily, as even heat-protective spray cannot totally damage-proof your locks.
Bin Your Brush
Bristles makes curls fray and frizz up. Don’t worry about using a brush to distribute natural oils through the ends of your hair. Products can provide far more effective nourishment and don’t stress out your hair while they work. Use your fingers to tousle curls into shape. Take a little curl re-activator, like Redken Curvaceous Full Swirl, €23, and re-define dry curls around your fingers when they wilt. Use a wide-tooth comb to gently pick out tangles.
Invest in a Great Cut
A good cut that your curls can relax into will show them off to best effect. Long layers (beginning just below the chin or collarbone) slim the face and flatter even very tight coils. Check goodsalonguide.com or ask a friend whose cut you admire for a great local hairdressers.
Consider sleeping on a silk pillowcase to prevent bed-head and split ends. Silk has amino acids (which strengthen connective tissue) in common with skin and hair. It is also one of the least absorbent fabrics you can lay your head on, and will not sap moisture from skin and hair. The Ethical Silk Company produces eco-friendly mulberry silk pillowcases, €45, with 10% shared between Focus Ireland and an Indian AIDS charity.
HAIR MYTHS DEBUNKED
* You should detox your hair periodically. Hair is dead and provides nothing for germs and bacteria to live on. It is physiologically incapable of absorbing pollution. A normal shampoo easily clears bad smells and traces of styling product.
* A cold rinse locks in moisture. Hair has no sensitivity to water temperature. A cold blast won’t leave it more hydrated.
* Salt-spray is a great curl-definer. This used to be a bad holiday beauty tip, now some brands actually bottle the stuff for styling! Salt is abrasive and horribly drying for all hair types.
* Pluck a grey hair and three will come to the funeral. Plucking a hair isn’t like lopping the head off Lernaean Hydra but it can cause scalp irritation and follicle damage. Cover stray greys with a colour touch-up pen.
* You can mend that split end. While split ends can be prevented with conditioning and regular trims, no product will mend them.
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