Throughout this blog I talk about my love for henna. Using body art quality henna for hair conditioning treatments has not only strengthened my hair strands, but eliminated frizz for my curly hair which is a major accomplishment. Henna helped my hair develop a uniform curl pattern in the areas that were only frizzy in the past.
I usually get a lot of questions about my hair especially now that it is longer. I honestly believe that my consistent use of henna over the past two years has truly contributed to maintaining healthy hair even with the few setbacks that I experienced last year trying different hair care methods, and learning how to handle my hair as it grew out. I have made a commitment to take the best care of my hair as possible, and not spend a fortune doing it. Henna has been a very inexpensive effective hair care treatment for me.
I loved the results of henna so much in 2010 that I did weekly henna treatments from January to March in 2011, and continued again with monthly henna treatments afterwards. I’ve decided for 2012 that I would only do henna treatments every 2-3 months depending on my schedule. I have been using henna for almost two years consistently and feel that my hair is in a good place now. Henna has also eliminated excessive shrinkage for my curls.
Most curlies are concerned that henna will loosen their curl pattern too much. For a while I believed that I couldn’t go back to my natural curl pattern and would have to style my hair with braid outs for life. I had only been doing braid outs for most of 2011. I noticed with continued use of henna, my hair became easier than usual to smooth out, and even blow drying my hair straight this past December was a breeze. Read more articles on henna here.
Since caring for my curls with a mix of the Curly Girl Method and the Tightly Curly Method, the moisture levels have improved in my hair. Also allowing my hair to be set in it’s natural curl pattern has also contributed with moisture retention. Moisture retention is what makes curly hair manageable, soft, and without frizz.
Using the Curly Girl Method has definitely simplified my hair regimen. That has been the goal since I wrote Curly Hair–Not So Minimalist. Curly hair really doesn’t have to be that difficult. All you mainly need to use is one product: conditioner. I’m in the process of creating the perfect botanical conditioner that also gives hair a soft to medium hold for extra definition. I still put a tiny bit of oil on the ends of my hair at night but that’s it.
In Curly Confessions–The Curly Girl Method, I didn’t really explain what the Curly Girl Method was. In short it is a silicone/sulfate free conditioner only hair method that also replaces combs and brushes with only finger detangling. You use a herbal conditioner to cleanse, detangle, and leave-in your hair. To fully understand every detail of this method of hair care, getting the 2nd edition of Curly Girl–The Handbook by Lorraine Massey is extremely helpful. There is a lot of information online, yet the book will answer all of the random questions that you may have after learning about this hair method.
To my surprise the Curly Girl Method works extremely well, and yes I really did stop using my seamless wooden comb which I rave about in Let’s Talk Hair–Part 2. My hair is best described as a mix of mainly Corkscrew Curls with Fractal/Zigzag Curls in the Curly Girl–The Handbook: Hair that appears thickly textured when you look at it all together, but is actually baby-fine and delicate when you look at a single strand. (This is why your hair breaks so easily.) and Hair that’s hypersensitive to rough handling. I had been back and forth thinking that my hair couldn’t be “baby-fine,” yet it did snap very easily even with gentle combing or brushing, and would be challenging to see individual hair strands if my hair wasn’t dark brown.
Having easy to snap hair strands is why I always am trying to make the perfect hair detangler, or wash my hair in braids to avoid tangles in the first place. Having baby-fine curls also explains seeing tiny holes in some of my hair strands even after carefully blow drying my hair this past December. My hair is simply too fine to withstand heat well.
Just as one may “train” their hair to be straight, you can also “train” your natural curls to be very curly. When training your hair to be curly, using heat appliances such as curling irons, flat irons, and blow dryers unless diffusing on low heat is almost pointless. Heat robs curls of vital moisture and if used too much can disfigure the shape of your curls leaving them damaged and limp.
I’ve seen so many curly girls with heat damage. Heat damaged curly hair is straight at the ends, has misshaped curls, and is possibly even breaking off. Deep conditioning treatments while slowly trimming off damaged ends would greatly help. Curly hair that easily breaks is also moisture deprived which is one reason that the Curly Girl Method works so well by building the moisture back into the hair.
Using combs and brushes especially when hair is dry doesn’t allow curls to clump together causing massive frizz. It is also very damaging to comb or brush curly hair dry. For some curlies combing or brushing hair even wet doesn’t allow maximum curl or growth potential.
Many curlies use Denman brushes to define curls, and I agree that this is the one tool that doesn’t disrupt your curl pattern, yet not everyone’s curls are strong enough to endure being brushed. I had to find out the hard way. Finger detangling hair in the shower with tons of conditioner will completely remove all shed hairs and tangles without the breakage that combs and brushes can create. If your hair isn’t baby-fine, then gentle handling with combs and brushes may not be as much of a problem for you. I’m noticing that my hair seems much happier comb and brush free.
Finally using shampoos, especially sulfate shampoos, dry out curly hair which is why some curlies only apply shampoo to their scalp. I’d compare sulfate shampoos with strong acne treatments; they both take the skin out of it’s natural balance which is why it produces more sebum than it needs to, or skin becomes painfully flaky and dry. Many can’t comprehend using conditioner as their only hair cleanser. Even my scalp felt pretty irritated when I had tried it last year.
I recently learned from the Curly Girl Method that if your conditioner is full of herbal extracts, meaning the herbs are listed at the top of the ingredients list, your scalp will feel clean and refreshed after using the the conditioner to wash your hair. I’ve also noticed that conditioners with tea tree oil and peppermint essential oils can be irritating to sensitive skin and probably shouldn’t be left in hair as a leave-in. I suggest finding a conditioner that isn’t full of questionable chemicals, yet still packed with herbal extracts. Soapwort root cleanser is a great herbal alternative to shampoo and so easy to make.
The Tightly Curly Method by Terri LaFlesh is brilliant for having defined tangle free curls. Well you may have a few tangles, but nothing like a regular wash-and-go hair style if your hair is tightly coiled. Since the Tightly Curly Method involves using a Denman brush to define curls, I now skip that part of the method.
I apply the technique of smoothing each curl how it naturally clumps together to my curly regimen from the Tightly Curly Method. This makes styling so much easier once hair is dry and also keeps tangles at bay. By smoothing each curl individually with lots of conditioner as a leave-in, you set your curls intact and won’t have frizzy curls at all. The need for gel is pretty much eliminated unless you like having the extra hold.
It may seem extremely time consuming to smooth each curl at first, yet gets faster over time especially when your hair is at it’s proper moisture level. I find this technique of smoothing each curl currently takes be about 40-50 minutes after I’ve finger detangled my hair. It took more time to smooth each curl when my hair was shorter, and I was using a Denman brush with this method last year.
Beautiful curls are achievable for naturally curly hair when you use body art quality henna hair treatments, put down the heat, stop combing and brushing hair dry and even wet for those who have fine hair, and eliminate shampoo either all together or only use a sulfate free shampoo on the scalp. I used to comb through my hair regularly if my hair wasn’t extremely short and thought that curls weren’t part of my hair equation. I did love my afro and kept it perfectly round.
I am in awe that learning and applying new hair techniques can make a huge difference with curly hair. I never thought that I would admit to this, but your hair conditioner can really affect the overall outcome of your curl pattern. Also know that even if another curlies hair looks even somewhat similar to your own there is a good chance there is still a major difference, hence the reason it is so important to learn more about your own hair.
For more on my beauty regimen included hair care go here.
(Images by Dawn Michelle)