Henna, Curly Girl Method, Tightly Curly Method…


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.

My Henna Treatments

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.

Simplifying with The Curly Girl Method

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.

Fine Curly Hair Is Best Comb/Brush Free

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 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.

Curl Training

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.

The Denman

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.

Botanical Conditioners and No ‘Poo

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.

Smoothing Curls with The Tightly Curly Method

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.

Loving Curly Hair

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.

Embrace your curls!

For my most recent beauty regimen included hair care go here.

(Images by Dawn Michelle)

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  1. nadine says

    Love this post! Great info. I love my curls! I cringe when my fellow curlies do so much damage all in the name of straight hair. Work with what you got! I believe people give up on curls because they don’t know what to do it and how to make it look great! When in reality Good conditioned is all you need! I do scrunch my ends with oily wet hands though…

  2. Margaret says

    OMG!!! Dawn I adore your curls!!! I too noticed my hair was too fine to deal with the Denman. (I only use it sparingly now) In using my fingers the majority of the time ,I find it gets all shed hairs out as well. I am trying to perfect this technique, as it takes time and patience. You have to make sure to go through all sections of your hair…underneath, inbtwn, etc. Will you still be using Rhassoul clay for cleansing when not cowashing or just the Soapwort root cleanser? I also need to look at the portion in the CG book about using a scrub for the scalp. Let’s not forget Henna!!! I absolutely adore it and I agree with all you have stated about aiding in the health of hair. Thank you for sharing this. :)

  3. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Nadine,
    I agree with working with what you have in the best way possible. It takes way too much effort to change the way your hair naturally looks. I’m realizing that building moisture in the hair equals healthy hair for me more so than wearing my hair up or doing braid outs. Nothing compares with co-washing a few times a week to maintain moisture in my hair for me. Also thanks for sharing the tip on scrunching your curls with a bit of oil.
    Dawn Michelle

  4. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Margeret,
    Thanks so much! I think I may add rhassoul clay to my conditioner when I’m not just cowashing my hair if I’m not using the soapwort root cleanser. I still have a bunch of soapwort root herbs and stay stocked with rhassoul clay so I will use both and see which one gives the best results.
    I’m also still kind of surprised that finger detangling hair does such an amazing job when your hair is saturated with conditioner. I’m glad that your hair has benefitted so much using henna too!
    Have a beautiful day!
    Dawn Michelle

  5. Jo says

    Hi, Thank you for this post because I usually feel like i can’t do anything w/my hair! lol, but i am going to try this. do you recommend any affordable conditioners?? i’m on a limited budget right now, but would love to try this method. thanks!

  6. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Jo!
    I’m still loving this hair care method, and I’d definitely recommend it to all curly girls to at least try out. It will really help bring the moisture levels back into your hair and your curls will pop! As for conditioners, I’m going to see if I can put together a list of good natural conditioners.

    One conditioner that I used to use all the time was the Everyday Shea Moisturizing Conditioner that I bought from Whole Foods. It’s a 32oz conditioner that is about $10 if I’m remembering correctly. I stopped using it because I no longer wanted to use products with phenoxyethanol. It is not an herbal based conditioner, yet it is still good.

    Another conditioner that I used to use was the Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner. I have sensitive skin and my scalp isn’t crazy about peppermint and tea tree oil. The consistency of this conditioner is amazing though for co-washing and although defines curls well for a leave-in, once again it was the essential oils that were too much for me.

    If you are interested in using something with herbs you can always try the DIY Herbal Hair Rinse or add marshmallow root to the conditioner of your choice. I hope that is somewhat helpful and hopefully I will find some herbal conditioners with clean ingredients to suggest for an article. Please let me know how this method works out for you!

    Best Wishes!

  7. Candy says

    Hello ,

    Thank you so much. You are an inspiration. I have a question : which conditionner o you use when using the “Tightly Curly method”?


  8. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Candy, I am currently using an herbal based conditioner that I am formulating and possibly going to sell in my Etsy store Azuha later on this year. Have a beautiful day!

  9. says

    An excellent article. I actually have done Teri LaFlesh’s method a few times. I’m going to check out the other method you mention as I too have fine hair. I have used the Denman but I think the key is to work in very small sections and to first detangle as much as possible with the fingers. My hair is baby fine and straightens on the neds as it gets longer. I don’t think it’s heat damage though. I havent’ used heat in a year and I’ve trimmed a few times. I think it’s just the weight of my hair that comes with the length.

    Thanks for sharing this thorough article. By the way, i found you on Curly Nikki. Please stop by my blog when you get a moment.

    Radiant Brown Beauty

  10. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Michelle, thanks for stopping by and I will definitely check out your blog. Fine curly hair doesn’t play by the same rules as other curly hair. I’m glad to finally know that. Best wishes!

  11. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Monica,
    Here is a video of Teri LaFlesh explaining exactly how to smooth and define your curls using the Tightly Curly Method. She actually has videos which explain the entire styling technique which are really helpful. Best, Dawn Michelle

  12. says

    I went natural. All my strands are completely natural and I followed the curly girl method without henna and my curls are defined already. It was easy and this is not hard to maintain. All micro-spirals were defined and I slicked some gel on my sides. Also, I used a headband and looks cute.

  13. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Charlotta, Your curls sound divine! So glad that you are enjoying them and embracing them. Best Wishes!

  14. Nathalie says

    Hi Dawn, Thanks for all the information. Have you used the Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner as a leave-in conditioner?

  15. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Nathalie,

    I noticed that the Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner has been reformulated. I recently purchased a bottle and the consistency is different as well as the ingredients. It used to be formulated with a coconut cream fatty acid base and now it has water, cetyl alcohol, alcohol denat, and shea butter as the first four ingredients.

    I never really loved using Aubrey Organics regular conditioners as a leave-in products unless they were specified as leave-in for my hair. It could also be because I love to slather lots of product on my hair as a leave-in though too. I guess it depends on your hair type and hair needs. Aubrey Organics conditioners are extremely moisturizing though and so great as deep conditioners.

    I plan to try another conditioner as well by Aubrey Organics to create a list of natural conditioners for those interested in the Curly Girl Method or anyone who has dry hair in general. Keep me posted on if you try this conditioner or any other Aubrey Organics Conditioner. You’ll see an article on natural conditioners soon once I pick at least three good ones that I like.

    Dawn Michelle

  16. Dawn Michelle says

    I forgot to mention that the new formulation of Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner has a thicker consistency than the original formula which felt smooth and silky. It is not the ingredients that bother me, it is the way it feels and how it applies. I believe some of the other conditioners are still created with the coconut fatty acid cream base.

  17. Nathalie says

    Hi Dawn, this is my feedback about Aubrey conditioner as leave-in. Thanks for your answers. I agree with you that the Aubrey conditioner is very thick which makes me wonder if it is OK for the scalp but it makes my hair feel awesome after co-wash.
    2-days after washing, my hair always very dry. Even when I rinse with your “green tea rinse” or spray with Aloe-water followed by braiding overnight before doing my protective styling in the morning. At the end of the day my ends are very dry while the lower 1/2 is fine when I use the Aubrey conditioner as leave-in conditioner. I tried the catnip/calendula tea sealed with EVOO which gave me a slightly better result.
    Like you, I may need to co-wash every 2-3 days for moisture. Thank you

  18. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Nathalie, It is good to see how you make these products work out for you. Thanks so much for sharing!

  19. says

    I want to add something here. I have fine 3a to b type hair and tried the tightly curly method for so long and it weighed my hair down too much. Plus, like you said, any brush is too much for my hair. The Denman makes my hair very frizzy. My hair is very long and I want it to be long, but having the flat, no volume look was bothering me so much. Finally I figured something out and it involves going against the main rule of curly hair slightly. Starting with fully dry hair, I spray my ends with water, put Shea butter on the entire section of hair, then put coconut oil on my wide tooth comb. I gently comb wet ends and dry shaft/roots using the careful detangling Teri describes. This is not only the only way I can get full, beautiful volume so far, but also the only way I can keep ny hair detangled. If I detangle in the shower it leaves my roots hanging flat and my hair tangled the moment I stop combing. This is true even when I ditched a comb all together. I have no more fuzz than usual by doing this. My hair has a bit of fuzz no matter what I do. Actually I spoke to Teri once and she told me hers does too. My hair was hip length but I trimmed about four inches.

  20. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Charlotte,

    Your method for styling is unique, yet curly hair is all so different. I think volume is important to most women with very long hair since longer hair is heavier. Also working with damp hair versus applying product to soaking wet hair would allow more volume since your roots dried without being weighed down by anything. I love hearing new and different methods for caring for curls and thank you for your comment. I know that it will be helpful to someone else as well.

    Best wishes!

  21. says

    Thank you Dawn Michelle. I totally agree with you. I learned one key thing, get information but do what works. Information is helpful because before the tightly curly method I had no idea why brushing caused me frizz, that and dry combing. But I like the volume. I have refined my method even more and am working on a blog post about it. Basically since I am strapped for time in the morning, the night before I apply aloe gel instead of water and use it to wet my hair and comb it out dry, I just wet the ends with aloe gel and only as high up the shaft to get the comb thru, then if a tangle gets tough I use a bit of weightless Giovanni conditioner, or the maximum volume conditioner. After combing it out I scrunch in Giovanni gel, then put my hair up in a pineapple type of do and cover it with a silk cap. That way, the aloe dries without my hair being exposed because if I left it down with damp hair it would frizz. I am trying to keep water off my dry hair too and just leave water to my washes and drinking lots of water plus eating greens. I have seen even when using cold water that it really makes long hair frizz because if it brushes against too many things or even just the normal hustle bustle, it frizzes up. But by doing it the night before I get plenty of time for it to dry undisturbed. Also by day three I usually do not have to keep doing this comb out as long as I wear a pineapple or high bun at night. The braids weigh my hair down too. I am enjoying the volume and my curls look pretty, by keeping the aloe on the ends and adding a hard gel that is alcohol free, my curls actually have more definition being combed out. Just wanted to share and hopefully soon I will do a video and I will definitely finish the blog post soon.

  22. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Charlotte,
    I’m so glad that you have found a hair care method that works for your curls! Aloe vera gel is the perfect product to moisturize hair without weighing it down. I really enjoy hearing from my readers and thank you so much for sharing your experience. When you finish your blog article, please share it with the Minimalist Beauty Facebook Community Page.
    Best Wishes,
    Dawn Michelle

  23. sharon says

    Hi Dawn, thanks for all of your info. Do you know where i can purchase the nepal mehandi henna online. Thanks

  24. samarian says

    so did the henna permanently? I ask because I have 2 different textures. One texture has defined loose curl pattern and the other has a tighter yet frizzy kind of pattern and im wondering will this help my hour

  25. Dawn Michelle says

    Hi Samarian,

    Henna makes my hair shiny stronger and provided my hair with a more uniform curl pattern. Everyone’s hair is different so everyone will experience the benefits of henna in their own way. I suggest people who are new to henna to always mix it with coconut milk and keep an eye on how their hair responds to it. I still have very curly hair after using henna consistently since March 2010. I have learned that my curls only get frizzy and break if I comb my hair. Since finger combing my hair and increasing the moisture levels in my hair, I have consistent curls no matter what products I use. You will see the results of henna especially after your third application.

    Hope that helps!