Articles By Michele Bender

lady enjoying shampooing her hair at the beach

In any of my school photos from kindergarten through my senior year in high school, my clothes change and my face matures. But one thing stays the same: my big, frizzy head of hair. It fills the photo’s whole frame and makes me cringe now the way it did back then. It’s too bad really, because all I needed to love my school pics was to know how to cleanse my curls properly. With the right technique, my hair could have been clean, hydrated and beautiful. But you can learn from my mistakes! Here are some essential tips for washing curly hair.

1. Lose the lather

The biggest rule in washing curly is to ban shampoo from your bathroom and your hair. Why? Because it contains ingredients called sulfates. These detergents give shampoo its rich lather, but they also strip your hair of its natural oils. This is a huge problem for us curly girls since our hair is intrinsically drier than other types. We need to hang onto any and all oils and moisture that we can or we'll end up with parched-looking hair and frizz, frizz and more frizz. “Companies still use these detergents in shampoos because they’re cheap ingredients and because people are addicted to suds," explains Lorraine Massey, author of "Curly Girl: The Handbook." "But you don’t need them to clean your curls.” Instead, look for sulfate free cleansers like DevaCurl No-Poo.

2. Cleanse right

Don’t scrub your hair aggressively because harsher hands don’t result in cleaner hair. “Resist the impulse to start scrubbing your head the second you get in the shower because this disturbs the basic shape of your curls,” says Massey. When your curls' natural shape are disrupted, you also get some frizz. Instead, let the water cascade through your hair when you get into the shower. Then apply your sulfate-free cleanser to your fingertips and gently massage it into your scalp using firm, circular motions. “The friction of your fingertips combined with the cleanser will loosen up any dirt and product buildup, leaving your scalp and hair cleansed and deodorized,” says Massey.

3. Wash less often

Mama may have told you to wash your hair daily, but that’s another myth for us curly girls. Instead, you can get by with wetting your hair and hydrating it daily with conditioner.  I use a cleanser on my hair once or twice a week. The rest of the time I gently massage my scalp with conditioner. Once I rinse that down the drain, I condition my hair some more.

4. Stay poo-free on the road

Shampoo that is. This goes for even those times when you’re desperate. For example, recently I was staying at a really nice hotel that offered bathroom products from a top-notch brand. I had forgotten my sulfate-free cleanser, but still I didn’t dare reach for the hotel’s tiny bottle of shampoo. Instead, I just cleansed my scalp using my conditioner. (I used the top notch brand’s shampoo to hand wash my lingerie and bathing suits instead!)

Stay tuned this month for a daily dose of tips for happier, healthier curls, coils and waves!


Women with curly hair

Fighting frizz is always an issue for curly girls. But once the weather heats up, the fight can get harder thanks to high humidity and summer temps. But frizz doesn’t have to be your nemesis. “Frizz is just a curl waiting to happen,” explains Lorraine Massey, co-author of Curly Girl: The Handbook.  And those beautiful curls can happen in summer as long as you know a few frizz facts.

3 Quick No-Frizz Facts

  1. Your towel matters: “The cuticle of the hair resembles a pinecone with tiny scales that overlap,” says Massey.  Hair looks smooth and shiny when these scales lie flat. It looks frizzy when they are open. The fibers on terry cloth towels ruffle the hair’s cuticle causing frizz. Use only a microfiber towel or old, cotton t-shirt on your curls.
  2. There’s no such thing as too much moisture: "Frizz happens when little strands of your hair lift up off your head and outward to quench their thirst from moisture in the air,” says Massey.  In summer, when the air is humid this happens more easily. The solution is conditioner, which moisturizes hair while its weight keeps these little hairs down.
  3. Step away from the alcohol: Yes, you can still enjoy that summery mojito or margarita. Just steer clear of any hair product that contains alcohol, which is really drying for hair. As Massey says, styling products with alcohol “live in a curly girl’s locks for a day or more and will spend those days sucking up your hair’s moisture and preventing new hydration from getting in.”

What frizz-taming tricks have you picked up along the way?

When I grew out my chemically straightened hair and finally embraced my natural curls, my big fear was managing my hair in the summer. When I shared my concern with the curly gurus at Devachan Salons, they shared some amazing tips for taming hair. I learned that I didn’t have to resort to a season of ponytails and buns. Here are the top tools for enjoying a no-frizz summer.

Frizz-Fighting Tools

  • Lots of conditioner: Conditioner is always key for curly girls. In summer, it’s even more important, and you’ll probably want to use more of it. You can even slather it on before you go swimming in a pool or the ocean to keep the water from drying out your curls.
  • A deep conditioner: I make sure to deep condition my curls at least twice a week. Once a week I also shower before bed, cover my hair in a rich, deep conditioner and sleep with it in my hair. Some mornings it seems to melt into my hair, and my curls look so good that I don’t even need to rinse. Other mornings when that doesn’t happen, I simply rinse and go. My favorite deep conditioner is DevaCurl Heaven in Hair.
  • A hooded drier: This is the best secret weapon for gorgeous, frizz-free summer curls. A hooded drier creates a microclimate so hair dries without any interference and curls maintain their natural shape. Best of all, you can settle in under your dryer and then read or work. These dryers come in all price ranges and sizes, from those that sit on a table, to those on wheels. I personally love the Gold N Hot Elite 1875 Watt Ionic Full Hood Professional Dryer.
  • The right gel: This is another key to keeping frizz and flyways from creating a halo around your head. Just make sure you choose one that's alcohol- and silicone-free so curls don’t dry out or look crispy.
  • Cloth covered ponytail holders: These were a hair accessory staple in the ‘80’s. To me, they’re a hair accessory staple in summer when you have to pull your hair back and up a lot. Elastic bands tend to rip and tear curly hair which is naturally fragile. Try: Goody Ouchless Gentle Scrunchies.
  • A curly cover up: Sun doesn’t just dry out your skin, it can also dry out your hair. And dry hair equals frizzy hair. For long days in the sun, make sure to cover hair with a hat (protect skin, too, with one that has a two to three inch brim) or cute scarf.
  • Spray bottle: At the beach or pool, hair can get dry and frizzy from the sun, wind, chlorine and salt water. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts spring water and conditioner. Then toss it in your beach bag, shake it up and spritz it on hair before you jump in the water and after you get out.

How do you keep your hair frizz-free through the summertime heat and humidity?


curly hair style

Curly hair can be prom ready in a cinch. In fact, with just a few twists and turns, you can have fresh prom curls for this special day without spending a lot of time, money or effort. Here are some of our favorites from Lorraine Massey, author of Curly Girl: The Handbook.

The Twist Up

This is an easy, elegant way to give hair a lift – especially perfect for warm spring or summer nights — and it works well with both long or shoulder-length curls.

  1. Pull all your hair together at the back of your neck as if you were going to put it in a low ponytail.
  2. Gently twist your hair, directing it upward toward your crown as you twist.
  3. When you’ve twisted your hair as much as you can, hold it in place with one hand while you using your other hand to slide bobby pins into the crease formed by the twisted hair against your head.


  • If you have shorter hairs that frame your face and want a softer look, take a few of those curls out before beginning The Twist Up.
  • For a fancier look, use bobby pins decorated with gems, rhinestones, pearls or other pretty goodies.

how to style curly hair

The Yin-Yang

This hair style is a fun and funky look that gives you two completely different textures of hair — sleek on top and an explosion of lively curls in the back. As a result, this style allows your curls to be the star of the show.

Before you start:

  • Make sure hair is totally dry so you can get more of the bigness out of the curly part, which is what you want for this look.
  • Fill a spray bottle with ¼ cup of an alcohol-free, silicone-free gel and ¾ cup of spring water.

To get the look:

  1. Spritz the top, front section of hair with the gel/water mixture and then slick hair back by grazing it gently with your hands.
  2. Gather hair at the center back of the head in a medium to high ponytail.
  3. Use a fabric or cloth covered ponytail holder to tie the gathered hair back into a ponytail. Fabric or cloth covered ponytail holders are less damaging than elastic or rubber bands.
  4. Take the curls that are coming out of the ponytail and lightly piece them open with your fingers to create a big explosion of curls coming out of your ponytail.
  5. To cover the ponytail holder, take a piece of hair that’s coming out of the right side of ponytail and lift it out to the side.
  6. Bring that piece of hair underneath your ponytail and out to the left side of your ponytail. Then wrap it around your ponytail holder to hide it.

Read More: Trendy Curly Updos for Weddings & Proms

how to style curly hair

The Top Knot

This easy as 1-2-3 style takes a mere minute, but is an unfussy way to make curls look gorgeous and give them a change from their day to day look.

  1. Take a section of hair that’s at the nape of your neck and underneath the rest of your hair and divide it into two sections. Hold each section out to the side.
  2. Cross the two sections on top of the rest of your hair, which should be down.
  3. Pull one section under the other and pull in a way similar to the first step in tying your shoes.
  4. Secure the tie with a bobby pin. Massey suggests a fun, decorated bobby pin or a simple ribbon.

Read More: Natural Prom Hairstyles for 2011

If you’re a curly girl, chances are that you’ve had at least one experience where in which you leave a salon in tears. This has happened to me more than once — four times to be exact. Once, I looked like a shorn poodle, another time like I had stuck my head in an electric socket, and a third time, I had so many layers, my layers had layers.

But the fourth time was the worst: I had an up-to-my-ears bob that made my head look like a triangle with the width of my hair being three times the height. That was the final straw. I finally decided to find a salon where they knew how to cut curly hair.

So in light of my experience, here are some things to beware of so that bad curly haircuts and post-salon hysterics are a thing of the past for you, too!

Beware: Stylists who cut curls wet

Curly wet hair and curly dry hair are like distant cousins; they may in the same family, but they act very, very differently.

“Curly hair may be halfway down your back when wet, only to spring up as much as 6 to 10 inches when it’s dry,” explains Lorraine Massey, author of "Curly Girl: The Handbook." “Plus, we wear our hair dry, not wet, so it should be cut that way.”

Beware: Stylists who want to blow your hair straight before the cut

I’ve had stylists do this to me many times, claiming that straightening the hair helps them see the hair cut better. But if you don’t wear your hair straight, why would you have it cut that way? You may get a nice straight hair style and cut, but not one that will make your curls look their best.

Beware: Stylists who straighten their own curls

Request a stylist who is an expert in curly hair or, better yet, one who actually has curly hair and wears it that way. Another curly girl or guy will understand the nuances of your hair. Plus, someone who has accepted his or her natural hair texture can help you love yours even more.

Beware: Salons that treat curly hair and straight hair as equals

Call the salon and ask if they know how to cut curly hair. If there’s any hesitation, find another salon. Better yet, look for a salon that specializes in curls (or has some stylists who do). One good way to find one you love: ask any gorgeous curly girls who does their hair. Us curlies love giving out advice. Or, if that fails, hop on over to our Salon Finder and find a curl salon in your area.

Good news, curly girls! It’s safe to go back in the water. That is, once you accept your hair’s natural texture!

If you’ve ever been a blow dry/flat iron straight girl, you know that swimming is off the agenda. If you go in the water, your straight hair reveals its natural shape, and even being near the water – like at the beach or at a steamy indoor pool – can ruin a blow-out in no time flat.

Once you go curly, however, you can enjoy the water like never before. Just follow these simple tips and you'll be good to go!

  1. Chlorine is good for pools, but it can wreak havoc on curls because it's so drying. Chlorine isn’t good for any hair type, but it's even worse for curly hair that's naturally drier than straight or wavy tresses. Before going in the pool, slather your hair (wet or dry) with a rich conditioner. Curly hair is porous so the conditioner fills those holes before the chlorine can seep in. Next, slip on a bathing cap. Besides being protective, you'll also be giving yourself a deep moisturizing treatment thanks to the heat generated by the cap and the conditioner. Not only will you have hydrated curls, but frizz will disappear too!
  2. Use products in your kitchen! Apply extra virgin olive oil to your hands and then slick it on your hair in a downward motion. You can also put the oil in a spray bottle and spritz it on your curls. “Because oil and water don’t mix, the oil will repel the chlorinated water,” explains Lorraine Massey, author of "Curly Girl: The Handbook."
  3. At the beach, salt water can dehydrate your curls, as can the salty ocean air. If you don’t want to don a bathing cap and conditioner, then at least spritz hair with a leave-in conditioner often or combine equal parts conditioner and water in a spray bottle to create your own. 
  4. After a dip in a pool or ocean, wash your hair IMMEDIATELY with a sulfate-free cleanser or conditioner to remove any drying chlorine or salt water.

Follow these tips and you and your curls will be basking in the sun, water and all, all summer long!


One of the biggest curly hair myths is that curly girls can’t wear hats. (Another is that men don’t like curly hair! Boy is that wrong, but that’s a story for another day.)  But if you didn’t realize this was a myth, you’re not alone.

None of my curly-haired friends knew this, and neither did I. In fact, during the years that I wore my hair curly, I spent many winters freezing for the sake of a decent hair day. Fear of frizz also kept me from wearing a bike helmet for many years.

When I had kids, I learned to embrace my curly hair and got these great curl-covering tips from the experts at Devachan Salons in NYC and Culver City, CA. Now I’m protected when I wear my bike and stay warm in the winter, and I can even sport a cute spring or summer chapeau without worrying about hat head.

These tips also go for wearing wigs or scarves.

1. Keep your curls healthy

If your hair is hydrated and in good shape to begin with, your curls will bounce back better and more quickly after sitting under the weight of a hat, helmet, wig, etc. This means washing hair with sulfate-free cleansers, moisturizing often with loads of conditioner and deep conditioning at least once a week.

2. Clip hair for lift

It’s usually the top of the hair that gets flattened under a hat, scarf, etc. Give hair a lift by putting a little alcohol-free, silicone-free gel on a hair clip (find them at any drugstore). Then take a small section of hair from the top of your head and place the clip at the roots close to your scalp. Do this in a few different spots on top of your head so these strands stay lifted while your hat, scarf, hood or helmet presses down on them.

3. Remove clips with care

When you take the clips out, use one hand to remove the clip and the other to hold the section of hair. This keeps the curl’s natural shape and prevents accidentally tearing or snapping of the hair. Then spritz curls with water or use wet fingers to gently ruffle hair near the roots.

4. Revive wayward curls

If any curls get unfurled while covered, just wet your finger and wrap the section of hair around it. Pin it with a clip or bobby pin for a minute or two, release and the curl formation will be back.

5. Pin them back

If you’ve got shorter curls framing your face, you can gently twist sections of these hairs toward the back of your head and secure with a body pin. This helps them keep their natural shape while covered.


A good or bad hair day can actually start the night before. Despite its hardy appearance, curly hair is so delicate and fragile that how you wear your hair while you sleep has an impact on how it will look the next day. Here’s how to wake up with curls that are as pretty as they were when you went to sleep.

Second Day Hair in a Cinch

  1. Choose the right pillowcase. If you tend to move around a lot while you snooze, then swap your cotton pillowcase for one that is silk or satin. “Tossing and turning in bed causes a lot of friction and can cause split ends and knots,” explains Lorraine Massey, author of "Curly Girl: The Handbook." These fabrics create less friction keeping hair smooth.
  2. Sleep on your back. If you always sleep on one side, you can cause the hair on that side to break off and get weaker. Try to snooze on your back with a pillow under your neck and another under your knees, which is good for your back and your curls.
  3. Make a top knot. Leaving your hair down and loose can cause it to get tangled, knotty and eventually break. Avoid this by leaning your head forward and then gathering your hair into a ponytail on top of your head. Secure it with a fabric-covered ponytail holder or ribbon. An elastic or rubber band can rip, tear or tangle hair. Sleeping this way also reduces friction with hair rubbing against your pillow case and reduces tangles.
  4. Treat it right in the a.m. Take your hair out of the top knot and shake it out gently. Then spray hair with a lavender spray and gently shuffle hair at the roots. No lavender spray? Do the same with wet fingers or spritz hair with water. Then let hair settle a bit before you take a second look. Apply a dab of leave-in conditioner or cream conditioner to stray curls and gently scrunch. Or you can revive any stretched out curls by wrapping them around your finger and securing them with a clip for a minute or two. Smooth any top-of-the-hair frizz with a bit of alcohol-free, silicone-free gel.

Like most curly girls, I spent years trying to turn my hair into something it was not. This included more than a decade of blow drying and flat ironing followed by six years of submitting my strands to thermal reconditioning. This chemical straightening was a life saver at first, but it wasn’t because my hair looked great. It was actually really flat. It was because it was frizz-free and I could predict exactly how it would look each morning. This was huge because, as curly girls know, our hair has a mind of its own and doesn’t always look the same from one day (or even one hour) to the next.

But once my hair started breaking off and looking fried, I decided I had to toss the blow dryer, flat iron and round brush, steer clear of the chemicals and embrace my hair’s natural texture. I wasn’t excited about what I thought would be a future of frizz, but I feared I’d have little hair left if I kept torturing it.

Then something amazing happened. When I learned how to properly care for my curls and kept the following things in mind, it was easy to learn to love them! Here’s how you can too!

  1. Work with your natural hair, not against it. This is actually pretty simple no matter what type of curls you have. Stop blow drying and flat ironing, using a brush and washing with detergent-filled shampoos. Slather hair with loads of conditioner and don’t rinse it all out. These things alone will turn your curls into something to love! Also, get rid of the idea that blow drying or flat ironing your hair every once in a while is okay. Even one time can cause damage by drying it out which disturbs your curls’ natural shape and causes frizz.
  2. Going curly means life doesn't revolve around your hair. Many curly girls who blow dry and flat iron know that life can revolve around your blow-drying/flat ironing schedule. For example, you can’t break a sweat soon after a blow dry or your hair will frizz and all those efforts will be a waste. This means that you usually work out less often, which may be good for your blow out, but is terrible for your waistline. Going natural avoids this and you'll be able to work out whenever you want, or do whatever you want, when you want to do it.
  3. Lazy beach days are back on the agenda. Fun activities like swimming and beach days are out of the question if you’re straightening your hair, because once you jump into the water or frolic in that beach air, your blow out will be ruined. Going natural means that you can love and embrace your hair's texture, and the fact that it will only increase in the salty wind.
  4. Embracing your hair's natural texture saves time and money. You will save all those hours sweating and straightening in the bathroom and the price of professional blowouts, anywhere from $35 to $200 a pop. You also save money on the endless products to smooth hair. And if you chemically straighten, it can cost at least $300 every two to three months. At a good salon, it’s closer to $600 and up. If you chemically straighten, there’s also the price of deep conditioning products and treatments to soothe your parched, fried strands. Say goodbye to the chemicals and hello to the cash in your wallet.
  5. Going natural also saves stress and energy. It sounds crazy, but most of us curly girls know that when you’re trying to straighten your hair into submission, everything from the weather to how long it takes to blow dry can stress you out. You also spend time worrying about other people “finding you out.” For example, a first date or job interview on a humid or rainy day can send your mood plummeting downward fast!
  6. You feel more like yourself when you let your hair be itself. This may sound sort of cheesy and pseudo-spiritual, or at least that’s what I thought when people told me this before I went curly. I’d roll my eyes and think, “Whatever.” But once I let my hair go back to its natural texture, I realized it was true. I was no longer hiding a natural part of myself, no longer masquerading as someone I was not. Once you go with your natural hair, you’ll see the real you emerge.

Loving your curls is as easy as saying,“sayonara” to your shampoo, at least to shampoos and cleansers that contain sulfates.

“These detergents strip curly hair of its natural oils leaving it dry, frizzy and dull,” says Lorraine Massey, author of "Curly Girl: The Handbook. "This is bad for all hair types, but for curly girls whose strands are naturally drier than others, this is a disaster! Secondly, these detergents ruffle the cuticle of the hair.

“This outer layer contains overlapping scales." adds Massey. "When they lie flat, your hair looks shiny and gorgeous. But when they stand up, the result is frizz and dullness.” Luckily, going shampoo-free isn’t hard; you just need to make a few adjustment for washing curly hair.

  1. Change your products: Toss any shampoo that contains sulfates. Now this doesn’t mean you’re not cleansing your hair, it just means you’ll be doing so with cleansers that are 100% sulfate-free. The other option is to use conditioner to cleanse. Yes, conditioner! Just spread it on the fingertips of both hands in the shower and, when hair is wet, use the following technique.
  2. Change your technique: Another thing that disturbs the cuticle and natural shape of your curls is the technique most people use to wash: scrubbing hair roughly with their fingers. In reality, what really cleanses the hair and the scalp – the area that holds lots of dirt and oil – is friction. All you need to do when using your sulfate-free cleanser or conditioner is gently massage the scalp with your fingers to loosen any dirt and oils then rinse. Friction is how many things get clean – just think of a washing machine.
  3. Change your thinking: One reason traditional shampoos contain sulfates is because sulfates cause shampoo to lather. Though the bubbles don’t actually cleanse the hair, we’re all conditioned to think they do and that more suds equals cleaner hair. That’s just not true. Sulfate-free products and conditioners won’t suds up, but they will get your hair clean. At first, it may be hard to get used to little to no lather, but give it time and see how much your curls improve. You won't regret it.
  4. Change your schedule – but not yet: To start going shampoo-less, use a sulfate-free cleanser or conditioner as often as you’ve been using shampoo. “As you begin to see the health and look of your hair become remarkably different – think more shine, body and less frizz – you may need to cleanse hair less often and can just condition,” says Massey.
  5. Change the world: When you rinse sulfate-filled products from your hair in the shower, they get washed down the drain and into our waterways. This is bad for the environment, so by using sulfate-free products, you are not only saving your curls, but saving the planet too!

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