Frizzy hair is the curly girl's arch nemesis and you need to arm yourself with tools for battle. But first, you have to figure out what's causing the fight. Here's a guide to the undercover causes of frizzy hair, and how you can fight back.
1. You avoid styling products
If you refuse to try any products at all, it's nearly impossible to avoid frizz. You don't have to crowd your vanity with stylers, but it's critical to test products that are appropriate for your curl type.
"A lot of people equate using any product in their hair as it being a high-maintenance hairstyle," Ethan Shaw, a curl-centric stylist with James Allan Salon in Austin, Texas. "The challenge is to convince them they need to change their attitude about all of that."
Shaw suggests you decide what you want your hair to look like, and then work with your stylist to set goals to get there one step at a time. It may mean cutting off hair that's damaged, finding the right styling produucts, or changing your cleansing and conditioning routine.
2. You're using the wrong products
Curlies are often product junkies. You hear about a product that is working for someone else, so you unwittingly buy it without really considering if it's the right product for your curl type. And if the product is not a perfect fit, the result once again can be annoying frizz.
Frazzled curls can also come from buying the cheapest (read: wrong) products just to pinch pennies. "With the economy the way it is, I'm finding out that a lot of my clients have been going to different cheaper shampoos that are more drying," says Teri Parr, a curly stylist at The Strand at Pinecrest, a salon in Miami, Fla.
Parr suggests thinking hard about how the challenging economy is affecting you. "I ask about what they're cutting back on," she says. "Everyone is trying to cut back on something and the first thing is the shampoo and conditioner."
Ask your stylist about the curl-crushing effects of cheap products, then what products they can suggest that won't bust your budget. If you're using your best friend's latest, greatest find, make sure it's the greatest for your curl type.
3. You don't apply products correctly
If you are using all the right products, but still find yourself buried in frizz, you may simply not be using them the right way.
"I try to guide my clients step by step through the styling process and simplify it as much as possible," Shaw says. "So much of the style is about the application."
"A visual aid is best," says Giselle Grant, a curl-centric stylist at Curltopia in New Smyrna, Ga.
Show your stylist how you style your hair from start to finish, so he or she can figure out what you're doing wrong and show you the right way to style your curls.
4. You're not using enough product
When you are using the right products and applying them the right way, the problem could lie in the amount you're using. Chances are, it's not enough. This problem is more likely to surface in curlies with a longer, thicker mane, which requires more than the standard dollop of product.
Ask your stylist to show you rather than tell you how to correctly apply products.
"I'll show them in front of the mirror, what one side looks like without enough product and what the other side looks like with the adequate amount, which is a completely different look," Grant says. "Showing them what a balance should look like, generally will eliminate the problem."
5. You skip over maintenance
You may be doing all the right things during the day, but still miss one of the most important steps while you're sleeping. Frizzy mornings are common if you don’t manage your mane in the overnight hours, especially for kinkier textures.
"Sleeping with silk or satin helps to maintain the moisture in the hair. Cotton and other materials dry it out which adds to frizz," Grant says. "The kinkier the texture, it's best at night sometimes to twist or braid it, so they can control it while they sleep."
Applying a leave-in conditioner at night also helps, and remember to do it consistently if you really want to notice a difference.
6. You have a drying dilemma
Curls and kinks can quickly become frazzled into frizz in the drying phase of the styling process. While using a diffuser can add a much-needed boost to looser curls, a hooded dryer is often the best option for kinkier curl types.
“If it’s a really tight curl and kinky texture, I suggest a hooded dryer because heat flows down and it doesn’t disturb the curl as much as a blow dryer or diffuser,” Grant says. If you don't have a hooded dryer at home, Grant recommends braiding or twisting the textured tresses, and letting them air dry.
"If time is an issue and I have to diffuse in the salon, I only diffuse to a certain point and let them air dry the rest of the way," says Grant, again referring to Type-4 textures. "But since the client doesn't know when that point is, I encourage them not to diffuse at home because it will be frizzy eight out of ten times."
7. You overdo the flat iron
There’s no mistaking the burnt, frayed ends or the wilted, weak curls. They reveal a truth that you are trying to cover up, even if you don't realize it.
"A lot of times it damages the curl to the point where it's not going to curl up nicely and it comes up as frizz," Shaw says.
Avoid using a flat iron. But if you must, at least don't crank it up to the hottest setting. “I tell them they have to be careful,” adds Parr, who works in Miami, a city blanketed in heat and humidity. “I say, ‘I understand you want to change up your look once in a while, but during summertime in Miami? Not a good idea.’”
8. You overdo it on color
If you try to get by with multiple color processes and expect to hide the drying effects from your stylist, think again. A savvy stylist will see the damage, so it's best to be upfront about your hair habits — good or bad.
"You have those who say they don't color their hair, and then I see the root," Parr says. "If you call them on it, in more of a joking manner, they'll usually end up opening up to you and telling you more stuff than you really wanted to know."
Don't color your hair on your own, and expect your stylist to create a miracle to fix it. Always consult with a professional before considering color or highlights. “It’s hard to tell a woman, ‘You can’t color your hair,’” says Stanley of New York’s Christoper Stanley Salon. “But I will never sacrifice hair texture for a beautiful color.”
Instead, Stanley suggests a demi-permanent color. “You won’t get 100% gray coverage, but it won’t be as damaging.” And if you're set on using permanent color, choose between a single-process or highlights—not both.
"It's tough for the curly hair client because she might be covering gray with a darker color, but also wants to brighten it up with highlights. I just say no," Stanley says. "I'm not going to have someone walking around with an amazing color on ratty-looking hair."