Celebrity actress loves the versatility of having natural hair

Keshia Knight Pulliam, aka Rudy Huxtable of the groundbreaking sitcom "The Cosby Show," is On The Couch! Save for the poofy twists and braids she rocked in the ‘80s, I’ve only seen her in straight styles, and naturally assumed she was relaxed. She dished on her favorite products, her straightening routine, and how she came to accept her curls.

Keshia Knight Pulliam

Keshia Knight Pulliam

CN: Word on the street is that you're natural. Is this true?

KKP: I am natural and have been my entire life, except for a short time in college, when I experimented with a perm. I have always had lots of long, thick hair. Everyone remembers me from "The Cosby Show," with my big puffy braids. Sometimes I look back and think, "y’all did me so dirty…you didn’t even blow dry my hair right… just slapped it back!" [Laughter] It was funny because I had never embraced the fact that my hair was very, very curly. Whenever they’d style it on set, they’d brush through it and pull it back. And every one knows if your goal is to keep your curls, you never ever brush or comb through them! Frizz city. That’s why my hair was always so big.

It was like a whole new world for me the first time I got my hair really straight. I think I was 13 years old and had never been introduced to the pressing comb. I loved it. At that time, I didn’t like wearing my hair curly. I grew up in the ‘80s when the Jheri Curl was king. So I would get teased a lot because my hair was ringlety curly and really dark, jet black. Even now, on "The House of Payne" [a TV show on TBS], Lance will tease me when I’m washing my hair, saying, "uh oh, Jheri Curl in full effect!" So I had this whole complex around that and never wanted to wear my naturally curly texture.

But as I got older and went to college, things changed. There is nothing like that Atlanta heat! My freshmen year at Spelman, I lived in Apex and we didn’t have any AC. I would straighten my hair and wake up the next morning to a sweated-out mess.

I can totally relate. It was the NC heat and humidity that helped me put down the flat iron. It’ll force you to embrace your curls!

Yes! It’ll force you to love your natural look. So, I started wearing my curls because I was just tired of fighting. So even now, when I’m not working, and I’m at home, my hair is curly 90% of the time. And there has definitely been a learning curve. I’ve had to take the time to try different products and styles. Every girl who wears her hair natural knows that it is truly trial and error. Trying different things, different products… should I blot dry now? Should I comb through the conditioner in the shower?… Should I style it dry?… You have to figure out what works best for your hair and stick with it.

What are your curly hairstyle staples?

My curly hairstyles. It’s funny though because I usually don’t wear it out and curly—my favorite style is a free-formed bun. I wear it like that a lot. Or, I’ll put a headband scarf on to hold back my edges and wear it out from there. I don’t like to wash it every day, and maintaining moisture is very important, so I’ll usually wear it out the first day, and then pull it up into a funny little bun the next few days. Then I’ll wash it again. I usually find that when I deep condition (and put on a cap), the curls have more elasticity and remain defined longer.

Do you ever wear twist-outs or braid-outs?

No, I don’t, because that’s more work. Isn’t that horrible?! Plus, my curl is defined without having to twist. I’m fine with it. I just wash, towel dry, apply some leave-in and keep it moving.

What products are you using?

Pantene makes my favorite shampoo and conditioner. They work really well with my hair—I just pick up whatever bottles of Pantene are on sale at Tarjay. No real preference. I also like Kim Kimble's products. She has a Deep Conditioning Honey Oatmeal Shampoo and Conditioner. Love, love that line. I’ll leave a little Pantene conditioner on and I’ll put the Honey Oatmeal Conditioner on top of that, and sit under my heat cap for like 30 minutes and watch TV or get on the computer. Then I’ll rinse it out and apply a little bit of KMS' Bounce Back . . . it works really well. I have sensitive skin and have to avoid the greasy or heavy products, or my face will break out. I like Bounce Back because it’s light and it holds the curl without making it hard or crunchy. Sometimes I’ll add a little bit of JAM to smooth my edges… that’s old school.