Routine, routine, routine! Wash, detangle, style, dry and repeat! It sounds like a lot of hard work for curly hair, hours upon hours indeed!
How many minutes did you spend brushing your teeth, having a shower, walking the dog or even putting away dishes this week?
You probably don't know, because they are just little healthy actions that form part of a daily or weekly routine. In the same way, promoting the health of your curls can happen once you establish a routine that works for your hair. Establishing the exact routine that works for you will take some time, but after some persistence, you won't even notice the small things you will be doing to maintain the health of your curls.
It took me about six months to learn and adapt different techniques to find the exact routine that works best for my 3A/B curly hair. As seasons and circumstances change, so does the routine ever-so-slightly. Initially, I would need to wash my hair every second or third day, but now I only need to wash and style my curls once or twice weekly. My curls are coarse and low to normal porosity. The routine I'm going to share here is quite simple and easy to practice - it works for any porosity as well. Let's go straight into what the week looks like for my curls!
It's wash day, finally!
I pour the product onto the tips of my fingers after fully wetting my hair and massage my scalp for about 4-5 minutes - this is essential for a clean scalp. Then, I proceed to detangle my curls with the No Poo as well. I apply a generous amount to my lengths and add more water to my hair - this creates good slip, which reduces friction. I finger detangle my curls in sections, working in a downward motion, starting from the ends, all the way to the roots.
Finally, I rinse all the No Poo off, remove the excess of water and apply a generous amount of deep conditioner to my curls, working in sections.
Once my hair is saturated with deep conditioner, I cover my head with a plastic cap and use my warm Hot Head thermal cap on top. I allow my hair to soak in all the moisture with gentle heat for 30-40 minutes.
Styling & Drying Techniques
After rinsing all the deep conditioner from my hair, I begin the product application process in the shower, with the help of a shower mirror.
The majority of the time I use 3 products for this:
- a primer,
- a leave-in cream/conditioner or styling cream
- a custard/gel
Step 1. I soak my hair in water by flipping my head forward and quickly allowing the water from the shower to run through my curls like a waterfall, one last time. The curls are dripping wet at this point. Why do I do this? To enable better hydration. Water is hydration and the products will seal the water into my curls. Curls need to drink and by doing this, I am giving them what they need.
Step 2. With my head flipped over, I apply a thin layer of a primer - my go-to primer is Devacurl B'Leave-in. Once I apply this product using the "praying hands" method, the curls stop dripping immediately because the water has been sealed in.
Step 3. I apply a layer of either leave-in cream or styling cream to my curls with the "praying hands" method. I never use both leave-in and styling cream, because this would be too much product for me. After applying the cream to my hair with praying hands, I gently rake my hair once to ensure even distribution - if I notice that I don't have enough slip (a "seaweed" feeling) in a specific section, I add more cream. The secret with raking for me is that I only rake the product once and no more. Too much raking will break up the curls and they will become limp once dry. Once all my sections feel like seaweed, I move on to the next step.
Step 4. With the "praying hands" method, I apply a generous layer of gel or custard - I tend to use gels in Spring-Summer and custards in Autumn-Winter. At this point, there is no more raking. I simply use the "scrunch and pump" method, with my head flipped forward, for extra volume. Scrunch and pump is a beautiful technique for natural curl formation because it doesn't manipulate the curls to try and make them behave in a certain way. It simply activates them, rather quickly. I scrunch each section and pump them several times while hearing a very wet, squishy sound. The pumping motion helps to disperse all the water and product further into the hair while activating natural ringlets.
Step 5. I do a "wet plop". Wet plopping is very practical to avoid frizz. I learned about it from hif3licia on Youtube. It simply means to plop with a plastic cap rather than a shirt. Wet plopping has been a game changer for me. It allows all the product to soak into the hair while I'm getting ready to dry my hair.
Step 6. I remove my hair from the cap and use a hooded dryer to dry my curls with a temperature of 125°F/52°C. My hair takes about 8 hours to air dry and becomes weighed down with all the waiting, so a hooded dryer is a necessity for me. The hooded dryer dries my curls in 1 hour or slightly less - the wonder of a hooded dryer is the fact that you can control the temperature. The temperature mentioned above is considered safe for frequent use. It is the equivalent of the lowest heat setting in your handheld dryer with a diffuser. If I have a special event in the making, I usually diffuse until 70% dry for extra volume and definition, then I finish drying my roots under the hooded dryer.
Step 7. I scrunch out the crunch. I like to use custards and gels that create a crunchy cast on my curls while they are drying for extra protection against frizz. Once my hair is 100% dry, I scrunch out the crunch using the same "scrunch and pump" method I described in step 4. I rub some conditioner on my hands and then scrunch and pump until the curls are soft and ready to go. To me, this resembles the exciting moment of opening a box full of flowers, because once you scrunch out the crunch, you get to see the amazing outcome of all the hard work you've applied to make it happen.
Results with the hooded dryer.
Results with the diffuser.
Preserving Curls Overnight
To preserve my curls overnight, I do something very unique. After much disappointment with the pineapple, clipping or even a silk cap on its own, I decided to create my own giant silk cap to allow my curls to be preserved after wash day, while they are growing.
I decided to sew a silk cap and a silk pillowcase together to create space for my curls overnight while avoiding frizz. Besides this, I also use a silk pillowcase on my pillow to avoid friction.
This method allows my curls to last 3 to 4 days, completely untouched. It is the only method that works for me. You can watch how I preserve my curls overnight here:
Middle of The Week
In the middle of the week (usually Wednesdays), you will either see me washing my curls or refreshing. Most of the time I prefer to wash again because I feel the need to properly detangle some knots and avoid shedding accumulation. When I wash midweek, I don't deep condition. I follow all the steps I described above, replacing the deep conditioner with a normal conditioner.
If I decide to refresh, Kinky-Curly Spiral Spritz is the only product that works for me, together with whatever gel I'm using at the time.
I simply wet my hair at 50% level, squishing the water through my length, and then apply a generous amount of the Spritz, followed by a layer of gel. I use the "praying hands" method for this. Whether washed or refreshed, my curls usually last another 3 days untouched and the next time I wash after this is usually on the weekend, once again.
You can watch how I refresh my curls with beautiful results here:
My Top 3 Tips for Curly Hair
Throughout this journey I have learned many things about curls and based on them, these are my top 3 tips for curly hair:
- Avoid high heat. A heat temperature that is above 149°F/65°C is considered dangerous for hair fibers. A safe temperature for curls is the equivalent of a hair dryer with a diffuser on low heat.
- Detangle your curls with your fingers. This is always better and gentler than using a comb. Use a lot of water with conditioner and work your way up in a downward motion, starting from the ends.
- Set time aside weekly to deep condition. Deep conditioners have ingredients that allow deeper penetration for repair. Setting time aside to deep condition your curls at least once weekly is highly important.
Establishing a healthy routine in life is essential for healthy living. This is also applicable to the way we care for our hair. Curls are like flowers. Feed them right and use the right techniques with persistence, and you will see them flourish.
Do you have an established routine for your curls? Let me know in the comments below.