3 popular methods for defining curls:
- Curly Girl Method
- Tightly Curly Method, and now
- Maximum Hydration Method
This method of curl definition was developed by Lorraine Massey and shared in her book Curly Girl: The Handbook. The basic principle is to eliminate silicones, petroleum products, sulfates and heat. So to eliminate sulfates, shampoos are not used at all. The hair is cleansed using a silicone free conditioner only, such as VO5 Conditioners, Suave Naturals, Jessicurl Too Shea, or Kenra, Tresemme Naturals, etc.
Leave-in conditioners or gels should never contain sulfates, silicones, alcohols, petrolatum, mineral oil and its derivatives. Suggestions include Kinky Curly Knot Today and Giovanni Direct Leave In, etc. Gels include Ecostyler gels, Fantasia IC Hair Polisher, Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper and Kinky Curly Curling Custard.
- This method works because it eliminates products which coat the hair and prevents it from absorbing moisture. With the prevalence of junk petroleum and sulfate ridden products in the Nigerian market, this method helped start me on a healthy hair diet.
- You can still follow your usual regimen, the only thing that really changes is skipping the shampoo step (and avoiding key ingredients).
- No heat means you avoid heat damage.
- The downside to this method was over-conditioning so my hair became mushy and too soft. There was also buildup due to the emollients in the conditioner and the presence of hard water. So I modified it by clarifying with shampoo once a month.
- No heat meant I didn't have the option to straighten my hair, and 'freedom' is the reason I went natural.
Does it work on Nigerian hair?
Yes it does. I noticed my curls weren't as tight as I thought they were and they were popping. I noticed the same in textures different from mine. However finding the CG friendly products was another matter. If your hair is very tightly coiled, it may not improve curl definition but will definitely keep it feeling softer and less stripped.
This method was developed by Teri LaFlesh and is shared in her book Curly Like Me. Her method is similar to the Curly Girl Method in that you use mainly a conditioner. It is different in that,
- you are allowed to use a shampoo, but a sulfate free one. You can cowash if you prefer.
- there's a lot of combing/brushing with loads of conditioner (in CG method, finger detangling is used almost exclusively)
- it isn't necessary to trim your hair (it is in CG) and you can use moderate heat with a diffuser to dry your hair.
- no gel
The technique involves applying loads of conditioner to hair cleansed with a sulfate free shampoo or cowash and combing it through from tips to roots until the hair clumps visibly and the conditioner disappears.
To avoid damage from combing or brushing you need a conditioner that is thick with loads of slip. Teri refers to them as 'combing' conditioners. Recommendations includes Alaffia Coconut and Shea Daily Hydrating Conditioner, Aveeno Nourish and Shine Conditioner, Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk Conditioner, Aussie Moist Conditioner, and Tresemme conditioner.
The recommended brush is the Denman brush. However I have used a shower detangling brush with good results. The point is the brush should have very smooth bristles and be well spaced. It allows the hair to clump beautifully.
Does it work on Nigerian hair?
I'd say it might if your hair has some degree of porosity. If your hair has low porosity, the conditioner will just sit on top of your hair.
Does it define curls?
Yes it does. My type 4b/c hair began to look like type 4a. However if you are in a constant battle with shrinkage, it can shrink your hair tremendously. My almost waist length hair shrunk to a small afro though I had lovely lovely curls.
- Just two products are needed. Your cleanser of choice and a combing conditioner. No gels or even oils are necessary which I like so much.
- The hair curls up nicely, feels soft to the touch and isn't frizzy. No crunchiness like when you use a gel.
- Oh my gosh!!! It takes time! My hand was in my hair for 45mins straight as I kept combing and brushing.
- I don't like being wet for long so I had to comb outside the bathroom which was a bit messy as globs of conditioner were dropping everywhere.
- If you have fine hair like mine, you will dread the comb or the brush. My hair is too fragile to keep brushing. Surprisingly, I had little breakage but did see a lot of shed hairs....probably due to fingerdetangling almost exclusively.
- If your hair is very thick and coily with low porosity, the conditioner may not provide enough hold to keep your coils in place.
- If used on children, I don't think they have the patience for all the combing....not because it hurts but because of the time it takes to comb and separate clumped sections.
It's not my favorite method, but like the CG method, it can fit into your once a month or bi-weekly regimen.
So the new buzz is the Maximum Hydration Method, which claims to define curls in hair with no visible curl pattern and in hair with low porosity (hair that doesn't easily absorb water/moisture and products sit on top of strands). In summary, for 7 days, you consistently infuse moisture into your hair morning and night. For a lot of naturals dreading wash day, this seems like a lot of work. It may or may not be so depending on your hair and your current regimen. So the question on most Nigerian naturals' minds is will it work?
This method was developed by Pinke Cube a member of Black Hair Media. I first got to know about it on CurlyNikki.com and then read a summary on TheKinkandI. We all know how soft and curly our hair is when freshly washed and how it disappears when it is dry right?! Well this method is designed to infuse the hair with so much moisture that it hardly has a dry moment.
For seven consecutive days you clarify and condition in the morning and before bed. It is similar to the CG method because you'll avoid products with sulfates, petroleum derivatives, silicones and drying alcohols. In addition, you also avoid products with emulsified oils, aloe vera gel/juice and glycerine because they dry out some naturals' hair.
The night before, you clarify with baking soda (if you have low porosity hair) or with Apple Cider Vinegar ( if you have high porosity hair). Then you deep condition your hair and apply a shower cap overnight.
In the morning, you rinse out the conditioner, apply a clay treatment such as bentonite or rhassoul clay, wait for 15mins then rinse out. You then apply your leave in conditioner and seal with a gel.
If you shower early in the morning and again in the evening, this shouldn't be tedious unless you come back home dead tired!
Since you detangled the night before with the D.C. you should have less tangles by morning which improves within the 7 days of the regimen.
For a DIY gel from The Kink and I check here.
So will it work for Nigerian hair?
I should think so because the reason our Nigerian natural hair is dry is because we don't moisturize our hair enough. Seriously, I see improvements in texture and softness of clients' hair at the salon when they come regularly for their D.C., clay treatments and pH balancing treatments in addition to using recommended moisture balancing products at home. Assuming these treatments are done daily, I will agree that maximum hydration will be reached faster and once it has been attained, hair care from then on will be easier.
My hair is well hydrated, that is why with little effort, my curls pop. Whenever it gets dry from being in a protective style, I follow a similar regimen with an overnight D.C. and gentle cleansing to get it back on track.
The Maximum Hydration Method is worth a try if it is difficult to keep your hair moisturized.
- You get to use good quality natural hair ingredients with little chemicals in them.
- Your hair is kept in a moisturized state which improves the health of your hair.
- Daily detangling helps remove shed hair and makes the hair easier to manage in the long run.
- The constant daily manipulation may wear out your hair increasing breakage especially for fine, porous hair. Let's not forget hygral fatigue from constant expansion and contraction of the hair fibre.
- It is time consuming. If you are a working mother, this routine can be hard to pull off. MsDeeKay has some suggestions on how to make it easier.
- Products recommended can not only be hard to get but are expensive.
So there you have it! The common curl defining methods in use and their feasibility in Nigeria and on Nigerian natural hair.
The summary of all the methods are:
- use the right pH balanced products for your hair
- moisture, moisture, moisture
- keep those curls together