If there was a gospel for the curly hair care community, it could probably be summed up in one word: moisture. Curly hair is notoriously dry across the curl spectrum, and the problem is exaggerated the tighter and finer curls get. If moisture is the Miss America of curl care, volume is a close runner-up. After all, what’s the fun in having textured hair if you don’t embrace the space it can fill?

Letting my hair be big was really important to my personal hair journey. Another part of my hair journey, however, was understanding how much curly hair could vary in terms of strand thickness, and how much that affected volume. My strands are very fine, weak, and easily-weighed down. I also just don’t have very much hair: it’s “low-density,” in which there aren’t that many strands packed in per square inch. To get healthy, moisturized hair, it’s a lot harder for me to get the big, fluffy, statement hair I like.

Fortunately, my curl education has introduced me to several techniques and products that help me balance moisture and volume.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Neie

I wash my hair 3-4 times a week

I know, I know…so many of you probably read that sentence and cringed: “If you want moisture, why would you wash your hair so often?!” For me, this is where the balance between moisture and volume comes in. I have a very oily scalp, but since I can’t easily distribute the oils throughout my hair via brushing (classic curly problem) it collects on the roots of my hair, weighing down my locks and flattening my curls to my head.  Since my hair is unbelievably fine and not very dense, using dry shampoo or other volumizing products can be pretty damaging.

To prevent stripping my hair shaft of oils, I only use shampoo every other wash, and when I do shampoo I used a very gentle formula: my current favorite is the Cantu Sulfate Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo. I follow up with a lightweight cleansing conditioner, like the RenPure Cleansing Conditioners (the rosemary scent is my everything) or Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Cleansing Conditioner. I only wash out about 90-95% of the product, leaving the rest in as a substitute for a leave-in.

Washing this often is definitely not going to work for a lot of curlies, but if you find your scalp getting really oily (and smelly!) or are unhappy with how weighed down your roots get, fine haired curlies may want to consider adding an extra wash day or two to your weekly routine. 

I stick to one (maybe two) lightweight products at a time

My hair is wimpy. If I load more than one product on at a time, it collapses under what it perceives to be an unfair burden and sulks around my ears in an unflattering triangle shape. Heavy creams and oils don’t work for my hair type at all.  It’s really hard to find one product that can provide the moisture, definition, and hold my fine strands need, and it’s a continuous process of trial-and-error.

If you consider my leftover conditioner from washing product #1, my second product step is a thick, milky gel like Miss Jessie’s Jelly Soft Curls or the Curls Goddess Curls botanical gel. Creams, custards, and oils weigh my fine hair down too much and make my hair look oily, but the drugstore gels of my youth create that lovely crunchy texture that still haunts my dreams to this day. I’ve found that alcohol-free gels with a heavier consistency and a stickier texture give me a little bit of moisture, a good amount of definition, and plenty of flexibility to fluff and frizz my hair out to my heart’s content.

Before & After Palm Teasing

I palm-tease my roots and embrace frizz

With hair as fine as mine, frizz is an essential part of my volume equation. No matter how hard I try, my particular combination of curl factors makes it impossible for me to get a cute, voluminous shape and retain definition. 

While I am perfectly happy to embrace frizz, I mitigate some of the definition loss by palm-teasing my roots, a technique I learned from my hairstylist. Palm-teasing starts off like the “rake and shake” method, but instead of moving my palms and fingers down my hair, I keep my hands lightly against my scalp and move them in small, gentle circles. It gives my hair a lift without damaging the shaft or disrupting the majority of my curls, and it’s easy to touch up throughout the day as my hair gets weighed down.

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