Back in the ‘80s, many curlies sported a crispy, crunchy-looking halo of rock-hard shiny curls achieved from their gel or mousse. Fear of this crunchy perm look is why many people have been scared off wearing their curls naturally since! However, this ‘cast’, as it’s been termed, is what can help to create smooth, glossy curl clumps, once you have removed it. This step in a curly girl’s repertoire is often the break-through moment – you know, that moment when you realise you’ve been doing it wrong all along!
So, how do you remove this crunchy cast? Well, that’s where the process of ‘scrunching out the crunch’ or SOTC comes in.
How to Achieve a Cast
A solid cast is achieved through applying styling products onto wet or damp hair. Different products can create different strength casts, but strong-hold gels and mousses are usually the best way to create a cast. Allowing the hair to dry fully (either through diffusing or air drying) without touching it too much (tempting I know!) allows the product to form a hard, crystalline surface around the hair. This encourages the cuticle to lie flat which in turn creates that smooth coveted shine. However, you don’t want to walk round with rock-hard curls looking like you’ve just jumped straight out of an ‘80s Bon Jovi MTV video! This is where the ‘scrunch’ comes in.
How to Scrunch out the Crunch
Step 1: Ensure hair is completely dry
Test this by holding a clump between two fingers and squeezing gently, feeling for any dampness.
Step 2: Scrunch
Gently cup curl clumps in sections and scrunch your curls upwards. Some people do this quite vigorously to gain volume and lift the root, but you may wish to do this gently to begin with to see how much definition you can achieve.
Step 3: Crunch
Keep cupping and scrunching until all the ‘crunch’ has gone and your curls are soft and bouncy. Don’t forget the back! Some people flip their hair from side to side or upside down to ensure full coverage.
Different Ways to SOTC
You can simply do this with the cheapest option – your bare hands! However, some curlies like the added protection and luxury of scrunching with a silk scarf. Drape the scarf across your palms and scrunch in the same way as above.
Another option is to use a hair oil. Rub a couple of drops of oil between your palms before scrunching. The oil helps to break up the cast and adds extra shine.
Some people prefer to mix up their method of removing the crunch; for example, you could try ‘smoothing out the crunch’ which is where you gently smooth the curl downwards between two fingers, thus smoothing out the cast. This helps to reduce the chances of getting frizz which can happen with over-vigorous crunching! Or you could ‘clap out the crunch’ on more stubborn casts where you clap the lengths of your hair between flat palms.
You may want to incorporate a pick at the end to add extra volume to the roots. @actuallyalicia.curls, pictured above, said on her Instagram that "once your hair is fully dry use your hands and scrunch the hair until the hard ‘cast’ is gone and your curls feel soft again. To fluff I like to give my hair a shake from the roots, or pick it with a hair pick or comb. I also like to massage my scalp to add more root volume."
What If I Don’t Achieve a Cast?
Don’t fret too much; you can still achieve beautifully smooth and glossy curls without one. Next time you wash, try applying different layers and combinations of products or try a strong-hold styler as your final layer. Once you get used to recognising whether you have a cast forming or not, you can try the #smasters technique which is where you apply another layer of gel/mousse when your hair is 80% dry. This can help a cast to form before you finish drying fully.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get scrunching!
This article has been updated.