Image: Wavy rëzo haircut by @sahrita23
"Hi, I have been trying recently to get more definition and my hair just won’t clump. There are still loose strands that won’t form large strands."
-- CurlTalker Akitacakes
Many curlies, including seasoned adherents to the Curly Girl Method, can find clumping to be a challenge. It sounds simple enough-- water, moisturizer, styler, and method—but certain variables can make or break your clumps. If you are not getting the results you desire, consider the following.
Specifically, do you have a lot of shorter layers within the cut that prevent your hair from spiraling together? When you have a looser curl pattern, some hairdressers tend to want to snip certain curls to make them spring up or cut in some high layers for body. The result is many individual curls that do their own thing.
After you have applied your styler, twist together longer and shorter pieces of hair using the Skip Curl Method, or massage product into 2-3 individual curls, and then smooth them together to form larger curl clumps.
Our curl friend, Alyson, shares her exptertise on the top 5 mistakes you're making and a few of her holy grails that help her waves clump, watch it below.
Perhaps the most confusing aspect of caring for wavy hair is figuring out what your hair needs to be its healthiest and look its best. In addition to the silicones, sulfates and parabens that we regularly avoid, some of us have a negative reaction to ingredients such as protein and glycerin. Interestingly, two wavies with the same hair type could have completely different results with the same product. There are several reasons for this such as hair porosity, density and the amount of moisture in the air.
If you aren’t loving the results you get from any product, don’t be afraid to switch things up. Trial-size products are a great way to sample new items before you buy full sized-bottles or containers, as is having your stylist try the salon’s product offerings on your freshly cut mane. Our online store frequently offers deals and promotions on curly community favorites and allows you to filter out ingredients that you don’t want.
Use these tips to help you find the right products for your hair.
- If your hair feels hard or dry when you use protein-heavy products, you may be protein-sensitive. This doesn’t mean that you will need to nix protein entirely, but you will need to use it less frequently (no more than once or twice a month).
- If your hair is parched or frizzy in very dry or very humid weather, glycerin may not be for you.
- If your hair looks weighed down, dry, and lackluster, your products may be too heavy for your hair or be causing build-up.
How Wet Your Hair is When You Apply your Leave-in and Styler
If your hair is not fully saturated with water when you apply your products, they will be unevenly distributed so that some sections of hair will curl, and others will fall flat, not clump, or frizz.
Always apply your products in the shower when your hair is soaking wet. This will enable you to efficiently distribute product to all the strands of your hair to form a good cast. Starting out this way will lead to less frizz later.
The Moisture Balance in Your Hair
If your hair is too dry, weighed down from product build-up, or even too clean it may not clump the way you want it to.
Determine the moisture balance in your hair, and then do one of the following.
- If your hair is dry all over, use a moisturizing conditioner or hair masque, and massage it into the ends of your hair. Allow it to sit on your hair for several minutes. Rinse, and then apply a moisturizing leave-in.
- If your hair is weighed down from product build-up, it will look any combination of the following: dry, frizzy, stringy, lifeless, flat, or unruly. Avoid product build-up by using a clarifying shampoo at least once a month.
- If your hair is super bouncy from the middle of the hair downwards, but your roots won’t clump correctly, apply your leave-in to all your hair, including the roots. If this does not work, you may need to wash it less frequently or switch off between washing with shampoo and co-washing.
Where You Apply Product
Many wavies are reluctant to apply products all over the head, fearing that their hair will be limp or flat at the scalp. To hold a clump, you need a cast from roots to ends.
Flip your head upside down and apply conditioner in sections. Detangle, and then rinse your curls in your preferred manor (e.g., squish to condish). With your head still turned upside down, apply your leave-in. Massage it into the ends of your hair.
This is a tricky one because every wavie has their own favorite method. Some of us prefer fingers to detangle and distribute product, others like a Denman brush or a comb. Many wavies start scrunching in the shower, others use a microfiber towel to scrunch with. And don’t get me started on plopping… Despite all these variances, in the curl clumping game, technique is key.
After you have applied your leave-in, and with your head flipped upside down do the following:
- Apply your styler in sections, and smoothing and scruncging with your fingers.
- Flip your head back over, and then create a part using your fingers. Arrange your hair as you would normally wear it.
- Using the squish to condish method or praying hands method, press 2-3 waves together to form larger clumps. Do this throughout your head, and then shingle all the clumps. Do not disturb the clumps for a few moments as you finish your shower. You will see product on your hair, which is good.
- Using a microfiber towel, cup each curl clump, and squeeze it up toward the scalp to remove any excess water. You can then root clip and air dry or diffuse your hair.
Whether or Not it is Time for a Trim
If you have dry, straggly ends that won’t accept moisture, chances are it is time to book an appointment at your favorite salon.
Ask your stylist to dust your ends. This will remove dry ends while allowing you to keep your length (as longer hair clumps more readily than shorter, layered hair).
What do you do to get your waves to clump? Let us know in the comments. For the 6 best gels to perfect those clumps, click here.