It’s true: Wavy hair isn’t the same as curly hair. Of course, we wavies do still have every right to say we’re wearing our hair in its ‘natural’ state–so don’t stop visiting this website for all kinds of great info about your gorgeous waves! But because of the nature of our loose curls, aka waves, we have a separate set of needs from our curly sisters which can lead to a range of wavy hair mistakes you don’t know you are making.

I personally believe the reason behind these differences mostly has to do with how easily the natural oil from our scalp is able to travel the lengths of our strands. For waves, having fewer loops in the way makes it much easier for that oil, also known as sebum, to naturally moisturize our hair from root to tip. So when we read a fantastic book like The Curly Girl Method, written by someone with type 3 curls who are telling us we don’t need shampoo, we think maybe we should give up shampoo altogether, too. But what if that’s a mistake for us wavy girls? What other mistakes could we be making we haven’t even considered?

If your hair is acting ‘off’, or you’re consistently unhappy with your wavy locks, maybe you, too, have been making one or more of the wavy hair mistakes often see my friends making.

1. The Mistake: Washing With The Wrong Product

Unless your hair and scalp are exceedingly dry, in my experience, wavies really benefit much more from a consistent cycle of co-washing and using a sulfate-free shampoo, otherwise known as a low-poo.

The solution:

Co-wash some of the time. It’s a great way to preserve moisture, but you may experience buildup over time as your sebum plus the ingredients of your co-wash add up. I personally benefit the most from a consistent washday rotation/schedule of:

  1. co-wash
  2. co-wash
  3. low-poo
  4. co-wash
  5. co-wash
  6. low-poo

And I usually wash every 2-3 days.

The only thing that interrupts my washday rotation is the need to clarify; we’ll talk about this next!, as there are some Curly Girl (CG”>-friendly ingredients that even a low-poo can’t easily remove (e.g. behentrimonium methosulfate, polyquaterniums, castor oil, etc.

My favorite co-wash:

  • It continues to be the As I Am Coconut Cowash, as I find it to be more cleansing than using a thin conditioner, but less stripping than a sulfate-free shampoo.
5 Mistakes Wavies Make When Starting The Curly Girl Method
This is a buildup of frizz in my hair from not clarifying.

2. The Mistake: Not Clarifying

This is probably the number one mistake I see wavies new to CG making when they reach out to me via Instagram or Facebook, seeking help. The good news is that it’s a really quick fix! As I mentioned above, the buildup is inevitable, even for those following Lorraine Massey’s The Curly Girl Method, closely or loosely.

The solution:

Get the gunk off! I keep a reminder on my calendar to clarify every three weeks. And should I decide to skip clarifying once or twice on my regular schedule, I’ve almost always made the wrong decision. How do I know? When I’m faced with buildup frizz. Frizz has SO many causes, and buildup is absolutely one of them. I also get immediate buildup frizz when styling with heavy oils and butter-based products…but back to clarify. Just as important as staying on a regular schedule of clarifying (which should always be followed up by a deep condition, but more on that, next is also choosing the right clarifying shampoo.

For me, a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo isn’t going to cut it. It takes specific surfactants (e.g. sodium laureth sulfate (SLS or sodium c14-c16 olefin sulfonate) to remove certain ingredients that cling tightly to our hair–and those surfactants should be at the top of the ingredients list. If they’re listed near the middle to end of the list on your bottle of shampoo, the likelihood is that it won’t be strong enough to remove those poly quats or conditioning agents. I have some wavy-curly friends that choose to rotate their clarifying sessions between stronger and weaker clarifying shampoos (i.e. Kinky Curly Come Clean,) but I prefer to play it consistently and use the same one every time.

My favorite clarifiers are:

5 Mistakes Wavies Make When Starting The Curly Girl Method

3. The Wavy Hair Mistake: Skipping Deep Conditioning Sessions

While we wavies may not need as frequent or intense deep conditioning as our curly-headed friends, regular deep conditioning will lend our hair greater softness, bounce, manageability, and curl retention.

The solution:

Weekly or bi-weekly treatments are essential for ‘feeding’ our waves. The most important components of deep conditioning are TIME and QUALITY. And it doesn’t have to be expensive! In lieu of a labeled ‘deep conditioner’, combine a scoop of your favorite conditioner with 1 tbsp each of honey, and your favorite oil Olive oil is my favorite to make any conditioner more intense. Slather it on freshly washed, wet hair, leave it for 30 minutes, then rinse completely before styling as usual.

Says Wendy, scientist and author behind The Science-y Hairblog, in a two-part post on deep conditioning: “When lipids oily ingredients are present in a conditioner formula or when you add them, you get even more conditioning goodness adhering to your hair–more cationic conditioning and more softness and flexibility from the lipid…for an even better end result.” In part 2, she adds: “Leaving a cationic conditioning ingredient or protein treatment on longer can lead to greater adherence adsorption of conditioning ingredients on your hair. 30 minutes of deep conditioning can give you twice as much conditioning for your hair ingredients as 5 minutes can.”

I totally skimped on the time aspect for months. Because who wants to get wet again after being out of the shower for 30 minutes?? My hack: Once I got my hands on a handheld showerhead, deep conditioning became less of a chore. I was able to apply my deep conditioner in the shower, put on my shower cap, dry off, and get dressed. Once my 30 minutes was up, I just leaned my head back into the shower and used my handheld showerhead to rinse it all out, then style as usual.

My favorite deep conditioners are:

4. The Wavy Hair Mistake: Raking In Your Styling Products

Wavy hair, in my experience, doesn’t naturally clump the same way curly hair does. I’m not saying curly girls have it easy! But if a Denman brush could whip my wavy clumps into shape as it does for my curly friends, I’d feel like I won the lottery. Instead, it leaves me with stringy, 80’s perm-looking hair.

The solution:

Waves require different techniques. First, I start with the super soaker method, then squish to condish to lay a great foundation for juicy curl clumps. Lots of water is key. For product application, my go-to is smooth and scrunch. I emulsify every product between my hands, smooth it over in just a few sections, and then squish/scrunch on dripping-wet hair until I can no longer feel the product in my hair. Praying hands is another excellent technique to ensure your ends are covered with the product without raking it through, but I’m always careful to not stretch my waves too much, as my goal is enhancement rather than elongation.

My favorite way to apply products:

  • In spring and summer, I follow the LCEG product layering method: leave-in, cream, enhancer, gel
  • In fall and winter, I follow the LEG method: leave-in, enhancer, gel
wavy hair mistakes

5. The Mistake: Expecting Hold From The Wrong Products

You’ve just styled your hair. All the products, the squish to condish, the plopping, clipping roots, maybe diffusing… If you’re doing all that, the last thing you want to see is your type 2 waves drooping by day’s end. So why are you relying on a cream to hold your style?

The solution:

Use gel. I remember almost laughing when I read that in The Curly Girl Method handbook. Gel? That blue L.A. Looks like stuff my brother used in high school. On my wet hair??? Turns out, she was right. Using products that lend the right amount of hold for both your individual hair’s needs and the ‘look’ you prefer, hard vs. medium vs. light hold will make all the difference in how your style holds up throughout the day, and can even catapult your washday hair into multiple days. That said, not all gels are created equal, so you’ll need to do a fair amount of experimenting to find one that lends hold without weighing down your wavy locks. But–knowing what I know now, I would never cap my wash day product lineup with a leave-in, cream, or custard if my goal was the see my waves hold up for a full day or more. That’s the job of a gel, and–in my mind–nothing can replace it. I’m a total gel connoisseur.

My all-time favorite gels include:

What wavy hair mistakes did you make when you first embarked on your journey? Sharing is caring!

Alyson Lupo

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Alyson, otherwise known as real life+curly girl, struggled mightily at the beginning of her own wavy-curly journey. In her never ending battle against frizz, she found her groove after researching enough ingredients to finally understand how product formulations, plus the factor of humidity, consistently affected her hair. She currently fuels her passion for helping others embrace their waves and curls via her social channels, but dreams of a day when she can offer hands-on help to her wavy curl-friends. You can find her on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and on her personal blog.

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