Updated 8/4/13: This post lists key items to help you maintain your natural hair. Please note that there’s an eBook with the same title, A Curly Girl’s Essentials: A Guide for Navigating Your Curly Mane, that is now available for FREE when you sign up for My Curly Mane’s updates! The eBook includes basic information (including the list below) that will help you attain healthy hair. Subscribe and see!
Back to the deets: The net is bubbling up with information on caring for naturally curly hair. Woo hoo! While there are more resources at our fingertips, it also makes it a bit more difficult to find simple, basic information on how to care for natural hair. I don’t want to confuse you even more, particularly you newbies out there.
Instead, I’m going to break down for you a few essential items that every curly girl needs in her stash. For my easy, breezy minimalist gals, this one’s up your alley! The products for natural hair and tools below are listed in the order in which they’re most likely used.
1. Moisturizing & Clarifying Shampoo / Sulfate Free Shampoo
If you are using products (mainly stylers) that contain mineral oil or non-water soluble silicones, you will need to use a shampoo to clarify your curly mane. Mineral oil and silicones can trap moisture within your strands or prevent it from entering your hair shaft. They tend to build up onto your hair, particularly African-American natural hair, and are best removed with shampoos.
Typically, shampoos contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a detergent that creates a foamy lather and strips hair of its natural oils. Frequent shampooing dries out our curly manes, making them susceptible to breakage. Unless your hair is naturally oily, please shampoo minimally. Your best bet is to purchase a shampoo that is also moisturizing.
If you’re following Lorraine Massey’s Curly Girl Method (Curly Girl: The Handbook) aka the noo poo (no shampoo)/co-washing (conditioner washing) method, there may be times in which your curly natural hair is over moisturized. Yep, would you believe that one? Hair that is holding too much moisture will be limp. If you fall under this category, use a sulfate free shampoo to clarify and help wake up your strands. Just an aside, a protein treatment may help as well.
2. Moisturizing Conditioner
This is a must, especially if you use shampoo. Conditioners help to restore the moisture that shampoos take away. Not to mention, they add necessary slip for detangling tresses. In addition, conditioners can be left in your hair as a styler. This is known as Teri LaFlesh’s Tightly Curly Method. While I haven’t had success with this method, it may prove positive for you.
Recommendation: Herbal Essence’s Hello Hydration
Another must have! Leave-ins are crucial to many, if not most, curly girls. When used under your styler and sealed with oil (unless your styler contains enough oils), leave-ins keep curly hair moisturized. It also adds definition and reduces frizz.
You can use a regular conditioner as a leave-in, just beware that some conditioners react to stylers and cause white balls to appear on one’s hair. Not all products play together nicely. 😉
Recommendations: I have recently switched from using Avanti Silicon Mix and swear by Beautiful Textures Tangle Taming Leave-in Conditioner. This product is amazing!! Check out my product review.
4. Wide Tooth Comb/Detangling Brush
Unless you’re seeking a wickedly neat part, leave your fine tooth combs in the back of your draw. Our tresses need wide tooth combs to easily glide their way through our hair. They are extremely helpful when paired with a moisturizing conditioner to detangle hair in the shower. Some curlies prefer to use a Denman brush or Tangle Teezer. This is particularly helpful if you’re using the Tightly Curly Method mentioned above. I prefer wide-tooth combs, as I’m one of those curlies who get serious shrinkage and lose a lot hair from brushes.
5. Oil and/or Butter
Your curly mane may work well with butter, oil … or both! Either one will seal moisture into your strands, literally making your hair feel like butta! This should be included as a step in your wash and go (see my 10 steps for wash and gos). You can also use oil or butter as a heat protectant when straightening. In addition (yes, there’s more!), they can be used nightly to seal in moisture into your hair or help to soften and revive your look in the morning.
Recommendations: Almond Oil, Coconut Oil, Dabur Vatika Coconut Hair Oil, Jojoba Oil, and Olive Oil
Not every girl needs a styler, but this curlie does. Stylers are products that literally help to style your hair. They increase definition, can freeze curls, and can reduce shrinkage. Stylers prevent my hair from completely transforming into a cotton ball. If this is your desired look, then skip it.
Recommendations: III Sisters of Nature Curly Whip Pudding, Eco Styler Gel, Fantasia IC Olive Oil Style Gel, Fruit of the Earth 100% Aloe Vera Gel, Hair Rules Kinky Curling Cream, and Miss Jessie’s Quick Curls,
7. Hair Clips
They aid in styling your hair or can be used as part of your finished looked. Hair clips section your hair as your work through your head. They are particularly helpful as your hair grows longer. It’s either that or invest in more hands!
8. Spray Bottle
Water is nature’s moisturizer. It is a curly girls’ best friend. At some point in your regiment, you’ll need a spray bottle to help douse your hair as you style it. If you’re into rewetting your hair throughout the day, a spray bottle will ease the process.
9. Satin or Silk Pillowcase/ Scarf/Sleeping Cap
Another must! You can read my information on Nighttime Routines & Sexy Sleeping For Naturals for more details on satin materials. Please note that satin and silk materials do not absorb the moisture in your hair (unlike cotton), preventing your hair from drying out and breaking. Not to mention, it will save you from “bed head.”
This is a must for chronicling your curls. Documenting your hair journey through photos or videos will help you to keep track of your routine and hair health. Aside from badgering your friends, how else will you know what’s working for you?
Once you have these items, you’re pretty much set to go. For those of you in pursuit of how to grow natural hair, these items will keep you on course. Of course, if you are seeking additional styling aids, there are tons of other tools (hair dryers, flat irons, etc.) and products in which you can add to your arsenal. Don’t worry. I’ll keep you posted! 😉
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