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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

Let me begin by saying that my curly hair journey was a long road to say the least. I did not figure out that my hair was curly until I was a junior in high school. My hair had always had dips in it towards the back of my head, which annoyed me and took forever to get to lay right. By the time I realized that the divots in my hair were curls, I had been damaging my hair with heat and straightening my hair so much that it took nearly four years for it to finally begin to curl naturally in its full effect. 

I couldn’t figure out if my hair was actually curly because I did not have the stereotypical thick ringlets, and the normal heavy gels that girls with curly hair use never seemed to work for me.

I started an extreme regimen of trial and error. I took on a different shampooing schedule, stopped using as many heat products on my hair and invested in oils to replenish my hair. Finally, after years of trying to make my hair healthy and happy enough to hold my curls, I bravely claimed the curls of my thin hair. Here is a guide to help direct those of you starting your curly hair journey.

the shampoo cycle

First, I had to stop using the same shampoo. What I found frustrating about this process was the fact that everyone would talk about buying shampoo without sulfates, but in reality that is just doing the bare minimum. Sulfates are added cleansers that help make shampoo latherable, but they are detrimental to your hair when used excessively. I had been buying shampoos without sulfate since middle school, and my hair was still far from happy.

The types of shampoo you use will be based around your washing schedule. Your wash schedule will not be the same as everyone, and it has to be continuously updated as your hair gets used to not being washed daily. The first day, you should use a hydrating shampoo that will really give your curls life. Then, you won’t shampoo for as long as you can without looking disgusting. This does not mean you don’t wash your hair with water! You can still rinse your hair and scrub it to keep it from being full of allergens and keep it looking fresh. Then, you will use a clarifying shampoo to rid your hair of excess oils and hair products that have inevitably built up over the week. Then, repeat!

My favorite clarifying shampoo is the AG Hair Care Renew Clarifying Therapy. This shampoo works wonderfully, and I cannot emphasize enough how much I love the citrus scent of it. Plus, it comes in a 33.8 ounce bottle, which is huge. For the hydrating shampoo, I always come back to the OGX Quenching+Coconut Curls. This shampoo is amazing because it will help your hair retain water and nutrients from the first wash of the week to set you up nicely for the rest of your hair washing routine. You will need to find a conditioner to pair with these shampoos, but I have yet to find one that seems more beneficial than the next.

As a last note, make sure to buy a thick toothed comb to brush through your hair in order to keep from tugging on your hair or curls. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love using this comb to detangle my hair. This will be a life saver.

replenishing the nutrients

Adding in some oil or using dry shampoo is how you are going to give your hair extra nutrients and keep it from looking greasy since you are no longer shampooing every day.  Luckily, I have recommendations for both dry shampoos and oils that will change your life.

For dry shampoo, I have a couple amazing ones that you will love: JOICO Weekend Hair and OGX Refresh and Full +Biotin and Collagen Dry Shampoo. The JOICO option is a great everyday dry shampoo simply because of its scent and how lightweight it is. Meanwhile, the OGX one is useful if you feel like your hair is drying out or like it will break. The biotin and collagen in it are used to make sure that your hair is strengthened.

On the days that you wash or rinse your hair, I recommend using a mixture of oils in your hair. The ones I use after every wash are the Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum and It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner. The Paul Mitchell option is amazing because of its lightweight nature and how it repairs previous damage by restoring the shine to your hair while the leave-in conditioner is going to be something that you can customize since they have a variety of options for each hair type.

stop the heat

If there is one thing I want to beat over people’s heads, it is to stop heat damaging their hair. It is horrible, and I have lost too many years of hair growth to it. Here are the two ways that I dry my hair after showering that minimize heat damage.

The first way is towel drying it. You can actually take advantage of towel drying and enhance your curls by adding the curly hair products you normally use and then tying your hair into a microfiber towel and leaving it overnight. I love the one that I have from Amazon!

The other option is to get a blow dryer with a diffuser. You can either find a diffuser by itself, or you can invest in a hairdryer with a diffuser attachment, which is my preferred method. I have tried both, and my BedHead diffuser did end up breaking after approximately a year. Do with that anecdote what you will. 

Another investment that I would recommend is some sort of hair cap. Whether you get one that is both for the shower and overnight or separate ones for each occasion, you will thank me for advising you to find a cap that will save your curls in these situations. I got mine from Walmart, and it doubles as an overnight and shower cap. Keeping my hair in a cap overnight definitely reduces the frizz in my hair and the amount of time I have to spend on maintaining it.

Find your curling products

The last step on your curly hair journey is finding the products that work best for you. This is the hardest part and not everyone uses the same products. For those with notably thicker hair, I have heard great things about the Pattern brand. 

But for my thin-haired girls, I love the Curlsmith Styling Gel. When used properly, this gel has never made my hair crunchy and holds my curls well. I will say that my favorite product to use of this brand is the Styling Souffle, which is a bit more expensive. However, the travel size is the perfect trial run before making a huge investment. If this brand doesn’t work out for you, another recommended brand that I have heard of is Ouidad, which is apparently phenomenal for thin, curly hair.

Regardless of what brand you go with, make sure it is something that you feel comfortable using, doesn’t give your hair a texture that you don’t want and doesn’t make your hair feel too heavy. The point of embracing your curls is not to break the bank or make you less comfortable in your hair. This journey is aimed at making you excited to have curls. So, what are you waiting for? Set out on the journey to bravely embrace your curls!

Hi!! My name is Danielle McTigue and I am a biomedical engineering major at Saint Louis University! I'm originally from the St. Louis area, and I love reading, watching Netflix, and playing guitar (I've been playing since I was nine) in my spare time. I'm currently working in a tissue engineering lab and applying to medical schools in hopes of becoming a surgeon! I love the community of strong and diverse writers that Her Campus has created and look forward to contributing to it!