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Reclaim Your Curls: Advice for Your Hair-Care Journey

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

As someone who has struggled with ‘frizzy’ hair all my life, I knew I had to take notes when videos of beauty influencers healing their curls started to pop-up all over my TikTok feed. Throughout my adolescent hair journey it feels like I’ve tried just about everything under the sun to help manage my mane: cutting in bob-short in middle school (a tragic mistake), getting bangs, adding layers, using expensive creams, or mousses, or gels, anti-frizz shampoo, all-nautral products, not using heat, braiding it overnight and even sleeping in a bun! What I was missing however, was having a consistent routine, sticking with the right types of products for long enough that they had an effect, and crucially, actually styling my curls.

‘What’s the problem?’, you ask? Well, ever since the curly hair trend has taken social media by storm, the abundance of information and product recommendations has been overwhelming. Something one influencer said directly contradicts another hairstylist’s advice and it’s hard to know what works until you try it for yourself. The past 6 months of my hair journey have been one big experiment in trying to figure out what works for my hair, and I can confidently say, I’ve received more compliments than I ever have on my luscious locks. So, I’ve put together a list of general tips/techniques/hacks that I’ve learned so that you (hopefully) don’t have to suffer for as long as I have. 

Before we get into it, a quick disclaimer: the list below is very general, but the examples I give are specific to me. None of the products I mention are sponsored or promoted. In fact, most of them are whatever I could find for a cheap price at Winners or Marshalls. If you have a different hair type, curl type, or hair goals, my specific examples may not work for you. Unfortunately the best way to figure out your hair is to just try things out—the goal of this article is to reduce the time spent on info-searching, wasted unnecessary products, and failed experiments.

Tips for when you’re in the shower

  1. Use a clarifying shampoo. 

This has been a fairly recent addition to my routine and it has been a game changer. Being a curly-haired lady means using a lot of rich products to nourish, set your curls, oil and refresh sprays throughout the week and, for me, dry shampoo after a sweaty gym sesh. Getting all this out of your hair and scalp is a key to having bouncy and shiny curls. Additionally, using lots of protein-heavy hydrating conditioners or masks can actually cause protein overload if your hair isn’t porous enough to absorb all of the product (if you’re losing a lot of hair on wash days this might be you!). Clarifying shampoos help with all these issues, and it’s always the first step in my shower routine. I shampoo twice, and for the first round I use the Sukin Deep Cleanse Shampoo. It smells deliciously fresh from its Australian mint, and is free from all sorts of synthetic and mineral compounds, perfumes, and dyes. 

  1. Only brush/gently detangle with conditioner in.

It is no secret that curly hair can get really knotty, but how do you get rid of the tangles? Firstly, if you style your curls well after a wash, they will remain tangle free until day 5 or 6 (in which case you will be washing again in the next couple of days). Healing your hair reduces frizz, which reduces hair getting all bunched up–causing those nasty knots. I’ve brushed my hair less in the last 6 months than I have in any other time in my life and I’m living almost tangle free. That being said, brushing your hair is important to help get rid of small knots, for your scalp health and to remove hair that’s detached from your scalp. I only brush my hair on wash days when I have conditioner in and have let it sit for a few minutes. Starting from the ends, slowly working up toward my scalp, and remaining super gentle, I know that the conditioner is making my hair nice and slippery (meaning knots come out with way less effort) and is helping protect it from damage. 

  1. ‘Squish to Condish’.

I first learned this phrase and method from the influencer sumans.waves on Instagram and then I saw it popping up all over social media. Once I started doing this, I never looked back. After you condition and rinse your hair thoroughly, take a little dollop, spread it all over your hands and scrunch it into your hair as you would any other product. You don’t need a lot of conditioner for this, the goal is to restore your curl clumps after you’ve brushed out tangles and eliminate stringiness. When you’re ready to rinse, hold your hair under the shower and–this is key–keep scrunching! Usually, I scrunch under the shower stream once or twice, then pull my hair out and scrunch again to squeeze out the conditioner soaked water. Repeat as many times as you feel necessary, or until the water you’re squeezing out runs clear!

Tips for when you’re buying products

  1. Brands don’t matter.

This is the biggest product lesson that I have learned throughout my entire life. I’ve learned what preferences I have in hair oils and styling creams but in terms of shampoo/conditioner as long as it has good ingredients, the brand actually doesn’t matter too much. Drugstore products have worked just as well, or sometimes better than high-end or luxury creams! I’ve been using Pharm to Table’s Strengthening Coconut Keratin shampoo and conditioner combo as my main wash day products–which I purchased because they were on sale at Marshalls. Definitely check the ingredients, but at the end of the day as long as products make you and your hair feel good the actual brand does not matter. Some brands work better for certain people and certain hairstyles–just because it isn’t luxury hair care doesn’t mean it can’t do the trick. If you really want to have luxury products I would definitely look for a higher-end curl cream, hair oil and clarifying shampoo as I consider them to be worth the splurge.

  1. Stick to Staples.

No matter what you’re buying, there are four items I consider to be staples in a curly hair routine. First, a leave-in conditioner. This helps with preserving all that hard work you do on wash day, keeping your hair hydrated and nourished, and preventing tangles. I use the Pharm to Table Strengthening Coconut Keratin Leave-In, because it came with my wash products as a set, and it’s clean and skin-safe! Next, you need some sort of curl styling cream that has hold and hydration–it’s probably gonna feel sticky but that’s ok! This is the key product for defining your curls and keeping them in place. I use the Mixed Chicks Coil, Kink and Curl Styling Cream and another great option is the Marc Anthony Strictly Curls 3x Moisture 3-in-1 Styling Cream. Spread the product across your palms and pat down the length of your hair, then scrunch away! Third, you’re gonna need either a gel or a mousse. This will depend on your hair goals and your hair type. Mousses typically bring more volume (better for waves and looser curls) whereas gels hold curl shape (better for tighter ringlets). I use a mousse, specifically the SheaMoisture Curl Mousse for Frizz Control. Lastly, often the most neglected step, is a protectant. I diffuse my hair and typically I like to flat iron my baby hairs and curtain bangs to get the look I want, so a heat protectant is a must. My go-to is the Chi 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray. If you use heat at all, protect those locks (your hairstylist will thank you). 

Tips for when you’re styling 

  1. Keep your hair dripping wet.

I mean dripping. The point of the leave-in conditioner and the curl creams is to lock-in moisture and which helps form the curl clumps. I like to drape a towel around my shoulders, or stand on a towel while scrunching my hair over the sink. It’s gonna be awkward at first but the creams and mousses will soak up the water real quick. If your hair isn’t wet enough the products won’t work as effectively, leaving you with dry, stringy and frizzy hair. I purchased a cheap spray bottle that I keep filled with water to re-wet my hair before I style it. This is a must-do and if you have all the products but aren’t seeing results, try dampening your hair more. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to tip your head upside down.

For all my girls who want volume and fullness, this is key! At every step, from scrunching conditioner, to applying and scrunching product, to diffusing, make sure you’re getting the hairs underneath. The hairs right at the base of your scalp often get missed or don’t get scrunched as effectively throughout the process, meaning they can frizz out or tangle earlier. I always used to think flipping my head over would somehow destroy the curls when I came back up, but as long as you are gentle and slow, styling from all different angles can add so much dimension. 

  1. Crunch is ok!

I also used to hate feeling the gel or cream products harden in my hair, and that was a major reason I stuck to anti-frizz based styling products rather than curl ones. But, crunch is actually a good thing–it creates a cast from your hair and essentially helps solidify the curl pattern in your hair. Having the cast helps to keep your hair curly for days after you style it. After my wash days, I blow-dry my hair with a diffuser to catalyze the cast process and then let my hair sit all crunchy and crispy for around 4 hours before I get rid of it. How can I get rid of it? Using hair oil! Spray it onto your hair or pump into your palms and repeat the same scrunching motion to dissolve the cast and have shiny, beautiful curls. I live-by the Marc Anthony Argan Oil Dry Styling Oil Spray which is super lightweight, leaves no residue, reduces frizz (even after wash-day) and smells amazing. 

There you have it! The amount of Youtube videos, TikToks and Instragram posts I’ve watched throughout this journey is too high to tag all them here, but needless to say I would not be where I am without the curly hair community. This is my attempt at sharing the knowledge I’ve gained to help others, but there are so many wonderful creators doing great work. Hopefully, this comprehensive list reduces the amount of scrolling-time and confusion wherever you are on your curly-hair journey. Lastly, learning to love the locks you’ve got (no matter how unruly) can be a challenging feat. It’s taken me 20 years! Know that wherever you are, I’m proud of you and your curls. Happy styling!

Saiyah is a Chapter Leader for the Her Campus at UVic chapter. Alongside her co-leader, she manages the executive team, publishes content, oversees recruitment and retention, hosts meetings and, of course, writes content! Saiyah has been with the Her Campus at UVic chapter since 2021, moving from writer to senior editor to chapter leader. Before then, she worked as an Editorial Assistant with UVic’s undergraduate political science journal, but decided she would enjoy working on a publication that is less academic in nature. Saiyah is currently working as a Teaching Assistant on campus with the Department of Political Science and has a passion for sharing knowledge with others. In addition, Saiyah holds a project-based position as a legal assistant with a local law firm. She is currently in her fourth year at UVic pursuing an Honours degree in Political Science and a minor in Applied Ethics. This year, Saiyah has received a Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Award for the research she is completing for her thesis. Saiyah has also been awarded the James Wattie Memorial Essay Scholarship in International Relations for a piece she wrote on labour regulations and the International Labour Organization. In her free time, Saiyah enjoys beach walks with her dog Koda, reading a good book, and watercolour painting. Her pop culture idols include Spencer Hastings, from Pretty Little Liars and Rachel Zane, from Suits.