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For the Curly Girl Who’s Just Starting Out

For years, I resented the fact that I had curly hair. I spent my three years in middle school straightening it every day to the point of breakage. For all of high school, I tried to find heatless ways to straighten out the curl. Even through my first year of college, I found myself doing whatever I could to avoid wearing my hair naturally every day. When I was younger, people used to tell me that it was too frizzy, or that I looked so much prettier when it was straight and silky, and eventually it got to me.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I decided I was tired of the split ends and hours of time wasted on trying to get rid of what I was naturally given. When I decided to make the switch to only wearing my hair curly, my hair was not happy with me. My curls looked more like ramen noodles than anything else, I couldn’t tame the frizz to save my life, and it would get greasy within 24 hours of washing. It took me about a year or two of testing out different products until I found what worked for me, so I thought I’d pass down the information.


Moisture, moisture, and more moisture

The first thing you want to look for when you’re starting your curly hair journey is moisture. I have really thin hair, so I tend to look for super moisturizing conditioners that I can wash out, but I know a lot of people who have thicker hair that like to use a heavy condition in combination with something like a styling cream. For me, as I said, I like to use a super moisturizing conditioner when I’m in the shower, and then I tend to use a really light styling cream before I go in with any other styling products.

Curly hair dries out like nobody’s business, so by starting off with really moisturized hair, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Styling Products

I wish I had better advice on this one, but all I can really tell you is that trial and error is about to be your best friend. Personally, like I said, I have really thin hair, so the lighter the product the better. I tend to go in with a really light styling cream, and then I go on top of that with something like a strong hold gel that can really tame the frizz and give my curls some shape. Both of my sisters have much coarser hair than I do, so they tend to go for products that sit a little heavier on their hair to weigh it down a little bit.

The good news is that a lot of brands have trial sizes of their products, which means that you can try them without having to commit to a giant bottle of something you’ll never use.

My Favorite Brands

With everything going on in the world, I have been trying to be more intentional about the brands that I support and where I’m buying my products from, and it led me to some really good products. The first brand I found is this super affordable drugstore brand called Raw Sugar, and you can find it at target. They have this shampoo and conditioner set called the Moisture Smoothie, and I absolutely love it.

The second brand I recently stumbled across is called Pattern, and it’s a mid-range hair care line that’s owned and started by Traci Ellis Ross. Because my hair is thinner, I use her products marketed toward “curlies” but she has different product lines for all different kinds of hair. It’s way more affordable than a lot of other curly hair care lines, and it’s owned and run by a black woman in business. What’s not to love?

My Go-To Tips and Tricks!

When I started wearing my hair curly again, it took me a long time to understand that washing it and taking care of it is only half the battle. Styling is the other half. That being said, I figured I’d pass on what I know.

My first tip is to stop brushing your hair. When I stopped brushing my hair, I noticed the biggest change in pattern and texture that I had ever seen. Now, what I do is when I’m in the shower I’ll take and shampoo my scalp, lather it with conditioner, and then try to finger detangle my hair. Now, I’ll be completely honest with you, there are just some times when my fingers won’t do the trick. When my hair is just too knotted for that, I’ll take a brush to it, but even then I’m super gentle and I work my way from the ends up, so that I’m not just pushing knots into other knots on the way down.

The second major tip I have is to stop drying your hair with a towel. The name of the game is keeping as much moisture in your hair as possible, so towel drying is now the enemy.

The last major tip I have is to try diffusing your hair. I am a HUGE fan of air drying, trust me, but on the days when I know I’m leaving the house (rare nowadays), or I have to look good for a zoom presentation, I’ll take the extra ten minutes to diffuse my hair. When I do this, my curls tend to look more defined, and they hold their shape much better than they would otherwise.

No matter what you decide to do with your hair, just try your best to own it. When I started to rock my curly hair with confidence, I started to get way more compliments on it, and I could feel myself loving it more and more each day. Transitioning from heat styling my hair every day to now not having touched my flat iron in over a year was rough at first, but now it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Catharine Knowles

Virginia Tech '21

Hi friends! My name is Cat, and I come from a one-stoplight town in rural Pennsylvania, but I love to read, write, edit, and much more. I have always dreamed of seeing my name on the spine of a book, and you'll almost never find me without my nose in a novel or not obsessing over a new tv show or movie adaptation.
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