A friend forwarded me this call for curly-haired mavens from Real Simple. You’d have to let them color and cut your hair as desired, which I don’t trust just anyone to do on me, but give it a try if you’re not as crazy-paranoid as me, live in the NYC area, and would like to appear in a national magazine!
One thing that always peeves me is how hard it is to find good examples of curly hairstyles. As if it’s hard to make curly hair look great! Quite the contrary, my dears. I, myself, have quite a few stand-bys that I like to sport, and it often looks professionally done (despite taking 5 minutes or less to “do”).
1) The Pile: This is the easiest and most becoming, in my opinion. It also works on any length that is long enough to pull into a pony tail. There are modifications for shorter hair, but we’ll get to that shortly.
What you need:
- 1 thin elastic hair rubber band (“Ouchless” with no metal bar, preferably)
- About 4-8 bobby pins, depending on your hair thickness and length
How it works:
- Put your head upside down and gather all of your hair toward the middle of the crown of your head. How far toward the back or toward your brow is up to you.
- Gather the hair into the elastic. Wrap the elastic around your hair once or twice. Only twice if it’s loose enough to slide right off once your put your hair upright. Never more than twice, if you need to wrap it more than twice get a newer, more elastic band.
- Flip your head back up slowly and fasten the elastic band where you want the pony to stay on top of your head. Pull the hair up and out of the pony-tail holder so the elastic is as close to your scalp as possible. It looks kind of Victorian era, which is what I love about it, but it’s also a pretty quick and easy up-do sort of look that works at the office or at a fancier event. Experiment with how many curly tendrils you’d like to have escaping around your face for the best effect.
For shorter hair:
- It will take time to perfect this look if your hair is too short to get into a pony tail, but you can use just bobby pins. Start with pieces on top and start positioning them the way you’d like them, a little higher up on your crown perhaps. When they look good, use as many bobby pins as it takes to keep it that way. Then continue to go down your head doing this with every layer. The bottom later can be pulled up and criss-crossed over the back of your head, and bobby pinned to stay that way.
- If your hair is so thick that the pins aren’t cutting it, try using mini claw clips instead.
2) The Side-braid: I’ve mentioned before that I love this look, it’s so medieval. I often braid my hair when I’m sleeping since it’s so long that it gets tangled and matted to my neck in warmer weather. Just loosely braid your hair down the side of your head, as a french bread if you’re so adept, or you can bobby-pin stray tendrils if you can only manage a regular braid. I usually like to keep some hair around my face, but you can switch it up.
3) The Fountain: The regular claw clips also come in handy to simply twist your hair from behind in one large twist, then fasten it to your scalp toward the top of your head. If you have enough hair it will spout out of the top like a fountain. As with the other do’s, you can bobby pin any stray hairs in place.
4) Headbands: Until recently, I had equated headbands with those stiff plastic things that gave me headaches if worn too long in the 80’s. Much has changed since those days, there are some great options that don’t squeeze your head so tightly and are much more fun to wear–even more so when you mix and match. My favorite is to twist my hair in the back of my head and to pin it up with as many bobby pins are needed to keep in place. Next, I add on headband in the usual place, and one more toward the back to elongate the front-to-back direction of my hair, as seen at right. Use a few bobbies to keep the bands in place, and voila!
Headbands pictured are from LF.
NOTE: Bobby pins have a frizzing effect if used too liberally, so don’t attempt a highly pinned look if you want to let your hair down later on in the day. If you want to pin pieces back, go with the mini claw clips, as they come out easily and ruffle-free.
As if you’d ever need a reason to become forever devoted to maintaining your gorgeous curly mane (ha!), you may be interested to know that there is no known non-surgical way to permanently straighten your hair. Some of us have tried various techniques, and I’ve heard friends say, post-keratin/chemical straightening, that they have found that their hair has grown out much less curly. Some even turn straight, God forbid!
The truth of the matter is, your hair is curly because your hair follicle, which is grown in a tiny sac beneath your scalp, is oval-shaped. The curlier the hair, the more oval-y (?) the follicle is. Case and point, here is the cross-section of a piece of African American hair (right). This is the extreme, a wavy or loosely curly hair follicle would be much more circular.
Conversely, if you have stick-straight hair, your hair follicle is a circle. As the hair grows down your back, the shape of the follicle determines whether it spirals down or hangs straight. Take a look at this Asian hair follicle (left).
Now, the health-conscious reader may wonder to themselves as to what chemical reaction could possibly cause permanent hair relaxing, if this is indeed possible. It’s quite alarming that a hair treatment might affect the shape of the hair that grows from a fixed-shape follicle in our scalps. Other factors may also be affecting it, like any big life event that changes your body as a whole, such as aging, a major surgery or — pregnancy! This is why many of us notice that our hair changes after having kids. I say, learn to love it and always keep your hair well-hydrated with monthly if not weekly oil treatments. Dehydration is one of the biggest reasons that curly tops become unhappy with their natural locks.
It’s science, really.
Every once in a while, even after you’ve perfected your hair care routine, things will get a little stale and you’ll notice that your strands are getting frizzed out more easily, or greasier, or more weighted down than usual. Aside from the usual remedies to this, you can also try switching up the routine. I’ve always kept a few different conditioners (all high-quality, of course) and gels on hand for this purpose.
Lately, for example, my hair hasn’t been itself and I’ve been getting annoyed with it. I noticed that I didn’t have my AnGell in the shower with me, so I went without and just put the Devachan Tress Effects gel on when I got out of the shower and after blotting my hair dry. I noticed that it felt bouncier, cleaner, and happier, so I’ve been doing that for the past couple of weeks now. When I notice things getting stale again, I may switch my conditioner for a few weeks, the way I style it, when I style it (morning vs. night before bed), etc. Hair seems to like a break from routine as much as we do!
As we all know, a perfectly coiffed mane straight out of the shower doesn’t usually look as shiny and frizz-free on day two. I’ve already mentioned the wonders of reactivating your styling products by lightly running (or spritzing) some water through your hair in the morning, but still, a lot of factors go into whether this is an acceptable way to revitalize your ‘do from the day (or two) before. Here are the best ways I’ve found to make your hair last a day (or three) without a wash, and still look reasonably presentable.
1) First is managing expectations. Your hair will not be as perfectly corkscrewed and orderly as it was on day one, but that’s ok. We all know by now that if your hair is relatively healthy, it will look great even with a little more bounce and body. Most of us lose body after the first wash, I know I do, so there are ways to fluff it up. On humid days, it will look a bit messier when you wake up. It’s ok, embrace it. You have curly hair!
2) By now you probably know how much gel and conditioner to put into your hair. If you find that it seems extra greasy or oily or just kind of stringy on day two when you awaken, try using less. I find that the less product I use initially, the less perfect my hair will look right after showering. Day two, however, it looks healthy and free, and not as weighed-down by product.
3) When you go to sleep, take a soft, but tight enough, scrunchy. Turn your head upside down and pile your hair on top of your head, and wrap the scrunchy around once. If your hair is really thin or short, you may need to wrap the scrunchy twice, which is fine. Another option is to cut off the end of a sleeve from a shirt you’re throwing out or don’t care about (and that still has some elasticity left) and use that as a scrunchy. You can wrap that as many times as you want. The point of a soft material is that there is nothing to grab and pull out individual hairs, and the width of the band matches your curl patterns better than a thin, harsh elastic. The idea of piling your hair on your head is that the canopy, or top layer of your hair, ends up being cradled in the middle and it receives less friction. Also, the hair will have more of a north-south, rather than just southerly, direction when you wake up the next morning (read: less droopage).
4) Use silk or satin pillow cases. I can’t stress this one enough. When I sleep on anything other than a silk or satin pillow case, my hair looks twice or three times as bad the next morning. They are sweatier, but that’s the sacrifice we must make. Another option is to try a satin sleeping cap, but if you have a significant other that you sleep with every night and aren’t 80 years old, I wouldn’t recommend it. Either way, still pile your hair up with the scrunchy.
5) When you wake up the next morning your hair may look fabulous as is, or it may be too frizzy and disheveled. If the latter, wet with your fingers, pulling water lightly through your hair in a downward direction. Curl a few sections that have gotten out of whack by just twisting it with your fingers. The less contact the better. Avoid adding more gel or product, every time I’ve done this I’ve regretted it. Usually the rule of thumb is, if you find you need more product, it’s time for a wash and re-set.
6) For longer-haireds, I find it preferable to just lay on the pillow and pull my hair up over my head when I’m going to sleep. I learned this trick when I straightened my hair more in the past, and it does wonders then, too. Using elastics with straight hair causes the dreaded dent, but just piling it up over your head behind the pillow is great. The problem is, every time I toss and turn I have to make sure my hair is staying up! As soon as it comes down to my shoulders it gets completely knotted, sweaty, and ratty. Another option, if you don’t mind a slightly different style the next day, is to braid it. Loose braids aren’t harmful and are very effective at keeping hair relatively neat. You’ll lose your curls, but when you wet your hair the next morning it may take a pretty cool shape. Also, sleeping with a braid feels sort of medieval, and that’s rad.
Note: If your hair is shorter, the elastic may slip off easily. Try gently fastening it in place with those mini claw clips. If you can’t tell, I use these for almost everything, including putting my hair up during the day. Do not use bobby pins. When you use bobby pins, expect that you’ll completely frizz out any hair that crosses their paths when you pull them out. Bobby pins do have their place, don’t get me wrong, but only with a ‘do where you know you’ll be washing your hair the next day.