1. Clarify with a sulfate shampoo before beginning. This will cleanse your hair of any silicones–ingredients in some hair products that are not water soluble (see the Warnings section below).
2. Have your hair trimmed. This will get rid of any damage or split ends. If you don’t want to visit a hair salon you can always trim your own of course.
3. Replace your brush with a wide-toothed comb. It is easiest to damage hair with a brush whether wet or dry. Untangling hair while dry with any tool is not a good idea; separating the curls dry just causes more frizz. Instead of a brush, switch to a wide-toothed comb, or even better, just use your fingers (when the hair is wet). If it is difficult to untangle your hair this way, add more conditioner to your hair when wet or trim any unruly ends.
4. Stop shampooing your hair. Most shampoos contain harsh, drying sulfates that are extremely damaging for curly hair (ammonium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, etc.). They make curly hair frizzy and uncooperative. Conditioner can be used sufficiently to clean the hair (see the next step). Also, more gentle shampoos that contain mild cleansers (i.e. cocamidopropyl betaine or coco betaine) can be used occasionally or more often for wavier hair types.
“You’d never dream of washing a good sweater with detergent. Yet most shampoos contain harsh detergents (sodium lauryl sulfate or laureth sulfate) that one finds in dish washing liquid. They’re great for pots and pans because they cut grease so effectively. Your hair on the other hand, needs to retain some natural oils, which protect your hair and scalp. Stripping them away deprives the hair of necessary moisture and amino acids and makes it look dry and dull.” – Lorraine Massey
5. Wash your scalp with conditioner (conditioner washing). Begin your routine by wetting your hair in the shower. Distribute conditioner on your entire scalp and massage your scalp with the tips of your fingers (not your fingernails). This rubbing action will loosen dirt and dandruff which can then be rinsed away. (Be sure to avoid silicones in your hair products, see the Warnings.) Thoroughly rinse your scalp afterwards. Depending on how dry your scalp is, you can conditioner wash, once a week, twice a week, or every day.
“The curly-haired can leave their hair hydrated with natural oils and clean their scalps quite well by rinsing only with hair conditioner once a week or less. Rubbing the scalp firmly with fingers is enough to loosen dirt.” – Lorraine Massey
6. Distribute conditioner throughout all of your hair and untangle gently. Use your hands or a wide-toothed comb. Start by untangling bottom sections of your hair and then gradually move upwards. Let the conditioner sit in your hair for five minutes or so for extra moisture. You also may want to part your hair at this point with a comb. Part your hair to the side to prevent “triangle-shaped” hair.
7. Do the final rinse of your hair with cool or cold water. This will decrease frizz and add shine. Leave some conditioner in your hair, especially in dry sections like the ends. It is fine to run your fingers through your hair gently, but do not comb your hair after this point.
8. Apply products to your hair. Do it while it is soaking wet if you have curlier hair, but wait five minutes or so if you have medium to wavy curly hair. Put product in your hands and rub them together to emulsify. Then, smooth or rake the product into your hair by sections. A common method is to begin with a leave-in cream or conditioner to decrease frizz and then follow with a gel for hold and definition. (Using your normal conditioner as a leave-in is fine too.) However, use whatever type and order of products you like. Next, finger shape the curls by scrunching them (cup your hair in the palms of your hands and scrunch in an upward motion) and/or twisting individual curls around a finger.
9. Gently scrunch your hair with a t-shirt, paper towels, or a micro-fiber towel to remove excess moisture, as a generic terrycloth towel will make your hair frizzy. You may wish to finger shape your curls at this time instead. Next, wait five or so minutes so the hair can permanently assume its current shape.
10. Decrease the drying time of your hair by plopping. Spread an old t-shirt or micro-fiber towel onto a flat surface (such as the toilet with seat down). Bend over at the waist and position your hair in the middle of the cloth. With your head touching the cloth, drape the back section of cloth over your head. Twist the sides until they form “sausage rolls” and clip or tie them at the base of your neck. After 15-30 minutes remove the cloth. If your hair is frizzy after plopping lightly graze the hair with gel.
* Plopping works best for medium to long length curly hair. The curls usually become weirdly squished after plopping in shorter hair. See How to Plop Your Hair for more info. as well.
11. Dry your hair. Air drying is the easiest and gentlest way to dry your hair. If you must blow dry your hair use a diffuser to avoid frizz. Only dry your hair partially (about 80% dry) and air-dry the rest of the way. Do not touch your hair while it is drying or it will mess up and frizz. Both types of diffusers work well in terms of diffusing and decreasing frizz:
* A bowl diffuser with fingers causes more volume and clumping (curls sticking together instead of going every which way), is bulky and heavier, and will probably only fit on the hairdryer it comes with. Place a section of hair in the bowl and press the bowl to your head. Then turn on the “warm” setting of your blow dryer. Press the cool shot if your head gets too hot.
* A sock diffuser is lightweight, fits on any hair dryer, and is portable. Aim the diffuser at different parts of your hair while you scrunch your hair with your hands. Stop scrunching when your hair is about 50% dry.
12. Find an experienced hairstylist. Ask him/her in advance if they are experienced in cutting curly hair and what products they are going to use on your hair. Unplanned haircuts can be disastrous for curly hair. If their products contain silicones insist on bringing your own. If your hairstylist uses a razor to thin out your hair it will make your ends ratty and prone to split ends. Remember, it takes a skilled hairdresser to successfully cut layers or other haircuts in curly hair.
13. Have your hair trimmed every four to six months. A 1/2-inch or 1/4-inch trim is usually enough to get rid of split ends. Long, rounded layers are more suited to curly hair–short layers tend to stick up and look funny. Curly hair usually consists of a combination of textures, with the crown being the curliest part. For this reason it’s hard to tell what dry curly hair looks like when wet–consider having your hair cut dry. Also, take into account that curly hair is much shorter when dry than wet. You may lose only two inches while wet, but that could be four or five while dry!
14. Give your hair time to adjust. It takes 2-6 weeks for your hair to adjust to the no shampoo and it may even look worse at first. Hair is a long-term project and it may take a couple weeks for it to regain its health after being stripped of moisture for years by shampoo.
15. Show off your glamorous, beautiful curls!
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