Wavy/Curly Hair Care 101

So you may have noticed that both J and Little E are blessed with naturally curly hair. J’s hair is exactly the same shade and texture as The Barn Owl’s, but Little E’s hair is a combination – it’s dark and fine, like mine, but it has waves, curls and highlights like The Barn Owl’s hair.

Our curly-haired girl playing at the Hakone Outdoor Museum

Our curly girly playing at the Hakone Outdoor Museum

J’s hair is pretty easy to maintain, as he gets it trimmed short every month or so, but Little E’s hair has always been a challenge for me as I have virtually no experience looking after curly hair.

Here are the three main problems that we face with Little E’s wavy hair:

  • Tangles
  • Breakage
  • Frizz

Unfortunately, when asking around for advice on how to fix these problems, I realised that even the Sister Outlaw (whose hair is of similar texture to Little E’s) does not have a clue on how to manage her curls.

In fact, we live in a world where sleek, straight hair is considered the ideal. All of my curly-haired friends own straightening irons, anti-frizz potions and go to great lengths to blow-dry and brush their hair straight, quite often visiting hair salons to undergo chemical hair re-bonding treatments to rid themselves of unruly locks.

I personally love Little E’s curly hair, which I think is both beautiful and unique. I want Little E to have a good self-image and appreciate the way that she looks, so I have been challenging myself to find out how to best manage and maintain her curly locks. It’s been several years of trial and error, but I think I am finally getting the hang of it!

Even Princesses can't fight the frizz Image Credit: Amy Mebberson

Even Princesses can’t fight the frizz (Image Credit: Amy Mebberson)

So, here’s:

Debs G and Little E’s Ultimate Guide To Managing Curly/Wavy Hair

1. Washing Curly Hair

Now, there are many sources that advise not to wash curly hair daily, because it strips hair of natural hair oils and this is terrible for curly hair that is already prone to dryness and breakage. However, this is not an option for us because we live in a hot, sweaty country and Little E, being an active little girl, will get very messy and grubby during the day. As such, we have to wash her hair daily, which does dry it out significantly. We get around this problem by:

  • Choosing silicone-free and sulphate-free hair care products.
    • Silicone coats the hair shaft and gives each hair a beautiful shine and gloss, however, it tends to weigh down curly hair (which makes it more fragile and breakable) and makes it more dry by preventing moisturisers from reaching the hair. I found that Little E’s hair looked great immediately after washing, but began to look dull and lifeless afterwards.
    • Sulphates are common ingredients in soaps and detergents, because they are a great surfactant which creates a very nice lather and leaves hair feeling squeaky clean. They are also great for removing buildup from hairstyling products and silicones too! Unfortunately, they are quite harsh on curly hair. Little E’s hair would get very dry and frizzy if I used even the gentlest sulphate-containing baby shampoos on her.
  • Co-washing daily
    • This means throwing out the daily shampoo and just washing using conditioner (silicone-free and sulphate-free of course) for maximum retention of moisture. Hair conditioners have gentle surfactants in them, so although they do not lather as well as a shampoo, they are still able to cleanse away dirt and oils, whilst moisturising the hair at the same time. When I started doing this, I noticed an immediate improvement in the softness and quality of Little E’s hair, which also became less tangled and brittle!
    • Conditioner tends to be quite difficult to rinse out, so I still wash Little E’s hair with a mild shampoo on occasion to prevent buildup. This usually coincides with when she goes swimming (about once a week), which is when I use an anti-chlorine kid’s shampoo on her hair.
    • How I co-wash curly hair: First, I thoroughly wet Little E’s hair and massage the conditioner all over her scalp. Then, I slowly comb my fingers through her hair from root to tip, gently detangling her hair as I go. This takes a minute or so, which is great for letting the conditioner and the steam from the shower really get a chance to work on her hair. Afterwards, I give her hair a good rinse with warm water.

2. Drying Curly Hair

  • Avoid towel drying
    • This causes friction which increases frizziness when hair is dry, and it also tangles the hair up even more.
  • How I dry curly hair: Using my hands, I squeeze as much water out of Little E’s hair as possible, then I get her to flip all her hair forward so that I can wrap it all up in the towel. Then we play a game where she tries to keep the towel on her head for as long as possible whilst getting dressed. Afterwards, I use a face towel (the ones I have are baby wash cloths made of a soft cotton jersey) to squeeze more water out of her hair, brush her hair, then let it air dry. I have noticed that by doing this, her hair tends to be less frizzy and tangled when it dries.
  • If you want to be super fancy or your kiddie has very curlywurly coils, you can use a microfibre towel or an old tee-shirt to dry your hair instead of a regular terry towel, as these are very smooth materials which prevent hair from catching and snagging on the terry cloth.

3. Grooming Curly Hair

  • Combing and detangling
    • Choose your weapon: to comb curly hair, you can use your fingers, a very wide toothed comb, or a specialised detangling brush. I use a combination of fingers and a detangling brush called the ‘Knot Genie‘, which one of my cousins bought for Little E for Christmas last year. It is one of the BEST things we have ever been given because it seriously reduces the amount of tugging and pulling I have to do. There’s also another detangling brush on the market called the ‘Tangle Teezer‘. I haven’t used it myself but it apparently has more flexible bristles and is even gentler on ringlets.
    • Never, ever use a regular hairbrush on curly hair – it is too harsh and just rips through everything! OUCH!
    • Never brush or comb dry curly hair – all it does is make it frizz up even more ! Comb and detangle wet or damp hair in sections, starting at the ends first (that way you can hold the section of hair about midway to prevent pulling on the scalp) and then working up towards the roots.
    • If you must detangle hair when it is already dried, I’d suggest giving it a quick spritz with a leave-in conditioner or detangling spray first.

4. Styling Curly Hair

It's fun to experiment with different hairstyles!

It’s fun to experiment with different hairstyles!

  • Consider protective or low manipulation hairstyles for active days or during school hours
    • Keeping hair in a twisty or braided hairstyle keeps the ends of long hair neatly tucked away and reduces exposure to the elements, thereby protecting the ends of hair from dryness and damage, reducing split ends.
    • Chlorine and sun-exposure can really dry out curly hair, so when I know that Little E is going for a dip in the pool, I put her in pigtails.
    • During school hours or when Little E’s going to have an active day out, I want to keep her hair out of her face (or it will end up dipping into a pot of paint or get encrusted with sand) and keep it neat, so I braid it out of the way that she doesn’t have to keep pushing her hair out of her face – the more she plays with her tresses, the more matted and frizzy it tends to get.
    • I found a brilliant website which has easy to follow instructional videos for hundreds of hairstyles. This really is very helpful, because I prefer not to style or part her hair the same way for two consecutive days, as I think it puts stress on the hair roots and leads to hair loss. Little E sometimes looks through the website with me and she has such fun picking a style and challenging me to learn it!

5 thoughts on “Wavy/Curly Hair Care 101

  1. I love how you experiment with E’s hairstyles! I do that too to while time away sometimes, but hardly for school as she has afternoon naps there and I think something simpler would be more comfy as the teacher’s don’t undo the hairstyle before they sleep. Let’s have a “hair party” one day hahaha

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

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