What I Have Learned about Styling Curly Hair

styling fine curly hair

I don’t like doing my hair

For starters, I’m lazy. And I hate using lots of different products (and can’t stand scented products). And let’s not forget that I spent my childhood in my mother’s hair salon. And because I always had long hair as a child, my mother and her twin sister (who was also a hairdresser) used to practice on me. This is a very long and convoluted way of saying that I really, really don’t want to spend a lot of time doing my hair.

Unfortunately, I have naturally curly/wavy (or sometimes just frizzy) hair. Which means that unless I want to look like a scarecrow, I really need to do something to make it (more or less) presentable.

So, even though I have a rather relaxed attitude about my hair these days, I have my hair professionally cut every 5 weeks. Without fail. Yes, even now, during the pandemic. I think that’s the least I can do to avoid the dreaded scarecrow look…

And I have been following the curly girl method (more or less) for almost two years. And when I say ‘following‘, I mean I avoid products containing sulphates and non water-soluble silicones and never brush my hair when it’s dry (because, you know, brushing curly/wavy hair makes it frizzy and you end up looking like a scarecrow again…).

I’m a bit more relaxed about following ‘the method’, though: I wash my hair with a shampoo containing sulphates maybe once or twice a month, to get rid of product buildup. And I never experiment with styling my hair. I did say I was lazy, didn’t I?

This hasn’t always been the case, though. I’ve spent most of my life hating my unruly hair and trying to turn it into something it clearly doesn’t want to be: silky smooth and straight. Yet, no amount of blowdrying made any difference. Such a waste of time.

Now, this is all the equipment I need on most days:

hair styling

And now, because I’m lazy, I have adopted a very low-maintenance hair care routine: I wash my hair every other day, use tons of conditioner (which I apply using a paddle brush), then apply some leave-in conditioner and gel and let my hair either air dry or (if I’m in a hurry) blow-dry it with a diffuser.

And guess what? My hair is healthier and looks better. It still gets frizzy, though, at times. But that’s what curly/wavy hair is like: you never know what you’re going to get when you wake up in the morning. What your hair decides to do on a given day depends on the weather, or humidity, or the alignment of the planets, or who knows what. Who has time for all that shit?

So, this is my ‘routine’ now:

I wash and condition my hair, then gently towel dry it. Then I apply some leave-in conditioner and detangle my hair using the paddle brush.

styling curly hairhow to style curly hair

Because my hair is very fine and thin, it dries really fast, within an hour if I don’t use any hair products. However, I usually apply either styling mousse or gel (or both if I really want to make an effort), so air drying takes a lot longer. If I use styling mousse, I use a comb to spread it evenly. If I use gel, I simply scrunch it around the curls and waves that are forming on their own, maybe do a few finger curls to add to the mix.

I don’t blow-dry my hair every day, only when I’m in a hurry. I prefer to let my hair air dry to avoid heat damage (I have very dry and fine baby hair; too much heat styling makes it brittle and straw-like).

However, when I blow dry curly hair, I do it on a low setting one section at a time. But I never spend more than 10 minutes doing this, which is a huge improvement from the old days when I used to spend 30 minutes trying to tame my frizzy mop into a sleek style.

The biggest difference between blow drying straight hair and curly hair is that you never use a hairbrush with curly hair. That’s because  you don’t want to break up the clumps (= curls) but gently collect the curls in the cup of the diffuser and keep the hair dryer in place until the section is dry.

how to style fine curly haircurly girl

As the hair dries, the gel forms a cast around the curls to hold their shape. Whether you let your curly hair air dry or blow dry it, you need to break the cast when your hair is completely dry (but not before because, well, frizz, scarecrow, you get the idea).

The Curly Girl Method enthusiasts usually advice using a soft cloth (like an old t-shirt) or a bit of oil to break the cast, but I find that most hair oils are too heavy for my fine hair. So, I break the cast with my hands, swish my hair back and forth a bit, run my fingers through it, and I’m done.

This low-maintenance hair care routine has made me appreciate my hair more. I’m not saying that I’ve learned to love my moody curls (that would be asking a bit too much), but I think my hair and I have at least reached a truce. This means that I’ve stopped torturing my hair with extensive heat styling and my hair has stopped coming up with new and innovative ways of making me look like a scarecrow. I can live with that.

styling fine curly hair

Tiina

What’s your hair care routine like?

PS: Have you seen the latest Dilettante Artist post, ‘Winter Sunset’?

Linking up with:

Elegantly Dressed and StylishHigh Latitude StyleA Labour of LifeCurly Crafty Mom, Doused in Pink,  Not Dressed As LambLiving on Cloud NineElegance and Mommyhood, Nancy’s Fashion StyleShelbee on the EdgeA Pocketful of Polka Dots Style SplashAway from the BlueMummabstylish Mutton Years Style and I, Confessions of a Montreal Styling DivaIndependent Fashion Bloggers

17 Comments

  1. Lise
    18 February 2021 / 2:09 pm

    Hi, yes we have ‘spoken’ about hair before as mine seems very similar to yours. Last summer I changed to a sulphate-free shampoo, only air-dryed and embraced my curls (for the first time ever). The condition of my hair was so much better, I did not get one split end the entire summer. Unfortunately I cannot air-dry in winter (my apartment does not have central heating and I will freeze my butt off if I sit with wet hair) and already the split-ends are occurring more frequently, even with a short blow dry on low. So heat is really the enemy. My new project is no hair dye since mid-November. Interestlngly my new hair undyed does not seem as frizzy/curly/unruly so maybe it will be different in the future. Prior to dying my hair it was not so prone to frizz.

    • Tiina L
      Author
      19 February 2021 / 3:18 pm

      Oh yes, you’ll freeze without central heating, that’s for sure. If ever there was a time for heat styling, that must be it.
      It’s amazing how the texture of the hair can vary, even in the same head, isn’t it? I have a few grey (or, rather, white) hairs here and there, and they’re totally different from the rest of my hair: kinky, thick, and unruly, liked barbed wire…

  2. mireilleftm
    18 February 2021 / 6:20 pm

    I am lazy with my hair too but mine is straight! I just don’t have the patience to do much with it and since I haven’t had practice I am not good with it. So I try to get regular haircuts when my hair gets too long. But I have always been jealous of people with curly hair!
    http://www.chezmireillefashiontravelmom.com

    • Tiina L
      Author
      19 February 2021 / 3:19 pm

      And people with curly hair are probably envious of people with straight hair… I know I am.

  3. 19 February 2021 / 12:48 am

    I’ve always fantasized about having wash-n-wear hair but that’s only a dream for curly/frizzy gals. Like you, after years of fighting my curls, I’ve learned that it takes products and special handling to properly manage my hair. Thanks for sharing your process.

    Rena
    http://www.finewhateverblog.com

    • Tiina L
      Author
      19 February 2021 / 3:21 pm

      Oh yes, I know what you mean. My mother used to tell me how ‘easy’ it was to have curly hair and how lucky I was. She, of course, had very fine poker straight hair, and had absolutely no idea…

  4. 19 February 2021 / 11:19 am

    I think that finding a hair care routine which work for you makes a difference. So interesting to read about your own way to take care of your curly hair. I have some friends with similar curly hair and they’ve also adopted a free versión of the ‘curly girl method’. I think that curly hair looks fabulous, despite having those bad days!.
    I’ve almost hit the spot myself and nowadays I wash my hair the mínimum possible (every three to four days in the Winter when I wear a hat, but it can be every week). The less I wash it, the better it looks (which can feel conterintuitive, as I have greasy fine hair). I use a solid shampoo and some oil sometimes (also conterintuitive), always air dry it and combe it with my hands to add volume. Because I want volume!.
    Since I’ve quit dying my hair, it looks better actually. And I’m saving a precious time (and money!). It has been liberating!
    besos

    • Tiina L
      Author
      19 February 2021 / 3:24 pm

      Curly hair is a bit of a moody diva, you never know how it’s going to behave. The ‘best’ hair I’ve ever had was in a very hot and humid climate: I didn’t have to do anything and I had these fab movie star curls. Unfortunately, the rest of me wasn’t too happy with the weather…

  5. 19 February 2021 / 4:55 pm

    What a great post! I’ve got a ridiculous amount of hair and it’s fairly thick too so it takes AGES to dry naturally, although that is what I prefer because it curls nicely when I do that! But I can only do that if it’s really warm weather or we’ve got the fire going and the house is super warm too lol
    Like you, I tend to dislike using products but lately I have been experimenting a bit more!
    I particularly love that last photo of you, by the way. You look fabulous — and so does your hair!
    Hugs
    Suzy x

    • Tiina L
      Author
      21 February 2021 / 2:30 pm

      Thanks, Suzy! I find that using products makes the hair dry so slowly. Have you noticed that? I mean, my hair dries really fast, in an hour (very fine, thin hair), but with gel it takes 3 times that long. That’s why I often blow-dry it when it’s sort of semi-dry.

  6. arlene gomes
    19 February 2021 / 7:04 pm

    I have curly hair too (at times, frizzy). When I was a child, everyone oohed and ahhed over my hair. “Oh look at those curls” they would say. Isn’t she going to be lucky? NO! My hair is thick and curly and gets frizzy. It’s hard to deal with. I guess my mother didn’t have that problem when I was little because my hair was very long and the weight of it pulled it down to wavy and no frizz. I now blow dry my hair because leaving it to air dry only makes me look crazy. I think I will try the curly girl method. I’ve never tried that! Your hair looks really nice and also healthy in that picture above. Glad you found a method you can work with. Thanks for the tips. Arlene from NJ

    • Tiina L
      Author
      21 February 2021 / 2:41 pm

      Oh yes, I know what you mean: “those curls are so cute”… My hair was just moderately curly when I was a toddler, then almost straight until I hit 13. Then it just went crazy frizzy overnight. And (except for a regular trim) my mother refused to cut my very long hair. It was a tangled mess and I hated it. It took me years to convince her to cut my hair to shoulder length (“but those waves and curls are so pretty”…)
      The curly girl method has really helped me and made my hair healthier. But I take a rather relaxed attitude to it; I ignore everything that seems too high-maintenance.

  7. 20 February 2021 / 5:20 am

    Hi, Tiina – I have wavy hair and all of the same experiences with it as you. I let it air dry on humid days and I blow dry on non-humid days…because it’s wavy which is in between. If I blow dry on humid days, it just ends up getting frizzy. Like you, things got much easier once I tried the curly girl method and allowed my hair to do what it wants without fighting with it. I lightly blow dry my side-swept bangs, though, because otherwise I end up with “wings.” Now that I see how beautifully yours is coming out, maybe I’ll try to skip that (maybe just smooth it down as it dries.) What I do love about the curls and waves is that they add volume and a romantic vibe. Thanks for sharing this! – Angie, http://www.yourtrueselfblog.com

    • Tiina L
      Author
      21 February 2021 / 2:46 pm

      Thanks, Angie.
      yes, the good thing about curls/waves is that they add volume. I have really fine, quite thin hair, and the waves and curls make it look much thicker than it is. I also notice that my hair changes depending on the weather and humidity: rain makes me look like a drowned rat, but hot and humid weather means fantastic curls. And really cold weather makes my hair almost straight…

  8. shelbeeontheedge1
    23 February 2021 / 2:38 pm

    Tiina, this was really interesting to read as a person who has incredibly straight hair! My hair wont even hold a curl for an hour. When I was a kid, my mom was always trying to perm my hair. And try as she might, using multiple perm solutions sometimes, all my curls would fall out by morning! I finally reached a point in my life (like last year) where I do like my hair even though it won’t hold curls. I really enjoy reading about the hair care routines of others. I know that is a strange interest, but I guess it is similar to enjoying skin care posts (which are not really that interesting to me but so very interesting to others). I have finally gotten to where I only wash my hair once or twice a week and it feels so much healthier now! Thanks for sharing your hair story and linking up!

    Shelbee
    http://www.shelbeeontheedge.com

    • Tiina L
      Author
      24 February 2021 / 12:51 pm

      Thank you! It’s funny how e always want what we don’t have, isn’t it? Your comment made me think of the countless hours I’ve spent trying to make my hair straight, or at least a bit less curly. And none of it ever made any difference whatsoever; little bit of rain or even some humidity is all it takes for the curls to reappear. What a waste of time and effort!

  9. Flora
    25 February 2021 / 11:07 pm

    I suppose hairdressers will be shocked but I’ve been cutting my hair for over 30 years. As a curly haired child I spent hours being ‘groomed’, now I can’t stand it.

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