Did you know an estimated 65 percent of women have naturally curly or wavy hair? It’s true, and many are guilty of styling with the wrong set of hair rules. Think your waves are uncontrollable? You might just be making a classic hair-care mistake. Common complaints like frizz, tangles, and texture are easily fixed when you know the proper way to tame your mane. We asked curly-hair guru and owner of Devachan Salons and Spa, Lorraine Massey, to separate fact from fiction so you can master your sexy spirals—and keep the bad-hair days at bay!
MYTH: You can brush your curls into submission (i.e., straight).
“It may seem like you can flatten or smooth your curly hair by brushing it. But the act of brushing or combing your hair actually disturbs the curls’ natural formation and ruffles each strand’s cuticle,” says Lorraine. “This causes the curls to break apart, and the result of these dispersed curls is frizz, frizz, and more frizz.” Instead, use your fingers to comb through your curls only when your hair is wet and saturated with conditioner when you’re in the shower. “Curly hair is fragile, and the conditioner prevents breakage,” Lorraine explains. Once you get out of the shower, gently scrunch in a silicone-free, alcohol-free gel into soaking-wet hair. This captures the curl’s natural formation and again, prevents frizz. Then don’t touch your hair until it’s totally dry. “Touching before the curls are properly formed and dry causes the same friction as a brush. It disperses the curls and causes the ongoing dreaded frustration of the frizz!” says Lorraine.
MYTH: Any shampoo that says it’s for curly hair will do.
Absolutely not! “Traditional shampoos have been causing curly girls to hate their hair for decades. That’s because traditional shampoos contain harsh detergents called sulfates, such as sodium lauryl sulfate,” says Lorraine. Sulfates are foaming agents that strip curly hair of its natural oils, and since curly hair is naturally dry and has little to no natural oil, it needs all the moisture it can retain and absorb to be healthy and frizz-free. (Sulfates are the same foaming agents in dish soap and laundry detergent, and you wouldn’t wash your hair with those products, would you?) Even some shampoos that say they’re for curly hair contain these ingredients, so beware—and read labels! Instead, “cleanse hair with 100% sulfate-free cleansers and shampoos, and if you can’t find one at a store near you, cleanse your hair with silicone-free conditioner,” says Lorraine. “What cleans the hair and scalp the most is friction so you can just apply your sulfate-free cleanser or your conditioner to your finger-tips and firmly but gently massage your scalp to break up dirt.” Then rinse the condition out with water to remove it from your hair.
MYTH: Conditioner is optional.
“Conditioner is a curly girl’s BFF!” gushes Lorraine. “Once curly hair fibers are sufficiently hydrated with conditioner, they will hold onto the moisture they need and the frizz will go away. Curly hair is porous, but the conditioner fills the holes, a bit like spackle on a wall. It also smooths and fills in the surface so that light can reflect off it.” Leave some or all of your conditioner in your hair rather than rinsing. Generally, the tighter the curl or the drier your hair is, the more conditioner you need to leave in. Also, the frizzier, your hair typically is, the more conditioner you need to leave in. “Remember: Frizz is just a curl begging for more moisture—which is conditioner!” says Lorraine.
MYTH: Curly hair can be cut the same as straight hair.
“This couldn’t be further from the truth. Curly hair has a mind of its own! So curly hair needs to be cut when it’s dry, not wet,” says Lorraine. “That’s because wet curls and dry curls are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Some curls easily hit half way down your back when they’re wet, but then spring up as much as 6 to 10 inches when they dry!” The problem? “If you get your hair cut when it’s wet, once it dries it will contract and shrink to a totally different length. You’ll likely realize that too much was taken off, and you’ll look like a shaved poodle and need months or years for your hair to grow back,” says Lorraine. Also, we wear our hair dry, so that’s how it should be cut. The point? “Curly hair should be cut only when the curls are dry and in their natural place. If your hairstylist insists on cutting your hair when it’s wet, then know that you do have the choice of walking (or running!) the other way and finding a stylist who is willing to cut your curls the right way—when they’re dry.”
Lorraine Massey is the owner of Devachan Salons and Spa (three in New York City and four on the West Coast) and is the best-selling co-author of Curly Girl: The Handbook. Since opening her first Salon in 1993, Lorraine has worked tirelessly to help women learn to embrace their hair's natural texture and love what they have. She has also helped create a collection of products, DevaCurl, formulated specifically for curly-hair.