If you had told 13-year-old me that someday, in the faraway future, hundreds of people would generously teach me how to take care of my curly hair on an app called Instagram, I would have cried. Okay, I would have asked what an app is and then I would have cried.
I have only very recently (like, in the last year) started loving my hair in all its maximalist, effusive glory. I used to straighten it every week all the way through high school and college. Now, though, I’ve come to realize that much like bright colors and clashing patterns, frizz and curls better reflect how I feel on the inside than stick-straight strands do. My hair is as much an expression of my personal style as my rainbow sweater collection.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy, however. Sometimes it looks like this (please see photo). I often think about what Shiona Turini said when she shared her hair routine on Man Repeller after switching from straightening it for years to finally wearing it natural: “I’m […] learning that no two hair days are the same. It has a mind of its own and it depends on so many variables. I can only embrace it.”
She hit the nail on the head. Curly hair is higher-maintenance than a teacup poodle. As much as I’ve come to enjoy mine, I do not enjoy the mental space it takes up in my effort to make it look its best — the product application, the air-drying, the spritzing, the oiling — and even then it often turns on me out of the blue, sticking out at a weird angle after a restless night’s sleep or becoming broom-like after too much contact with my beloved chartreuse mohair peacoat.
Exasperated after a recent bout of curly hair betrayals, I turned to my favorite therapist-cum-search-engine (Instagram!) for advice. I asked for three things: 1.) general curly hair tips, 2.) how to preserve my curls so they maintain their luster for multiple days after washing, and 3.) where to get a good curly haircut in New York.
Messages poured in from people with every curl type under the sun, some offering advice and others asking for me to share said advice. I was originally going to post the responses on my Instagram Stories, but I received so many requests I figured there was a real thirst for it — enough to merit a permanent post on the interwebs that could be easily referenced in a post-mohair pinch. Below, find the answers to my three queries as culled from Instagram, plus the routine I’ve adopted since, and please oh puhleeze deposit any additional curly hair secrets in the comments below if you have them.
General product recommendations:
“Shea Moisture!!!!! Truly revolutionary!!!! It isn’t high-end and it’s very affordable. But the same brand has a higher-end line called Madam C.J. Walker. Absolutely life-changing. Use the shampoos and the hair cream for after the shower to keep the integrity of your curls.”
“Shu Uemura Wonder Worker — best product I’ve used for a frizz-free air dry.”
“Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Pre Shampoo Treatment!! It is a pre-wash treatment but I leave it in overnight. It is the only thing that saves my curls from all the heat damage I do to it!”
“I use Curl Keeper. It’s a Canadian product line, so I’m not sure if you can order it to the states but nothing tames my curls quite like it!”
“Evo Liquid Rollers Curl Balm is a game-changing product!! My hair is just like yours and it supports the curls but is not crunchy one bit! So soft!”
“Lush’s Dirty Hair Styling Cream is really good for light definition and it smells like someone who believes in crystal magic in the best possible way.”
“AG Hair Recoil Curl Activator is gooooood! Recommended to me by another curly-haired babe and I was skeptical but now can’t live without it.”
“I use the Whipped Cream by Sebastian! It’s super lightweight so doesn’t make your hair greasy, but it’s enough to hold your curls in place for a week.”
“R&B Hair Moisturizer from Lush!!! I used to bleach my hair and it was the only thing that’s kept it alive and soft, especially in the winter.”
“The best conditioner I’ve ever used and have used for the last eight years (!!!) is the Moisture Repair Conditioner by Moroccan Oil — you don’t need much, just comb that sucker through with a wide-tooth comb in the shower and rinse with cold water. [You’ll have] the silkiest hair [right] out of the shower.”
“I really like Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls Styling Lotion! It’s good for definition that’s not crunchy and it smells like fresh laundry. A woman stopped me in a bar last weekend to tell me how wonderful my hair smells!”
“A product called Cantu has rocked my world. It’s only 7 bucks but don’t let that fool ya. My curls are feelin’ themselves.”
Curl preservation tips:
“I started leaving coconut oil in my hair for a full day before my shampoo day, and it feels aaaaaamazing. Highly recommend.”
“I really like Living Proof No Frizz Leave-In conditioner. It really helps tame the post-shower frizz for close to a week.”
“Moisturize in the morning and evening! Spritz with a bit of water, let that sink in and then smooth over with a tiny bit of your favorite moisturizing styler.”
“I change up my products so I don’t use the same thing all the time or my hair starts to get used to it and starts to frizz.”
“Use a glass spray bottle to spray day 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) after washing, and just get your whole head damp and add a little of whatever your after-shower product is, it kind of brings curls back to life a little.”
“I like to use a spray bottle with a little argan oil in it to spray over those curls that need help day 2 or 3 after washing.”
“Bumble and bumble’s Bb. Curl (Style) Pre-Style/Re-Style Primer is CLUTCH for extending curls! You apply it before your other styling products and then just spray it on again to re-define and re-moisturize after a few days. If I need even more moisture I’ll spray Infusium 23 Moisture Replenisher (which is dirt cheap yay) and then the Bumble and bumble.”
Where to get a good curly haircut in NYC:
“Fox & Jane on Grand St. — Kiki is a lifesaver.”
“Jennifer Luna at Fox & Jane is a curly-haired, curly hair genius and super bubbly and sweet.”
“Go to Angela at Whistle Salon!
“Stacy at Butterfly Studio on 23rd street. She’s amazing. A little pricey but worth it.”
“Coby at Little Axe in Williamsburg will change your life.”
“Brush on 19th St”
“Dante Pronio!!! The only haircut I haven’t cried after in my life. I have followed him to four different salons. He is at Sally Hershberger now. When my hair was short he cut it to visually compensate for my right shoulder which is a little higher than my left shoulder. He also does this cute dance when flicking cut pieces of hair to the group. I think he is totally unaware of it, which makes it even better.”
“Antonio at John Barrett is great with curls. He’s been my hair stylist for 16 years from Cleveland to NYC. He’s a hair genius and the nicest person IRL.”
“Chris Chase in Chelsea”
“Cindy at Linden Salon is a genius with curly hair — removing weight without length. She’s in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Worth a trip.”
“Girl, it’s Head Chop in Williamsburg. $100 for a cut and curl set. Ask for Martha Ellen — she’s a curl wizard AND she has a cute dog.”
“Molly at Sara June — she’s a curly-haired stylist.”
My new hair routine:
1. Wash in the shower once a week with DevaCurl Low Poo Shampoo
3. Scrunch in IGK Mistress Hydrating Hair Balm while it’s still pretty wet
4. Tie up using the “plopping” method for about ~20 minutes (an Instagram recommendation — TYSM!)
5. Air dry
6. Spritz with water throughout the week and reapply IGK Mistress Hydrating Hair Balm as-needed (also an Instagram recommendation, and probably the most impactful change in my routine in that I’m able to maintain the integrity of my curls for longer between washes)
Overall I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results of my Help Harling’s Curls social media campaign, the only downside being that I now have so many products and hair salons I want to try it will probably take me until age 175 to fully vet them all. That’s okay, though. If there’s one thing curly hair has taught me, it’s patience.
Now it’s your turn! Deposit as much curl wisdom as your curly-scalped brain contains below.
Photos by Edith Young.; Illesteva sunglasses throughout.