Twenty hair creams might seem excessive for just one person, but guys, I have curls. Every day is an adventure. See exhibit A, B, and C. I’d love to not do a single thing to it, but I can’t—this plant needs moisture all the time or it’ll die. So, over the years, I’ve built up an extensive curly hair routine. To be clear, I don’t wear my hair curly all the time, but now more than ever, it’s my go-to style. I have products on products, which also have their own products. It's a product family tree. Here’s how I manage it all:
First off, my curls are my kids—they can’t be left alone. I’m talking constant supervision, people, or else they’ll get dry and crunchy and frizz all over. I find strategic ways to keep them soft—I shampoo only twice a month, and I use a “pre-poo” half the time, about once a month. Pre-poo makes it infinitely easier for me to detangle my curls. For years my pre-poo was coconut oil, but lately I’ve taken up Deva Curl’s Wash Day Wonder—it’s like 90 percent glycerin, which is perhaps the most slippery substance known to mankind. It’s great, and it’s cut down my de-tangling time by half. A lot of the online curly forums recommend the Denman brush for de-tangling, but I use a basic wide-tooth comb from Conair. There’s a hook in the comb’s handle, so I can hang it up in my shower when I’m done. After I’ve combed Wash Day Wonder throughout my hair and rinsed, I spurt globs of shampoo onto my scalp and I go through great lengths to keep those suds away from my ends. I love Iles shampoo—it’s the one shampoo that cleanses without drying or weighing down my hair. I’m also a big fan of Virtue’s Smooth Shampoo because it uses real human keratin to help strengthen each strand. I have convinced myself that this is good for me and not weird at all. I like to finish with a heavier conditioner. Virtue’s Smooth Conditioner is good for that. When I’m time-rich, I follow up with a mask. Why oh why does Leonor Greyl make such a good one? It costs as much as a car payment. This is why I don’t drive.
Oh my God, even MORE shower stuff
When I’m only conditioning or “co-washing”—that’s to say I haven’t shampooed first—I prefer Tresemmé’s Botanique Nourish and Replenish or Briogeo’s Be Gentle Be Kind conditioner. There aren’t any silicones in them, and as we all know, silicones have been rebranded as the bad boys of hair-care (they dry out your hair, Reddit tells me). Although I’m not as draconian as others might be about keeping my hair-care silicone-free, I try to keep the silicones in my most frequently-used conditioners at a minimum. I probably co-wash with Tresemmé or Briogeo every four days—about the time it takes for my curls to frizz and do their own thing.
Oh yes, more moisturizers
Sometimes I don’t rinse off my conditioner right away and instead, I twist my hair into a high bun and sit under my portable hood dryer for a few minutes. I saw it on Instagram and I had to make it mine. It’s not a perfect gadget—it often flies off my head—but at least the heat helps push the conditioning do-dads deeper into my hair shaft. That’s what I tell myself. Once I’ve rinsed out the conditioner, I put on even more conditioner. The leave-in kind! This is not excessive. Amika’s Curl Corps is a good one. Also great: Deva Curl’s Styling Cream, Shea Moisture’s Strengthening Styling Milk, Cantu’s Curl Activator Cream, and Eden’s Curl Defining Creme. Sometimes I layer those creams with a gel on top—the one from Amika is good for a light hold without making my curls crunchy. Once that’s out of the way, I wrap my hair in a microfiber towel—it helps my hair dry faster, without making it frizz. If I can’t find my precious Aquis towel, I just used an old t-shirt—it produces the same effect. If I don't have a ton of time, I like to speed up the drying process with a diffuser. I like the Dyson one. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s quiet and the diffuser attachment is magnetic, so it doesn’t fall off. Before I owned a Dyson, I just used a cheap one from Bed Head. It’s a lot louder, but it gets the job done. Once my hair is totally dry, I swap out the diffuser attachment for a concentrated nozzle. The hair folks at Devachan taught me this one. So I bend over with my head pointed toward the ground, and blast my hair in every direction. When I stand up straight, my hair is bouncy, and my curls aren’t too clumped together (I hate it when my curls clump together).
Are you tired yet? Me too. Ever since a jersey pillowcase set broke my hair (my ends and my spirit), I’ve been sleeping on smooth silk ones. They really help! I have a few nice ones that are made from only the best Ivy League-educated silkworms, but I think the cheap ones do the same thing. The secret’s out, guys! Just get the $10 one and call it a day. Now, there’s some debate on how curly people should wear their hair to bed. I’ve tried the pineapple method, where you loosely tie your hair into a high ponytail. The theory is that when you wear your hair this way, the curls won’t squish, but you know what? Out, up, or to the side—it doesn’t matter how I deal with my hair before I go to bed. The curls will always squish. So I just do what’s most comfortable to me, which is a high bun tied with a soft scrunchie. And then I go over all the cringe-worthy mistakes I’ve made that week and jump into what’s likely a mediocre sleep.
Photos via the author.