Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hayley and the Hair: My Curl Story and Care


I've another long post today. This time about my relationship with my hair. I don't deal with the curls side of Curves n Curls very often, but if you are here for fat fashion check out what I wore last month here, or read about my journey with my body here. For those curly babes among you, or anyone who ever had something about themselves they loathed and have now learnt to love... read on...  

In the last few months I have had a lot of messages and comments asking how I look after my hair, and what I use on it. It is unusually curly, and very long and it has taken a lifetime to work out what is best for it. So this post is about my evolving relationship with my hair, as well as my current care routine. If you’re not interested in hearing my lengthy tale of hair woe and triumph (I don’t blame you) then skip to the section headed My Current Hair Care Routine – The Curly Girl Method below. 

My relationship with my hair has not always been easy. As a little girl, I had a halo of golden curls - often admired and commented upon. From an early age I was aware my hair was unusual, purely for the reason that so many people mentioned it - first to my mum, and as I grew older to me. But as I got older, I slowly moved from indifference to dislike. I think it's normal as a child to just want to fit in. To be like everyone else. And in those awkward teen and tween years most of the girls in my class had long straight ponytails that swished down their backs, while my wild, unruly hair defied being smoothly tied down, and my ponytail closely resembled a bush. 

While most of my family have curly hair, mine was by far the curliest. I now realise that what it really needed was a whole different care routine to what my mum and aunts were doing with theirs. But as I headed into my teens I was not interested in learning how to work with my curls and enhance them. No, it was the 90s and hair everywhere was dead straight - Rachel Green, Kate Moss, Gwenyth Paltrow - not a kink to be seen anywhere. 


My war with my hair was of biblical proportions. My mum spent more than she had spent on hair care for herself in a lifetime on me in a year - desperately trying to help me find some sort of magical serum, gel or lacquer that would allow me to have the dominium over my hair I so desired. I compulsively brushed it hoping it would flatten, and I wore my hair like all the others girls in my year –  in a centre parting with a low ponytail. (Once so coveted, isn’t it funny that I now think of this as the most boring and unflattering of hair styles). All to no avail – my belligerent hair frizzed and fuzzed in all directions. I had (still have) a tremendous cowlick at the front of my hair, which meant my parting never lay flat. And whenever I let my hair out of the restrictive ponytail, it would quickly form itself into a large frizzy triangle about my head (I grew up in Durban, South Africa - famed for its humidity, which DID NOT HELP!). 


When I was 13 a well-meaning art teacher who had hair (I now recognise) much like mine when it's well maintained and looked after, suggested I stop brushing my hair and allow the curls to form of their own accord. I was quite appalled by her suggestion. I also didn't really believe that I had those sorts of curls lurking under my fuzzy frizz, because I hadn't seen them since I was about 8 years old. And anyway - I didn't want them. I wanted to be like everyone else with their poker straight hair. 


The hormonal changes of adolescence were not kind to my hair, and it seemed the older I got the worse my hair became. Totally and utterly unmanageable. At their wits end, my parents agreed for me to go to a very expensive hairdresser, who proposed to chemically relax my hair - a process ordinarily reserved for Afro hair. The details now are a little sketchy, but the product was not at all right for my hair. The hairdresser left an apprentice in charge of the application process, she got it all over my scalp, and it resulted in 40-50% of my hair breaking off about half an inch from the scalp. Fuck! Thank God I have so much hair that it means I can actually stand to lose some, but basically… my hair was fucked. And all the damage had to be cut out over the next few years. It kinda put an end to the eternal war with my hair, because there was absolutely nothing I could do about it, but leave it alone and let it grow back. 


  Leaving school brought about the first signs of peace with my hair. I no longer had to wear it tied up, and so wore my hair loose more often. Which resulted in people once more commenting on my curls and these compliments really bolstered my confidence. I moved to London for year, and with everyone regularly ironing their hair with straighteners to within an inch of it’s life, everywhere there seemed to be sad, flat, dead hair peppered with little white flecks of split ends. Mine had grown by this time, past my shoulders, and the weight pulled the curls down a bit meaning my hair silhouette was less triangle shaped. Instead it floated around me like a red cloud. Making me stand out, in a very good way. It was also at this time I started religiously dying my hair red. My once golden curls had headed more and more towards mouse brown through my teens, and so I ditched my natural colour in favour of something warmer. Something that felt infinitely more me. I have now been every shade of red, pink and orange imaginable. And hair dye continues to be the only real vice I have when it comes to my hair. Otherwise I try to treat it as well as I possibly can.


At uni I grew my hair even longer, stop brushing it in between washes, so the curls could form naturally, and revelled in how unusual my mane was. While high school is all about fitting in, uni is a time to stand out and my hair certainly helped me to do that. It matched my boho, hippy style to a tee. 


Since then it has been pretty much plain sailing – my relationship with my hair remains good. It is definitely my favourite physical attribute. Every adult growing up told me I would love it one day, and I rolled my eyes and responded with a yeah right. But now here I am. Truly in love with my curls, and so very glad I have them.


Over the years I have learnt more and more about what is and isn’t good for my hair. The internet has been helpful – because while I can’t think of the last time I met someone who has hair quite like mine irl, online I can find people who know the struggles and learn from them. I have also learnt to look for hairdressers who aren’t intimidated by or scared of my hair. Some people have more experience with curls, and I make sure that anyone handling my curls, be it for a cut or a colour, knows what they are doing and appreciate curls. I talk to my hairdressers. I tell them all the things I have learnt about curly hair. I usually end up with the whole salon around my chair at some point – commenting, advising, admiring. And I have to be honest, I rather like it. I am vain about my hair. It took me a long time to get here, and now I genuinely love the fuss (attention whore). 


Having hair like mine means that style wise I don’t have many options. A fringe just isn’t going to happen. Cutting my hair would be quite a gamble – I don’t know what the curls might do without the weight to pull them down. And as I stay away from heat styling where I can, I very rarely straighten my hair, or give it different blow waves. So any time I want a major change I usually have to find a way to achieve it with colour. 


My Current Hair Care Routine – The Curly Girl Method


But my care routine has changed quite a lot. About two and a half years ago, I discovered the Curly Girl Method. This is like the Holy Grail for curly girls everywhere. I am going to do my best to explain it here (or at least my adaptation of it). But please note, unlike some I don’t follow the routine religiously. I have taken the essence of the method and adapted it to me. But I will provide links of where you can find out more information. 


The Curly Girl (CG) method is the best way I have come across for looking after your curls, and encouraging good curl formation. There are a lot of very harmful chemicals in today’s shampoos and conditioners. They are damaging to hair in general, but particularly bad for curly hair which tends to be dryer overall. So the first thing is to find out which products are the enemy (hint: most of them), and which ones you can  use. Here is a very helpful list of products you can purchase in the UK that don’t have any evil silicones or sulphates in them. I've got this link saved on my phone for when I am out shopping. 




For washing and conditioning I swear by Aussie Miracle Moist conditioner. (More about washing my hair with conditioner below) I have tried other CG friendly conditioners, but I haven’t liked any nearly as much as Aussie Miracle Moist. (To the best of my knowledge nothing else in their range is CG friendly) It is a very rich conditioner, and my thick, dry curls slurp it up happily. I imagine it would be too much for those with finer hair, but for me it’s what works best. I probably go through 3 big bottles of it a month. But I am using it as both a shampoo and conditioner, and I am extremely generous with how much I use. I have a lot of hair and I want that conditioner smothering every strand!

I do know people who frequently find CG friendly conditioners in pound shops, so do not despair if you are on a budget. And I tend to load up on Aussie whenever I see it on offer in Boots or Superdrug (one of them is always having some sort of deal).


So, one of the foundations of the Curly Girl method – No Poo! Yup, it’s time to cut out the shampoo. Now I know this is a hideous thought to many. I personally thought I would struggle more than I did. I did miss that super squeaky clean feeling in the beginning. But as my hair is really dry anyway, I never felt it got greasy as a result of cutting out shampoo, so I was spared the awkward in between phase many people have to go through while your hair adjusts to life without shampoo. But it will adjust. It has just become over reliant on chemicals it doesn’t need. Many forums say this can be done gradually – reducing how often you shampoo, or how much you use so you can wean yourself off. Some people recommend you do it next time you take a beach holiday. Being able to scrape your hair back most of the day while it goes through the greasy phase, and all that washing means you can get over the no shampoo hump, returning with CG curls and a tan! (Well, some of you – I have never come back from anywhere with a tan!)


So how do you get your hair clean then? Well, you co-wash! Co-washing (or conditioner washing) is essentially just washing your hair (and scalp) with conditioner. I tend to do the washing once a week, and in between just wet my hair and condition it, to get rid of frizzies and keep my curls looking happy. I wash my hair by gently scrubbing and stimulating my entire scalp with my fingertips (no nails!) using conditioner. I make sure I do this in rows to make sure I don’t miss any of my scalp. The friction should lift residue, sweat & oil to be rinsed out. I make sure all of this ‘dirty’ conditioner is completely rinsed out, to make sure I’ve gotten rid of and grub. Then I condition as usual. When rinsing your conditioner out ordinarily it’s best not to wash it all out. If you are using a CG friendly conditioner it won’t create build up on the hair, and will leave it feeling nourished, hydrated and more manageable. As for how much to leave in – just rinse until it feels right. It will be different depending on your hair and curl type. In the beginning a few times I definitely left a bit too much in which resulted in my hair feeling heavy. But I have the hang of it now. And if I feel I have over rinsed I just put a bit more in.


It’s also time to abandon brushes, combs etc. They are no longer to pass through your hair. Ever! They ruin curl structure, and make your hair frizzy. To get rid of tangles hair should be combed through with your fingers when you have conditioner in it. This is a process that can take some patience, especially if you hair is particularly prone to knotting. I do sometimes use a wide tooth comb, very gently, to detangle mine. But  finger detangling and combing should only ever be done when your head is saturated with conditioner. 


On to drying - towels will make your curls fluffy and fuzzy, and suck up all that yummy conditioner you’ve just left on them. But it’s a really simple fix. Just use an old t-shirt instead (the softer the better). When I come out of the shower / bath I wrap it up in a t-shirt until the worst of the wet is off. Just before I put it in the towel I add my styling products. Just like with your shampoo and conditioner, it is important to ensure that your products don’t contain any of the nasties that coat and dry curly hair – no silicones, sulphates, alcohols etc.




Product wise I swear by Boucleme for styling. Boucleme is a small company, based here in the UK, who make products specifically for curls, with 0% nasties in them. They have a stable of products just for curls, including cleansers, conditioners and styling products. I have given them all a try, and they’re all good to be honest. 


Their range sports a Curl Cleanser, which I use every now and again when I feel there is some build up on my hair from environmental factors. I probably use this every couple of months, before conditioning. I imagine it would be useful if you think you’ll find coming off shampoo particularly difficult. I have also tried their conditioner, but for my thirsty hair it is just not quite rich or thick enough. I think it would be better for finer hair and perhaps looser curls. Ideally, I would like to see them create a deep conditioning treatment to complement their range. 


Where they really come into their own, in my opinion, is their styling products. 

Before I started following the CG method, I had already made some styling product decisions. I refuse to even look at mousse – which is the go to curly hair product for hairdressers trained in the 80s and 90s. It makes my hair look wet and unnatural, and I can’t bear it. I used to feel the same about gel. I am not down with that wet look, or my hair being crispy or crunchy. What I didn’t realise was that this crunchy setting is called gel cast, and it can be removed by gently scrunching the hair once it is dry. Leaving your hair soft and natural looking. I now use a gel in conjunction with a curl cream – which gives me even more moisture and a bit of a smoothing finish on the ends. 



Before I put my hair in my t-shirt to dry a bit, I take a couple of pumps of Boucleme Curl Cream and run it through my hair in sections. Then I do the same with the Boucleme Curl Defining Gel. The gel is very light, and doesn’t make my hair feel heavy or too sticky. I then wrap my head up for a while to get the worst of the wet off. When it is damp, I take the t-shirt off and then twist my already formed tendrils, to give them a little more definition. If the ends are looking a bit frizzy then I add a little more curl cream just to smooth them out. Twisting doesn’t appear to be a standard part of the CG method repertoire. In fact curly girls are encouraged to touch their curls as little as possible particularly while they are drying. Which is something I follow as soon as I have done my twists. I then leave it to air dry for as long as possible. I often end up sleeping on damp hair, but as long as there is no draft this is not a problem for me. 


My hair still gets a fluffy and a bit frizzy between conditions. When I am being good (which isn’t very often) I sleep with a silk scarf tied around my head, to prevent my curls from being mussed by my pillows. And I must say this does work. But sometimes I’m lazy. This method is called pineapple-ing, and you can learn how to do it here with a video tutorial.


The CG method is pretty dogmatic. And there are some things I do which would probably result in me being drummed out of the magic circle if I told the CG queens, lol. I do occasionally allow hairdressers to blow dry or heat style my hair (although I usually prefer it in all its curly mane glory). I do the twisting thing. I don’t always put a head scarf on at night (Okay I haven’t in months, oops). I am not particularly rule following in any area of my life, so unsurprisingly I have adjusted the CG method to suit me. And I am pretty happy with the results. Not to say this is what you should do though. Definitely do the research and decide for yourself. 


Right! I realise that is a silly amount of information, so here is a little break down of my curly girl steps, that you can refer back to if it’s helpful: 


Products – find CG friendly products (from this list) to replace anything you use that contains silicones, sulphates, alcohol etc.  Try around – it’s not a one size fits all thing. Styling wise I swear by Boucleme.

Washing – throw out your shampoo. Wash instead with conditioner (I use Aussie Miracle Moist conditioner), every couple of washes. Remember to leave a bit of conditioner in your hair when you rinse. 
Brushing – no more brushes! Hair should be finger combed when saturated with conditioner, and if absolutely necessary combed with a wide tooth comb. Otherwise – no brushes! 
Drying – no more towels! No more hair dryers, no more rough drying, don’t even squeeze water from it. Find an old t-shirt and wrap it in that to take the worst 
 Styling products – add your styling products when hair is still wet. I use a curl cream and curl gel from Boucleme. When my hair is damp I twist individual curls, and then leave it to air dry. 

This is a very simple break down of how I take care of my hair. There is a lot more to the CG method out there, and a quick google will have you browsing for hours. There are loads of different types of curls, and so different products and techniques that work depending on your hair. This is the method I now use, and have found works best for my hair. But if you want to read more on following the CG method I would recommend joining the Curly Girls (Conditioner Washing Group for Women) on Facebook – they have loads of documents that can give you every bit of advice you need. 


Damn! Well done if you made it to the end. This post feels pretty comprehensive, but I am sure there are some bits I have left out no doubt. So if you have any questions please send me a message or leave them in the comments. If you are a curly girl yourself, are you using the CG method? What do you do differently? I'd love to hear from you, as ever! 


**Quick note to say sorry I have been so elusive - no post in a month! I think that is a record! For those who follow me on social media, you'll know that I got a new job (first time working in a year after a hell of a struggle with my mental health) and so the last month or so has been about adjusting, and making sure I am doing all the self care necessary to make such an adjustment without a relapse. But I am back now, and more posts will be up shortly I promise. Some exciting things happening too. I will be at Curve Fashion Festival in Liverpool on the 9th of September, with the crew from Studio 8 - so if you're there do come and say hi. I will also be going away on a wonderful body positive yoga retreat with the gorgeous George from Fuller Figure Fuller Bust, at the end of September. If you'd like to book a place, you can do so here. Lots of love, darlings!**



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3 comments

  1. i adore your hair and i'm glad you've learned to love it

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  2. What a long you've come on the hair journey my lovely daughter xx

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