Monday, September 24, 2012

Green Hair Care, Part 2: How to Dry and Style Your Fabulous Curls

Okay, so I know it's been quite a while since the first part of this series, but if you're still hanging on wondering what to do with your hair after you've washed and conditioned it, not only am I duly impressed by your dedication, your patience is about to pay off in a big way... it's time to dry and style!

I'm really sorry, but this guide only applies to curly-headed people as yet. If anyone requests it, I would be happy to do some research on what works best for other types of hair.

Here are the supplies I use:
  • wide-toothed comb,
  • flour sack towels (these are cheap and work perfectly) or a t-shirt,
  • for fancy days:
    • hair gel,
    • a blow dryer with a diffuser attachment.
First, let's talk about each implement and its intended purpose. Then, we'll get into the actual steps. Check it out after the jump.

Tools and Supplies

The wide-toothed comb is used to detangle the hair and help it form into "clumps." This way, when it dries, the curls will have good form and structure, as opposed to being a bunch of wispy, uncommitted curls with no direction in life. We want our curls to stick together and form teams. There is no place for individualism in a head full of ringlets.

The flour sack towel is used to soak up the excess water from the hair, much like a regular towel. The difference is that flour sack cloth is "flat weave," which, unlike regular terrycloth towels, does not have little "loops" of fiber that can snag on your precious curly strands and pull them out of their clump formations, leading to frizz and you looking in the mirror saying "Aw, crap." T-shirts are also great for this purpose because they are also flat-weave (unless you're trying to start some kind of weird terrycloth-t-shirt trend) and let's face it, you probably have a million that you don't use and won't be missed from your wardrobe rotation.

I know the phrase "hair gel" conjures visions of swaggering wet-look bros sporting obnoxious gilded tees, but I promise, that's not the direction we're going with this product. We're going to use gel for hold and curl definition, and once you get the hang of it, your hair won't look remotely "wet" or "crunchy."

One important caveat with hair gel is you need to make sure it does not contain silicone; most clear gels will serve this purpose just fine. Watch out for products labelled "curl cream," "curl serum," or pretty much anything marketed by mainstream beauty products to curly-headed gals. If you read the back of the bottle and you don't see any ingredients ending in "-cone" or "-xone," it is probably fine to use. And, honestly, a day or two of use of a silicone product won't kill you, but prolonged use will weight down your curls with a layer of yuck, and who wants that? So let's stick to clear gels for now. It's even possible to make your own gel with flax seeds, and it is awesome, but that's a blog entry for another day.

A blow dryer with a diffuser attachment is not necessary, but it does help your hair dry faster and can help give it more volume and lift.

Okay! Let's start!

At the tail end of your shower, give your hair one, last, soaking rinse, and shut off the water once it's good and drenched. Then, take your wide-toothed comb, part your hair where you want to part it, and comb it until you notice that it's forming into the "clumps" we talked about earlier. If your hair is aggressively curly, you'll probably notice it's already curling up.

While your hair is still dripping wet, dispense a blob of gel into your hand. I realize that a "blob" is a very unspecific unit of measure, and I'm sorry for that. The amount of gel you need to use will depend on your hair type, its length, and your personal preference. It might take some practice before you find the right amount for you.

Once you have your blob, rub your hands together to distribute, then start "scrunching" it into your hair. I'm going to do my best to describe this motion to you, but there may be some YouTube videos available that can show you exactly what scrunching looks like. Tilt your head to the side so your hair is dangling down and start with your hand below the tips of your hair. Move your hand up toward your scalp, grasping a section of hair in your fist as you move your hand, and squeeze. This motion accomplishes three things: it encourages curl formation, it distributes the gel into your hair, and it squeezes out some of the extra water. Keep doing this all around your head, tilting your head to the other side at some point, or even flipping your head upside down if you're totally metal and just don't give a crud (in a good way).

After your hair is good and scrunched, you're going to scrunch it some more, but this time with a flour-sack towel in hand. Really try to get out as much of the extra water as you can. The reason we soaked the hair before applying the gel is that it helps the gel to be less crunchy when it dries, but now that the gel is applied and appropriately diluted, let's get as much of the water out as possible to reduce drying time. Getting the excess out also helps to reduce the amount of water weight pulling down on your curls, which can stretch them out and make them stringy and lifeless. We're going for lively and bouncy, so squeeze and scrunch with all your might! Well, maybe not all of it. I guess it depends on how much might you have.

Another optional step is to tie the flour-sack towel around your head such that it is holding the curls in a permanent "scrunch formation." If there's interest, I'll take a short video of how this is done.

If you're skipping the blowdrying step, you are now done! Let your curls air-dry, and remember, DO NOT F*@& WITH THEM. The more you touch or play with your curls, the less curl-like they will become. It can either cause them to become frizzy or lifeless, so let's avoid that whole deal by leaving them alone during drying time. After they are dry, you may find that there is some slight crunchiness from the gel, at which point you can "scrunch out the crunch" (SOTC, in curl-community slang). Just perform the same scrunching motion you did when you first applied the gel, and it will help reduce the crunchiness.

If you decide to blow dry, attach your diffuser to the blowdryer and dry away. The diffuser's job is to "diffuse" the air flow (duh) so it's more of a cloud of warm air and less of a forceful stream. Using a blowdryer without the diffuser makes it considerably more difficult to avoid destroying the curl clumps you just worked so hard to achieve. The hot air cloud will help evaporate the remaining water in your hair; even if it still looks wet after a few minutes, it's well on its way to being dry, I promise. There are some more involved techniques for diffusing that can give you some extra volume on top, and I can go into those more deeply if there's interest.


All done! This blog entry is crazy long, but the entire process takes less than 15 minutes from start to finish once you get into a groove. These techniques take my hair from lazy waves to full-on curls, and best of all, are far less damaging than regular flat-ironing would be: to embrace your natural curls is to embrace healthy hair. Best of luck!

If you have any questions or would like further clarification on any point, don't hesitate to comment or contact me! I'd love to help you bring your curls out of their shell.

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