Calling all naturalistas: Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by tweeting them to @EssenceMag with the hashtag #AskCurlyNikki.
READER QUESTION: Nikki, it's getting cooler outside and I need to remix my hair routine for fall. Any suggestions?
CURLYNIKKI's RESPONSE: Here's a quick snapshot of what I call "The Tracee" — Ellis Ross, that is — as it incorporates several of her curl-defining tips.
1. An hour before I shower, I apply a deep conditioner/yogurt treatment to my dry hair and don a plastic cap. To generate heat, sometimes I'll wear a beanie or my heat cap without microwaving it.
2. Hop in the shower and rinse.
3. Thoroughly saturate hair with water and divide into two sections (left and right).
4. Cleanse hair with co-wash or mild shampoo one side at a time. Rinse thoroughly.
5. Generously apply a slippery conditioner, usually Aussie Moist or Tresemme Naturals, to both sides in a smooshing motion.
6. Pass my head back under the water stream for a second, for better distribution and added slip.
7. Add even more conditioner
8. Clip the hair up and out of the way to complete shower rituals.
9. Take down the right side and section out the back piece near my neck. Pin up the rest. I finger detangle thoroughly and then, using the Denman, brush through once or twice for smoothing and curl clumpage. The Denman creates what looks like finger waves on my conditioner-laden curls. I continue this step section by section. Sometimes, I create a hair sandwich where I'll use one hand to hold the brush and the other hand to smooth the hair as I pull the brush through. I end up with about 6-8 sections per side.
10. Once all the hair on each side has been finger detangled and smoothed and clumped with the Denman, I rinse the right side. I hold the clumped curls in the palm of my hand and stand under the shower stream, allowing the water to gently rinse away the conditioner. I do the same on the left. I rinse out 100% of the conditioner.
11. I eliminate excess water by smoothing my hair between my flat hands using what I call "the praying hands method."
12. Finally, I apply my cream styler of choice in a smooshing motion (not raking, as I don't want to disturb the curls I just created with the Denman) to the right side, then the left. I finger twirl any frizzy bits and smooth product down the length of any curls that didn't clump, using my fingers like a flat iron. I usually sit under the dryer for 15 minutes to get things going and air dry the rest of the way. Sometimes, I'll hit the roots with the blow dryer for extra hangage.
While I love this hair styling routine, I have to admit it does have its pros and cons:
- Massive curl clumps — that Denman is a beast!
- Even definition
- Thorough detangling
- Decent drying time if you use a quick drying curl cream
- The Denman, (aka Shredder) and I have a long and sordid history... a love/hate relationship, if you will. I'm pretty sure it caused split ends in the past, but I was also using it differently. I was using it to define my curls later in the styling routine on hair that was just damp with a little leave-in on it. I found that it had more drag and pulled more hair out, as well as left my roots very puffy. I've also used it as my sole detangling tool with disastrous results. Using it after finger detangling to clump my curls in the shower, protected by a thick layer of conditioner, may be the way to go. I'll pay attention to my ends and keep y'all posted.
- The Denman leaves me shrinkier, even when wet, so you know what it is, lol. My hair dries much shorter than usual, which is actually not a con for me because it exaggerates the shape of my cut.
This is just one version of my updated fall hair routine. For two more fresh fall hairstyling regimens, click here.
Nikki "CurlyNikki" Walton is a successful psychotherapist and creator of one of the most credible online sources about natural hair care, maintenance, and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. Visit her at her blog CurlyNikki or follow her on Twitter @CurlyNikki.