CurlyNikki: Why Won't My Wayward Curls Behave?

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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 emailing them to BeautyEditors@essence.com.

READER QUESTION: I have a dilemma. When my hair is soaking wet, my curls will start clumping, but only towards the end. I would like to know the best techniques, products and tools I can use to achieve clumped curls from the root to the ends of my hair and when my hair is not soaked.

CURLYNIKKI'S RESPONSE:

1. Moisturize: If you wash and style once a week, you need to deep treat once a week. All you need is your conditioner, a plastic cap and the heat you’ll generate from moving around. Nothing special. But if you’re feeling fancy, you can mix some oils, yogurt and honey into your conditioner for an added punch and/or sit under a hooded dryer or wear a micro heat cap. Also, avoid shampoos that contain sulfates as they strip your hair of natural oils and dry you out which is the opposite of what we’re going for here. Overuse of sulfates will send your curls into hiding, even in the shower. Opt for conditioner washes or shampoos with detergents of the coco betaine variety. (Here are more tips on curl-friendly shampoos.) Finally, remember that hair health starts on the inside. Drink your water and eat a healthy diet!

2. Define: Style on soaking wet, conditioner laden hair. My most defined curls happen when I leave my rinse-out conditioner in from the shower. After cleansing my hair, I apply a conditioner like Tresemme Naturals or Trader Joe's Nourish Spa, finger detangle and only rinse a little bit of it out. I leave in the rest, get out of the shower and BOOM— curls galore. The moisture from the conditioner will not only leave you with more curls when it finally dries, but will also give you some added hang time, as the weight of the conditioner will reduce shrinkage a bit. However, it takes FOREVER to dry. So you must have patience and remember NOT to touch your curls while they dry or you'll lose definition.

3. Hold: While some women find that conditioners have ample ingredients to hold their curls, others find they need a little extra help from gels. Smooth or scrunch in some gel (preferably one containing aloe vera) carefully and without disturbing the curl too much. Eco Styler Gel is a popular one in the natural community. 

Remember, after following the three steps above, allow your hair to dry undisturbed.

Here are a few more notes on creating the perfect clumpy curls:

-Some products don't play well together and you'll end up with a flaky, gummy mess and will have to wash and start the process all over again. Whole mess. Before applying a product combo to your hair, test it on the back of your hand first. If it coagulates, or turns into a milky, curdle-y mess, find a new combo!

-Your texture may naturally do just what you described- wave through the length and curl on the ends. My hair does this. I have s waves from the root down to the last 2 inches of length and then I get cute curly-qs on the end. There's nothing I can do, short of a wet set, that will give me uniform curls from root to end. The process described above will help you maximally define your natural pattern but won't fundamentally change your situation. Hope this helps!

Nikki Walton, founder of CurlyNikki.com, is a successful psychotherapist and creator of the most credible online source about natural hair care, maintenance and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. She's the author of the book Better Than Good Hair.