Curly Nikki's step-by-step notes on achieving defined curls right out of the shower.
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, I love your wash-and-go's! Can you tell me how you achieve them?
CURLYNIKKI'S RESPONSE: I’d love to share the wash-and-go routine that has consistently gifted good hair days as long as I'm using the right products. Now, how do I define a good hair day? For me, it means volume and definition, a consistent curl pattern and no product buildup which creates tacky, gooky curls. I hate feeling product on my hair and hands.
1. On dry hair, prior to washing, I apply either full fat organic yogurt or full fat organic yogurt with oils and honey mixed in. It all depends on how much time I have to mix. I leave it in for 15-30 minutes without heat.
2. I hop in the shower and rinse thoroughly, only reaching for the shampoo if it's the weekend. If it's a weekday, I co-wash with a lighter conditioner. Rinse thoroughly.
3. I apply my thick and luxurious conditioner, also known as my styling conditioner. I apply it heavily and allow it to marinate while I shower.
4. I finger detangle, adding more conditioner and water as I go. I do this in 4 sections.
5. I rinse out 80% of the conditioner and while still in the shower, flip my head over and gather all of my hair into a single, loose two-strand twist at the crown of my head.
6. After I get out of the shower, I reach for my T-shirt (which I leave right outside of the shower), and plop (more on plopping later).
7. I leave the T-shirt on my head for 15 minutes while I lotion and get dressed. When it’s time to remove the T-shirt, I gently shake my hair until it falls down in place. It's still wet but not dripping.
8. Using a gel, I finger style the frizzy bits and air-dry before fluffing. Sometimes, once the hair is completely dry, I'll stretch the roots with my blow dryer.
So there you have it! Here are a few FAQ's about the methods described above.
Why do you apply yogurt? Yogurt is a great hair mask. It moisturizes, strengthens, detangles and has a mild cleansing action. The probiotics are also great for a healthy scalp. Just make sure you rinse very thoroughly or your hair will smell like vomit. I remember grabbing my infant daughter Gia to smell her diaper the other day and then realized the awful smell was actually coming from the downwind of my curls. Gross.
Why do you put your hair into the twist? The big, loose, two strand twist prior to plopping helps to smooth and clump my curls... all the way down to the root. Skipping this step leaves me with piece-y, stringy, ramen noodle curls. This is a technique I remember from back in the day on NaturallyCurly.
What is plopping? I gather my hair (the big twist) inside of a T-shirt (the big opening as if I was about to put the shirt on). The backside, bottom hem of the T-shirt is placed at the base of my hairline at the nape of my neck and I gently wring the length in the rest of the T-shirt, roll it up and secure to my head. It looks just like a towel turban. The plopping reduces my drying time (by soaking up the excess moisture), absorbs excess product (which prevents flaking and gives softer more natural results), and stretches the curls to reduce shrinkage a bit. When I don't plop, the results are disastrous.
How do you finger style? I create curls using my finger as the roller using a smoothing motion. I make sure my fingers are wet and coated in either a curl cream or a light hold gel. I find that light hold gels work best for creating curls.
What products do you use? I get great results with Mizani's Supreme Oil conditioner and As I Am's smoothing gel. I had never tried Mizani's products and I must admit that I was surprised by the luxuriousness of their instant conditioner. So surprised that I decided to leave some in and have gotten nothing but smooth, shiny, great smelling results. It leaves my hair ridiculously soft and the ingredients are rather decent. I use the As I Am smoothing gel on just the frizzy curls and crown, and it provides a soft, natural hold and shine. This combo leaves me with hair that looks heavy and defined without the greasy, sticky or gooky factor.
Happy hair styling! —Nikki
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.