The Busy Girl’s Guide to Curly Hair

The Busy Girl's Guide to Curly Hair

[image source- yes, that is me!]

Hi there lovelies!

Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt since becoming a blogger, it’s that there are so many different views and guides on how to do something a certain way- whether it’s how to apply mascara, how to gain blog traffic, or how to work out. I don’t believe there’s any right way of doing something that works for everyone, and I certainly think that’s the case when it comes to maintaining curly hair. I feel like mine is different to a lot of other peoples’ curly hair, but I have to accept that that’s okay.

Looking after curly hair when you’re busy and don’t have a lot of time on your hands (mostly to let it air-dry) is really difficult, and something I’ve found a real struggle since working full-time. Here you’ll find my tips on what I do to make the best of a bad situation when there just aren’t enough hours in the day to have perfect curls, and also what methods I’m planning on trying to get my hair back in lovely shoulder-tossing condition.

Curly hair with bear

This is what my natural curls looked like back in Summer 2013 (ooh and I’m lovely and brown/pink from the gorgeous weather on our holiday to Plymouth that year). I’d go as far as to say that I was on top of my hair game then- if I had the time to let my hair air-dry then it would come out in gorgeous spirals with little or no product or styling needed. If I slept with it wet, it would be slightly less easy to maintain, but bearable nonetheless. I have struggled with keeping my curls in good condition for about a year now and, whilst some of this is down to not having it cut often enough, there’s definitely signs of damage that need to be dealt with, and general hydration seems to be a big issue for me. Now, everyone has unique hair so this guide is purely what I do and what I am aiming for- my hair is usually loosely curly but can be much tighter too- and it is also quite fine.

There’s a few things that I have learnt on my curly hair journey so far that seem to work, so I’ll share these with you first:

1. Aaaand scrunch!
Scrunching your hair whilst it’s air-drying helps to wake up those curls and stop them getting dragged down or tangled together. Apparently when using a diffuser, scrunching will make your hair frizzier, so avoid this and stick to using the attachment to style the hair (so that’s why my hair was a disaster this morning!)

2. Don’t blow dry it. Ever.
This was a mistake I made for the first 12 years of my life, before realising that my hair actually looked 3000% better if I just left it to its own devices. It’s fine if you’re going to be straightening it afterwards, but you’ll just end up with a ball of fluff otherwise. Diffusers are obviously an exception to this rule- but only use them to dry your hair about 80% or it will probably end up frizzy.

3. Use a scrunchie or Invisibobble
Using hair ties that are elasticated, or that have those deadly metal clamps on them, is a nightmare for curly hair. You’ll yank half your hair out with it, and it will upset your curls if you’re trying to keep them tidy. Scrunchies or Invisibobbles are gentle on the hair, and don’t require tearing out mounds of hair to get them out.

4. Weigh your hair down. Do whatever it takes.
I don’t know if it’s just my hair, but it takes a lot of product to stop it flying off 5 inches above my scalp. It actually needs weighing down when it’s eau naturale, which a lot of people complain about from conditioning products and styling products. I have to be careful how I distribute the product so as not to overload one area and make it greasy, but it takes a lot to get it through my maze of hair.

5. Try not to use heat
This is one of the worst things for curly hair, which is ironic because it’s also so tempting to whack out the hairdryer or straighteners when you’re having a bad, frizzy hair day. Just think, in the long-term you’re making it so much worse, and your future self will thank you for backing away from the straighteners and making the best of a bad situation.

6. Bendy rollers = effortless curls
I’ve been using these for almost a year now, and when I started using them I was putting them into damp hair before bed all over my head so that my curls would be uniform and easy to maintain the next day. They take a while to get the hang of putting in and securing, but once you do they’re a life-saver, and an easy way to wean yourself off using heat. I use mine on odd pieces in the morning, and even after 20 minutes in slightly damp hair, I’m left with pretty tight little curls that can be brushed out with my fingers to loosen.

7. Get a haircut- by someone who knows what they’re doing
I have made this mistake before- assume that any hairdresser will know how to cut curly hair to give the best results. WRONG. When going to a new salon for the first time in December, when I was ready to just shave my head and start again (okay, maybe not that extreme), I rang up and asked for someone who has experience with curly hair. My lovely new hairdresser is wonderful, and she cut my hair just right. There are some areas that just need to be cut quite short in order for the curls to spring up, and she seemed to have a sixth sense as to where these were (see next point).

8. Keep it short(ish)
Having fine, curly hair unfortunately means that I will never be able to have it very long like I’ve always wanted (after I had all my beautiful long hair cut off in favour of a bob at 8 years old, which made me look like a mushroom) because mine needs to be cut into shorter layers so the curls will spring up. To be fair, it seems to have stopped growing now really, and you barely notice growth in curly hair- especially mine it seems!

9. Coconut oil = life
I don’t think I’ve found a better serum or conditioner than pure, natural coconut oil. I’ve only been using it a few weeks, but it is an absolute miracle worker. I use a small amount as a serum (or add dry shampoo afterwards if I overdo it) and it works so well and my hair feels soft for days after. I apply it to dry hair as a conditioner, leave it in for as long as I can (like whilst I’m having breakfast and packing my stuff for the day) then get in the shower and wash my hair as normal.

(struggling to think of a 10th point to avoid OCD worries…)

10. Don’t EVER brush it. Nope.
Brushing curly hair and expecting it to not look like a new variety of garden shrub is like going to Nando’s and expecting there not to be chicken. If you’re gonna wash it straight afterwards, then go right ahead (probably using a gentle brush such as a Tangle Teezer- need to get my hands on one of those bad boys!) but otherwise, it won’t end well for you. I’m sure most curly girls have already experienced this woe and will not make the mistake again, but you never know. If you have really, really thick hair, you could even end up with a Princess Diaries moment (see Stephi’s post– the GIF just makes me laugh every time) so stick to a very wide-toothed comb, Tangle Teezer or just your fingers to keep those curls in some kind of shape.

Christmas curls

So now, onto the new things I am going to try to whip my hair back into shape (see above- Christmas 2013)

Sleep in a silk scarf
I have heard that wrapping your hair in a silk scarf for sleeping in is really effective, and this is what my gorgeous curly-haired friend Anya does to keep her curls in shape, but when I tried it once the scarf fell off before morning- there’s obviously a knack to wrapping it securely! The alternative is sleeping on a silk pillowcase, which I need to try, as normal cotton ones cling on to and drag your hair around when you’re moving around at night. I read this in the gorgeous curly-haired beauty Stephi LaReine’s Rules of Curly Hair post, and it does make sense. If there’s anyone to follow curls advice from, it’s her.

The Curly Girl method
I’m going to try out this method of looking after curly hair that is very different and quite scary compared to your standard haircare routine. Firstly, because it involves not shampooing your hair. Like, ever. ‘Co-washing’ is washing your hair with conditioner, because apparently this is enough to cleanse your hair without leaving it stripped of moisture. This scares me the most, because apparently it can take a while to see results and sometimes your hair will actually look worse (please God no) to begin with. I do think my hair needs more hydrating though, so I’m willing to give it a shot! The other option is to invest in a really gentle, paraben and general nasties-free shampoo to be used occasionally- I’m lusting after the range from Boucleme right now and want to just buy it all (oh my poor bank balance).

Drying your hair with a t-shirt or micro fibre towel instead of a conventional towel is another strange but effective method of allowing your hair to retain moisture. The downside? It makes air-drying take a bit longer because there’s more moisture left in your hair. Upside? Soft, nourished curls for you. It’s a clear choice, but it doesn’t exactly appeal to me as a ‘busy’ girl. I’m going to try washing my hair on evenings, so it has more time to air-dry and I can even go to bed with it damp if need be. The fluffy fibres in normal towels just damage and cause breakage in the hair, so this is a way to prevent this from happening. There’s an old Primark t-shirt in my wardrobe with ‘hair dryer’ written all over it.

Natural hair products
Hellooooo Lush! This is where everyone’s favourite natural beauty brand takes centre-stage. I went in yesterday and left with a bag full of all their best moisturising products to try, which I can’t wait to pamper my hair with. Yes, alright, there are a couple of shampoos in there, but they’re natural and would probably make my hair (and mind) happier than using no shampoo at all. Just once a week, I promise! If you’re looking for the best curly-hair saviours to try from Lush, I was given Rehab, Curly Wurly, H’Suan Wen Hua, Blousey, American Cream and RetreadThey all smell glorious, and I can’t wait to try Curly Wurly and H’Suan Wen Hua- results to follow!

As many curly-haired friends will have experienced, the pull of drugstore ranges that claim to help frizzy, curly hair is all too strong. After all, they have glamorous celebrities endorsing them- they must work, right? Well, sometimes yes, but the point is- at what cost? These products could be damaging your hair in other ways, even if it appears to look nicer- better to nourish from the inside out. Oh, and then there’s coconut oil for those deep-conditioning days, or as a pretty miraculous serum. And for your stir-fry too, because multi-tasking.

New York Curls

I can’t wait to write up how I get on trying these new methods and continuing with my top tips- I feel like there’s very little relatable advice for people with curly hair out there and it’s so difficult to find advice that suits your hair type too. If you have any more questions about curly hair, or want to share your experiences with me, I’d love to hear from you in the comments and know I’m not alone!

I’d like to try and gather together some less-ordinary haircare tips from real curly-haired people with first-hand experience, so if you’re interested in sharing then please tweet, email, or leave me a comment!

Emma x

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  • Kirsty Baker

    Can I just say your hair is gorgeous! I absolutely adore curly hair and funnily enough, I do have it naturally. However I can’t seem to get a curly hair routine that works for me so sadly, I’ve been straightening the life out of my poor hair for years. I’m definitely going to find a hairdresser that knows curly hair and I’ve heard such wonderful things about coconut oil. I think I may have to give that one a go too :) xx

    • Thank you so much Kirsty- your comment really brightened my day! It’s so difficult to come up with a routine that works for you, especially with everything else going on in life there never seems to be time! I hope you find a way to embrace your curls soon, it’s never too late to go back :) xx

  • Leigh

    Some great tips for curly hair. Realy glad that I found this post. really need to find a god hairdresser as havent had my hair cut for ages.

    • Thanks Leigh, I hope you find these useful! I think having a good haircut is one of the most important ones :) x

  • beautyandrags

    Such great tips. My hair isn’t ridiculously curly but I can definitely relate to a few of them!

    Emma x


    • Thanks Emma, hopefully you can find a few of them useful :) x

  • Sophie Smith

    Great tips! I recently got acquainted with my diffuser and I love it! I’ll have to give those bendy rollers a try though, I find the velcro ones frizz my hair up even more.

    • Thanks Sophie! Diffusers are so good when you can use them properly- definitely try out the bendy rollers! I’ve never used velcro ones but can imagine them making the hair frizzy- bendy ones are really cheap too :) x

  • Glasses Girl

    Ah I’m glad it’s not just me with all these curly hair problems! I tend to have my hair tied up most of the time and I know scraping it back is probably doing my curls very little good but it’s just so much easier! I definitely want to try bendy rollers, they sound like a God-send :) Thank you for such a helpful and relateable post! xx

    • Thanks again Lizi :) so glad you found this post so useful and inspiring, really hope some of the tips can help you! The bendy rollers are just brilliant :) xx

  • Ellie Barran Beck

    Your hair is so nice!