For the best part of my twenties, I was in a committed, dependent relationship – with my GHDs. My hair back then couldn’t be more different to the unruly curls you see on our Instagram feed now. I had a chin-grazing bob with a long blunt fringe, pulled poker straight with my beloved straighteners every morning. Considering how curly my hair is it was actually pretty quick and easy to tame, but the thought of having the time to sit down and straighten my hair every day now is laughable.
Straight locks may have been simple to achieve – and to GHD I will be eternally grateful – but keeping them that way was another matter. At the slightest drop of drizzle or hint of humidity, my carefully straightened hair would transform into a frizzy birds nest, and I hated it. I think the reluctance to embrace my curls was rooted in the fact that curls never seemed “cool”. As a teen, poker straight hair was de rigueur, and my friends and I often took a hot iron (yes, an actual iron) to ours to achieve the look. By the time I was in my twenties and working for a fashion magazine, boho beach waves were having a major moment and sadly, my hair doesn’t do nonchalantly tousled – it’s full-blown curls or nothing.
When I woke up one morning to find that my fringe had basically snapped off, leaving about an inch of hair, I knew the intensive straightening had to stop. I began to let my natural hair do it’s thing – if not every day then at least a few days a week- revelling in the time I was saving every morning, no longer stressing about getting caught in a downpour and pleasantly surprised by the amount of compliments I got. By my early 30s, I was barely wearing it straight anymore.
I quickly realised that curly hair requires specialist care, in terms of both cutting and styling, and that not every hairdresser knows how to work with it. It wasn’t until last year that I found one who did, and it was a total game-changer. Now I knew why I’d left salons feeling disappointed so many times, desperate to wash and restyle my hair myself. It was also only a year ago that I discovered there were different curl types, all needing different care. It blew my mind that despite so many salon chair chats over the years, no professional had ever mentioned this.
I started showing my curls a little more love, using dedicated products and curling each strand around my finger before drying to create definition – like a lot of people, my top layer of curls tends to get quite dry and frizzy. I’ve learned that curly hair can be infuriatingly unpredictable – sometimes it plays ball, others it’s almost impossible to manage – but at the ripe old age of 35, I’m finally learning to embrace it.
Like beauty and skincare, the haircare market can feel overwhelming, but Bouclème is a brand that consistently works for me. Founder Michele Scott-Lynch is something of a curl guru, so I wanted to pick her brains about all things curly hair, from how often to cut it to the products to avoid at all costs. If you’re also on a journey of curl acceptance, I hope her expert advice helps you get there a little quicker…
What are the different types of curls and their characteristics?
Curls come in many different types, textures and density. From wavy to super tight coils, fine to thick texture and thin to dense density. You can also have a mixture of textures and types on just one head. Loose waves and curls can be easily weighed down, they need products that give weightless moisture and styling products that offer hold. Curls and coils can be thirsty and need moisture rich products to help give definition and they also experience shrinkage.
Can curl types change?
Absolutely, hormonal changes can have a big effect on hair. Straight hair can become curly and curly hair can become straight. For women this commonly happens at puberty, around pregnancy and menopause. They say it takes a full two years for a woman’s body to restore post-pregnancy, and any curl pattern changes that happen during pregnancy tend to switch back during that time.
What should the perfect curly hair care routine look like?
Perfect looks different to each person. Every head of curls is unique and no two heads of curls are the same therefore it’s really important for individuals to find what works best for them. As a rule, curls tend to be drier than other hair types and require more moisture to eliminate frizz and create definition. Using gentle shampoo free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) to cleanse and leaving conditioner in can be real game-changers in moisture balance. Avoiding silicone based products that tend to create a plastic barrier around the hair shaft and instead using water based products will also ensure nutrients can penetrate into the cortex and give long term hair health.
Using smooth jersey type towels like our Curl Towel helps curls retain moisture where terry towels suck all hydration out. Applying styling products to soaking wet hair means hair achieves maximum hydration, enhancing curl definition and locking moisture in for longer – all essential for great looking curls.
What is the best way to deal with dry curls?
Really dry hair can benefit from co-washing, which is when you use a non-foaming cream-based cleanser to wash your hair. It’s like using a cream cleanser on your face rather than a foaming face wash which can strip away much-needed natural oils. A co-wash cleanser is gentle and removes dirt and dead skin cells but leaves the scalp and hair nourished. If your curls tend to loose moisture quickly, leaving your conditioner in and layering your styling products on top will help to trap moisture into the hair. Finishing with a lightweight oil seals moisture in and slows down the evaporation process.
How often should curly hair be cut?
Every 3-6 months depending on the curl type and health of the hair.
Is it essential to see a hairstylist that specialises in curly hair?
Absolutely. Curl specialists understand the changes that happen to curls when they go from wet to dry so cut curls when they’re dry and the hair is in its most natural state.
Which styling tools are best for curly hair? Is heat bad for them?
A wide tooth comb, a diffuser and/or a hooded dryer. A wide tooth comb detangles curls gently, a diffuser is great for creating volume and amplifying curl formation while a hooded dryer is good for volume control and reducing shrinkage.
What are the ultimate curly hair care no-no’s?
Over shampooing leads to dehydration and frizz. Daily brushing of curls when dry breaks the curl pattern and creates a messy pouf. We recommend de-tangling curls when wet with plenty of conditioner in the hair. Keep that terry towel away from your hair and only use it for drying your body.
What are your tips for learning to love and embrace your curls?
The journey to embracing your curls fully is a marathon not a sprint. It’s important not to compare your curls to others – every head of curls is unique and beautiful. Experiment with your usage amounts and application/styling techniques until you find what works for you. Keeping a diary will help you identify what you did on bad and good hair days. It’s natural to have fails but remember every fail brings you closer to achieving your desired results.
Which curl products couldn’t you live without?
Shop Bouclème here, and keep scrolling for my favourite curl products…
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