The key to taking care of our super-curly hair is to throw out trying to take care of it in the same way straight hair is taken care of. Our curls can’t be treated like straight hair. It’s just different. As soon as I began to figure out how curly hair needs to be treated, instead of trying to force it to be like straight hair, that was when things began to turn around for me.
These instructions will go over the basics, but they will be given in much more detail, with lots more information in the book. I just wanted this information to get out there, so another person wouldn’t have to spend thirty years struggling with their hair like I did.
The first thing you must know is:
Do not brush or comb your hair when it’s dry.
Your hair will simply explode into a fuzzball. This is a stunning look when our hair is combed out this way, however, it tends to mat ferociously in a short amount of time. Plus, dry combing is damaging.
This is a picture of three of my curls as they are.
This is the very same three curls after combing them dry.
Never separate your hair like a wishbone.
This is just asking for a big snarl. It is in the nature of our hair to tangle. Our curls are the exact same shape nature uses for plants when they need to grasp onto something, like pea tendrils. You always have to keep this in mind, every time you touch your hair. Otherwise you will constantly be cutting knots out of your hair and cursing at it. Always work from the ends. If they aren’t clear, then nothing will move beyond them. They will just create a big log jam of snarling. With the techniques I go over here (and in the book), your need to ever separate your hair in the first place will be cut to a minimum.
When you do need to separate your hair, like when dividing it into smaller sections for combing, it's good to first comb your ends when they are wet and loaded with conditioner. Then hold the hair you want to separate lightly in one hand. With your other hand, very gently pull one section out from the remaining section, like I'm doing with my hair in the photos below.
I've found that half the battle with combing my hair is often just dividing it into more manageable sections. In this video I show how I section my hair into smaller sections for combing. It may look like I'm stretching and pulling my hair as I divide, but actually, I'm not. Because my hair is so wet and slippery with conditioner, the sections usually slide apart so long as I'm very gentle.
Stop hurting your curls
Though our hair seems so headstrong and thick, and mine tears up a cheap comb, the individual strands of hair are gossamer thin and delicate. They are damaged easily, and break off when damaged. Your hair won’t grow when damaged. If you can eliminate all the ways your hair is damaged, then it will grow to its maximum length (as long as your health is okay). Some things that damage our hair the most:
Relaxing or straightening.
Anything that involves sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide. These are the same chemicals in hair depilatories. The only difference is the hair removers are left on a bit longer. This is why they also work so well as drain openers; they eat up everything in their path. I spent most of my life applying these chemicals to my hair because I thought it would make my hair more manageable. I walked around with scabs all over my head because of how severe they were, yet could not for the life of me figure out why my hair wouldn’t grow.
Cooking your hair.
Anything that would blister your skin doesn’t feel so great on your hair either. Flat irons can actually melt the cuticles of your hair. Curling irons as well as flat irons can boil the water within your wet hair and make little bubbles within the shaft. Your hair will break off at these bubbles. A mild and careful blow-drying, especially with a diffuser should be okay, provided the heat isn’t too high, and you don’t concentrate the heat on any one spot.
Ripping a comb or brush through your tight curls will not only hurt, but it will damage your cuticles and stretch your hair through the force used to get the comb through. If your hair is stretched too far, it will break.
Our hair is different from straight hair. Tight curls take time to take care of. In return, you will grow amazing spirals few other people have. Take time to untangle your hair with your fingers instead of ripping it apart. Take the time to comb it gently. Take the time to untangle it (and it will tangle). Accept that it is in the nature of our curls to tangle, and take the steps to prevent it.
Mind The Ends
Always keep your eyes on the ends of your hair. If you watch them in whatever you do, you will eliminate the majority of tangles. When separating your hair, always keep an eye on the ends. Gently hold the ends between the fingers of one hand to keep them from snarling. They will try to tangle. That’s just what they do. But if you are careful, you can prevent it. When combing, start with the ends and work the tangles out the bottom before starting another tangle. If you try to comb it out from top to bottom, it will all jam up at the ends.
You Don’t Have to Trim
If you eliminate damaging your hair, you don’t have to trim it. You get a new head of hair about every six years anyway. The purpose of trimming is to cut off the damaged parts. If you aren’t damaging your hair, you will just be cutting away perfectly good hair. I haven’t trimmed my hair in over ten years, and it’s doing just fine.