It's taken a few months of trial and error, but here's what I do to my hair every morning (as of August 16, 2009):
1. In the shower, I wet my hair completely. I don't touch it much until it is soaking wet so as to prevent breakage.
2. I apply a half-dollar size amount of any of my favorite conditioners (Jessicurl's Too Shea in cold weather or Aloeba in any climate, Aubrey Organics Island Naturals conditioner, or EO Rose & Chamomille Nourshing Conditioner) to the canopy of my hair ("canopy" is the term Lorraine Massey uses in her book Curly Girl-- it refers, basically, to one's skull), and just smooth it on. Then I take another half-dollar-size amount, rub it between my hands, tilt my head to one side, and run my fingers through the hair on one side of my head, being careful to avoid the scalp (you don't want to get much conditioner on your scalp because it'll weigh down your roots). Then I tilt my head to the other side and do that side. The method is described in the Curly Girl book, so I won't spend too much time on it here.
3. I let the conditioner sit on my head while I shower, then I rinse out 90% of it. I turn the water off. I then take any of the above conditioners and use a bit as a leave-in. (I used to use products that were labeled as "leave-in"s but I've discovered that doing so was a waste of money.) I rub some between my hands, and work it through the bottom half of my hair, again avoiding the roots. I scrunch the product in to get the curls going. I leave in heavier conditioners (Aubrey, Too Shea) when the temperatures are cold and the dew point is low, and lighter ones when the weather is warmer and the dew point is above 44 or so. EO Conditioner and Aloeba are good for me in all temperatures and dew points.
4. I use Kinky-Curly Curling Custard pretty much every day that the dew point is above 38. When I use KCCC in dew points over 50 or so, I combine it in my palm with a smidgeon of Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee. In lower dew points, I combine it with Max Green Alchemy Sculpting gel. (For a description of how I use KCCC, please see this post.)
If the dew point is below 38, I skip the KCCC and just use Loma's Imply molding creme (dime-size amount) or Boots Curl Creme (probably less than a dime-size and then emulsify it between my palms). I rake it through my hair and when I feel it's well distributed, I scrunch my hair. I squeeze in upward motions, toward the scalp. This encourages curl and squeezes out excess moisture. I do this for probably a minute, doing it while my head is flipped over and then standing up to do either side of my head. You can see this technique here.
5. I apply my moisturizer and dry off, giving my hair a chance to find its natural curl. This takes three or four minutes.
6. If I've only applied curl creme (no KCCC). I then apply a quarter-to-half-dollar glob of any of the following: Aubrey B5 Design gel (my favorite), Max Green Alchemy Sculpting gel, Fuzzy Duck gel, or Biotera gel. For heavy fog and/or high dew points, I sometimes use Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee mixed with some TheraNeem Leaf and Aloe gel. I rub any of these gels between my palms and then scrunch it into my hair in the same way that I scrunched the curl creme.
7. Then it's time for my special hair towel. Why have I waited so long and applied products to wet hair? Because the products bond better with the hydration provided by the water. Anyway, now I take a Curl-Ease towel and dry it in the same manner as I applied product. See the Jessicurl video for more instruction. (I used to use a microfiber towel but found that it was giving me a bit of frizz, so I switched to the smoother Curl-Ease. Many folks have found that using an old t-shirt works just as well. The big thing is that you want to avoid terrycloth towels because they are too rough for curly hair.)
8. At this point, I usually get out the blow-dryer but if the weather is warm and I don't have to be anywhere, I let it air-dry because that's best for hair. Most days, though, I have to go to work, so I must speed up the drying process. I use this Conair blow-dryer but any appliance that doesn't blow your hair around (ruining curls) will do. A good dryer should also have a good "bowl" on the diffuser and long fingers. Anyway, here's how I dry my hair.
a. Avoid touching it b. Use the method described here. I diffuse until my hair is about 90% dry. c. I stand up, let the curls sort of find their way, and then place DevaClips strategically on the top of my head. The Curly Girl book says to use metal duckbill clips but I found them to be too heavy -- I much prefer the DevaClips (which didn't exist when Massey wrote her book). Anyway, I place them where my hair seems to be headed anyway. The point here is to encourage hair to dry away from the scalp, thereby giving it more volume. The procedure is outlined in the book, although not very well, I'm afraid. Some people in the NaturallyCurly.com forums have photos posted of themselves and their clipping methods, so you might want to check that out for more information. d. I do not touch my hair during this air-dry phase. It takes anywhere from one to two hours for my hair to be fully dry, even after the blow-drying. Once it's dry, though (and I mean COMPLETELY dry), I remove the clips, bend over, slip my fingers into my hair at the roots so as not to disturb the actual curls, and rub and shake a little to loosen things up and give some volume. If my hair is crunchy from the products, I scrunch out the crunch.
And then I am finished.
Other things I do: 1. Never comb or brush my hair 2. Sleep on a satin pillowcase 3. Either sleep with conditioner and a satin bonnet on my head, or rake in some avocado or coconut oil and put my hair up in a scrunchie. 4. Conditioner wash (instead of shampoo) once or twice a week -- I use Suave Naturals Coconut conditioner to do this.
This fall, I bought one of those Martian-type microfiber hats so that I could start giving myself weekly deep conditioning treatments. I'm here to tell you this cap is a waste of time and money.
This lovely item - which ranges in price anywhere from $14 to $20 -- is an impressively constructed chapeau with pockets into which you insert the included gel packs. Inserting the gel packs is the first sign of impending annoyance but you do it because, as with most beauty products, you think your looks will improve after the ordeal is over and you're willing to be a little inconvenienced to get that improvement.
So, you figure out which gel packs go into which pocket -- a nice little IQ test to take while conditioner drips down your neck -- and then once they're all safely where they should be, you microwave the cap for about 1 minute, 30 seconds to two minutes (depending on your microwave). This is when you discover your second annoyance: if you overheat the hat, the gel packs break, releasing a toxic substance into your hat and thus, your hair. So, you must be vigilant as you heat this piece of high fashion apparel.
While you wait, you could wet down your hair (if you haven't already done so) and slather on a ton of deep treatment conditioner. (I had been using Jessicurl's Weekly Deep Conditioning Treatment. I love all her products.) Comb it through and move your hair up onto the top of your head.
Two minutes later, you have a nice warm hat that you then place on your head (don't forget to fasten that strap for take-off!). Obviously, you would want to do this when your significant other is not at home. Unless, of course, you like being the butt of jokes.
You sit with this cozy warm cap on your head for 30 minutes or so. Your head will be warm but not uncomfortably so. You then remove the cap and rinse out the conditioner and get on with your life.
After a few uses, you'll probably want to wash the cap (it's made of microfiber). Out come the gel packs, then. You wash the cap like you would any towel. Then you must reinsert the gel packs. That is, if you haven't destroyed them in the microwaving process.
After about four uses, I took out my gel packs, only to discover to my horror that they were strangely misshapen -- I couldn't tell whether they'd leaked or what. Had I been exposed to the toxic innards?
Needless to say, out went the hat. Risk of poisoning and having to deal with proper placement of the packs just wasn't making me happy.
So, what do I do now to deep condition my hair? Something that Devachan Salons recommend for their curly-haired clients: Apply a bunch of really good conditioner to your dry hair at night, put on one of those satin sleep bonnets you can get in any drugstore, and go nitey-nite. Wake up in the morning, remove the bonnet, rinse out the conditioner, and you're done. No complicated, time-consuming bullshit.
Oh, and for those of you who do not want to sleep in conditioner (or a bonnet), my hair lady here in San Francisco at Sassy Salon says you can just put a deep treatment on your hear, cover it with a cheap plastic shower cap (like the kind hotels give you), and then wrap your head in a towel. Sure, go ahead and laugh but is it any less glamorous than that stupid cap? And let's not forget the absence of toxic substances!
After discovering that curls can be nurtured into fabulousness instead of frizz, I began my quest to cultivate healthy, moisturized hair. I don't use anything with sulfates or silicones, and like my hair at last! This blog is one way I am indulging my obsession.