The ABC List…finale

febrero 7, 2010

I know it’s been a minute since I’ve posted but I worked too many overtime hours this week and truthfully have not had the energy to write the next installment. Sorry! So back on schedule…

Curly Styles and Methods

As previously mentioned, CG is just one method–and in my opinion the healthiest–for keeping your curls at their very best. One of the main components of CG is co-washing (in place of shampoo). This site gives a great step by step guide to co-washing. Depending on hair type and current health of your hair, co-washing every other day is beneficial. Others find they can co-wash every 3 or 4 days or once every week if they’re wearing protective styles (more on this later). You’ll have to choose what’s best for you and your hair. This involves learning to recognize your hair needs and paying close attention to the products you use/your hair’s reactions to them as a result of both frequency and product make up.

When choosing a good co-wash conditioner look for the following ingredients (obtained from

Emollients – soften, smooth the hair and give it shine. There are hundreds of them, natural ones include all vegetable oils and nut butters, others more widely used are glycerides and liposomes.

Proteins – temporarily “repair” the hair and/or protect it. Occasionally proteins will build up on some people’s hair, this is really more likely to happen on healthy or relatively healthy hair. In case of any concern, just alternate with a protein-free CO. Examples of them are silk, soy, wheat germ, keratin or individual amino acids (components of proteins).

**check out this site for learning how to adjust conditioners based on hair needs

Humectancts – absorb water and hold in moisture. They are absolutely crucial in a CO for curly hair. Panthenol, vegetable glycerin, sorbitol and honey are just a few humectants to look for on the label.

**the best thing about humectants is that they can be added to your conditioner even if they’re not on the label. add a bit of honey to your deep conditioner for extra silky smooth tresses

Moisturizers – add softness and control to curly hair. Amino acids and aloe vera are two great moisturizers

**some curlies use aloe  vera gel or aloe vera juice mixed with water and EO (essential oil) for a daily moisture mist. develop your own recipe or take a peek at some others. another curly favorite is natural shea butter–adds moisture in a punch!

As a rule of thumb, dry, brittle hair can be a sign of many things. You may not be getting enough moisture (in which case deep conditioning, frecuent co-washing, and using moisture based products can help bring sahara hair back to life). It can also mean that you’re using too much protein (always check ingredients, especially if your hair is sensitive to certain products. the closer they are to the top of the ingredient list, the more concentrated they are) or silicones (if you’re moderate CG) and your hair needs a break. Other times it simply means that your hair has become over conditioned (too many co-washes, oils and gels) and needs to be refreshed.

That’s where clarifying comes in! It’s always a good idea to clarify every once in awhile to give your hair a fresh start. Coarse haired curlies may require less frequent clarifying treatments because coarse hair is already prone to drying (a problem that can be exacerbated by too much stripping of oils). I typically clarify my hair once a month unless my hair is feeling over conditioned, in which case I’ll do it twice a month. An easy way to clarify hair is to use a sulfate shampoo but if you’re on the CG method there are plenty of natural ways to clarify hair without risking damage—and they also happen to be pretty cheap too! My clarifying preference is plain old baking soda. Here are two popular recipes:

1 tbsp baking soda

1 cup warm water


1 tbsp baking soda

3 tbsp  CG friendly conditioner

After clarifying with baking soda it’s pretty much necessary to follow up with an ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) rinse. Baking soda raises the cuticle (essentially opening it up and getting all the gunk out), which leads to frizz if not handled properly. ACV rinses will smooth the cuticle back down and add shine and definition to hair. Trust me, the first time I did one I was amazed at how bouncy my curls looked and felt. I do recommend not going overboard with ACV rinses though. Some people do them weekly or biweekly. I find that many applications to be a little harsh on my hair and only do them when I’m clarifying my hair once about once a month. Remember ACV is very acidic and can cause unpleasant reactions if not handled properly (=hard, wiry hair). Here are some common ACV rinse recipes:

1 tbsp ACV

1 cup warm water


1 tbsp ACV

1 cup warm water

3 drops honey (not too much or it will make your hair sticky!)

After clarification (especially after using the two previously mentioned applications), you definitely want to deep condition to restore the moisture you stripped of it. Deep condition at least once a week to keep your curls soft, smooth and hydrated! Most people apply heat while deep conditioning because it has a sauna affect on the curls. However, if you’re heat-phobic like me, wrapping your hair tightly in saran wrap or a shower cap and letting it sit for a few hours works just as well. Just remember to give yourself plenty of time to let the conditioning treatment fully saturate your hair–30 min at the least.

At this point you’re probably conditioned out and are tired of hearing the word but another essential part of the CG method (and ABC List) is the use of a leave-in conditioner. Leave-in conditioner should be used every time you co-wash and clarify your hair–sometimes even before styling. Why? It adds yet another layer of protection over your curls and helps keep frizz at bay. Leave-in conditioner also makes detangling a breeze (try following Teri’s curly primer method if you hate having to comb out your curls). Leave-in conditioners should preferably be more “heavy duty” than a cheapie co-wash conditioner but less heavy than a rinse out conditioner (the regular conditioner you use after clarifying/shampooing). Instead of buying a leave-in conditioner, you can make your own natural concoction. Remember mother nature often provides all the ingredients your hair really needs–and at a cheaper cost than a glamorous bottled product. Check Curl Journey’s complete list of CG safe products for good leave-ins/co-wash products and this site for the natural alternative to leave-in conditioners. You can also leave-in some of your conditioner after you co-wash instead of applying a whole new product, but you have to be careful that you’re leaving enough in (it takes skill) and that your co-wash is hydrating enough to not get lost in your curls.

And now for the fun part…styling!

With a creative mind and the right products, styling natural hair can be both an exciting and rewarding experience. I used to think that braids or twists were the end all be all of my curly haired existence. URRRR. Wrong. There are so many ways to style natural hair with or without embellishments. Protective styling (e.g. braids, twists, buns) are best for those who want to concentrate on adding length to hair. This is because protective styles require low manipulation. Manipulation refers to having to put strain–large or small–on your curls. Though detangling is beneficial and makes curl upkeep easier, constant combing, raking, brushing, and handling of the curls irritate them and can lead to breakage and split ends. Wearing curls natural and free feels liberating but also causes wear and tear on the ends, which will dry out quicker and rub against your clothes. Washing curls too often or applying frequent heat also leads to breakage–sometimes curls just want to be left alone!

To cut down on breakage, variate between stressful styles and stress free ones. For example, for every week that you wear your hair out, wear hair in braids, twists or a bun for the following two (or as long as you can maintain them). Trimming is important (the most popular time period I’ve heard is once every 6 months) and detangling with fingers should be used whenever possible (to prevent tearing of hair strands). Here is a list of popular low manipulation and complete protective styles (click to see an example):


chignons (French rolls)

tucked styles

pony tails with the ends tucked in




updo‘s/pinned up styles

braid outs

twist outs

two stranded twists

flat twists

bantu knots

finger coils

comb coils

dread locks (locs)

**some of these styles were borrowed from this great article written by Audrey Sivasothy about maximizing length retention**

If you’re ever feeling bored with protective styling check out the style section at Curly Nikki’s site. Tons of inspiration to be found from fellow naturals!

Last but not least, styling products are often beneficial and sometimes downright necessary for the up keep and maintenance of styled curly hair. Instead of promoting any one product I will say it’s a good idea to have a mixture of gels, butters and pomades. Sometimes they work best when used in conjunction–it all depends on whether or not their ingredients interact well with each other. Styling products should be applied in this order: butter (for moisture and protection), gel (for hold and definition), pomade (for shine and SOTC–scrunching out the crunch, which sometimes occurs with intesnse hold gels). Don’t forget your leave-in conditioner before using any styling product!

There are a variety of styles and products just waiting to be tried. If you can, try to find ones that are natural and even organic. Products with tons of chemicals are not only unhealthy for your hair but also could have unknown side affects on your skin and the rest of your body. Also, don’t think you have to shop at expensive “curls only” boutiques to find good products. Sometimes natural remedies and generic “cheapie” brands work just fine (for co-washes especially) and have similar if not identical ingredients.

Above all enjoy the adventure of finding the products that work for you but be careful–sometimes it’s better to stick to basic products and slowly work your way up. If not you’ll end up with a ton of products that you can’t all use and end up wasting–aka growing into a product junkie. Uhem..not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything 😉

I’m still experimenting to find the “perfect” mix.  When beginning any hair journey, substantial time and energy goes towards messing up and starting all over again! But I’m learning to enjoy the process. Even if it does get frustrating when a bright idea ends up being a dud (or worse, a disaster). It’s better to maintain this mindset: with every mistake, I’m closer to finding the right answer. In my next post I’ll go into detail about how I arrived at my current routine.


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