My hair journey, like many curly and wavy hair folks, has been a wild ride. Growing up, stick straight hair was the look, and when it’s quiet late at night, I can still hear the sizzling of my poor hair in my friend’s 700-degree straightening iron. After years of straightening, dry brushing, and loading up with stylers, I finally started to accept the curls in my hair. I started paying attention to my hair in 2013 with a routine that consisted of dunking my head in the sink and glopping in as much heavy hold hair gel as I could scrunch in. Safe to say, there was a hell of a learning curve.
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My Hair Type
Hair typing is a bit of a controversial thing, as you don’t always have ONE curl type throughout their whole head. Also, people tend to overtype their hair, and think they have curlier hair than they really do, which means using incorrect products and some level of erasure for people with different hair types, most especially people of color. You can learn more about the controversy and hair typing here.
For a while, I described my hair as a 2a and 2b mix. More correctly, it’s medium density, and medium porosity. You can learn about typing your hair here. Knowing your hair type will help you choose a routine and products that best fit your hair.
Where I Learned
There are a ton of resources out there for curly and wavy girls. I’ve found the most success with Facebook groups and Tiktok accounts. Here are my favorites:
Hair Wash Products
Kristen Ess Curl Shampoo – $13
Finding the right shampoo has been a long process, but I’ve been really happy with the Kristen Ess Curl Shampoo. It’s not super heavy in my hair, nor does it feel like it severely strips the oils in my hair.
Find it at: Kristen Ess • Target
Innersense Organic Beauty Hydrating Cream Conditioner – $30
This one definitely tips the budget scale a little pricier, but I find it works really well for my hair. I’ve used it for a variety of different conditioner methods, with no problem every time. If you’re sensitive to fragrance, this is not the conditioner for you. It has a very strong smell, and it smells very processed fragrance-y. It’s enough that I’m still considering trying a new conditioner after finishing this bottle.
*I recently discovered that Innersense sells a large refill pouch. This is a great eco-friendly option to refill your smaller conditioner bottle with a little less waste!
Find it at: Innersense Organic Beauty • Ulta
Kristen Ess Clarifying Shampoo – $13
I use clarifying shampoo to strip out excess oil and product build up. I use a generous amount, and the bottle has lasted a while. I wash with it one a month or so, and my scalp feels notable cleaner and fresher.
Find it at: Kristen Ess • Target
Curlsmith Deep Conditioning Treatment
After clarifying, always follow up with a deep conditioning treatment. I’m indecisive, so I bounce between Curlsmith’s Double Cream Deep Quencher and Hydro Creme Soothing Mask. They both feel great and do wonders to rehydrate my hair after a clarifying wash. Curlsmith has so any options, you can definitely find one that suits you and your hair.
Hair Styling Products
I use the LMG method, leave-in/mousse/gel, when it comes to styling my hair. Immediately out of the shower I style with dripping wet hair.
Blueberry Bliss Leave-in Conditioner – $12
A true game changer! Using leave-in conditioner helps hold my wave so much better, I couldn’t believe it. With my head upside down or all to one side and my hair dripping wet, I finger comb a dollop of leave-in through my hair. If my hair is starting to make its natural curl clump shapes, I don’t comb through those, just using prayer hands to cover those sections.
Find it at: Ulta • Target
Cake The Curl Whip Whipped Curl Mousse – $9
Up next is mousse. With my head upside down, I’ll get mousse on both hands, and scrunch it into my hair. I usually do it in four parts, left side, right side, center, and then a small bit for a little root lift. I love Cake The Curl, but would also recommend Suave Wave Mousse for a cheaper option or Living Proof Full Thickening Mousse for a travel size option.
Find it at: Ulta • Cake
Curlsmith Curl Defining Styling Souffle – $27
Another less than budget-friendly option here, but worth every penny! I love Curlsmith’s products, and this styling souffle is one of the best gels I’ve ever used. A healthy glop of this, scrunched throughout my hair (while still upside down!) gives my hair a strong, smooth hold throughout. The product does have a strong smell, but I don’t find it offensively strong, compared to the Innersense conditioner mentioned earlier. Save a little and test this product out with a travel size bottle.
Find it at: Ulta • Curlsmith
After applying products, I microplop to scrunch out some of the water and plop for 15-20 minutes. You should use a microfiber towel, but you can also use a nice thick t-shirt! After plopping, you can either air dry or blow dry with a diffuser. I’ve been air drying, but I did just upgrade to a new hair dryer, so I will follow up on how well it works out!
Figuring out a good hair wash and style routine has been tough, and making it budget-friendly has been surprisingly tough too! But finding this routine has made my hair so much healthier and easier to wrangle on a daily basis! Are you exploring your curly or wavy journey? Share your favorite (or least favorite!) products below!