Curls, curls, curls: A step-by-step guide

From short and straight to longer and curly

Hair is a peculiar thing. We’re never happy with what we have. It’s too thin or too thick, too straight or too curly. Too wavy or not wavy enough. Some of us never come to terms with our hair, while others find workable solutions. It took me almost 50 years — half a century — to realize that I actually love my natural hair, which I’d describe as on the curly side of wavy.

My issues with hair started with my mother. She was forever fussing with my hair and I was the unlucky recipient of several misbegotten home perms. In fact, Mom administered one on the eve of second-grade school photo day. Let’s just say that very few of the resulting pictures survived and I refused to participate in the annual rite of photo-swapping with my classmates. Even in second grade, I was appalled.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but I’m hard-headed. Instead of trying and failing once,  I’ll try something six or seven times just to make sure it doesn’t work. This led to a frizzy mess my freshman year of high school and a disastrous attempt at bouncy curls in college. After that, perming techniques improved and I spent part of the 80s with a half-perm many of my friends copied but that in retrospect was absolutely hideous.

Here’s the way my hair works: When it’s short, I can train it to dry straight with the help of a vented brush and a blow dryer. Let it grow just a bit, though, and the waves start to take over. I kept my hair short for years because I just couldn’t cope with the unkempt, unpolished growing-out stage. Then, a first: A new hairstylist asked if I’d ever tried “scrunching.” And lo, a miracle transpired. Those perms? Not needed. All that was required to take my hair from annoyingly wavy to cutely curly was a can of mousse, some styling products and hands to perform the scrunch. How does the scrunch work? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • First, wash your hair with products specially designed to enhance curls, not weigh them down. I sometimes use Bumble & Bumble’s “Surf” products, but when I want curlier curls I stick to products by DevaCurl. In particular, I use the company’s “Decadence” line, which includes a no-poo shampoo and weightless conditioner.
  • When you step out of the shower and grab a towel, make sure you don’t break up the curls or create frizz by rubbing the towel through your hair. Instead, blot and squeeze your hair through the towel to remove the bulk of the moisture.
  • Never comb through your hair, either with a comb or your fingers. Doing so will separate the natural waves or ringlets that have started to form. Instead, spray your damp hair with Frizz Ease Beyond Smooth Primer, then use your hands to “scrunch” sections of hair up toward your scalp.
  • It’s time for mousse. Any brand will do but I prefer either Aussie Sprunch Mousse or DevaCurl’s Frizz-Free Volumizing Foam. Again, scrunch your hair with your hands, pushing it up toward your scalp.
  • If your hair needs coaxing to curl, there are quite a few styling products you can add to damp hair before drying. I sometimes use DevaCurl’s Coconut Curl Styler or Briogeo’s Curl Charisma Defining Cream.
  • At this point, you have a choice, and you should try all three to see what works best for you: Either dry your hair immediately with a scrunching motion and a diffuser, let it dry naturally, or let it get almost dry before using the scrunching-with-diffuser method. I prefer the latter because my curls seem to set better while drying naturally, while finishing up with the blow dryer gives them bounce and life. I use the Curly Pop dryer/diffuser that’s made by Bed Head. Again, don’t brush or comb your hair: Doing so will either pull out the curl or leave your hair frizzy.

Voila! Easy, sexy, bouncy curls that last all day and through the night.

Quick and easy hair options 

My hair is naturally wavy, something I battled with for years. When I was young, I actually liked the texture. I’m a child of the 70s, so I let it grow long and when I used hot rollers, the curl would last forever. The problem came as I grew older. I tried so many hairstyles — even, regrettably, the Dorothy Hamill bob. My hair would look great at the salon, but I could never recreate the look. I’d end up with a wavy mess. (Obviously, I was not adept with hair tools.)

My 70s hair

It took me years to discover that I actually have perfect hair for the scrunch-and-go style. I just take any type of hair mousse, scrunch it into my towel-dried hair and either blow dry or air dry. That’s it. Easy-peasy. (Photo at top left below).

Still, there are times when I want a smoother, straighter look. (Photo at bottom left above.) After years of trial and error, I stumbled across an easy way to get it. I comb Nios Shield Leave-In Conditioner and Marc Anthony Perfect Smoothing Cream through towel-dried hair, then let it sit for awhile, usually while I apply my makeup. Then I finish up with a blow dryer and vented brush. My hair ends up shiny and straight!

If you have wavy or curly hair that leaves you frustrated, try one or both of these easy styling methods!

Banish brassy hair in two easy steps

Processed with MOLDIV

From platinum to auburn to golden 

Brass is great if you’re listening to a band. But the last thing those of us with blonde or gray hair like to see is garish brass tones.

I recently went from platinum to deep red to golden blonde. I’d initially planned to go all the way back to platinum, but an old friend convinced me to try golden hair because she’d liked it on me years ago. Verdict: I tried it, I liked it, I’m keeping it. The problem is that despite several bleachings, the remnants of dark red dye want to seep through after a few washings. Plus, I have a tendency toward red because it runs in the family. Both of my children are natural redheads. My daughter has golden red locks, while my son’s tresses are deep auburn — legacies, I suppose, of our Irish heritage.

I’ve found that combatting brassiness requires a two-step approach. First, I must wash my hair in cool-verging-on-cold water. Second, I regularly use a purple-toned shampoo. I have two in my shower right now, one that works and one that doesn’t.

The product I won’t repurchase is Dumb Blond Purple Toning Shampoo, which fails on two key fronts (or three if you count its name). It doesn’t completely keep my hair from turning brassy and it’s pretty drying — not a good thing when hair has been bleached.

The the product that works well is Sterling Silver Colour Care Toning Shampoo from AG Hair Care. It’s formulated to eliminate brassy, yellow tones from blonde and silver hair.  I use it three or four times per week to keep breakthrough brassiness at bay.

AG Hair Care Sterling Silver Colour Care Toning Shampoo, $18 for 10 ounces, $45 for 33.8 ounces at Ulta.