Is Curly Hair Professional?

Pictured: Curls 1/27/09, originally uploaded to Flickr by dianecordell.Is curly hair professional enough for interviews? Reader R writes in to ask the question, which has come up a ton of times in comments but hasn’t been discussed directly. So let’s talk about it. First, her Q:

I am 23 and interviewing for a new position. I have the suit/shoes/accessories combo set for interviews, but my problem is my hair. I have very curly (shoulder length)hair, which is made more curly because I live in the very hot, humid South. I do have any frizz under control (with a veritable arsenal of hair products), but I have had trouble deciding exactly what to do with my hair on interview. I have worn my hair both straight and curly for interviews in the past, but it takes forever to blow my hair out, and it seems like my potential new bosses should see me the way I will really look when I come to work everyday. What do you think?

This question hits near and dear to my heart because, as I’ve mentioned a few times, the older I get, the curlier/wavier my hair gets. For my $.02: There is nothing unprofessional about curly hair. It looks beautiful, and a lot of strong, professional women I know (whose style I envy!) in fact have long curls. Furthermore, I strongly believe that it takes more time and energy to FIGHT your hair’s natural texture than it does to work with it — time that, frankly, is better spent elsewhere for most women.  (Pictured: Curls 1/27/09, originally uploaded to Flickr by dianecordell.)

That said, I think a few facets of The Curly Life give women pause as to its professionalism. A lot of these are personal observations, so I’m curious to hear what my fellow curly girls will say.

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a) Wet hair is not professional. My curls/waves look best if they airdry. Which means that either I have to be up and out of the shower about an hour and a half before leaving for the destination, or I show up with slightly wet hair (depending how cooperative the commute is). Most women would agree that wet hair is not professional. So if you’re going anywhere important — certainly to court, a big meeting, or an interview, or even just for your regular office look — your hair should be dry.

b) Personally, my curls are unpredictable, which means that for me I would not rely on them for an interview. Some days I’ll come out of the shower — having used the same products I used the day before, the same drying techniques I’ve used before — but something in the air that day makes them dry beautifully. And I feel like a million bucks on those days! Other days I’ll repeat the exact same techniques and come out looking like a frizzy-haired mess. I’m still working out the kinks (ha ha) to my system, but for now if I have anything important going on then I’ll probably get a professional blow-out or flatiron my hair (which is so, so much worse for your hair than a blow-out). Pulling your hair back is another option.  I totally envy those curly girls who have their systems down pat — my own curly hair system has gotten a lot better over the past year or so but it still needs tweaking.  (I’d say what I’m doing now, but it wouldn’t be a complete discussion without a list of the things that I’ve tried and rejected, which would take too long and, I suspect, not be that interesting for anyone but me!)

c)  Next-day curls are something unto themselves. This doesn’t relate to professionalism, but it does factor into time (and is one of the reasons why I will spend more time in the winter to blowdry my hair).  I’ve tried a number of products designed to “perk up” next day curls, but they all offend me in some manner — either they smell too much, they make my hair too crunchy, or they make my hair LOOK too crunchy or wet (just a spritzer filled with water seems to work best for me if I try anything).  So in the winter, when it takes forever for my curls to dry and the air is fairly dry anyway, I will spend 5-10 minutes trying to blowdry my hair straight, which is all I generally have patience for.  (I do find that anti-frizz treatments help tremendously, specifically John Frieda Frizz-Ease Hair Serum, Extra Strength Formula or Lotus Shield Frizz Control Anti-Frizz Treatment.  I’m looking forward to trying the reader-recommended John Frieda Frizz-Ease 3-Day Straight Semi-Permanent Styling Spray this fall.)  This past winter it was really easy to ride that one blowout for 2 or 3 days because I wasn’t working out (I was way too nauseous and exhausted from December to February anyway) and when I started working out again I was primarily doing workouts that didn’t work up quite a sweat… I’ll be curious to see how it goes this winter when I return to more rigorous workouts like running and my beloved Jari Love/Jillian Michaels/The FIRM DVDs.  (For the record you can run well into your pregnancy — one rockstar friend ran up 5-10K daily up to her 8th month! — but one of the first pregnancy symptoms that hit me was a real lack of lung capacity, so running was really uncomfortable.  Aerobic DVDs aren’t generally encouraged because your balance is off and your risk of falling is greater.)

Those are actually the most negative things I can come up with for curly hair — so if Reader R has her system down better than mine, I encourage her to go to the interview with her regular curly hair.  Readers, what are your thoughts on the professionalism of curly hair?  Does anyone think that curly hair, in and of itself, is NOT professional — and if so why?  For those of you with curly hair, what are your best tips for getting it consistently styled?

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  1. Not about hair :

    An interesting realization popped in my head today as I was reading a brief article online about a woman who received a crazy amount of “feedback” on her Facebook page after mentioning her child-free choice on her status. (It’s on the msnbc homepage if you are interested.)

    I am 33, have been married for 5 years, love by DH dearly, live a great life, come from a good family, etc. and my DH and I have chosen to not have children. We love them, could imagine ourselves with them, yet, do not choose to have them for reasons which are not material to this post.

    I have received quite a bit of feedback on our decision, all unsolicited of course. Now, here is the part I find interesting… it is usually the men who try to convince me otherwise (again, unsolicited). They tell me how amazing it is to have kids, how I should reconsider, how I’ll regret it later, etc, etc. Usually, the women respond with “good for you guys” or “wow, that’s interesting” or “don’t you just hate that question anyway?”.

    It’s fascinating to me that the men are the ones who turn “gushy” about their kids and many seem genuinely sad that I’ve chosen not to have them. Food for thought.

    • It’s funny how no one ever gives people with children their unsolicited opinion that they shouldn’t have had kids, you know?

      • I wonder, too, if the reactions from men vs. women have anything to do with who ends up–usually–doing the bulk of the work, and making the bulk of sacrifices, associated with having kids. Let alone being pregnant and going through labor. Obviously these women wanted their kids and love them, but maybe they also *get* in a concrete sense what it is that you aren’t willing to do.

    • Not at all surprised that it’s the men who try to convince you otherwise….studies show women still do the majority of child rearing, so as controversial as this may be to say on this particular thread, I think you are getting a lot of responses from “play dads” who do all the fun stuff but avoid a lot of the hard work!

      However, this may just be me projecting…I left for work at 8:35 this morning after doing 85 tasks, my hubby (who is pretty hands on and does do ALL the cleaning), breezed out to work around 7:45 after polishing off his coffee and checking the paper. We have three kids…

      • Not about hair :

        I think you make a great point… I was thinking about why I’ve never really had a woman try to convince me otherwise and it think it’s for the reasons you stated above. As “equal” as our society is/is getting, women are naturally the caretakers and bear much of the burden and therefore understand the gravity of the decision. Of course, there are exceptions.

        Eponine, that is a hilarious and insightful thought. You are so right.

    • I adore my kids, but recently had a long conversation with a colleague at another institution about whether she wanted kids, and told her that frankly, I thought she didn’t. She’s a great person, funny, warm, etc. and I’m sure would be a good mother, but she does not see conventional partnership models as a good fit for herself, has an area of research that involves lots of travel, and at 39 is kind of half-hearted on the idea of kids.

      Kids are great, they really are, but so are lots of other life choices. And ITA with the idea that men are wistful about the parenting experience that they have, which involves significantly less work on average than women’s parenting.

    • That’s funny. I’ve had the opposite experience; it’s definitely more women, particularly older (well, middle-aged) women, who comment on my child-free status. I’ve only had a few men do so, and they always seem to tread lightly, whereas the women are direct and confrontational. (FWIW, I’m 10 years married without kids, but I haven’t beenruling them out for the future; in fact, now I’d like them fairly soon, although that’s a fairly recent development.)

      • manoavalleygirl :

        I never wanted children: too much trouble. I like sleeping late and reading and solitude and travel and litigation. Then, when I turned 40, my husband said: I love you and our life, but is this all there is?

        We decided to have a child. I was terrified. I’m not maternal. Then I saw an Oprah show late one night. It was about older foster kids who wanted to be adopted. No one wanted them. I felt such guilt and such desire to help. I called the 1-800 number at the end of the show, and then the rest of my life began.

        Fast forward on our plan to adopt an older child. We had been screened, etc. I got a telephone call from the adoption agency. A child was available, now, this instant. But he wasn’t an older child. He was six weeks old. I knew nothing about babies, had no period of adjustment, no baby clothes, no nada.

        Two days later we were terrified parents and we’ve never looked back. As you age, you accept that you will get old (if you’re lucky). And then, having children is just . . . brilliant. Hanukkah or Christmas, or December sparkly lights shared by two older people without family isn’t all that. I’m explaining poorly, but for many people in their later years, having a loving older daughter or son or grandbabies is just so right.
        So, I think when women, or men, tell you that you’ll regret not having children, they may be folks with the perspective of aging and all it’s luster and pain combined.

        In short, what you want as a young woman may change as you age. And, with babies, there becomes a point when it is too damn late to change your mind as the realization hits: I forgot to have a child.

        So, Lyssa, good luck with your babies. You may never get over your fear or feel you are ready yet. But, some times we just gotta do scary things to grow.

        • I just think this mentality is insulting. I do not have children, nor do I want them. It’s not that I am afraid of having children or don’t feel ready. Most of my friends have children and I love spending time with them. I have just decided it’s not a lifestyle I want to have. I love the freedom of not having kids (I don’t have pets either) and just don’t see it as a lifestyle I want to have.

          I do think it’s a male thing generally to try to convince women to have kids. I have a few female friends who said if they had to do it again they would have waited or, in the case of adopting older children, not have had children at all.

          • Anonymous Poser :

            Yeah, I’ve had men* who tried to convince me to have children. But some women have said some nasty things to me. I’m glad that Not About Hair’s experience in this area is different from mine. :-)

            Of course, I live in the South, so…I’m pushing accepted norms more with my decision.

            *Not my husband, not anyone I was dating…

        • Not sure how this is insulting. She’s just sharing her perspective from absolutely not wanting kids to ultimately having kids.

          • Curl Friend :

            The tone was condescending and preachy unless you’re a born-again breeder.

            Parents are great, so are kids. But not everyone is cut out to be a parent.

        • Curl Friend :

          There are many other ways to grow. No one should become a parent unless s/he is absolutely committed. It’s a demanding, lifelong job, and the joys of parenthood have at times been overstated. If you’re interested in personal development, go to an ashram.

          Studies have shown that marriage tends to benefit men more than women. I imagine the woman’s shouldering of most of the burdens of child rearing is part of that. My understanding is that working women still perform much more work around the house.

          I’m not saying that the childless never have regrets; it’s human to consider the path not taken. But plenty of parents have regrets too.

  2. Totally unrelated, but yesterday I bought a pair of purple shoes for the first time. I immediately thought of Corporette! Kat, you have a convert!

    Plus, it’s always nice getting something on sale when the original price is something I could never possibly afford on my current salary. Wise strategy for the sales is of course also deeply Corporettian.

  3. Anonylawyer :

    I am a curly head and I follow the Curly Girl method (Google it – basically it means no suflate shampoos, no silicones, no waxes, no mineral oil). I actually let my hair air dry, but my commute is such that it is dry by the time I get to the office (I have a 45 minute trip). I condition my hair (if I conditioner wash, I use V05 Moisture Milks conditioner. My reguler conditioner is Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition), apply gel (LOVE LA Looks Sports Gel), “plop” it in a microfiber towel while I get dressed, and then let it air dr and DO NOT TOUCH it when it is wet. By the time I get to the office, it’s almost completely dry. FWIW, I can never get next day hair, no matter how hard I try.

    Many days – particularly in the summer – I pull my hair back into a low ponytail. Other times, I wear it loose or with a headband. In humidity, i’m more likely to choose a headband or ponytail just to keep it looking tamer.

    I used to thermally recondition my hair because I also was told that straight hair is more professional. Over time, my hair was breaking and it was so much effort. Working with your curls (once they are healthy) is way cheaper and easier. Over time, you can get pretty reliable results as far as how your hair looks.

  4. I think there’s a huge difference between out of control curly hair and appropriately curly hair. Think about Sex and the City. Carrie circa Season 1 with the rediculously frizzy curly hair is completely unprofessional. Carrie circa Season 6, with beautiful smooth curls, looks great!

  5. Any recomendations for biracial (b/w) hair that’s not being washed for a few days? Most products, including spray conditioners or curl enhancers, tend to dry the hair out and make it brittle and just icky te next day.

    • Curl Friend :

      If you put in enough conditioner when you wash it, misting you hair with water on the second or third day may reactivate the conditioner, at least that’s what the “Curly Girl’ book claims. That book also gives suggestions on how to re-form curls by twisting hair around your finger, etc.

      If I have time, I prefer to shampoo and condition or condition my hair every couple of days because my hair gets frizzy and my curls lose their definition. I don’t use sticky products.

  6. I wore my very curly hair natural for all of my BigLaw interviews and have continued to wear it curly this whole summer as a summer associate. For my two cents and after many years of struggling to make my hair work, I have a couple tricks that have done wonders:
    1. Don’t use an ordinary terrycloth towel to dry it because the nap will damage your curl “families” (that’s a real term, I swear!) and cause frizz. I use an old t-shirt to dry it when I get out of the shower. My sister uses paper towels. Anything without a nap.
    2. I have found Devachan products to be the best — No Poo cleanser once in a while, One Condition conditioner a few times a week, and Set It Free spray on days when I’m not washing it.
    3. Once you’ve put in your products DO NOT TOUCH IT until it’s one hundred percent, totally, completely dry.
    4. Once *bone* dry, flip your head over and gently shake your head, maybe scrunching gently, to help give your curls some bounce, volume and shape.
    5. Try not to play with it once it’s styled and dry — no only will it make it frizzy, but it can look very unprofessional.
    6. I use one of those claw clips to hold it back when I don’t want to wear it down — elastic bands damage the curls.

    • i love curl “families”

    • Accountress :

      I started using old t-shirts the last time there was a big thread on hair- and it’s amazing! I don’t have curly hair- just big hair, and a lot of it- and it was great to find something so little that would make such a big difference!

    • anonymous :

      Covered elastics are OK. Devachan says never to use the hair fasteners that have a metal bar that clamps down on the hair.

  7. This post could have also been titled “Is it professional to have brown-toned skin” or “Is it professional to wear your natural hair color”. I understand that Kat made this particular topic a post because there has been quite a bit of chatter lately about curly vs straight. But…

    I think it’s really important for women of all ages and all professions to come away with this: Whatever your god/world/science-given features are, they make you who you are. Present yourself with grace, take care of yourself, find your own “look” but never ever accept the notion that what god/the world/science has given you will NOT hold you back, will NOT make you less professional and does NOT need to be hidden in order to succeed.

    P.S., I have fine, straight hair. While I recognize that’s just the hair I ended up with and I don’t try to hid it by curling it every single day, I would “die” for super curly hair. So, for you ladies who have curly hair… do me a favor. Embrace it, rock it out and make us straighties drool!

    • We actually did have a post on whether it was professional to wear your natural hair color, if your natural color is platinum blonde.

    • Curl Friend :

      Well, it’s somewhat easier to embrace one’s difference, now that companies are actually coming out with products that permit curly/kinky hair to be styled in a neat, predictable manner, when many more women are sporting curls, when there are innovative stylists, and when ad agencies find it fashionable (for the moment) to feature curly haired models.

      How many “scientific experiments” have I seen on TV when men chose straight-haired blonde women over women with curly hair?

      It’s really not nearly as simple as you suggested.

    • Yes, I remember the post on natural color. Many comments about platinum not being professional related to chemically-induced platinum. A few posters did mention they had naturally platinum hair and if I recall correctly, there was a general consensous amongst the posters that if it was natural, or looked natural, it wasn’t unprofessional.

      Curl Friend, if scientific studies featured on TV result in a finding that some men prefer straight blonde hair over curly non-blonde hair, then that means some (emphasis on some) men prefer just that. It doesn’t mean it’s unprofessional to wear your hair curly.

      If you want to talk about relationships and natural texture of hair, then I’d propose this thought. If a man is attracted to a woman with straight blonde hair, and you have curly brown hair, then so what? That guy isn’t meant for you. If you were attracted to guys with green eyes, would you want a guy with brown eyes to wear contacts just so his eyes were green? I’m telling you the absolute truth when I say that if my DH, when we were dating, said he’d prefer curly, blonde hair (I have straight dark brown hair), then I would’ve said, ‘see ya’. I don’t want to be obligated to curl and bleach my hair to be attractive to a man just like you shouldn’t have to straighten your hair every morning to be considered “professional” to your boss/client/coworkers/etc.

      • Curl Friend :

        Your simplistic reasoning and naivete take my breath away. Four words: White Woman Privilege Issues.

        • Curl Friend :

          To have seriously kinky/curly hair, and especially to be an African American woman in this culture, much less corporate culture, is not a matter of having hair that’s simply a little different and if some people don’t like it, who cares? Some of those people are making judgments about one’s professionalism.

          I can’t believe I have to spell this out.

        • Curl Friend :

          In addition, What?? you are clearly unfamiliar with the high percentage of single black women professionals. I’ve seen figures as high as 77%. Marriage isn’t for everyone, but a large number of black women are single because they aren’t considered desirable in this culture relative to other women. Even some black men pointedly worship straight hair.

          Even if you are independent, if you’re a heterosexual woman who wants a husband and a family, you can’t just shrug that off. I have no doubt that there are mainly black women on this site who can attest to being treated differently socially and professionally.

    • Holler, I so agree.

  8. I posit that no intrinsic part of our bodies can be “unprofessional”. Different hair textures (and oh, is it uncomfortable to so much as wonder if curly hair is unprofessional when hair texture itself is so racially charged)? Of course different hair textures are professional. Large chests, or lack thereof? Professional. My extra toe that sometimes sticks out the side of my sandals? Professional. It is part of my body, and the notion that we might have to alter our very bodies to be considered professional is mind-boggling to me.

    Of course how we clothe and otherwise present our bodies can have implications for professionalism. A low neckline would not lend my large chest a professional appearance, for instance. But surely the professions have room for people with all sorts of bodies.

  9. As someone with mostly straight, somewhat wavy, completely intractable hair, I’m sighing with envy over those of you who have figured out how to make your hair behave and look nice and professional!

    Right now I’m struggling with color. I made the mistake of trying out a new salon in response to a great deal (free cut with any color service), and I’m not sure of the best way to handle the aftermath.

    When I went in, I asked for some way to blend the two colors in my hair, as I have alopecia areata and the grown-in patches come in significantly darker than the rest of my hair (naturally dark blonde). The stylist suggested a few foils to lift a bit of color, and I told her explicitly that I did not like the “striped” look and did not want to end up with that. She promised it would look natural, and we went ahead. Of course, I came out striped. I called the salon the next day and expressed unhappiness, and they offered to put a toner over everything to tone down the highlights. That worked for a few days, and now the toner color is gone and I’m striped again. I absolutely hate the way it looks and to make matters worse, I think my scalp is having some kind of reaction to the color treatment, so I’m nervous about going to another salon to get an all-over color. Plus, now I’m stuck having to color my hair, which I don’t want to do, since the upkeep is expensive and a pain.

    What should I do? I hate my hair so much but shaving my head isn’t really an option, unfortunately…

    • Can you dye all your hair to match the darker color? That’s likely an easier option, and less likely to be damaging, than trying to match the lighter color. Or if you think you’d look good with a short haircut, you could force yourself to wait a few months until it grows out 4-5 inches, then chop it.

    • Or go to a trusted salon and ask for some real professional advice. There may be more options that only the really good professionals know.

      Unfortunately, hair is just something you have to invest big bucks in if you want it looking really good.

      • Thanks, Eponine and Lola. I think I’ll have to dye it, much as I don’t want to, because I’m currently trying to grow it out for my wedding and I look awful with short hair anyway.

        *sigh* I would be more than happy to spend big bucks on my hair, if I had big bucks to spend! Darn these government jobs, requiring you to look like a Corporette without the Corporette salary to match. :-)

        • Get a wig for your wedding if you’re not happy with how it looks? No one will know or care. I read that one of the Ms. America contestants had alopecia, and she wore a wig (the winning Ms. America also wears hairpieces, although due to personal preference, not illness).

  10. I also have long, curly hair, and it doesn’t even occur to me that someone might think I’m “unprofessional” for wearing it curly! It fact, I’ve been told that I look “high maintenance” because of my curly hair (granted, that was in middle school/high school from girls who later became my friends), and that surely, it must take me hours to get it styled. I’ve never had anyone tell me that I shouldn’t wear it curly for the big presentation, interview, etc. I tend to think that if someone did tell me that, I’d just assume that was a point that some professionals disagree on, and continue on my merry curly-haired way. I agree that you need to keep it clean and healthy, but from a “professional” stand-point, there’s no question that it’s perfectly fine to wear it curly.

    • Those girls probably thought you had naturally straight hair and curled it every day before school.

  11. Curly hair is professional. Messy hair isn’t, whether it’s curly or not.

    I don’t have curly hair, but my 10 year old daughter has a head of gorgeous ringlets. They look spectacular the day her hair is washed, and less so the following day. If she were headed to a workplace with her second-day hair I’d tell her to either re-wet the curls or to tie her hair back. Thankfully, she’s only headed to fifth grade. so the messy hair is something she can get away with. :)

    You know what I envy about curly haired women (and my daughter)? How great updos look with curly hair. Everything stays up and in place, and there’s enough volume not to have pin-head syndrome.

    • p.s.
      Do those of you with gorgeous curls find that friends and strangers always want to touch your hair?

      This happens to my daughter and she hates it. I’d like to reassure her that they will stop once she’s no longer a child, but I’m actually not so sure

      (based on the fact that complete strangers touched my belly when I was pregnant)

      • Annabella :

        It’s funny. I have very straight, fine Asian hair and friends like touching/playing with it because they say it reminds them of a doll’s hair.

        • anonymous :

          When I was a kid, some little black girls used to line up in the schoolyard for a turn to comb the long straight hair of their white or hispanic classmates. There weren’t any dolls made that looked like them with their natural hair and they knew it without expressing it.

      • Curl Friend :

        That is a complaint that black women voice a lot. Someone came out with a mocking T shirt emblazoned with:

        “No, You Can’t Touch My Hair!”

        They feel as if they are being treated like alien beings.

        Pregnant women should not tolerate being touched by complete strangers. It’s insulting and demeaning.

      • It happened to me all through high school and college, but it’s happening less now that I’m an adult. However, one really uncomfortable story sticks with me:
        While at a high school choir competition, I was talking to my accompanist, and I feel someone behind me grabbing and stroking my hair. Naturally, I assume it’s a friend, since no stranger would randomly come up and grab someone else’s hair. WRONG. Perfect stranger running their fingers through my hair with this wide-eyed look, and when I turned around, she says, “Your hair is just so pretty!” Um…. ok? Pretty=look at it, NOT touch it. I’m not terribly weird if an acquaintance asks to touch my hair, but random strangers touching it from behind? Kinda awkward.
        My sister also has curly hair, and has the exact same issues with people randomly wanting to touch it. I hate to say it, but I don’t think your daughter will escape it until she’s much older.

      • It stops for the most part when you grow up. Now only kids touch my hair.

        • Anonymous :

          I have had the urge to touch my friend’s curly hair but never acted on it. Maybe I should! lol!

      • I have very curly, rather big, blond hair. I get comments quite often how people envy my hair, which is immediately followed by them touching it. It still makes me very uncomfortable. I wish I could tell you that it’ll stop, but I haven’t seen it decreasing with age.

  12. I’ve wished for curly hair since I was a little girl, and I’m reading all your comments with my chin on my hand, occasionally staring dreamily into the distance, wondering what could have been if I had only been given a head of full, beautiful curls. Alas, I was born with stick-straight hair that doesn’t hold a curl for more than 2-3 hours.

    But, greener grass, and all that. I know that curly hair can be very time consuming and a PITA. But I’m still jealous of those of you with curls. Lucky girls! :)

    • Oh, me too! And as someone with radically different hair issues than everybody else on this thread, curly/more textured hair would be really great at keeping my scarf on my head. I dread washing my hair (which is straight but slowly turning frizzy/wavy as I get older) because my hair gets sooooo silky (the horror, I know) that my hair starts escaping my scarf and my scarf just slips around all day and if I wear a headband underneath my scarf to create friction, it just gives me a migraine. Problems, yo, the grass is definitely greener =).

  13. Law Student 2L :

    What about straight/wavyish hair that is purposely curled for an interview?

    Like this×769.jpg

    I’d like to pull it all back but my ears stick out more than I like with my hair back. . . sigh

    • That particular style seems too romantic/bedhead-y for an interview. I’d avoid the half-back if you want to do curls like that, because that adds to the romantic-ness. I think a layered, curled at the ends look is nice for an interview if you want to wear it down.

  14. I have naturally curly hair that used to be fine, but thick. Since I had kids, it is fine and thin. It just looks like a limp mess by the end of the day. I blew it out straight for the interview at my last job. Once I got the job and showed up, senior partner made it a point to say “I thought your hair was straight. Is it like this all the time?” Yep.

  15. I have very curly, very fine hair. I only wear it curly – don’t even own a blow dryer or straightener.

    Things that have worked for me:
    Getting a good cut – not all stylists can cut curly hair correctly.

    Sulfate free shampoo/conditioner. Right now I’m using Loreal EverPure and love it. Lush also has a great shampoo for curly hair called Curly Wurly.

    I only wash/condition my hair once per week (note – I get it wet in the shower every day to reset the curls). I tend to was it on a day where I know I’m not going to care how it looks, because this is when it’s poofiest/hardest to control.

    I only comb my hair when it is wet and in the shower with a widetoothed comb.

    I squeeze as much water out of it as I can while still in the shower.

    I only use leave in conditioner for styling- again, Loreal Everpure has some great options.

    Basically I try to touch my hair as little as possible while it dries so as to not upset how the curl sets.

    A BIG deal with curly hair is making sure your ends are in good condition. If you have lots of split ends (which happens often since curly hair is typically dryer), make sure you get it trimmed regularly.

    • Curl Friend :

      Curly hair is best cut dry. It’s three dimensional and some people have different kinds of curls; these differences can’t be seen when the hair is cut wet. It is, however, more labor intensive, which is why some salons don’t like to cut curly hair.

      • This is generally true – however, you (and your stylist) have to know your hair.

        Until my curls got to a point of being properly, consistently moisturized, the curls really weren’t visible until they were wet. In order to properly cut my hair, my stylist sprayed the curls down to just beyond a bit beyond damp.

  16. I have very thick heavy wave Scottish/Irish reddish hair. Here’s my routine–since it varies quite a bit from what I’ve seen here. Most of it adapted from the No More Dirty Looks book (those of you interested in no sulfates/silicons should check it out!)

    •Whatever clean shampoo
    • Aubrey Organics, GPB glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner (comb hair only with conditioner in)
    • mix together a GOB of straight up aloe vera gel, couple squirts of Intelligent Nutrients Certified Organic Leave-In Conditioner, and a couple squirts of whatever oily/serumy stuff I have around –disperse and dry 80% of the way with diffuser. If in a desperate situation, I have used body lotion, which works all right.
    • wash infrequently (like twice a week?). touch ups with a little bit of aloe or oil spray.
    • bun most days because who can work with a mass of hair in their face?

  17. Anonymous Poser :

    I have short wavy hair with a layer of nearly-straight hair that lies on top of it. The hair on the back of my head may be actually curly (as opposed to only wavy). My hair was straight all over until… a few years ago.

    I wash my scalp with conditioner, and I should use the 1:3 ratio of brown sugar to conditioner as a scalp scrub about once a week. I’ll probably be using it at least once a week in the winter, when flakes are more of a problem for me.

    Occasionally I use a shampoo without sulfates (Trader Joe’s for the win!), after which it takes my hair a couple of days to forgive me.

    In either case, I put jojoba oil in my hair while it’s still mostly wet, and then more once it dries (I’ll be looking into whether I should be using a different type of oil, based on some of the comments above!). My styling products vary, as I’ve not found one that just blows me away.

    No -cones in my styling products, or very low -cones (a couple of the Garnier Fructis products I use work well, but contain one -cone, far down on the ingredient list). Also, my go-to conditioner (Nature’s Gate–it’s inexpensive at vitacostdotcom and worked for me) recently added glycerin to its formula, which made my hair *crispy*. YMMV.

  18. I use Soft Spikes ( to tame the frizzies and make my hair into polished curls for work. They are comfortable enough to sleep in, so you can get them in the night before — a little bit of finger combing loosens them up in the morning, but sometimes I wear them tight.

    • Curl Friend :

      I bought them about four years ago, but never used them. I was just about to get rid of them, along with the setting lotion (maybe I should get rid of that).

      Did you use the lotion? I don’t want to get into a routine of wearing curlers, but maybe I’ll experiment for fun.

  19. I’m surprised not to see anyone mention Kinky Curly. As an African-American woman with neither the time, money, skill, or patience to do anything but wear her hair natural (with the occasional wet-set in cooler weather), Kinky Curly changed my life! It’s lightweight enough that it can probably work on any texture of curly hair – in fact, my only complaint is that it doesn’t weigh the hair down enough to make it show its length. Check it out at

    Re: curly hair not showing its length, stylists have told me to get a texturizer treatment to loosen up the curl just a little. I’m hesitant to do so because I’ve been relaxer-free for a few years and am notoriously bad at following up with hair treatments. Does anyone have experience with texturizers?

    • Curl Friend :

      I believe a texturizer is a relaxer by any other name. For several years, I paid a lot of money to go to ladies who knew exactly what I wanted: control and length, not dead straight hair. They mixed an ultra mild version of the relaxer, worked with an assistant and did only one half of my head at a time because my hair’s so thick that if they had done my whole head at once by the time they reached the other side, there would have been no way for the chemicals to process evenly. They were very good at what they did and their attention was worth the extra money. I went only a couple of times a year. But eventually, my hair lost much of its curl.

      Shrinkage is an annoying aspect of kinky/curly hair. You can try weighing the ends down with clips while drying.

      • I’d never heard of that. I think my hair is more stubborn than that, but I’ll definitely give it a go!

        • Curl Friend :

          The “Curly Girl” book recommends it. You can clip your hair to your T shirt if you want. If I’m going out, I sometimes will put on a close-fitting hat. It helps compress my hair. When it’s dry, I fluff up the hair on my crown using a method in the book. I can do this because I don’t need volume on top.

          Be wary of the “stretching” and “lengthening” lotions you see in the drugstore. They usually involve blow drying the hair and pulling it.

          I know I keep mentioning the Curly Girl book,, but it was the first, and really still the only book that ever provided useful information, while acknowledging that to have curly hair in a culture in which the ideal is straight hair is a bit of challenge.

  20. Anon Canadian :

    I’m biracial with very curly hair a 3B according to, think Bernadette Peters. Curly hair is definitely an experience and I’m always trying new products and routines. Right now I shampoo my hair once a week with Alaffia’s Everyday Shea Lavender shampoo and then I use the co-ordinating conditioner. I use Alaffia’s Shea and Virgin Coconut hair lotion for my leave in, and then Aveda’s Brilliant Retexturing gel for shine and frizz control. If I get extra sweaty or my curls need to be reset in between washing then I rinse my hair with the conditioner. I only use a wide tooth comb and try to only comb in the shower. I’ve been using the Aveda gel for years, and I love it as a finishing/styling aid but I don’t really consider it part of my hair care. My shampoo, conditioner, leave in conditioner, and oil are what I consider hair care I’ve slowly been going towards more natural, free trade, organic, whole products.

    As for my hair, it reaches by mid back (bra band), I wear my hair out rarely there’s just so much of it I find it gets in the way. I normally wear it in a pony tail: low, low to the side, mid, occasionally high. Sometimes in a flipped over bun, sometimes half up half down with a claw clip. It used to be incredably think but as my 20’s have gone on it’s gotten much thinner, even though people are still amazed at how thick it is I notice the difference.