Wild Curls Can't be Broken (Well they shouldn't be anyway)
If you or a loved one has curly hair, you know that it can be a bit of a struggle to strike a balance that keeps curly hair happy and bouncy, rather than frizzy and uncontrollable. But of course I am also trying to slowly cut out products around the house that contain chemicals, and replace them with natural alternatives. So I was intrigued when the Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast (a invariably entertaining and interesting podcast for women) did an episode on the No-poo movement, followers of which say that you don't need to shampoo your hair - there are better natural alternatives that aren't harmful to your hair, your health, and the environment.
Of course, I already knew that curly hair generally does not need to be washed as often as straight hair, and that many products we use strip our hair of the moisture that is so essential to our curls. Shampoo actually strips our hair of sebum, the natural oil that protects the hair follicle. Conditioner becomes necessary to restore moisture artificially, but most shampoos and conditioners contain other things that weigh down hair. Wait a minute - the last thing we want to do is weigh down our curls! Shampoo free people instead use natural rinses to rinse out the gunk without stripping out the sebum, and then they condition with natural chemical-free conditioners. One of the best, apparently, is vinegar of all things.
In doing some of my research, I started to see the straight-hair bias that is in the hair care industry. In Organic Body Care Recipes, which we use for our Girls II Greatness program, and author Stephanie Tourles writes the chapter on hair as a curly girl. She says, "Society often deems straight-haired people as the most intelligent, organized, beautiful, and clean-cut... Those with curly or kinky hair often feel compelled to "tame" or smooth their mane in professional circles so it won't be perceived as wild, untidy, or unabashedly sexy." She says that after years of trying to tame her hair, she discovered that curly hair should be shampooed no more than every 2 weeks, and she recommends several recipes for rinses and conditioning treatments similar to the ones described by the No-poo people.
So, a few months ago I started experimenting with washing my hair less, and also using Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap (which you can use on everything from your hair to your kitchen floors), which is organic and fair trade. Several of my friends at church have started using it, so I went on their recommendation. The other day I replaced my Panteen conditioner with Dr. Bronner's Conditioning Hair Rinse and Leave-In Conditioner. I have read some other blogs about those products, and decided to go ahead and try them. It seemed like the people who had the best luck with them had curly hair, or discovered that their hair was wavy after they started using them.
So far its only been about a week - I've already noticed that my hair is less frizzy and my curls are a little bigger and better defined even without using other product. I'll update again on how things are working. For now it seems that working with my hair instead of against it might be the key to getting my hair to cooperate. And I'm working on ignoring the stereotypes about curly hair. When I straighten my hair people always say things like "You look so professional!" or "You look so nice with straight hair - why don't you just leave your hair straight?" The answer to that question is that it takes 45 minutes just to straighten my hair (not counting blow-drying, which generally takes another 30 minutes), and also I don't want to destroy my hair. And also because it just goes against the grain to try to stifle my curly nature.