Curl Talk with Rachel Woolf

Today's post was written by my sister, Rachel, who has an incredible head of curls and knows how to use them. Take it away, Rachel! 
When I was a little girl, my hair was short and curly (see below). It wasn’t until around 3rd or 4th grade that my hair became frizzier and less manageable. So I brushed and put it up in one of those bun hairstyles EVERY DAY because I didn't know how else to deal. It wasn’t until 6th grade that my mom said, “What if you cut it short like it was when you were little? Maybe it will be curly!” So I decided to give it a try. I cut my hair and got some product, and voila! A head-full of curls! Throughout middle school, I learned how to manage my hair. I think many people thought my curls were fake because I was one of the few who let my curls go “out to play.” I got so sick of people asking me if I had naturally curly hair that I sometimes responded “No—I get up an hour early every day to curl my hair, one strand at a time.” “Really?” they would answer.

Of course not! IT’S NATURAL!!!

I have been through every hairstyle imaginable—short, long, a-symmetrical, somewhere in-between. Right before 8th grade graduation I got my hair cut by someone who obviously wasn't used to working with curly hair. She ended up cutting it so short that it couldn’t even curl! I was so embarrassed. Throughout high school I slowly grew it out, figuring out how to define my curls better as the years went on. In college I grew it super long, so long that if I straightened it, it was longer than my sister’s
But now it is on the shorter side, and although I miss my long locks, my current hair is a lot healthier.
Now for some curly girl tricks of the trade...

First of all, never, I mean NEVER, brush your hair. If you think you may have even some wave in your hair, give this a try. The next order of business is washing your curls. I have been given so many different suggestions throughout the years on this subject. Some people swear by never shampooing, (I tried this for a while, but it didn’t work for me) others will tell you to use a no-suds-shampoo, aka “no-poo” or no-foam shampoo followed by a hydrating conditioner. I agree with them! (The reason why people say not to use shampoo or to use no-foam shampoo is because the sulfates in foaming products strip the hair of its natural oils. And for those of us who have curly hair, we need the oil in order to be healthy. As for conditioners, there are many made for curly hair. Right now I’ve been using Purology’s Hydrate conditioner. Their products are 100% vegan and are super hydrating.

ED: I have been through many, many products throughout the years. I think it is good to switch it up once your hair becomes too comfortable with a certain product. I used to be obsessed with Bouncy Crème by ISO. But eventually my hair became immune to it and the smell wasn't my favorite.

I have many store-bought products at home. I usually tend towards a crème based product, and tend to stay away from mousse and sprays. This is just what works for me. Currently, I am using a polymer-type product (Aloxxi by Nexxus) that I get at my hair salon, Above Ground Hair Studio in Ann Arbor. (A little goes a long way.)  I get my hair cut by Cookie who is the master of curls and a curly girl, herself. She cuts my hair dry, by the way, working with the mind of the curls in their natural state. You might want to discuss this method with your stylist. 

Tip: If you don’t want to air-dry your hair, blow-dry with a diffuser on cold air. My hair stylist told me that hot air damages the curls, so keep it cold!

Now that I’ve given an overview of some curly hair techniques, I am going to do a step by step tutorial of my daily hair regimen. Ready? Go:

First, when taking a shower, I use Original Moxie’s no-foam shampoo. (Every week or two I WILL use a foam shampoo if I feel there is too much build up).

Next, condition with your hair with your favorite extra hydrating conditioner. Leave it in for a few minutes and when you wash it out, don’t wash all of it away. You want your hair to have some residue to almost act as a product. (Many people use leave-in-conditioner for this purpose, but I’ve yet to experiment with that.) Sometimes I will only wash my hair with conditioner; again, it depends on what you feel your hair needs. Also be sure not to get body soap on the tips of your hair. This leads to dead ends (says my hair stylist).

When I dry my hair, I flip it forward with my head down and pat/scrunch my hair with the towel.
I then put just a dime sized amount of my polymer or whatever hair product I’m using and scrunch it in my hair, making sure I am mainly working at the ends, and not getting too much on my scalp.
From there I diffuse my hair with my head still down, working slowly until it's not as wet.
I then go back and forth scrunching it and diffusing until I'm satisfied.
(Depending on the occasion or time, I usually just let it air dry, and maybe diffuse a little later on.)
And voila! You have yourself some wonderful curls! If I decide I don’t need to wash my hair the following day, but it is a disgruntled mess from sleeping on it, I just put some water on it and a bit of product and my hair is as good as new! Curly hair loves additions of water throughout the day.
One last tool to mention. I was told to massage my scalp twice a day, and really dig in to separate sections of the hair in small circular motions. Since we don’t brush our hair, it is important to keep the hair closest to the scalp separated and free. By massaging the scalp it helps create volume in your curls and helps them not to separate into sections that are not as pretty. It also helps with hair growth!

In summary:

-Never brush your curls
-Try out a no-foam shampoo and ultra-hydrating conditioner. (Original Moxie for Shampoo, Purology for Conditioner.)
- Don’t wash all of your conditioner out of your hair
- Experiment with a good curly hair product (Bouncy Crème by Iso, Deva Curl, Bed Head, Redken.)
- Use a diffuser and use cold air, or air dry
- Massage your scalp once or twice a day
-And, perhaps most importantly, find a hair stylist who is familiar with cutting curly hair! I always trust stylists who have curly hair themselves.

Have fun with your curls!



Ashley | 9:08 PM

A note to add for curly hair: Using an old cotton/jersey blend t-shirt to scrunch wet curls works much better than a bath towel! The fabric of most towels can aggravate curls and actually damage the cuticle of the hair, leading to frizzy days in the future. Also, switching pillowcases to satin or silk blends not only can stop frizz, but keep curls intact for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th days without washing. :)

peach | 9:14 PM

Love your advice. I've found that the less I shampoo my hair the better, I'm down to about once a week. Every other wash I use a baking soda rinse instead of shampoo, it works wonders!

Kathryn | 9:16 PM

My 3yo has fabulous curls and I love them. However they get so matted almost dread locked in places just over night. Any suggestions?

glenda | 9:37 PM

My daughter was 2 with a head full of curls like yours and people would ask if they were naturally or a perm. Seriously??!! Yeah!!!

I have curls too but wear it straight and trim it every other month. Never use a brush. I use a comb with wide teeth or my fingers.

Great points Rachel!!!

Helen | 9:38 PM

If you think you might try leave-in conditioner, can I suggest and argan oil product like Moroccan Oil? Wash out all the conditioner and use a tiny bit of the oil. My wavy hair loves it!

Elizabeth | 9:39 PM

I'm bookmarking this information for my daughter who is only ten months old but already has a head full of curls. I've often wondered how I'll help her manage her hair as she gets older, as the curls came from her daddy and I only have some wave and wouldn't really know how to advise her. Thanks for sharing your tips! Your hair is amazing!!

Ashley | 9:46 PM

@Kathryn: Regular haircuts could help the problem. It's common for kids' hair (usually 5 and under) to be thick, with each individual hair strand to be thin, causing monstrous tangles. Use a cream conditioner on her ends every other time her hair is washed (this keeps her hair from getting over-moisturized). Also, there's a new product from Pureology called Precious Oil that's fantastic. It's made of a blend of almond, jojoba, and coconut oils, so it's super conditioning. Plus, it's made of 100% biodegradable ingredients and, unlike Moroccan Oil, it's paraben and silicone free. So not only is it great for your hair, but it's also moisturizing for face and body. One drop on the ends of her hair can get the wave under control without compromising the curl. Fabulous!

A | 9:47 PM

omg, i'm bookmarking this to reference for many more years to come. My four year old has curly hair that gets curlier with age and growth. My hair? SUPER straight. So I'm clueless. I've had friends who've clued me into the "don't wash it every day" trick (sometimes hard with kids) and I never blow dry her hair and use leave-in conditioner in the mornings before school and just run my fingers through it unless it is SUPER tangled. She likes her hair long, so it tends to get more tangles around the time she needs a trim. I do the leave-in and a comb sometimes when it's wet, again if it's super tangled.Easiest advice to follow that I ever heard--moisturize it, scrunch it and leave it alone.

Cave Momma | 10:36 PM

Ok. I love this. But I need some advice. I have totally straight hair (total white girl with thin hair). My husband is black and has dreads. My kids have a very nice combo. It is thin and soft but SOOOPER curly. Really tight beautiful ringlet curls. And my daughter has a frickin TON of it. I will try the no-foam shampoo, as it is I wash it maybe once a week sometimes once every 2 weeks. But it gets almost dreadlock-ish overnight and getting it wet and conditioning it daily only does so much. So I use a detangler/curl enhancer/moisture creme thing right out of the shower then brush it out. But more of a wide tooth comb, pick action to gently get out the tangles. Should I be using/doing something else? It seems very healthy but I know nothing about curls.

Janel | 10:36 PM

I don't have curly hair, but shout out to Ann Arbor from a fellow U of M alum!

Kathryn | 10:45 PM


Anonymous | 5:20 AM

If you don't brush it, how do you de-tangle?? I have tried about every form of brush/comb/pick over the years (my curl is a bit tighter than yours), and was told a few years ago to brush with a paddle brush as much for the scalp as anything else. So far, it is the best way to de-tangle and massage my scalp that I have found. Any other ideas?

Jessica | 5:24 AM

Thank you so much for this post! I am a curly girl too and I have only recently decided to go au natural so I am catching up on the tricks of the trade.
My only tip to add is to use a microfiber towel to dry your hair because terry cloth causes frizz.

Day by Dana | 5:45 AM

Great tips! What I'm challenged with is having uneven curls - poker straight in the bottom back, curly on top, not to mention the cowlicks! I'm not pooing, but I was every 4 days with baking soda and vinegar - so far I'm good with that!.

margosita | 5:56 AM

Your adorable short cut is making me want to cut off my long curls! Gorgeous!

dgm | 6:27 AM

I love that you are embracing your curls (which are beautiful!), especially in this day of flat-ironing and straightening. I haven't straightened my hair for years, since I realized it makes me look so much older (my curly-headed stylist/friend agrees, and we've decided because the curls distract the eye from the wrinkles and hide any greys that are trying to pop out).

Yes to all of your tips, and I agree with the commenters that suggest a cotton/jersey t-shirt or microfiber towel to dry hair. I don't color my hair--is Pureology only for colored hair?

Gwen Papp | 6:56 AM

I have weird hair with curls in parts and straight parts, so I straighten it. But I love your curls, and I live in Ann Arbor, so that was a nice little surprise buried in this post. Go A2!!

Julie | 7:32 AM

I have wavy hair, so I learned a bit from this. Such a great post, good job Rachel!!

Jeannine | 9:29 AM

Awesome tips!
My hair used to be curly when I was younger but straightened out by the time I was in 4th grade. Over the last year, it's decided to poof and turn into waves (when it's not frizzy). I have no idea what to do with it!
I've been using a tiny dab of moroccan oil on the tips after showering, which seems to help, but it still gets a tangly by the end of the day. I can't brush it because it freaks out and turns into an afro hah. Any ideas?

Home Sweet Sarah | 9:43 AM

Fun! I have wavy hair and in junior high, my stylist once did the defuser/cold air deal and my hair looked like yours. I loved it, but have yet to do it again myself...15 years later, hah!

Anyway, my aunt has super curly hair like yours and when I was younger (and okay, still now), I used to go looking for "the curliest hair" on her head.

Perhaps your nieces will enjoy doing the same and you too can be Aunt Curly Girl ;-)

Anonymous | 9:55 AM

This was so well done, Rachel! Thanks for sharing. I don't have curly hair but I think I can take some of the tips for my waves. Thanks again :)

B and A's Mommy | 10:09 AM

Great Tips! I'm very interested in trying the products you've recommended. I've had a constant battle with my curls and 99.9% of the time I end up with a ponytail. Lately I've been feeling desperate for a new style. =( My daughter (11 months) also has curly hair & I know that we've got to learn how to deal with it now. My biggest problem is finding people who actually know how to cut curly hair.

P.S. Perfect timing for this post, as I'm getting a cut later today!

craftyashley | 10:19 AM

Thanks for this! My 2 year old son has gorgeous curls. He's the only one on both sides of our family, so I'm totally lost on how to care for them.

Cynthia | 10:45 AM

Yay! I have curly hair and have serious bang envy whenever I read this blog. One thing I've learned about choosing a hair dresser - Dominican salons often have lots of experience and good technique with curly hair. Also, I don't re-wash in the morning either so I recently started using Bumble and Bumble's curl reactivating cream. It works better than just spraying water on my hair for me because water sometimes makes my hair frizz.

Unknown | 10:54 AM

Great tips, I had a similar curly hair life. My lovely mother is of Polish descent so she had no idea how to deal with your half Italian child's hair. I use Catwalk curl's rock, great product! Blow drying doesn't work for me but I'm gonna try out your no sud shampoo and see what happens. Thanks so much!

laura | 10:56 AM

My daughter has this crazy combo of curls on botton and straight hair on top, so when she gets in a downward dog position, her curls are close to her head and the straight hair falls to the ground. It is nuts. What do you guys think of the tangle teezer? I use that after I put in conditioner to get tangles out.

Steph | 11:19 AM

I have serious, serious, curl envy! I feel like there is a point in every curly haired girls life where she embraces the curls and stops blow drying/straightening/forcing her hair straight every day. I'm not at that point yet, but I'm trying! My sister, who has the same insanely thick, curly, frizzy hair I do, told me she just got rid of her hair straightener and I am jealous!
I have found that in order to get the tangles out, only brushing it BEFORE getting in the shower helps. That way it only gets that poofy afro-mess (that happens when you brush it) right before I wash it, and washing it (wetting it in general) recurls the hair! It remains nice and tangle free by song miracle when I'm done in the shower. Thanks for the tips!

Rachel Woolf | 11:30 AM

@Ashley thanks for the tip!
@Kathryn, @Cave Momma, @tigerleo, @Jeannine and everyone talking about how to deal with tangles: I make shower time the time to detangle, which means LOTS of conditioner. You could also brush in the shower....just never brush after.

@dgm Pureology isn't just for colored hair. It works for both!

@Home Sweet Sarah my friends in college used to do that to me! They would pull the curliest corkscrews. Can't wait for my nieces to do the same! :)

@Cynthia, my stylist is Dominican! Bumble and Bumble is also great!

Anonymous | 11:32 AM

Thank you so much for this! I have curly hair, but also thin hair, so I find that many suggestions for how to deal with curly hair don;t work for me, as most curly-haired people seem to have thick hair. I have started to shampoo maybe 2-3 times a week, and I don't brush or comb it, or blow-dry, which seems to work.

Anonymous | 1:16 PM

Thank you thank you thank you-I have been hoping for a word or 12 from you, as I have envied your hair every time your sister post a picture of you. Again thank you!!! I think I may finally try a shorter cut.


Arctic_Alex | 2:04 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arctic_Alex | 2:05 PM

This is such a welcome post - every time you've popped up on the blog, I've wondered how your hair looks so amazing. I live in the UK so I'm not sure I'll be able to find the same products, bu I'm always looking for something that will give me the perfect curls. I live in a small town and am struggling to find a good hairdresser.

Thank you!

Ruth | 3:10 PM

For everyone worrying about tangles from sleeping, gather your hair (or your child's hair) on top of your head in a loose ponytail or bun. Best to use a fabric covered hair tie. So you can rock a scrunchie to bed! Could also try a satin pillow case even for a little kid... Cuts down on frizz. I use an old t shirt to dry. I love deva products. I spent my formative years hating my hair but now I love my daughters curls. Hope my son is a curly boy too--too soon to tell yet.

Jenny Rae Rappaport | 9:08 PM

My hair is much, much tighter in curl than yours--not as tight as someone of African-American descent, but pretty much as tight as a Jewish, white girl can naturally get.

I never brush it when I'm styling it for the day, but if I don't brush it before I shower, I literally can't wash it. It gets way too tangled and knotted, just from sleeping overnight. So yes to a lot of your advice, but I totally can't live without brushing my hair. =)

Andrea | 7:24 AM

Loved this, thanks! I put in conditioner and don't rinse any of it out. I love microfiber hair towels, too.

Beatrice | 8:53 AM

To Cave Momma:

Look into Mixed Chicks and Carol's Daughter products.

And get a black person to do your kids hair.


Sam Aida | 9:02 AM

Man, Rachel is SOOOOO lucky!! I would give anything to have my hair look just like hers but mine is straight as a stick!

Anonymous | 5:28 AM

I used to live in Ann Arbor, and Above Ground is awesome! Cookie is a genius.

Rachel W. | 11:14 AM

I'm 1/2 of a Rachel / Rebecca sibset, too! My sister Rebecca is the one with curly hair :)

Erin | 12:50 PM

Thanks for this post. I've been trying to embrace my curls more over the past few years -- but the front of my hair is almost stick straight while the back and underneath is tight curls. I'm going to try to go for the no brushing a bit more often, but with such thick hair it is difficult. No sulfate shampoo/conditioner has helped A LOT, as do frequent trims.
My one question is how do you deal with pulling it back or getting it out of your face when working out/etc.?
Thanks again. I'm glad to hear I don't have to go shampoo-less. I do too much physical activity to be okay with that.

Rachel Woolf | 8:15 PM

@Elb-- If my hair is long enough I usually pull it back with a rubber band, or if it is short like it is now, I just pin it up with LOTS of bobby pins. It seems to stay pretty secure when I go running, etc. because I have pretty thin hair. I also love to style it that way too. :)

stef | 12:29 PM

Going silicone and sulfate free is the absolute best thing you can do for curly hair, in my experience.

My curly hair is very thin, but I have a ton of it. It was also beyond frizzy. Like.. fuzzy. I switched to sulfate & silicone free products a few years ago and it totally changed the texture of my hair and how often I have to wash it. It's also now much easier to blow dry straight and is incredibly smooth and healthy when I do so.

Erin | 12:31 PM

Just want to reiterate how glad I am you posted this.
Just three days of no brush, using an old tshirt to dry my hair, and doing the upside down scrunch and my hair is so curly!
I just need to find the right product to use to cut down on the frizz now.
Thanks again Rachel!

Anonymous | 2:05 AM

This is awesome advice for curly girls!
A hairstylist in Vancouver Canada, worst place for curly people with all the moisture. We use bumble and bumble products in our salon and I would suggest to anyone with curls to try them at least once! Ive even got my male friends with curls to use them and they love it. There is a whole line dedicated to all kinds of curls, the shampoo and conditioner is awesome. And the curl creme is to die for I use it in my 3 year old sons hair. Also for restyling or midday touch ups they have a reactivating most specifically for curls. It's even good if you curl your hair with a hot tool and want to bring it back to life. These products have some of the same ingredients as curling mascara, bringing out the "boing" in your hair!!!! I never truly believed in this product till I started using it on my son and people started asking if he'd had a haircut when he hadnt. Try it out!!

Unknown | 8:58 AM

@Cave Momma - You may want to check out Chocolate Hair/Vanilla Care. The website is a wealth of information for caring for black / multiracial hair and she also has a very busy Facebook page where people are always asking questions.

Another resource I would mention is the website where you can find a stylist in your area who has been through the training on how to cut curly hair. Their "Curly Girl Handbook" (which you can order from the site, I think) was a huge help to me.

Great post! It's nice to see some attention to curly hair! :)

RebeccaH1017 | 1:53 PM

Thank you, thank you, THANKYOU!!! for this! I have been wishing I could find a stylist who could help me with my curly hair and I immediately called and made an appointment with Cookie after reading this. She is awesome & so are you Rachel!

Emry | 3:38 PM

I'm a little bit embarrassed of how much this post changed my life. Thank you for the advice.