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A Crunchy Girl’s Guide to Curly Hair: My Story


I’m excited to be participating in the Go Green & Save Green Series with several other green bloggers this week!  We’ll be talking about different areas of green and natural living, showing you how to go green while saving money at the same time!  Be sure to check out the great links at the end of this post!  Today’s topic is Personal Care Products and DIY Beauty.

Go Green Save Green 2

Alternative Title: How I Stopped Washing and Combing My Hair and Finally Accepted My Curly Hair

At the beginning of the year, one of my Green and Crunchy Goals was to cut out the crazy chemicals from my hair care routine.  I have such crazy curly hair, though, that I was scared to try anything new. I’ve done a bit of research, tried a few products, and finally figured out what I’m happy with.

My Hair Through the Years


(You can click on this picture to make it bigger so you can fully appreciate the greatness of my 6th grade picture.)

Here are my school pictures from Kindergarten through 11th grade. I’ll give some commentary on my hair.

Kindegarten and 1st grade—You can see that there’s some natural curl there. And aren’t I just as cute as a button?

2nd grade—My mom braided my hair while it was wet the night before the pictures. I slept with the braids in and then when she took them out in the morning, my hair looked like the picture above. I liked it at the time.

3rd grade and 4th grade—Natural curl is still there, although its just wavy. I wonder if it would have been curly if I hadn’t combed it and let it dry naturally. Also, I’m not sure why I look so sour. I was a rather serious child.

5th grade—Still wavy. And I’m smiling finally.

6th grade—Oh my word. This has to be my favorite school picture because its the worst one. Look at those eyebrows! And I absolutely refused to smile. Don’t ask me why. Anyway, as you can see, there’s some curl in my hair. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t smiling–I was having trouble coming to terms with my increasingly curly hair.

7th grade—That’s better. I’m smiling, even though I’m wearing some sort of crocheted vest. I loved that outfit. And my hair seems to be getting curlier.

8th grade—Woah. There is definitely more curl. I think my hair takes up as much room in the picture as my face does.

9th grade through the end of high school—I met my new best friend, the hair straightener, sometime between 8th and 9th grade. I distinctly remember the day I realized my hair was curly. I put it up in a pony tail while it was wet the summer before 8th grade and my pony tail was really curly when it dried. I was amazed. And then I started straightening it every day. Hair care routine: wash, condition, towel dry, put on some thermal protector stuff, then dry with a normal hair dryer, then further dry it with a hair dryer with a brush attached to it, then use the straightener. It took a long time, it was HOT, my hair was fried, and if it rained, all that work was for naught.

Here are a couple more,  just for fun.


My sister, Lindsay, and me on Easter morning. I was 3 years old.


Easter morning. 13 years old. Crazy frizzy hair.


Last day of school in the 8th grade. THIS is what happens when you brush curly hair. Don't do it!!

Coming to Terms With my Hair

A few years ago I discovered the book Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey and it rocked my world. She describes what makes hair curly, how to take care of curly hair, how curly hair should be cut (NOT like straight hair is cut!), and even gives recipes for homemade natural hair care.

She says you should take care of curly hair the way you would take care of a nice cashmere sweater. No harsh chemicals (such a sodium lauryl sulfate or laureth sulfate, which are in most shampoos), no heat, and NO hairbrush. Her most radical suggestion: stop washing your hair with shampoo. This is the lady that coined the term “no poo” for going shampoo-free.

What?! Stop Washing My Hair?

Yes, you read that right. If you have curly hair, stop washing it with shampoo. Instead, wash it with water and conditioner. You simply comb the conditioner through your hair, concentrating on the ends. To cleanse your scalp, massage the conditioner into the roots of your hair. Voila! The shampoo strips its hair of its natural oils and completely dries it out. I stopped using shampoo in February and my hair is clean, doesn’t smell or look greasy, and actually looks shiny and healthy. (Side note: My mom has a super sensitive nose and my hair passed her sniff test. If she can’t smell it, it doesn’t smell.)Not only is it better for your hair, but it takes less time since you are completely taking a step out of the normal showering routine. It can also be cheaper since you don’t have to buy shampoo anymore.

As a word of warning, as with any major change to a beauty routine, it does take your body a few weeks to adjust to not producing as much oil. (It doesn’t need to produce as much since you aren’t stripping your hair of its natural oils every day.) I did a mini-step in between switching from washing every day to going no poo. I started using castille soap on my hair instead of shampoo. That got rid of the excess oil, but didn’t completely strip my hair of its natural oils. After that, I stopped using any type of soap on a regular basis and didn’t have trouble with oily hair. You’ll have to figure out what works for your hair. :)

There are lots more suggestions for taking care of curly hair in her book, including how to style curly hair, what kind of conditioner to buy (she’ll tell you what ingredients to avoid),  and even a tongue in cheek look at curls through the ages. I highly recommend this book!

My Curly Hair Care Routine — Now Without Crazy Chemicals!

At the beginning of the year I was using chemical laden shampoo, conditioner, mousse, and curl cream. This was the last area of my personal care routine that I hadn’t found a way to using harsh and unhealthy products.

This is what I was using.

What I use now:

Conditioner: Shea Moisture Curl and Style Conditioning Milk — Its organic and there are very few crazy chemicals in it. I realize that some of you may think that $10 is a lot to pay for such a small amount of conditioner, and I agree with you. However, I’m willing to pay a bit more because its a natural and organic product. (And because it works!) One bottle lasts me 5 weeks. I figure $2 a week isn’t too bad for a product I’m happy with.

Styling: Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie — Also organic and very few crazy chemicals. This stuff will last you a long time because a little bit will go a LONG way. (When you first use it, use less than you think you’ll need. First time I tried it, my hair looked greasy from using too much product.) This product saves me money since I was using two or three styling products every day (and going through some of them pretty quickly.)

A couple times a month I will use some Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap on my hair if I feel like it need a little bit of clarifying. Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t have any of the harsh chemicals in it, so it won’t strip my hair of all of its natural oils.

All of these products are available at Target. (You can find the Shea Moisture products in the “ethnic” hair care section.)

One more picture just so you can see with your own eyes that my hair doesn't look greasy, even though I don't use shampoo. This is from Easter this year. Notice my daughter has curly hair too!

That’s it!

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section!

Check Out These Other Great Posts in the Go Green & Save Green Series:

Emily at Live RenewedMy Green and Frugal Beauty Care Routine

Stacy at A Delightful HomeHow to Make Leave In Conditioner

Nicole at Simple Organic — My Beauty Routine and a DIY Body Butter Recipe

  1. Donna permalink
    09/12/2011 6:12 am

    I have noticed a considerable difference in your hair and I really like it. It is healthier and It is also easier for me to cut…still quite a chore, but getting better each time I learn your curls. Very important to have the right cut!

  2. Erin permalink
    09/12/2011 9:31 am

    I’m always looking for tips on how to “deal” with my hair…this sounds interesting. However, I’ll likely wait to do anything drastic with my hair-care routine until after all the post-partum hormones have left my body and I know what texture my hair is going to be for a while. (It’s changed with each pregnancy.)
    Love the old pics, but I think that my curly-fro pics rival yours :o)

  3. Alyssa permalink
    09/12/2011 1:46 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this!!! I am a straight-haired girl with 3 curly-headed little girls. I have no idea what to even do with it other than wash and brush it like I do my own and most of the time I hate the way their hair turned out. Right now they are young enough I can just stick a bow in it and hide the mess. With my oldest girl (6yr.) I usually just pull her hair into a pony tail so I don’t have to deal with it. Thanks for the info, I am definitely going to buy that book.

    • Kate permalink*
      09/12/2011 2:29 pm

      You definitely need to get that book! There is a whole section on taking care of curly headed kids. My daughter has fine hair, so I can’t use the curl smoothie stuff on her hair without it looking greasy, but I do use lots of conditioner, a really gentle shampoo, and let it air dry after I scrunch it. Good luck! :)

  4. 09/12/2011 2:13 pm

    Those pictures are just about as good as any blog post ever gets. Thanks for being so vulnerable and so yet educational at the same time. Too bad I don’t have curly hair to test this out! Thanks for not making it 61 days since your last blog post on Emily’s blog.

    • Kate permalink*
      09/12/2011 2:29 pm

      RO–I knew you’d like those photos. :)

  5. 09/12/2011 2:29 pm

    Kate, your family is so cute! Your hair looks great and your kids are adorable! I love your daughters blond curls. I had ringlets when I was little but then grew out of them, but I always wanted a little girl with curly hair. Both of my kiddos have stick straight hair, but maybe I should be thankful for that! :)

  6. Elizabeth permalink
    09/12/2011 8:23 pm

    Fantastic article! I went through the same phases with my crazy curls. I can’t wait to try these products. Thanks for the tips!

  7. 09/12/2011 9:16 pm

    Oh my word- totally worth the wait!! This post is amazing in every way, and I do mean every. I am having a super-hard time picking a favorite picture…6th and 7th are pretty incredible, but 2nd is pretty rockin’, too. In all honesty, you look gorgeous in 11th grade- I’ve never seen your hair like that before. Sooo pretty. You have the best of both worlds, my friend.

  8. Lindsay permalink
    09/13/2011 3:14 pm

    i love the pictures, looking at those all i can say is, you are your mothers child. :) love you!

  9. 09/30/2011 2:18 pm

    so glad to have found your post + these products on pintrest!!! my curly hair has returned after moving back to a humid climate + as i let it grow out i am at a loss…off to target for some shopping

  10. Caroline Herndon! permalink
    10/02/2011 8:47 am

    Oh my. Those school pictures remind me of some of mine, sans the curly hair. Horrible 90s clothes, the vests, refusing to smile – it’s way too familiar.

    – Caroline

    • Caroline Herndon permalink
      10/02/2011 8:48 am

      And I’m not used to commenting, which is why I accidentally put an exclamation point beside my name. Not trying to be weird or anything; I just can’t type.

  11. Emmz permalink
    03/06/2012 9:31 pm

    I embraced my curls full-time about three years ago. I discovered a brand called Jessicurl and it literally changed my life. Just watching their videos I learned a lot about how to handle my curls, such as not wrapping my hair into a towel turban and applying my styling products into soaking wet hair. I’ve tried Deva, Ouidad, Aveda and Shea Moisture, and nothing has given my springy, shiny, frizz free curls like Jessicurl. I actually had people ask me if I got a perm!

  12. 03/28/2012 12:10 pm

    Not sure how I ended up here, but great post. I too have curly hair and have tried more natural shampoo methods – I didnt have the staying power to last through the detox phase though – mine got limp and pathetic after a week and I gave up. I haven’t combed my hair with anything other than my fingers though for almost 15 years – and it works great. I also let it dry naturally (but that might be my natural lazy tendancy). I might try the non-shampoo method again someday, but for now i will keep to Body Shop shampoos – they seem a little better than the alternatives out there.


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