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Shampoo for curly hair: Friend or foe?

Elise Stephens blogs about relationships, life, and inspiration at www.elisestephens.com. She received the Eugene Van Buren Prize for Fiction from the University of Washington in 2007. Her novel Moonlight and Oranges was a quarter-final...

Is shampoo stealing your hair’s beauty?

Let’s be honest — our hair is beautiful, but it's so much work to take care of! If you’re frustrated with your frizz factor, weighed down by unruly waves or just trying to make your locks behave, listen up: Shampoo might be stripping your hair of everything it needs. If you were raised to shampoo your hair each and every day, this habit might be the root of your problem.

Woman with curly hair

What's my type?Curly girl handbook

Depending on the kind of hair you were born with, you'll be somewhere on a level of "dry" to "oily." If you have hair with long waves or loose, big curls, you will likely still need to use shampoo, but may experiment by cutting down usage to three or four times a week instead of every day. If you have super tight ringlets that bounce when you pull on them and an easy tendency toward frizz, you will need little to no shampoo because your hair is too dry for it. Don't be scared! Consult Curly Girl: The Handbook (Amazon.com, $11) for a more in-depth analysis of hair types and their recommended care.

In-shower treatments

Nature's Gate Aloe ShampooWhether you're still using shampoo or not, you'll need to also find a good, natural conditioner to soothe your hair with the replenishment it needs. A particular favorite of mine is the Aloe Vera Moisturizing Conditioner by Nature's Gate (Drugstore.com, $7). Use your fingers to comb the conditioner through your hair while you're in the shower. This in-shower detangling should be the only "brushing" required. Do not brush your hair when it's dry.

All styling should be done immediately after the shower. Curly Girl has great tips for special cleansing treatments and alternatives to shampoo, including mixing in a few tablespoons of brown sugar to a handful of conditioner once a week and giving your scalp a good exfoliating scrub.

Post-shower care

lear Ice by Ampro

When you dry your hair, squeeze it gently with a towel (I have a separate hand towel for this purpose), and do not wring it out like a rag. Curls are delicate! Treat them like a cashmere sweater. Once it's been towel-dried, work some conditioner through your hair in teensy amounts with special attention to the ends. After this, you can use a mousse or gel, if needed. A gel I really like that's also alcohol free is Clear Ice by Ampro (Target.com, $3).

When curly hair is treated well, it rewards you and everyone who sees it with its life and radiance. When I finally stopped shampooing my hair, I was astonished by the change. If this is your case, then you and your curls are bound for an amazing makeover!

Related links

4 Hair styling mistakes and how to fix them
Why dirty hair is better

Tips to nourish your hair

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