A Tomboy’s Guide to: Curly Hair

So you’re a tomboy; you don’t care about stylish, you just toss your hair (uncolored, cut only when it gets long enough to bother you) into a ponytail and head out the door without a care in the world. Until one day you wake up and realize you’re an adult now and maybe you want to try a more professional look? But you don’t know how.

Well here’s what I’ve learned!


It all starts with shampoo

For curly hair, the manageability really comes down to what shampoo you use. You must use a sulfate-free shampoo. I know what you’re thinking: “oh great, some fancy-shmancy shampoo at like $50 for a tiny bottle”.  I thought the same thing when I first heard about sulfates, and almost quit right there. But I decided to look around first, and I’m glad I did. turns out, there are a lot of cheap drugstore shampoos that don’t have sulfates! Here’s two of them:

Burts Bees shampoos tend to be about $10 a bottle; they have a pomegranate shampoo that’s labelled as volumizing that smells heavenly. They used to have an avocado one that made me literally want to eat my hair, but I think it’s discontinued now? I’ve also seen a baobab and a mango one, each with supposedly different properties, but I’m not sure they really make a difference except for smell, so get whichever is handy. Burts is my go-to because they’re everywhere.

Alba Botanica shampoos, by contrast, are a brand I’d never heard of and have no loyalty to. I was out of Burt’s Bees shampoo and the store I was in had sold out, so I started browsing the aisles and found their Hawaiian shampoo. It turned out to be sulfate-free as well, and it’s working for me just fine 🙂

If you can’t find either brand, I’m sure you can find something; I’ve created a printable you can download that has a checklist you can bring to the drugstore when you go looking.

Now that you have a sulfate-free shampoo, you want to use it as little as possible; no more than once a week. You take a small amount on the tips of your fingers and rub vigorously into your scalp, trying to dislodge any dandruff or anything that might lurk there. You let the action of the water hitting your scalp rinse it into the length of your hair, where it will dislodge any trapped dirt and leave your hair clean. On days you’re not doing this, you can use conditioner to “co-wash” and achieve most of the same effect.

Onto conditioner!

Your conditioner you want to be free of sulfates as well, but conditioners don’t tend to have them to begin with. You also want to steer clear of alcohols that can dry your hair (some alcohols don’t, some do) and waxes that your sulfate-free shampoo will have a hard time getting out of your hair later. Generally speaking, the conditioners that go with the shampoo you picked out will be fine, but the printable has a more extensive list.

You’ll want to leave in the conditioner at the end of your shower; some people like to put in a bit, rinse it out, then put in fresh to leave in, but I just leave it all in. You’ll get a feel for how much to use; you don’t want it to be gloppy on your hair when you’re done, but you do want to use enough that you can feel a difference in the hair. If you overdo it, I like to run my hands over the hair, squeezing gently, so that it transfers to my hands where it can be washed off; repeat this until it’s no longer gloppy.


This is, unfortunately, where I had to spend more money. What you want is a styling gel you can work in after the shower that’s designed to make the most of your curls. I used to use Uncle Funky’s Daughter brand Curly Girl styling cream,  but now I use DevaCurl styling cream, which I like better. Ouidad is another brand that has some styling products as well, but not everything there is approved under the Curly Girl method I’m outlining.

Once you’re out of the shower, the general idea is to flip your hair over and scrunch upward with a microfiber cloth or a T-shirt to get most of the moisture out. You then apply styling cream, scrunching it through your hair, and then flip back up. Tousle a little, use clips to hold it back from your face so much, and voila, ready to walk out the door.

If you want to blow-dry, you’ll need a diffuser, which is an attachment that goes on your hair dryer to spread out and mellow the flow a bit. DevaCurls makes a weird one that cups your head, but you can use a cheap one from the drugstore if you prefer: just place your curls into the little bowl and blow upward until that section is dry-ish.

You can also just put the whole thing in a ponytail and not worry about it 🙂


If you’re brave enough, you can cut your own hair. It’s crucial to cut it while dry, so you can see how each curl wants to fall. If you look at a strand of hair, you can kind of see it in consecutive Cs (some of them backward); I’m told you want to cut at the top of a C, on the diagonal. If you see fraying ends, you’ll want to cut above the frayed bit; if you see knots, cut above them, since knots tend to be caused by fraying ends that get tangled together. You also want to get really sharp hairdressing scissors for best results.

I get my hair cut at a salon every quarter or so. It’s an hour out of my day (and a decent chunk out of my pocketbook), but since I found a good stylist its’s so worth it. My hair seems to want to be short, but she manages with layers to cut  it so I don’t look like a mushroom. Make sure you find someone who specialises in curly hair! A salon that advertises giving the “ouidad cut” probably knows their stuff enough to manage.

Go forth and be curly

Good luck! If you have more tips and tricks, please share in the comments.


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One Response to A Tomboy’s Guide to: Curly Hair

  1. Pingback: Tomboy Hair: An Update | Other: Please Specify

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