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Curly Hair

10 secrets to styling naturally curly hair

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Curly Hair

Actress Keri Russell

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images

If you were born with naturally curly hair, most women with straight hair have been jealous of your hair at some point. Women with limp, stick-straight hair spend hours of their lives with curling irons trying to mimic what comes naturally to you. How do I know this? I have straight hair. I own four curling irons.

Photos: My favorite curly hair styles

But if you were born with super curly hair, you may find it aggravating at times when it frizzes up in certain climates and other times when you'd like straight hair without spending hours getting it that way. There are secrets to styling naturally curly hair and I've discovered them. Read on...

Secret #1: Embrace Your Natural Curl

If you're in a hot, humid climate, you might as well put away your flat iron. You might spend hours straightening your hair, only to step outside and ... POOF!

So what to do in humid climes? Embrace the curl. In fact, many women are foregoing the flat iron and going natural. Lorraine Massey, author of "Curly Girl: The Handbook" says in Glamour magazine, "The freedom is just ridiculous." If you go natural, your hair will be healthier, you'll save time not drying or straightening hair and you'll stand out in a sea of straight hair women.

Nicole Kidman has been sporting stick straight hair on the red carpet for years now, but the truth is, she has super curly hair and I think she looks better curly. Judge for yourself.

Secret #2: If You Want to Go Straight, You Can

One of the great benefits to curly hair is with a little bit of muscle or chemicals, you can go straight.

You can either do it yourself with a good brush, a blow dryer and a flat iron, or you get a professional blow dry. I have a friend with curly hair who gets her curly hair blown dried straight once a week in NYC at one of the city's many blow dry bars. You'd never know she has naturally curly hair.

If you're seeking a more permanent straightening solutions, you have few options, all of which are controversial. Brazilian keratin treatments had their heydey around 2007-2009 and still remain popular today (but they are now marketed as "keratin treatments"). Keratin treatments removes frizz from curly hair leaving you with more manageable curls that are more easily straightened with a flat iron.

There's also the Japanese hair straightening methods, which really make your hair stick straight. You can even straighten your hair yourself using -- it's true -- perm solution and a wide-toothed comb.

 Get the full scoop on hair straightening in these articles:

Secret #3: Invest in a Ceramic Flat Iron

If you want to go straight on occasion, invest in a great ceramic flat iron -- it's much less time-consuming and a great iron won't fry your hair.

See my favorite flat irons.

Secret #4: No, You are Not Destined for a Life Full of Frizz

As you likely well know by now, humidity can wreak havoc on curly hair. Curly hair tends to be dry and therefore vulnerable to humid air -- it simply wants to soak up moisture. This causes cuticles to expand, which causes frizz.

The secret to keeping frizz at bay involves moisture, moisture, moisture. To keep hair properly moisturized, you need a few hair products including: non-sulfate shampoo, a leave-in conditioner, a deep conditioner and a styling product involving silicone. If you have curly hair, these should be staples in your bathroom cabinet. All either keep the hair moisturized or protect the cuticle from moisture (see a list of the best products for frizzy hair).

Secret #5: Deep Condition at Least Once a Week

If your hair is susceptible to dryness, frizz or dandruff, keep away from products with alcohol and treat hair to a deep conditioning hair mask at least once a week. Consider natural oils as well. Stylist Eva Scrivo recommends in her book "Eva Scrivo On Beauty" to take a few drops of neem oil or amla oil (olive oil or jojoba oil also works) in your palm and massage with your fingers into your scalp and hair. Brush the oil through the hair with a natural bristle hair brush, then put a shower cap on and sleep in it, washing the oil out in the morning.   

For much more information on frizzy hair, see Frizzy Hair Fixes: 7 Rules to Live By.

Secret #6: There are Right Ways & Wrong Ways to Use a Blow Dryer

The blow dryer can be a curly girl's nightmare if used improperly. To avoid poof, let hair air dry as long as possible, then blow dry hair with a diffuser like this amazing one from Deva. Hold the blow dryer under hair, cupping (not squeezing) curls in your palm up folding the hair accordion-style as you dry hair.

If you don't use a diffuser, aim the blow dryer nozzle downward, in the direction hair grows.

Get more tips on how to care for curly hair.

Secret #7: Don't Throw Out Your Brush

It's actually a myth that you can't brush curly hair. While some women swear off even a comb, preferring finger-combing (I know of one woman who swears she's never, ever combed or brushed her hair), Scrivo writes in her book that brushing your hair can be a miracle maker. Brushing hair for 2 minutes a night helps distribute natural oils from scalp to hair, Scrivo writes, making it "smoother, more manageable, less frizzy, softer and shinier."

Yes, your hair will likely pouf up into a mass of curls after brushing, but Scrivo says this is OK. Simply wait until just before bed to brush and rinse hair in the morning. The benefits, she insists, are worth it.

"Whether you are plagued by frizz, dryness, split ends or even hair thinning, nightly brushing with a natural-bristle brush will help to alleviate if not completely cure the condition," Scrivo writes.

Secret #8: How to Distribute Product Through Hair

Most women apply product to the top of their heads which can weigh hair down, Scrivo writes in her book. The best way to apply product is to start in the back where hair is thicker. You can then work the product through the sides and at the top of the head. Add small amounts of product as you make your way through sections of hair.

You can comb the product through or massage it into hair with your fingers.

Secret #9: Headbands are an Excellent Choice When You're Short on Time

For curly-haired women short on time, a headband can be a lifesaver. If you pull hair back in a band while it's damp, it's a great way to "flatten" hair at the crown, leaving the curls at your hair's ends. Later you can pull off the hairband and you'll have gorgeous body.

Secret #10: Get the Right Haircut

There are so many secrets to getting the right haircut for your naturally curly hair. For instance, you should avoid bangs, longer hair works better than shorter and it's a myth that you need a specialist in curly hair to cut yours. Find out much more in Curly Hair Haircuts: The Best Hairstyles for Naturally Curly Hair.
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