Monday, February 1, 2010

Baby Curls 101

My daughter, sporting the natural curls I always coveted.
All my life I dreamt of having curls. There was this girl at the high school I went to in Honolulu who had the most sensational head of sun-kissed, blond spirals -- the Shirley Temple of the Surf. I was supremely envious and looked in the mirror at my sorry, straight hair, wishing my hair gene would spontaneously mutate. Then I gave birth to a mixed-race daughter with natural corkscrews and was suddenly faced with the reality of curly hair: tangles, crazy bed-head, even mini dreadlocks! I realized beautiful curls were going to take a little know-how.

My daughter has my fine hair, but with quite a curl. Her ringlets can be gorgeous but as all moms know, babies spend a lot of time with their heads rubbing the backs of pillows, strollers, rugs, etc., and that means a lot of whacked-out hair. I started approaching moms on the playground and asked them about their curlicue routines. And though I got some advice overall, I was surprised to discover that most were still miffed, even if they had curls themselves as to what to do with the little mane, in an easy, manageable way.

The only case I heard of where the curls (and routine) were impeccable involved a mother conditioning her toddler daughter's hair every morning with Pantene. The kicker being that after detangling her hair with a comb, she would let the Pantene sit and set for five minutes under a shower cap before rinsing. The spirals, as a result: picture-perfect 24-7. But both my busy toddler and lifestyle demand a simpler routine.

After a few months of trial and error I figured out what worked: the bottom line being that we wash and condition only twice a week, with some minor maintenance in between. And with this the tangles are minor, and my daughter's hair is healthy and clean. And most importantly, we have more time to luxuriate in our lives.

Easy Curls 1-2-3:

1) Shampoo and Condition: Twice a week

My daughter's hair is on the dry side. As a rule, the curlier the hair, the less natural moisture it maintains. Oil from the scalp travels more easily down the straight hair's shaft than it does with curly hair. Early on, I was washing her hair on a daily basis. Then I realized it was frizzing, had way too much static, and was matting more as a result. Washing and conditioning twice a week provides the right amount of time saved as well as maintaining the right balance of natural oils.

For washing, we’ve been enjoying an organic, tearless, and moisturizing shampoo ($9) and conditioner ($10) by It’s a Curl. For wet-detangling, I let the conditioner sit in the hair for a minute or so while she plays in the tub. Then I take my fingers, or you can use a plastic needle brush like our Hello Kitty one ($5), and gently remove all the tangles before rinsing.

2) Dry Combing: 2-3 times a week

In between the washes it's important to provide some light maintenance to keep the knots at bay and the spirals bouncy. You will need a wide-toothed comb (try this one by Conair, $2) and a detangling product, or you can just opt for water in a spray bottle. We alternate between these detangling products: Fairy Tales Static Free Leave-in Detangling Spray ($9) and Johnson’s No More Tangles Leave-in Conditioner ($5), although I admit to preferring the slightly milder scent of the latter.

3) Styling: If you want, when you want!

For those days you want to amp up those corkscrews, try this Hair Milk ($12: 4 oz.) by Carol’s Daughter, which is safe for baby but designed for moms so you can both use it. And as a rule, don’t apply styling products to the roots, just toward the ends or you'll end up with greasy hair.

Bonus tip!  You can convert blah waves into spirals: Wrap a section of hair around your index finger like a telephone cord while rubbing the product in with your thumb and index finger.


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on


Natasha Rao said...

LOVED this entire piece! I will share this with my friends with curly hair!

marni said...

Milo has wavy-ish hair, but I don`t think he would have the patience to have his hair conditioned at this stage in his life!!! Maybe in a few months!!

Beth said...

Nuy, this site is fantastic! It's great to read about your wonderful relationship with your daughter, and I love that so much of the advice you have here applies to those of us without kids, too. I'm going to try false eyelashes this week. Wish me luck!

Morgan -Ing said...

Oh, I have curly hair and it took until I was in COLLEGE to figure out how to manage it! She is ADORABLE! Visiting from SITS.:)