Have you ever used a hair product that left your hair feeling straw-like, crispy, tangly, coated, gunky, stripped, frazzled, or feeling kinda like horse hair?
Well, none of those sound very attractive, do they? They sound even worse when clumped together like that. Let's hope you haven't experienced more than one of these with just one product.
So what is it about certain products that make your hair feel like one of the evils listed above? Aside from your own individual hair just having a reaction to a product (much like your skin can), most likely the culprit is one or more of the ingredients. What, you knew we were gonna say that? Well, as mentioned before, ingredients are really important! But we won't go into that detail again; check the "What to Look for in Curly Hair Products" post for more info on that. Sometimes one wayward ingredient can cause your curls to frizz out, dry out, or generally freak out.
On the other hand, you have surely at least once used a product that makes your hair feel amazing, yes? C'mon, you remember it. That feeling when you've tried a new product, your curls are dried and styled; you check them in the mirror and touch them...and the light bulb goes on, and your smile is even brighter. Holy grail product!! you think to yourself. Might be a winner! Why do you think it is that products can vary so much?
Essentially, products will either 1) do damage to your locks, even if it's minimal or temporary; 2) do no damage, but not improve the condition of your curls either; or 3) strengthen and moisturize your hair from the inside out, leaving it better than what you started with.
Take a wild guess which one we'd recommend! (I mean, which one would you prefer? I doubt you're thinking to yourself right now, "I'd love more damage, please!")
Let's think of it in terms of food for a second. Your doctor tells you to eat healthy, and you go out for dinner that night. You have three options for entrees: the deep-fried Twinkie, the mediocre-quality pasta dish, or the superfood salad with salmon. (Bear with us here.) You would like to not do damage to your body, so the Twinkie's out; the pasta dish is just okay, but doesn't have a lot of nutritional value; but the salmon salad is loaded with many beneficial nutrients that you know your body needs and will be happier with in the long run. You want to take your doctor's advice, right?
So the curl doctor says to pick products with lots of nutritional hair value, and your hair will be happier! Easy peasy. Want to know what kinds of things are beneficial for your hair?
We have to go back to the ingredients thing again. Two big ones: moisture and protein—ideally your hair should have a good balance of both. Proteins often come in the form of jojoba, wheat, soy, rice, or quinoa protein; keratin, collagen, panthenol, etc. Moisture comes in the form of water (duh), aloe vera, lanolin, glycerin, shea butter, and so on. So ideally, a good product should have at least one of each for good balance. Consider them curl superfoods.
What you use also depends on the climate you live in and the water you wash your hair with. You might have to evaluate those and adjust accordingly. (If you live in Florida, for example, you probably won't need as much moisture. If you have ultra-hard water or zero humidity, you might need more. Maybe a lot more.) Ultimately you can tell what your curls like, and we can guarantee you it won't be the deep-fried Twinkie choice.
If your hair is natural and you wear it in a protective style, you may think it doesn't matter which products you put in it since it's all hidden safely away from the elements. The hair doctor kindly asks you to think again, though; you may not be doing damage from blow-drying or styling or exposing your hair to environmental toxins, BUT if you're using one of those products listed in #1 that causes one of the icky problems listed in the beginning, it's still damage, isn't it? Kinda counterintuitive. Curls are delicate beings, and you want to do all you can to build them up and keep them strong, no matter how you wear them. And this goes for all curl types! While some types are more fragile than others (and that is also where you need to adjust product accordingly for your individual needs), ALL curls are the same in that they are too easily damaged and need some extra TLC.
Hair doctor's prescription: a quality product (such as Controlled Chaos Curl Creme) that not only styles your curls, but protects, moisturizes, and strengthens them from the inside out. Because when your curls are happy, you'll be happy too. It's contagious—in a good way.