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Your Guide to Curly Hair

See how to get your curls looking their best

Your Guide to Curly Hair
Born with a head full of curly hair? You might have never thought about it this way, but you are so lucky to have natural curls. Curls are sexy and romantic, and men love them. They are bouncy, voluminous and can be pulled into any hairstyle imaginable. Still skeptical? Picture these curly celebrity beauties and let them be your muses: Sarah Jessica Parker, Keri Russell, Beyonce, Meg Ryan and Debra Messing. In case you haven't noticed, they have curly hair. And they're coming out in public. With gorgeous, naturally curly hairstyles. And if they can do it, you can do it to.

So now that you're ready to embrace your curls, it's time to put on your brave face and tame the jungle. Most curly-haired women just don't know where to start, so they leave their frantic, tangled mop of curls just sitting there. That's not going to do you any good. The trick is getting them to behave, and it's easier than you think. After that, it takes almost no work to maintain them on a day-to-day basis. Pretty sweet, right?

Once you have your curls looking their best, you'll be amazed at all the compliments you'll get. When you feel like the odd girl out, surrounded by straight strands, ask yourself: Why look like a copy of everybody else? Your curls will become your trademark if you embrace them. Check out the easy care routine below, taken from Lorrain Massey's "Curly Girl, The Handbook." Her step-by-step guide to cleaning and styling your curly hair will finally free you from the tyranny of the straightening iron and chemical straighteners.

Cleaning:
1. Throw away your shampoo. That's no joke. This goes even for non-curly girls. Shampoo is detergent, and your hair does NOT need detergent. You will have perfectly clean hair using just conditioner and water. This is one of the most important steps you can take. It sounds weird, but just trust us.

2. Once a week, cleanse your hair with just conditioner. Select a conditioner high in humectants like Panthenol, vegetable glycerine, and sorbitol. First put some conditioner on your fingertips and massage your scalp to loosen dirt. Next rinse thoroughly. (On the other days of the week, just wet your hair thoroughly, and go to step 4.)

3. Next, rub a quarter-size blob of conditioner between your hands and smooth it over the outer layer of your hair. Then work another quarter-size amount to the underlayer of hair at the nape of the neck (where it's prone to knots). Be gentle so as not to break hair. Use your fingers as a comb and comb through your hair from underneath.

4. Now, spread another quarter-size amount of conditioner through the hair on each side of your head, using your fingers as a comb. What you're doing is distributing conditioner evenly through your curls so that they separate instead fusing together.

5. At this point your hair should feel smooth and silky. You will want to experiment with how much conditioner to rinse out. The first time, try not rinsing at all, or just giving your head a very quick rinse to help evenly distribute the conditioner.

Styling:
6. Bend forward and cup your wet hair loosely in a towel. Now scrunch it upward toward the scalp to blot up the moisture. Never rub or wring your hair dry. Gently continue scrunching and squeezing your hair in sections, going with the natural waves and not disturbing the hair too much, until it's no longer soaking wet.

7. Next, rub a tablespoon of clear styling gel between your palms. Bend over at the waist, and starting at the ends, scrunch the gel in toward the scalp. Picture yourself squeezing an accordion in order to get the right motion. Work from the nape of your neck and work around your head, scrunching the top layer last.

8. Now you can begin shaping. Look in the mirror and scrunch section of curls with your palms, pushing up and squeezing gently into place. For shorter curls or curls that are too loose, twist the hair with a finger and a clip. Shape your hair using this scrunching, twisting and clipping, until it's in the form you want it to take when dry. Now, rub another half teaspoon of gel between your palms and very gently graze your hands over the top layer of hair to minimize frizz.

9. TIP: to get the curls on the top of your head to stand a little taller, lift and clip the hair at the roots. Just take a section of hair at the crown and hold it tight about 1/2 inch away from the scalp. Then place a hairclip or two (the old fashioned metal kind is fine) close the scalp to hold the hair up away from the scalp. It should take about six clips (if you use 2 per section) to lift the top of your hair. This can be good for getting the front section out of your eyes.

10. Let your hair air dry. Do NOT blow dry. Maybe in a few weeks you can return to occasional blow drying, but for now don't do it. Your hair needs a chance to normalize and rest. When your hair is completely dry, remove any clips gently. Bend over and give your hair a little shakeout. Now, with your fingers, very gently fluff your hair from underneath. Don't touch the top layer -- frizz alert.
by Jane Chung

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