How did you get such curly hair? How did you get your curls back? This is the question I get asked more than anything.
It’s been about a year since I did a blog post on how I got my hair back to its former glory. And now, one year on, and two years since I started my curly hair journey, my hair is officially looking better than ever.
Looking back at that old blog post now, my hair has come SUCH a long way since then. In those photos, I can still see some of that heat damage and how my hair still had a little ways to go. Heck, even by the title I call my hair ‘waves’ when they are most definitely curls!
I can now comfortably say it took me around a year and a half to get my hair back to its former glory and to looking even better than I remembered.
And now I’m here to tell you some harsh truths: the only way to get your curls back is to cut out the damage. No amount of product is going to make those straight, damaged bits curly again. If you’ve irreversibly damaged your curls, the damage is exactly that; irreversible. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat your hair as if it IS curly.
Let me explain. Let me take you on my curly hair journey.
When I was a teenager, my hair was super curly. Like, ringlet curly. And you know what? I hated it. It was always frizzy on the top and looked good for about a day. But that was because I wasn’t treating my hair like it was curly. I wasn’t using good shampoos or conditioners and I don’t actually remember using any products on it at all.
By the time I was 18, I was straightening it multiple times a week and using a hair dryer on high heat without a diffuser or heat protection.
For the next four years, I found myself in this vicious cycle of heat styling that I couldn’t get myself out of. I couldn’t leave my hair to try naturally because it looked so straggly, so my only option was to heat style it. Yes, I could’ve tried heatless methods of styling but insight is such a great thing, and heatless styles was not something I thought of at the time.
With all this heat styling, I did something to my hair I didn’t think was possible: I had straightened it. Quite literally. I had absolutely no curl pattern at all, which is hard to believe looking at my hair now, but it was true. My hair had a slight wave at the root, but would then be pin straight. It looked as weird as it sounded.
Then 2020 and the lockdowns hit. With more time on my hands suddenly, I started looking back at photos from my teen years and I really started to miss my beautiful curls. It was the first time I appreciated how beautiful my hair actually was. I mourned for them, and for the state my hair currently was.
And because I wasn’t going out as much, I started to let my hair dry naturally more, and that’s when I noticed that my fringe was actually forming curls. So maybe hope wasn’t all lost, and I could possibly get my curls back.
So that’s exactly what I did.
I ditched ALL of the heat. I switched out all of my shampoos to Sulfate and Silicone free ones, I brought styling products, gels, treatments… Literally everything you could think of. And you know what happened? Absolutely nothing.
Yep. Nothing happened. No curls came back.
I was expecting the damaged, straight bits to at least form SOME sort of wave, but nope. They stayed straight. Pin straight.
But what I did notice is that as my hair was growing, my roots were actually curly. And as my roots grew out more, ringlets were starting to form.
And let me tell you, my hair had never looked worse in my entire life.
Have you ever been walking around with curly hair at the top and pin straight hair at the bottom? That was my life. For six months I hated the way that my hair looked, and the only thing I could do was try and hide it by pinning it back and keeping it up in buns. It was SO hard to not pick up any heat stylers, but I persevered.
But no matter how awful it looked, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit excited, because my hair was in fact, still curly. And every week I was seeing it get better and better.
And then, once the world opened back up again, it was time for my first haircut in 8 months. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my hairdresser look so confused as to what was going on with my hair, but I had one simple instruction: Cut as much of it off as you can.
And I emerged from the hairdressers with a bob and REAL ringlets. The difference was unbelievable. I had actual ringles on my head! By cutting off the majority of the heat damage, my hair was no longer weighted down by dead ends, which allowed it to spring back up. On that day, it felt like me and my hair let out a huge sigh of relief. After several more regular cuts, all of that heat damage was gone.
Now, two years on with none of that heat damage left on my hair, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my curly hair journey. And I can now comfortably say that products had absolutely nothing to do with getting my curls back.
Hear me out.
I had damaged my hair to the point where I didn’t have any curl pattern left at all. So none of these products were working because there was nothing to style.
The thing that got my curls back was letting the damage grow out, cutting it, and not using heat.
The products got my curls looking the best that they could. And I still used them, even when they weren’t working on the dead bits, to nourish the curls forming at the root. Overall, they made the transition a lot easier and I wouldn’t change anything about trying to get my curls back.
As I mentioned, the only real way to get curls back after the way I heat damaged them is to cut out the damage. Whether you want to shave your head and start again, or deal with growing it out like I did, is up to you. And to cut out heat styling of course! But there are a number of things you can do along the way to help the process and have your curls looking their best:
1. Switch to Sulfate and Silicone free shampoos.
There can be a little bit of a transition period, but switching out your shampoos will really help keep away the frizz! Make sure to use a clarifying shampoo (basically a shampoo with sulfates) every once in a while to keep the build up at bay. (I clarify once a month!)
2. Switch to a silk pillowcase
This helps a lot with frizz!
3. Stop drying your hair with a towel.
Again, this helps with frizz but also helps stop breakage.
4. SERIOUSLY. Keep away from the heat.
5. Deep Condition once a week.
I only wash my hair once or twice a week now so I deep condition every other wash, but this will keep your hair feeling beautiful and will do wonders to your hair even if its not curly or wavy!
6. Treat it like it's curly
Even if your hair isn’t looking wavy or curly, still treat it like it is. Trust me, the results will be better!
7. Do Olaplex treatments at the hairdressers.
My hair absolutely ADORES Olaplex, can’t get enough of it! The curls always look great after a treatment.
8. Know your curl pattern
This can be quite tricky if you’re still trying to get your curls back. My hair is a mix between 2C and 3A – it’s quite common to have a mixture of the two! Knowing your curl pattern is really helpful so you know how much moisture your hair needs and what products may be too heavy/light for your curls. I just looked at photos of myself before I damaged my hair to try and guess my curl pattern, but by using products it’s actually much curlier now!
9. Experiment with different products
I got quite lucky with the fact my hair really liked one of the first products I tried, and I still use it in my routine today. However, I’m constantly switching out products and trying new ones to see what works best for my hair and what my hair likes.
I cannot begin to explain how much patience you need not just trying to get your curls back, but for maintaining curls in general. It takes a lot of maintenance, and you’ve got to be prepared for that!