How to Style Thick Hair
I’ve got a thick, curly, unruly mop of hair on top of my head, born of a long frizzy family line. My own mother was a teenager in the eighties. New-romantics, athleisure, punks, whatever social divide there was in Britain or indeed the world, humanity was united by one thing…a love of big, moused, diffused hair.
Mum’s of the nineties carried on their familiar routines and what followed in my early life was a series of school pictures, set to a pastel faux sky backdrop, of a tiny shy child with the hair of Tina Turner.
The worst and most emotionally stressful to grapple with in the morning before school was a fringe produced from a single wonky chop. On my thick curly hair, the bulk of it sprung up and fanned horizontally outwards, leaving an impossible gap in the centre that seemed to always taunt and cajole me. That was if I’d escaped my mother’s enthusiasm for her drying attachments, and didn’t have a diffused puffy fringe, wafting up and down as I ran through the playground. We didn’t have a lot growing up in a single-parent household, and I’m sorry to say, my fringe took the brunt of ‘the austerity measures.
Styling Inspiration for Thick Hair
After many years of struggle, experimentation and longing for fine care-free hair I snapped out of denial and embraced what nature had bestowed me with. The volume I heard those with fine hair cry out for, I admittedly had an abundance of, I too, like it or not, had the curl and wave they were endlessly trying to recreate with tongs and then weeping if it fell out too quickly. One day I pulled my socks up and sought out a routine that fit me personally. Self acceptance and forgiveness of your parents wrongdoing are after all, key in recovery from trauma.
It begins with where you glean your inspiration from. I’m sorry to break it to you, that the pictures of Kate moss’s choppy layers are only going to cause you hair dysmorphia and a constant nagging feeling that you aren’t quite up to standard. Leave the struggle behind, instead, fuel your follicle innovation with images and advice from the Amal Clooney’s, the Megan Markle’s, but though she’s a powerful woman, probably best leave Cher out of this round.
The Right Hair Care Routine
Next, now you’ve armed yourself with appropriate inspo it’s time to establish a routine, a muscle memory, a ritual if you prefer. The key to stress free styling is working your hair around your life, and not vice versa. Always remember whether your embracing natural curls, sleek straight or Hollywood waves; you control it, it doesn’t control you. Whether you’ve choppy curly layers or long thick hair, You got this.
You probably won’t need to over wash your hair, as with thicker textures it can tend to dry out more readily. I’d suggest twice a week or whenever you feel it needs it. The trick to being able to go longer between washes is in how you shampoo.
The Best Products for Thick Hair and how to use them
It is tempting to head straight for the heavy creamy products, like dry remedy, Nutriplenish deep, cherry almond. But though the ends are often dry, the scalp and roots can still become oily and overloaded. Treat the roots as a separate head from the mid lengths and ends. I have found lighter shampoos perfectly competent at giving me a deep cleanse for my roots but not weighing them down and making them feel greasy 1-2 days after my home spa session. For this I’d opt for Be curly, Sap Moss, Nutriplenish light, or even colour conserve.
Some people with curly hair co-wash, using conditioner in place of shampoo, or a specially designed product. I personally find nothing wrong with a classic 2 shampoos, and one conditioner, if my hair is feeling especially dry I’ll put a treatment on, like the dry remedy mask. For most, once every other week is more than enough.
Now, the conditioner calls. In my regular routine I do use a deep conditioner, like I said before I treat the mid lengths and ends with separate attention. Be curly, dry remedy, sap moss, Nutriplenish deep. All are worthy candidates.
I tend to stick my head out of the shower, (after turning it off of course to conserve water) and towel dry my hair, I apply no more than a 50p piece worth of product, and I comb through. Yes it does make a difference if you use your fingers because you left your come on the other side of the house. I use a wide tooth comb. Rather conveniently it’s handle curves round so I can hook it in the shower. That humble innovation has spared me many a freezing dash across the house.
A note on the amount of product you’re using…more is not always more. With shampoo and conditioner, you only ever need that small 50p size. Some people I’ve come across absolutely slap it on, I too hold my hand up and have been guilty of this in the past. Aveda’s range in particular are concentrated solutions, meaning a little goes a long way. I know it can be tempting when you feel overwhelmed by your hair’s dryness. But the solution lies in choosing the right product for you, not in slathering any old contender on.
On exiting the bathroom in a glowing plume of steam, I will next apply a leave in conditioner. For a simple life, and not over complicating for the sake of it (I will never understand the psyche of those with 12 step daily facial routines) products like Nutriplenish leave in conditioner, and damage remedy hair repair have an added heat protection.
When I don’t have time to be carefully primping and preening myself, because I’m a woman with a life to live, I am grateful for this one trick wonder. This also provides you with a thermal layer around your cuticle, so should you have the time or volition to heat style, your hair is protected, and will go on shining until the end of time.
Different Styling Routines for Thick Hair
My styling routine is a three pronged approach to my busy London life. Occasionally I will challenge myself and attempt a new styling technique, but only when I am in a strong mentally healthy place and able to take the bitter sting of failure in my stride.
My three options are: natural air dried curls, smooth blow dry with movement in the ends, and braid’n’go. The first, are the speediest of the lot, perfect for when I don’t have time to be mucking about with round brushes in the morning, but when I’m in dire need of a good scrub. Secondly, often an evening or weekend pursuit, this says, I’ve thought about what I’m doing tomorrow and I’ve planned ahead. Finally, braids work well either before bed setting hair wet, or throughout the day, taming the volume and giving you a seventies, boho, women’s lib vibe.
These styles see me and my thick tresses through pretty much anything life throws at us!
1) Natural Curls
After a fresh morning shower I towel dry my hair thoroughly. Some people prefer to use a t-shirt or microfibre towel as they claim it reduces frizz, experiment with what works for you. I personally see nothing wrong with my old faithful towel. I dry it well enough so that it’s not sopping wet. Too much residual moisture in the hair will water down products and lead to less defined curls, and to my horror, more frizz.
Comb through the hair, it feels counter intuitive but detangling will prevent you from getting matted dready knots. Put a small amount of Be curly, curling cream into your palm, scrunch into your ends and work up, curling cream is probably the one product where you can be a bit more liberal. Start with a small amount and work more in as needed. Go with your heart. You’ll get to know how much feels right. Scrunching from ends upwards throughout your locks, evenly distribute the product. Lastly, leave to dry! Easy. To nudge the curls into the right direction you can twist small sections, or just a straightforward tuck behind the ears to give a face framing wave.
2) Smooth blow-dry with movement in the ends
I don’t always want to wear a shaggy voluminous weft of curls. Sometimes when the mood strikes me, I like to wear soft waves and sleek roots ala Amal Clooney in the courtroom defending human rights. Not a completely unnatural look, movement in the ends suggests something of my raw material. Great for when you have a little bit more time, a Sunday morning, or after work, if you work methodically it will last you enough days you’ll feel you got your money’s worth- so to speak.
Begin shampooing this time with Smooth Infusion Shampoo, it works to reduce frizz and is ideal for blow-dries. On towel drying well, apply smooth infusion nourishing styling cream and comb through to evenly distribute. This product doubles as a heat protector too so you don’t have to grapple with decisions about which product combination to use.
Use a hair dryer to roughly blast the moisture out, then when 80% dry take your hair into small sections, working methodically from the nape upwards. A large round brush will give you a looser curl, and I find it also makes it quicker to work through the sections. Starting at the root, push the round brush in, tension is key to smoothness.
Once you’ve directed the air flow downwards and thoroughly dried the root, pull the brush down through the mid lengths maintaining tension as you dry. Once you reach the ends, roll the brush in your hand, smoothing the ends, and try to keep the brush in constant fluid motion. Using the brush almost as a hot roller, roll from point to root and allow to cool for a second. Blast with cool air from the dryer if you’re impatient.
On removing the brush a loose curl will have formed, to set, roll the hair in your fingers, starting at the ends and pin off base (flattening the roots to the head) using a kirby grip. Continue to work methodically this way, taking small sections as you go. Once completely cooled, remove the clips and use a paddle brush to finish the look. By pulling it through the hair you’ll create soft waves.
Sometimes I like to finish it with Nutriplenish Multi-use Hair Oil by Aveda, but often if I blow dried properly it won’t need too much additional product. It’s a bit of a process, but I like to think of it as preparing lunch for the next day.
This is my favourite pre-bedtime ritual, I’ve had my bath, maybe done a dry remedy treatment, and I’m all ready to go to sleep in my peaceful serene state. I don’t want to disrupt this zen with a sweaty session with the hair dryer. Braids are the perfect way to sleep on wet hair. Beautiful setting silky smooth curls for the day ahead, as well as being a handy alternative to heat styling.
Simple towel dry well, apply leave in conditioner, the Nutriplenish one has a handy spray bottle so a couple of spritzes will be ample, and comb through evenly. I personally french braid my hair, I like a zig zag parting at the moment but that’s just me, if you prefer a side part or centre, you do you. I work tightly, keeping tension right from the get go at the roots will give you beautiful defined curls. It only ever takes me 5 minutes and work equally if you have to leave the house in a rush but you want reliable curl definition for a hot date later.
And so ends my guide through the trials and tribulations of a life in thick hair texture. It’s been a journey. I wish you well.