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How I Lost My Natural Curls... And How I Plan to Get Them Back

Don't make the same mistakes I did.

AnnaLynne McCord's glorious curly hair.

I used to have a wicked awesome natural curl in my hair. Maybe not quite as wicked as Miss AnnaLynne McCord here. But she is definitely at the top of my list when it comes to fricken' amazing natural curls.

However, after years of torturing my hair with hot tools and dye, my strands are punishing me by being limp, frizzy, and scariest of all... bendy. Yes, I repeat, BENDY. Not curly.

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After chatting with Charise Bauman, academy educator at the Aveda Institute and Academy in Toronto, I finally accepted that I am the only one to blame for my curls losing steam. Kindly, Charise did not point any fingers at me. Instead, she explained WHY my regular hair routine stretched out the coil in my curl, and HOW I can begin to repair it!

I, Rikki Ciminsky, vow to restore and embrace my natural curl. Who is with me?!

Here were my mistakes, and Charise's simple fixes...

Mistake #1: Colouring Too Light and Too Often

I am 100 percent guilty of changing my hair colour as if it were as humdrum as changing my socks. While constantly dying your hair isn't really great for your tresses, the real problem is when you go lighter. It gives you puff on the top and limp hair at the ends.

Let me break down how it happens:

  • Lightening your hair lifts the hair cuticles (in order for the bleach to reach the core of the hair shaft), but often they won't lay flat again afterward. This can make your hair appear more thick and more full than it actually is. This discovery was what made my eyes widen in horror. Us curly folk know volume is rarely, never, ever, EVER a goal.
  • Bleaching your hair is one of the harshest things you can do to your mane. By over-processing your hair, you also kill the texture along with it—leaving the ends with nothing but pathetic frizzies trying so hard to be curls!

The solution? Try to stick to one colour! (Key word: TRY.)

Now, it's possible that you can keep your curls in pretty good shape even if you lighten your hair, as long as you totally baby it... but if you love to dye it a) often and b) different shades all the time, then yes, you're in the danger zone.

So if you don't want to sacrifice your hair colour changes for your curls—and girlfriend, I totally get you—then Charise suggests trying a semi-permanent hair colour. The chemicals are simply not as harsh as permanent.

My personal favourite at home semi-permanent hair dye is L'Oréal Paris Healthy Look creme Gloss Color.

L'Oréal Paris Healthy Look creme Gloss Color

This line of hair dye has no ammonia in it, a chemical in most dyes that damages the proteins in each strand. The only catch: a semi-permanent won't lighten your hair.

Mistake #2: Frying Curls with Heat Stylers

"The biggest challenge for women with curly hair is inconsistency and frizz," says Charise. "Curls are never exactly the same after each shower, which can get annoying."

Hence: us curlicues try to create a consistent texture by using hot tools.

Think of the 400+ degree plates you squeeze your hair in between every time you straighten or curl your hair. Since our hair is "technically dead," it doesn't have a fighting chance to tell us when we're hurting it (like our skin would) when too much heat goes near it. And then we end up sizzling it and causing damage that makes curls lose their bounce.

The solution? Use the right products, not heat styling. 

Charise gave me several tips here...

  • Clarifying shampoo will help you make a fresh start, because it is specifically made for getting rid of the junk stuck to your hair. Heavy product build-up leaves a synthetic waxy silicone coat on hair, which weighs down curls. Try Pantene Aqua Light Shampoo or TRESemmé Deep Cleanse Shampoo.

Pantene Aqua Light Shampoo, Conditioner and Conditioning Shake

TRESemmé Deep Cleanse Shampoo

  • Use pomades, serums, and oils—the creamier, the better! Products with "emollients," a.k.a. slippery products, help to fight frizz. To be sure you are grabbing the right product, Charise suggests testing it on the back of your hand. If it feels sticky within a minute or so, it means there is probably alcohol in the product. Alcohol suck up the hair's moisture and gives you that gnarly crunchy curl. No thanks. So, no gels or mousse! Charise's current favourite is Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer. "It's perfect for someone trying to get their curls back."

Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer

Don't be afraid to ask for testers! You don't have to commit to buying a product you've never used before (and have no idea will work). "Most hair salons will gladly give you little testers to try at home," says Charise. "We are hair professionals and know you need to experiment!" Apparently it's just that simple. If you are looking for that perfect product, all you need to do is ask!

Now that you have a new product... Be patient! Like a week or two kind of patient.

I am sooooo beyond guilty of giving up too soon. When it comes to finding a new hair product, I use it once, get angry that I saw no difference, and then revert back to whatever I was using before (regardless of whether I liked it or not).

Charise told me we need to wait at least two weeks to see the full potential and benefit of a new product. You hair needs to adapt and get used to the new stuff!

Pro tip: Make sure to put the product in your hair when it is still SOPPING wet. Even though most products say "use me in towel-dried hair," waiting that long on curly hair allows the dreaded frizz to set in.

The Moral of the Story

Like I said, it's my own fault that I lost my natural curl. My hot tools, hair dye and product habits caused my curls to run away. But I want them back, and with these tips, I definitely plan on it. I'll keep you posted!

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