It’s been nearly two months since I made the decision to cut my hair and reclaim my curls. After years of weekly blowouts, my hair was looking limp thanks to heat damage, so I wanted to start living my life with my hair health top of mind. And while I thought that chopping off over 10 inches of my hair would be the toughest part of my transition, the hard work was actually in creating an entirely new regimen for my hair.
When I was straightening my hair, I was committed to frizz-fighting products and whatever shampoo smelled great (give me all the coconuts). But now that I’m taking a major break from the flat iron, my new routine is focused on moisturizing and reviving my curls.
“There are lots of women that have the misunderstanding that they to have to find the products that are going to make their hair curly,” says New York-based curl expert Mona Baltazar, a.k.a. @themonacut. “But what they need to realize is that if you’re transitioning, those aren’t your curls. So, you want to focus on the process of getting back your real curls and pattern, and what you’re feeding your hair to do so.”
And that’s exactly what I did. With help from Baltazar and some research, I stocked up on products that I felt would help me nourish my curls. After a few weeks of trial and error, I found the products that are currently working for me. Emphasis on “currently,” because, according to Baltazar, as my hair changes, so will its needs.
It’s also important to remember that everyone’s hair is different, so what may work for me might not give you the same results. But let my picks serve as inspiration. Ahead, the hair products I’m loving during my transition from heat-damaged hair to thriving, natural curls.
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A Look At My Curls
After my cut, my natural curls did spring up more than expected, but they still felt a little damaged – especially towards the front. Baltazar also let me know that the back of my hair needed more attention with hydrating products because it was drier than the rest of my head.
Shampoo & Conditioner
When I was in the salon for my big chop, Baltazar used Olaplex’s shampoo and conditioner on my hair, which I assumed was for color-treated hair. I quickly learned that color-treated and transitioning hair should be treated similarly, because both are damaged. “Anytime you put a chemical in your hair, straighten it, or manipulate the natural [curl] pattern of your hair, you have damaged it somewhat,” says Baltazar.
She recommended that I add bond-repairing treatments to my new routine, and so I started using Olaplex at home. I shampoo twice a week with the No. 4 formula and condition once a week with the No. 5 (I use a deep conditioner on every other wash day). Although the bottles are small, a little goes a long way and my strands feel so much smoother after I wash. Once I rinse out both products, I can see the difference in my wet curls. It seems like they spring up more and more with every wash.
Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance™ Conditioner, $28, available at Sephora
Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance™ Shampoo, $28, available at Sephora
Don’t let the humble size of this product fool you: these deep-conditioning treatments pack a punch. Previously Brazil’s best-kept secret – and now available for the first time ever in the U.S. – these moisturizing, single-use shots instantly revive stressed-out hair, bringing curls back to their shiniest, most resilient state. Simply apply to ends post shampoo and conditioning, let it soak in while you wash your body (an unofficial rule of showering, TBH), then rinse it all out and go. And whether you want to cut the hot tools completely or jump right back into using them, these shots will keep your hair-health in check no matter what. It’s true:
Good Great things come in small packages.
Pantene Rescue Shots Hair Ampoules Treatment, $12.07, available at Amazon
Before my appointment, I didn’t know product buildup on the scalp could inhibit hair growth – and apparently I had a lot of it. Baltazar recommended I get a clarifying shampoo to keep my roots clear of debris. I came across this exfoliating shampoo from Briogeo, and my scalp has never felt cleaner. It has even gotten paint out of my hair, which no shampoo was getting out. I take a generous amount from the tub and shampoo as I regularly would. I use it once every two weeks, swapping out the Olaplex shampoo.
Briogeo Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-exfoliating Shampoo, $33.6, available at Sephora
When you’re creating a hair regimen for your transition, you should be investing more time and money in hydrating treatments, suggests Baltazar. This conditioning mask has rave reviews online, and it lives up to all the praise. When I’m low on time after shampooing, I let it sit for three minutes and rinse – which still makes a significant difference. But I try to leave deep conditioning for days when I have the time to leave it on for 20-30 minutes (and watch some TV in the meantime).
My hair was extremely dehydrated from all the heat damage, and this mask deserves credit for giving my curls newfound bounciness and shine. The formula literally melts into my strands and leaves them feeling extremely smooth.
DevaCurl Melt into Moisture Matcha Butter Conditioning Mask, $36, available at Sephora
When it comes to styling products, Baltazar says there is room to experiment. “This is where you can play, because no styling product is going to make your curls any better while transitioning,” says Baltazar, meaning that there aren’t products that will change your curl pattern. You can only enhance what you have.
I found this defining cream in R29 ‘s beauty closet. The spearmint oil and shea butter in the ingredients list stood out to me. For those days when I don’t have much to do, I apply this product solo by running my fingers through my hair. It softens my curls, but it doesn’t really give them much form – that’s why I use a second product on days when I’m headed out to work or meeting friends. Warning: You’ll want to be careful with this cream, because layering on too much can weigh hair down.
Kenra Curls + Coils Defining Cream, $9.99, available at Ulta Beauty
While the Cantu product moisturizes, this mousse, which Baltazar used on me during my curly cut, gives me curl definition. I only scrunch on about three golf ball-sized dollops, because too much leaves my hair with that crunchy feel. But it really gives my curls some shape. To dry, I go in with a blowdryer and diffuser. With this method, I’m not applying heat directly to my curls so I don’t have to worry about damage.
Kenra Professional Curl Glaze Mousse 13, $17, available at Ulta Beauty
It doesn’t end there. I don’t wash my hair every day, so I do need to freshen up my curls some mornings. I had this leave-in spray in my collection before my transition, and I decided to bring it into my new regimen. It doesn’t make my hair feel heavy, and it gives my strands a perfectly refreshed shine. On day two or three, I spray this leave-in on my hands, fluff my hair, and go.
Dark and Lovely Damage Slayer The Protector Leave-in Spray, $25.19, available at Walmart
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