"Curly Girl: The Handbook" book and method review

There are genius gems for styling your curls when you get past the awful wordplay like "self mane-tenance" and "multi-curl-tural hair" and subliminal product propaganda in Lorraine Massey's Curly Girl: The Handbook, in its second edition.

Massey is the founder of the Devachan Salon and the DevaCurl product line. Do a search on YouTube for "Deva cut" and you'll find both rave reviews and angry rants about Massey's method of cutting hair curl by curl while it's dry — which necessitates a commitment to wearing your hair curly at all times, because it won't look even while straight. As for the products, I've found some Holy Grail contenders and some underwhelmers, which I'll be reviewing in later posts.

But back to the book. It's a thin, picture-packed and informative volume with styling regimens for different curl types, which are shown on an included DVD, plus a Q and A section and chapters on caring for men's and children's curls. Sprinkled throughout are first-hand accounts of curly girls who've struggled past frizz, bad cuts and youths wasted on relaxers and flat-ironing (hello, my sisters!) to finally embrace their ringlets. It even includes DIY information on trimming your own hair and recipes for treatments (be smarter than I was when I made an avocado hair mask — put it in the blender and don't just mash it with a fork. You'll be digging chunks out of knots for an hour).

The Curly Girl Method is supposed to make your curls their most hydrated, bouncy and defined. Its main tenets are eschewing sulfate shampoos and conditioners and styling products that contain silicone. The logic is that sulfates are drying, and moisture is a curl's best friend, and silicones build up in hair and require the stripping sulfates to be rinsed away.

Of course the DevaCurl line is Curly Girl Method-approved, so this book must be a real moneymaker for Massey. I haven't totaled up how much I've spent the last few weeks trying Deva products, because why upset myself? It can't be good for my curls.

So, I love a few tricks I've picked up from the book. First, the most valuable lesson I've learned is how to properly use hair gel. Gel creates a cast that keeps the curls in place, but you end up with crunchy, ramen-noodle texture. The way to get the curl definition without the crunch is to let the hair completely dry without messing with it — a STRUGGLE — and then scrunch and fluff it out to open the cast. The first time I did this, I think I audibly gasped at the mirror. I'd never seen my hair look so spirally all over! And I like the way my hair looks when I clip it at the crown during drying, as suggested, and think using a microfiber towel probably does help ward off some frizz.

However, I'm not at all a fan of finger detangling. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I just don't think I'm doing much other than adding knots for later. So I sometimes finger detangle, and other times I just reach for my comb or my new Tangle Teezer. I think the tradeoff is my hair looks stringier when I use something other than my fingers, but I just don't have the patience sometimes.

And do you know how hard it is to find a silicone-free styling agent that gives me the shine I crave? Next to impossible. Silicones are in everything, and they're like crack to me. I can't give them up. I can go maybe up to a week and a half at best, but usually I find myself reaching for the glossy, greasy stuff every few days.

And while I'm on board with avoiding sulfates for the most part, sometimes I think my hair and scalp really need a deeper clean, and I reach for my Lush Big shampoo with the sea salt. And ooooh, does it feel wonderful. And naughty. Oh, sulfates and silicones. Gimme gimme.

If you're new to curl care, I recommend picking up a copy of the handbook and trying out some tips. If anything, it'll inspire hours of Pinterest hunting for celebrity pics once you've identified your curl type.

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