My hair is super curly, long, and tends to by dry (most people with curly hair also have drier hair). It has always been a challenge to keep it tidy and frizz-free — or at least low-frizz. Over the years I have experimented with quite a few ways to deal with it, from using products laden with everything and anything, to totally natural. To my delight (and maybe a little surprise), the natural products and techniques actually work better. Here's what I use to make it all work.
Infrequent washing: I'll never forget spending 13 days in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area the summer after freshman year of high school; I had wanted to go on a hiking and camping adventure, and had signed on to hike the Continental Divide with a group called Menogyn. For two weeks we hiked, sweated, and then repeated the hiking and sweating the next day — I think there were exactly two times we dunked in streams full enough to call it a bath. Shockingly, to my teenage self, my hair looked pretty good at the end of two weeks sans shower. While the other teens on the trip had greasy heads by day three or four, my hair looked just fine (though my head was a tad itchy). Lesson learned: dry hair needs less washing than regular or (obviously) oily hair. At this point, I only wash my hair every five to six days, and if I need to rinse more often (like after a heavy workout during the summer) I don't use a shampoo, but just 'wash' through with conditioner, giving my scalp a good swishing.
Judicious brushing: Brushing curly hair is pretty much a no-no as it pulls the curl out and makes it go absolutely crazy. But I find a good scalp-massaging brushing feels great and seems to stimulate hair growth. In addition, it pulls those natural oils through the hair, and pulls out the abundance of dead hair I always seem to have. To both brush and not ruin my curls, I only brush my hair right before a shower; this also helps keep the drain clear of hair, since most of it comes out in the brush instead of when I'm washing it.
Use curly-hair specific products: Using a very mild, moisturizing shampoo is key; regular ones will pull way too much moisture out of dry hair. I like Devachan's "No Poo," which really isn't a typical shampoo at all. It doesn't lather, which means it doesn't strip hair. I then use tons of conditioner like John Masters Organics Lavender and Avocado Intensive Conditioner — first I work it through and then rinse it out, then I add more and leave it in. After I get out of the shower, I gently towel-dry the curls, using a super-absorbent towel, scrunching from bottom upwards, with the curl. Then I let the curls air dry, which keeps them from drying out.
Add natural oils: When my hair is just about dry, I add natural oils, like Emtage Silktage styling serum and/or Neem Oil by Dr. Hauschka. And each day, while I style my hair, I add more oils; my hair is dry enough that it just eats them up, and it never gets oily. Adding oils has been the single thing that has most improved my hair length and texture and is a must for dry, curly hair. Start experimenting with natural oils (NOT silicones, which coat, but do not nourish hair at all, leaving it less healthy. Plus, it's plastic, on your hair, and that means your face and on your skin — yuck).
MNN tease photo of frizzy hair: Shutterstock