Mid May marks my curl anniversary from when I first discovered and started following the curly girl method, back in 2017. Here’s my transformation over the past year. What methods, products and routines have worked for my hair. What I’ve learned, what I wish I knew at the start of my journey. As well as how I’ve modified the curly girl method to work best for my hair. So if you’re thinking about embracing your natural waves and curls, you’re at the beginning of your curly journey or just need some inspiration and encouragement to keep going, this post is for you. Don’t give up!
Following the Curly Girl Method – First & Second Year
The first year was a lot of trial and error, using cheap products, with poor quality ingredients. Bouncing back from hygral fatigue and discovering and developing my modified rice water treatment! I transitioned from damaged, barely-there waves and slowly started to see my natural curls make a come back. The second year was all about transformation and figuring out the protein moisture balance for my hair. As well as my iconic DIY cut for shape and volume, which you can read about here.
Third Year Following the Curly Girl Method
Over the past year, my focus has been on growth, maintaining a healthy protein moisture balance, and aiming for consistent results every wash day. There’s nothing worse than the gambling game of uncertainty when it comes to wash day, especially after all that time and effort! I’ve managed to nail all three, which means everything I’ve been doing – the products, techniques and routine – actually work! All my hard work has paid off. I haven’t seen as much of a drastic change or transformation in my curl pattern this year, unlike the first two years. But I think I’ve finally reached peak hair health, and realized my full curl potential. I did it guys! I made it, and you can too! Here’s all the details of the last year.
25 months – Hydrated Curls, Clumps & Ringlets
It’s actually quite shocking to look back at my hair to see how much it’s grown and changed since June 2019. I had healthy, shiny and hydrated curls, clumps and ringlets. I hadn’t quite reached my full curl potential yet. Looking back, I can see my curls are a little stretched out and looser than they are now. But all in all, not a bad way to start my third year following the curly girl method.
27 Months – Hydrated Holiday Curls
I spent most of July travelling around California. Two eleven hour flights, hot climates and a short stint in the desert. I was expecting to come home to trashed curls that needed a lot of TLC. But I couldn’t have been more wrong! I brought the Innersense Hydrating Hair Masque, which was the key to my hydrated holiday curls.
I applied it to my wet hair at the start of every day when I was in Palm Springs. In 42 degree, dry desert heat – that’s almost 108 F! I made sure to rinse it out at night to avoid over-moisturizing my hair. Then for the rest of my trip, I used it to deep condition once a week. If you’re outside the USA, you can get 10% off Innersense at The Clean Beauty Edit (who ship worldwide) using code CURLMAVEN. These are my curls in August, after I was back home for a few weeks.
28 months – Consistency & Growth, finally!
I started taking Hair369 vitamins around April/May and have taken them every day since. September is when I really started to see noticeable growth! This is when I was also being really consistent with my products and routine. I was exclusively using Innersense Organic Beauty cleansing and conditioning products, you can read my full review here.
Use code CURLMAVEN to get 10% off Hair369 vitamins.
Although I was experimenting with different styling products for an upcoming blog post, I was consistently doing The LMG Method. I deep conditioned once a week, every week, using my Curl Maven Thermal Heat Cap – which you can purchase here. And I was still getting great results from my modified rice water treatment, which is also great for growth. Read this post for all the benefits of rice water.
Modifying my Modified Rice Water Treatment
This is also when I started adding a tablespoon of Aphogee Protein Treatment Step 1 to my modified rice water treatment, for an extra kick of protein. Not to mention, it’s far less effort, time, mess and hassle than doing a full Aphogee Protein Treatment. Which you can watch me do in this YouTube video. This has turned into such a time-saving hack that works really well for my hair.
Most of the time I just add one tablespoon to the mix, sometimes two, but never more than that. If my hair starts to feel dry, I know I’m using too much Aphogee, or too often, and I’ll give my hair a break from it for a while. You can see my curl pattern is tighter, I’ve got great definition, minimal frizz. My curls are healthy, hydrated, full of shine, bounce and definition, and the closest I’ve got to frizz-free curls. All the healthy, curly hair goals!
30 months – Amazing Results with Bounce Curl
I started using Bounce Curl not long after I started my curly journey, in the Summer of 2017. I’ve continued to use their cleansers ever since, they’re hands-down the best on the market! This is when I fell in love with their Hairspray and I’ve used it on almost every wash day since! But I could never get the Bounce Curl Light Creme Gel to work for me! Usually I apply a gel as the final product in my styling step. But I tried applying it first, and then layering Pantene Defined Curls Mousse on top, and boom! Amazing wash day results, that I’ve continued to recreate time and time again ever since.
I finally found a way to make this cult-favourite gel work for me. I’ve only found this works if I use a mousse though, I don’t get the same results if I use a foam. So if you’ve been trying to get a product to work for you, and feeling frustrated not getting the same results as others. Try switching up how and when you apply it. I consistently get hydrated, defined curls and a tighter curl pattern every time I use Bounce Curl this way. And I can consistently recreate these wash day results.
Get 10% off Bounce Curl using code CURLMAVEN at all of the following distributors/online retailers:
- USA: Bounce Curl
- IRELAND: The Clean Beauty Edit – ships worldwide
- UK: Kiyo Beauty – ships worldwide
- Canada: Curl Warehouse
32 months – Neglect, again!
For those of you who don’t know, I suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and other mental health issues such as anxiety, panic attacks and depression. I’ve got a blog post on how to look after your hair if you suffer with mental health issues too. The winter is always hard, and it’s when I tend to neglect my hair the most. Especially when it comes to regularly deep conditioning, and it shows. My hair is frizzier, with a looser curl pattern and lacking definition. I know my hair doesn’t look that bad in these pictures. And I’m still mindful that my “bad hair day” is someone else’s hair goals.
For me, regular deep conditioning with my modified rice water treatment and my Curl Maven Thermal Heat Cap is how I keep my protein moisture balance in check. So when I stop doing that, my hair becomes easily over-moisturized, frizzy and my curl pattern starts to drop a little. I’m also badly in need of a hair cut, because the shape is all over the place. A rather aggressive side part and pulling all my hair to the front was the only way I could give some decent shape to my hair. Wait until you see the next set of pictures and how bad it got!
34 Months – A Curly Cut, Finally!
I’d held out for as long as I could without getting my hair cut, and resisted the temptation to cut it myself. The layers had completely grown out, they were uneven, the shape was all over the place and I had lots of stringy bits! Another thing I noticed, was the underneath layers of my hair were almost completely straight.
This was down to two things: Firstly, the underneath layers are the longest layers and therefore the oldest part of my hair and badly needed a trim. And secondly, for the past few months, I’d been constantly parting my hair down the middle at the back of my hair, and pulling it forwards.
This was to try and make the shape look better, and because I was wearing scarves and big winter coats and didn’t want my hair getting tangled and frizzy. But each time I’d do this, I’d also pull any knots or tangles out of my hair too. After a few months of doing this several times a day, I ended up completely pulling the pattern out of my hair!
Just days before Ireland went into lock down due to coronavirus, I went to see Laura in Ritz Hair Galway for a much-needed curly hair cut. I met Laura a year or so ago at an event where she introduced herself to me, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. She’s a curl specialist, having trained under a few different stylists and has been cutting curly hair for almost 20 years!
I’m going to go into all of the details in an upcoming blog post. But I was in safe hands, and was absolutely thrilled with the results and love the shape, length, cut and whole experience! As you can see from the photos, the shape is amazing! Check out my full wash day routine for maximum volume on YouTube, with all the products and techniques I used for these results.
3 Years – Healthy, Defined, Frizz-Free Curls in Great Shape!
Three years on, my hair is back to the length it was when I started, but so much more healthy, and curly! I’ve reached my goal. I’ve achieved maximum hair health and reached my full curl potential! A few months after my curly cut, the shape still looks just as good. Which is a sign of a really good hair cut!
What I’ve Learned
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last three years, it’s if you want to “get your curls back,” you have to focus on getting healthy hair first. And with that will come the shine, bounce, and definition. And whatever waves, ringlets, curls, clumps and coils your hair has the potential for, once it’s in good health.
The goal and destination may be getting your curls back, but the path to that destination is a healthy one. Focus on good products, using high quality ingredients and a consistent routine that’s tailored to what your hair needs. I put together a post on The Golden Triangle of Healthy Hair. If I have a “secret” to achieving healthy hair no matter what your hair type is, curly or straight. Or achieving maximum curl potential, then it’s everything in that post. So be sure to check it out here.
What I Wish I Knew at the Start
Sulfates are not the devil!
When I started my curly journey, I wish I knew that the Curly Girl Handbook by Lorraine Massey should be used more as a guide and a starting point to healthy hair. Not a bible or book of laws that should be abided by at all costs, eg: the cost of your hair. I don’t think all sulfates are bad. In fact, used correctly, I recommend it! I clarify my hair once a month with Bumble & Bumble Sunday Shampoo, which contains sulfates! Read this post for more about clarifying.
It’s not all about moisture & co-washing
I don’t agree with the heavy focus on moisture. Or the exclusive use of a co-wash, or non-lathering cleanser. Co-washing is great if your hair is extremely dry, or you have very tight, kinky coily hair. But more often than not, it leads to over-moisturized hair that’s limp, lifeless, frizzy and can’t hold a curl past wash day! I haven’t co-washed my hair in 18 months and my curls are just fine! The focus has to be on a healthy protein moisture balance, which you can read about in this post in more detail.
Wash your hair twice a week
And finally, I remember at the start of my journey feeling pressure to wash my hair as little as possible. To try and go seven, ten or even fourteen days between wash days! If you’re trying to do the same, ask yourself why you start this curly journey. Was it to try and get healthy hair and regain your natural curls? Or was it to see how long you could go between wash days…?!
I’ve washed my hair twice a week for as long as I can remember, even as a child. Three times a week if I’ve got a night out or special occasion. Or I got really dirty or sweaty or something like that. I find that twice a week works best for most people. You want your hair to be in a healthy, defined, wavy/curly state for more days in the week than not. You want your hair to be consistently curly, as much as possible. Rather than consistently pulled up into a bun because it’s only day three hair and it’s too messy, frizzy, stretched out etc. to wear it down. Do you see what I mean?
How I’ve modified the Curly Girl Method
I guess you could say I don’t actually follow the curly girl method anymore. I’ve taken aspects of it that work, such as no silicones or waxes. But I’ve modified the parts that I don’t think are best for achieving healthy hair and maximum curl potential. Over the summer, I’ll be updating my tips, advice and recommendations in old blog posts to reflect this.
Lather: I use a low lathering cleanser twice a week, and have done for the last two years. Sulfates: I clarify once a month using a sulfate shampoo. Brushes: I use a Denman Paddle Brush to de-tangle my hair when I’ve got conditioner in it. And again after I’ve applied my last styling product, before scrunching and diffusing. Heat: I diffuse my hair every single wash day. Refreshing: I very rarely refresh my hair. Oils: I don’t recommend or use oils on the hair or scalp.
I’ll happily and confidently stand behind my modified method because, quite frankly, I think my results speak for themselves! I achieved what I set out to do, and that was to get my curls back and have healthy hair again. My hair was so damaged, I didn’t think it was possible. But from everything I’ve learned, all the hard work, consistency, techniques, routines, good products and practices, I’ve done it! And more importantly, so can you!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the tips, advice and product recommendations. Click here for more information on my Curl Clinics™. A completely bespoke curl consultation service tailored to suit you and your hair. Designed to help get your waves and curls back and achieve your healthy hair goals.
Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already. And please follow me on Instagram, pin this post on Pinterest and share it in your favourite Curly Girl Facebook groups. If you have any questions, or blog post requests, drop them in the comments below. Until next time, Gabriella x
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When you say that you wash your hair twice a week, does that mean that those are the only times you completely wet your hair? In other words, you don’t every just condition and style your hair without shampooing? I wash with shampoo about twice a week, but condition and style every night. Should I be worried about too much moisture?
Hi Allie, correct. I only wash/completely wet my hair twice a week. I don’t refresh, or apply any water or products in between. And yes, if you’re only cleansing your hair twice a week, but adding conditioner every night then yes, I would be worried that you’ll end up with over-moisturised hair, or hygral fatigue. So I’d definitely reconsider your routine.
Loved reading this! Now a year in and loving how my hair has turned out – I too have now learned how and when my hair needs a little sulphate attention, so it’s interesting to think it may get better still! Also lovely to hear from someone with what appears to be similar hair in very similar climate (South Wales)! Looking forward to your next blog 🙂
Thanks Donna! I love the Welsh accent! Although for years, I thought it was pronounced “wale-ish”…Irish, English, Scottish, Wale-ish…! ha ha.
Thank you so much for this thorough and helpful blog post! It’s really inspiring to see how your hair has changed through the years with hard work and persistence 🙂 Maybe one day my hair will get there too.
Deirdre Walsh says
Fantastic! What a journey and what amazing results! You’re an inspiration. I’m at the beginning of my journey and more bad wash days than good at the moment but I’ll persevere. Your product and technique advice is so clear and so helpful. I’m going to go back and read this again! Grazie tante!
Thank you for the effort you’ve gone through in sharing what you’ve done and learned over the past few years. To those of us new to this, it’s a goldmine of help before we head in the wrong direction and get impossibly discouraged.
I also want to cheer you on for your openness about mental health. Talking about this openly helps destigmatize the issue and create a more supportive world for all of us, and it takes courage and power!
Wishing you all the best,
Thanks so much Amy!
Benedicte colla says
can I find your whole routine somewhere? I mean, when you use what? wash day 1: shampoo (which), deepco ….
was day 2: shampoo, conditioner …
when you put the rice water in your routine …
That would help a lot,
I have Innersense: hair bath and conditioner pure harmony, the deepco and all styling products.
The bounce curl clarifying shampoo, conditioner and the cream gel.
Basically everything you use and my hair is doing well. But struggle to maintain my moisture / protein balance.
I do plan on doing a post of my monthly routine, wash day to wash day which I think will help. But in the mean time, you can see my full wash day routine here: https://youtu.be/b3y593StTcA
Hi Calin! Love your blog it has helped me so much on my curly hair journey! I was just wondering if you have any tips for enhancing and encouraging your hair to curl at the roots/top of your hair? I find that mine is staying flat and looks straight and I’m not sure how to go about changing this.
Hi Vanessa, not everyone’s curl pattern starts at the root. Many people’s curls start a few cm or even inches down the hair. You can do different things to encourage whatever natural pattern you have to start at the root, such as washing, applying styling product and diffusing upside down, using root clips etc. But your hair may naturally just start to curl a little further down the hair and that’s totally normal and fine.
Hair goals!! Thank you for the update. Your blog was one of the first I found when I started my CG journey a year ago (today, actually!) I’m shocked at how far I’ve come but I also know I haven’t reached my max curl capacity. I appreciate all the detailed information and the sentiment about the curly girl routine being more of a guide rather than do-or-die. For example, I’ve found that if I clarify my hair every 3-4 wash days or about twice a month, my curls look better. Thanks again for all the tips and advice. I put many of them into action and they made a difference for me.
Kerry Tidmarsh says
Hi Gabriella, thanks for this really useful article. I was on the brink of giving up with the cgm but you’ve inspired me to persevere! I recently bought the Bounce Curl clarifying shampoo after reading another of your articles but my bottle seems to have completely different ingredients to the one linked in your blog even though the name is the same. Do you know if there is a specific ingredient I should be looking out for to be sure it will be sufficiently clarifying for my monthly “reset” wash please?
Hi Kerry, that’s very strange because as far as I’m aware the formula hasn’t changed. Although the packaging has recently. For a monthly clarifying reset, I recommend the Bumble & Bumble Sunday SHampoo, you can get 15% off using code CURLYCAILNLF at Look Fantastic who ship worldwide.
Perfect! Thanks a lot Gabriella for this post! I started to follow the CGM March 2019. But only after discovering your IG and blog this March I was really able to improve my curl pattern. You just are my curl crush 😉
Your blog has become something of a Wikipedia for curls for me. Everything is so clearly written and it simply makes me want to follow all the tips and tricks.
Thank you, thank you thank you!!! 😀
As always well written and full of useful information!
Does this mean you no longer recommend Jamaican black castor oil like you have in the past?
Hi Thati, The Tropic Isle Living Jamaican Black Castor Oil is the ONLY oil I think is light enough to use and the only one I’d be willing to recommend if someone really wants to do scalp massages using an oil to encourage hair growth. But I still wouldn’t recommend putting it on the hair, or using it as a hot oil treatment etc. Hope that helps.
Thanks for this post, it’s always so helpful to see/hear someone else’s journey and how they have modified methods to work for them. I’ve been struggling to get the Bounce Curl gel to work for me but now I’m going to try it underneath Pantene mousse so thanks for that suggestion! Do you use a leave-in or cream under the gel? If so, do you use a protein-free or protein-containing leave-in? My hair really likes small proteins so I will probably try the Curls Blueberry Bliss leave-in underneath but I’m curious what you like to do.
Hi Gabriella, first of all thank you so much for this blog. I discovered it and my curly hair journey only in lockdown and I credit it with getting me out of what could have easily ended up in depression.
I have two questions please: when you put the aphogee in the rice treatment is it literally the hairfinity, the rice treatment and a teaspoon of aphogee then under a heat cap for 30-40mins?
And also do you need a deep moisture treatment or even just moisture conditioner after/to rinse it out?
Hi Tess, yep, that’s it! No, you don’t need a separate DC or conditioner afterwards, that’s the genius joy of my modified version. It’s all in one, no fuss, no mess, hassle free and why I love it so much!
Thank you! Can’t wait to try it.
Brenda Kenworthy says
You are beautiful. This post is super helpful and wonderful. I adore you.
I am mid-50’s and had long gorgeous silver curls with the no-poo method (I got compliments like, daily)… up until 2 years ago. Then my hair lost definition, has been frizzy and quite a mess, a struggle. I think I need protein. I look forward to trying your Rice Water Method!
You do an amazing job here and help us all so much! Hugs for all you do! We appreciate you so much. 🙂
Hi Brenda, yes most likely your hair eventually became over moisturised. You would most likely benefit from switching to a low lathering cleanser, and making sure you’re clarifying once a month with a cleanser that’s sufficient for your needs.
Hello – which low poo shampoos do you recommend/use to cleanse your hair twice a week?
I have a wealth of information on this blog of products I use and recommend, please see my latest Favourite Products post here: https://curlmaven.ie/favourite-curly-girl-products-of-2019/
May I ask, have you ever colored your hair? I’ve always had curly hair and colored it since I was 12, but recently I’ve been in “a funk” with US quarantine and when I last had it colored (very blonde) it seemed to just not take well. I don’t know if it was the color with so much bleach drying it out or a mixture of things but I just wonder what you think about hair color. Thanks
Hi Andrea, I coloured my hair and did a massive amount of damage to my hair colouring it for a few years in my mid-20s and it’s what eventually led me to discovering the curly girl method, because I had completely trashed my hair. Unfortunately, bleach is one of the worst things you can apply to the hair, it does so much damage. And if you didn’t use damage-reducing/protective treatments before, during and after the colouring process, such as Olaplex, then honestly, you’re just going to have to grow out or cut off the damage. You will need to do lots of deep conditioning and Olaplex, bond building treatments to get as much health as possible.
Thank you Gabriella for you lovely posts… I have been following your method for nearly a year now and have got quite tight ringlets underneath ( about same size as a sharpie pen) but is still just wavy on the top…. so I am going to have a perm to get a more uniform look ( I know this is not the best option but … I would really appreciate any advice on what to do with my hair in preparation for the perm to protect it as much as possible? Thank you again for sharing your knowledge – you are an inspiration
Hi Bev, my biggest advice is to not get a perm. You’re doing so much chemical damage to your hair, it’s not worth it. Firstly, not everyone’s hair pattern is the same throughout the hair, for example, I still have everything from 2c waves to tight 3b curls. That’s normal, that’s natural, my hair is healthy. Secondly, if you are standing up in the shower washing your hair, with the temperature turned up high, and a high pressure shower, that will all be contributing to damaging that top canopy layer of the hair, making it drier, more brittle and it will also pull out the curl pattern into more of a wave than a curl. If you’re having a shower like that 3 or 4 times a week, that’s an hour of damage to your hair on average, every single week. To me, that’s most likely the reason why you’ve got tight ringlets underneath, that hair isn’t getting the same amount of damage. So I suggest turning the temperature down, turning the pressure down and turning your head upside down too. It will take a while for the hair to heal, weeks if not a few months, but you will get there and in a much more healthy way than a perm.
I am a bit confused. In many of your posts you list co-wash, but then in this post you say you stopped co-washing. When should someone co-wash? When should then not? How do you know?
That’s correct. And a blog post on co-washing answering all those questions is coming soon. x
A protein-rich deep conditioner, my modified rice water treatment, the Aphogee Protein Treatment – all linked in the Protein Moisture Balance blog post, which you can read here: https://curlmaven.ie/protein-moisture-balance/
Thank you Gabriella for another great and accurate post!
Have you tried Trepadora gels ou Camille Rose gel?
The Boucléme ones are sold out on lookfantastic…
Thank you so much
Hi Ana, I have tried pretty much the entire Trepadora range. I found the gels quite drying. I haven’t tried anything from Camille Rose apart from their Curl Maker year ago.
Connie Johnson says
Hi Gabriella: I just started following you, watched you Hair, loss, scalp etc. Clinic this week and have read/watched almost everything on your website. I desperately need your help on a basic product plan for my thinning, fine, coloured curly ( I think over moisturized)hair. I’m very confused with all the wonderful products you suggest. I would like to buy them all ! but can you please tell which ones I need. Thanks so much. You have the best hair !
Connie in Canada
Hi Connie, thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the monthly Curl Clinic. I suggest you check out my 1:1 Curl Clinics, they’re a 30 min consultation via video where we go through all the products you’re using and the issues your experiencing. I then put together a routine and recommend products to suit your hair’s needs, your budget and any other requirements you have. If that’s something you’re interested in, please fill out this form, and I’ll get back to you via email with all of the details. http://www.curlycailin.ie/contact
DEANA ENGLAND says
Hi! I have been following your recommendations for a while. I have had great success with you suggestions and application methods (praying claw). The last recommendation on TreLux was spot on. That product was a total game changer for my curls. Recently I saw your review on Bounce Curl. I ordered the shampoo, conditioner, clump and define cream, and creme gel. I also added the mousse after as I have adopted you LMG method prior. I have to day Bounce curl was a total disappointment. I was so excited and as soon as I put the creme gel on, my beautiful big clumps turn into ” stringlets.” I have attempted it a few times adding more clump and define cream, terrible. The last attempt I had to be somewhere and couldn’t start over so I added the TreLux HI Definition Gel on top just to save it. I just can’t figure out my issue with this product line (mostly gel). I wanted to love it.
Hey Deana, I discussed this very thing in my Bounce Curl Review post if you want to check that out. The only way I can use the gel is when I layer a mousse on top otherwise I get flash drying and stringy curls too, so definitely try that. Their conditioner and clump and define cream are very rich, with lots of oils and highly, highly concentrated so you really do need to be very careful/sparing with those.
Your hair looks fabulous, you’ve obviously found what works for you. Fellow Irish lady here, and I had similar curls to you when I was younger but with auburn hair. Since menopause and multiple bereavements, as well as mental and physical health issues, however, I’m pretty sure that I have hygral fatigue. This hasn’t been helped by hairdressers overtreating my hair with moisturizing deep conditioners, and then blow drying my hair because they couldn’t “do” naturally curly hair. My hair is now very long, definitely due a post-covid cut, and my curls have disappeared with just some gelatinous noodles here and there. The only time it looks good is washday, when I’m left with juicy curls and seemingly healthy hair, but I know it’s far from healthy, the next day it will resemble the jelly noodles again. I’ve been using olaplex 0 and 3 regularly, and I’ve used Ecoslay matcha protein boost, which again gave a fab result, but only for a day. I’ve ordered the Aphogee two step protein treatment as I feel I need to break out the big guns, but I won’t use the number 2 as silicone does terrible things to my hair and skin. What I’m mostly bothered about is that the hygral fatigue appears to be all the way to the roots, even though I haven’t coloured my hair for over a year, and menopause has meant my hair is growing through grey now, and has been for 12+ months. I know I’ll need a big chop, but do you think there’s any hope that I can regain some level of curl again? Could you explain how you dealt with hygral fatigue? I would be so grateful. Many thanks for your inspirational posts and all best wishes, Yolanda x
Hi Yolanda, I went through my experience with hygral fatigue in the first blog post of this series called Following the Curly Girl Method – One Year On, if you’d like to check that out. If you’re looking for advice and recommendations specific to your hair, I recommend booking in for a Curl Clinic, more info here: http://www.curlmaven.ie/services