My name is Gabriella. I have anxiety, depression, and S.A.D. I also have curly hair. I’ve been speaking a lot about mental health on Instagram lately, and the response and support has been overwhelming! I know there are many of you who have the same or similar struggles. So I’ve put together my top tips on how to look after your curls when you’ve got anxiety and depression. Or any kind of mental or physical illness.
Anxiety & Depression
I feel really strongly that mental health is something we need to talk about more. I don’t think it would be right to jump into how to look after your curls when you’ve got anxiety and depression, without first explaining what that’s like. When you suffer from a mental illness, you feel like you’re the only one going through it. It’s only from talking about it, we realise we’re not alone. So many people suffer from anxiety and depression, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD, SAD etc. During these times, everything becomes a struggle. Getting up in the morning, eating, showering, washing my face, brushing my teeth, washing and styling my curly hair.
This too shall pass
Here’s something I learned recently, which has helped my logical perspective when it feels like my anxiety or panic attack is never going to end. Or I’m always going to struggle with my mental health. Think of a time when you were really, really happy. Like laughing so much with your best friends, your stomach hurts and you’ve got tears rolling down your cheeks. In that moment, did you think that feeling was going to last forever? That you were going to be that happy for the rest of your life? No. You knew it would pass. You knew it was only momentary. It’s the same when you feel anxious, depressed or even suicidal. This, too, shall pass.
Anxiety attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. I can often be in a state of anxiety for days. Depression can last for months, years! S.A.D. continues to whoop my ass from October/November through to March/April, every year. So how do you look after your curls so they’re not a matted mess that you’ll have to cut off when you’re feeling like you can face the world again? Here’s my top 6 tips.
If it’s been a while since you’ve washed your hair, use a good moisturising, cleansing or clarifying shampoo to get rid of build up and greasy roots. My favourite is Bounce Curl Clarifying Shampoo, use CURLMAVEN for 10% discount at checkout. It leaves my scalp and roots feeling lovely and clean. But it’s also gentle and extremely moisturising so won’t strip your hair and dry it out. For more info on clarifying and chelating shampoos, product recommendations and how to work out which ones you need, check out this post. I’ve also got my favourite clarifying and chelating shampoos in my Amazon shop.
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
2. Deep Condition
Skip the conditioner and use a good deep conditioner instead. Hairfinity Strengthening Amino Masque is my favourite, and contains protein. I also like to use this DC when I’m doing my modified rice water treatment. For a protein-free deep conditioner, I love Matrix Biolage HydraSource Conditioner (GVP Conditioning Balm in the US), or Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment. Avoid sleeping with deep conditioner in your hair as this can lead to hygral fatigue, itchy scalp and more. All of these products are available in my Amazon Shop.
3. Use Heat
Using a heat cap when you deep condition will make a huge difference. Heat opens up the hair’s cuticle so the products can penetrate deeper into the hair shaft. Which means you get the most out of your deep conditioners and your hair reaps all the benefits. Made with 100% cotton and 100% organic Irish flaxseeds. They’re eco-friendly, microwaveable, reusable, truly reversible, stylish and easy to use. I ship worldwide, and you can see the latest fabric combination collections and purchase them here.
This is where I love to use a good one-and-done styling product. Look for products that will enhance your curl pattern, create a cast and give enough hold to last a few days. My favourites are MopTop Curling Custard, budget-friendly Aussie Instant Freeze Gel or Pantene Defined Curls Mousse No. 5. – which is often half price in supermarkets. All available in my Amazon Shop.
Get 10% off MopTop here using code CURLMAVEN.
If you can’t face diffusing, then let your hair air dry. Using a curl towel will help get the initial excess water out of your hair, and help speed up the drying process. The DevaCurl towel gets the most excess water our your hair, but I find it can cause my hair to frizz a little. I find this with most microfibre towels tbh. The Trepadora towel is my favourite for scrunching excess water out of my hair. But the Boucleme towel is my favourite for plopping – which you can read more about here.
Protect your curls with a pineapple. I’ve often gone three days with my hair in a pineapple. And when I’ve finally taken it down, my curls have been perfectly acceptable! I think it’s the best, and easiest way to protect and preserve curls in between wash days. Both during the day, and at night. I use a vegan-friendly satin scrunchie from Coorie Curls. I also wear a Buff to protect my curls at night, and often wear it as a headband during the day. Here’s the Buff I bought on Amazon. A silk pillowcase like this one from SilkSkin. A satin scrunchie or Puff Cuff and a pineapple are a great trio for protecting your curls at night, or when you can’t face getting up out of bed for days on end. See this post for how I protect my curls at night, and my favourite silk pillowcase.
Get 15% off Puff Cuff here with code CURLMAVEN.
This post was harder to write than I thought. It’s hard being vulnerable and opening up about more personal stuff sometimes. Especially in such a public way, and when there’s still so much stigma around mental health. We are more than just our curls, and it’s important to recognise and acknowledge that. Not just for positive things, but for our struggles too.
I hope you found this post helpful in some way. Please subscribe if you haven’t already, I’ve got an exciting giveaway post coming up next! So you don’t want to miss that! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Gabriella xoxo
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Gratitude & Support
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I’m so incredibly thankful and grateful to everyone who supports me, my content and my platform. Thank you so much! Gabriella x
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What a fantastic resource for hair routine! You really have done a great job, I simply applaud to you.
I was googling wth the curly girl method was and stumbled upon your website and I am absolutely hooked.
Do you terribly mind I offer a piece of unsolicited advice with regards of depression/ anxiety thing? There’s a therapy (also available in Ireland, available through some GPs) called nutritiounal therapy, where they take your blood/hair/ urine samples to run some tests and then use vitamins/ minerals (in high, non over the counter,doses) to treat depression (or even certain pathologies, but we won’t go into that). Look it up, it takes a while to kick in but works pretty damn good. I personally think it’s way better than AD, as it lifts your mood while just feeling normal, not heavy headed groggy feeling one can get on AD.
Kami swinner says
I love this idea with my hair. And I’m starting it tonight.
Thank you for being so open and honest. It can be such a struggle just performing regular hygiene when I’m on a downward depression/anxiety spiral that I will just go days and days (ok a week+) in a messy bun hating the damage I know I’m doing to my hair but not having the motivation to do anything about it. Your post has inspired me to attempt a paired down routine when I’m struggling to keep from slipping deeper into guilt and shame.
Hi Jessi, I’m so glad you found this post helpful! Don’t beat yourself up about it too much, I’ve often left my hair up in a pineapple for D.A.Y.S. and it’s been fine when I’ve taken it down. And just make sure you DC everytime you wash your hair, switch it out from your conditioner and try to use heat if you can (such as one of my heat caps) and just give yourself a break. Your hair will recover, grow back and it’s just hair. Your own mental health is much more important! xoxo
I struggle with mental health and go days without washing my hair too sometimes. Braiding my hair can be helpful and reduce tangles, but I also have wavy hair. I also like putting a little oil on my ends when I notice they’re dry. It helps a lot. Using oil on my dry hair before I wash it and then putting conditioner on my hair and detangling it before I wash it helps make it so that my hair doesn’t get nearly as tangled after washing. It has been huge for me. I hope these tips can help you. You are not alone in your struggles.
I had a very heavy beautiful curly hairs
Everyone used to love my hairs but now it has become so thin its not suiting me..
I’m depressed by this…
How can I recover my hairs?
Follow the curly girl method, even if you don’t have curly hair, by eliminating sulfates, silicones, waxes, harsh drying alcohols and heat tools will help you get your hair to a healthy state again, which in turn will help with growth and thickness. Check out my CG Newbies tab and read the posts there, starting with What is the Curly Girl Method?
Some people have had good results with regular head massages using oil. Black Jamaiican castor oil from tropic isle is known to help grow hair many people say but you can use whatever oil you want. Sometimes hair loss can be caused by damage, stress, too high of caloric deficits. So, looking at these factors such as if you color your hair, use a lot of heat, and limiting it if you can’t eliminate it can reduce damage. If you have been through a stressful period or deal with stress, hair can fall out, so looking for ways to destress could be helpful. Lastly, when we don’t eat as much as we need to, the nutrients don’t go to our hair, they go to the parts of our body that need it. Sometimes certain health issues can cause hair loss, but sometimes it’s just one of these culprits. I definitely would recommend what the poster above said, but pay attention if something is not working for your hair. For example, I don’t really scrunch my hair anymore, I do like a flat palm scrunch which seems to be gentler for me I notice. Lastly, I just remembered some people that exclusively co wash may have noticed hair loss. That’s not to say that conditioner washing can’t be used, but it’s all about balance. Try to incorporate oil massages with the oil I mentioned, whatever you prefer or massages without oil, but be as gentle with yourself and your hair as possible. I hope something can help you. Have a good day.
I have heard of your site for awhile now, I suffer from depression and anxiety for over 25 years. My hair has always been straight- so I thought. I had long hair to the middle of my back which when wet was SLIGHTLY wavy, but was more frizzy-straight. And we have hard water, which we use a salt softener for. I did the acv, sulfate free, paraban free for awhile and didn’t really get different results. I just got my hair cut to shoulder length and see a little more wave. I am going to start your routine and see what happens! Thank you for sharing!
Do you have certain directions for clarifying with acv? I believe I have low porosity high moisture, low protein balance right now.
Hi Andrea, I don’t use ACV for clarifying as there’s too many variables that can damage the hair for my liking. I have a dedicated post on clarifying which you can read here: https://curlmaven.ie/why-when-you-should-clarify-your-hair/ And I’d recommend checking out my hair porosity post here, as I believe most people have got their porosities the wrong way around. https://curlmaven.ie/hair-porosity/