If you're just getting started at the curly girl method, keeping track of everything to avoid is overwhelming, especially if you've got a tight budget. I know it was for me! Plenty of curly girls may end up spending more money than they want to or else they give up altogether.
Now, if you're wondering what I'm talking about when I refer to the "curly girl method", it's the method outline in Lorraine Massey's book The Curly Girl Handbook. Now, some parts of her method I think are a bit extreme (especially if you're on a tight budget) like avoiding parabens and phthlatates. Now, if you want to avoid parabens and phthlatates, that is totally cool, but be aware that it could be expensive.
While there are some higher end products that I *love*, I firmly believe that you can find good quality products without having to choose between buying groceries or having good hair days.
These are the four ingredients I actively try to avoid while still finding affordable products:
If one of the first ingredients on that label is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, etc...put it back on the shelf NOW! Unfortunately most mainstream shampoos in drugstores will have sulfates. Why avoid sulfates? Well, curly girls already have naturally dry hair and these sulfates only make the problem worse. If you have an oily scalp, sulfates will strip too much oil away and cause your scalp to produce too much oil. Basically, you can't win either way with sulfates.
So, how does a curly girl get her hair clean without sulfates? You have a few options. A popular one is forgoing shampoo altogether and using a silicone-free (more on that below) conditioner, also known as co-washing. A popular one is the Suave Essentials conditioner line (NOT the shampoos, they have sulfates). The bonus here is that Suave is cheap and available everywhere. There are also dedicated co-washes available, but they can be a little expensive (all for the "co-wash" marketing, really). But BE CAREFUL because some products marketed as co-washes in drugstores can contain silicones.
However, co-washing doesn't really work for me, so I tend to spend just a little extra on sulfate-free shampoos. Yes, they exist, and yes, the right ones can get your hair clean. The ones I've been able to easily find and that aren't too expensive are Shea Moisture, Maui Moisture, Kinky Curly, some products from the HASK line, Made Beautiful, Burts Bees, the Say Yes 2 line (most commonly found in Target).
Is that Dimethicone up high in the ingredient list? Amodimethicone? Is it a really weird word that ends with -xane or -cone? Put it back. Unless it is accompanied by PEG because that means it's water soluble.
Silicones are popular in hair products because initially, they are great at making the hair look shiny and feel silky. Key word: initially. Over time, using silicones can cause buildup (making you think you have dandruff) and weigh your hair down. The only way to get these silicones out is with a sulfate shampoo...thus perpetuating the sulfate-silicone cycle.
Basically, these will dry your hair out and curly girls are already prone to dryness. Drying alcohols include: Alcohol Denat., Ethanol, Isopropyl alcohol, SD Alcohol 40, etc. Now, this doesn't mean avoid ALL alcohols, just the drying ones. Wait, there's more than one type of alcohol? Indeed there is! Fatty alcohols are the ones you WANT because they are moisturizing. Cetyl Alcohol, Ceateryl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Lauryl Alcohol, and Behenyl Alcohol.
Now Mineral Oil is something I personally avoid because for *me* it doesn't do anything good for my hair. It just sits on my hair and causes buildup. For others, this may not be the case.
I know this all sounds confusing and overwhelming; believe me, I was where you are when I started the "curly girl" journey. I promise though, that it is all doable and it is totally worth it. My next post will be a more comprehensive list of curly girl friendly products.