You’ve moved to Japan, but how do you care for your curls now you’re in a whole new climate? With Japan’s seasons throwing all the elements at your poor curls – intensely humid rainy seasons, blazing hot summers and arid winters – your locks need all the help they can get. Each head of curls is unique, so here are some tips and tricks to experiment with to help keep your curls healthy and happy!
Switch Your Shampoo for a Curly Cleanser
There is one thing curls don’t need––shampoo! That doesn’t mean your hair doesn’t need to be cleaned. But shampoos aren’t the solution. They are full of harsh foaming detergents that strip curly hair of much-needed moisture, leading to product build-up that cannot be rinsed out properly. Compared to straight hair, curls need extra moisture – especially in autumn and winter when the air is exceptionally dry – so avoiding shampoo is a must. Replacing shampoo with a gentle curl cleanser is the best way to keep your curls healthy and shiny.
Botanical cleansers that are free of sulphates are best, as they help keep the cuticle closed, prevent tangling and allow product to easily rinse out. They’re also kinder to the skin on your scalp, which can often go into shock after the humidity of summer is over and winter sets in, drying out your scalp and causing increased hair shedding.
While it’s normal to lose many hairs a day, it is important to retain moisture on your scalp so shedding doesn’t turn into a problem. A good cleanser will moisturize your scalp, helping minimize shedding. Cleansers are easy to rinse out, helping your hair retain moisture and are kinder to the environment––the neverending suds caused by sulphates in conventional shampoos cause pollution to the water system.
My personal favorite is earth-friendly curly cleanser N Brand, a Tokyo-developed sulphate-free cleanser. It is light and rinses out smoothly with a refreshing scent of orange, geranium, camphor, rosemary, and frankincense. N Brand is also intensely moisturizing for the scalp and is full of minerals to keep your hair healthy between trips to the salon.
7 Curl Fixes to Try at Home
1. Try a pre-cleanse condition on dry hair:
Many curly girls swear by this tip. Curls are always drier than straight locks as there are fewer total strands of hair on a curly head, thus fewer sebaceous glands producing oil. If your curls or scalp are suffering from dryness during Japan’s arid winters, try a pre-cleanse condition.
・Apply conditioner or a conditioning oil to dry hair.
・Work the conditioner through your hair in sections and then pop on a shower cap for 20 minutes to help heat the product and allow the conditioner to deeply penetrate your curls.
・Add a couple of drops of an essential oil such as lavender for a refreshing scent, a teaspoon of dissolved honey for nourishment or try adding the juice of a large lemon into the conditioner to help remove product buildup.
2. Start building curls in the shower:
Here are a few ways to help create healthy curls under the shower.
・Cup your hair with one had as you wash it, so the water flowing through it doesn’t pull each lock of curls out straight.
・Massage your scalp gently with plenty of curl-friendly cleanser like N Brand so it doesn’t break.
・When applying conditioner, a gentle comb simply with your own fingers is all that’s needed to get rid of knots. If you notice a lot of hair shedding as you finger comb, remember––it is normal to lose many hairs in a day! There is no need to be worried unless it’s actually coming out in clumps.
・Resist the impulse to rinse all of the conditioner out. Leave some in to help hydrate your hair and prevent breakage. The best way to do this is to step out of the flow of the water, cup some water with your hands, and rinse out the desired amount. Depending on your curl type, leaving in too much conditioner may weigh it down so experiment to find a routine that works for your hair.
3. Cool it down, heat it up!
・To reduce frizz during the humidity of the Japanese rainy season and summer, try popping your gel and styling products in the fridge before applying them. (If you forget, 10 minutes in the freezer will do!) The chilled products will help close your cuticle shafts, so you can say hello to perfectly defined curls!
・During arid winters, do the opposite: pop your conditioner in the microwave for a minute or so before you apply! If your hair and scalp are really dry, you can even scrunch in some warmed-up conditioner when you get out of the shower, then add your gel on top, and pop on a shower cap for half an hour for deeper curl penetration before you continue your drying routine.
4. Toss the brush and comb smart:
Brushing curls or waves is a big no-no. Brushing damages fragile curls by yanking them out at the root, breaking them mid-curl or causing split ends. So for healthy beautiful curls it’s necessary to kiss your brush goodbye. Many curly girls don’t comb at all, but experiment with whatever works for you. A careful comb through with a smooth, wide-tooth comb on wet, conditioned locks, is a must for some curly girls who find combing helps their curl follicles calm down.
5. Scrunch it up:
When you get of the shower, it’s time to continue building healthy curls by gentle scrunch-drying with your head tipped over your knee. The gravity will help end triangle-head syndrome––curly girls will know what I mean!
Avoid drying with terry-cloth towels which irritate the curl follicle and cause frizz. Instead use a paper towel, cotton T-shirt or a microfiber towel to scrunch as much water out of your hair as possible. Leave a roll of paper towels in the bathroom, or just grab a garment that is waiting to go into the washing machine.
6. Gel it up:
Once you’re done scrunch-drying your hair, apply a water-soluble gel, like Devachan Ultra Defining Gel to surround your curls with a protective non-sticky gel cast! This gel doesn’t make your hair look wet, nor does it make it crunchy, but rather forms a protective coating that increases definition and shine, helping fight frizz on dry and humid days.
7. Dry right:
The healthiest way to dry curls is air-drying. If you’re in a hurry, you can speed-dry with a diffuser attachment at home and if you’re really pressed for time, simply find a spot under the air conditioner vents in the train! We all know how hot Japanese commuter train heating systems get so you make sure you can take off a few layers if you pick this option.
If you have a few more minutes before you leave home, a few metal clips at the scalp will lift locks of curls together in their units, helping speed up the drying process while also preventing triangle-head syndrome.
Many curly girls skip the clips believing it takes too long, but you may only need a few. Plus, clipping and removing can be done in a minute!
No More Tears!
Please, no more looking in the mirror and cursing your curls. Your curls are an essential part of what makes you, YOU. They connect you to your past and your culture. By wearing your hair curly instead of hiding it under a hat or blow-frying it straight, you help inspire the next generation of little curly girls.
So change up your routine, say goodbye to the fluffy frazzled mess by using the right techniques and products, and change your mindset. Your hair is not a mess––it’s the halo on the head of a curly goddess!
Get informed about what curls really need, and be proud of every single hair on your head.