A Perfect Spiral

Note to readers: Amanda Bankston is our lovely and talented intern here at Minnesota Monthly, and I’m thrilled to introduce her as a guest blogger here on TC Style. I can vouch that she has fabulous hair.  —Katie

I spent most of my life frying, hiding, and denying my naturally curly hair. Nobody ever taught me how to manage my tightly-coiled, mixed-race tresses. Therefore, I never understood how to love them—or even that it was okay to. But eventually, I grew tired of the flat irons and chemical treatments, and did something drastic: I chopped off all of my damaged hair (which was most of it at the time) and started from scratch.

Little did I know, my decision would earn my membership to an exclusive club of women. They too had to endure the schoolyard jokes, media messages, and awkward questions that told them there was something wrong with their waves and ringlets. They too wasted hundreds of hours, dollars, and tears on attempts to get their mane bone-straight. And like me, they decided to break the cycle and embrace what they had been naturally blessed with. 

If you’re a curly girl, you know what I’m talking about. We stop each other in store aisles, restaurants, and doctors’ offices to ask for product advice. We wink and nod to each other in passing in admiration of a stylish natural ’do. I can honestly say I’ve gotten more compliments on my crazy, curly hair now than I ever did when I was torturing it into falling flat. And so, when my spiral sisters in frizz ask me for tips, I let them in on my most cherished beauty secret—coconut oil. 

Whether your hair’s curly, straight, or somewhere in between, I’m sure you’ve heard the hype about this super-oil. Celebrities and stylists have been raving about it for about a year now, and it’s been a favorite of beauty bloggers, too. If you haven’t already jumped on the bandwagon, you probably should. It’s lightweight, affordable, and one of the only oils that can actually penetrate the hair shaft.

Now, I’m not talking about the hydrogenated stuff in the cooking aisle. Look for extra virgin coconut oil that hasn’t been bleached, deodorized, or refined. It can be used for everything from cooking to homemade lip balm; since first purchasing it last year, I haven’t gone a day without using it. 

Not convinced? Check out a few of my regular uses for the oil and give one of them a try:

Deep Conditioner: About twice a month, I scavenge through my kitchen to conjure up a DIY deep conditioner. I often reach for the olive oil, mayonnaise, and an avocado, but always add a few spoonfuls (maybe more) of my steadfast little secret—the coconut oil. While my concoction may not look or smell as good as those salon brands I used to splurge on, the results—bouncy, shiny, every-curl-defined hair—are unparalleled.

Pre-Shampoo: Like many curlies, my hair hates shampoo. It’s been telling me this for years with the limp, dry, rebellious period that follows a good lather, rinse, and repeat. The whole no ’poo, co-wash thing didn’t work for me, but I’ve finally found a solution. You guessed it: coconut oil. I apply a generous amount directly to my hair (concentrating more on the lower half of my hair length), braid it, and let it sit for an hour or so before a shampoo. This prevents my curls from the harsh shampooing process and keeps them conditioned. 

Scalp massage oil: On dry days, I add a smidgen of the oil to the center of my palms, emulsify it between my hands—the oil is in its solid form in temperatures up to 75 degrees—and massage it into my scalp for a few minutes. The oil has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, so it’s even been said to help defend against dandruff flakes.

Leave-in: Before I head out of the door in the morning (between my do-I-have-everything panic and final spritz of perfume) I always, always add a very small amount of coconut oil to the ends of my hair. It fights frizz, seals in moisture, and adds a bit of shine. Quick tip: If you don’t like the smell, add a few drops of lavender or rosewater.