I Didn’t Always Like My Hair—Here’s How I Learned How To Love My Curls (and Care for Them, Too)

Stocksy/Ohlamour Studio, Walmart, & W+G Creative
Growing up, I always saw my mom as the epitome of beauty. I wanted to be and look exactly like her (still do, actually). But there was one major problem with that dream: Our hair could not have been more different.

While my mom’s long, shiny hair lay in a perfectly straight sheet down her back, mine curled and frizzed up. It didn’t help that neither of us knew how to care for my 3-A type curls, so most of the time, I opted to tie it up in a top knot or fry it with my straightener in fear that people would think my untamed, natural hair was ugly.

Right before I started college, I realized that my hair was extremely damaged from the constant tightly pulled buns and heat styling. So, in an effort to take better care of it, I finally dared to wear my natural curls around campus—all while repeating my mom’s words in my head for encouragement (“you’re so lucky you have such beautiful hair, Maeve”).

To my absolute shock, it turned out my mom wasn't just saying that because she's my mom—other people liked my curls, too. But it wasn’t just the external appreciation that did it for me—the more I embraced my natural hair, the more I felt like myself, and learning how to care for my curls made me feel like I was taking special care of myself.

Even so, that learning curve was a steep one, and the methods that worked one day didn’t always work the next, which was extremely frustrating. So what really sealed the “I love my curls” deal for me was finding an expert to lean on for guidance: hairstylist Gabrielle D’Ulisse, who worked with me to develop my curly hair regimen.

To make it even easier for me, all her product recommendations are available at Walmart, so they’re always easily accessible, whether I pop into the store or order online. Even better? They're all on sale during the Walmart Beauty Glow-Up Event from now through April 21 (and some of them are only on sale through April 5, so be sure to move fast!). Keep reading for more deets on the curly hair regimen that's helped solidify my love for my curls—turns out, my mom does know best.

8 hairstylist-approved products for curly hair

Philip B Peppermint Avocado Exfoliating Scalp Scrub (on sale through 4/5)

Though I only wash my hair three times a week (washing it too much strips its natural oils and causes dryness), I always start my shower with this exfoliating scalp scrub. “This product is a great choice because it has the ability to deeply cleanse your scalp without drying it out,” D’Ulisse says. “Aloe leaf juice will keep your hair moisturized, while the sea salt removes any build-up.” This scrub has definitely helped remove product build-up, and I absolutely love the cooling effect on my scalp that makes showering feel like a calming experience.

Virtue Hydrating Sulfate-Free & Silicone-Free Curl Shampoo (on sale through 4/5)

As for shampoo, D’Ulisse’s rec for me is super moisturizing, but still deep cleans my hair—and it smells divine. “Virtue Curl Shampoo is an excellent choice for curly hair because of its alpha keratin and protein formula,” D’Ulisse says. “This formula assists in protecting your curls against damage and fortifying your strands. Plus, it is free of sulfates, which can dry out your hair and affect your curls.” And, for someone like me who gets keratin treatments in the summer to smooth my unruly locks, sulfate-free is essential.

Grow Gorgeous Curl Defining Conditioner (on sale through 4/5)

I struggled finding a conditioner that didn’t weigh down my curls, so I was thrilled when I first tried this one. It’s lightweight, deeply moisturizing, and free of parabens, sulfates, and silicone, which can dry out your hair and create a film over your strands, D’Ulisse says. “Not only this, but its caffeine and oat lipid ingredients strengthen the scalp’s natural layer of protection,” D’Ulisse says. “It’s crucial to focus on the scalp, as it is the basis of our hair’s health.”

Grow Gorgeous Curl Leave-in Butter (on sale through 4/5)

My post-shower routine was always such a struggle for me because I could never find products that consistently worked in my hair, but this leave-in butter changed that. After I shower, I work it through the middle and ends of my strands, and then use the residual product on my roots, being careful not to weigh down my hair by using too much, per D’Ulisse’s recommendation. You can also use this product on dry hair, which is really nice for times when I need a slight touch-up.

Philip B Anti Frizz Formula 57 Lavender and Jojoba Shine and Frizz Control (on sale through 4/5)

If I’m heat styling my hair, I always make sure to use a little of this frizz-control serum before I do, and believe me, it does its job well. D’Ulisse recommended this product not only because of its smoothing effect, but also because it helps to enhance hair color as well. If I still want to seal down any pesky flyaways post-styling, I just work in another drop afterwards. Just remember: A little goes a long way.

Grow Gorgeous Repair Heat Protection Leave-in Oil (on sale through 4/5)

I am now über-cautious when I use heat on my hair, given how damaged it once was, so I never skip out on a reliable heat protectant. “This product will enrich hair with its six-oil blend of moringa, marula, grapeseed, coconut, tung wood, and rapeseed oil,” D’Ulisse says. “The oat lipids complex in the formula will smooth your cuticle, therefore allowing your curls to be more defined and fight frizz.”

Hairitage Meant To Be Hair Diffuser (on sale through 4/21)

Gone are the days when I would aggressively straighten my hair until it was pin straight. Now, I reach for my diffuser instead (after applying all the products listed above, of course), especially since it takes my thicker hair so long to air dry. When I use this diffuser, I notice a huge difference in my curls—they’re more defined and my hair looks more voluminous. D’Ulisse’s pro-tips for using a diffuser are to make sure your hair is wet (not just damp), you’ve applied your desired products, and your hair is fully detangled before diffusing.

SLIP Silver Silk Pillowcase (on sale through 4/5)

Last, but certainly not least, in my curly hair regimen is this pillowcase that I kid you not, changed my life. “The friction caused by regular cotton pillowcases is damaging to our ends and will not maintain your style before bed,” D’Ulisse says. When I first started using a silk pillowcase, the difference between it and my previous cotton pillowcase was immediately noticeable. I barely have to touch-up my curls in the morning, which was a complete 180 from when I’d wake up with a tangled mess of bedhead. As any curly-haired person knows, anything that helps tame the mane is a total win.

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