Ben Trivett/People
September 22, 2016 12:12 PM

It just takes one look at the red carpet to see the proof on stars including Camila Alves, Ciara and Vanessa Hudgens: curls are back. Many stars are embracing their natural texture these days, and even naturally wavy girls including Chrissy Teigen and Gigi Hadid are turning to hot tools to create major volume for big events. And learning to love one’s curls has become a talking point for stars including Zendaya and Tamara Mowry. So when I saw these stars rocking their natural textures and voluminous styles, I was inspired to put away my blowdryer and flatiron and let my naturally frizzy, curly hair go free.

One problem: I had absolutely no idea how to manage my hair. I had my unruly curls chemically straightened at age 14, and since then, I’ve had every Brazilian blowout, relaxer and keratin treatment that you can get, and I’ve worn my hair in its natural state for no longer than two days at a time before giving into the temptation of a smooth blowout. But earlier this year, I forgot to book an appointment for my routine keratin treatment, and accidentally allowed my hair to revert to its original texture — something that I haven’t truly known since I was a freshman in high school.

So with a newly wild head of ringlets to deal with, I enlisted the help of Ciara’s hairstylist, Mizani Global Artistic Director Cesar Ramirez, as well as Alves’ pro, Owen Gould, whose tips, tricks and encouragement enabled me to finally embrace my locks. Here’s what I learned along the way.

1. The perfect product cocktail is imperative.
“With thick hair, you want a lot of that crunchy control while it’s drying, you just don’t it to be hard once it’s dry,” Ramirez advised. “You need some control and hold while it’s drying, because if it’s still wet and there’s not enough control in there, that’s when it starts to frizz up.”

With that, he recommended two products: Mizani’s 25 Miracle Milk and Twist and Coil Jelly, both of which Ciara swears by — and now I do too. And with a bit more trial and error, I landed on a second batch of favorites:  equal parts of Redken’s Curvaceous Ringlet Curl Perfector, Full Swirl gel, and Wind Up spray.

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2. Just say no to a daily shampoo.
Anyone who has curly hair knows that the first day of freshly-washed hair is rough. Your strands are wet and weighed down when they’re first styled, and air-drying can lead to any number of unpredictable results. But despite that experience, I had just assumed that it was best to wash my curls every day — meaning every day was a bad hair day.

But as Gould told me, all you need is a re-activating spray (he loves Bumble and Bumble’s Prep spray) to get your strands to day three. “The secret to curly hair is that you don’t wash your hair every day. The key is not over-washing and re-activating. I find that the second or the third day is when the curls look their best.” Mind. Blown.

RELATED VIDEO: 3 Ways to Embrace Curly Hair

3. A diffuser will solve all of your problems.
One of my biggest issues with air-drying my curls is simply the look — and feel — of walking around with wet hair. And with locks that take at least five hours to dry, the task becomes daunting. But Ramirez convinced me to break out my old diffuser — and it did everything from plumping up my stretched, flat-looking curls to solving the obvious issue of leaving my apartment with wet hair.

“A lot of times if you have curly hair and it’s long, while it’s drying, the thickness and heaviness can weigh down the curl, so it stretches it out. But if you diffuse it, you’ll really get that true pattern of the curl,” Ramirez advises, adding to only dry the hair 90 percent, leaving your strands to do as they wish for the remaining 10 percent.

4. A thin curling iron is your best friend.
Up until the moment I saw Alves and Ciara walk red carpets with their curly hair, I had totally written off the idea that curls could be dressy enough for a big event. But as Jasmine Sanders, a curly-haired model and the face of Moroccanoil’s new curl line told me, curls can absolutely be red carpet-ready — they just need a little extra polish.

“I think every girl needs to use a curling iron. Every now and then you have to touch up here and there,” Sanders said. “My hair is so curly, so after a couple of days of wearing it natural, I’ll put a little bit of argan oil in my hands and apply it through each strand of hair, and curl any piece that I see needs a little bit of help. You’re still rocking your natural curls, but you’re just livening them up.”

The secret? A 3/8-in. curling iron, which Gould says he used to style Alves’ second-day strands for the red carpet.

5. Curly-haired girls are (dare I say it?) lucky.
If I were to tell my 14-year-old self that one day I would stop pulling, frying and torturing my strands and finally embrace my texture, I wouldn’t have believed it. But everywhere I went with my huge, wild hair, I’d find that women and hairstylists alike wanted to tell me that my curls were cool — and what’s more, that I was lucky to have them. And while I didn’t want to believe it, I eventually accepted the fact that maybe my hair isn’t so bad after all.

About three weeks into my curl journey, I had a wedding to attend. “Great,” I thought, “a perfect excuse to put this curl thing on hold and get a blowout.” But on my way into the salon, something unexpected happened. As I walked down the street with my three-day-old curls, ready for my first blowout in nearly a month, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window, and for the first time ever, I loved the way they looked. So much so that, for a second, I didn’t recognize that it was me in the reflection. The first thing I did the morning after that wedding? I washed my hair — and I had no desire to pick up a a blow dryer for a full month following.

What are your curly hair secrets? Sound off below!

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